Tag Archives: love

Grateful, in spite of….

Grateful, In Spite Of…

stairway-to-the-heavens

In spite of everything that has occurred this past year, I believe that we can build that stairway….together.

It has been a year now since a man and the Republican political party in the United States committed treason and colluded with Russia dictator, Putin, and stole the right to live in the White House. Many of the things we feared have come to pass.

–The stamp of approval in the form of an executive order has been given to businesses and government offices to openly and legally discriminate against LGBTQ people. Anyone in this once-great nation can openly refuse service and sales to us. My wife of nearly 29 years and I can be refused services by anyone from a waiter at a restaurant to a doctor during an emergency simply by them saying it is against their beliefs that she and I should love each other or should even exist. We could die, literally, from lack of emergency service if someone invokes their “religious liberty” to refuse us aid in the time of need.

The right to have a wedding cake baked at the place of our choice was analogous to the right of a black man or woman to sit in the front of the bus or to eat in a diner of their choice. Right now this loss of freedom, of legal protection against discrimination is only aimed at the LGBTQ community, but like in Hitler Germany it can and will be applied to any and all “undesirables” at a future time.

rights-vs-fears

–Women’s rights have suffered greatly. We are now facing back alley abortions and lack of birth control for millions of working women and poor women. Such lack of services will result in unwanted and unplanned pregnancies—even pregnancies from forcible rape where the father of the child, the rapist, can demand access to his victim via their child. Women, unable to control their reproductive abilities, will find it difficult and sometimes impossible to gain better paying jobs, complete their education, or even to recover from forcible rape and incest.

Employers will be able to keep a pool of underpaid female workers in the lowest positions by simply refusing birth control coverage through their insurance because those who don’t have supportive families will be saddled with children they cannot afford in any sense of the word. College and the ability to find a better paying job will become an impossible dream for many women and girls.

–Violence against minorities based on religion, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, and sexual identity, is being openly supported by the highest office in the land. Statements such as “rape doesn’t exist because a woman’s body won’t allow it” to “all immigrants are terrorists” and “all Hispanics are rapists” have resurfaced and are being given credibility by those in power. When violence is acted upon against minorities, the highest office in America gives statements such as “there are two sides to (this violent incident)”.

–Something I never thought would occur did indeed occur last November. A child predator and a self-acknowledged predator of women of all ages sits in the highest office in the land. A man who proclaimed “grab ‘em by the pussy” has initiated a regime of terror and chaos that our nation has not seen since the days before and during the Civil War. He has divided this country sister against sister; brother against brother. I fear for our nation, more each day.

–Never in all of Nixon’s dark days, did he ever utter a plan to pardon his own crimes against America. Yet, this traitor in the White House has boldly spoken out that he will pardon himself from any crimes that are proven against him. And what is even more frightening is this: some people are saying there is nothing in the law that will prevent this from occurring. Just as there was nothing in the law that prevented him from keeping his taxes secret and therefore, the illegal source of his money, hidden from the scrutiny of the people, though for the past forty years every president has been, at least, this transparent for the good of the nation.

–No other occupant of the highest seat of our nation has acted against the best interests of this nation and hidden his collusion with enemy powers beneath such secrecy and lies. Even to the point of hiding the Visitor’s Log to the White House from the public. Again, no law existed that kept him from hiding his interactions and secret meetings with Putin and other enemies of the United States from public knowledge; even from the knowledge of all of the members of Congress who are sworn to represent and protect the best interests of the citizens of this once-great nation.

–It has been many years since any occupant of the highest seat of government has so blatantly supported tax laws that took money from school programs, from programs for the elderly, from programs for the disabled, from Medicare, from Social Security–which is not a gift but is paid for by employers and employees throughout an employee’s working life—in order to give that money to the very wealthy. A reverse of Robin Hood—steal from the working person and give to the rich.

–Never in the history of our government has anyone appointed so many people who have openly vowed to destroy the offices to which they had been appointed. Betsy DeVoss—a great example–openly stated that she wanted to dismantle the Department of Education by 2018. She has made a lot of progress in that direction. She has gutted programs against rape on campuses across the nation. Once again women and girls cannot concentrate on their studies, but must be afraid for their safety and even their lives.

