Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Little Under the Weather

Hello All, this is my normal posting day, and I was going to tell a story about the last peace-and-justice issue to which I responded. But I find myself today to be a little under the weather. Not quite equal to writing. And so I’ll just say hello today and wish you well.
            I hope to post tomorrow. See you then.

This is Eliza, the cat with whom I spent twenty and a half years. 
She accompanied me to Missouri and died here.
 I'm so grateful on days like today 
that Ellie, Maggie, and Matthew,
 who came to live with me after Eliza's died,
 are my companions.
I need to remember on these Meniere's days 
that my life is greatly blessed.

            Peace, Dee

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Always a Choice

Since the early part of January, I’ve recounted stories of how peace and justice issues have impinged on my life. I began on January 12 with “Call Me Stubborn.” In my following posting, I introduced the woman who has most influenced my way of thinking about these issues—my mother: Hellen O’Mara Ready. She gave me “My First Lesson in Respect.” Basically, all I’ve ever tried to do throughout my life is respect others.

Hellen O’Mara Ready in the early 1930s.

           Before I relate the final story of how peace and justice issues have changed my life, I want to introduce you to Yeshua, the man who has most influenced my lifeMost of you know him by his Greek name, which came down to us in Latin usage as Jesus. I call him Yeshua because that is what his own Hebrew parents would have called him and that is my way of being respectful of his culture and its names.
            What is there about this man that has influenced my life?
            Early on, when I was a practicing Roman Catholic, I thought of him as the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Having departed from the Christian tradition, I no longer believe that. What I do believe is that he is as much a son of God as you and I and all people are. We are all syllables of Oneness. We are all sparks of divinity. He and you and I.
            And yet he differs from me because he realized within himself—all those years ago in first-century Palestine—a fullness, a wholeness, of humanity. Did he live only one life and achieve this wholeness through the grace of the Holy Oneness of All Creation? I don’t know. I know only that his life, his words, and the meaning he found in relationship draw forth from me my deepest admiration. He is, quite simply, the love of my life.

This is the oldest icon of the “Christos.”
It can be viewed in Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai.

            It is Yeshua whose actions, like my mother’s, taught me how to respond to others so as to bring peace into our world. How to respond respectfully. Compassionately. Empathically.
            I’ll end this series with a story in which a magazine article used the word outcast. Immediately, I thought of Yeshua. He reached out to the outcasts of his world—those whom his society castigated as unclean. For the people of Palestine in the first century, these would have been thieves, lepers, prostitutes, the sick, the possessed, the crazed. And even women who were menstruating.
            Why were they unclean? The general public believed they had sinned. Sickness was a result of sin—either by the person affected or by the parents of that person. To touch an unclean person was to become unclean. So cast them off, run them out, berate them, ignore them. But always steer clear of them.
            And in every culture throughout history, we have witnessed the deep fissures that can arise between a people when they begin to look at others as unworthy or unclean or "not like us."
            Through words and actions, Yeshua taught that we must cease to separate people into groups of the clean and unclean. We must cease to judge one person more worthy than another. We must cease to look at those around us and see “them” and “us.” We must embrace differences and see these only as varied facets of the single diamond of Oneness.
            Hellen O’Mara Ready and Yeshua are the two people who have taught me that we must seek out those whom others ignore and treat as unclean, unworthy, disreputable. We must choose Oneness.
            In my next posting, I will share with you one final choice.

Afterword: If you have any interest in learning more about how Twelve Habits of Successful Cats and Their Humans came to be, please read my guest posting this past Tuesday on the blog ecwrites.  

Icon from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Twelve Habits of Highly Successful Cats and Their Humans

Last Saturday’s posting announced a companion book to A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story, which I’ve been promoting on this blog since December 8 of last year. The first book gave birth to the second. How? Through the wisdom of an editor.
            Way back in April 1991, this prospective editor for A Cat’s Life wrote me she’d be interested in the manuscript but only if I deleted half of the 42,000 words. I did and Crown subsequently published Dulcy’s first book in September 1992.

Drawing by Judy J. King from A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story.

