Posted by: Laura Carter | January 21, 2019

A letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dear Dr. King,

The day you were assassinated I was on the campus of Prairie View A&M, which in 1968 was still an all-black college located just west of Houston, Texas. I was in a group of white students participating in an ‘exchange program’ in collaboration with the college I was attending.

In those days, Southwest Texas State College students mostly came from small Texas towns. The guys were shit-kickers i.e. studying agriculture; the women aspiring to become teachers, nurses and wives. There were no African Americans on campus. There was one beatnik who became my boyfriend–but that’s another story.

Dr. Clyde Bullion, our very liberal and a tad kooky sociology professor, spent several years opening minds and hearts, encouraging everyone to embrace racial and social justice. He held the first class on Black History and introduced us to African American writers and poets.  Bullion would stand on his desk and holler out readings from Langston Hughes and W.E.B. Dubois. Quite impressive–even though Bullion was white. We thought the visit to Prairie View made perfect sense for us.

During our two day visit, we were treated respectfully by the students and staff of the college. We attended classes, plays and social events. I remember sitting with a group of black students in an off-campus bar and asking, rather naively, the question surely stolen from me by Rodney King (whose beating and related consequences are attributed to the 1992 Los Angeles race riots) “I don’t know why we all can’t just get along?” Later, stunned and disheartened to the core to hear you were assassinated, we visitors were immediately sent home to “avoid any problems.”

I think you would agree, it seemed to have gotten much better. We even elected our first black president! Then, sadly, we are reminded of how deeply racism runs in our country with shootings of unarmed black children and men. #blacklivesmatter, the statistics regarding racial profiling by the police, voter repression tactics in some states, and the appalling racist behaviors of some citizens toward our very own President Obama. These incidences have us facing realities we may not wish to admit.

The statistics also prove inequality still exists.  Here are a few stats from Black Demographics website.

Blacks make up 14.1% of the population in the US.

Percentage in poverty: Blacks 24.2%           All races 11.8%

Percentage in poverty under 18: Blacks 39.6%      All races 22.6% (Appalling so many children of any ‘color’ are living in poverty.)

Graduation rate: Blacks 63.6%              All races 80.6% (Which seems rather low as a whole.)

According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population, and have nearly six times the rate of whites.

Black Median Household income: $33,460

(all races $50,502)

All Black Workers 2012 weekly earnings:$606

(all races $765)

Black Men weekly earnings: $633

(White men $854)

Black Women weekly earnings: $590

(White women $712)

MLK-2014-2

So, Dr. King, there seems still much work to be done. Annually, on a federally instituted day to celebrate you, people in cities around the US march to keep your spirit and desire for social justice alive.  I still hope someday we can all get along.

Peace and love y’all,

Laura

Right here in San Antonio, we have one of the largest marches of any city. For more information on this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day San Antonio March, click here, or find one in your city.

Posted by: Laura Carter | January 11, 2019

Happy New Year from an old hippie

When is it too late to say “Happy New Year”? My personal opinion is it’s appropriate all through January, then it becomes tiresome. Also, we forgot our black-eyed peas. I hope that does not forecast a calamitous year.

However… things aren’t looking too good in the USA right now. Most days, I open up Facebook, Twitter or news sites and go WTF! 

At my age, it’s hard to face the reality of our possible demise. My generation spent so much time and energy trying to create a place of equal opportunity for all genders, ethnicities, ages et. al. and for education, housing, healthcare, civil rights…

And, the saddest thing to me was when I told a group of 30-40ish women that ‘I was just an old hippie’ and that’s where my values and attitudes were born and raised, they just gave me a blank, puzzled stare. Suddenly, I felt my age a bit more. 

Our poor planet! Katharine Hayhoe’s TED Talk addresses the issue of climate change.  Her message “the most important thing you can do is just talk about it,” makes this talk essential viewing.

If you want to escape reality for a while, my suggestion, if you like science fiction, is to watch all three seasons of “The Expanse” on Amazon Prime. Best stuff out there! I confess to watching it three times–’cause I’m old and my mind wanders.

world peacePeace and love y’all,

 

 

Posted by: Laura Carter | November 25, 2018

Holidays, Tangerines and Politics

I hope y’all had a swell Thanksgiving with your respective families. From what I’ve been seeing Christmas season began in October now, with decorations going up in the shopping centers and streets right before Halloween.

