Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Word to My Generous Friends

Facebook's new prompt, asking participants there to set up fundraisers in advance of impending birthdays is arguably one of their better "think ups." I've donated modest amounts to a number of my friends' requests, happily.  Noblesse oblige, after all.

I thought I'd join in with my own 60th birthday right around the corner, but I just have too many favorite nonprofits, and since I believe strongly in staying local I thought I might just list those that are of particular interest to me. If you are inclined to make a bit of a gift to any of them, I - and they - would be grateful. Here's the list, in no particular order. If you'll click on the name of the organization, you'll land on their website. Even if giving to any of them right now is not possible, I hope you will take a minute to learn about the amazing things going on in the city I love and in which I am fully invested. 

Please click through the link marked "news" and read the whole story about founder Charles Lee. Don't you ever get "lost in the sauce," folks.

Music is metaphor, and this season of the Chorale especially has endeavored to build bridges across this community. This coming weekend they will be presenting the same concert featuring Robert Ray's Gospel Mass in two different venues, on two different days.  I'll be attending the Friday night performance at Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church.  I hope to see you there. 

An amazing, God-touched ministry of my church that has engaged the entire community, serving those with Alzheimers and other dementia-related conditions. So remarkable have the results of this been that it is being adopted by households of faith in other cities as well. Donations can be made to them in care of First United Methodist Church, 2416 W. Cloverdale Park, Montgomery, AL  36106

The SCC made a profound difference to my family during a difficult time. No one should be unable to get mental health or family counseling because they cannot afford it. Donations to SCC make it possible for individuals and families to get the help they need when they need it. 


There are dozens of national organizations that I support, of course, and many of you do as well. These are the ones I am laser-focused on right now. 

And honestly, giving to any charity of your choice, whether it's in my honor or not, is just the rent we pay for living in this world, so do that. Give to a house of worship in your community that needs your help. Give to a teacher in a local public school who is spending her/his own money to educate the people who will be leading our communities in the future. 

Beyond that, if you are stretched beyond measure and any of that would be a burden on you, don't fret. Here's some other things you can do!

The next time somebody cuts you off in traffic,
speak a word of peace instead of a word of anger. 

The next time you hear a child having a tantrum in a public place,
speak a word of gentleness to them and their caretaker. 

The next time you want to tell off a waiter, or a retail clerk, or a parent at the ballpark, hold your tongue and remember that day you were struggling with something nobody else knew about and when you might have been at your worst. 

Think before speaking. 


Find joy in something simple. 

Make your default setting kindness. 

Breathe in. 

Breathe out. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Year in Books

I've crunched numbers this morning, and here's what my 2017 reading habits were:
I read 62 books (Goodreads says 63, but it's counting one it shouldn't for reasons I can't quite figure out).
88.7% of them were works of fiction, and of those, 30.9% were mysteries/thrillers.

I read 43 books on Kindle (formerly referred to by me as Spawn of the Evil Empire); 9 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks, 4 paperback advance reader copies, and listened to 4 via audiobooks.
19.3% of these were checked out from from either the Montgomery City-County Public Library or the Autauga-Prattville Public Library, some in hardcover, some in eBook format on my Kindle.
8 books came to me like manna from the sky: 2 through Goodreads' Giveaway promotions, 5 from Netgalley, and 1 borrowed from my sister-in-law.
I ditched 5 books this year(not included in the above number), 3 of which I intend to put back in rotation for another time. (Sometimes a book doesn't grab you when you grab it).
The oldest book I read was published in 1911, and the "newest" was an advance copy of one that will be published in 2018.
My five star books aren't all created equal(ly) well; they just struck me as the best of their sort when I read them, or maybe they were just the right book at the right time, but I believe they are of special merit to most readers. If one isn't comparing genre to genre, there are plenty of four star books that are better (in a critical literary way) than some of those with five stars.

(The top 5 are linked to my reviews. Other five stars are listed in no particular order.)

Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple -Jeff Guinn, read by George Newbern

Fierce Kingdom - Gin Phillips

Educated: A Memoir - Tara Westover

I Liked My Life - Abby Fabiaschi

Wonder  (R.J. Palacio)
Rage Against the Dying  (Becky Masterman)
Keepers of the House  (Shirley Ann Grau)
The Last Ballad  (Wiley Cash)
The Risen  (Ron Rash)
The Lewis Man (Peter May)
The Scarred Woman (Jussi Adler-Olsen)
Robert B. Parker's Little White Lies  (Ace Atkins)
Before the Fall (Noah Hawley)
The Grownup (Gillian Flynn)
Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout)

(The "nearly fives" are linked to reviews, listed in no particular order.)

Dodgers - Bill Beverly

A Chance in the World  - Steve Pemberton

The Book Thief  (Markus Zusak)
If I Forget You (Thomas Christopher Greene)
Number the Stars (Lois Lowry)
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (Helen Simonson)
The Best Kind of People (Zoe Whittall)
I Will Send Rain (Rae Meadows)
A Morbid Taste for Bones (Ellis Peters)
The Rules of Magic (Alice Hoffman)
The Dry (Jane Harper)
The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
Eveningland: Stories (Michael Knight)
Love and Other Consolation Prizes (Jamie Ford)
Fear the Darkness (Becky Masterman)
Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo)
Edgar & Lucy (Victor Lodato)


I'm currently reading this one, and hope it'll be a great kick off to my list of books read in 2018!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Why I Stood Up

I take a walk most days, a habit that I hope keeps me at least a bit healthier as I continue to age than I might otherwise be. Research seems to be consistently on the side of this activity even regarding its ability to promote cognitive and emotional well-being. That's certainly been the case for me, I think. My husband can testify that if I take too long a break from my regular walks, I'm a little pricklier than usual. I know I don't cope with stress as well as I used to without my walks. I think it has a lot to do with time spent just letting events and perceptions and new information process correctly in the brain.