            The remaining words have languished on the computer since that time. I tried to breathe life into them three times, but that same editor found them wanting. Years passed and the editor left Crown before I finally hit upon an idea that worked for me. However, it didn’t work for any editors or agents I queried. None of them even asked to see the manuscript.
            Ultimately, I titled the manuscript Twelve Habits of Highly Successful Cats and Their Humans by Dulcy and Dee Ready and decided to publish through Wayman, a new press that offered publication. In her second book, Dulcy suggests to fellow cats twelve habits that can make their lives with humans and with one another the nirvana they longed for. Following each habit is a short reflection I’ve written to show how Dulcy’s habit has influenced my life. Twelve habits; twelve stories purred by Dulcy; twelve reflections mulled by me.

            Today, I’d like to give you a sample of Dulcy’s writing and also of mine. She titles her eighth habit “Accept the Inevitable.” To illustrate her contention that a great gulf exists between the inevitable and the merely intolerable, she inserted a poem detailing her response to my attempt to convert the two cats with whom I lived to vegetarianism.
            Dulcy rebelled. Becoming a feline vegetarian was not inevitable, only intolerable. She purred her disgruntlement in the following poem:

Where is my food?
My giblets with gravy?
My liver with sauce?
My tuna with oil?
My beef with its broth?

I won’t taste these pellets.
These are not good hors d’oeuvres—
not toothsome
not tasty
not luscious
not pleasing—
To one whose fine palate
Knows real haute cuisine.
So give me my food,
My gravy, my beef.

I won’t eat these nuggets.
I won’t stoop to bawl,
But give me delectables,
Or give nothing at all.

Dulcy incorporats this poem into her text for the habit. I follow her text with my own. Here’s my take on Habit 8.

How can we recognize the inevitable as opposed to the intolerable? Dulcy seems so sure of the difference. She saw Bartleby and the love I felt for him as inevitable. But when I brought a third cat into our household, she found this intolerable and disappeared into the pantry for an entire year. Daily she crouched on a shelf there. She left it only to go outside.
For one year she did not talk to me or lie on my lap or lick my fingers. Her message was clear: “Living with Tybalt is intolerable.” And so I gave him to a farmer who later called and said that Tyb was a great mouser.
I have not always been so sure of the difference between inevitable and intolerable. Twice I almost had a nervous breakdown because I accepted as inevitable the conditions under which I was living and working.
But when I let silence surround me and listened to the stirrings of my heart, to the instinct I had for survival, I realized that staying in these situations was not inevitable. The work was merely intolerable. I could leave; I could change the furniture of my life.
What is inevitable? What must happen? Children growing up? Yes. Our bodies slowing down? Yes. Aging? Yes. Death? Yes. Time takes its toll on bodies. They break down, rust out, die. All that is inevitable. And perhaps one other thing is inevitable—love, freely given, abounds in possibilities.
Love can have all the life-giving force of a rain shower. It can help us grow and blossom into all we were meant to be. It can help us flower. The result of a love that is given freely and unconditionally is growth in the spirit.
That growth is inevitable. As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins says, “It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.” Dulcy believes that the great god of cats calls us to fields of love. That, too, is inevitable.

There you have it—a sample from Dulcy’s companion book Twelve Habits of Highly Successful Cats and Their Humans and a sample also of Dulcy’s wit with regard to her life experience and the philosophy flowing from my own.
Purr and peace to you.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Cat's Life: Dulcy's Story

In a posting last June, I described my relationship to a cat who, when we first met, gifted me with her name. She was Dulcy, the sweet one. After her death, she purred the story of our life together in a book channeled through me.
        A later December posting detailed how I came to have 670 trade paperback copies of that book—A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story. At that time, readers could purchase it through PayPal. Now Amazon sells it, as well as the e-book edition. All this gladdens me.

