Monday, August 11, 2014

I'm A White Girl in the Deep South And I'm "Going There"

As a child, I remember passing swampy trees with large trunks in water with moss hanging from limbs in haunted fashion. I liked the windows rolled down with the Arkansas wind loudly roaring in my ears with a "Rhinestone Cowboy." Down large dirt roads, for miles, I remember driving out to my cousin's cotton farm. I remember long days of playing near the chicken's coop, running along a muddy creek, or climbing the old tractor in the barn, and flat horizon's of rows and rows of cotton stretching as far as my small eye could see.

There were nights spent on the screened-in porch, playing cards after midnight. And running between dusty lanes of low-lying white balls stuck inside twiggy branches. And chasing a dirt devil as if we could catch a tornado. Or standing on the edge of the freshly picked cotton piled high in a red metal trailer about 12 feet up and me falling backwards, laughing, into a puff of white. Some of the blackest things I knew back then were my bare feet.

My young southern-brewed days were full of 8-tracks and vinyl records with the likes of Neil Diamond, John Denver, Frankie Valli, and Barry Manilow. I caught toads as large as my hand and ran from yellow jackets and red wasps.

But when we moved into our country home near brown lakes and hot springs the neighbor girl, Carmen, soon became one of my closest friends. She was black. I remember being at her house, how kind her family was to me, and how I wished they could be my cousins too. I did not think of color or differences, back then. And I was not color blind. It just was.

It wasn't until we moved to Georgia that color became bigger than me. And if I wanted to be color-"blind", after living there, I no longer could.

As a teenager, I drove my white Ford pinto, with my snazzy tape player and my ultra-cool sunroof popped open, down the long strip where we cruised. And when I entered the Bojangle's restaurant on the south side I got a taste of segregation. I chatted distractedly with my friend as we pushed through the tinted glass door to order my favorite biscuit. It was then, I looked around. It was then I noticed color. It was then I noticed I was the whitest thing in there. It felt like the whole restaurant was looking at us, black eyes mostly. I didn't know there were "white" areas and "black" areas.

And when I took my guy, black friend home from work, I entered "small harlem." When some black girls hollered at me, to this day, I do not know why. But I can guess. And when my friend told me he could not walk in my white neighborhood at night because he might not live to tell about it, I hardly believed him. I didn't want to believe him.

I went to high school in the deep south. One of those schools being my favorite school of all the schools I ever attended. And I attended many. But this one was special. It was mixed, black and white. I felt the least amount of cliquish-ness among the class.

But there were also invisible lines, I soon found out. I didn't understand why the cute dark-haired white boy was shunned by my white friends until I found out it was because he dated a pretty black girl. They called him names behind their hands but if looks could kill, he'd be too dead to care. White circles and black circles were distinct even if we talked freely between them. But dating? That was a whole other level. So forget about the nice looking black boy on the football team who flirted with me in economics class. I was too scared to "go there."

So when I entered the military in my 20's, the multi-cultural life was a relief. One of my white best friends was in a "mixed" marriage and we talked about race and how these things were new to her. Being raised in the northwest and in a small white town, color was not something she knew much about. But when my friend lived in the south, well, these things became acutely a part of their life.

I despised what I saw. But I am white. Pale, milky white who lived among her white family with her Def Leopard and Motley Crue. And being white, I could sometimes feel the tension which was thick enough to cut my peppered steak at the local Golden Corral.

And it is not just the blacks. After living in Asia, it was another class of Asians who were so poor they were dragged off by their father. From their small hut where monkeys played near the outdoor shower deep in the jungle, young women were taken to work in brothels and strip joints. Beaten as a virgin, a girl is taken from her idyllic home, so she can "better herself" {or their families} to work in back alley clubs or red-light districts. Some American-born women looked down on them because of their seedy beginnings with our American culture which financed it. I know of their stories because they were my friends too. They, who loved their family and would invite me to their big parties with their cousins, neighbors, and people group from their culture. And I cautiously ate weird food I could barely pronounce much less spell.

This is a heart issue that is not exclusive to America or to black and white. Over seas, in places like Africa and the Middle East, ethnic cleansing continues to cycle through history. This is a spiritual issue. Bigger than me. Bigger than my white-ness. But not bigger than God. This is why I listen. Why I strain to learn from other's stories. I don't know how to give them happy endings. But I can listen anyway.

