Bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh. Bleh and bleh, worry and fear, sad and mad, shame and guilt and regret. And yet— What if? I have the power to rewrite my story. What if? My words and thoughts have creative power to transform. What if? I think on noble things: health, wealth, and love, faith and gratitude, peace and hope and joy. What if I believe? Life is good and generous, and miracles are in motion beyond my wildest dreams. What if I say? Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I didn’t really know him.
“The peacock does most of his serious strutting in the spring and summer when he has a full tail to do it with. Usually he begins shortly after breakfast, struts for several hours, desists in the heat of the day, and begins again in the late afternoon.”Flannery O’Connor, “The King of the Birds”
I spotted Pico back in March. He was one magnificent bird dressed in emerald green and royal blue, turquoise and purple. All alone in the world.
I knew nothing about him, but I wanted to. Was he a pet? Did he escape? Did he have a name? I’ll never know. Months before that first encounter, my friend and neighbor Stan had mentioned peacocks in the neighborhood. Then sure enough, I spotted him outside my bedroom window, scrambled for my shoes, and grabbed my phone for documentation.
Later at school, I told my students about our neighborhood peacock. They said Houston was known for peacock populations. Who knew? I Googled their claim, and it’s true. This one seemed to be a loner. I spotted him a second time. And a third. And a fourth. I snapped more photos, shot some videos, and admired him from afar. I was smitten. Only once did he speak. Was it a cry? I backed away.
“At night these calls take on a minor key and the air for miles around is charged with them.”Flannery O’Connor, “The King of the Birds”
Once you hear a peacock’s voice, you’ll recognize it whether you see him or not. But the calls stopped.
He was gorgeous. No reason to die.
Stan told my husband that someone ran the peacock down in cold blood. Vehicular homicide. I don’t know how Stan knew. I want to believe it’s not true. How could anyone be so cruel? So sadistic? I’ll never know.
My heart reeled at the news. He deserved better. At least, a name. So, I named him Pico. In my mind, he flew in from Puerto Rico. RIP, you handsome King of the Birds.
Grandma had a ninth or tenth grade education. Even so, she had a gift for words. Sometime in her mid-fifties, she wrote out her memoirs, long hand. Somewhere along the way, my mother made copies of those pages that mean more to me than anything else Grandma left behind. She has been gone for thirty years this December. The 11th. 1991. One month later, I would give birth to a baby girl. My grandmother’s legacy and love would live.
My Legacy by Catherine Savage
“I’ve never really enjoyed anything written in the first person—a primary rule about writing, and one of the few I know. Even in a letter is the abhorrence of the word or letter I. But just how do you begin or end or even put anything in the middle of this title without its use.
Money is such a transient thing, even more than life, that I haven’t considered it of great value. Possibly because I never had much money, I have just had a sour grapes attitude about it.
Love is the greatest commodity, and the giving of it always begets it. The thing I have to leave my children are their own lives. James Edward, Carol Rose, Sharon Sue, Joed Cleve, John Paul, each a lovely and loving person—all made possible by Edward Tony Savage.”
When I moved from small-town, Oklahoma to Denver, Colorado at age nineteen, Auntie mesmerized me. She was Kody’s Aunt MeMe, his mother’s identical twin sister. Her face and mannerisms were amazingly like those of my new mother-in-law. I couldn’t look away. I’m pretty sure we bonded that way. That was thirty-two years ago. I called her by first name, Tana, but she put a stop to that. “I’m your Auntie, Baby,” she said. “Call me, Auntie, Bella.”
Auntie was tough. She told it like it was. But she was magnetic. People loved her. She had connections all over town, and Kody and I were along for the ride—from North Denver to Cherry Creek, El Chapultapec to the York Street Jazz Café. That’s how Kody’s Aunt MeMe became my Auntie. She taught me gratitude and a persevering attitude. I freaking loved her.
I flew into Denver last Thursday night in the dark. I couldn’t see the mountains. Kody picked me up at the airport. He had flown in days earlier to be with his cousin in the wake of death.
The sun rose on Friday morning, and Kody and I drove toward Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church in North Denver. When the Rocky Mountains showed their face, I said to myself, “There’s no Denver without Auntie.” Even as I thought the words, traffic flowed from east to west, north to south. Of course, Denver would move forward. It already had. My heart broke, and I shed a tear all the same, but I felt Auntie’s spirit in the face of those mountains.
We did it the way Auntie would’ve wanted. A celebration of life. A party. Family. Fun. Storytelling. And fierce love.
First, go to an art supply store and buy yourself some Prismacolor Premier colored pencils. Truth be told, I bought some years ago for my son, and when they went unused, I decided to color. Last coloring extravaganza—2016ish. The Prismacolor Premiers haven’t aged a day.
I suppose, mindfulness was my goal. I didn’t put that much thought into pulling the coloring book and colored pencils from the drawer of my nightstand. My brain was locked and loaded, practically shot, with back to school info. and all the details of a brand new job and 200+ new names. I teach high school, and I had taken a two-year sabbatical since the last time I stepped into my own classroom. My brain is two years older. Technology is ever changing.