        Why recall this to you today? Because next Tuesday, a second book Dulcy created will become available. It is entitled Twelve Habits of Highly Successful Cats and Their Humans by Dulcy and Dee Ready. In my next posting, I'll explain how this companion book came to be. Today, I’d like to share with you the story of how I realized that I needed Dulcy in my life.
        I’ve already related the story of my return to Dayton in 1971 upon the completion of grad school. I could find no work because of having an FBI file. However, a warehouse manager hired me. Unfortunately, the warehouse sat outside the city limits, and without a car, I had no way to get there. Luckily for me, a fellow employee offered to pick me up at the home of a mutual friend. I’d ride my bike there each weekday morning and hitch a ride.
        One November afternoon, I pedaled happily away from the friend's house, turned left, and traveled a few blocks down a neighborhood street. All was as usual until I heard a car approaching behind me. Slowly, ever so slowly and deliberately, the car edged me closer and closer to the curbing. I kept pedaling, staring ahead, not wanting to look to the left side for fear of eye contact.
        Long moments passed. Pedaling became difficult in the narrow passage between the side of the car and the curb. Unexpectedly, a hand reached out the car window to grab and twist my wrist. It shoved me sideways so that the bike and I tumbled to the ground. My body fell awkwardly, my feet still held captive by the pedal guard.
        As the car sped away, I could see the heads of two men.
        I lay shaking on the grassy verge for a few moments, fearful that they’d come back. Glancing at my aching wrist, I realized that the intrusive hand had twisted off my watch. I’d treasured it for seventeen years because my aunt had given it to me when I graduated from high school. It was now gone, but were the two men?
       Clumsily, I mounted the bike and pedaled furiously toward home. On the way, I sang “I Whistle a Happy Tune” as loudly as I could. 

Then, as I’d feared, the car drew alongside me again. The two young men inside greeted me cheerily.
        Ignoring them, I concentrated on pedaling. Finally, perhaps annoyed with my off-key singing, they sped away. I was relieved because I'd feared they’d follow me to where I lived.
        A few days later, the warehouse manager fired me and I got a job teaching at a dropout center. Then in March 1972, a friend, worried because I had no one to go home to for comfort, encouraged me to pick out a kitten from the litter in her upstairs closet. Thus, Dulcy came into my life.

        For the next seventeen and a half years, she became my ally. Not only was she the sweet one. She was solicitous about my welfare, always greeting me with a purr and a rub of my ankles. She became, I say this with deep gratitude, my companion.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Choosing a Definition

In August 1973, a Minnesota friend invited me to work on a reading curriculum. I lived in Stillwater while completing the project.

The St. Croix river flows past Stillwater, Minnesota,
a town of 11,000 when I moved there in 1973.

            Steeped in lumberjack lore, the oldest town in Minnesota sits contentedly next to the St. Croix. This river town has a charm I’d never met before, and it became my home for the next thirty-six years. Early on—in September 1981—I became a vegetarian. My reasoning, once again, was based on what I considered peace and justice issues. Here’s the story of how that happened.
            A convent friend visited, bearing a gift. The cover of Laurel’s Kitchen: A Handbook for Vegetarian Cookery and Nutrition proclaimed that it was “America’s first complete guide to cooking delicious natural foods.” Annette knew that I gardened and enjoyed trying new recipes. “The gift seems perfect for you,” she said.

My battered copy of Laurel’s Kitchen sits before me.

            She was right. Together, the two of us sat next to the river—she meditating on its lazy flow and I devouring the book’s introductory section: “Giving the Gift of Life.” Her gift lies open now on my computer desk so I can easily find the passage that changed my life. I began the paperback not knowing that the words printed on page 39 would touch some part of myself that had awaited definition.

As of mid-1975, world famine has intensified to the point that fifteen thousand human beings, most of them children, are dying of malnutrition each day. For the first time in its twenty-seven-year history UNICEF has declared an emergency situation. Meanwhile, for all our own anxieties over economic recession, the major health problems in the United States continue to be those related to overconsumption. Our consumption patterns are hurting us, and they are now jeopardizing life the world over.
            Our meat-based diet is perhaps the most obvious example. We now consume about twice the protein our bodies need, and beef is our hands-down favorite way of doing it. As Frances Moore LappĂ© has shown us, every pound of beef on our table represents sixteen pounds of grain and legumes removed from the total available to a hungry world. What we do not all realize is that this high-protein feed is administered to a steer during the last few weeks of its existence. The sole function of most of the soybeans and other feed crops we raise is to turn lean range-fed beef into the marbled fat beef that our doctors warn us against.
            The relationship between meat consumption and available grain is therefore more sensitive than we might think. If demand for meat goes down, the steer’s last-minute cram session does not take place. In 1974,when the market for meat did fall, the grain that was so unexpectedly released actually did find its way to poorer countries. (The italicized word is in the original.)  