–Never in the history of the occupants of the White House and the highest office of the nation has anyone ever so openly spent taxpayer’s money for their personal benefit and the benefit of their own businesses and their own family and friends as this administration has done. Literally millions of dollars that could have easily funded Medicare, programs for school children, programs for the disabled, programs for research into medical cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease, have been drained from the taxpayer’s coffers to pay for vacations for family and friends of this wannabe-dictator! A man who berated others who held that office before him for taking vacations, has spent nearly every weekend on vacation and spending taxpayer’s money in his own resorts.

And never has any political party kept its silence  while America suffers; while their constituents lose their healthcare and many will lose their homes due to catastrophic illness.

Even during military crisis, we heard no condemnation from the Republican party when the man they put into the White House was too busy vacationing to attend to national business.He played golf while American soldiers died. And then, dared to disrespect the memories of those soldiers, saying “he knew what he signed up for.”

And with the blessing of the man in the White House, the Republican party has thrown away healthcare for millions of Americans so that they could fund tax breaks for themselves and their wealthy friends and families.

No person has blatantly used taxpayer money to build a helicopter pad on his privately-owned resort.

–Never has anyone in that office embarrassed the American people when meeting with foreign dignitaries as much as this person. America, once looked upon as a leader in the world, is now officially the laughingstock of the world.

America has weathered many power-mad and power-hungry meglomaniacs in its past.

Elder Many Horses on Power

A responsibility not to the wealthy, but to all Americans. Can we unite and stop this wannabe-dictator from destroying our nation?

aDarkTime

I don’t know. And that is the saddest statement I have ever made.

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In all the turmoil and the violence; the death and the destruction of the civil rights era, I clung to hope. Our nation clung to hope like a life raft in an angry sea. We bled and we wept and we buried heroes and heroines. And we got back up and we fought, side-by-side, until we won freedoms we had never before known.

From that point on, though it was often two steps forward and three steps back, our nation progressed to a level of diversity and acceptance that won applaud the world over. We forged new pathways in human rights and in saving our planet. We put aside national treasures to be protected and enjoyed by all Americans; not just a privileged few. Our national parks drew millions upon millions of visitors per year; enriched our economy and shone as a beacon of beauty in a world that was sometimes very harsh and barren.

 

Now those parks are being given away to oil companies to destroy. Freedoms are being rolled back to the bad-old-days.

Once the contracts are signed with those oil companies they will scream “in good faith” to cling to the ability to destroy our national treasures even after we unseat this regime of destruction and chaos. And, like all “law abiding” people, we will hesitate to act against their “good faith” claims. And they know it. This is why so much is being given away and destroyed now. Because we, who believe in the rule of law, will be hamstrung to reverse the destruction and to re-institute protections for those national treasures, for the freedoms being destroyed even as we read and write these lines.

Have so many fought and bled and died for nothing? Can we not see that we must unseat those who would destroy our nation and that we must reverse all of their doings, cancel all of their contracts, and remove those they have been illegally placed in power positions–whether that position is the highest court in the land or the Department of Education–if we hope to save our nation?

aliciaDoSomethingGood

Can our nation grow beyond where this regime of hate and divisiveness and violence has brought us?

During this month of gratitude, this month of thanksgiving, I fear for our nation. I weep for what we have lost. I ache for the destruction of those things of beauty that we thought generations of Americans would be able to see and to marvel at.

image quote open your heart...

There are things, however, for which I am eternally grateful:

–I am grateful that I have stood up and continue to stand up for what is right; for what is beautiful in our nation. I continue to fight in the only way I know how—with these words.

–I am grateful for all of those from Whoopi Goldberg and J.K. Rowlings to the women and men I met at various Resist meetings who stand with me; who speak out loudly and plainly; people who continue to fight and to hope in the face of terror and chaos. Those who refuse to quit; who refuse to give up on our nation; who believe we can once again rise to the greatness we were building into our laws and our society. Those who believe in diversity and tolerance and helping those who are less fortunate. Who believe that an investment in our children is an investment in our future. Who believe that even though they may never see a polar bear, or stand in awe staring up at the redwood forests, that these things make our world a better and more beautiful place by simply existing and that they are worthy of protection. That the call of wild wolves is more important than a corporate-owned farm being allowed to graze public lands for mere pennies per acre.

