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So, You Call Me a Feminist!!!


As a child, I was described as ‘feisty’ — ;never a Southern Belle.’ After my father died, I read some of his collection of diaries, reading about his description of me at the age of two. Paraphrasing here, “Although only two-years-of-age, Barbara likes to be the center of attention. Tonight at a Parent Teachers meeting for her oldest sister, Dolores, Barbara truly took over the conversation…she enjoys the looks of others and loves to dramatize things…”

Humph! Haven’t a clue what I did, but my Dad truly nailed me! I have always been described as “not a Southern Belle…” I suppose I am more of a “Steel Magnolia” than a Southern Belle, especially if the definition of steel magnolia is a woman who is strong, independent, feminine, but fights for the rights to be a feminist.

Yep. That is me! To those who really know me, they understand why I am a feminist…and so proud to be a feminist. I am married to a true Male Chauvinistic Pig…Mr. Macho Man. For too many years he has demanded me to ‘sit and be quiet. Don’t make a spectacle of yourself. A wife should be seen and not heard.’ This, from a man who fought a war and who has seen me fight for the rights of children, especially abused children…fight for the rights of animals…fight to end domestic abuse, and most especially, fight for the rights of women. There have been many times in my life when I have seen a man hit a woman, or a woman slap at a man, and there I go — interrupting and telling them to stop the domestic abuse to one another.

I suppose you could say I became a feminist at five-years-old. My family and I lived in the Projects of Joel Chandler Homes, Atlanta, GA. My mother was outside, “gossiping with the women,” when my dad walked outside, angry at my mother — again. He demanded her to come inside. When she refused, he knocked her to the ground. She cut her head on the concrete curb. The gossipy women watched in horror, refusing to say anything, while I ran after my dad, grabbing his pant leg, telling him to ‘stop beating my mama…You’re mean, Daddy. You’re a mean man.”

On that afternoon, I became a feminist, and I haven’t stopped. I will always stand up and shout to end domestic abuse, even when my husband rolls his eyes, shakes his head and mumbles, “Damn. There she goes again!” While I recognize I embarrass him at times, I will stand up to be heard, just like my father told me years ago…I will not hide my head in the sand. I will not look the other way…I will not hush! When I see someone doing something they should not do, I will stand up to fight back, with diplomacy, and I will stand tall so other women get the rights they deserve. In my corporate years, I experienced how women were not paid what they should be paid, simply because ‘she’s a woman…’  On one occasion, when I questioned why a man got a raise when I was doing the same retail management job as he was, I was told if I made any noise, I would be terminated. Less than a month later, I was “Terminated…”

And so, my journey continues. I am proud to be a woman. While I enjoy the looks of men, and I enjoy being ‘totally feminine’ — I am the first to open and hold the door — for a man, and I do not expect a man to give up his seat for me. Nor do I expect a man to buy me a drink, or to pick up the tab! My husband and I share this responsibility, and I love to drive — especially on long trips! I enjoy being a Steel Magnolia and Feminist. After all, “I am woman — hear me roar!”

 

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Another Icon is Now Gone


This has been a sad week for news, especially related to news of significant women, considered icons. First, we lost the stunning beauty and advocate, Elizabeth Taylor. Today, we learn about the loss of Geraldine Ferraro.

Geraldine Ferraro was iconic because she was the first woman to be nominated as the running mate for the position of Vice President, back in 1984, running with Walter Mondale. Although I was a bit of a novice regarding politics, at the time, I was thrilled and suddenly extremely proud to be a woman since society was finally recognizing the power and strength of women in our modern worlds. Growing up during the “women’s movement” I stood my ground, speaking up and the more I listened to these powerful and strong women, the more I wanted to be more than a ‘homemaker.’

Although Ferraro did not become Vice President, she stood her ground, refusing to allow men or her actions to weaken her, or intimidate who, and what, she became.

We, the women of America, will miss Geraldine Ferraro. It is unfortunate that the big “C” word has taken another victim. Just when will they find a cure to end Cancer — for Every One! Although I was never permitted the privilege to meet her, I admired the courage, determination and strength she held, not just for women, but for the US of A. Rest in peace, Geraldine. We mourn your passing.