And for me, it was through friendships where color or ethnicity became background issues. I see a friend. Not an ethnic group. Not a particular color group. Not a pat-on-my-back-congratulatory gesture of mixing cultures. But just a friend. A person who's personality endears me, as an individual.

People change when they are in relationship with each other.

Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman, one who was married 5 times, who was living with someone even then, and his own disciples questioned his ethics and boundaries. But then He talked anyway. Because it was in her story, in their stories, that when I listen, I learn to cross lines. But even better, I learn to make friends.


At Kelli's Unforced Rhythm's.

And joining these conversations about "Going there" started by Deidra at Jumping Tandem.

**Jennifer Lee's "I'm a White Girl From Rural Iowa....and I'm 'Going There'".

**Lisa-Jo's "I'm a white girl from South Africa and I'm 'going there'".

**Lori Harris' words about moving her white family into a black
neighborhood here.

**Alia Boston's "On Coming Together" here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

When You Wanted To Quit This Week & Rumors of Wars

Like a faded distant mountaintop standing behind a haze of miles, the headlines scrolled on my computer screen, barely registering in my foggy mind. After traveling from a writer's Retreat and in direct contrast to trivial things, war. Conflict and death and strive and so much information, more than a person can bear. Far removed, by bodies of water and dead bodies of children and languages and cultures I don't understand, how does one comprehend the depths of it?

Exhaustion is real and tangible. This week I've fought heaviness which pulled my eye-lids down. My skin tingled in weariness like a small vibration throughout my body, only stilled by my bones laying in a quiet, soft place. An ache for the heavy mink blanket at the foot of my bed, beckoned a lost battle and so I caved to recalibrate. It is then, I enter an old song and dance of quitting. Everything. I want to stop my ears, my mouth, my heart. Stop everything, dead in it's tracks. Because who can take it all in? Or better yet, who can dish it all out?

So I force myself. I force rest, angry and frustrated that my body needs so much of it.  Back to the patio I went, where Hummingbirds routinely suckle our Red Sage's and wasps flit around from one sweet smell to another. I watched our orange tabby stalk a Fork-Tailed Katydid among the red droppings of our pesky Crape Myrtles in full bloom weighing down the heavy limbs in awkward droops.

A large green sandstone from the front pasture of ankle-high Bermuda was found near one of our many gates. My hubby dug it up, lugged it around with his leather gloves, so we could place it among our white landscaped rocks much in contrast in both size and color. Large enough to bust a gut, this one required a front-end loader to transport past a tin-of-a-shack-dilapidated-abandoned mobile home, down the white-graveled drive, past the old house that was moved on the property over twenty years ago, and past hole-y metal shells of former, commercial chicken houses. With a thud and a few grunts, it was given prominence for a daily viewing directly in line with my favorite lounge chair.

Because I have a life to live and digging up boulders happens to be one of them. And how am I to turn over every stone in this world and live?

How does one carry the weight of the world, much less the weight of words?

And if writing is our way of unloading the weight, then how can we quit?

And maybe my words don't make big thugs and need man-handlers to push them around for me. But I need my words moved, to be re-moved. In some small way, if they're pent up they become boulders. Green hulking sandstones creating lumbering mountains insurmountable for me to climb. If I'm honest, I need to be moved. There are all the things happening, even if nothing new is under the sun, but they are new-to-me in this lifetime. Not new to God, but every beating heart lives them as if they were. Because who could live with such wars, rumors of wars, of fighting and in-fighting, over and over again, forever and forever, until the end? What mortal soul could survive such travesties?

This world needs less of many things, so much so that I could say it needs less of me too. That is, until once again, I am filled with such a word that I'm pregnant with the gestation of more. And I need to be moved and re-moved for a clear view of something I can only see when I put my hand to a proverbial pen. Even as wars rage and death seems as common as it is horrible, I feel the need to push, the need to deliver myself beyond myself to see myself different, to see the world different, to find the Hope in any of it.

I have a life to live. And maybe if I'm noticing it and it hurts like Hades, then maybe that's the best way to live it. The whole world is in birth pangs, so I will not escape the labor. But in-between the hard breaths and gut-belting boulders of the world's news, I will fill up. Then I will feel up this one life I've been given any way that is humanly possible because within me, He holds the key. And one day, rumors and wars will be locked away.

