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Back on Track

Since July, I have been trying to blog. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve started and could not finish. Oh, I had plenty of topics to write about. But either my emotions got in the way and stymied me or my thoughts were so jumbled I could not figure out how to arrange them into form or structure.

In July

I sat down to write a piece on freedom and had planned to post it around the Fourth of July holiday. But I quickly discovered I could not write about freedom when too many people are still not free. How can I espouse life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—words our founding fathers listed as guaranteed rights for citizens of this country—when people like me cannot get justice in the courts, cannot drive without being stopped for ridiculous reasons, cannot find affordable housing (even with a voucher), cannot even get an elected official to pick up his/her phone and talk to me? How can I celebrate freedom when rigged systems, unfair policies, oppressive practices, and pure hatred enslaves those who are the least, the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free? No, there was no writing about freedom, independence, or the old red, white and blue. Too much anger. Intense, boiling anger. No blog post.

In August

The last full month of summer arrives and surely that’s a good month to write about reading, writing or spirituality—the three topics I focus on on this site. Surely I am calm enough, loving enough, optimistic enough to write a mid-year status based on the numerology forecast for 2017 . I sit down to write about the numbers forecast for August and how the eclipse plays into that and dog-gone-it, more of the same. Intense emotions (anger, frustration, and at times hopelessness) and thoughts that are spiraling in a thousand different directions. Lord, what’s wrong with me? Surely my only blog post this summer will not be a reading list? (Not that summer reading lists aren’t important. I enjoy scanning lists of beach – or wherever your summer travels take you – reads.) Why can’t I focus? Why is it that every time I sit down to compose a blog post (or even read), my mind splinters – to the current civil war in America (Confederates versus Everyone Else); to the hate spewing from the White House; to protests denouncing indignities and un-Christian policies; to congressional attacks against core rights; to another shooting, another bombing, another natural disaster. Even the stunning eclipse on August 21st could not superimpose its beauty on this country. The moon performed its breathtaking show and seemingly everyone took a break from life to watch and be awed. But only hours after the show ended, what do we encounter? The threat of nuclear war from one country met by threats and bullying from another. It’s enough to bow in despair. No blog post.

In September

It’s been months now with my mind in tatters. Months now during which I can barely communicate verbally (oh, did I forget to mention a Mercury retrograde that had me talking like a toddler) let alone write – even a simple email. “This cannot go on,” I cry out and thankfully my anguish is felt. My angels, my Muse, my God, whatever spiritual being is hovering over me replies, “Pray!”

“What?” I answer back.

“Pray.”

Something opens inside me and all the tension, heartache and dark feelings I had been harboring inside me evaporates. I am immediately reminded that nothing is bigger than God. Not irrational world leaders, not hate-mongers, not climate change, not jumbled and wayward thoughts, not destructive emotions. Nothing. I am immediately reminded that the one true way to God is through prayer. I smile, sit back in my chair, close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and think

Pray

Never ceasing

Always in the present

Always on time

Always right and appropriate,

Fashionable and in season

Prayer

Pray

To erase hate. To usher in peace.

For love to reign. For equity, justice, and fairness too.

To eliminate us versus them.

To join all in spiritual union.

Pray

Never ceasing

Until that day when ALL sees the ONE as ALL

Pray!

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Thank God, I am back on track!

Amreeka = America = The World

In recent days, we’ve been bombarded with news stories of the fallout of Trump’s decision to halt refugee resettlement efforts, stop refugee entry, totally ban Syrian refugees and step up deportation. Stories of people stranded, handcuffed, turned away, stripped from their children and deposited at the Mexico border with nothing but the clothes on their backs. These stories, like the decision that started all this coverage, were hard to digest. I was angered, frustrated and at times, sad, lacking hope. As I often do when distressed, I sink into books. I find that reading helps me to either recenter or escape (and regroup later when I emerge). I opened my reader, hoping to find my center, and scanned the various unread titles. I ran across this one, A Country Called Amreeka: U. S. History Retold through Arab-American Lives. How appropriate at a time like this, I thought and hurriedly launched the book.

alia-malek

This non-fiction book by Alia Malek is a history book (covering the ’40s through the early 2000s) told in parallel. One parallel track is the Arab-American version of history as told from the perspective of various Arab-Americans who lived the history and the other parallel track is the American political/media version as reported by news outlets and governmental agencies. I purchased the book last November (2016) after meeting the author and hearing her speak. Back then, I was impressed with her message on inclusion and unification, and her thorough knowledge of U.S. and Middle East history. But since reading her book, I have been more impressed with her ability to educate me. In Amreeka, the Arab-American word for America, I have deepened my knowledge of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the struggles Arab-Americans have had in America, and how slanted news reporting can be. Also, through her thorough and insightful education, I have been reminded of what powerful tools “hope” and “prayer” can be.