 

The average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion, the National Retail Federation estimates. I’m no fan of all the commercialization. However, I realize what I think matters not a whit.  More on Christmas economic facts if you are interested.

The hubby and I were on our own for Turkey Day but were in touch with all our relatives via the wonders of modern technology. We watched the Minnesota daughter and family put up their Christmas tree via live chat. I’m wondering if it will survive the two small boys and very large puppy until the 25th.

 

The kitchen was sticky for a week as Richard worked on juicing 6 gallons of tangerines from our two trees in our back courtyard. We also ate plenty and had multiple bags of gift fruit. (there were a few grapefruit and oranges as well)

 

Still busy with work both paid and unpaid. But, always make time for reading and live streaming on the telly.

 

I save quotes from books via my Kindle. Here’s one from Varina, by Charles Frazier. She was the wife of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States. V had a very adventurous and long life. This quote seems to explain not only our history but our present politics as well.

 

“Take a king or a president or anybody. Put a heavy sack of gold in one hand and a feather-light declaration about freedom in the other. And then an outlaw sticks a pistol in his face and says give me one or the other. Every time —ten out of ten—he’ll hug the sack and throw away the ideals. Because the sack’s what’s behind the ideals, like the foundation under a building. And that’s how freedom and chains and a whipping post can live alongside each other comfortably.”

 

I leave you with a quote from The Oregon Trail by Buck Rinker for whatever path you are on, whatever your passion is.

“Crazyass passion is the staple of life and persistence its nourishing force. Without them, you cannot cross the trail.”

Posted by: Laura Carter | October 12, 2018

Smokey vignettes from bygone days

Not sure what prompted me to dig into the old box of letters at the top of the closet. Yes, Virginia, people used to use pen and paper to write letters and mail them to their friends across the country, or the world for that matter.

Funny thing is–I found some of my short poems and musings which were written in the college and beyond–during the years of my life when I was still young and smokin’

As I read those fading penciled scribbles, I could still see quite clearly when and where, who and why I had taken the time to put pen to paper.

“My truly honest man-child. Your wild eyes read the dreams on my eyelids. Your lips take my breath away and your hand rent my soul from my body and caresses it.” That sounds sexy, doesn’t it? Yes, it was!

This one must have been a really intense trip. “I’m a grandmother trying to knit a bootie for my grandchild with knotted, tired fingers. The needles miss and stick the cat on the hearth and the blood seeps out of his body. It drips off his fur to stain the cement floor forever.” Interesting that I am now a grandmother of six and have never even attempted to knit a damn bootie.

I remember lying on the bed at my friend David’s house so stoned I couldn’t make it home.

“It was so hot, I gladly welcomed the small, cool breeze that tiptoed into the room. I softly asked it to stay, but it didn’t hear me, turned around and left to continue its journey down the street. Dogs were barking, calling to the dog in the yard. As he ran to meet them I could hear his paws click-clacking over the warm gravel in the driveway. The street light softly poured into the room like the moon. I feel the warmth from his body seeping from his pores and floating secretly to me. It meets with my bare skin in pulsating waves like breath.”

Sigh, I remember this like it was yesterday.

Have we lost that art of prose where we just take whatever piece of paper is handy and write down our observations or feelings? I say mostly. But if you are someone who has not lost that art, don’t throw those papers away.

Peace and love y’all.

 

Posted by: Laura Carter | September 1, 2018

Unpacking your prejudices for a life well lived

Just who do you think you are?  Whatever the answer to this question it will reflect a heady, imperfect mix of your genes, your family, your life experiences and your environment. Where we live, the people we live around and interact with have a great deal to do with shaping our ideas, thoughts and attitudes about each other as human beings.

This is, after all the a ‘small blog’, so this won’t be a detailed discourse of the subject, just some thoughts I’ve had lately.

In consideration of my upbringing in a stable, white Southern family, I probably would have been more affected by negative prejudice toward other ‘races’ had I not had the privilege of being an Army brat. A previous small blog post tells how my attitudes were born again by living in Hawaii and taking advantage of multi-cultural experience.

In American cities, citizens are much more likely to interact with any number of folks from different cultures, countries, family situations etc. But, there are areas in our country where this is not the case and there is a prevalence of homogeneous Anglo populations. When this kind of, what I would call, isolation occurs, people aren’t given as much of an opportunity to broaden their intellectual or existential horizons.

