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Blessing in the Flood

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floodI’m just taking a few moments right now to think about how blessed we are.
We have just experienced a 1000 year flood in Columbia, South  Carolina on October 5. It was amazing to see how quickly the situation went from bad to worse to devastating. People lost their lives. People lost everything they’ve worked for for many years. Some people’s lives will never be the same. Some families will never be the same.  My family and I are just so thankful to be alive. We are thankful that we did not suffer great loss.

All I can say is continue to pray for us. Although the storm is over, the devastation is not. Many people are still homeless after two months.  Although FEMA and other organizations came in to help, there are so many that will go under before that help that they need arrives.  Food and a place to stay are the immediate needs of individuals and families. But many of my counseling clients are still traumatized.  Some are still trying to figure out why they are depressed and anxious.  One women stated that when she went to open her front door, flood waters came rushing in.  All she could do was grab her children and run.   She is still dealing with the floos while others are just interested in moving on as quickly as possible.

We have a rallying cry:  South Carolina Strong!  It sounds good and give us hope while we try to find our new normal.  Mean while some of us are still experiencing the Great Flood of 2015.  The blessing is that we are still here to talk about it.


Spring Purge

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Spring is the time of year when I usually purge. I get rid of old handbags and seldom worn shoes. Purging my closets, cabinets and drawers… making room for new things.

This year, I piled torn blouses, worn out pants and surplus coffee mugs into bags and boxes to be given away, thrown away or sold. It hit me that it’s time to purge other things too. It’s time to purge and get rid of the things that are holding me back in this second half of my life. It’s time to get rid of those old fears and feelings of discontent. It’s time to get rid of those old doubts and insecurities.  It’s time for me to begin to blow my own horn and get rid of that bushel basket under which my light has been hiding.

Sadly, It’s time to purge some people and places from my life too.

Don’t get me wrong! This is not a sob story. No, not at all! I am pretty proud of my life accomplishments.  I have great hope for the future. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, dreams are not just for the young!

This purging though, feels… healthy! Feels right. Feels like I can travel light. It’s like I’m building a minimalist life. Less to maintain, less to care for but still adequate, appropriate and even creative.

Think I’ll run on and see what the end will be.




We Don’t Need Another Hero?

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Yes, I was listening to the song by Tina Turner. It seems to come on the radio when everything seems kind of bleak.  It’s an instant pick me up.  Downright anthem-ish.

I really got into that song today for some reason I cannot readily identify.

We don’t need another hero,
We don’t need to know the way home,
All we want is life beyond the Thunderdome.

We could find something to love about those lyrics? Isn’t that just the kind of music you like to ride with?  You know when you’re driving along and have your dark shades on, AC blasting and you’re on your way back to work after lunch. And you really don’t feel like going back to work.  As a matter of fact, you’d rather go almost anywhere than back to work.

So’s Tina sang to me. Made me imagine myself in that metal mesh and wire  ThunderDome outfit she wore as Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome.  So I walked in the office with that music playing in my head like my own private theme song.

And made it through the rest of the day. Thank you, Aunty Entity!

Remembering Things I Have Lost

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I was 18 years old, in my freshman year at college and my first semester was successfully behind me.  I went to a small private college a couple of states away from home so this Christmas break was my first visit back.  I was looking forward to seeing my family and hanging out with my friends.  I thought i was so much more mature now that I had been on my onw at college for four months.

One of the first things I did when I got home was to call up my friends and put the word out that I was back.  Some of my old crew from college had also left home for school and some had remained in Kansas City, working or going to the local community college.  After a few phone calls, we decided to meet that next night for drinks and dancing at a new dinner club that was new to some of us.  Michelle, one of my best friends from high school, wanted to show off her brand new car so she offered to pick me up and drive.  It was just as well, I didn’t own a car and didn’t have a drivers license.

The next night, Michelle picked me up around 9 PM.  We were dressed to be cute but respectful of the below freezing temperatures and the snow and ice on the ground.  The club was located in midtown, a neighborhood with an artsy mix of shops, restaurants and apartments.  Midtown was surrounded by middle and upper middle class neighborhoods but wasn’t surburban at all.

Michelle and I were excited, chatting, laughing, catching up on news.  We arrived at the club and found the parking lot full.  That didn’t bother us, it just meant that the club was jumping and we were in for a good time!

We soon found a parking place on the street beside the club.  Still talking and laughing, we go out of the and Michelle dropped her purse.  Change, makeup, her wallet and all the other stuff we keep in purses dumped into the snow and slid under the car.

Of course, I went around to help Michelle gather up her things.  A man walked by but I hardly glanced at him.

“Hey! Are you looking for a date?” he called to us.

