“Is There Hope for Mississippi?”

Last year I had the opportunity to hear and see Oprah Winfrey live and in person at Mountainfilm in Telluride. Among the many great moments that afternoon was a question from the audience: “Is there hope for Mississippi?”

Oprah was born in tiny Kosciusko, Mississippi, where she was raised for the first six years by her grandmother. That grandmother taught Oprah to read–she was shocked when she moved north to Milwaukee for the first grade and her fellow students were just learning the alphabet. That grandmother also taught her to love the bible and tried to teach her how to do laundry. “Pay attention, because you’ll be doing this one day.” Even at six, Oprah knew better, and also knew better than to say so.

That day last year in Colorado, Oprah empathized with the woman from Mississippi. “There can only be hope when Mississippi sincerely looks at itself and its past.” In order to move forward, she explained, there has to be a reckoning, and to that point there had been seemingly no interest in soul searching. “I’m sorry to say,” said Oprah, “that at this moment there doesn’t seem to be hope for Mississippi.”

Today, Oprah would probably answer that question differently.

Yesterday, the Mississippi lawmakers voted to pull down the state flag, the only state flag with the overt symbols of the Confederacy. Mississippi is the state with the highest percentage of black citizens and for decades there have been strenuous efforts to have the flag replaced. When citizens last had the chance to vote on a referendum to change the flag in 2001 it lost by two to one.

The aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, however, has given intense momentum for change. Statues have been pulled down, some by protesters, some by governments. Aunt Jemima is headed out and so is Uncle Ben.

The Mississippi flag change may not have been brought about by soul searching and reflection but by economics and athletics.  Walmart said it wouldn’t fly the flag. The NCAA and Southeast conference said that Mississippi would not be allowed to host championships until the flag was changed. Realtors begged for the change, so did the Baptist organizations black and white. “Whether we like it or not, the Confederate emblem on our state flag is viewed by many as a symbol of hate — there’s no getting around that fact,” Jason White, a Republican state representative.

So in this time of Coronavirus spreading well, virally, of the Russians offering bounty for killing American soldiers, of unprecedented unemployment and economic pain….it is nice to know that there is hope for Mississippi.

And, thus, hope for us all.

My favorite quote from that Oprah afternoon was: “You become what you believe.”

 

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Should I get an RV?

I am a sucker for rabbit holes. Just recently I’ve fallen down one internet rabbit hole searching for George Floyd’s actual height (6 foot 6 inches), another explaining how epidemiologists conduct their own lives –at least a year yet before weddings, funerals, or concerts– and a third on The Prepared to determine the best solar charger “for when the SHTF”.

But the S has already HTF, which is why I’m glued to the computer.

It’s time for a vacation from all of it.

The S brought me home from India 12 days early and canceled my annual trip to Telluride for Mountainfilm. Same with the family cruise to Alaska scheduled for next month.

Biggest excitement recently was getting my teeth cleaned. Biggest thing on my calendar now is a hair appointment that’s 36 days away. We’ll see if it holds.

I’m thinking a vacation to Montana or Idaho would be nice, to get away from the daily case reports. I’d like to visit the little town of Ola, Idaho, where we watched the solar eclipse three years ago. (fresh farm eggs were $2/dozen.) I could rent a little camper van and have Greta and Marlowe for company. For years growing up, my family spent the entire summer living out of a trailer and so I have warm memories. All five kids, cat and dog of us would live out of a 21 foot trailer. We each got one drawer. My June birthday was always celebrated in the trailer with a Pepperidge Farm cake. For one night I didn’t need to help with the dishes.

Before you know it, I’m down another rabbit hole looking to rent a ClassB RV. The vans are tiny houses on wheels, a little baby kitchen, baby sleeping area, baby everything. My dogs are tiny, so it’s perfect. I’ll be able to drive it easily enough, taking my little bubble of safety with me all over the west. I’m poking around on Outdoorsy, which goes into reassuring detail about their Covid cleaning policies. But immediately snags appear. Most folks are not keen to share their van with Greta and Marlowe. The second, bigger, problem is that other people–many many other people–have had this idea before me.

RV rentals are up 650% this year and there’s no availability, except for the one ugly van someone made from Tinkertoys and that includes the owner’s bare feet in the photos.

