Sunday, December 14, 2008



Have you heard anything yet? I really think you have a good chance of getting the job as Program Director at NODC. I’m attaching my curriculum guide for you and I’m sending it to Betsy, also, to share with the folks at Holland since they are mentioned (not by name) in it. It’s a chronicle of my year helping to supervise “change” at Holland Road and a record of our successes.

Sorry I haven’t called. I got back to Toledo December 2, and I’ve been swamped with work and projects. I just created programs for an arts initiative, a volunteer effort, and certification in adult transition habilitation for young adults, all with accompanying curricula. Plus I’m the ghost writer for a fictionalized version of the story of a man who spent nineteen years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

I’m also trying to finish a novel about vampires (yes, vampires!) before February so I can enter it in a writing contest, shopping around for producers and drama publications for my FINALLY re-written play, and marketing my curriculum guide. And I still have a business to get off the ground on top of all that. We got the Medicare waiver, but it’s going to take about a year to get certified.

I knew I was busy last night when I sat at the desk in my hotel room eating my dinner while I created an ad for the program for this year’s Kwanzaa celebration. Don’t forget – December 26-January 1 is Kwanzaa! I’ll be teaching a behavior class ten hours a day during the holiday for three of those days and observing a quiet, reflective observance of Jesus’ coming into this world Christmas week somewhere other than my house – probably at my favorite retreat: the Secor Comfort Inn.

I’m in “retreat” now, typing 35 pages of email addresses so I can send out promotional materials to all of the day hab programs in the state. I finished 17 pages yesterday and have another 18 to go. There are about 12 listings on each page, so I’m inputting over 400 entries! Hey, it’s cheaper and actually less time consuming than sending out printed pages through snail mail. I’m also offering those who want to order the book the opportunity to have it emailed for a discounted price to save money on printing copies.

I’m missing all my favorite holiday events, like a concert I’d love to go today, but I still have all that typing to do and while I’m here, I’m also reading a stack of material about the incarceration and ultimate release of Danny Brown, the gentleman I’m assisting with writing his story. I’m making a timeline of the events as they occurred to keep everything in perspective. His story is a very compelling one and I’m honored to be involved with helping him to tell it.

I was at Holland Road with our young adult group Thursday for their holiday celebration. We went to Golden Corral first and ran into half of the Lott Industries Hill Plant – the community employees and staff. Our young adults had a great time and want to go back to the Holland plant again. Julie (my former hab tech) and I are going to start a pen pal program between the employees at Holland and our young adults and arrange to have participants socialize at both sites next year.

I saw Mary Katherine and was told by some of my staff that she’s “a white Geneva,” meaning they like her! I knew she was the right person to take my place. She wants the three of us to get together. Of course, everybody told me how much they miss me. I got to see almost everybody, except for Kathy who was at a meeting. Betty offered me money to come back and even jokingly attempted to solicit donations. I told them there’s not enough money in the world to get me back at the county board.

I’m working harder now than I did when I worked seven days a week because I have so many projects, but I don’t have any of the stress of working for the county board or the expense for working for the paper, trying to get to and from assignments and get to the office to get them typed with only fifty dollars to pay for it all. I never made any money, even though I loved the work. I just can’t afford it any more.

I’m going on a very strict budget next year while we get the home health business off the ground and my New Year's resolution is to save ten percent of my salary (Susie Orman's recommendation). I'm paying off all of my credit cards and accounts by the end of the year. That will make it a lot easier to stay within my budget. However, my budget will have to include a monthly visit to my “retreat.” Some things I just can’t do without!

By the way, Lee was at Holland, too, and so was Rick. I heard Gary was there before I got there. Everyone was glad to see so many of their former supervisors show up to visit. It was like a “management reunion.” Lee had two more stories for me to read and they were very good. I told her she should compile her short stories into a book. (That’s another of my projects- writing a book of short stories about the rural community where I grow up, along with compiling a book of autobiographical one act plays).

Oh, I saw products from Holland’s art studio while I was there Thursday and was duly impressed. You’d love the art program we started last week at the young adult center. We actually started our “arts program” last summer with music therapy, having my friend Kewape come in and play African drums to teach the concept of rhythm, connecting percussion sounds with movement and vocalization. Now, I’m teaching art history/appreciation using a hands-on method.

I found these “adult” coloring books at that have black and white versions of classical artworks. Individuals are given a chart showing slides of the originals and choose which one they’d like to duplicate using their own coloring ideas. Then while they color with color pencils and markers, I tell them about each of the paintings, the artist, and the art form and medium. This is an introduction to art that I hope will include learning to actually create original works when we get the money to hire real artists to work with them.