            I responded wholeheartedly to these paragraphs. Here’s how my thinking ran: If my eating less beef would help the hungry of the world, then eating no beef would help even more. By doing this, I would be silently affirming my belief in the holiness of all life. Moreover, less consumption meant fewer steers raised and that meant fewer of these sentient creatures would die.
            The final statement of course had to be that I would also cease to consume chicken and fish. They, too, were sentient creatures, and chickens especially were being raised in abysmal conditions.
            “I’m a vegetarian now,” I announced to Annette.
             “What prompted this?” she asked.
            I read her the three paragraphs. She refrained from citing the counter arguments about one person being able to do little to feed the whole world. Knowing me well, she knew that for me life is holy. Sacred. And becoming a vegetarian would be a way of living that belief.
            We drove home. I emptied the freezer of chicken, beef, and fish; gave the trove to a friend; and settled down to learn how to cook as a vegetarian and what to order at restaurants. I’ve never regretted this decision.
            As Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.” Out of the stillness of my commitment arises the transformation.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Moving, Moving, Moving On

Toward the end of the school year in 1972, I felt the need to move on. Actually, this on-line memoir has shown me that I had a tendency during those first years out of the convent to move on often—to a new apartment, a new job, a new state. 
            This nomadic lifestyle began in the convent. I took first vows in January 1960. From that time until December 1966—six and a half years later—the Mother Superior sent me to five schools in two states.
            To use an analogy, by the time I left the convent, I’d become a sprinter, not a long-distance runner. That is, I didn’t stay long in any one place.
            After the convent, I stayed at home in Missouri for a month. Then I moved to Dayton, Ohio, to work. During the next two and a half years, I lived in six apartments before attending grad school in Minnesota for two years, living off-campus.
            Returning to Dayton, I lived in an apartment and taught at the dropout center for a year. Next, I moved to New Hampshire, where I lived in an apartment for three months before settling in an 1810 farmhouse with two roommates. A year later I returned to Missouri. Several weeks later, I drove north to Minnesota to work.

The autumn beauty of New Hampshire.

            So in the six and a half years between leaving the convent and moving back to Minnesota, I lived in eleven residences and four states.
            Add it up.
            In thirteen years—from January 1960 to August 1973—I lived in sixteen residences in six states.
            Once I moved back to Minnesota, I lived in two different places before I bought a home in May 1977 and ceased to roam—or, to use my analogy, to sprint. I abided in that welcoming 1870 lumberjack home for thirty-two years.
            During those thirteen years of wanderlust, I never thought of settling in one place. Strangely, I’d left the convent because I thought I wasn’t a good teacher and yet again and again I’d reentered classrooms. While at the dropout center in 1972, I’d even flown to Detroit for two job interviews to teach outside the United States.
            In a spacious hotel room in the Motor City, an urbane gentleman interviewed me for a job teaching at an American school in Turkey. He asked me to give him three, short definitions of myself.
            “I’m a human being seeking meaning. A teacher who values community. And an animal lover.”
            Next he asked me about my philosophy of education.
            Then he offered me the job for an enticing $10,000 a year. Since I’d been making $7,000, this tempted me. However, I had one question that would influence my decision.
             “Will I wear a veil when I go out of the school’s compound?” I asked.
            “I wore a veil for eight years. Long enough for me.”
            My next Detroit interview was for a job teaching in Aruba for a U.S. company that had established a school for its employee’s children. Afterward, I was offered the job—for $12,000 a year.

Oranjestad—the capital of Aruba.

            Before accepting, I again asked one question: “Do you facilitate meetings between the children who are citizens of Aruba and the visiting children of your employees?
            Once again, I turned down the job.
            On my return to Dayton, I began to look for a teaching position in New England. While getting a graduate degree in American Studies, I’d become intrigued with that area and its Yankee mentality.
            By this time, I’d learned to drive and bought my first car. So in August 1972, I headed northeast. I stayed in Claremont, New Hampshire, for only one year. You can read about my teaching there in the following postings:

·      Two Roads Diverged
·      Holy Ground
·      The Box Sprung Open
·      Thank You One and All

            Thanks for joining me on this peripatetic journey throughout my life. One of these fine posting days I’ll share with you my conclusions on why I kept moving on. And why I am now moving again—back to Minnesota. Hang in there with me!

Photographs from Wikipedia

Afterword #1: Throughout the remainder of May, I’ll post about the publication of a new book that is a companion to A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story as well as several other social justice issues that have impinged on my life since 1973 when I left Claremont, New Hampshire.

