Cabin Memories

When I was about eight years old, my parents decided that we would build a cabin in the mountains a couple of hours from our home. Our pastor had a cabin there, and we enjoyed weekends spent visiting – tubing down the New River, watermelon seed spitting contests, dark nights full of sparkling stars. I’m not sure what order things happened next, but they bought a piece of land on the mountain, bought a dilapidated log cabin with foot high weeds all around it in another town from a fellow church member, and bought a ’54 Chevy at a yard sale for $300. At least that’s what I remembered. Dad’s corrections are in italics in parenthesis below.

It was true, they did buy a plot on the mountain.

And they did buy a dilapidated (it was merely abandoned, not dilapidated) house from a fellow church member who had inherited it. (The church member’s grandfather was born in the cabin. We looked for the cemetery where he was buried and his tombstone said he was born in 1878, so we know the cabin was at least that old). Dad said the house could have been lived in, had someone put some work into it. The work we put into it was tearing it apart. Every weekend we would drive to a place in the middle of nowhere (near Pilot Mountain, NC, about a half hour from our house) and tear apart the house, salvaging as much material as possible – the 1” thick (1” thick, 13” wide, heart pine) pine hardwood floors, the hand-hewn logs (hidden beneath clapboard siding), and so much scrap lumber. Maybe the end image is the one that sticks in my mind – a field of weeds (that part was true) with simply the shell of what used to be a house, a few bricks here and there, some corrugated metal roofing laying to the side. One day as they were working, and I was playing, they noticed a blacksnake slithering out from between the clapboard and the logs. And then the snake was noticeably thicker. It was *two* blacksnakes, wrapped around each other, slithering out of the house. And out. And out. And out. They were each at least 8 feet long (6 – 7 feet, actually). We dubbed them Sally and Sammy, and kept an eye out for them each time we were there.

And then there was Pinnacle, the truck, named for the town where we bought her at a yard sale (bought from someone’s yard; it was parked in their yard with a “For Sale” sign on it, asking price $250, not $300) and the price was right. Pinnacle was a ’54 Chevy bright red pick up truck, with a can of said red paint in the truck bed. When we got her home, Dad said that he’d pay me to paint the truck. I remember it being an exorbitant sum of money, possibly $20 (actually, only $10). Remember, I was eight years old. So I got a 4” wide paintbrush, put some newspaper down in the garage, and painted Pinnacle. I thought she looked stunning. Being artistic, I even painted the raised “C H E V R O L E T” on the back tailgate a pristine white. Well, pristine except for that little bit that bled into the fresh red paint.

We had so many adventures in Pinnacle. Imagine what kind of truck you might buy for $300 ($250). Pinnacle had a huge bench seat, wide enough for dad to drive and my sister and I to sit in the front together, without even being close to touching. The windshield wipers only worked one way. So if it rained, we’d turn the wipers on, and they would swish to the left. Dad would then, as he was driving, reach out the triangle that should have housed a window (but was missing), lean forward, and slap the wipers the other way. They’d then swish to the left, and the process would repeat. Being young ladies influenced by peer pressure, we were mortified that our friends might see us riding in this pickup. So my sister and I would crouch on the floor of the cab, plenty of room there, until we had made it out of the neighborhood. Pinnacle had no seatbelts. Which would have come in handy the day that we rounded a curve and the passenger door flew open, my sister and I slowly sliding, on our way towards careening towards the asphalt. Dad pulled us close and slowed down. The door latch was busted. Nothing a sturdy rope couldn’t fix. He rolled down the window, tied the door shut, and from then on we had to enter through the driver’s side door. Until a neighbor borrowed Pinnacle and fixed the door handle by installing a hook and eye lock on the outside of the door. Even though this was the 1970s, I’m sure that wasn’t legit.

So each weekend, we’d go to dissemble the house, my sister and I usually playing in the fields while the adults pulled logs apart and numbered them. This went on for a couple of years and then it was time to reassemble them on the mountain. Dad hired a huge flatbed truck to load the logs, and up we went. The foundation had been laid with the help of a local contractor who had built many other beautiful log cabins, and we got to work. I’m not sure how much help my sister and I were. I remember them sitting us on the porch that was being built, and instructing us to hammer nails into the wood, which I remember as locust, which resulted in a lot of bent nails. But it kept us occupied. Sort of. (The other thing we did was give you and your sister brushes and asked you to “wash” the logs as they were waiting to be assembled.)

