Sunday, January 27, 2019

Outside the Window -- flash fiction

     She felt it more than heard it.
     She'd been tired, so tired she'd gone to bed leaving Carl in front of the TV.
     She didn't open her eyes. She heard only silence and drifted off.
     There it was again. A distant rumble, like a bowling ball running down the lane. She and Carl bowled a lot when the kids were small. The Bowlarama had thirty lanes, a bar and grill, and childcare. She turned over and went back to sleep.
     A different sound -- like a door shutting. Then rushing air. She kept her eyes shut. Maybe it was the heating unit. Or the wind. She felt Carl's side of the bed. Empty. He must still be in front of the TV. What time was it? Maybe she could go back to sleep.
     She opened her eyes.
     The room was dark. Totally dark. She reached for her glasses. The night light must be out. Maybe the battery. No, it didn't have a battery. It plugged into the wall. Did those bulbs ever burn out? She couldn't remember how long they'd had it. She touched the base of her reading lamp. Nothing happened.
     The power was out. Where was her phone? She'd use it for light. Yes, of course -- on the charger in the kitchen.
     She stepped into one of her house slippers, but she couldn't find the other one. Just another good reason to be more intentional about putting things away. Her keys, the remote control, the house phone.
     Carl was much better at that than she. He hung his coat in the hall closet as soon as he came in. He always recradled the house phone no matter where he'd been using it. Each of his tools hung in its place on the south wall of the garage.
     The living room was dark.


     No Carl. No TV, either. Of course not. The power was out.
     Maybe a breaker had kicked off. They did that sometimes, like when Carl was in the garage welding. Many years ago her father had shown her how to push the breaker switch all the way off, then on again. She couldn't think if the breaker box was in the garage or outside somewhere.
     Lightning flashed through the closed blinds, lighting the room in eerie strips. Too little light for too short a time. On then off like a strobe. Silence for a three-count, then thunder.
     First the wind. A gust front. She could feel it against the house. Then the rain started. From the popping sound against the chimney cap, they must be big drops. Or maybe hail.


     Maybe he'd gone into the garage to do whatever it was needed doing to get the power back on.
     She opened the blinds and looked out. The whole neighborhood was dark. So dark she couldn't see across the street. It wasn't just her house.
     Again, a flash of lightning. Wind driven rain lashed the window. Their beautiful bay window -- the window that sold them on this house.
     In that moment, she saw someone coming toward the house. Through her roses. Carl knew better than that. Her Mister Lincoln had been there for years. Her mother gave her the cutting. And the Tropicana, the most beautiful orange rose. Not the aggressive orange of a hunter's vest. More like mango sherbet. Carl said it didn't look right, next to the Mister Lincoln's deep red.
     Dark again, leaving only the bright blindness of eyes trying to adjust.
     Thunder and a scream. Amidst the raging wind and rain, something smashed through the window. Sounds of shattering glass and clashing Venetian blinds filled the blackness. Her chest constricted. She couldn't breathe. She pressed herself against the wall.
     Another flash lit the room. Harsh white light exposed a concrete bowl sitting on her living room floor -- the bowl and broken glass. Her birdbath. Carl told her it was too near the window, but farther away and it would have been on the other side of the roses. Where was he?
     Moaning wind battered at the front door. The moans sounded almost human. The moans became shouts, calling her name beseeching her to "please open the damn door."


     Lightning flashed as she opened the door. Carl stood there, silhouetted against the glare. Thunder roared over their heads, as though to shake the world. She pulled him inside.

     Too exhausted to be afraid any longer, they huddled in the hallway until the storm passed.

     Dawn came right behind the storm. In that quiet, first light, she examined the damage. Their living room was in shambles. Rain soaked the glass strewn carpet and most of the furniture. Blood streaked Carl's face.

     "Sorry 'bout the roses." He said. "And the birdbath. I fell against it."

     She gently plucked a deep red petal from above his left eye and a mango sherbet petal from his left cheek. Carl had been wrong. His face was beautiful. Even with the Mister Lincoln rose's deep red so near the Tropicana's orange.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The 2019 Women's March in Denver

Today was the third Women's March in Denver.

The first was held January 21, 2017, to protest Donald J. Trump's positions and Presidency; to promote women's rights, immigration reform, climate science, and health care reform; to counter religious discrimination, violence against women, and LGBTQ abuse; and to address racial inequities, workers' issues, and environmental issues. Other than protesting Trump's policies and his presidency, those goals have not been fully achieved. But we're on our way.

I missed the first Women's March. I had just had knee replacement surgery. By the 2018 March, I was there. I don't know that that March was responsible for getting out the second-highest midterm election voter turnout rate in the nation. It was certainly an indication of Colorado's response to the 2016 election. Democrats swept into office.

And if that 2018 March foretold what would happen in the midterms, I hope today's is indicative of what the current administration in D.C. has to look forward to.

Here's a sampling of what today's March was like. Keep in mind that I am not a photographer by training -- just by enthusiasm.

This was the same sign I carried last year. It's sturdy and speaks for me. It'll be good for next year's March, too.

Last year I went with my friend Lou and my daughter and her now-husband. This year they were all else where so I went alone. But as you can see I certainly was NOT alone.

There were lots of signs -- some serious, some witty, some snarky, some irreverent, some very, very  pointed. But the participants were friendly and upbeat.

        This sign pretty much covered it all.                    "Hang On Ruthie Hang On" referring to
                                                                                    Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

      This beautiful calligraphy was done by this man.               and this is what was on the back.
                                 This sign says "Women are the Wall and Trump will pay"

                                                                  'nough said!

                                   In Our America              This woman was there with her walker   
                                      All are                                                                             
                           Welcome, = , &  (heart)                                                                               

I was afraid yesterday's snow storm would keep people away. And it probably did some. The neighborhood streets were snow-packed but the main streets were clear. And, of course, the light rail was running just fine.

