Make good choices!

Tuesday Tom came in from work and told me a story. On one of the busy roads he drives, a car ahead of him was going excessively slow, so he finally passed it. When he did, he glanced over and saw that the driver was looking ahead, toward the road, but she was also holding up her phone in front of her face so that she could text.

People texting and driving has become as commonplace a sight in our neighborhood as sidewalks buckled by decades-old Live Oaks, people walking their dogs, and near-jungles of bougainvillea. Guess which one doesn’t belong?

I hadn’t done one of these in a while, so inspired by Tom, here’s a new one. The perils of texting have been on my mind lately because of two works I helped edit.

Put the phone down, people, and watch where you’re going, whether you’re in a car, on a bike, or on foot.


“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
― Maya Angelou

I’ve thought so hard about how I could respond to a post ‘Nathan published yesterday. Finally I realized that all the words I could use, could arrange as artfully and persuasively and reasonably as my abilities would allow, already exist succinctly in the above quote. Who knows if she really said it; the Internet is full of trickery. Even if she didn’t, the words are no less true to me.

I was happy to welcome ‘Nathan and Dan into my home in 2010. I lost most of the photos I took during their visit in my computer meltdown, but a few that had already made it to my blog and to Flickr remain. I used one of them to draw this in my Fat ‘Lil Sketch Book–my first drawing of 2012. I love that they are looking at Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk outside Rothko Chapel. The sculpture found a home there after it was rejected by the city as a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. following his assassination.

Sometimes the right thing is a long time coming. Sometimes there are people who block and circumvent and disparage the right thing. But when Tim and I were talking about this in a different context yesterday, I said it’s good to remember that every step toward justice and freedom and fairness is also taken by people. There will always be those among us who will march to the beat of what is best in us. Or maybe, in a less contentious image, will dance to the rhythm of what is best in us.

‘Nathan and Dan are my friends and will always be welcome and safe in my home. I want them to feel that way in theirs, and I want their home to expand to include…everywhere.

Because I love them.

Because it’s right.

Button Sunday

Somebody gave me this button years ago, and I figured I’d never use it for a Button Sunday. When I moved from LiveJournal to here, I resolved to give as little of my blog real estate as possible to people who I find deplorable. If I wouldn’t invite someone into my home, why would I let him/her hang out here?

But I decided if ever there were a time to use it, it’s this week. I really don’t care what politics you espouse, there are lines that decent people don’t cross. I can’t think of a single group he hasn’t exploited and mocked for his own personal gain; this past week, it just happened to be my gender.

Do I believe in free speech? Of course. I also believe exercising that freedom doesn’t mean there are no consequences when we choose our words unwisely.

Wisdom has never been a trait of bullies.

Legacy Writing 365:8

“Knock the L out of Hitler”

There are so many reasons I have strong emotional reactions to this photo.

On the back, my mother has written, “WW2. Bill with his half track in Louisiana on his way to the big war.” I wish all the family photos came with such precise descriptions to help me fix them in time and circumstance. This picture was taken long before she met my father, and one thing she probably liked about it was that he actually looks like a man in his early twenties. In fact, when Tom saw this photo, he said, “He looks so young!” because usually he says, “Your father always looked old, no matter what age he was.” When I think of all the things Daddy saw and lost in that “big war” he was headed for, I understand why he aged. And why his sleep remained troubled the rest of his life. He loved the Army, just as he loved all the careers he had, but it wasn’t love without a price.

In the coming year, I’ll probably share several photos showing signs my father painted. He learned that trade even before he went into the CCC, because there he learned the skills that would later be part of his time in the Army’s Signal Corps. But when he left the CCC, he bought an A Model Ford off a friend and refashioned it to become his mobile sign painting shop.

The year was 1938 and I felt completely free and footloose. The depression was beginning to grind down to an end, and although there was rumbling in the Far East and in Germany that hinted of a possible war to come one day, I refused to be concerned.

One of his stories, about which he says “a small part…is true but most…is fiction,” allows me to see his world through eyes that have not yet looked on war.

So here he is, young, and with the brash personality troops would need to do the job that would land them in Normandy and send them throughout Europe. He has put his sign-painting skills to use, adorning the half-track with his promise to Hitler. So many vintage war photos show shapely women painted on the machines of war, much the way pin-up photos of beauties like Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, and Jean Harlow were pasted inside footlockers and lockers to boost morale and symbolize the life troops were fighting to return to.

I could write reams on the way the framing of one war as heroic and the viewing of another war as horrific created the conflicted baby boom generation that I was born into. I don’t know if all the men and women who go into war have the young eyes and bold heart of this one, but I do believe when they come home, they should have all the opportunities, respect, and assistance they need to find their place in the world again. Some are stronger for the testing; some are broken. They’re all our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters.

Button Sunday

Another button from my days in the bookstore.

Last night I had a very long and complicated dream about working at Borders. Usually when I dream about working at a bookstore, it’s Bookstop, and I generally have those dreams when I’m under a lot of stress.

