MJ and so much more

My oldest granddaughter is 14 and she loves music, all kinds of music. She says things like Billy Joel is the best, and did you hear the new rap song, love me some country and she can often be heard belting Man in the Mirror while getting ready for school. So it was a no brainer when an announcement popped up on my FB feed. “No Sweat Productions – Michael Jackson” 8-11, $15.00 admission. No way.  So we bought 3 tickets and set off on her self- proclaimed clubbing adventure.

The performance space was a small local venue that I had driven past many times but never visited. I too love live music and wanted to share this with her.  The venue know as RME was delightful, small with a full bar, a few tables and a smallish stage at one end. It is home to eclectic music tastes like Gaelic Storm, Pokey Lafarge, Portland Cello Project and more. It is a learning, playing, watching environment, unique and wonderful.

As we walked up the stairs to the hall, it was an easy access, Ari was marked with a black pen ( his marker was missing) and the guidance “Don’t drink ok?” . We laughed and went in. They were playing some great 80’s tunes prior to the start of the event, the kind you can’t help but sing along. Much to her initial dismay, I was singing and dancing. Oh the humanity.

The performance began right on time with a smiling man in a dark suit coat and white shirt, his energy and smile were infectious. They were both outdone by his voice. He shared the stage with 10-11 other musicians and singers. They flowed smoothly from song to song, there was no dead air at all. It was a wonderful time. Music, videos, dancers and dance lessons…we all learned the Thriller dance, impossible to perform with a jam-packed room but fun just the same. When Thriller came on there was a surprise, through the audience came someone dressed like a werewolf and wearing a Rock Island Rocks Jacket ( A local high school), the crowd ate it up.. There were local hip hop dancers mixed in for the fun of  it, you can learn more about them below is  link to their FB page. It was well put together and FUN!

One of the side benefits that I noted in this culture of hatred and racism that we are living in currently, was that it was a room filled with many races and genders. There were entire families who came to see their son dance on the stage, there were little ones dancing and grooving to the tunes. All together and all united having a blast and enjoying the tunes of one amazing performer, the late Michael Jackson.

That scene gives me hope that we are not as divided as we seem, there are positive loving people in this world, I saw them the other night. The show closed with “Man in the Mirror”, my granddaughters favorite and everyone in the crowd was singing loud and waiting to shout the chorus ” No message could be any clearer, if you wanna make this world a better place, Take a look at yourself and make a change”

It is true, it’s starts with you.

Until Next Time,

LJ

https://www.facebook.com/ReFl3xHipHop

https://www.facebook.com/allsweatproductions/

Image may contain: 3 people, including Abbey Esparza and Laurie Morris Blackman, people smiling, eyeglasses, selfie, closeup and indoor

 

 

 

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10 Days In June

10 days ago I took my dog to the vet, to be put down. Like most things in Jessup’s life it didn’t go as planned. He decided to buy a little time and he bit me to orchestrate that. Now I am not the first person he has bit, but I am the last.

It wasn’t a run of the mill bite, it was more like a vampire bite, yes he broke the skin and yes I bled. But there was this dog in the next room, a little dog  and he knew it. He hates little dogs and fireworks and thunder and fast movements. He is old and neurotic, he is an old man, or as I say my old boy.

So his nip bought him 10 days. The vet told me as she stood across the room cautiously speaking to this sobbing woman ( that’s me) that his rabies shot was past due. I did not know. I am a good dog mom but this slipped by. So that meant I could either surrender him ( what kind of term is that) to the local shelter ( the one where I got him 9 years ago)and in ten days they would put him down or I coudl take him home. Of course, no choice really, he is came home. He is deeply medicated and mostly sleeps and looks glassy eyed and barks…all the time.

As we have been spending our ten days ( that are either the longest or shortest depending on your view, together. He has spent alot of time with my guy, who brings him home at the end of the day, he struggles to exit the car and painstakingly makes his way up the stairs. He doesn’t come down as much anymore, just lays guard outside the bedrooms, our fierce old sentry.

I think it was a gift really to have ten more days. Ten days to properly say goodbye. Ten days to prepare and ten days to be grateful for the life we shared.