“No!” Michelle answered. I didn’t respond as I was busy plucking Michelle’s lipstick out of the snow on the curb.

Suddenly, the man turned around and was next to Michelle in just a couple of steps.

“Don’t look at me,” the man commanded.  “I said don’t look at me! I’ve got a gun.”

We were in shock, surprised and scared.  I don’t really remember what we said.  I just remember seeing him grab Michelle by the arm and force her into the open car door.  He pointed the gun at me and told me to get in the back seat.  He jumped into the driver’s seat, pushing Michelle to climb over the gear console to the passenger side.

The robber waved the gun and growled orders at us in a threatening voice.  He demanded money from our purses and our jewelry.  After a few minutes, he told me to lay down in the back seat and put my coat over my head.  I was scared.  I just knew he was going to shoot me.  I remember saying my prayers and asking God to forgive me for my sins.  I prayed that my mother wouldn’t be so very sad and that she would be okay.

The gunman drove us around in the car, talking to Michelle who was clearly terrified.  I don’t know if she knew where we were and I had given up counting turns and trying to figure out where he was taking us.  At one time he stopped, got out of the car and walked around to the trunk.  I tried to convince Michelle to open the door so we could run (the car was a 2-door) but she was so afraid that she couldn’t move.  I tried to push the seat forward with her in it, then the gunman came back.

He got in the car again and started driving but this time, he had plans.  We drove for what seemed like hours.  The whole time, I kept thinking that I would soon be dead.  I swore if I got the chance to escape again, I would take it, with or without Michelle.

After a few turn, our kidnapper stopped the car and began talking to Michelle about whether or not she had a boyfriend.  He kept on that topic until he just came out and said that he wanted to have sex with her before he let us go.  Michelle bargained with him, trying to get him to say with certainty that he would let us go if she allowed him to rape her.  He said yes.  So she did it.

He did finally let us go.  He stopped the car not far from where he kidnapped us.  He tried to lock us in the trunk of the car but luckily didn’t realize he didn’t have a trunk key.  He told us to stay in the car for 15 minutes after he got out but I climbed over the seat and got out as soon as I heard him running away.  We ran from door to door in this upscale  neighborhood trying to get someone to call the police or let us use the phone.  After trying at 3 houses, a gay couple finally let us in to call the police.

Michelle didn’t want to tell that she had been raped.  We did though, after the police told her that she wouldn’t be identified.  The next day, there was a small item in the paper that didn’t name her but talked about a girl who lived on her block who was kidnapped and raped.  Michelle called me, furious, hurt and feeling betrayed.  That was the last time I talked to her.  After that, she never answered or returned my calls.  Once, when I called her, her mother answered and asked if I was the girl Michelle was with that night.  I said yes.

“Okay.  I’ll tell her you called,” she said.

I hardly ever talk about that night.  If I do have to talk about it, I just kind of skim over parts of it as I have done here.  But when I think of things I have lost, I think about that night.  The night I lost my youth, my innocence and most of all the night I lost my friend.

You can’t go home again

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Today, I am just kind of ruminating about how the world moves on.  I remember that phrase from a Stephen King novel I read once.  A while back, I went back home and visited a neighborhood where I lived when I was a kid.  The block looks so sad and beat up.  I couldn’t believe it was the same place.  They had torn down Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School, where I learned to read, write, survive on the urban playground and ultimately, survive in life.  The city had built a highway that passed right in front of where our old house used to be.  The street where we used to play was basically gone.   I could have cried.

When I was younger, I didnt understand that whole Thomas Wolfe You can’t go home again thing.   I mean, I know he had a whole different thread in mind when he wrote that but right here it seems so appropriate. 

Our neighborhood was one of those aspirational african american neighborhoods.  When we first moved to that house, I must have been 2 or 3 years old.  My older brother was probably 4 or 5 (I should ask him to be sure since he remembers everything!).   A white family lived next door to us.   Susan, the daughter, became my friend.  Susan was allowed to stay up later than me but I could look out of my bedroom window and talk to her while she sat on her back porch.    

Susan’s family moved sometime after we moved in and soon the majority of the neighborhood was african american.  My kindergarten teacher lived around the corner.  The kids in the next block formed a music group that made hit records when I was still a young girl.    In the summer, the black panthers would set up street parties for us kids with games, food and movies.    One day, on the way to my kindergarten class, I picked some roses from a bush in the yard of a lady who lived on the corner.  When I got to school, I gave the flowers to my teacher.  She thought that was sweet.  A few moments later, the principal came in to tell me that the lady had called saying that she didnt mind that I picked the flowers but that next time, I should ask first.

I had forgotten a lot of those things.  The memories came back when I realized that I couldnt go home again.

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