This time, however, I know the dream is because I’ve been reading articles about the last few days of the final Borders stores. It seems to me both chains followed pretty much the same trajectory. They were begun by people who had a passion for books. The unique approaches each founder bought to the bookselling world resulted in fast and furious success. They expanded to their breaking point, then sold out to a larger corporate entity who wanted to cash in on their success. Regardless of how passionate the chains’ booksellers, customers, and local management were, from the top down the stores were driven by profit without regard to the products and services provided. They lost all the qualities and practices that made them a success to begin with.

And in time, they failed and shuttered their stores.

The cities and towns where they once existed have lost a place to discover new books and rediscover familiar writers, meet authors at book signings, enjoy a community where a cup of coffee can be read over a newspaper or magazine, find knowledgable people who can help answer that plaintive question Can you tell me something good to read?, join readers’ groups for lively discussions, hook up a laptop and do some work in what many people (including me) feel is one of the best settings in the world–surrounded by walls and shelves of books.

For now, we still have Barnes & Noble, a few smaller chains, independent stores, and our libraries. If we lose those, too, and all reading is dependent on devices, will we be returning to an age when only the privileged have access to learning? Where reading is a luxury denied to a majority of people whose lives consist of work and more work and the struggle to provide food, clothing, and healthcare to their families? Where the newspapers are gone, and the magazines are gone, and maybe some entity just a little crazy and greedy and power mad can silence the fibers and air waves of our televisions, radios, computers, smart phones, and e-readers to keep us focused on whatever is needed to keep the crazy/greedy/power-mad at the top of the heap of humanity?

Maybe it was a stress dream after all…

Social media weirdness

Yesterday I visited some Facebook walls that are public, and I was reminded again of why Facebook is a terrible fit for me. I expressed a mini tirade about it on Twitter (everything on Twitter being mini), mostly regarding my inability to understand why people who carp incessantly about other people’s bigotry–including hate language–turn around and do exactly the same thing to people whose beliefs and politics are different from theirs. This is not quantum physics. You think it’s wrong to be generalized, stereotyped, insulted, demeaned–then it’s wrong for YOU TO DO IT, TOO. And if you’re going to do it anyway, then you’ve lost any moral high ground in calling out other people, and you’ve lost some of your sympathetic audience. Including me.

I don’t miss the cacophony.

Conventional wisdom says that when someone talks politics on Twitter, they lose followers. Even though I hadn’t technically done so in my mini tirade, I did glance at my list of followers this morning, and none seem to have vanished. However, the number of people I follow had lessened by about twenty. Now I’m the only one who can make that choice, so it’s obviously a Twitter glitch, and other people are experiencing it, too. I’m sure it’ll all get worked out eventually. Meanwhile–boy, is my Twitter quiet.

A happy surprise

Saturday Lynne and a couple of her fellow crazy-people-who-like-to-shop stopped by for a visit between retail excursions. They then took Tom along with them for a trip to Texas Art Supply and some of the shops in the Heights. Later, they returned to The Compound for iced tea and pizza–and Lila established herself as the visiting artist.

Painting a teapot requires a lot of concentration. An old undershirt as a smock is also helpful–especially when donated from a gifted artist like Tim.

Some people say Lila is bossy because she’s an Aries. I say it’s a genetic link to two women whose names also start with the letter “L.”

Form and function: The artist is pleased by her first drink of clear “tea” from her finished tea set.

The day made me think a lot about creativity and how we foster it in children. Almost all of the artists I know–in whatever field–had someone who encouraged them, often with great resistance from those with more “practical” agendas–the ones who start whispering in your ear as you get older about all the ways you’ll never make a living from what you love. I think the tortured artist is a cliché, but I also think the unhappiness of an artist comes more from having creativity stifled or belittled than from the drive to create–and really, that experience is hardly limited to the arts.

Some people do and some people don’t make a living from what they create. But I often remember a college professor who said, “I’d rather know the world is being looked after by a statesman or scientist who understands and appreciates poetry than not.” I agree. I believe we’re all born with the enthusiasm to create. No matter what we pursue in life, we should always show some love toward our creative selves. I think it makes us better at everything else we do.

Why I don’t like to go to the grocery store

I bring you this illustration with images that I’ve stolen from the Internet to show you why I don’t like to go to the grocery store.

During daylight hours, I usually turn into the first lane as I enter the parking lot. This is not a particularly popular lane for parking, as most people park closer to the main entrance.

Every parking lot lane is one way. There are always drivers who go the wrong way on this lane because it’s the lane closest to the exit. Which means when I’m pulling in or backing out, I have to watch for wrong-way vehicles as well as put up with hateful glares and rude gestures from IMPROPERLY EXITING drivers as if I AM IN THE WRONG for blocking their getaway route.

Then there are the people who treat parking spaces as if they are cart return locations. Today was the most amazing. The woman unloading her cart into the car next to mine walked across the lane to put her cart IN THE MIDDLE OF A PARKING SPACE. As you can see, she could have walked about the same distance across the MAIN lane to return her cart to the line of carts in front of the store.

Because neither she nor I could leave anyway (thanks to the line of cars going the wrong way), after I returned my cart to the front of the store, I walked to her abandoned cart and did the same with it. She pretended to be fumbling through the contents of her purse rather than meet my eyes.