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Loss of an Icon


Today the world grieves an icon, a legendary actress who stood her ground, even when the chips were against her. Elizabeth Taylor, a beauty, a legend and a woman of stunning magnitude, even in her ‘senior years,’ died today around the comforts and love of her family.

I remember how much my mother admired her, speaking often about her beauty. Yes, she lived a full life, with many marriages under her belt; nevertheless, she was an advocate for many charities. The world will miss her, along with her generosity to the AIDS charities and so many more organizations.

No one will probably ever equal her stunning beauty. Today, we grieve. Rest in peace, Elizabeth Taylor. The world aches now that you are resting.

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Interesting, but Sad Day


Today has been a sad day for me, one I haven’t experienced since 1999. Today, I visited a close friend at Hospice.  If you have never visited a Hospice, be thankful. It is an eerie site as you enter.

Entering the pleasant, appealing facility, I signed in and started walking along the wide, open corridors, peering into a room here and there, seeing people of all types and ages. Not wanting to invade their privacy, I continued my journey. Finding my friend’s room, I knocked, entered, seeing that she was asleep. I sat next to her bed, touching her ever so lightly on the arm. She opened her eyes, smiled and said, “Hello.”

The TV was on, so I sat quietly, listening to “The View.” Never have I watched that program and although I listened, I could not quote one word discussed. I did note Barbara Walters looked well, but this program could be a re-run.  Don’t even ask me who else was on the show, with exception of Whoopie Goldberg.  While my friend dozed, I sat by her side, still listening to the chattering TV and noticing people as they walked along the corridor.

Hospice interiors leave me chilled. I’m not exactly the type of personality to sit and watch TV while one sleeps but my friend is ill and today I felt the need to be there for her, not for myself.

The room was decorated nicely, I suppose, for a Hospice. A framed picture of Church Street, Downtown Charleston hangs on the wall. On a shelf are several books, untouched, perhaps dusty, although I didn’t reach high enough to check. The top shelf contained books of some of my favorite authors — Danielle Steele, Pat Conroy and other authors I cannot recall. Because I am not exactly a tall person, I could not stretch high enough to reach them and really wasn’t interested in scanning any of them. Today, I was visiting my friend, not doing something that interests me. On another shelf sat a framed picture of my friend’s daughter and her grandchildren. Such a beautiful family smiled back at me. Today, their smiles are a bit hard to bear, knowing the mother and grandmother is in a Hospice, fighting for her life.  Today, life has changed significantly for all of them. Tomorrow will be another day, bright with sunshine. Birds will still chirp and fly away. The skyline will fill the earth will warmth and the promise of more days to come. Tomorrow holds a promise of laughter, hopes and dreams for the future while my friend battles to see tomorrow as the clock of time fades away.  Today I was able to kiss her gently on the cheek, whisper words of assurance and love and walk outside to enjoy the warm spring sunshine while my friend battles to see another day.  Today, I am thankful for being her friend, and tomorrow I will reach out to see her again.

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Freewriting – Insomniac Style


So, here I go again — free writing. Much too exhausted to think, and I need to work on upcoming projects, research, newsletters and such, but — I’m too tired. Last night, I awoke at 3am — the usual time. I fought to go back to sleep, afraid that if I fell into a deep sleep I might not awaken at 7am to care for my puppy. Our precious little Maltese is getting her teeth cleaned today, along with having a few extractions. She is such a tiny little love bug, I hated to put her through the procedure, but the Vet assured me she will be fine. It is now 1:35pm. In less than two hours I will have been awake for 12+ hours.  Little Princess’ procedure was scheduled for 11:40am. Suppose I am being a worry wart, but I really wish the phone would ring, just to reassure me that all is well. Isn’t there a cliche somewhere about ‘no news is good news?’

So, here I am just free writing with a blank mind. According to writing experts, free writing is a way of inspiration and good training for writing. Not today! My brain is clogged. It needs to download, but I don’t have a smart card to download it to — nothing is computing.