But that day is not today. So I watch my youngest son in his dark blue bathrobe with his ginger hair flapping like a bird-wing as he jumps on the trampoline. And I watch another sunset cast long shadows from a three-year old Red Maple while our yellow lab, Sammy, softly snores from his man cave. And despite the odds, for right now, I let them be children.

And I'll write what I see. Because this life is fragile and hard and sweet and birthing. And who wants to live it as a blind mute?



**Joining Kelli's community of Unforced Rhythms and at Laura's Playdates with God.

"All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us." The Message 8:22-25   

"Don’t fear: I am First, I am Last, I’m Alive. I died, but I came to life, and my life is now forever. See these keys in my hand? They open and lock Death’s doors, they open and lock Hell’s gates. Now write down everything you see..." Revelation 1:17-20

Friday, July 11, 2014

Despite The Pain of It #fmf

Talking on the back porch when the skies are turning their shades of brilliant evening paints has become a marital past time verging on tradition. Many "unpublished" snaps clutter my i-phone and computer.
Lounging on the red and beige-stripped chairs I bought last year at Wal-Mart, my husband pauses as I grab my i-phone for another shot. Shaking his head {perhaps only in his thoughts}, in the usual fashion, because I am known by my distractions of such displays.
A pink cross is hanging over my house which I only notice, just now, as I include it here for this post. And how perfect.
At the end of my daily battles, my tears of failure and fears on being a {homeschooling} teacher, Mom, wife, writer, and keeper of things near and dear to my heart, this is where I belong. More than this family, these kids {near and far}, more than these parents who live down the graveled road and past our cattle guard. More than the sister who is the best-est friend a girl can have, who's willing to expand our circle and "adopt" more sisters along our merry way. More than the hardships endured and the small victories of accomplishing math without whine and grind. More than the anxiety building as my boys near high school. More than the laughter of good friends and sitting on cool leather couches visiting on a hot July day. More than the pleasure of meeting writing friends and finding ones coming out of the woodwork within my own circle, locally.
Bigger than a Dugger household, we belong to One who writes love letters in the sky. We belong, you and I, despite the pain of it some days. 
We belong.
Five Minute Friday is over here at Crystal Stine's today. Join us by linking your own post on "Belong."
Also at Diane Baileys, Photo Friday, join her debut link up today! 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summer Begs for Attention--Indepedence Day, Writing, Childhoods, & Farming

Photo: Awwww....the hay meadows are ripe. My hubby loves being a pilot but this right here gives flying a run for it's money. #lotsOfHay #farmlife
I've been resisting. As if fighting myself and restraining words from coming is somehow making me better. Many times recently, I've made promises with myself to sit down and do the work because I need to write, for my own sake. Writing is where my crooked thoughts find a way from their cramped quarters. I've been here too many times to know-- this is just Summer.
The leisurely pace is stained on my toe-nails which are displayed by a simple slip of a toe between the throngs of my sandal. Even when the haywagon refuses to stack the two-hundred-plus bales dotting the Coastal hay meadow in long-lined rows due to a broken link in a chain, Summer begs for attention and cool heads.

Today, Hubby and I sweated in the back meadow even as I tapped my finger on the iphone screen to watch the weather radar show a large green area covering three counties, north of town. Rain. Farmers plan their crops according to the seasons and especially to rain. My hubby waited until just the right dry stretch to bale. So any rain on these small square, unprotected bales will ruin all two-hundred plus.

Building up in a small burst to the south of us, one dark puffy cloud after another, moved quickly into a mothership over us. I tapped the screen again. Nothing. Even as it was looking ominously close to a downpour we looked at eachother, shrugged our frustrated shoulders, and exhaled. "Whatever. If it rains, so what. We did what we could."

And we hauled what would fit in the back of a truck to shelter.

But the day ended and no rain. Late afternoon skies were pale blue with a sun boiling the ground in a humid haze resembling a mirage over the grass, known mostly in July and August.

Subtle changes make this miracle seem like a small twist of fate. But I know better. Creation testifies.
Photo: Hints of golden #sunsetting #brightEdges

Photo: First fruits from the hastily erected garden #daddy&boysDidGood #yum

Photo: All of creation testifies...

