Okay, so I’m a Hallmark movie-channel junkie.  When I see the byline,  “Larry Levinson Productions, I gather the popcorn, my favorite red, down throw and settle in front of the television.  Don’t judge me, all right.  I need some kind of respite from the negative state of our world these days.  And believe it or not, those soap-opera, sometimes badly acted Hallmark movies, can filter in a little light of positivity and offset the dark side of humanity that is broadcast non-stop on the airwaves.  Even to a cynic, but especially to an idealist like me.

Why just last evening I watched one of the most predictable, melodramatic scenes ever performed on mindless tv.  There was this character who lived her life as a doormat never confronting anyone or anything preferring to be “agreeable” instead. That is until another stale character literally took her by the hands and led her to the mirror and left her standing there to confront her own wimpy self.  That visual triggered the memory of one of my most important life's lessons.                     

I recalled a day in my childhood when I cried to my grandmother that I was ugly because I didn’t look like the children on television and in the picture books that I had begun reading in school.  My grandmother took me by the hand and led me to the bathroom mirror and ordered me to look at myself. 

She said, “You got brown skin and nappy hair, but you belong to God, just like the white children, including them in the picture books and magazines.  And you ain’t ugly ‘cause God don’t make nothing' ugly.”  As time went on, she also taught me to believe that if anyone had a problem with how I looked, it was his or her problem, not mine.

Who knew that a poorly acted, overdramatic movie would remind me of my uneducated, pipe-smoking, Bible-reading Louisiana sharecropper grandmother’s worldview?   That the emotions this movie evoked in me would offer, in a time when all I see is how ignorance and fear trump respect for humanity and civility,  a semblance of the comfort and confidence I'd gained from my grandmother’s love and wisdom .  Hence, the reason I am addicted to soapy, Hallmark movies revealed! 

What A Day

On January 13 of 2015, my husband of 28 years passed away.  While it was expected, I found myself struggling to find myself again.  What a difference a year makes.

Motown Empowerment

Empowerment is a broad concept that covers a lot of personal and emotional territory, and there are many dispensers of empowerment —therapists, clergy, social workers, lovers, husbands, wives, best friends, poetry, writing, support groups.  It seems that ever so often on our life’s journey, we need an injection of empowerment. The question then becomes where does one get this required injection of confidence, or a dose of pride, or a jolt of joy and/or a helping of a sense of fulfillment.  All required to keep on the path to success and happiness? I was reminded after a string of sleepless nights brought on by procrastination and the guilt that follows procrastination, that the primary dispenser of empowerment comes from within.   

Surprisingly, Motown spurred this reminder.  That’s right.  I turned on the radio early one morning feeling guilty and sad that I couldn’t get my life out of its holding pattern since the death of my husband.   The tune Dancing in the Streets by Martha and the Vandellas was playing.  Before I could reproach myself again for the pounds I’d gained from eating too many late night ice cream snacks, my body started to move with the beat of the music.   By the time I’d brushed my teeth, Marvin Gaye and I had belted out What’s Going On?  I couldn’t believe I remembered every word.  As I was about to step into the shower, Michael Jackson hit the sound waves and it was on.  I danced and sang like I did at my New Orleans high school parties.

Motown—the soundtrack of my youth—reminded me that morning what life was like when I made change happen.  I was teased as a teenager for not having rhythm, but dancing to Motown, I learned not to care.  I hated housework, but thanks to Motown, I did those chores with glee.  Once a shy wallflower, I became the life of the party singing along with Motown. 

Motown empowered me then, and strangely enough, that trip down Motown memory lane sparked my life back into its reality.  I remembered a basic lesson that I’d learned about myself years ago and one that I have preached to my kids and grandkids for years.  And that is—YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN DETERMINE WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT DO.  

Translated in that moment, that statement meant that if I am going to overturn sadness and experience happiness, I have to put on the music, get off the pity wall, and dance.  Every morning I wake up, tune the radio to the oldies but goodies and get it on with Motown.  It reminds me what I am capable of doing, the changes I am capable of making, and the happiness I can give myself.   It sets the tone for the day for how I face the challenges of the day and keep me on the path of personal fulfillment.  Empowerment!









Social Media and Me

For days now, I have been struggling to figure out how to re-introduce myself to social media.  In the past, I have not been able to wrap my head around how engaging and helpful blogging can be to my writing career, not to mention, book sales.  Chalk that up my age and belief in the old ways--i.e. letter writing, newspaper / magazine reviews, and readings at bookstores and libraries. I just don't want those things to go away.  After all, my dream of becoming a well-known novelist is based on how I connect with readers through those mediums.  But things change.  And according to my grandchildren, it's time for me to take the leap into the new world.

So, here I am, on social media, again, revisiting my dream to get my written works published so that I can leave a legacy of personal accomplishment as well as something tangible for my kids and grandkids.  Something to show that it's a life-long journey to become comfortable in your own skin as well as a productive, citizen. Even so, I cannot allow the likes of a web page, twitter or Facebook to give me reason to let go of my dream of becoming a novelist of consequence who is read by more people than my immediate family.  I'm not just tooting my own horn here.  According to one reviewer of my first novel, OUTSIDE CHILD, the story opens up the world of native-born New Orleans Blacks, their communities and their abilities to succeed in their city.  My contemporary mystery trilogy, as another reviewer states, captures how such a historic city affects everyday life from a Black perspective without preaching, teaching or whining.  So you see, I have to do everything I can to get these stories exposure, including bearing my soul on social media, because according my grandkids, "Grammy, you ought to be on You Tube if you want people to read about New Orleans."

Easy for them to say.  Lord knows it takes a lot of time to keep up on these sites.  And while it may be true that I am retired, and that writing is my second career, it is also true that I was raised on foundation built on the notion that Idleness not only enables the devil inside all of use, but stifles self-confidence and personal success.  Sometimes I really, really regret learning that lesson.

When I was growing up in New Orleans, music, drama, sports, even Latin, were all part of the school curriculum.  Nowadays, if you want your children exposed to what is possible in their lives via art, drama, sports, languages, etc., as well the usual reading, writing and arithmetic, you have to pay a price.  And part of that cost is transporting them from one activity to the next.  Therefore, I spend a lot of time driving grandkids from school to the respective activities so that their parents can earn enough money to pay taxes in addition to the extra costs for what used to be a given--education and opportunity for all.  You have no idea how time-consuming it is to drive a Grammy cab! And when I add taking care of my sick husband to my tasks, I long for those 12-hour workdays in Public Relations while running a home and family.

While I'll do everything possible to avoid preaching, teaching, and whining in my novels, I can't say that about my politics.  No need to hide it.  I am passionate about our democracy and will give you an ear full about current events, and why it is important for every American to pay attention and to vote.  So, in addition to driving the Grammy cab, taking care of my husband, and writing, I work in my community League of Women Voters and the local Democratic Club.

But enough  about me by me for now.  What I look forward to is chatting with you.  I'd love to hear from you.  I expect you will help me stick with this medium so that I can grow my brand, as blogging is supposed to do according my kids and grandkids.  But also to continue to further develop my writing skills to become a more effective communicator in the 21st century.