You’ll also love the volunteer program we’re developing. It’s to provide assistance for seniors and others on fixed incomes who have pets. We’re soliciting donations of pet food to distribute to those who can’t afford to buy it. I came up with the idea of starting a pet food pantry when my neighbors told me they had to feed half their Thanksgiving dinner to their two dogs and cat because they didn’t have money to buy food for them.

I talked to the young adults to see if this is something they’d like to do and almost all of them said yes. I’ve written the curriculum and made up flyers for donations and distribution. We'll be opening the pantry next year when, according to the economists, things are going to get a whole lot worse. Many people may have a hard time buying food for themselves, so I'm sure buying pet food will be a real burden.

I also want to do some improvisational drama, eventually, and I plan to start teaching a writing program using journaling and other fun kinds of writing to assess writing skills and then focus in on those that need honing. I found some “anti-coloring” books that are meant for kids, but are great vehicles for allowing self-expression either through art or writing. I only work at the center fifteen to twenty hours a week, depending on what needs to be done, but I’ve been spending more of my time interacting with the young adults.

Of course, I love teaching, so I’m in my element. My goal, however, is to get the staff to take over some of the therapeutic activities I’ve started. They’re really good and I know once they have the training, they’ll be able to do all of it themselves. They already do great things. However, with such a diverse and highly functioning group, we have to provide a wide variety of choices to keep them engaged.

I did take two hours off last night after typing and reading all day to watch Will Smith in “I Am Legend.” It was worth it. The movie is really good – scary, but very good! I went to one movie while I was in Columbus with my brother James and my brother Joseph’s significant other Leslie. James made us a gourmet dinner at his house, then we went to see “Happy Go Lucky,” a British comedy.

I love British movies. They are usually so well scripted and lack the pretentiousness of American films. My only other outings in Columbus were to James’ church and lunch afterwards, and shopping at the J.C. Penny outlet with my mother and sister. But I don't go "home" to do anything except hang out with my mom and any other family members who happen to come by. Mostly, that's my niece and nephew, Kiki and Joe. They are really growing up; every time I see them, they're two inches taller!

Oh, I fell in love while I was in Columbus. He’s blonde, muscular, and has brown, soulful eyes. He was hostile to me at first, but he was soon licking my face (and feet) and biting my knuckles playfully. His name is “Bear” and he’s a Chow-Golden Retriever mix. He’s only eight months old, but he’s already huge. Bear is Mom’s companion and “grand-dog.” My sister Debbie is his owner. That dog barked at me for three whole days until he decided I wasn’t going to leave.

When I told Mom on the phone that I was going to say I fell in love with a blonde named “Bear” who licked my face and bit my knuckles, she said, “Some guy is going to show up at your door saying he loves women who like being licked!” I also met a couple of toddlers whose mother is my mom’s home health care aide. They are one and a half and two and a half. I wanted to kidnap the two and a half year old and bring him back to Toledo! His mother thought I was kidding. Well, I was, but he is just the cutest child.

I had a great time with my family. I really do love them. I spent a lot of time with my mom and Debbie and some quality time with James and Joseph, as well as Leslie and Joseph’s ex-wife Valerie and their two children. They are all avid Obama supporters and they know I’m not. However, there was never any attempt to ambush me or “gang up” on me, even though they’ve read my columns criticizing him and calling him a narcissist and a megalomaniac. (By the way, Illionis governor Rod Blagojevish is the perfect example of a narcissistic megalomaniac:
I've attached a detailed definition of narcissism from the Mayo Clinic.)

Not that I didn’t have a few heated debates with family members about our opposing views, but there was no concerted effort to “check me” or “straighten” out my opinions about The Chose One. I did get some Obama-themed Christmas gifts, but not the lectures or “interventions” I might have gotten had a spent time during the holidays with Obama supporters other than my own beloveds. My real friends have also been very kind, considering I don’t share their love of Obama.

Some other folks are waiting for the opportunity to “beat up” on me for my dissenting views. I suspect one or two folks of plotting to lure me into settings where I can be “set straight” about my political views. Of course, I won’t be falling for such an obvious trap. Anyone who attempts this really doesn't want to "corner" me; they may think they do, but they really don't. It would be kind of like cornering a wild animal. Have you ever seen anyone corner a raccoon?