Dad installed a swing on a tree to the side of the cabin. We would sit in the swing towards the top of the mountain, and then as we swung out, we were so high above the ground, Empire State Building high (maybe 10 feet high). The mountain at that point was fairly steep, and we loved swinging out into what felt like thin air, singing the Carpenters popular hit, “Top of the World.” Until the day the rope gave way. Luckily the ground was carpeted with lots of leaves and pine needles, which provided a soft enough landing so that we escaped without any broken bones.

We were entertained when the chinking began. There was chicken coop wire (wire mesh, not chicken coop)  between the logs, and I remember mom smoothing the cement mixture in between the logs, against the wires, only to have the cement slowly roll out a minute later. It was a never ending race of placing the cement, moving on, seeing it rolling out, and trying to place it back in and get it to hold. The walls were taunting us and we thought it was hysterical. (We eventually put 10 penny nails, 1” apart in the logs, and for some reason that helped hold the chinking in, which is still there to this day.)

And this weekend, after 40+ years of enjoying the mountains and our cabin, we closed it up. My parents decided to sell the cabin as it’s getting harder and harder for them to maintain it. We thought that it might take six months or more for it to sell, and they received offers within the first couple of weeks of it being on the market. So we went up to pack up personal belongings and prepare it for the next owners. I didn’t think I’d be as emotional as it turned out I was. It was sad to pack up the quilts that we had slept under, layered and layered upon each other, as in the early days we only had a fire in the den for warmth. It was sad to clean out the cupboard, knowing we wouldn’t make any more meals there, sitting around the kitchen table made from lumber from the original house (it was actually the 5 foot door that separated the living room from the stairwell in the original house, that served the purpose of keeping the heat in downstairs). It was sad to sit on the porch, looking out through the bare trees down to the river which had given us so many delightful memories.

As we were walking back to the cabin after loading the car, mom stopped, looking at the green stalks of daffodils, the yellow flowers still tightly held. With tears, she said she wished that we could have stayed long enough to see them bloom. As we drove out of the driveway, I saw one lone daffodil that had bloomed, in the spot where the swing used to be. “Look, mom, a daffodil bloomed for you.”

 

2019 International Women’s Day Panel Discussion & Live Q&A

This is going to be a spectacular event on Friday, March 8. If you have access to an internet connection, join us for what’s sure to be an exciting conversation about leadership development, self-advocacy, and mentorship. Hope to see you there!

If you really want to know what's on my mind...

This Friday, March 8th, at 10am PST I’ll be hosting an International Women’s Day (virtual) Panel Discussion & Live Q&A with 4 amazing women from the tech industry, to discuss leadership development, self-advocacy, and mentorship. We will be using the Zoom video app to host the panel so as long as you have an internet connection you can join us! It’s free!


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Losing My Religion

I was raised in the United Methodist Church. Really raised. Church every Sunday (Sunday School and worship service) – if I feigned sickness I wasn’t allowed to leave my bed. No books, no radio. Wednesday fellowship, meals and more teachings. Youth Group, trips to the beach, sleepovers at the church, and more teachings. Youth Choir – singing praises and more teachings. Ice Cream Socials – lots of amazing homemade ice cream and more teachings.

Most of my neighbors attended our church, so gatherings blurred  – were they social or were they church? Did it matter? Almost every day I was with my church community. And my memories of growing up in the United Methodist Church were ones of tolerance and social conscience raising – volunteering on building trips after natural disasters, serving in soup kitchens, helpful our fellow people. We even allowed women in the clergy! The other churches in town didn’t.

Church became less and less of my life the older I got. I finally found a church in San Francisco that I felt at home in – Glide, which happened to be Methodist, but it put people before the doctrine. Everyone, I mean *everyone*, is welcome at Glide. It doesn’t even matter if you’re Christian. Love is love is love. I loved the Sunday celebrations, full of music and praise and joy and vulnerability. Even though I’m not living there anymore, I still stream the Sunday celebrations.