‘Get some sleep’  friends say. Easier said than done. Gees, it is a day for cliches, isn’t it!

To heck with free writing today. Think I’ll click the remote to my Ipod and play some rocking music. I could use some exercise, but I’m just so tired!

How long does it take to clean a precious pup’s teeth?

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Special Friends


I have a special friend who is slowly leaving our special group of friends. The situation she is in is truly breaking my heart. All of this came to a reality shocker after the holidays.

As a group, the twelve to sometimes twenty of us, have grown extremely close. Our blending is interesting. Let me see, we have widows, widowers, divorcees, singles and of course the rarest of sorts — my husband and I. I say we are the rarest because Phil and I are — shall we say — interesting. He is 1,000% my opposite.

Back to scene — and the reason for this blog today.  On New Year’s Eve, most of the group got together to ring in the new year quietly. After we all were gathered, several of us noticed how quiet our ‘friend’ Elizabeth was — note here –Elizabeth is not her real name. Elizabeth appeared a bit distant. Most of us thought she was annoyed with us, or simply wanted to be alone, as I do many times. Nevertheless, we continued to joke and tease never recognizing something was wrong. Eight days later the phone rang late at night. When I took the call, tears filled my eyes.

“Elizabeth is in the hospital,” another friend said. My heart pounded as I realized my suspicions were correct; however, never did I realize how correct I was.

Now, it is March. Elizabeth is at home now, resting and living the last of her days. Ever so slowly, I am recognizing how precious life is, and how quickly this precious gift called life can change. In the blink of an eye, something can happen to change things. I visit with Elizabeth at least once weekly now. Originally, I wanted to visit every other day, but with each visit, I see something slipping away. A vacant stare. Inability to walk around without the danger and chance of her falling. Silence.  Although I try to carry a conversation with her, I cannot. Elizabeth looks at me and I can visualize the wheels of her mind attempting to download information — like a computer downloading something, only to lock up and freeze. These are the actions of Elizabeth now.

With each visit, I strive to build the puzzle for Elizabeth. The foundation  of the puzzle, the framework, is there, but the pieces of the puzzle are not fitting or interlocking like I pray for them to blend together. With each visit, I tell myself to pray harder for a miracle, and when I get home, I find myself wanting to scream. “God, are you listening? Elizabeth needs you. I need you. Our group needs you to grant us a miracle. Her precious grandchildren need you, along with her family. We need a miracle, God. We can’t let go! Please give us a miracle.”

For two weeks, I cooked dinner on some evenings for the family, hoping to do something to let them know how much I care and how precious my friends are to me. Phil and I dropped the meals over and left, not wanting to interrupt the normalcy of their lives. Of course, these are not ‘normal times’ for them. The sunroom has been redecorated with hospital beds, carts and a wheel chair and a monitor. Gone is the four poster king size bed.

Pictures of the children, collages of life when kids were small, life, love and marriage were so demanding and busy. Memories — now framed within beautiful 8×10’s; 4×6’s, preserved forever — such happy, smiling faces glaring back as we admire. If only we could reach out and make those memories our lives again.

Most of the times, the blinds in the sun room are closed. The room is a bit darker than I remember.  How I want to see the sunshine beaming inside the sun room again. I want to hear laughter, to share a simple cup of fresh coffee again.

I keep thinking there must be something else I can do, only I cannot find an answer. And so, another distant friend shared a good piece of advice one day. “You need to write about Elizabeth,” she said. “Just get it down. Cry. Write. Perhaps that is the gift you can share with all.”

“And why didn’t I think of that?” I said.

Last Saturday my husband and I dropped by to visit with Elizabeth. Sitting next to her, I was lost for words, unable to share much, so we sat, watching TV, occasionally playing with the kitten and making small talk. It seems that small talk is all we can share now.

Isn’t it amazing how quickly life can slip away? One moment you are giddy with a special friend, sharing girl talk, laughter and special moments — not to mention the secrets. You blink your eyes, and things change. Suddenly a light begins to fade, from brightness, to brilliance, and slowly dissolving — fading away into darkness.