They usually come out fighting, clawing and biting! Believe me, no one really wants to see that side of me. Not even me! That's why I resigned rather than "fighting" to keep my job. I hate my evil side and I try to keep it at bay. I have been very successful at not "going off" for quite a while now and I know had I stayed at Holland, even without having to "fight," the stress would have made me show the side of me I've only shown at work once - when I was at Larc Lane School years ago and a teacher (we won't name names) took out her frustrations on me.

I lost it and it took a psychologist, another behavior specialist, and three hours for me to calm down. Afterwards, half the staff was scared of me and the other half left me alone. A gym teacher and a communication specialist I had been having lunch with every day until then started avoiding me, and one of the secretary's who is a friend told me I was completely out of control. I know I was. That's why I don't like losing control because when I do, I lose it completely. It runs in the family.

My mother cannot allow herself to worry or grieve because when she did after her father died, she had a breakdown and has been taking antedepressants for the past fifty years. The reason I know so much about psychological disorders is because I've witnessed them in my own family. By the way, my schizophrenic sister contacted all of us during the holidays, asking for money. She hit pay dirt finally when she called Mom and got money from her and Joseph and Debbie.

She left messages for me on my home phone, but I just had her number blocked because she still hasn't apologized for sending everyone on my email list one of her maniacal rants last year. She's living in a shelter in San Francisco now and she did send a thank-you card to Mom, Joseph, and Debbie and ten dollars for Mom. However, a week later, she was back to ranting and raving. Every time she's lucid, my mother hopes she'll stay that way this time. I used to be on that merry-go-round, too, until I realized she's never going to change.

I understand her psychological condition, but handling it is another matter altogether. That's why when I see symptoms of psychological problems in public officials, I tend to react. People have no idea how dangerous it is to give a psychologically impaired person unlimited power, particularly one who lusts for power and feels superior to everyone and that he's "chosen." I fear our President-Elect may have some issues that really need to be addressed and monitored. I hope his "handlers" can keep him from stepping over the line.

I do wish the next administration well trying to bail us out of this economic crisis, however, (and hope it doesn’t end up a “fail-out” like the efforts to help the auto industry) and I applaud the selection of so many women to fill cabinet positions. I don’t dislike Obama (like I used to dislike George Bush- I don’t even dislike him any more); I just don’t worship at the altar of Barack and I probably never will, even if he turns out to be a great President. I wasn’t a fan of Bill Clinton either as well liked as he was. I always admired his wife; him, not so much.

By the way, I think Hillary’s chances of running for President have been circumvented by Caroline Kennedy’s interest in politics. I’m sure if Caroline takes Hillary’s Senate seat, she will follow in Obama’s footsteps and in two years we’ll see her mounting a Presidential campaign, which, of course, he will endorse, returning the favor she did him; and she will be nominated and elected as America’s first female President. I may live to see a female President of this country after all, in eight years!

The only way it will be Hillary is if Obama melts down (as I fear he will – that’s what narcissists do!) and Biden becomes President, then chooses Hillary as his vice. I doubt that Biden would run in 2012, but Hillary might if she’s the vice. Just musings, not wishful thinking, believe it or not. I’m not really invested in who runs or wins any more. I stopped caring after the Democratic Convention when women were looked over for the Democratic ticket. Now it’s all theatre to me. I just watch the drama and pray we don’t elect an idiot who’ll start a nuclear war.

Enough about politics. I’m just rambling because I don’t have time to write my column or do my blogs because I’M SO BUSY! I’ll call when I have a minute to breathe. I haven’t been returning calls or seeing anyone I don’t work with or see in the course of working since I got back. I mostly communicate with people through email because I really don’t have time to talk on the telephone. I spend all my time at home writing (I’ve got less than two months to write that novel and type it) and away from home, I’m always working on something.

Let me know when you hear about the job!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Friends & Lovers, Part II

I titled this "Friends & Lovers," but last time I talked mostly about friendships. This time I'm talking about the other type of relationship. Sorry, this won't be a chronicle of my affairs. (If your want to find out about my love life, at least up until 13 years ago, read the fall issue of DIMENSIONS magazine - it's available online; I wrote an article about being smart & sexy, complete with a pin-up shot of me!)

I just want to talk about intimate relationships in general, marriage specifically. I know. Having never ventured into matrimony, how can I talk about this subject? I am not speaking as an expert or from any experience with committed relationships; just as an observer who doesn't like what she sees. Just hear me out - then you can voice your opinion on the subject.

