Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Beast of Our Own Making: Fear

It's the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy....I'm one of the few of my closest friends, that vividly remembers that day. I remember leaving school early; seeing everyone's parents arrive. No school buses running....seeing Mom cry.
 I can't stop thinking about all those losses of the the 1960's...Dr. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X, Medger Evers....
Each death was a cut, a wound bleeding afresh. And they never, fully, healed.
 We have *never* recovered from, never fully assimilated... is this why we are still scared, is this  why we are still so broken, that even the thought of new immigrants arriving in this country of almost-nothing-but-immigrants, scares us, fills us with dread?
The horrendous terrorist attacks in Paris of less than two weeks ago, are still being talked about, and headlines like "Terror in Paris" still dominate every newspaper, every social media site. The major point every outlet emphasizes is that one of the terrorists has "a Syrian passport."
And the conversation here in the United States, has become whether each state's governor is able to "block refugees" from entering their given state. I'm ashamed to say that nearly every Southern state's governor, is attempting to block refugees.
Fear is a useful emotion; it can help us get out of the way of a train approaching if we are dancing around, on railroad tracks.
But we aren't dancing around on railroad tracks.
Our government's security agencies (FBI/CIA/NSA) had--for many months---already successfully identified and put on "No-Fly" lists,  eight--eight!--of the nine who have been determined by DNA, to have carried out the Paris attacks. (The lone person we did not know about, was from Turkey. And he certainly could not have carried these attacks out, by himself.)
I wish we had shared that information with France. If we had, these attacks may not have ever happened. My heart is with France, with Paris, with all that is beautiful.
Positive changes are already occurring:
*Increased sharing of Intelligence with all Western countries, regarding terror suspects/threats.
* Reinforcement of security and guidelines in all countries.
* Increased surveillance on terror suspects.
But using our fear of others,  as the decision maker on something as nuanced--and necessary--as immigrants coming to us for refuge, for safety? Syrian refugees are fleeing a madman, and the same terrorists-du-jour that all of us here, also fear.
Syrian immigration, or any immigration,  is *not* what we should fear.
U.S. citizens fearing new immigrants, fearing those who are fleeing awful circumstances, wanting nothing more than a chance to work in a land that will welcome them and let them work hard, raise their children, have the freedom to speak their mind, to speak from their heart, to pray, (or not to pray).
What has happened to us?
It's the fear that is causing so many of us to hate. Hating others so much, we create a prejudice, a bigotry so vast, that it precludes admitting ANYONE fleeing the awfulness of war?
That's the real monster.
Peace, kids.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Golden Autumn

New endeavors, coming at me, quickly and relentlessly. But it's all-good. I auditioned for--and got--a lead role in a new Web Series which will debut, next Spring. We will be filming the "trailer" for this series, in November. The filming of the Web Series will be every Saturday and Sunday, in January.
Wish I could say more, but until the trailer is filmed and ready to launch on the Internet, all I can tell you is: I have a lead role; it's set at a college, and it's a "dramedy".
When not memorizing poetry or monologues, I've been organizing two workshops for poet extraordinaire--Cecilia Woloch--which she will be leading, on December 5th and December 6th.
December 5th's is completely full; the December 6th Workshop is nearly full. Both are "Mostly Generative, With Critique". I am very excited about having her back in Atlanta, and I am participating in both of her workshops.
And speaking of poetry, I participated in the inaugural meeting of the newly-formed Atlanta Women's Poetry Collective, last Sunday. The "Fab Four" creators of this group includes Lynn Pederson, Amy Pence, Hilary Rogers King, and Karen Paul Holmes. The meeting in a beautiful private home on the west side of Buckhead, and the group was an eclectic collection of estrogen-fueled humanity. From what was said, it appears our mission is to create more support and love of poetry, and we will accomplish this in myriad ways:
by integrating our poetry with other art forms; by showcasing our poetry at local theatres; by offering Retreats for members; a take-a-poet-to-dinner-series; a partnership with Georgia Poetry Society and/or other organizations which bring poets into the schools;by  mentoring young girls, prisoners, and the elderly.
I'm leading the effort to get poetry launched at local theatres. I think this will be a win-win, for everyone.