The idea mutates. What if I BUY one and then sell it a few months later? Matt and Rebecca did that when they spent three months traveling around New Zealand. And so now I’m looking at floor plans and learning the difference between a two-way and a three-way refrigerator. One type sucks the heat OUT, the other pumps the cold IN. There are advantages and dis- to each depending upon humidity and how far off the grid you want to get. Me? I like my grid. Electricity, yes! Cell service, you bet. And WiFi, of course I want WiFi.

But even as a girl, I remember thinking how much work it was, washing dishes in the teeny tiny sink, conserving every drop of water, walking in the dark to the rest rooms half a mile away because we didn’t want to fill up the tank underneath our toilet.  There were many hot hours at laundromats, and many more hot hours in the car, since the air conditioner would stress our Estate Wagon. But if there was a lot of work, there were many others to share it.   When Matt and Rebecca bought the RV in New Zealand it was Matt AND Rebecca.

Adorable as Greta and Marlowe are, they do not help with chores. I am me. I’m tempted to say “just me”. I am not a “just” of course, but do I want to take on all the work? And there is no escape from this present. The news would follow me. I’d still need to have a mask and sanitizer at the ready, wash my hands all the time. And I do like popping over to Daddy’s for our bike ride and to see if the raspberry vines have coughed anything up. And to have Ariel over for fresh waffles with strawberries.

When so many are suffering so much it feels just wrong to think about loneliness. But there it is. The busyness of family is behind me, the partnership of marriage is behind me, and, it seems, the awkwardness of late life dating is also behind me.

And what is ahead? For any of us?

Just as I’m mooning about my bad RV plan, it hit me…. My birthday is just around the bend. Jessamyn has organized a small outside barbecue. It will be fun to actually see a few members of our family, even if none of us can get our hair done for at least 36 days or attend weddings or funerals for a year or more.

Ten years ago when I was in the throes of divorce misery Mama told me, “It won’t always be this way.” She was right then and, I suppose, she is right now.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Dear Mama,

Shirley Carson Ray

Well, it’s been nearly five years now since we could talk in person….for the longest time I kept wanting to pick up the phone to talk to you. I’m lucky to be living in the ballet school, where a large part of you still lives. People say, ‘you have a ballet school?’ ‘Well, it used to be my mother’s ballet school,’ I say, ‘but now it’s been re-converted into a beautiful Queen Anne home.’

And here you are, in the marks on the wooden floor where you kept time with the umbrella. Every time I enter the twin bedroom I still see your desk in the corner, with the dial telephone. For the longest time I kept wanting to enter the bathroom from the studio, or rather living room, instead of from the side where the door now is.

This business would be hard for you. No being close to people. The future so uncertain. And no teaching ballet, a complete and total shut down of your world. You wouldn’t worry about getting sick, I know that, but you would worry about other people, about Sabrina working too much and Winston and Devin not working at all. You’d agonize about the food bank lines and write out checks to help out.

And you would definitely fret about toilet paper. Did you laugh the other day when I snagged two boxes of Cottonelle on Amazon?

Somehow you’ve still found a way to help out. There’s no elastic anywhere in the world for Ariel to make masks, but there in your sewing box was pink and black elastic…just the right width for ballet shoes. Looking in the shed and the linen closet for fabric I got distracted. Of course I did. There on the banker boxes is your pretty handwriting, with the big swooping capital letters. I especially liked the box that said, “the flannel blanket I made to bring the babies home from the hospital. My baby quilt. Clothes made by Grandma, some new.”

The flannel blanket is so pretty and soft, the tight embroidery floss still bright on the cute little teddy bear figures. Had to force myself back to the mission. Finally found the fabric stash right where you left it, on the bottom shelf atop a huge pile of leotards.  It was a little late by the time I found it but I wanted to share right away so asked Ariel if I could come over to show her something.

“Can we FaceTime?”

“Too special, it needs to be in person.”

I got that from you, I think, the desire to share in person, with people, to create unforgettable experiences. Once when you were taking care of Jessamyn when she was little you kept her awake too late playing “theater” because YOU were having such a good time. When I was pregnant with Jessamyn I waited to tell you so I could do it in person. No iPhones yet then to prove it with, but you really did jump up and down.

Thank you, Mama, for the fabric and the elastic and for so much more.

Love, Karen

Posted in Charity, current events, Family, Motherhood | 3 Comments

Happy Birthday to me….sort of…

Everything was fine until my dogs got in on the celebration.