I was in the lobby of the hotel where I went to type the manuscript for my book and the hotel staff was watching Tyra Banks' show, which was about a website that encourages married women to have affairs. As usual, I was confused by married people who cheat on their spouses. My father did this 35 years of the 50 years he and my mother were married and I have younger half-brothers to prove it, but although I eventually forgave him, I never understood completely why he did it.

I know it had something to do with his mother (whom he named me for and then never called me by my - his mother's - name; my family uses my middle name and I didn't even know my first name until I went to school - my father even made checks out to me using my middle and last name.) As a young child, my father saw his mother cheating on his father unaware that she was engaged in the world's oldest profession and that his father probably knew and approved of the dalliances she had with other men after he left home for work every day. He came from a rather scandalous family; his grandmother purportedly ran a brothel and his mother, who died when he was a young boy, was rumored to have had syphillis.

This image of his mother with other men formed my father's opinion of women as either whores or madonnas. My mother, who he met in Bible College after he became a Christian and was called into the ministry, came from a very religious family and was the virginal madonna he was looking for to be his wife. However, he was always attraced to the women he considered whores - those who would commit adultery with him. It's all very complicated, so I'll never fully understand it. I also will probably never understand why my father's adultery has prevented me from being able to trust any man to honor a committed relationship.

Why do people get married if they don't plan to be faithful? Or do they get married and infidelity just creeps upon them like a sickness? I don't understand. I listen to the marriage vows whenever I go to a wedding and I often wonder if the people saying them realize what they are promising. How can you vow to be faithful with no intention of being faithful? I heard women on Tyra's show talking about how the passion was gone out of their marriage as justification for their infidelity. Doesn't that come under the heading of "for better or worse"? I would think that with the pressures of paying bills, rearing children, and just trying to share a house with another adult, passion would eventually fade and more practical considerations would take its place.

However, that does not mean that passion can't be re-kindled from time to time. But is it realistic or even mature to think that a marriage is going to be one long, passionate honeymoon? My mother, who loved my father more than anything on this planet, often talks about how she and Daddy talked about every detail of their lives before they were married: how they would handle their finances, who would be the breadwinner, how they would rear their children, where they would live, everything.

On a personal note, the idea of living day in and day out with a man has kept me from getting married, to be perfectly honest. I not only like living alone now that I do, the only people I've ever lived with have been women. I lived with my maternal grandmother while I was after my grandfather died until I graduated from high school and, starting when I went away to college, I shared my living quarters with female roommates up until just eight years ago when my best friend and last roommate died.

I once dated a man who was somewhat older than me and who was a widower, who wanted to get married again. We met when I went to the summer musical theatre series in Wichita and found out they'd sold out the show I wanted to see. This white man in his fifties (I was in my mid-twenties at the time) offered me a ticket on the condition that I sat with him. I thought that was fair and I agreed. He asked me to attend the rest of the season with him and I agreed. He would pick me up and take me to dinner, then we'd see the show. Being a feminist and feeling that I owed him at least one meal in appreciation of the tickets (he'd bought season tickets for his wife and himself every summer and after she died, he forgot to cancel hers). He would not hear of it, but did agree to let me buy him dessert after one show. We started talking about marriage and I told him I thougth husbands and wives should have separate houses. He said, "That sounds like a sexual arrangement."

He never called me again. Later, he brought a date to the movie theater/community theatre where I volunteered on the weekends (and eventual every night) in an effort, I believe, to make me jealous. She was a white woman about his age and I expressed my joy that he had found someone to be his companion and, hopefully, his wife. He didn't seem happy that I was happy for him. (I still don't know what this straight-laced guy who worked as a computer programmer thought he was going to do with me, an exotic black woman half his age! When we met, I was wearing a caftan made from black and white abstract cloth and my head was nearly bald - the huge earrings I was wearing and the make-up were needed to identify me as a female!)

I know I am not in any way suited to be talking about marriage, but I think the institution is in dire trouble. I hear people speak vehemently against same-sex marriage, but I don't see why they are trying so hard to preserve the institution of marriage when so many people who are married do little to preserve their own marriages. I have friends who are happily married, but I can count them on one hand. I don't have enough fingers (or toes) to count the number of friends I have who have been divorced or who have been in bad relationships. I would have been divorced as many times as I was asked to marry had I consented. Every time a man asked me, I suddenly became psychic and could see my future as an unhappily married woman. None of these men were suited to be married to me and I knew it. I've only known one man who had the kind of personality that would in any way accomodate me.