 Last night, I attended a showing of "Redemption", which was screened at the Midtown 8 Cinemas in Midtown Atlanta, by the "Let's Make Atlanta NO-KILL" coalition. This organization was created to eliminate the killing of healthy, adoptable animals in Atlanta area shelters.
A great group of folks, who are already making a difference in the lives of animals, and people, all over our great state of Georgia:
Major Dillard Hughes, is Support Section Commander for the Gwinnett County Jail, and his responsibilities include Inmate Services, which runs the Second Chance Dog Program along with Gwinnett Re-entry and Intervention Program (GRIP). The good Major commented that this program is win-win for the previously-condemned dogs, and the weary, need-to-learn-to-care-for-others/learn- new-job-skills-inmates.
Grace Hamlin, Founder and President of W-UNDERDOGS, a grassroots campaign founded as a way to keep the kids of Peoplestown engaged and off the streets through instilling compassion and ethics by rescuing and caring for animals in need.
Erin Meurer, Head Technician and Animal Rescue Coordinator for Fayetteville Animal Hospital in Fayetteville, Georgia. Erin has a special interest in animal behavior and works to rehabilitate rescue dogs to help make their transition into homes successful. After witnessing the need for more rescue work, Erin became involved with Safe Harbor Animal Rescue. Three years later, she helped found
 Hounds in Pounds, Inc., a dog-rescue group.

And finally,  Gypsy Theatre Company, helmed by Mercury (he uses one name only) and his gorgeous wife, Danielle Gustaeveson, is now the Resident Theatre at The Buford Community Center. They perform at the Sylvia Beard Theatre, and are featuring a Jones/Hope/Wooten World Premiere as part of their 2015-2016 Season. Playwrights Jones/Hope/Wooten are the writers who created "The Golden Girls" TV series, and wrote all the scripts.
Here's to golden times, ahead.
Peace, kids.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Running for Mom.