And I am grateful for these beliefs that I hold in spite of all that I have seen and all that is occurring in our nation today:

gratitude

–I believe in the American people, in the goodness of our hearts and the strength of our purpose in protecting freedom for all of us.

–I believe that we can and we will unite to take over our nation once again and begin the healing of America.

–I believe that we can and we will open our arms to welcome those huddled masses who yearn for freedom, once again. I believe that not only will we return to our past greatness, but we will go beyond it. We will embrace diversity.

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–I believe that we can and we will prevail and return our nation to its once-great state of progress and humanity. We will, finally, extend equal justice to all citizens regardless of color, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, culture, or any other artificial category  that divides us.

–I believe that we can make a better world, and that we will. Together. United. By concern, by tolerance, by understanding, by caring. By love for our country.

Hate destroys; but, love can heal.

ChooseToBe

 

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WIN FREE E-BOOK!

Guess which of my novels these headlines apply to and win a free copy of my latest Special Crimes Team novel, Twisted Minds!

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–Woman eats people!

–Terrorists take over White House!

–After 30 years woman discovers true identity!

–Runaway kid battles pedophile!

–2 women battle racists in small town!

–Women expose police corruption!

–Renegade cops bust serial killer!

–Psychic tracks kidnapped children!

–Raid saves 40 puppies!

–85-year old woman outwits killer!

–20-year old secret rips family apart!

–Women warriors save humanity!

–Girl saves horse from slaughter!

The first ten to send the correct answers–or the most correct answers–to ayawalksfar@gmail.com win a pdf of my latest book, Twisted Minds, Special Crimes Team. Winners will be announced on my blog on Labor Day Weekend! Winners will be determined by time and date stamps on emails. ALL decisions final.

HINT: You can find my books at https://www.amazon.com/Aya-Walksfar/e/B00CMVAKKK

 

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Hate Destroys

Diversity imagequote

The Charlottesville, Virginia bloody attack by neo-Nazis, KKK, and white supremacists has stunned me. This was something I read about in other countries, like Russia. Especially where the so-called leader of the country did NOT, FAILED TO, condemn the attack on counter-protesters who had gathered peacefully. The counter-protesters weren’t carrying AR-15s but some of the neo-Nazis were; some of the KKK were; some of the white supremacists were.

The Civil War was fought, and won, by people who believed “we are all created equal”.  They believed that slavery was an abomination in the sight of their God. They believed that the color of a person’s skin should not dictate that person’s life.

The Civil Rights Wars were fought, and won, by people willing to die to see that the laws of the land upheld the right to freedom and to live without fear of white sheets and burning crosses; to be able to sit at any lunch counter and be served; to go to any restroom and use it without fear. We fought and bled and died and now white supremacists want to keep statutes that memorialize the people who tried to keep slavery alive. People who wanted to enslave another human being because the color of their skin made them “inferior” to God’s white race.

We fought and won. The people of Charlottesville fought that fight again. People once more died for freedom. Once more died as they made it clear that hate has no place in their town; that memorials celebrating the enslavement of another race and celebrating that hate of another because of skin color had no place in their town.

In Twisted Minds I wrote about how hate destroys and how white supremacist rhetoric can be used to inflame others into acts of violence. I wish that that scenario had only been a product of this writer’s imagination; it’s not. Such hate showed its bloody hands in Charlottesville.

We must unite against those who would celebrate the people who tried to keep an entire race subjugated because of the color of their skin. These people used the Bible; they used their God; they used their religion; and they used guns and fire hoses. They murdered and terrorized. We cannot allow them to continue such behavior; feed and stoke such hate any longer.

Tear down the symbols of racism; tear down the symbols that celebrate hate. Let us raise up the symbols of unity; of love; of tolerance; of REAL Christianity; of REAL spirituality. Let us raise up each other; help each other; empower each other as we once again face hate at its bloodiest.

democracy

We are responsible for the country, the laws, and the environment we leave our children and grandchildren. Will you join with me to make sure we leave a legacy of freedom; a legacy of love; a legacy of tolerance; a legacy of diversity; a legacy of clean air and clean water; a legacy of memorials to true heroes; a legacy of national monuments that belong to all of us.