I’m sure if adult me were to visit child me, I would see the prejudice and discrimination that I’m sure were there in my childhood church community, but which were invisible to child me. That prejudice and discrimination hit me full force this week.

On Tuesday, the United Methodist Church voted to reinforce its decision that gay and lesbian clergy are not welcome in the church, and the church will not recognize same-sex marriages. My first thought when I heard that this was on the conference agenda was, “Seriously? This is 2019.” My second thought was that they would probably come to some sort of watered down compromise, much like the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” doctrine of the 1990s and early 2000s. I wasn’t prepared for what was shared. The vote was 53 to 47. That’s incredible in a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing way. 53% of the representatives of the church do not want to recognize the civil rights that every person is entitled to.

I’m heartened by the churches in the 47% saying they will break away, they will form a new denomination. There’s no place for this type of institutionalized discrimination in any organization. It’s 2019. It’s time.

January

January has been the month of the hospital.

Dad entered the hospital on Dec 26, 2018. In the 36 days since then, he’s been discharged twice, and then re-admitted twice, mere days after having been discharged. I so appreciate the care the doctors and nurses and staff of the hospital have shown. The kindness as people make sure that he’s comfortable. The generosity and friendliness of the coffee shop workers, as we come down at 10 pm to grab a croissant or a cup of soup. The chatter the cleaning staff share with us, telling us stories about children and grandchildren and birthday celebrations and impromptu trips. The patience of the doctors as we ask question after question after question. And yet, each morning as we return to the hospital my eyes fill with tears as we pull into the parking garage. There’s a heaviness and a dread and a sadness that comes with seeing someone whom I adore more than anyone else in the world fighting to heal his body.

*****

You can pay for parking by the hour, by the day, or by the week (the best value). (Yes, I’m obsessed with parking; I lived in San Francisco for 25 years.) On the day before his last discharge, we had already been at the hospital all day, and it was a better value to pay for a week’s pass, rather than two daily passes. I naïvely hoped that if I paid for a week’s pass, it would serve as a talisman, warding off any future admittances. As much as I wanted the magic to work, it didn’t.

December Was A Whirlwind

Lots of visits with dear friends, some great music, and holiday spirit all around.

Favorite Things

I walked outside this evening, on my way to yoga. I felt a tingle on my face. Was it rain? It didn’t feel like rain. I looked around. Snow! SNOW! Flurries whirled around me as I watched the the flakes swizzle in the oncoming night. I was mesmerized by the patterns in my headlights as I drove to the studio.

I was thrilled, when an hour+ later, I walked outside and the flakes were still swirling, sheets dancing across the road, not sticking, merely visiting.

As I was fixing dinner, my favorite things came to mind:

  • first snow
  • heavy duty tin foil
  • texts from friends
  • emojis, emojis, emojis (especially multi-colored hearts and dancing animals)
  • surprises
  • heavy notecards and fine ink pens
  • FaceTime with family
  • homemade chicken rice soup
  • a book that you forego sleep to read, often until 3 am
  • sleep
  • the smell when the heat first comes on in the house
  • plants that grow in the cracks of the sidewalk
  • laughing, hysterically, at a joke (if it involves a pun, so much the better)
  • running into neighbors at the grocery store
  • the feeling of a warm scarf around your neck when the wind blows

What are some of your favorite things?

Friday: From Selma to Montgomery

Selma hadn’t originally been on our itinerary. But we were so close. And the election was so near. And we were so close. We decided we couldn’t miss the chance to visit, where the march for voting rights began, less than a lifetime ago. It felt too important, and we were so close, to miss that chance. The road from Selma to Montgomery is mostly agricultural. A few cotton fields, some picked, some with cotton still on the stalks. We stopped halfway, in Lowndes, at the interpretative center there. Kenneth enthusiastically showed us the map, pointed out where we were (on the site of Tent City), why that was important, and invited us to watch Never Lose Sight of Freedom, one of the best videos I’ve ever watched. I wish that it was available on the internet, so everyone could watch it. Hearing interviews with the people in the marches, hearing them recollect what happened, hearing what they sacrificed – why would anyone not exercise their right to vote? Because when everyone votes, when everyone’s voice is heard, justice reigns.

So, if you’re in the US, and you’re reading this, and you haven’t already voted, please vote today. We are so close.