He has been a difficult dog but at the same time he was loving and affectionate. But he  brought alot of love to this family but particularly to me. He has been to South Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Illinois. Pretty much where I go he goes. If you want to calm him down, put him in a car.

Proof? My guy has a Honda civic that resides in the garage at his Maw’s house and when it storms we put him in it. We would leave the door open and put food and water in there. We would come down in the morning and he would be sitting in the same place we left him, usually sleeping.

It has been a tumultous relationship, like many are, we have had our ups and downs and our near breakups, but somehow we stuck it out. However, the time has come his life is not what it should be, he stumbles, he is aggressive, he howls in pain at times and he needs to be at peace.

From the day  I brought him home, I referred to him as my handsome boy, he was a beautiful dog and my companion. Through it all. He graced earth for 77 years. He graced mine for 63. He was my sweet boy.

Nothing prepares you for the end, not reading or advice or experience. We took him to our vet and placed the muzzle on his nose and mouth,, he tried in vain to get it off but no success. Then Marc with his calming heart, held him fast and petted him while the doc helped him relax, he gently slipped into a twilight sleep and began snoring ( his trademark that I will miss the rumble outside my bedroom door) he snored deeply and relaxed. He had never been fully relaxed, ever. He was peaceful and ready to complete his journey and I was as ready as I will ever be to let him go. I kissed my boy on his head, smelled his fur, and stroked his back as he slipped away.

My heart hurt as I tried to say goodbye, I didn’t want to leave him behind, I wanted to stay with him, but this was about him, not me. He needed to rest.

Sleep Well Handsome. I carry you in my heart, through all my life. We thank you for your companionship and your dedication to loving us. You were loyal and true.

Our world is dimmer without your smiling face.

LJ

Selective Equality

I work for the Federal Government, and recently attended a LGBT celebration, it was really nice. The usual fare, rainbow cupcakes, beverages and education. I read about the history of the pride flag and the man behind it, he passed away last year. I learned that each color has purpose, I learned the definitions, some I had not heard before. I give kudos to the team that was there and the willingness to answer questions. Fully and  completely. As I wandered through the displays, which truly were very informative for those who need education.

Now, I don’t profess to be an expert in this area, but my heart is in the right place. I believe in human rights. Plain and simple…. for all.

There was one display that stopped my heart and nearly brought me to tears. It was a chart or Map that showed our country and the number of states where you can still be fired for being LGBT. Take a peek, it’s added at the bottom.

My first thought was this can’t be true, not in the United States of America. So I sought out a representative at the event named Kristen, who fully confirmed that yes it was an accurate depiction and sadly….true.

It sickened me and enraged me simultaneously. I couldn’t believe that our country is so latent is providing every right to all our citizens, not just a select few.  Naive I know. But I still believe our country is great at its roots and current POTUS gets zero credit. My second question is how do they know? Is it now a check box on the application? I understand that there could be obvious signs in some instances, but that still does not justify the message sent by allowing this type of negativity, bias and persecution based on one dimension of a whole person.

Thirdly, It begs me to ask, does sexual or gender orientation affect the work ethic ? Am I a better employee because I am heterosexual? No, just as it has absolutely nothing to do with the type of employee a person of a different orientation may or may not be. It is simply another avenue used to endorse and support discriminatory practices and allow inequality to continue to quietly thrive.

My fourth observation is that I am uneducated in the realm of deficiencies of life  unneccessary challenges my friends are facing on a daily basis. It isn’t right, we need change and equality more than ever. We must continue to be vocal and persistent in our discussions and messages about equality. Equality is for everyone, not just the chosen few.

Speak loudly, educate yourself  in Illinois @ https//www.qualityillinois.us/ or support the Human Rights Campaign @ https//www.hrc.org/resources/the-equality-act.

“The state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities”  We should not rest until this is 100% true.

As I left the event, I grabbed a pride flag sticker for myself and proudly affixed it to my cardigan. As I returned to my desk a colleague mentioned in passing, “I like your pin”. I said ” I wear it for my friends and equality for all” .