We aren’t just fighting for ourselves. We are fighting for the seven generations that will come after us. How will they remember us?

life never safe 2rights-vs-fears

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Twisted Minds: A Book About Our Times

Twisted Minds, Special Crimes Team, is now live on Kindle and coming soon as paperback on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Minds-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B074DT74HY

This was a particularly challenging novel to write as the concept first appeared in the winter of 2015. In the spring of 2016, I began the first draft. As the presidential elections heated up, I completed the first draft. With one candidate using hate and open verbal attacks on minorities as his platform, minority communities experienced an upsurge in violence against them.

As a member of a minority community, I found this of personal concern as well as concern for my country. Since that time, my concern has not abated; however, as Sergeant Slowater in Twisted Minds discovers, there is more behind the attacks on minorities than simple hate.

In both my novel and in reality, hate is used to stir up the emotions of a certain segment of the  population to create a groundswell of anger and violence against certain communities in order to distract from the real crimes being committed by the puppeteer orchestrating the rhetoric of hate. In others words, by using hate and religious rhetoric, a central figure creates emotions in certain followers that manifest in violent actions. In the public’s attempt to deal with the violence and other manifestations of hate, the real central issue is obscured.

In most criminal activity, there are certain motivations that appear to hold true over a large crime spectrum. Those motivations are: greed, hate, love, power. Love is normally found in crimes of passion and in revenge crimes, as is hate. Most crimes are based on a hunger for material gain and power over others. These two appear to be conjoined as money does translate to power in our society.

Sergeant Slowater must decide whether these crimes are truly crimes of hate or if there is a dark logic behind them. She must follow a trail of logic, created by twisted minds, to stop the attacks on minority women.

Hate destroys. We see it in novels; we see it in real life. It destroys families, communities, and even the fabric of our nation which has thrived on diversity. Hate destroys the credibility of any religion that wields it; yet, all too frequently, religion is the banner beneath which terrible crimes are committed. In Twisted Minds, Sergeant Slowater and the Special Crimes Team confront that destruction.

Though we may not be Sergeant Slowater, each of us can stand against hate in our society. We must remind each other that not only is diversity good for our country, but diversity is the signature of Creator.

Diversity imagequote

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Twisted Minds: Preview

COMING AUGUST 1, 2017!

PaperCover

Twisted Minds

Prologue

May 16

Monday 3 a.m.

The light of the half-moon couldn’t conquer the city lights and reach the darkened building. A light pole topped with a halogen lamp stood more than half a block away. The small puddle of dirty-white light barely scratched the surrounding area. At this hour in the morning, Seattle belonged to the homeless and the drunks and the gangs.

This area of Aurora Avenue, however, clung to a desperate civility and the gangs and the whores weren’t very interested in it.  Consequently, the night lay undisturbed, except for a homeless man sleeping in a doorway, cuddling his wine bottle. Two figures dressed in dark clothes and full-face ski masks climbed out of an old beater car that hung onto the dull shine of some dark color.

Gravel from the small parking lot crunched beneath their shoes as they made their way to the back door of A Woman’s Place. With a swift kick, the jamb gave way and the door swung inward. The two strode inside with only the blank faces of commercial buildings and sleeping apartment buildings encircling the women’s center to witness the invasion.

As the smaller figure headed through the double doors leading from the kitchen to the open area in front, the sound of breaking dishes filled the air.

After a while, the person walked from the kitchen into the open area and set down three gallon jugs of blood. Ski mask rolled up to the forehead, hands propped on hips, a scowl marred the ordinary face. “This is a piss poor job! What’s wrong with you? You love sand niggers?” Booted feet stomped a plastic truck and gloved hands tore the head from a baby doll then flung it down.

“No! You know I don’t, but the kids…” Panicked eyes flashed to the smashed toys.

The back of a hand lashed across the protester’s cheek. The skin on the cheekbone split and a trickle of blood ran from the wound. “They’re as much a sand nigger as their mommas and daddies. The only way to get rid of lice, my daddy said, was to kill the nits. Get this blood splashed around; and do a decent job this time.”

Once the jugs were empty, the two figures tossed them to the floor and headed toward the kitchen. The double doors from the kitchen swung open and an elderly woman walked in.

Dark eyes blazed from a walnut brown face. She studied the pale faces not yet hidden again behind the rolled up ski masks. “You’ve done evil this night. May Allah have….”

Before the old woman completed the sentence, a fist slammed into her face. Her cheekbone shattered from the impact as she fell toward the sharp corner of one of the children’s broken tables.