Not my father's! He once told me when I dumped my brother's catch from a fishing trip because he tracked mud on the kitchen floor that I had just mopped, that I would never find a man who would put up with me. (My mother, on the other hand, told me that I should have been the one that married the minister my sister married who later physically abused her, causing her to get a divorce - obviously my father knew me better than my mother did!) The man whose personality made him the best man I ever knew was my mother's father. He died the year I turned seven, but I remember him very well. I still see him now in my mother's personality.

My grandfather was married to a woman who was so volatile and temperamental, I used to get headaches just watching her moods change as a child. However, he was the calm, patient one in the relationship. They called each other "partner" and that's what they were. She was the outdoors type, having grown up in the country, while Grandpa, a city boy, was the indoors type.
My mother said he provided most of the child care, cleaned the house, and shared in the cooking at times (my grandmother, the best cook I've ever known, closely followed by my mother and her younger brother, a professional chef, did most of the cooking). She spent her time in the barn, the garden, and the fields. That was her passion. I remember spending hours with Grandpa and my brother, John, when I was small. Grandpa loved teaching us things, playing the piano for us, and singing to us.

He was a teacher and later an elementary school principal and he knew how to relate to children. Grandma, not so much, even though she was very strict and effective sixth grade teacher (I know because I was in her class.). They were a great team. She knew everything about raising livestock and plants and he knew everything about kids. Mom said if she or one of her siblings had a nightmare or got sick in the night, Grandpa was the one who came to comfort them, not Grandma. She'd sleep through the whole thing. Although I didn't get my grandmother's bi-polar disorder (thank God!), I do have a lot of her temperament. I am not a parent and have not one maternal bone in my body.

I thank God every day that I was not able to have children and make the life of anyone miserable trying to be his or her mother. I also have no interest in being a housekeeper or a cook. I cook occasionally when I want to, usually to try some complicated recipe or something. But, unlike my mother, I don't live to keep house and fix meals. So, why would I ever get married to a man whose idea of marriage is women in the traditional role of a housewife, even if she has a fulltime career, and the man in the position of provider, even when he's unable to do so? I see far too many women come in to work tired because they went home the night before and cooked, cleaned, did laundry, and took care of their children until bedtime while their husbands relaxed in front of the television. Not my idea of how I want to live!

I know many men are starting to help with household chores, but they really think they're doing their wives a favor when they "help" with the dinner, the dishes, the kids,or the laundry, not realizing all of these things are as much their responsibility as they are their wives. Maybe this unfair division of household chores has something to do with the failure of so many marriages. I wouldn't know. The only thing I know about marriage is to avoid it like the plague!

Friday, October 31, 2008

"Friends & Lovers"

Friendships. Friendships are what keep me here in Toledo. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere continuously m y whole life. I went to live with my grandmother the year I turned seven when my grandfather died and stayed with her on the family ranch in Texas until I graduated from high school and went to college. That was eleven years. I lived in Wichita, Kansas, where I attended graduate school and taught in the public schools for seven years. That was nine years. I’ve lived in Toledo twenty years. I can’t believe I’ve been here that long! I was a kind of nomad during my adult years until I moved here. I moved to Ohio from Kansas because I became disillusioned with teaching gifted students who were lazy and uninterested in learning. I had been volunteering as fulltime staff at a local theatre and decided to ‘retire’ from teaching and become a fulltime writer. Then I got writer’s block and, although I did a lot of writing, nothing really significant came out of it until I wrote some plays about AIDS that my brother James took on tour with a grant for the National Conference of Mayors. By that time, I’d left Columbus, a city I don’t like because it’s too big and crowded, to come to work for Charlotte Zeigler in Columbus.

I think moving to Toledo was the best decision I made regarding my geographic location, career, and relationships. Not that I haven’t had friendships in the past. My best friend as a pre-teen and teen was the youngest daughter of the “other family,” the Johnsons, who attended the country Baptist church started by my great-grandfather, Rev. David Houston Parish, Sr., in the early 1900s. My grandmother, brother John and I made up one family and Charlie and Beulah Johnson and their five children made up the other family. When I hear people like Barack Obama talk about black men not being responsible, I of course think of my own father, Rev. John Henry Chapman, Sr.; grandfather, Calvin Benjamin Jefferson; and great-grandfather who were all great providers and remarkable men, each in his own way; but I mostly think of Charlie Johnson. “Mr. Charlie,” as we called him, was a farmer, school bus driver, and all around handy man that put four daughters and a son through college while his wife stayed home and cooked, cleaned, raised chickens and gathered eggs, sewed clothing for her daughters, and generally took care of the family. Mr. Charlie lived well into his nineties and “Ms. Beulah” is still alive, living on their farm by herself, and she is also in her nineties. I saw her a couple of years ago when I went to Texas to attend my mother’s youngest brother’s funeral. Except for using a cane and having some wrinkles, she hadn’t changed. She and Mr. Charlie had smiles on their faces at all times and always laughed when they talked. Those laugh lines are permanently etched in her face.