Yesterday while Daddy was taking me out to lunch Greta and Marlowe jumped up on his kitchen table–the chairs were pushed in–and snagged a sealed half-pound box of See’s candy, a birthday gift I clearly wasn’t careful enough with.

They are Papillons, weighing a diminutive 6.7 and 5.8 pounds.

Somehow got the box, now empty, from the table over to the couch where it sat, dismantled and empty. Marlowe didn’t look the least bit guilty. What he looked was wretched. Ears in a funny position, his body was hunkered, and shaking. Chocolate and dogs is a bad combo.

Forget going back to San Francisco. Forget my free birthday cupcake from Susie Cakes. Forget a leisurely hike at the Marin Headlands. We flew warp sped to Ariel’s vet, who whisked us right in. But Marlow couldn’t wait. Even as he was vomiting in the front seat I tried to tell myself, This is a good! Slimy chocolate in my car meant less of it inside of him.

“Half a pound is a lot of chocolate for a little dog,” said Dr. Nate. “How much of it do you think he threw up?”

How does one translate emesis –and here I have to stop and report that spell check doesn’t even recognize the technical term for vomiting–how does one translate the goo  in my car….into a quantity of bordeaux creams, Scotch mallows, or  vanilla creams?? I call Daddy and ask him to search the house and yard for more vomit and report back. He loves getting that call, I can tell you.

And I’ll also tell you, he didn’t find any.

His shoe did.

Later.

Puddled in front of his favorite chair.

Meanwhile, Marlowe is being poked and prodded. He looks less peaked since the emesis experience. “Good that you found him quickly,” says Dr. Nate. They are keeping Marlowe for the afternoon. There is more vomiting in his future, induced this time, and fluids–he’s dehydrated already–and charcoal to prevent absorption of toxin. “Even if we get him to throw everything up, his body will probably absorb 20%.”

They show me an estimate of charges. I’m just happy it’s in the three figures. A vet emergency with Greta a few years ago went well into four.

I fold the mat from the passenger seat as strategically as possible and get it on the rubber mat. Greta is thrilled not to be staying there.

Adrenaline is a weird thing. It gives you energy and focus for the necessary thing and when it’s gone it is GONE. I collapse at home. If I don’t get a birthday cake maybe I can have a birthday nap. Not sure I slept, maybe just “rested my eyes,” as Daddy says.

And when I wake up….I learn that Greta, too, had some chocolate! Lessons in humility and cleaning up. Back to the vet. My mind is doing this weird logic. Maybe it’s good that Marlowe didn’t get so much? But Greta is even smaller. And the vet closes soon, they won’t have much time to help her. But she clearly didn’t eat as much. And there’s another question….Can I possibly get the rug out from under the dining table so I can hose it off outside?

“To be abundantly cautious we would keep them overnight on an IV at an emergency hospital.” he explained that the actual toxicity from the chocolate can be delayed up to 12 hours–which would be midnight– but I could tell from his tone that would be overkill. I am, though, to watch for signs of neurological problems.

At six-twenty we all get in the car. Marlowe has a patch shaved from his right foreleg. Greta has little bits of black charcoal on her pretty hair. Even with Greta in the mix the bill is still in the three figures. I thought about hugging the vet. Decided no.

I also didn’t get him chocolate as a thank you.

Greta and Marlowe leaving the vet, seemingly not worse for wear. Mat on passenger seat is freshly washed.

 

 

 

 

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Running Hot and Cold

Snow on the ground in Telluride surprised me. Warm sun immediately afterward surprised me. During the  long wait to get in to hear Oprah I put my coat hood on my head not because I was cold, but to protect the part in my hair.

I went from summer headgear–a cute straw cowboy hat  with faux turquoise in front–to winter hat–a gold knit cap–several times a day.

Cap. Hat. Cap. Hat.

We hat rain, sun, snow, and hail, all in the same day. “Weird weather,” everyone said, and then glanced at my Facebook to see a five-year old memory of this very day. With snow on the ground.

The really surprising thing about this weather, though, is that I was prepared for it. The phone may give me the weather, but until I feel the blast in a jet bridge it’s too easy to miss something.

In this case, I had both summer and winter hats. I had the cute New Yorker umbrella–thank you, Ellie–and I even brought the winter boots.

Relieved not to need those.

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