 

 

Chapter 1

May 16

Monday 6:30 a.m.

The sun crept up behind the buildings surrounding A Woman’s Place, rimming them with a slightly golden halo. With the temperature close to fifty-six degrees and a cloudless blue sky it promised to be a pleasant day. Ahead of Zahair Abidi, a crowded metro bus squealed to a halt at the bus stop a few feet away from the plate glass windows of the one-story, beige stucco building. More people squeezed onboard as Zahair eased around the bus.

She frowned as she drove past the front of A Woman’s Place. I’m certain I forgot to let down the blind on the far right when I closed up; worried about it until I finally went to bed last night, but now it’s down. Oh, well, all that worry for nothing. I must’ve gone back and closed it after talking to Randy when he delivered the milk.

With a flick of her turn signal, she entered the narrow alley between the center and an abandoned grocery store. The small gravel lot in back offered parking to the staff of A Woman’s Place. A four-foot tall cyclone fence enclosed the other two-thirds of the building’s extra-large lot space. It held a patch of grass, a swing set, a slide, and a sandbox for the children in the daycare that A Woman’s Place ran.

As she swung her compact car into its marked spot, Zahair’s eyes flashed to the dumpster next to the back door, but the old woman wasn’t sleeping next to the metal bin this morning. She probably found some place else to sleep last night. Hope she comes to breakfast a little bit later. I worry so about her.

Nonexistent spiders crawled across her neck and she peered around. Lately, at the oddest moments, she felt invisible eyes watching her. Pushing away the uncomfortable thought, she hopped out, grabbed her purse, and dug through it for the center’s keys as she walked to the kitchen door. Keys in hand, she lifted her eyes to the deadbolt and froze. The doorjamb around the lock had been split. The door hung open a fraction of an inch.

Her heart slammed against her ribs. From the front of the building, a bus pulled away from the curb. She stifled the sudden urge to race out to the sidewalk and flag it down. With one finger, she shoved against the door. It opened on well-oiled hinges. Straining, she listened for the slightest sound. Silence. She shook off the unnamed dread that chased goosebumps down her arms. Easing the door wide, she slipped inside.

The ordered kitchen lay in disarray. Stainless steel pots from the overhead rack scattered across the once-immaculate tile floor. The refrigerator hummed, its door gaping. Half-gallons of milk meant to feed the daycare children had been flung across the room. The waxed cartons had split. Puddles of dingy white gathered in the worn spots on the floor.

She stepped forward. Her foot slipped on a paper plate. A gasp burst from between dry lips as she caught her balance. Pieces of elbow macaroni crunched beneath her shoes. A dented can rolled from the touch of her toe. Shards–from their few plates, cups, and glasses–glittered in the light sneaking in through the back door. Cook’s most proud possession, a set of kitchen knives gifted by a store in Seattle, lay amid the detritus.

Biting her lower lip, she held the cry of despair inside her. Caution weighed every step as she shuffled through the spacious kitchen, nudging aside the dented pots and pans, the cooking utensils, and the remnants of the carefully hoarded food.

At the swinging double doors that led into the main room, she halted. The pulse in her throat ramped up. She sucked in a deep breath and mustered her courage. One hand grasping her keys like a weapon, she pushed open the left door.

A sob tore from her throat. Her hand flew to her mouth to hold in the wail of despair that threatened to crash through the spacious room. Slowly, her eyes registered the shattered tables, the smashed toys, the holes in the plasterboard walls so recently painted a vibrant blue, and the blood. So much blood. Dark red streaks smeared across the walls; reddish-brown puddles hardened on the scuffed wood floor. It appeared that what remained of the furnishings had been doused with blood. The smell gagged her. Her stomach flip-flopped.

Someone had dragged in black, plastic garbage bags from the dumpster by the rear door. Egg shells, discarded vegetables, Styrofoam meat trays, empty milk cartons, and crumpled paper towels, lay strewn across the room. The reek of rancid food vied with the rotting odor of blood.

She swallowed hard and prayed for strength, for courage. Still, she couldn’t force her feet to move. Her mind sluggishly tried to process the scene. Tears stung her eyes. She blinked them away. Inhaling a jagged breath, her stomach nearly retched. She reprimanded herself. This was no time to give in to weakness.