Vote!

Proudly sharing I voted, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma

Thursday: The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration

Sometimes you think you know about something, until you learn a little more, and it’s only then you realize how much more you have to learn.

I had first learned about the Peace and Justice Memorial in an Oprah magazine article earlier this year. My parents had taken a church sponsored trip to the African American museum in Washington, DC and had heard about it there. Months ago, we planned a trip. And last week, I found myself standing at the door of the museum on a cold, drizzly Thursday morning.

We entered the museum, passed through security, and then became immersed in videos and displays for almost four hours. A map showed the exponential increase of slaves in the south after the international slave trade was abolished in the US in 1808. Numbers of slaves were represented by tall red blocks on the map, state by state. As the years progressed through 1810, 1820, 1830, and onwards, the bars grew taller and taller, with Montgomery, AL being at the center of the trade. We heard stories from slaves being prepared for auction, stories of individuals searching for one last moment with their families. We read a giant timeline that covered the entire room, wall to wall, floor to ceiling, with important dates in the history of the US, how whites refused to concede control after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War. Instead of slavery, we had wide spread lynchings and mob violence. For another 100 years, African Americans were denied educational opportunities, the right to vote, and the law of the land was “separate but equal.” The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed

discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.

Why isn’t justice mentioned there? Why doesn’t it mention that discrimination in the legal and criminal justice system should also be outlawed? At first I found that interesting. As I continued through the exhibits, I wondered if it was intentional. Or, if it had perhaps been an oversight, one that future administrations would use to their advantage to continue to enslave people of color, through mass incarceration. One in three black men will be incarcerated during their lifetime. One in seventeen white men will be incarcerated. Statistically that can’t be just. That’s a system with bias.

I read to the end of the detailed timeline and my first thought was, “Good god we are fucked. How does an entire people believe that it’s okay to 1-treat people as property, 2- beat said people, 3-deny those people basic civil rights, 4-beat those people more, and 5-institutionalize violence, all based on race?” It wasn’t the only time during our visit to Montgomery that I did not feel hopeful about the future of our society.

Even with two school groups bustling throughout the museum, the mood was reverent. There was a wall of signs from the Jim Crow era, highlighting “Whites” and “Colored.” A whole wall. It was there, in your face, a system that people in power once thought was okay. There were videos of personal stories of how lynchings affected the story teller’s family. Of family members that were lynched. Of how it was, or was not, spoken of in the family. Of relocation to a new location, out of the deep south. There was a display of large glass jars, the type you might see in an old fashioned apothecary, filled with dirt from sites of lynchings, with the lynched person’s name inscribed on the jar. There were videos of volunteers collecting the dirt samples. There were wall hangings of auction dockets of slaves, listing the names, ages, and traits of the people for sale. There were letters from prisoners. There were small cubicles, replicas of visiting booths in prisons, where you could lift the receiver and hear the words and see the video of people in prison. On the sides of the cubicles, there were the rules listed for prison visits.

  • No visits from nieces or nephews.
  • All visitors must be on a pre-submitted list, updated every six months.
  • No tinted or progressive lenses allowed.
  • No clothing of certain colors allowed (khaki, white, there were others that I couldn’t remember).
  • All visitors are subject to strip search.

There were more videos, some animated, some in person interviews, covering more history (like this one, from the EJI website). There was an exhibit about how children are more and more being tried as adults in the criminal justice system. There was a video of Anthony Ray Hinton, an innocent man who served almost 30 years on death row in Alabama. Tears ran down my face, knowing his story was not an exception, and also suspecting I don’t have the capacity for grace that he exhibited. I marvel at men like Mr. Hinton and Nelson Mandela, who have the capacity to forgive. The world is a better place because of them. There was a Civil Rights Wall of Fame, highlighting people who had made an impact in the advancement of civil rights. I wondered whose pictures in our lifetime would be added.

Photos weren’t allowed. I wish they were because it was a lot to take in at once. The EJI website is an amazing resource, and contains similar information as the museum. The museum, though, is an amazing experience. I know that many schools have field trips to Washington DC as part of their curriculum, learning about US history. I wish this site were also added as part of the curriculum. I can only imagine our society would be a better place if every citizen learned this history.