I survived October 12th. The one-year-anniversary of my beloved mother's death, came and went. It was day of tears, of relentlessly texting my sister (were we afraid, both of us, to actually speak to one another? were we afraid the tears might overwhelm us? were we simply, afraid?).
It was a day of trying to distract myself with mindless tasks--searching for new hairstyles on the internet, sorting through monologues to use in auditions (I'd already accomplished that task, but found myself, repeating myself), watching horror-tv (thank you, "The Walking Dead", for the engagement).
I was disappointed when the Chaplain for the Hospice who helped Mom in last weeks of her life, called--literally at the last minute--to say she could not make it to Golden Living in Dunwoody to commemorate my Mom's passing.
I had called and asked her to meet me, as I planned to visit, and to bring goodies to--in honor of my Mom-- the old folks who have no one to visit or comfort them, and she had suggested that we could "...plant a butterfly bush in honor of your Mom." Which I readily agreed to.
So, in her voice-message, she re-scheduled this celebration of Mom's life, for this coming Wednesday...October the 14th.
Which is also a date imbued with tragedy: Five years ago, on October 14th, my beautiful sister-in-law died painfully, just two weeks after giving birth to our sweet niece, Morgan Catherine. Although Morgan Catherine was not due until November 4th (which happens to be my birthday), she arrived on September 21st, because Toni Harris Kwon was in great pain, and doctors induced labor, and delivered our healthy, albeit tiny, niece, to her adoring parents. But what was discovered in this new mother--only three days later (on my own sister's birthday--September 24th)-- was "Stage 4 gastrointestinal cancer, of unknown origin". Although doctors tried mightily to do physical therapy to keep new-mom Toni strong,  Toni was quickly moved from the hospital in Charlotte where she had successfully birthed her daughter--who was now being kept in intensive care for premature newborns.
Toni was moved to Duke University Hospital, where it was hoped some kind of remedy to prolong her life, could be found. But Toni Harris Kwon passed away--and from what my husband told me--it was a hard, violent death. She was trying to breathe, helped by a respirator who forced air through her lungs, in an attempt to keep her alive, and cognizant. She and her husband talked about the baby--the baby she could no longer see, or hold. The baby who was faraway, in a hospital where nurses cried after learning the red-haired mother of this dark-haired, almond-eyed child,  was dying, and there was no hope for that mother. My husband told me, in a phone call at 3:00 am, as I returned from a late-night film shoot in Monticello, Georgia, that Toni was gone.
Shortly after Toni died, I remember being at their home in Charlotte, and while my brother-in-law was downstairs, displaying the purple-cloaked urn with the cremains of Toni, I spoke with Toni's mom, a kind, quiet, petite package of dignity named Cathy, and I asked how she dealt with this, with her daughter, being gone. She said "I run." Cathy looks like a professional athlete, her tiny frame deceiving one into believing she might be fragile....until you notice the sinewy arms and her gymnast-like legs, which course with strength.
I wandered into the nursery--the room we would eventually bring Morgan Catherine to--and I found a package of "Love" brand knitting yarn. Their slogan is "All you need is Love, and time."
Time. The one thing that beautiful Toni, would be denied. The plans to knit baby booties, left at just that--plans.
Four years later, in the midst of a second round of treatments at Cancer Treatment Centers, I remember asking my own Mom, how she dealt with losing her Mom, and she told me, "That was when I started walking, and then, running, on the beach." I asked her if she thought that would help me, when I eventually lost her. "I don't know, but it might."
I responded that I'd write about it, but that I would begin to run, too.
I've begun to run my way, through grief. Through these words.
On Wednesday, I will commemorate Mom. And Toni, we'll be thinking of you too, sweetheart.
Peace, kids.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Streamlining the Blog. And my life...

Hi kids! Today--September 29th, 2015--I am committed to re-igniting this blog. Eternal friend Collin Kelley came over and helped me improve this blog today, with an updated template, with pages added, and a fresh new design, and colors, and he also streamlined my links and photo placement. The clutter is gone, and this frees up not only space on the pages online, but it clears the stress from inside my own head.
A smoother, more user-friendly blog:
what a wonderful motivator, to write even more!
There are several poetry contests going on right now, including my favorite site for discovering new poets, The Poetry Super Highway, and the much-lauded Crab Orchard Review.
I plan to enter at least one of these contests, and I am also gearing up for editing--and submitting-- my long-overdue manuscript, "Words From Water", which is my first full-length collection of poetry.
I've also been working on two plays. The first is "The Taste of Shapes", a full-length play about a young girl who has a condition which blends the five physical senses, and the other play is a one-act entitled,  "Grandma Barnes: Indiana Legend", about a real-life woman in early 20th-century Brown County, Indiana, who just happened to be my great-great grandmother!
 I am setting a deadline of November to finish the first play, and early 2016, to finish the Grandma Barnes piece. "Grandma Barnes: Indiana Legend" would be fun to produce and perform in Brown County, at their small theater in the town known as Indiana's "Little Nashville", a quaint and charming place where artists gather alongside Midwestern ranchers and motorcycle enthusiasts.
More later.
Peace, kids.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Who Is She?