The 4th of July is coming and with it, more than half the year behind it. On a large area of Bermuda grass near the glittering swimming pool and city park straddling a black-topped street, are some of the most earth-shattering fireworks. Last year we sat as close as the colorful debris falling from the sky and into my hair, when the wind was blowing just so. The kids played with their friends as they weaved in and out of neighbors and small-town folk who had set up their blankets or chairs in hodge-podge fashion of an informal gathering with a spectacular show. Between holding my head at a ninety degree angle for Independence day brilliance and snapping it upright to stake down my boys in the crowd, a slight headache throbbed against my temples. But I hardly noticed.

Memories were being made. And day-by-day, our family is making history,  for the days of "I remember when."  Nostalgia cycles and recycles our own childhoods even as our children are creating theirs. It's celebrations like the 4th of July that we remember when, as we get older.

So if I write nothing else 'til Fall, with yellow puddles around the trunks of scruffy oaks, I lean in the seasons and press in the silence or the richness, whichever comes. And for now, I celebrate life, however it needs to be lived. Because soon enough, it will end, but only after I savor the wonder around me.


Join me at Kelli Woodford's place of Unforced Rhythm's.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

When You've Wanderlusted Your Way In The World--an Atlasgirl reflection

From Imperfect Prose to Atlas Girl, I'm following my friend, Emily Wierenga, as she shares her new memoir about finding our way for the weariest of travelers but this link describes it so much more eloquently-----> click here. If you're tired of searching and running, then Emily has something for you.


I remember the Christmas, as a child, when dolls where still a thing for me. They were very much apart of my imaginary world. My sister and I each received one that year. After ripping through the glossy red and gold paper topped with a bright bow, I found my fancy doll as if she stepped out of the mid-1800’s. A long hooped dress of baby blue and blonde tufts of hair were piled high on her head and a porcelain face buried under a flamboyant hat. 

But then it was my sister's turn to open her package and when I saw her doll, I knew someone must of have made a mistake. I re-checked my package and indeed, "To: Tammy" was marked clear as day.

The dolls were as different as M&M's and hot salsa, sweet and spicy. My sister held the dark exotic one with a red flamingo style dress which was shorter in the front than in the back, in stark contrast to the modest baby hues of my creamy one. The Spanish doll held a hint of my dreams as I imagined a life far from Arkansas toads, bumble bees, and hot springs.

I could hear the finger cymbals clanking while dancers widely swirled and I could feel the grit in my throat of gypsies kicking up dust as they caravanned down dirty roads. I do not remember how Spain made such a deep on impression on me as a child, but since I had invested so much of my playtime to such adventures, my sister conceded to switch dolls with me that Christmas.

To this day, I never made it to Spain. 

But I did travel exotic places just the way I dreamt I would as a child. Asia was never on my list, but it was my first experience of living abroad as a young adult who was now on her own, making her way in this big wide world. This place was so foreign and the language so far removed from lakeside camping under Arkansas pines that I quickly became homesick. Local holidays would include strange dragon costumes with fireworks and scary masks which made no sense to my english-speaking bubble.

At first these things were a delight, that even my red Spanish dancing doll could not compare. I marveled. I delighted. I walked with eyes wide open. I drank bizarre things. I ordered menu items I couldn’t describe. I befriended women of the sex trade industry. I walked red light district with friends. I saw darkness.

 I saw much. And this helped me to grow up.

But even so, homesickness ached like a hollow pit threatening to eat my insides. Even when I lived among the beauty of Europe, years later, surrounded by castles, turrets, and stone walls etched magnificently against the green lush landscapes of Germany, the ache gnawed, still.

From place to place, an intense wanderlust began to grow with the pain of feeling far from home, the sickness festering despite where I lived.  On one particular road trip across the Midwest, I saw a house sitting back off the road with Maple trees glowing their fire-y orange and red leaves in the front yard. This is home for the people who lived under it's roof and maybe they have a son who has memories of swinging from the lowest branch of that tree. As if from that one moment, I realized home is less about places.

It is by our relationships and it is known by this: home is where our familiar comfort resides. It is not just corral reefs, or autobahn highways, or elegant cathedrals, or Sugar Maples turning a lakeside picnic into a burst of golden reflections, or places and things, themselves.  It is the people and lives lived together making history that gives home an enduring and endearing quality, and making it even more beautiful than the places we go.


Emily T. Wierenga, award-winning journalist and author of 4 books, has released her first memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. They say the book is like “Girl Meets God” meets “Wild” meets “Eat, Pray, Love.” I say the book is inspiring. You can grab a copy here.