All ages participated -- from babies in strollers to octogenarians. This reassures me that as my generation leaves the scene, there are new generations who will continue to persist and resist as needed.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Becoming by Michelle Obama -- a review

Michelle Obama's memoir is perfect to start 2019. It's open and eye-opening. This book scatters seeds of Yes-we-can, gently telling us little bits about people who are not to-the-manner-born, but learn,
do well, and make a difference. It's her view of herself and her experiences and of the people around her that strengthens my optimism about America. And about humanity in general. Optimism that is being sorely tested.

Wikipedia identifies Michelle Obama as "Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama (born January 17, 1964) is an American writer, lawyer, and university administrator who served as the First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017." This paragraph identifies her as her, not just the wife of Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, first black President of the United States. Not just as first black First Lady of the United States.

More than half the book is about her life before her husband ran for president. And that life was amazingly normal, working class, American. Her father, Fraser Robinson III, worked for the City of Chicago at a water treatment plant. And her mother, Marian Shield Robinson was a stay at home mom until Michelle went to high school. Both were born in Chicago to people who'd come North during the Great Migration. (I knew nothing about the Great Migration until I read Isabel Wilkerson's book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, published in 2010 by Random House.)

Like my own family, there were only two children -- Michelle and her older brother Craig. Being less than two years apart, they were always close (also like my brother and me, although I'm the older one.) The Robinsons maintained close ties to their extended family, grandparents, aunts and uncles, great-aunts and -uncles, and lots of cousins. All, of whom lived close enough to get together easily and often. And, let me tell you, from personal experience, a small family of four doesn't feel small at all with that many kin close by.

Michelle says she wasn't really aware of racial problems until she was older.

When she was small, Michelle's South Shore neighborhood was more diverse than my white one was. Oklahoma was determinedly segregated.

Bryn Mawr, her elementary school was considered one of Chicago's best public schools when she started kindergarten there. The children in her class picture are described by a classmate as "five little white faces and 23 shades of brown faces and one Middle Eastern face.”

By the time she finished the 8th grade, there were only brown faces. The children may not have questioned where their white and wealthier classmates went, but the grown-ups knew what was going on. At least some did.

When Michelle was entering the seventh grade, the Chicago Defender, a newspaper widely read by the African American community ran an OpEd describing Bryn Mawr as a "run-down slum" governed by a "ghetto mentality." Michelle's school principal, Dr. Lavizzo wrote his own letter to the editor in which she says he made it clear that "he understood precisely what he was up against. Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It's vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear."

She says "There were predatory real estate agents roaming South Shore, whispering to home owners that they should sell before it was too late, that they'd help them get out while you still can." They used the word everyone was most afraid of -- 'ghetto' -- dropping it like a lit match."

In Oklahoma City, it was 'busing.' My parents bought it and moved us to the suburbs.

Mrs. Robinson did not. Michelle describes her mother -- "She'd lived in South Shore for ten years already and would end up staying another forty. She didn't buy into fearmongering and at the same time seemed equally inoculated against any sort of pie-in-the-sky idealism. She was a straight-down-the-line realist, controlling what she could." A yes-we-can kind of mom.

And one thing Mrs. Robinson could do was to lobby for "a special multigrade classroom ... grouping students by ability rather than by age -- in essence, putting the brighter kids together so they could learn at a faster pace.

 Dr. Lavizzo's background is a yes-we-can seed. The multigrade classroom "was the brainchild of Dr. Lavizzo, who'd gone to night school to get his PhD in education." Night school.

The importance of education is emphasized throughout this book. Michelle's brother Craig was offered basketball scholarships to the University of Washington and Princeton. Washington's offer was a full ride. Princeton would cost $3,500 per year. Although Craig told his father he'd rather accept the University of Washington offer so it wouldn't cost the family anything, Mr. Robinson, being a yes-we-can kind of father, wouldn't hear of it. He wouldn't let his son choose based on saving them money. They'd figure out a way. And Craig chose Princeton, no doubt, breaking trail for his sister.

Michelle was a determined student. She was salutatorian of her high school graduating class. Her inspiration to follow Craig to Princeton? A high school counselor told her that she wasn't the sort of student to go to Princeton. Hah! Another yes-we-can seed. She graduated cum laude from Princeton then went on to Harvard where she got her law degree. And, yes, she was a normal, working class daughter who achieved a big salary at a prestigious law practice back in Chicago which she needed even though she continued to live with her parents in South Shore so she could pay back her college loans. And that's where she met Barack Obama. She was his mentor. It was part of her job to lure him to work for the law firm when he graduated Harvard Law.

As it turned out, he lured her away. And into the White House.

There is so much in this book. So much. So much. Becoming is a good read, an inspiring read. I could fill pages with Michelle Obama's words. Her fears. Her aspirations. The places she went and the people she met.

And she explained something to me that I did not understand. Why, or at least part of why, we could celebrate electing an African American man to be our President, a face to prove that America truly does hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That all people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. From that to the shameful situation we have now.

Here's what she said:
         "For more than six years now, Barack and I had lived with an awareness that we
          ourselves were a provocation. As minorities across the country were gradually
          beginning to take on more significant roles in politics, business, and entertainment,
          our family had become the most prominent example. Our presence in the White
          House had been celebrated by millions of Americans, but it also contributed to a
          reactionary sense of fear and resentment among others. The hatred was old and
          deep and as dangerous as ever.

        "We lived with it as a family, and we lived with it as a nation. And we carried on,
          as gracefully as we could."

I do believe that we, as a people and as a nation, will survive this regressive period in our history and again move forward. We will work toward the American dream of true freedom and equality of opportunity for all.

Yes we can.