Their youngest child was their daughter, Minnie, who I considered my best friend growing up; she was three years older than me and talked to me about boys she liked, things she did at school, and things she hoped to do some day. I knew everything about Minnie and looked up to her. However, she knew little about me because I never got to tell her anything about myself. I was the passive listener in our relationship. She never even knew I had a huge crush on her only brother, who was seven years older than me. Had he been a bit younger, I’m sure my grandmother would have decided we were a match, but since he was “too old,” she picked out another young man for me that I happen to meet when our country church visited his country church and, according to him, he fell in love with me “at first sight.” Although the feeling wasn’t mutual, I consented to writing him letters since we lived in different rural communities and our romance began. He was two years older than me and because my strict grandmother didn’t allow me to “date” (I found out why a few years later!), he occasionally came to visit me at her house during holidays. Minnie’s brother also came to visit on holidays, saying he wanted to ride our horses. The Johnsons didn’t own any horses and only had a few cattle while my well-to-do grandmother had two hundred head of cattle (that belonged collectively to our family) and three or four horses.

My mother pointed out to me when I was in college and young Mr. Johnson was still coming around on holidays that young men usually spend time around girls they are interested in during holiday seasons. I hoped she was right, but left Texas before I could find out whether or not a romance was possible with this guy I’d had a crush on since I was twelve. Anyway, my grandmother’s choice for my mate went to college on an athletic scholarship and was a sophomore when I graduated from high school. He came to my graduation and my classmates, who didn’t believe for a minute that I had a college-age boyfriend who was a football star, given my grandmother’s reputation for being strict and overprotective. Imagine their surprise when the six foot three, handsome college athlete showed up that night. We got engaged and our relationship continued until I was honest and told him I was going out “platonically” with a senior at Prairie View, where I went to college on my Valedictorian scholarship from the State of Texas, against my better judgment (I wanted to go to Texas A&M). However, everyone in my family went to Prairie View (that’s where my grandparents met!), so I didn’t have a choice. Anyway, my fiancĂ© became enraged and at the end of my first year came to my college to confront the senior I’d been seeing as a friend only (from my point of view – the senior actually asked me to leave school and marry him and move to South America where he got a job working in soil conservation or something!). The fool had a sawed-off shotgun in the trunk of his car and I became so upset, I threw away the ring he gave me and ended our engagement.

The next year when I was expelled for my ‘militant’ activities and moved to Oklahoma to live with my parents, my former beau didn’t know I’d left Texas. Ironically, he ended up going to college at Oklahoma State, but neither of us knew the other one was in Oklahoma. Then I moved to Kansas after graduation when my father went there to pastor a church and my former beau was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. Again, neither of us knew the other one was in the state. Eleven years after we broke up, I was in Texas visiting my parents who’d moved out to the ranch to ‘take care of’ my ailing grandmother and my former beau called my grandmother to inquire about me. She gladly gave him my parents’ number and he called. We went out to dinner and ended up getting engaged again. He’d been married and divorce and was not the sweet young man I’d first met, so a few months later I broke it off and he told me he’d never ask me to marry him again. I was relieved because the only reason I wanted marry him is because he lives in Austin, Texas, the ONLY place to live in Texas! My grandmother was upset and accused me of thinking I was “too good” for the country boy turned professional athlete turned engineer (a knee engineer ended his professional football career). I told her I was too good for him and that maybe she should marry him! That ended that conversation. Anyway, my “best friend’s” brother married someone else and things worked out because he had three children and is very happy. Since I can’t have children, I think it’s best that he ended up with someone who could. He needed to be a father having had the role model of the perfect role model to pattern himself after (so did my two uncles, but neither of them followed my grandfather’s example for some reason!)Besides, our families were so close, it would have almost been like marrying my brother if we had gotten together. Anyway, I’m not the marrying kind – everybody knows that!