This is the future. Make it good for everyone.

It’s been proven that living around people with different backgrounds and cultures gives us a larger life experience and usually modifies prejudices we might have previously held.

Despite the decidedly ‘white supremacist’ policies coming out of our current administration, the Pew Research Center determined there is  “Shifting Public Views on Legal Immigration Into the U.S.”

  • The survey by Pew Research Center, conducted June 5-12 among 2,002 adults, finds that 38% say legal immigration into the United States should be kept at its present level, while 32% say it should be increased and 24% say it should be decreased.
  • Most Americans do not think undocumented immigrants take jobs U.S. citizens want or are more likely to commit serious crimes.

It’s not just about ‘race’ or immigrants either. There is a prejudice against poor people—’they’re lazy, don’t want to learn, rather take welfare etc.’ My city San Antonio, though a great city in many ways, is one of the most economic segregated cities in the nation.  Which opens up a Pandora’s box of side-effects both for the affected population and on the community as a whole.

Oh, my goodness, this is a depressing post! So, what can you do about it? A few suggestions:

  • Make a difference where you can. Don’t condone bad behavior from others even if they are your family members. You know, like at Thanksgiving dinner and Uncle George is telling a racist or anti-gay joke.
  • Practice being inclusive and non-judgmental. Everyone has worth and a human story to tell.
  • Make new friends.
  • Try a new cuisine at an ethnic restaurant. (no, not just a new taco place)
  • Read National Geographic Magazine—there’s a whole world out there
  • Take a trip to somewhere you’ve never been.

Peace y’all!

Posted by: Laura Carter | August 6, 2018

Plastics–a small lesson about a humongous problem

Every bit of plastic ever made still exists somewhere.

“One word…Plastics” Anyone remember the 1967 movie “The Graduate?” I’ll never forget when Dustin Hoffman’s character Ben Braddock, cornered by a friend of his parents at his graduation party, was given that advice. Indeed at that time, plastics was a burgeoning industry.

Little did we know the pervasiveness of plastic would become a huge environmental concern–choking our oceans and landfills, even showing up in the seafood we eat.  “The miracle material has made modern life possible. But more than 40 percent of it is used just once…” states the recent articles “Planet or Plastic” in National Geographic.

Plastic waste takes from 10-1000 years to break down. Here’s a handy reference to how long it takes for all kinds of garbage to decompose–nothing short of generations for most everything we don’t reuse, repurpose or that actually gets recycled. When the planet dies it could very well be because it’s been buried in trash.

This year, when Plastic Free July rolled around, the hubby and I made a concerted effort to dramatically reduce our use of household plastic. Not that we hadn’t made efforts in the past several years, but sometimes plastic is unavoidable, even if it is not your choice.

In the picture are some of the good products that work for the ‘use less plastic’ efforts:

BeesWax Wraps covers bowls, wrap leftovers and is washable for reuse.  Wooden handled tooth brushes.  I think these reusable produce bags are terrific. All of these plastic alternatives are available on Amazon.com.

It took me a long time to find a refillable water bottle I liked. These from Target are great, sturdy and affordable.

Glass spray bottles (not plastic) are available from Grove Collective. Please visit their site for a growing list of natural cleaning, health, and personal care products. You can become a member and get free shipping. Their website is user friendly and you can ship gifts to other addresses.

Give it your best shot at using less plastic. Your Mother Earth will thank you!

Posted by: Laura Carter | June 16, 2018

Roads less traveled

In the past two months, the husband and I set out across multiple states and thousands of miles to visit family. We drove past the farm lands of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa into rural Minnosta for a visit with daughter and family which included the youngest grandkids. A short trek on the way home was made across South Dakota and into Nebraska in respect to a friend’s company.

After a week or so of R&R, we headed towards the mountains of Colorado, traveling up through the western side of New Mexico to visit the son and his family–the older, but no less precious, grandkids. Then, across Colorado on surely the highest most winding roads in the US, and  into Northern New Mexico to great conversations with long-time friends.

In addition to the most treasured aspects of being around those we love, we experienced some events on the road that left significant impressions.

Most of the roads we took were quite devoid of other cars, except major highways with all the trucks and around big cities. This led to a bit of anxiousness because there was no cell phone coverage either.