Still, I pray for a miracle. Friends are so special in my life and when I define someone as a friend, I truly mean he or she has become a special portion of family to me. Elizabeth is a true friend, someone I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. Still, I pray for that miracle and I do all I can to show God how much I believe in miracles. And if a miracle is not granted — I pray that life will be better for Elizabeth in the future, and I hope she will know how precious and dear she is to me and how much she has meant in my life. For years, I drove by Elizabeth’s house, waving to her whenever I saw her outside. I didn’t have the time to stop to get to know her better. Later, I said. Our paths crossed and we knew one another, but we didn’t become close friends until later. How silly and foolish I have been. Always too busy to stop to make the time for a friend. I shall never forgive myself for making that mistake and I have vowed to share friendship now.

I am thankful that I took the time to drop by just last November. Phil and I had a horrible fight and I was ready to throw in the towel again. Just how many times have I thought about doing that? TOO MANY! Instead, I phoned Elizabeth. We played telephone tag for about two hours and finally connected. I need company and advice, I said. She laughed that delicious laughter she always has. “Come on over,” she teased. “Just what has Phil done this time!”

For two hours I filled her ears full of the life and times of my life with Phil. She listened, never telling me what to do. So like her just to sit and listen without criticizing or telling me to leave. She knows me well and recognized that I was simply blowing steam so I could go home and act like a real lady should. Elizabeth is that type of friend — a rare, refined lady who knows how to listen without distracting your life, or making you feel like a total idiot for working so hard to make marriage work. I miss those special visits so much.

Perhaps I will share more about Elizabeth in future editions of this blog. For now, I find it most difficult to simply ‘open that vein and bleed’ as one writer described years ago in a writing conference. The pain is too fresh and I have to find more creative ways to show Elizabeth how much I care.

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Today has been a ‘typical’ Monday, starting off with the phone ringing — shall I say — almost continuously, along with the doorbell. Apparently a service company I shall not name forgot to tell me during a phone conversation that they were scheduling the service for early Monday morning. Since I was not exactly dressed for the day — still sipping my morning coffee and relaxing while working in my shorty p.j.’s, I refused to answer the door. Ring. Ring. Ring, goes the telephone. I chose to allow the answering machine to do its magic. Now, I ask you — why must I be interrupted by the silly telephone when I have better things to do.

And so, starts the week. To quote an old cliché — “Calgon, take me away.” What I should say — is — where is the Chardonnay, or White Zinfandel?” Ok, it’s just a bit early to be sipping a glass of wine, but this day has put me to the test.

Have you ever had a day where everything is planned? Things to Do list is ready to be checked off. #1 – Write the notes for the newsletter I am working on. #2 – Finish the notes for the Ladies Auxiliary meeting. #3 – Work on notes for “Chattahoochee Child.”

The only check mark I have accomplished is #1. Notes for the newsletter. Suddenly I realize just where my time goes. Answering the door bell. Answering the phone, and attempting to care for three dogs who seem to want outside more than inside, only to come back inside again, to scratch at the back door to say — “Hey Mom, I want outside again.” Glancing at my Things to Do I realize, I am much too busy doing non-profit volunteer work than I am working on my writing career. Perhaps that is because I am a bit burned out from writing, and I need to get a life!

Oops. Interrupted again! Shamus is whining at the back door. Silly guy. He wants inside.  And now, I hear my husband driving up. So much for a productive day today! Suppose I’ll close this and work on — NOTHING!

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Free Writing – Chattahoochee Stuff


Yesterday was a good day – a day of deadline completions and working on my story, “Chattahoochee Child.” For many years, I have worked on this story – writing a synopsis, outline and the manuscript. For many years, I recognized that I really didn’t have much of a plot, that is, until my mother died.

Because I live in Charleston, SC and my mother resided in Warm Springs, GA, add to the fact that we were estranged for many years, I did not know about her death until twenty-six hours after she passed away. I was battling a severe case of bronchial asthma – missing about two weeks of work when I finally got the phone call.  My sister was drunk so she passed the phone over to her son. When I insisted on speaking with her, her son asked me an interesting question I failed to comprehend at the time.

“Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?

Moments later I spoke with my sister, reminding her we needed to make arrangements for the funeral.

“Already done,” she spat back at me. “We done made the plans and she’ll be put in her grave in the morning at 10 o’clock.”

“10:00 am.” I said. “I’m too sick to drive. You haven’t allowed any time for me to get there, nor did you include me in any of the plans. Why didn’t you call me earlier?” My chest burned like fire as I coughed.

“Ain’t my problem, but I knew you wouldn’t come. You ain’t been a member of this family for a long time.”

Her final words before hanging up stunned me. Perhaps she had forgotten what a difficult childhood we had, or perhaps she enjoyed always making me the outcast of our family.

“You reckon they’ll do an autopsy?”

“Why would they? Wasn’t she in the hospital?”

The phone went silent. I reached for my inhaler, desperate to make the coughing stop.

Weeks later, in a dream those words haunted me again. “Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?” My mother died in the hospital. Was an autopsy really necessary?

I haven’t spoken to my sister since that date, but the story of “Chattahoochee Child” is taking a new twist now. I suppose my readers will just have to stay tuned, as I write and get this story completed.

“Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?”

Isn’t it strange how such chilling words can give a writer just what she needed to write that one story needing to be shared. Perhaps that is why I write!

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Free Writing


Hooray! Completed another story today, after letting it ‘cool’ over night. That is truly my most valuable tip for any writer — allowing a story to rest or ‘cool’ over night, so the writer may go back to it in the morning to proofread it with their eyes — not just spellcheck of the computer! By applying that rule, I normally find any errors I might have overlooked during the writing, research phase. I must laugh at myself now because years ago, when I was a serious college student, not one who simply enrolled for the “party atmosphere,” I told my professor “I love to write!” The professor, a middle aged male with a demeanor so similar to the character of George Carlin, before he filled his mouth with too many colorful words, simply walked over to me, touched me on the shoulder, laughed out loud and said, “You love to write…THEN — You are not a writer!” Of course the class laughed and I wanted to creep into the woodwork. Although I did not understand his sarcasm at the time, I certainly understand it now! Yes, I am a writer…and writers DO HATE to WRITE!

Such famous last words. “Writers hate to write.” But — you say, “I LOVE to WRITE!” Of course you do. Writing can be rewarding, therapeutic and so depressing. Writing is a way of self expression. Writing releases endorphins. Writing does so much for the soul, and when you stare at pen and paper, or a computer monitor, writing can drive a person crazy! Why? Simple. Sometimes the words flow, and sometimes — we writers cannot organize our thoughts into one simple sentence. That is when I grab the leashes, gather my pups who are always at my feet — such as they are now, and I ‘hook ’em up’ to go for a long, embracing walk. Walking is so therapeutic. Walking releases the cobwebs inside my brain, and sometimes, when I get the thoughts right, I grab my Blackberry and write an e-mail to myself — so the thoughts, plot points or characters are not lost in the wind. Neighbors driving by usually roll a window down and ask me if I’m alright. And why wouldn’t they? They see a silly, somewhat mad woman punching away at a tiny device while three dogs are attached to her wrists, wishing she would get up off of the ground and — continue the walk.

OK. So my dogs understand. Sometimes they are patient while I am working while walking, and sometimes, Sir Shakespeare Hemingway will do his little song and dance routine, lifting his leg next to a tree branch to relieve himself, then when he is really annoyed, he will roll over, kicking his four legs into the air while dancing on his back. Believe me, I get the message rather quickly and make the attempt to send the e-mail to myself. I suppose you must be a witness to this event to appreciate how ‘the woman who walks three dogs’ is sitting on the ground playing with her phone while the dogs appear totally bored.

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Free Writing


For many years, when I’ve attended writing workshops, the facilitator’s have stated writers should free write daily for five to ten minutes. What exactly is free writing? In my definition, free writing is a way for someone to simply write, without considering grammar, spelling, plot, actions, characterization or anything. ‘Just write,’ they say — without consideration of anything except the cognitive thoughts flowing from your mind.