I have not finished the book yet but already I am telling everyone I know to read it. It’s a heart-opener for those who need a reminder that all people are worthy of fair and equal treatment regardless of skin color, religion or national origin. It’s an educational lift for those who rely solely on mainstream media/news sources, and it’s an eye-widener for those who thought they knew the ins and outs of our American political/media system.

Again, the book is, “A Country Called Amreeka:  U. S. History Retold through Arab-American Lives” by Alia Malek or visit http://www.aliamalek.com/ for more details.

Now is the time to live for others, to fight for all!

And Still I Rise

It doesn’t seem like it would be Black History Month without a mention of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This stalwart intellectual, author and filmmaker is a regular supplier of commentary and programs for the Public Broadcasting System, a sample of which includes his recent “And Still I Rise:  Black America Since MLK” documentary (there’s also a book; see below.).

hl-gates-book

When I am able, I watch his show Finding Your Roots, which traces the family lineage of famous people sometimes going as far back as their original homeland. I will never forget the episode with Chris Rock (actor, comedian) who discovered his great grandfather (I might be missing a great) was a Union soldier who took up the fight for freedom once he became free. Rock cried when he discovered this and I cried, too. It was moving! After learning something that profound, how does one not stick out one’s chest and proudly proclaim, “I’m black and I’m proud!”

As we celebrate Black History Month I think about what Black America would look like if every black person stuck out their chest and said, “I’m black and I’m proud,” and meant it. I imagine there would be no more gang violence or black-on-black crime. I imagine the effects of separation by light-skinned versus dark-skinned would vanish and there’d be a great reduction of black men in prison or on the streets. In the Black America of “I’m black and I’m proud,” education would be priority number one, hard work number two, and one goal—the continued rise of all black people in body, spirit and mind—would be the be all, end all.

Black people, we can do this! We can still rise, and not only during Black History Month when pride runs high, but all year, every year. Even if our great-grandfather did not fight for freedom, we can all claim a legacy of freedom fighting. How? By voting. By writing letters to our newspaper editors or writing emails to news/media outlets. By attending board and council meetings and challenging our leaders when necessary. By creating our own non-profits that address societal ills. By starting our own businesses (and supporting those businesses). By posting positive images and facts over negative ones. By speaking truth regardless of how hard that might be. By fighting, fighting, fighting.

Black people, we can do this! If our forefathers could rise out of slavery to run countries and businesses, to raise healthy families, to hang on to positive morals and values, to make a way out of no way, how can we not rise with all that is available to us? We can do this. We can rise. We must rise.

Signing Off

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy New Year!

Yes, it’s the holiday season and starting now until January 2, 2017, I am signing off. I plan to spend the holidays traveling, visiting family, checking in on friends, and immersing myself into many a comforting and spiritual holiday traditions. During this period of absence, my wish is for you and your families to enjoy a blessed season full of goodness, joy and cheer. Peace be unto you now and always!

Love,

Ann

 

 

God Help!

The recent election of the president of the United States hit me hard. In fact, I am still struggling with the outcome. I have not turned on the news. I have not listened to analysis reports. I have spent little time on social media. I am just not at acceptance yet because I am still in shock. And I think what shocks me more than electing a man of questionable character is knowing that millions of Americans chose hate and fear. Of course I am not naïve. I know hate has deep roots in this country, stemming as far back as the arrival of Christopher Columbus. And of course I know fear has been bred in this country from the beginning. But I honestly thought we, the United States of America, had made huge advances toward love, acceptance, inclusion and peace. Apparently not. Apparently there’s still lots of work to do and for me that work begins with a prayer.

God, Creator, Eternal One, Universal Spirit…

Help me!

Help me ease past the disgust, shock and sadness that has me stymied;

Help me move beyond the tears, fear and anger;

Help me remember that you are in control and what happened was sanctioned by you for a greater purpose that we know not today;

Help me remember that all is not lost, that the only way evil wins is if good people do nothing;

Give me the strength to move beyond the darkness and embrace a path that promotes all things that are “good, just, noble and right;”

Empower me with wisdom and courage, faith and hope to operate day-by-day with an open heart, an open mind and a love that surpasses hate;

Grant me peace with this outcome and above all I pray your special blessing on…

  • The white people in this country who understand our current condition is not survivable for any of us, and who are working tirelessly to end racism, sexism, colorism and white privilege;
  • All people who are poised to challenge the incoming administration by holding it accountable to the lofty ideas of our founding fathers;
  • All people who are dedicated to the attainment of civil and human rights as well as social justice for all people;
  • All people who are committed to the progress that has been made and will continue to be made;
  • Organizations and groups that are working to eradicate barriers (in all its many forms) so that all may enjoy the liberties and privileges guaranteed in our founding documents;
  • All people who understand that “none of us are free until we are all free.”

This prayer I ask in your name…Amen!

Now excuse me while I continue working on myself by listening to “Rise Up” by the talented Andra Day.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmHfo_3EGFA

October Approaches

…which means it’s time for the Granbury Paranormal Expo in Granbury, Texas.