Until Next Time,

LJ

Labels

“A small piece of paper, fabric, plastic, or similar material attached to an object and giving information about it”  I have been thinking a lot about labels. They have become in our society a prerequisite and the number is overwhelming. Everyone seems to have a label, political, gender specific, career, or maybe just the right label on your clothes.

And while I understand the need to create an identity, I feel the need to say that is not all we are. We are human beings first and foremost in my book.  Not lawyers, or doctors or ministers.  We should not let the labeling define us. If we look at the definition of labels above, to me the key word is “small” , the self-imposed labels we give ourselves are but a small part of who we are, and perhaps we are minimizing the full scope of our identity and allowing the world to perceive us as one-dimensional when we are multi faceted human beings.

If we let labels define us the labels in our clothes would become part of our introduction.  And then they would become really long, like mine might be…. Ann Klein, Heterosexual, Marine, Mom, Government Employee, MeeMaw Laurie.  Seems excessive to me and only the last label “Laurie” has any permanent value. Because when it is all said and done, I will always be Laurie and okay maybe MeeMaw.

Not only is it excessive, but just proclaiming our label or tag can cause arguments simply by uttering the label. Declaring a Political label is often like putting on boxing gloves and jumping into the ring. Proclaiming  a gender or sexual preference label can often cause alienation, or assumed familiarity, neither of which are the end goal.

As hard as we work to own our lives and who we are, some people require intrinsic value and are not complete without uttering the label first. I for one would much rather be identified as human, caring and loving.  Those are labels I can live with. Those labels do not overwhelm me but surround me with warmth and happiness.

I believe that our names are our greatest label and should be honored as such. Coat of Arms displays first and foremost our family names, followed by other components that define our history. Returning us to the celebration of our names as labels.

I would loved to be introduced as Laurie. Just Laurie. It’s who I am. I cannot express the dismay I feel when I see people being defined by a label. I can only say you are so much more. I know that I am so much more than my political persuasion, my gender or my religious beliefs. I am my actions in the world. The goodness I do, the love I give. Those are my labels.

My family labels, either by birth, marriage or ancestry are displayed below, maybe my name could be Laurie Jean Hayward-Gifford-Norton-Morris-Weisel-Blackman?

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I encourage evaluation of labeling and to be vigilant with the labels you choose ensuring that they are ones that clearly represent who you are and how you wish to be reflected in our world. And own your name, it’s your beginning.

Until Next Time,

LJ

Heartbeats

I attended a wedding this weekend. It was like most weddings, vows, bride, groom and happiness overflowing.  This one was special, it took place in a castle and I attended in my pajamas with a cup of coffee ( should have been tea) and cried my little tears of joy. Prince Harry is happy and married.

He isn’t my son, he is all of ours. I am roughly the age that Diana would have been, we were even pregnant at the same time. Her life resonates with mine in a small way. We have watched Harry become a man, and search to find his own identity, somewhere between the loss of his mother and the shadow of William, he found a place to be Harry.

My mother is British and she hasn’t missed a wedding yet.  It’s my heritage, and watching this happiness was the least I could do ( since my invitation must have got lost) to show my British roots.  I set my alarm ( My granddaughter said you are really getting up? It’s your day off) yes, it’s Harry’s Wedding Day. I padded downstairs turned on the telly and sat down to enjoy.  I did.

I know there are many differing opinions on the Royals , their lives, the wedding as whole and the entire empire. But this was not the day to discuss those challenges or differences. This day was about love.  That’s it, pure and simple. love.

If you can make it about love and nothing else, you will see the sweet family wedding I watched on TV. This wedding, this celebration of love was watched by 80 million people or something close. But it was truly about those two, that’s it.

When you live your life under a microscope you don’t get to elope or have a quiet family wedding, it just doesn’t work that way. You follow protocol and the wishes of the Queen and you do it right.

Yes, a royal wedding is a spectacle and it was wonderful, full of ritual, history and customs. My heart beat fast and I was excited to watch it.  We had been waiting for this day. To move forward in life and rejoice with his new beginning. We watched a small boy stoically walk behind his mummy’s casket and our hearts broke. We watched a Prince marry his love and change the Royal family forever.