All of the blinds were closed. Sunlight, she needed sunlight.  With the cloth of her hijab over her nose and mouth to filter out some of the stench, she shuffled forward. From the corner of her eye, in front of what was left of one of the children’s tables, she noted a pile of black rags. More garbage, she thought. Then the black rags moved and a low moan issued from them.

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Life is Dynamic

The only things certain about life, my mother used to say, was death and taxes. Actually, on this I have to disagree. The only thing certain is death and that life will change.

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Since the latter part of 2016 and the first six months of 2017, my life has been in a state of flux. My wife was laid off, my favorite dog died, Trump is in the White House, I’ve joined political resistance groups when I thought my days of protesting were over, I’ve published Attack on Freedom, a political thriller, I’m completing the edits of two more books for release this year, and I’ve taken employment as a cashier at an Arco gas station and convenience store.

AND, the most important change–at least, to me–Beyond the Silence: A Woman’s Journey to Freedom is a FINALIST in the Golden Crown Literary Society awards! I am so pleased to be a finalist in the GCLS awards that until July 9th, Beyond the Silence #ebook will be #FREE at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/606365. Simply use the coupon code VM53C at checkout. Easy as that.

GCLS

Unfortunately, in order to deal with many of the changes in my life, I have had to cut back on the amount of time I spend on social media. Consequently, you won’t catch me as frequently on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. My blog may only get two posts per month beginning in July. I apologize.

Meanwhile, to keep up with what I am doing, catch me on my profile page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ayawalksfar   or  my author’s page at https://www.facebook.com/AyaWalksfarAuthor.

If you want to know about my involvement in politics, you can check out https://www.facebook.com/TogetherWomenCan  or  https://www.facebook.com/groups/440389712959710/

Remember, even though change happens, it is how we deal with it that counts. Life is an adventure; it is dynamic. But, isn’t that what keeps us growing?

 

 

 

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No Perfect People: A #Mother’s Day Reflection

aliciaDoSomethingGood

When I wrote those words in the novel Run or Die, they came from growing up with my mother. She was a woman who became the first female remodeling contractor in our state to do her own work.  Never play the damsel-in-distress because if you play it long enough, you become it.  Never back down from a bully; they only get worse. And, whenever you get knocked down, pick yourself back up and throw yourself back into the fight. Never settle; constantly strive to improve, to grow, to become more.

All very necessary lessons as I grew up in a ghetto. A poverty-stricken area where dreams died fast and so did most people. But most people weren’t my mother.

Flying saucers were part of my childhood–they were the things my mom threw at my stepfather. She liked knives, too, but unlike the cups and saucers, she deliberately missed with the knives. A friendly warning; that’s all. Her temper was well-known in our neighborhood. No one wanted to set it off, including me. All too frequently, I was at the wrong end of her temper; often for reasons I never understood.

You’d think that with memories like that, that I would despise my mother. Honestly, I did go through a phase of hating her, but it never diminished the fact that I also loved and admired her; respected and idolized her. Why? One time she told me to wake her up and when I did, she threw a Vick’s jar at me. I ducked and took off out of the house until she calmed down. So, why do I retain good memories of my mother? Why do I speak of her with respect?

Because, in spite of the violence, my mother was a kind and caring person. No, that is not some illusion succored by someone who can’t accept the truth; the reality. Let me tell you about the woman beneath the violence.

My mother grew up in a coal camp–tarpaper shanties where coal miners and their families lived while the miners eked out a piss poor existence. Water hauled from the creek, kerosene lanterns rather than electricity, outdoor latrines. A tough life. My grandmother cleaned a rich woman’s house for a pittance and the rich woman’s castoff clothes that Grandma altered by lantern light. My mother’s father–my biological grandfather–like most men in the camps believed it was his right to get drunk on money needed for food and to come home and beat his wife and children.

My grandmother, like most women of that day and that place, put up with the beatings until the night he staggered home and went after my mother. My grandmother grabbed his gun from the cupboard. She told him to “Get yerself right with your Maker, John.” Then she pulled the trigger. Fortunately, or unfortunately, (I never could decide on that) John took those seconds to dive out of the tarpaper-covered window hole. Grandma plugged him in the upper thigh, but he’d learned his lesson. He didn’t return and died in a coal mine cave-in years later.