We drove through a forest fire on the road from Silverton to Durango. We had to follow a police ‘pilot’ car in a convoy while the helicopter with a gigantic bucket of water flew over head to the douse the flames. And, then there was the dust storm right outside Big Spring, TX.

Durango forest fire area

Driving white knucked through a torrential rain storm in rural Minnesota with lakes on either side of the narrow road, we found out lightening can go right through your car.

Windfarms with amazing opticals of appearing never-ending by popping up on the horizons as you drive for miles and miles.

The gigantic rock formations in New Mexico–like reminents of a Martian city.

Our little Ford Fiesta got an estimated 40MPG and never waivered over any of the challeging roads or situations.

Shiprock, NM

Two old farts solving the world’s problems. Or, maybe talking fishing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As of right now, I vow never to road trip again. But I know the lure of family will take me again over roads less traveled.

Posted by: Laura Carter | May 30, 2018

My Encyclopedic Beginning

Evidently, I was still a very young child when my mother introduced me to books, setting me on a life-long safari of endless reading adventures.

Lazing in the pool soaking up sun always sets my mind to wandering. Yesterday I was reminiscing about how when I was about seven years old my parents bought a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. It was a big dollar investment in those days (1954). I remember the salesman talking about an installment plan. It was also a big load of books for an ‘always on the move’ Army family.

I started with the first letter of the alphabet  and, over time, worked my way through XYZ. I finished up as I turned 11. It was glorious journey. My siblings were younger, but the books grew up with them as well.

Ben Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”  I’m so glad my parents invested in our knowledge in this way.  

Of course, there is now a very different set of Encyclopedia Britannica online which is just one of the places I go for information. It’s worth checking out.

Posted by: Laura Carter | May 4, 2018

Going to Church in my Mind

One of my favorite and very early posts–slightly updated.

Last night I dreamed I went to church–an all African American church.  I was dressed in a red coat and sang with the choir.  Now, I have been to a church with a predominantly African American congregation, but it is only in Dreamville that I would be singing in the choir.

I don’t physically attend church anymore.  No excuses.  But, I do go to church in my mind as the spirit calls.

This is how it works for me.

I said a prayer of concern for the homeless person sleeping in a downtown doorway.

I prayed to keep a civil tongue and not complain at work this week. (This probably requires some human effort as well)

I expressed appreciation for my wonderful, little house as the sun streamed in the living room and the birds were singing in the courtyard.

I sat still in my car for a few minutes, my heart bursting with joy for the ministries of Sister Odilia and her staff at Blessed Sacrament Academy and Por Vida high school.

This week, I’m making preemptive prayers for a safe trip to Minnesota to visit our daughter and her family–which includes two precious grandsons.

In my opinion, going to church in your mind is no less church, or mosque, or synagogue, or…  I try to be more thankful than whining. And, I try to live my life like church is right there with me all the time.

Posted by: Laura Carter | April 23, 2018

Of Coffee and Jellies

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the annual San Antonio Public Library’s Book Festival. Out of a good many speakers, I chose to hear Juli Berwald the author of Spineless–the science of Jellyfish and the art of growing a backbone. She was very good–entertaining and well-versed in jellyfish. So now I am about half way through the book. The hubby is reading it as well. Who would have thunk it! Jellyfish are quite the animal! I’m looking up Jellyfish documentaries on Netflix asap.

I recently read The Monk of Mokha a tale of Yemen, coffee and a tenaciously motivated young man who resurrectes the coffee trade in Yemen. If you think this would be a bland read, guess again. It’s as rich as Yemeni coffee itself. And, there’s the volatile, multi-leg journey racing across Yemen–as it turns into a war zone–carrying his coffee samples to the conference that will make or break his multi-year efforts. Dave Eggers is the author and he never disappoints.

The newest book from Yan Martel, author of Life of Pi, is The High Mountains of Portugal. Three seemingly different tales weaving together with a slightly surreal tinge. Parts of it seems to go on a bit, but stick with it for a fine reading experience.

I dearly love British crime/mysteries whether they be books, TV shows or movies. Author Alex Marwood was recently recommended by Stephen King on Twitter. I figured her books were damn good if he recommended them. The Wicked Girls and The Darkest Secret are psychological thrillers hard to put down till you get to the end. And, as the Brits might say ‘bloody good characters’ as well.

Get a book or three this week and happy reading.

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