We boarded the shuttle to the The National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

It continued to be a gray, drizzly day. We walked to the entrance and passed through security once again. I get it. And it makes me sad/angry/ready to scream that we have security screening at memorials. We’re entering a sacred space. Why do people have so much hatred that they target people honoring the dead? I know why, and these were the thoughts I had as we entered, slowly walking up the gravel pathway towards the memorial.

It’s striking from afar. It’s more striking as I walked closer. I was among rows upon rows of rust-colored steel pillars, each with a county name and the names and dates of the lynchings that occurred there. Some columns had one name, others had a dozen. As I walked further into the memorial, the ground sloped downward, yet the pillars remained at the same height, hanging from the ceiling, until I was staring up at them, staring up at the memories of the lynched. The rain fell gently, and as the water ran down the steel pillars at the edge of the memorial, it appeared that tears, or perhaps droplets of blood, rolled down the pillars. Tears slowly ran down my face. How, as a society, were we capable of such violence? How, as a society, are we still capable of such violence, but instead of mobs carrying out the violence it’s officers of our justice system? Along the walls were placards with brief explanations of why the lynchings took place: he looked at a white lady, he voted, he was a successful farmer, she protested her husband’s lynching. I thought of the reasons African Americans were killed unnecessarily in the last few years: he was wearing a hoodie, he reached for his license, he was holding a cellphone that police thought was a gun, he was allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes, he was sitting in his apartment. The reasons today seem equally ridiculous as those from the past. Turning another corner, the ground slopes further downward, the pillars hang higher, and I saw these words etched on the wall:

Memorial words.jpg

For the hanged and beaten.

For the shot, drowned, and burned.

For the tortured, tormented, and terrorized.

For those abandoned by the rule of law.

We will remember.

With hope because hopelessness is the enemy of justice.

With courage because peace requires bravery.

With persistence because justice is a constant struggle.

With faith because we shall overcome.

I stared at the words and read them over and over. It was a message I needed to see.

 

Vote!

I voted today, on a Sunday, in the middle of the afternoon, at my local library. I brought my sample ballot with me, with choices circled. I signed in, we talked about the weather (it is cold today!), and the poll worker handed me a ballot. I carefully marked my choices, making sure I filled in the correct circles for each candidate: Quentin Miller for sheriff, David Wilson Brown for US House of Representatives, and no, no, no, no, no, no on the proposed NC constitutional amendments (among others). I wore my “I Voted Early” sticker proudly and struck up conversations with folks at the grocery and drug store, asking if they had voted or if they needed information about polling places (many were surprised the polls were open on Sunday). I signed up with several organizations to volunteer to drive people to the polls on election day. Wherever you are, please make plans to vote: absentee, early, on election day. Your voice matters!

Bear!

As I was bringing the garbage bin in from the curb, I noticed bear scat in my front yard, alarmingly near the side of my house. Yes, I knew it was bear scat because I was a Girl Scout at one point and had been fascinated by animal poop. Just to be sure, though, I Googled it when I came inside. Yes, definitely bear scat, and the bear had recently eaten lots of berries. It comforted me slightly to think that my bear visitor might be vegetarian.

I didn’t think much of it, except for the fact that the scat was fresh and very close to the house and a very large pile, which meant it probably came from a very large bear?

Today, a neighbor moved in across the street. I had intended to walk over and introduce myself. I was leaving the house this evening and noticed them sitting on their porch. I thought, “I’ll just check out the bear scat again and then amble over.” I looked at the scat and thought, “That is fresh. I wonder where that bear is.” I looked to my left, and there was the bear.

I hightailed it back onto my porch. My new neighbor was staring, probably wondering why I was running in my own front yard. I screamed, “Thar’s ah bear!” and then ran back into the house.

I stood for a moment, trying to catch my breath. I thought I was safe inside. The doors were deadbolted, right? Bears couldn’t pick locks, could they? Photos. Get photos.

I walked to the back door, and the bear was lumbering around, sniffing the ground, maybe eating acorns? Other food? Planning to pick my locks?

I took some photos and the bear lumbered away. I composed myself and walked across the street, introduced myself to my neighbor, starting with, “I normally don’t run screaming through my yard…”