Didn’t matter. He had used his money for booze and women. It was Grandma’s work that fed and housed the family.

Fast forward to when my mother turned fourteen. She had a beautiful singing voice and from somewhere managed to scrounge up a battered guitar and taught herself how to play.  Big dreams for a girl in a coal mining camp. Eventually, she ran away to the city where singers, even women, could find jobs as singers and guitar pickers. Yes, some women did find lounges and places to launch their career as singers. My mother wasn’t so lucky. She scratched out a living doing whatever it took to survive.

But, she never gave up. She wrote songs and found small venues where they hired her to play and sing. Sometimes, the pay consisted of a plate of food and beer. It was rough trade and a tough life.

Fast forward again. Birth control wasn’t available to my mother back then. She wound up eventually getting pregnant and getting married. Still, she refused to completely give up her dreams of singing. She continued to write, to sing and play when she found the gigs, but a woman with kids didn’t enjoy the same kind of freedom to pursue her passion as a man with kids. Over time, finding work to pay the rent and the bills took priority over pursuing her dreams. My mother accepted her responsibilities to provide for children, but alcohol and drugs soothed the wound left by her unrealized dreams.

Yet, even under the burden and the anger of thwarted dreams and passion, the despair of watching her life become a drudgery, of never having anyone with whom she felt able to truly share, the true spirit and heart of my mother shone. In large actions and in small ones, her kindness and caring spilled out.

Violence in poverty-stricken areas is sharpened by  physical hungers as well as despair. And, no one in our neighborhood ever had enough to eat. Somehow, Mom talked to the “bulls” that guarded the train yards back then into allowing her and me to gather the crates of fruit and vegetables that had fallen and busted during transfers from train cars to trucks for delivery. We hauled those crates home in the back of Mom’s dilapidated pickup. Then she would send me around to invite the neighbors to help us out, since we “couldn’t possibly eat it all”. I learned a valuable lesson back then: sometimes the only thing poor people have left is their pride. You don’t offer charity; you ask them to help you.

Another time, a child in our neighborhood needed medical care that her parents couldn’t afford. Mom set up a street fair on our deadend street. Now, for most people that right there would spell disaster for the fair. Not my mother. Even to this day, I have no idea how she pulled all those people to our street; to her fair. People paid to walk past those cars parked across the end of the street and they paid to play and laugh and eat. After two days, the fair ended and the little girl received her treatment.

It wasn’t just what my mother gave to others that impressed me. My mother was a consummate oral storyteller, telling stories in such a way that tears would pour down my cheeks and then the next story would have me laughing so hard my stomach ached. I would sit at her feet and listen for hours, transported to other worlds and far-off times.

Like the stories, I recall the nights my mother played her battered guitar and sang. Even today, I remember many of the songs.

My stepfather and mother both worked, so I was given chores such as cleaning the house and making dinners. Pride swelled inside me when she’d lay her arm across my shoulders and say “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

When she discovered that I wrote, she told me to never give up my dream; to never stop, no matter what happened in my life. After I left home, I found out that she bragged to neighbors, to friends, to acquaintances that her daughter was a writer.

At the age of nineteen with my life in turmoil, I returned home and worked with my mother in her home remodeling business. It was during that special time Mom introduced me to her lover. Her lover, a woman and a nurse. I had noticed something different about Mom during the months we had  worked together–her rages and violence had decreased; she laughed more; she drank and drugged less.

Unknown to either my mother or myself, that year I spent working with her was the last year of her life. I am grateful for it allowed me to see the real woman; the woman who could have been had life been kinder. We worked together, and laughed together. And, sometimes, we would have lunch or dinner with her lover. My mother’s eyes shone.

I had never seen my mother’s eyes shine like that.  Love had soothed the wounds in my mother’s soul.

Journey you make

A short blog post can never capture my mother’s journey, nor the strength it took for her to walk it. Here are a few of the footsteps she left behind for others to follow.

–No one is perfect. Just do your best.

–Never give up your dreams.

–Love is a most priceless gift. Don’t let others tell you who to love.

–Joy awaits those whose hearts never stop seeking.

–You’re tough. You can do anything you decide to do.

–Don’t let fear decide your life.

–If you don’t allow yourself to grow and to become, you will have nothing to offer others.

 

 

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