Today is her birthday. She is 53, and still as beautiful as she was in her 30's. She's a mom, a wife, a career-person who's navigated public-relations work in the rental car industry, worked as a performer at the most fabulous nightclub of the 1980's: The Limelight in Atlanta; modeled for national calendars and events; worked as an executive in accounting and advertising both in print and in television, and promoted every industry from voice-over and film production, to home-improvement supplies, to bowling alleys, movie theaters and entertainment emporiums, to real estate to film festivals. She's raised an educated, talented, gorgeous, and very grateful daughter, and in the past year--this woman has also dealt with the unceasing loss of her own mom, and the subsequent, unyielding grief of that loss. She is wife to a man who knows he can count on her to be there for him, to hug him when he needs a hug, to fix his favorite meal, to let him do the grilling when he is up for that; to cheer for "his" team. She reaches out to her neighbors, her church, her community. She has a laugh that is so melodic, it makes the birds outside, jealous. She's crazy-funny, and is always up for surprising someone with a homemade casserole, or a plate of crostini. She can be exhausting, because few can keep up with her early-morning pace, her running schedule, her bicycle races for numerous charities and causes: Cancer, MS, Arthritis, to name a few.... She's 53 today, and I'm proud to say, she's my warm and caring sister. You inspire me, Tina Georgette Allender Dudley. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIS! Peace, kids.

Monday, August 17, 2015

South Asian Vibe

Hi kids! I got out and about yesterday for "The Georgia Center for the Book"'s Writers of South Asia and the event featured dear friends Jaya (To India with Tough Love")Kamlani, Anjali Enjeti and Soniah ("An Isolated Incident") Kamal. Poet and human virtuoso, Franklin Abbott, created and organized this event. Joe Davich runs The Georgia Center for The Book in Decatur, and commented in the introduction, that Atlanta is the envy of many northern cities, given the number of events we offer which are literary, and the huge support we have for them. "Those Yankees are jealous" he said, to the delight of the giggling audience. The variety was stunning. In addition to poets, there were other writers, authors of creative non-fiction, essayists, and debut novelists. Indeed, Anjali read a stunning essay on her blended heritage; Soniah read a just-penned essay on her father, parental expectations, and understanding; Jaya read from her older and newer works, including pieces which challenge the notion of war. I met several interesting writers, all of whom had huge stage presence, and very evocative work. I left wishing I could claim "South Asian" as part of my own heritage. I think I'll probably have to settle for reading about their own journeys, and those journeys will become a part of the way I see the world, anew. Come to think of it, I think I already do.... Peace, kids.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Ways of Being.

Hi kids! I'm endeavoring to write more consistently in this Blog. I am losing affection for the Christian-model of humans. Frankly, I do not think we are created, "Broken", though Life certainly tries to break us. Or perhaps, a more-true thought is that when Life is not lifting us up, it is breaking us down. It rarely is "neutral". There are so many ways to "be" in the world. Sometimes--lately, quite often-- I feel like an Agnostic--someone for whom the very "idea" of God seems too distant, too faraway, too nebulous. A cumulus cloud, fading...and, in the very next breath, I'll find myself remembering watch beloved Mom attempting to pray, (try as she might, she could not speak the words; she was able only to whisper "I can't".) as I comforted (I hope) her, saying "Well, that's okay, Mom, I'll say the words, and you can say them in your head, okay?" She looked relieved and muttered, through a slight smile, "Okay...", as I prayed "The Lord's Prayer" and a "Hail Mary" for her. Earlier today, while scrolling through Facebook and friend's posts, I came across a nun explaining the Rosary being "Sung by Dominicans". It was kind of delightful and my joy at discovering that post, begs the question: Can someone be both ambivalent about God, while actively searching for SIGNS of God? Is it hypocritical to have membership in--and truly enjoy--a group on Facebook known as "Liberals, Atheists, Feminists, and Friends", while simultaneously planning a prayer or meditation session, or going into a church or Mass, to light a candle, for those who no longer, can? I can assure you, I suffer from no "cognitive dissonance". I feel culturally like the same "Cradle Catholic" I've always been: honoring Jesus Christ as a man of peace and good will, but feeling inside that God is "within". That we must fix ourselves, alone. I feel such kinship with the "Humanists" who believe only humans can advance humans, that we must respect all life. So that's where I'm at these days, broken-but-not-broken, a doubter, who believes. Peace, kids.