Afterword #2: At the Dayton dropout center, I participated in segregated education. If you’re interested in  reading an article in today’s New York Times about these schools in New York City, please click here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Walking the Walk

The Dayton Dropout Center was an alternative high school for young people who’d dropped out of the public school system, but still wanted to work for a diploma. On Saturday, I explained that sixty of these sixty-one students were African Americans. Five of the seven teachers were also African American. Only Denny and I were Caucasian, and we two caused a brief uproar among the other teachers.
            Denny had been at Woodstock, and his view of the prevailing culture was even more jaded than mine. Both of us were somewhat aligned with the counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s—he, much more than I. Denny never spoke of his background, but I assumed, because of things he said and his casual approach to money, that he was of the upper class. I’d come from a working-class background, and had little money, but I surely was part of the prevailing white culture.

Woodstock Poster for the 1969 gathering.

            I’d been involved in the Vietnam War protest; I wasn’t married, nor did I have children; and I’d been a Roman Catholic nun. So my concerns differed somewhat from many other women.
            Denny was a Jewish man of fierce intelligence who didn’t suffer fools gladly. Like myself, he felt that much of what happened in Washington, D.C., the Pentagon, and Vietnam was accomplished by foolish men whose value systems had gone astray. They’d lost their way.

The peace symbol created in Great Britain.

            The students valued Denny’s opinion because he seemed so confident in himself and his views. He seemed to simply know the answer to any problem a student presented. Moreover, his wit was dry and sometimes acerbic. The students, to use a word I seldom use, adored him.
            The dropout center opened its doors to students in late November 1971. By March, Denny and I both felt that the school’s goal was misguided. Its founder wanted to help African American students enter the middle class of the dominant culture. Denny and I both considered this white culture to be shallow and materialistic. Despite that, we’d done our part to fulfill the school’s goal. Yet both of us were beginning to balk.
            We wanted the students to embrace their own culture. Motown records had made people everywhere aware of the richness of the Black culture. Moreover, universities around the country were  establishing Black Studies programs that explored the contributions of black writers, musicians, athletes, scientists, and entrepreneurs to American society.

J. C. Penney, Jr., who established the J. C. Penney department stores in 1902.

            Denny and I wanted the students to reject the dominant culture, just as we’d rejected it—or so we thought. One afternoon we seven teachers sat down together in a spare classroom to discuss what seemed like a dilemma to Denny and me. The two of us explained where we were coming from. Then the conversation went something like this.
            “You’ve got it all wrong,” the teachers told the two of us.
            “Why should anyone want to be part of this culture? It stinks!” Denny and I countered.
            “The two of you are well intentioned. A bit idealistic, though. You’re part of the culture you’re putting down.”
            “We’re opting out.”
            “Just how are you doing that? You both live in white neighborhoods. You shop in any store you want. You don’t worry about the police following you down streets when you drive around town. You both have bank accounts. You’re both highly educated in predominately white universities. Tell us—just how have you dropped out?”
            “But we didn’t choose that. We were born into it. Now we’re rejecting it.”
            “Doesn’t look like that. You haven’t rented a room in the inner city and tried to shop at the grocery stores there. You don’t frequent the stores in this neighborhood. You drive away from this school each day and into your side of town—with its clean stores and advantages. You talk the talk. But you don’t walk the walk.
            “The truth is you’re asking these children to reject what they’ve never had.”
            “You can’t reject what you’ve never had. You need to have it first.”
            “But it’s not worth having.”
            “You say that because you have it. These students need to taste the good life. Only then will they know both lives and only then can they choose—with knowledge and experience—to reject one or the other. Or to somehow embrace both.”
            Silence and then, “That makes sense.”
            Denny and I returned to the classroom. We both continued to help the students prepare themselves to become part of white neighborhoods and businesses—to become welcomed additions to the dominant culture.
            What we also did was to teach them all we could about the richness of their own culture. I used black poetry, short stories, and novels and encouraged the students to use these to write about their own lives. Denny taught American history with an emphasis on the contributions of African Americans.

Zora Neale Hurston, a noted author of the Harlem Renaissance,
whose most famous work is Their Eyes Watching God.