Years after Minnie and I were “best friends,” I spent a few hours with her and all we did was talk about her life, picking up where we left off years earlier, and I realized that she established my idea of “friendship” years ago: one friend is the passive listener and the other is the one who gets to do all the talking. For years I fought to make sure I didn’t assume the passive listener role in friendships, but often found myself falling into that role. I also took on the other role on occasion and found it equally unsatisfying. Then I came to Toledo and found friends who taught me what friendship really is: an exchange of ideas, feelings, support, and concern. I love my friends in Toledo who number far many than I’ve ever had anywhere else. I still have friends in Kansas, but don’t communicate with them much – it’s hard to keep friendships in tact when you don’t actually see people face to face. However, friends I’ve made in Toledo remain friends even when they move away. Thanks to all of you for your friendship which means much more to me than you could ever know. I also appreciate you bearing with my denigration of the candidate of choice this year, Barack Obama, whom I’m sure all of my liberal friends support. Your disagreement with me has been strong, but civil. I appreciate that. Only friends can disagree and remain friends. I hope we remain friends for many years to come. Your friendship, more than anything else, has made Toledo my true home.

Monday, October 27, 2008

gjc - Frog Town Diva

I’ve been out of commission due to a particularly virulent sinus infection that sent me to my doctor’s office seeking antibiotics (believe me, I’d rather do anything than see my doctor, the head of the weight-loss program at the Toledo Clinic!). He checked my heart rate and my respiratory rate, asked if my chest hurt after I told him it was congested, and refused to comment on the good blood pressure reading the nurse got (the man insists that I have high blood pressure just because it shot up to stroke level when I stupidly took some natural energy pills that are more potent than ginseng!), the fact that I no longer take the hypertension medication he prescribed (hey, it’s almost $100 a month and I no longer have health insurance!), or the ten pounds I lost (never mind that I only lost weight because I had chills and fever for a week and eating was out of the question!). He just prescribed my medication and told me to be sure I take the antibiotics all ten days and call him back next week if I don’t feel better.

Well, I just finished day five of the antibiotics and I’m beginning to feel better. Since yesterday, everything I eat and drink stopped tasting like cough syrup, so I’m eating and getting my strength back after losing another ten pounds or so (my doctor would be so proud!). I’ve never gotten this sick from a sinus infection. I only went to the doctor because I knew I was just days away from getting bronchitis. I had that a lot about ten years ago when I was younger, stronger, and had a better immune system. Well, that stuff can turn into pneumonia and ever since my best friend died with pneumonia from complications of a disease called Behcets that compromised her immune system, I don’t take chances that might end up with me getting pneumonia.

The closest I ever came to getting pneumonia was in 1993, when I got a really bad case of the flu that had me in bed for nearly two weeks (this sinus infection has had me in bed for ten!) and I was delirious from fever. For three consecutive nights, I saw tens of thousands of angels fly past my window. They looked like glowing clouds and I didn’t realize they were angels until I read someone else’s account of seeing angels in clouds in one of those books about angelic encounters. But I was delirious, so those couldn’t have been angels, could they? I hate being sick, so I’m using every natural medication I can (can’t afford the prescription kind, not that I’m that fond of prescription medication, although I continue to take the Lipitor my doctor prescribed for my slightly high bad cholesterol and slightly low good cholesterol – I’ll concede he’s right about that anyway) and plan to try to eat at least one meal with vegetables (probably in soup) every day this winter. I’ve got too much to do to be sick!

Recently, I reverted to form and was ready to cut and run when I realized that my efforts to support the Toledo talent that I so admire in an active way is futile at best and self-defeating at worst. I will be leaving Toledo figuratively, if not literally, because I give up after years of spending my own money to support Toledo talent on doing anything else in that area. I will continue to give support by going to events that I can get to (I have the ongoing problem of getting other people from here to support talent from here so I can get a ride to local events), but no more of my money will be spent promoting anything or anyone in Frog Town. I’ve decided to let someone else do the African Market I’d hope to organize to showcase local entrepreneurs and artists and instead will put my considerable energy into promoting my own work. I am currently re-writing a play and thanks to my good friend, Pastor Bob Veersteg, I recently received an in-depth critique of it from a Broadway actor/playwright/director who was a student of Pastor Bob’s.

I plan to pour over the specious notes and suggestions given by this theatre professional and continue re-writing my play and expanding my horizons beyond Toledo. I love the city and the people, but I’ve finally concluded there’s nothing I can do here that won’t be questioned, criticized, or even resented, so why try? I’ve given all I can afford to give to causes I’ve deemed worthy and will put all of my efforts in the city toward providing the best service I can to the agency for which I provide consultation. I am currently seeking a grant to provide visual arts instruction for adults with cognitive disabilities using local artists. This is a national trend, so, hopefully, I will be able to locate funding. A considerable amount of money is needed to provide materials for painting, salaries for the artists/teachers, creating a gallery, and launching a unique ‘art business’ unlike the ones usually created for individuals with disabilities based on a presumption that all individuals with artistic aspirations have talent in this area. I also have some other ideas for adult day hab programming that I am trying to get funded.