If nothing else cherish the day and open your heart to love.

And share in the love of our new Duke and Duchess.

Love is simple and strong.

Until Next Time,

Lj

 

Morchella

On Sunday, a relative of my guys came over and gifted us freshly harvested Morchella better know by close friends as Morels. He said ” you want some Morels?” My gut response was “No, I’ve seen Beguiled” but instead I said yes as I adore morels.

I know a little about Morels, they have a short growing season, people who love them get very excited when it’s time and you never hear them called mushrooms, simply Morels. Like a rock star or an artist with only one name. Like Bono, or Sting. I mean lets face it, they are the rock stars of fungi. Elusive, mysterious, delicious and coveted. I mean they are hunted, morel paparazzi. They have websites and guide books. This is a multi million dollar business and I was lucky enough to know a local hunter.

I don’t really know how one hunts for them, as I am not a hunter but I do picture a miner’s hat with a light or a big flashlight with the long handle, searching through marshy ground searching for the elusive Morel score, tucked away in mud. I need a little imagination with my Morels.

I tend to be a purest in the cooking arena, At least I think so, throw a little butter in the pan, wash them slice them and fry them up. I cannot get enough of them. Such a decadent treat and I think all the rain we have gotten has helped them grow. That’s my theory anyway.

My guy was cooking dinner and he doesn’t even like Morels, but his mother gave us some direction from the other room, a little flour please, and they were delightful, just the right amount of crunch and superb flavor.

I think that Moreling… yes it’s a new word. use it.  Moreling is a signal that Spring is truly here and Summer is not far behind. And that brings joy to all.

I have seen it the scooters are out, bicyclists are appearing, people are walking and mowing and sitting outside. We have come out of our winter cobwebs and are shaking them off, rediscovering our world.

As I drive home each day, I cross the river from Iowa to Illinois and it is a beautiful view, more green with each passing day, it went from a view of sticks, to fully lush green trees in mere days, that is the wonder of Mother Nature. I advise you to take notice, it’s a beautiful transformation, right before your eyes.  And yes, Morels are part of that.

So enjoy the greening of your neighborhood, rake some leaves, plant some flowers, mow some grass and find some Morels.

Until Next Time,

Lj

 

 

Being Mom

Today is Mother’s Day. It begs for the eternal question what makes one a mother? In my life experience 57 years, it is not giving birth that makes you a mother. Being a mother is not reserved for those that complete the act from womb to earth.

Mother’s come in a variety of shapes, sizes and genders. Primarily, mothering is an action, not a person. On this day more than ever, we need to remember and honor that truth.

This day is for anyone who has ever provided a motherly act. It doesn’t mean you are a female, you could be an Aunt, Uncle, Father, Neighbor, Pastor, Friend, Teacher or just a stranger on the street.

Have you every extended a loving caring action to another human? You are a mother.

I have one biological mother, but many mothers. Those mothers who bring me soup when I am sick, those mothers who give me a hug, or show up because isn’t that 90% of life? Showing up?

Mothering is an art. And like art, we never know how good we are at it until we try. Also like art it takes many forms throughout our lives, constantly changing and revolving.

Those who step in during the absence of a parent, the Aunt who spoils her nieces and nephews, the uncles who never misses a game, the Teacher who inspires you, the neighbor who drops off some baked goods or just says hey over the fence, the Dad who comes to bagels with Mom, the Pastor who provides comfort, those who reach out to soothe or help a stranger. All Mom’s.

The heart is the center, make this day about Mom’s all different kinds. Biological, inherited, chosen and non traditional. This is what being a Mom means to me. So if you are Momming ( yes it’s a new word, you can use it) in any part of your life, thank you and enjoy your day!

Until Next Time,

LJ

 

Social Cake

So today I attended a 4 hour session in our Whole Health Clinic, it is a great program that is designed to help you incorporate all aspects ( body, mind and spirit) of well-being into a workable solution for you. One that you can live with. It truly was educational and enlightening, I am in.