This year’s expo marks many firsts. For the first time in five years it will be held outdoors. For the first time in five years it will be free. For the first time it will be held on the downtown square. For the first time ever, it will feature a Zombie Pub Crawl. To read more about the Granbury Paranormal Expo, see the press release below from one of the organizers, Brandy Herr.

Fifth Annual Granbury Paranormal Expo Kicks Off Halloween Season

Street Festival Brings Together Paranormal, Horror and Sci-Fi

The Fifth Annual Granbury Paranormal Expo will kick off the Halloween season on October 1, 2016 from 10 am to 5 pm with a street festival in the middle of Granbury’s historic downtown square. This festival is free to the public and will feature ghost hunters; psychics; horror, sci-fi, cosplay and fantasy vendors; and much more.

“We are considering it to be a ‘Comic Con’ with ghost hunters,” said Brandy Herr, co-founder of the Granbury Paranormal Expo. “We wanted to bring everything together into one big event to ensure that we have something fun for everybody!”

alex-vincentThis year’s special celebrity guest will be Alex Vincent, best known as Andy Barclay from Child’s Play 1 & 2. He will facilitate a Q&A session about his work on the horror franchise. Joining Vincent as a guest speaker will be Shelley Kaehr, Ph.D., aka “The Past Life Lady.” And finally, the Austin Ghost Tour Gals will also lead a special session on ghost hunting.

 

For the animal lovers, Tugg the Superhero Bull Terrier will be making a special appearance to promote his comic book series. tugg

Several restaurants on the square will be showing their support for the Granbury Paranormal Expo by hosting a Zombie Pub Crawl, a separate, ticketed event to be held the evening of October 1.

For more details, visit Granbury Paranormal Expo and the Ghost Scribes.

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I’ll be there as a vendor, promoting Fuller’s Curse and the Ghost Scribes, a collective of paranormal/supernatural fiction writers who write good books about bad people. If you’re in the area, stop through. If this year’s expo is like last year’s (and it will be), it’ll be great fun.

Being a Good Literary Citizen

In a few months, American citizens will elect a new president, a new leader who will set and direct the country’s agenda for the next four, maybe eight years. While I don’t want to talk about which candidate has my vote (I promised when I started my blog four years ago that I would avoid the BIG THREE–politics, sex and religion), I do want to share that I take my citizen duties very seriously and will be at the polls bright and early on November 8th.

Being an American citizen is not the only citizenship I claim. I am also a literary citizen and I take those responsibilities just as seriously. At least I have, starting this year. Let me explain…

Earlier this year, the Writers’ League of Texas (WLT) sponsored a panel discussion on the topic:  what is means to be a good literary citizen. The panel was moderated by the president of WLT and panelists consisted of a book publisher, authors and an ex-literary agent. One by one they shared their views on the topic with remarks ranging from the use of social media, book reviews, networking, attendance at conferences/festivals, mentorship, community outreach, bookstores (retail and online) and more. I should stop at this point and explain that the moderator defined the word literary to include all aspects of writing, publishing and marketing, this being a more expansive definition than the usual application.

I spent a lot of time after that session thinking about how being a good literary citizen plays out for me. What, in fact, it means to me and that brings us back to 1) deciding that I was indeed a literary citizen; 2) what that looks like for me in practical, everyday life; and 3) my commitment level to that role.

So since I have decided I am a literary citizen, an invested member of one of the world’s greatest fraternities, and because I want to be a good literary citizen, this is how it plays out in my life.

As a good literary citizen I PLEDGE to

pledge-of-allegience

  1. As a reader – attend books fairs/festivals; buy books from local bookstores and online; support my library with attendance at hosted events and by utilizing their many services; write and post book reviews; use social media to promote authors, books and festivals; encourage young readers; read aloud to the young (and old) ones in my family; give books as gifts.
  2. As a writer – tell the best story I can; commit to continuous improvement in my craft; maintain involvement in writing/critique groups; honor my writing time; focus on my writing goals; find ways to keep the creative juices primed; be open to changes in the industry.
  3. As an author – support the players (readers, writers, book clubs, writers groups, non-profit literary groups, libraries, bookstores, literary publications, events and programs, etc.) in the literary field; promote, advocate or comment on legislative regulations and business practices impacting the literary world; protect the image of the written word; teach young and adult writers about the craft.
  4. As a publisher – publish quality books at a good value for readers; share stories that entertain but also cause readers to think and feel; work to improve the literacy rate by sharing my love of reading; embrace new technologies and practices; support the host of players that make this the absolutely best industry to work in.

I  know this is a mouthful (or rather a pageful) and I reserve the right to adjust and update these duties as I collect more experiences in this great experiment we call literary. But I’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts about being a good literary citizen?

Photo courtesy of Wesley Hitt/The Image Bank/Getty Images