And, of course, there’s my new business that will take a lot of my time and energy. I want to start a business in Toledo for a number of reasons. Primarily, it’s a good business community and I have an excellent business partner who is rooted in this community. As an artist who likes to remain under the radar, so to speak, Toledo is the ideal location for me. Considering the anonymity successful business people and artists are able to maintain here, I think I have found my home, since I prefer to be reclusive and not in the public eye. Two examples of how one can get lost in Toledo involve the African-American CEO of a major corporation who lived here for years, but about whom I’ve only seen one newspaper article in the twenty years I’ve been here and the Broadway star I’d never have met had it not been for David Carter.

When I lived in Wichita, Kansas, an incredibly talented African-American woman named Karla Burns attended Wichita State University as an undergraduate while I was a graduate student there. Karla’s best friend, Robyn and I became good friends when I served as assistant director of two plays Robyn did at a local repertory theatre: “Godspell” and “Man of La Mancha.” My first play, “The Race,” a musical based on Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare” with Uncle Remus characters, had a role written for Karla. She never played it because she went off to Broadway after graduating and got the first role she auditioned for – a supporting role in a revival of “Showboat.” By the time I moved to Ohio in 1983, Karla had been nominated for a Tony Award. Years later, when I sang with David Carter’s group for about a month, a former student of Mr. Carter’s came to one of our rehearsals to visit and it turned out he was Karla’s co-star in “Showboat.” Now, back in Wichita, Karla returned home the conquering hero and became the star of the city’s summer musical theatre series, which I always attended while I lived there.

Karla Burns is as famous in Wichita as Katie Holmes is in Toledo, but does anyone know Alton Coleman and, if you do, did you know he was in “Showboat” on Broadway or that he starred in a European production of “Cats” that I think he is still doing? African-American achievers in Toledo are often overlooked, even by the African-American community (we couldn’t even fill up a room to celebrate Art Tatum’s birthday at the Kent Branch library this year, even with a live jazz performance!) So, yes, I’m home! Toledo is the best refuge for a reclusive soul like myself who’d just as soon lock myself in my house with my computer and type plays to send out to Chicago, New York, and other far off places where someone might actually appreciate them and maybe produce them (I did have two out of three entries in the Chicago Dramatist Workshop’s “Ten Minute Play” festivals accepted for staged readings and critiques in 1993 and 1994). Here I’ll never have to worry about being something as trite as a celebrity. Thank God! I hate celebrity. Look what it did to poor Joe the Plumber!

All I want is a quiet place to write, good friends to hang out with once in a while (although my friends do complain because they don’t see me much sometimes), and the ability to curb my excitement about all of the tremendous talent here in Frog Town. I may have to enter a twelve-step program. I think if I take it one day at a time, I can conquer my addiction to Toledo talent and not feel the need to promote it with my own money, then feel used, depressed, and unloved when my efforts are unappreciated and unwanted. Pray for me. I have to kick this habit and I think I can with God’s help and a healthy dose of putting my own needs first and using my money to promote ME, not someone else. Meanwhile, I’ll see you online. If you don’t see me in person, don’t despair. I promise I’m not leaving and I won’t become a recluse, well, not a real one. As much as I’d like to lock myself in my house and not come out for at least a year, I have obligations.

So, I’ll be around. You may not see me, but I’ll be here. I’m not going anywhere any time soon. And if you do want to see me, you might find me at Ruby’s Kitchen, my favorite Toledo restaurant. I am constantly trying to convince someone to let me 'take' them to Ruby’s for lunch or dinner and they always like it when they acquiese and go with me. It’s sometimes a hard sell, but I’m persistent. I know, old habits are hard to break. I can’t help supporting African-American businesses. It’s just in my nature. I guess some habits persist even when you’ve admitted you’re an addict and have vowed to quit. Some things I just can’t give up, however, and Ruby’s is one of them! So, look for me there or at Kwanzaa (if I’m in town) or at the next African-American play written by a Toledoan (I missed JuJuan Turner’s latest because I was in bed with that fever!). I still love Toledo’s African-American talent. However, the only money I’ll spend on it in the future will be the price of a ticket or a good meal at Ruby’s. I do hope someone does start that African Market. If you do, I promise I’ll be there purchasing products from local African-American entrepreneurs and artists with all that money I’m going to make now that I’m promoting me!