            Today, I know that my fellow teachers were right in their assessment of Denny and metwo young, white idealists who tried to tell our fellow black teachers how to teach and what to value. Our hubris knew no bounds. Both of us were articulate; we could “talk the talk” with ease. As Mary Turpie, the professor at the University of Minnesota, said about people like us—we could “b---s---.”
            But I never “walked the walk.” I still live in an all-white neighborhood. All my friends are white. I feel no apprehension when I go into stores. No fear that the security guards will follow me around. I’ve even stopped protesting injustice. What happens to us? Do we just wear out? Or do we give up? And when I say “us,” I mean “me.”
            In a recent posting, Penny, of lifeonthecutoff, said she’d “lost her bounce.” I have, too, and I don’t know where to find it.

All photographs from Wikipedia.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Black vs. Standardized English

Let’s return today to how peace and justice issues impinged on my life in the early years after I left the convent. Between January and April, I shared my becoming aware of racism within myself and society, my attending grad school in Minnesota to learn about Black English, my encountering violence there in the classroom and on the street, my protesting the Vietnam War, and my returning to Dayton only to discover that I had an FBI file that kept employers from hiring me. Finally, I landed a job in a department store warehouse where I tried to unionize the female workers and got fired.            
            That happened in November 1971. Rather quickly I returned to teaching. A dedicated immigrant from South Africa had gotten the funds to begin a dropout center for teenagers—sixty African American students and one Caucasian. As I remember, the students ranged in age from fifteen to twenty-one. The faculty consisted of five African Americans and two Caucasians: Denny, a young Jew, and myself, an ex-nun.
            Denny taught American history; I, composition, grammar, and literature. Quickly I discovered that only a few students believed in their ability to learn. My job was clear: I needed to help them appreciate the knowledge within themselves.

            Several had been in the reformatory and that was rich fodder for writing. We began by sharing their life stories, some of which were acutely poignant while others had us all laughing.            
            We spent days sharing stories, then we began to write. I didn’t want spelling to get in the way of their writing so we began with their calling out words they’d need for their compositions. I printed these on the chalkboard.
            Next they wrote. Then came the reading of their stories. By this time, a community was forming in each of the classes—freshman through senior. The students now felt bound to one another within this community, so they supported one another’s efforts in finding the “telling” word; forming alliteration, analogy, simile, metaphor; and developing the story arc. We discussed sustaining suspense and preparing for the denouement.
            Once we trusted one another, the students shared their dreams about what they’d like to do with their lives. Clearly, they needed to be prepared for work that would earn the necessary funds to fulfill their dreams. And yet their spoken English was non-standardized. Who would hire them?
            The day came when I said, “ You know all of you are so smart.”
            “What makes you say that, Ms. Ready?” they asked.
            “Well, I can speak only one language but all of you speak two. That’s smart.”
            The statement astounded them. Two languages? What did I mean?
            To illustrate, I asked one student to pretend to be in a downtown Dayton office for a job interview with a white personnel director. “What questions do you think that man or woman will ask you?” I inquired.

            The students reeled off a list of things they’d heard asked before: What job experience do you have? How old are you? What are your skills? What was your attendance like in high school? How about your grades?
            As the students asked the questions, I printed them on the chalkboard, just as the students said them—in Black English. Beneath each question I printed how I—a speaker of standardized English—would ask it. “Notice any difference?” I asked.
            Yes. They saw that how they spoke and how I spoke were different. “If you want to get work out there in that big white world, you need to speak what’s known as Standardized English,” I explained.
            “So what are we speaking?” one student asked, “Dayton English?”
            “You’re speaking Black English.”
            “Bad English?”
            “No. Black English. It’s a real language. Just like French or Spanish. Or any other language. It has rules and something called syntax. You speak it. So you speak two languages. When you’re with one another you speak Black English.”
            “But white people don’t seem to understand me when I talk,” one young man complained. “They say I speak ‘broken English.’”
            “Not broken. Black. But you’ve put your finger on the problem. We’ve got to practice speaking what is known as ‘standardized English’ if you’re going to get past that first job interview.”
            So we began. They asked questions in Black English. I printed these queries on the chalkboard. Beneath them, I’d print standardized English. We’d practice saying this second set of questions. I wanted them to get used to the questions they’d be asked.
            Then we practiced answers in Black and standardized English.
            Slowly, as the weeks passed, the students became adept at switching from Black to standardized. I participated in countless mythical interviews as the personnel manager or the boss of a Dayton business. The students participated as Black English speakers and as standardized English speakers.
            Time passed and they beamed at their growing expertise to shift from Black to standardized English. “Just look at us,” their smiles declared. “We speak two languages! We’re downright educated!”
            I agreed. “Yes. The cat’s meow!”
            Next Tuesday I’ll continue the story of my work at the dropout center with these students, who were so eager to learn.