You make a commitment to the program for 3 months. While I am in the meeting I am listening and becoming excited about the possibilities. I can do this. I mean I have already committed to 4 hours right? Better Health is always a plus.

After the session, I head downstairs to my office and I am greeted by “Social Cake” you know cake that is to say good-bye or maybe Happy Birthday or a new baby or because it’s Tuesday. The cake you feel compelled to eat a piece of even though you just left a total wellness program not 5 minutes ago. I knew it would be there, but I thought I timed it right that the celebration would be over.

You walk into the office and there it is, your boss waves you over, and the cake is there, teasing and taunting you like a drug. It is a quarter sheetcake, about 2 inches tall before frosting about 2.5 tall with frosting. It looks like a wedding cake for God’s sakes covered with white Roses.  It was on special someone says, and the cutting begins. The knife approaches the cake and slices through it, the first piece comes out…it has lemon cream filling, of course. And while you are sure you are strong enough to say no, next thing you know you are nodding and a plate with cake is in your hand. As you mindlessly ( didn’t you just learn about mindful eating?) put that first bite on the fork and lift it towards your mouth..you can’t turn back you have been socially engineered…by a cake.

It’s true, eat for the social aspect. It’s a dangerous practice, unless it’s healthful, but when was the last time someone brought bacon cooked Kale (which is delicious) for a birthday treat. Talk about living on the edge, you may not survive the backlash, so you give in and bring the cake, or donuts, candy whatever, it better be sweet and sugary, like heroin.

It’s a social ritual I would go as far to say it is part of office culture. You want to fit in? play the office game, eat the cake. You want to be on the fringe of your office culture ?? skip out on a group lunch, how many is pushing the envelope two times a month? but pass on three and they just stop asking.  It’s a very interesting dynamic and it has been present in every organization I have ever worked for, social cake.

I think I am going to start a revolution, overthrow the cake and start-up social kale or maybe spinach.

Until Next Time,

LJ

 

$3 car washes and more

There’s a new car wash in town… Named $3 car wash. It peaked my interest. I have a car, it was dirty. Really dirty like four wheeling dirty. Except of course I don’t go four wheeling, technically, I do I guess. I drive, it has 4 wheels… and the parking lot I leave my car in daily is gravel and has giant holes that nearly swallow the car if hit just right, or drench the vehicle in gravely inkspot shaped sludge. So yes, it always needs a bath.

I have driven by the new car wash numerous times since it opened, observed the layout but never went in..until yesterday. The car wash itself is a beautiful brick and red metal building, as you drive in the parking lot, there are clearly  marked lanes and to the left are arched pieces of red metal, it’s a perk trust me.

I proceed up the driveway and then it’s the point of no return, I am at the gate, and Disneyland pops into my head for some reason, or maybe John Candy saying ” Sorry folks the park is closed”, but I digress.

I mostly popped in because I wanted to see what this $3 car wash was all about. I feared there was a catch and it couldn’t be real. I pulled up and a face appears on the screen an begins to talk to me. Very Jetson’s. I review my options and yes there is indeed a “light wash” for $3. I am a skeptic and decide it will be no good on my tough grime, so I opt for the mid range $7 wash. These are the low-end options, there are some others.   I turn back to my purse and am grabbing my cash. When I turn back to feed the face on the screen my cash, there is a young guy standing next to the car ready to insert my money for me, because I shouldn’t have to lean over 7 inches and do it myself. I know..customer service. He is very nice and does his job, suggests a higher price wash, I say no, $7 is fine.

He wishes me a good day and disappears, not sure where maybe there is a trapdoor next to my car.  The bar lifts (think toll booth on the highway)  and I round the corner heading to the wash. I pull up to the spot where I am to begin my wash, there is a groove for the left tires to glide in and another mystery attendant appears to my left. He mouths something I can’t understand, so I roll down the window (who does that in a car wash?!) and he shouts “neutral, put the car in neutral” I comply.

The journey begins, just like a ride, Jurassic Park comes to mind. As I slowly make my way through the wash, watching the huge red oversized mop things, gently slap my car, they seem to hug it actually, slowly working up and over, rinse and repeat.  The final washing step is to wax the car with “Clear Coat” , but I didn’t order the clear coat ( who has seen Fargo?) None the less it is part of the $7 wash. The final step is the air dry process of the car, as you look up you see these squares of fire. I can’t look away, I don’t know what they are for, but I like the way they look, and they dry my car.