OK — sounds simple enough, but I confess, I’ve fought with it since while writing, I continue to correct mistakes, edit and rewrite. It is 7:32am in Charleston, SC. I am sipping my first taste of coffee while listening to the morning news. Now, another story about Charlie Sheen. Oh. Woopee! Charlie Sheen and his “Goddesses.” PLEASE! Someone just take this maniac and his bimbos away! They are interviewing Charlie Sheen now. Apparently the officials removed his twin sons from his home, and the care of his ‘Goddesses”. Isn’t it about time! Children need role models, not an environment such as this.

OK. Enough about Charlie Sheen. His stories change every two minutes!

It is a beautiful morning today in Charleston, SC. Brisk, with a slight breeze I noticed when I let my precious babies outside. My babies are my ‘children’ — Prince Marmaduke Shamus, Sir Shakespeare Hemingway Cooper, and Shasta Daisy Shampagne. No, Shampagne is not misspelled. That is her name because after we rescued her, we changed her name from Mitzi — she failed to respond to it, to a beautiful name of Shasta Daisy Shampagne — because she is white like a shasta daisy, bubbly like champagne. I wanted her name to be symbolic and so, we changed it and she responded immediately.

I’ve been free writing for six minutes now, and I continue to correct my errors as I type. This free writing isn’t easy. ‘Simply open the cognitive thoughts in your mind and let it go,’ speakers at seminars have said. No theme. No notations. Simply writing, as it flows from your mind. Oh-h0h0h! That could be dangerous!

I am challenging myself to write on a regular basis on this blog. Make it interesting. Make it fun. Make it something that fans will enjoy and return to. Just what do I write?

Perhaps about my children – my rescue babies. They are so beautiful. I adopted Shamus in 2001, two years after my dad died from esophageal cancer. At that time, I had another doggie named Muffy Sue. She was a soft, precious black doggie, a blend of terrier and perhaps a bit of schnauzer. Never did she need to be groomed professionally because her coat was the type of softness that only needed brushing on a daily basis, and bathing regularly. We adopted Muffy after losing a dog one night. Boomer jumped the chain link fence after dinner and when we couldn’t find him, my son walked around the neighborhood looking for Boomer. It was unusual for Boomer not to return. Phillip found him lying in the road on Simmons Street. His body was limp and cold. Boomer died, a victim of hit and run. Tears are in my eyes while writing this. Tears for losing Boomer. Tears for the lost look in my son’s eyes, and tears because those years were such unhappy years for me.

I hugged my son, cried with him, encouraging him it was OK to cry and to grieve for Boomer. “But he’s a dog,” some people say. Maybe to you, but to my son and I, Boomer was a part of our family. We gave Boomer a proper funeral and for several days, we grieved. During this time, I was contemplating a possible ending of my marriage, so it wasn’t a good time for me, and I suspect for my son. 1986 was not a good year for this family.

Weeks later, Phillip and I went to the ASPCA. Staring into the eyes of Muffy, the wagging of her tail, the screaming ‘take me home’ way she barked and how kissy sweet she was, we chose her to come home with us. Her coloring matched the colors of Boomer. Her eyes glared intensely into mine. I’ve always been told that if a dog looks into your eyes, that is a symbol of trust and Muffy stared into my eyes with such love and trust. Little did she know what she was teaching me.

We were blessed to have Muffy for fifteen years. Her last years were not healthy years as she suffered with a repeated reoccurrence of tumors. Three surgeries and still the tumors returned. Back and forth visits to vets could not heal her and in 2001, after remembering how much my father suffered while his body melted away, we took Muffy to the vet only to be told it was time to let her go. That was truly the most painful decision I have made in my lifetime. Holding Muffy close, kissing her and telling her how much I loved her. She lifted her head, looked at me, staring with such intense trust and kissed me goodbye. Her body language told me, ‘It’s Ok, Mom. Let me go so I can eat and drink and play again. I’ll be OK. Mom.’ Still, I cry, remembering how much it hurt to let her go. That evening, after her funeral, I rushed to my computer, to write a poem in memory of Muffy.