Afterword #1: Thanks for all your comments on my posting this past Tuesday and for the suggestions about how to keep the newly cleaned shower stall pristine. I’ve now taken a shower and “ah, my foes, and oh, my friends” the wiped stall “gives a lovely light”—with an acknowledgement to the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. I just got a call that tomorrowSunday at 10 am—I'll have my first "showing" of this house. Send those good wishes winging this way! I'm on Central Daylight Time!!!

Afterword #2: For my postings from January through March, a number of you commented on my “courage.” I thank you for that, and I’d like to introduce you today to a storyteller whose courage and fortitude I greatly admire. Some of you read Rita’s blog Soul Comfort’s Corner, so you’ve met this extraordinarily talented woman who lives daily with the aches and pangs of fibromyalgia and fills those days with painting, journaling and creating exquisite note cards. However, fewer of you know her second blog: Soul Comfort’s Stories.
            During April, Rita posted a two-part story on this second blog about her youth during the Vietnam War. I urge you to read Installment 1, which is entitled “The Helpful Hooker: Running Away to Canada” and Installment 2, “Innocents on the Road: Running Away to Canada.” Once you read her stories, you’ll go back for more. Her latest is “Uniform.”  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Decision Is Made

Dear Blogging Friends, Readers, Commentators, 
                   and You Who Fit All Three Categories,

Hello again.
            Today marks my blogging re-entry. In April, life became too complicated for me to write new postings. So I reposted eight stories from 2011. I didn’t respond to comments on these because I was pursuing a dream.
            Many of you thought I spent April working on a memoir. I didn’t. I began the month by getting ready for a trip to Minnesota. On April 6th, I journeyed forth from my Independence home and headed north. For eleven days, I cavorted with friends of thirty-eight years—friends I’d left behind when I moved to Missouri three years ago.

At the Good Earth Restaurant with a friend.

            In addition, I looked at a unit in a cooperative, three units in condos, a townhouse, and two refurbished houses. You see, this journey was a fact-finding one in which I sought answers to three questions: Could I financially afford to move back to Minnesota? Could I find a condo that would allow three cats? And . . .  Had I romanticized my years in Minnesota? The answers, in order, are yes, yes, and definitely no.
            A fourth question also presented itself: Did Meniere’s Disease still have a firm grip on my life? So much so that I wouldn’t have the psychic and physical energy to make a move?
            As I met with friends, almost all of them commented on my vitality. My vim and vigor. The answer was swift and sure: Meniere’s has relinquished its control. Healing has taken place here in Missouri. That is one of the great gifts of my being here. I have come home to health.
            Missouri has helped me come home in other ways. Part of that coming home is the acknowledgement that during those thirty-eight years I spent in Minnesota, the apricot sunsets, the multitudinous lakes, the acres of parks, the blustery winters, and the ever-changing political scenes rooted themselves within me. It is there I wish to spend my final years.
            And so this past Thursday, a realtor placed my Missouri home on the market. I so wish I could move it to Minnesota and settle it gently on a plot of ground in some wooded area. But I’ve never learned the art of levitation, and so must find a new home for the cats and myself. Financially I must consider only what I really need, not what I simply want.
            And what I need in a home is a bed in which to sleep, a kitchen in which to cook, an office in which to write my manuscripts and postings, and a space in which to place kitty litters for Ellie, Maggie, and Matthew.
            During the last full week of April, a cousin from Seattle visited me for six days. Within her I met a wholeness that touched my life while she was here. Perhaps she knows the art of levitation. I didn’t ask because I needed a more immediate gift from her: cleaning the walk-in shower to make it presentable to a buyer.
            She applied her considerable skills to this task. That bathroom is now pristine. So much so that I hesitate to take any more showers. It’s the other bathroom for me—the one with the tub. I know how to keep a tub clean as I did that in Minnesota. But perhaps you can suggest a product that will enable me to use the walk-in shower while keeping it looking factory new. If so, HELP!
            So that’s the month of April. If you have any unassigned prayers, vibes, visualizations, good wishes, thoughts, energy, please send them my way. In this lifelong questioning of “Where and what is home?” I’ve lived in expectation of goodness. It just keeps rolling in, inundating me with the mystery of what being human means.
             Peace ever and always to you.