As you approach the end of your ride, it simply says “Go Go” and you exit the building. I opted to go left and check out the curved red things I saw on my way in. I slide my car into the parking spot and get out. These are free vacuums , that’s right I said free. They have fairly good suction and they are free! After I vacuum my car, I inspect the wash job. There is one crucial spot on my car that most drive through car washes NEVER get clean. The back or hatchback of my car is flat and it is always left dirty by drive through car washes. Clean as a whistle, shiny too, must be the clearcoat.

I am happy with the product, my car looks great. Next time I will try the $3 wash.  But this car wash is amazing, reminiscent of the car washes of old. I remember going to one when I was a kid that was very similar to this in style. Except I think we exited the car and watched it get washed from behind a glass window, safe from the suds.

And for you pet lovers, they also have a pet wash. A two for one.

So if your car gets into a fight with some mud, check out the clear coat.

Until Next Time,

Lj

 

 

 

Simpson, IL

Do you ever get news about a friend you feel like it’s too late and you wished you reached out somewhere along life’s path to see where life took them and let them know how glad you were to have known them?

I had that happen to me a few years ago. I began to wonder about those people back then, the merry band of Marines working in that chow hall on Parris Island. Wyscaver, Leopard, Moncrief, Ortega, VanAalsburg, and Robinson. One fall day I had this gnawing feeling about Robinson and it just wouldn’t go away. I went with that extra sense and googled his name and an obituary came up . Even though I had not spoken to him since I left the USMC a lifetime ago, a part of me hurt. He was one of us, and no one wants to lose one of the club. He was the second of our group to die, Denita Lynne was the first, they were both tragic and too soon.

I was 21 years old when I joined the Marine Corps and my first Duty station after boot camp was Parris Island , South Carolina. I walked into the rifle range chow hall and the first person I met was Jon, he was from my home state of Illinois . He was this really tall skinny guy with jet black hair with a patch of grey in the front of it and he had an accent ( I swore for the first two weeks that he was from Kentucky). No Illinoisans that I knew spoke with an accent and certainly not a drawl. He was from Vienna, Illinois to be more accurate he was from Simpson population 50. In the short time that I knew him we shared a lifetime of experiences. I have so many memories in that short time of life. It’s funny at the time it seemed like a lifetime, probably because we were so young and naive. He let me hitch a ride home with him one Christmas, we packed up his little black pickup and headed North. An adventure for sure, we ran into an ice storm, stayed somewhere in Tennessee, Conway Twitty Inn or something. I remember it had this huge guitar for a sign and I couldn’t stop laughing.  A snow storm further thwarted my efforts to get home, so I ended up staying at his boyhood home, I spent that night in the lower bunk bed with his nieces and nephews very curious about who this stranger was when I woke up in the morning. It was Christmas morning and they were exchanging gifts. I remember watching the joy in their faces and feeling a little bit like an intruder, when I was handed a box. I was not expecting a gift I was just passing  through. She was very excited, and told me to open it. I did and inside was a yellow v-neck sweater with a collared shirt underneath. I was thrilled that this kind family would make me feel so welcome. I remember the visit so very well I remember Jon taking me outside and introducing me to his goat, as I recall his name was Bill. He drove me to Paducah that next day and put me on a plane home to my family. I remember him standing there in his military issue raincoat jeans and a flannel shirt with the snow falling on his hair, he looked at me, waved goodbye and sent me on to my way. It’s funny the moments of life that become engraved on your brain plates, I didn’t know it then but that was the last vivid memory of him.  I saw him a few times before he left the USMC, but that image is my last brain Polaroid.

I learned from his obituary that he married, had three sons and served two different military branches and now rests in a small primitive family cemetery in Southern Illinois.

Time goes quickly and there are so many people who impact your life and help write your story. Let ’em know.. Better Sooner than Later.

Until Next Time,

LJ