Most of my walks are uneventful, although over the last few years I've had some that stood out. There was the time I got forced off the road by an inattentive motorist and came away with an injury that you're tired of reading about, but which left me forever changed. There was a morning I got cornered by a vicious dog, and couldn't make a move without it lunging at me, and was finally rescued by a couple I know from church. The second (and, likely, last) half marathon I walked concluded with a phone conversation with my mother, which would be the last time I ever heard her voice.

I took another walk last week that will always stand out for me. It was a walk up Montgomery's historic Dexter Avenue, from the Court Square Fountain that exists in close proximity to what was once Montgomery's slave market, past the Winter building from whence the telegram instructing Gen. Beauregard to fire on Ft. Sumter on April 11, 1861 was sent, past the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church that houses the pulpit from which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached a message of peaceful resistance, to the steps of the Alabama Capitol building. At the top of that staircase is a star marking the spot where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederate States of America. I didn't need the reminder, but it is very true that no matter where you stand in downtown Montgomery, you stand on ground that was part of this country's darkest moments in history, as well as some that shone so bright they changed the world.

Last Sunday, August 13, I woke after a night of literal tossing and turning in bed. I don't often let what's happened in the world invade my sleep, but I could not shake the vision of scores of angry fellow citizens who assembled in Charlottesville, Virginia, some dressed in Nazi attire and sporting an assortment of firearms and combat gear,  others waving the flag of the Confederacy, shouting that they intended to take back America. As horribly distressing as it was to hear about -- and then see footage of -- one of their sympathizers driving his car down a street crowded with people who were there to counter the protest with their own, striking and killing a woman and injuring scores of others, that's not what kept me awake. What kept me awake were the faces of raw hatred, no longer even concerned that they should hide those faces under sheets. What kept me awake was the tepid response of the President. What kept me awake was the support his response received from people I know. 

When I got out of bed Sunday morning, I opened Facebook and saw that there was a walk planned for that evening up Dexter Avenue. I checked the box saying I'd participate. After I had a cup of coffee and made plans to head to church I had begun to think maybe I wouldn't. I noticed that some groups whose agendas I can't really endorse were taking part, and began to worry that the focus of the walk would be lessened by a barrage of side issues (albeit issues that deserve attention).

I just wanted to walk because, as I went to bed Saturday night with the pictures of those Nazi flags in America in my head, I kept asking myself, "Where were the good Germans? Who were they? What did they do?"  Surely there were activists among them, but for the most part I think they probably did what I usually do:  they assumed that the movement they were witnessing was confined to a few loud people with an oddly charismatic leader. They assumed that the ideas they were hearing were so counter to human decency they'd not take hold. They allowed themselves not to wonder what might happen if they decided to just ignore it and hope it would die down on its own.

And then they were helpless to stop it, afraid to resist it, and became, by their silence, complicit in what is arguably the most wretched episode in the modern history of the Western world.

So, after a little more thought and prayer, and hearing my preacher's impassioned sermon calling us to "get out of the boat," I decided I would follow through. I was proud that my sons and my husband agreed to go, as well. So very, very proud.

The event was just as billed. There were folks from all walks of life, it seemed to me, about 150 of us (which is huge for what is ordinarily a pretty apathetic populace), mostly white. Some of the crowd wore shirts or buttons indicating their affiliation with various groups. My own "badge" was my t-shirt emblazoned with a quotation from 1 Corinthians ("Love never fails") and a cross around my neck, hoping to serve as witness for those who have come to believe otherwise, that there are still those of us for whom being a Christian means you'll know us by our love. When, at the terminus of the walk, people were invited to speak their minds, the messages never devolved into screed, never called for violence, never suggested anybody take up arms, never mentioned the president's name, never ridiculed people because of their political party or faith.

I am sure there were plenty of folks there whose causes I don't support, but that ultimately made no difference to me.  I took that walk in opposition to those who espouse cleansing of our nation until it fits their narrow, hateful vision of who is fit to be an American. I will walk abreast of anyone who feels the same way.

There was no singing, no "We Shall Overcome." Instead, we were encouraged to walk with people we didn't know. A young black man and I talked most of the way. He's not from here, and was surprised to know that I was born and raised here. He admitted to me that he came to Montgomery with a pretty firmly held idea that if you were a white person raised in the South, you were a racist, even if you were polite about it. I pointed out to him along the way the church my great-grandparents attended, which is across the street from Dr. King's church. My roots run deep here. I love my hometown. I want him to love my hometown.

I walked because I needed something to do with my outrage. After nearly a week's reflection, I'm left with nothing more articulate to say about why I took part than what a friend said about her experience.

"I don't show up thinking I will change the world by being there. I just hope somebody looks up and says "look at that nice old lady up there standing for what she believes. Maybe that's not such a bad idea!!"