I started in the center of a rather intricate design, the first page of the book. Suddenly, there was no past. No future. Just picking colors. Sharpening pencils as needed. Pressing harder for effect. An occasional thought snuck in to guilt me: Shouldn’t you be going through the mail on the kitchen table? When was the last time you mopped? But there was a calm satisfaction in my attention to pattern and juxtaposition of hue.
My husband looked on. “Can I have a turn?” he said. Over the course of thirty two years, not once had we colored together. But how could I deny him my new-found peace of mind? I passed the book and the tin box of Prismacolors. And I watched as he wrestled over his choices. I bit my tongue when I would’ve chosen differently. I smiled instead. Sometimes in marriage a wife or husband must relinquish control. He colored a particular pattern and passed it all back to me. My turn. His turn. My turn. His turn. Jeep’s Blues played in the background. In this way we passed a Saturday.
And perhaps a Sunday.
And another Saturday.
And perhaps another Sunday.
Sometime before the first of February, I decided to devote some time each morning to God. I have a devotional book on my shelf—Jesus Calling by Sarah Young—a page for every day of the year written as if Jesus himself were speaking. Each day a sentence or two leaps off the page, and I try to remember the message in its simplest form all day long. Please accept a few jewels from this month so far:
“Talk with Me about every aspect of your day. including your feelings. Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with Me.”April 1
I didn’t grow up talking about my feelings, and once upon a time some counseling revealed my tendency to stuff them inside. At the time, I felt I had no one to talk to. Since then, I’ve opened up more. I understand vulnerability makes certain people uncomfortable, so I choose what to say to whom with care. We all need at least that one person, and God invites you to talk to Him about every aspect of your day, including your feelings. I find great comfort in an honest relationship like that.
Your deepest, most constant need is for My Peace. I have planted Peace in the garden of your heart, where I live, but there are weeds growing there too: pride, worry, selfishness, unbelief. I am the Gardener, and I am working to rid your heart of those weeds…Thank Me for troublesome situations; the Peace they can produce far outweighs the trials you endureApril 2
Oh boy, do I ever need peace? Sometimes I forget to thank God for my troublesome situations, but I’m trying so hard to remember this simple formula:
Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope
In Me you have everything. In Me you are complete.April 3
Despite your beliefs in God, these are beautiful affirmations. I have everything. I am complete. It’s so easy to want more and to feel less than. Say it again. I have everything. I am complete.
A person who is open to My Presence is exceedingly precious to Me…I see you trying to find Me; our mutual search results in joyful fulfillment.April 4
I’ll admit I was a little angry with God this year for just plain personal reasons, but I continued to feel His presence. It’s a comfort to know He considered me precious through my tantrum. Reading a devotion a day was a way to make peace with Him and find some balance for me. You know what they say about anger—it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I knew I had to let my bitter feelings go. I acknowledged the emotion by sharing it with God, and I’m trusting the Gardener to rid my heart of the weeds. Who doesn’t want to be filled with Love, Joy, and Peace?
Thanks so much reading my 2021 A-Z Challenge post today. That means a lot to me. This April, I’m sticking to a theme of action, mental and physical, things I might already do or haven’t attempted in years or maybe never. You know what else I’m trying for some balance? Answers found in these links: Abstain, Ballet, Cartwheel.
It brings me joy that you made it to the bottom of this post. Thank you so much for reading! For the April 2021 A-Z Challenge, I hope to stick to a theme of action—I’m thinking both mental and physical, continued current activities, those of days gone by, and possibly a few never attempted. You know what else I’m trying for balance in my life? Click links to posts so far: Abstain, Ballet, and Cartwheel.
Church started with Pink Floyd last Sunday. Technically it was Domino. With his iconic dreads and electric guitar, he sang, “On the Turning Away.” I saw it online, and I just happen to have a link. Next came Jeff Jones, he’s the senior pastor, and the current series is “Love Like Jesus.” Feel free to scroll on. I’m posting it believing someone might need to hear and will watch.
Jeff started out his sermon with some word associations: “If I said ______, you would say _____.” Eventually making it to his point. “If I said, ‘Christian,’ I don’t know what you would say, depending on what your experience is…”
I knew where Jeff was going. I knew what should go in the blank, but I’ll be honest, my first thought was not positive. Forgive me for going there. I know there are lots of good Christians, amazing humans who give generously of their time and resources and have an unbelievable level of grace for others. But I also know lots of people who won’t step foot into a church…who feel judged by Christians…who have had bad church experiences. Almost daily during my online scrolling and sometimes in overheard conversation, I hear and see Christians passing judgement. And I think—what would Jesus do? What would Jesus say? What would Jesus post?
Jeff continued, “…but I know what we should be able to say, what anybody in the world should be able to say whether they are Christian or not or believe anything about Jesus…the first thing they should think about when they think about ‘Christian’ is love…because that’s the one thing that Jesus said,…’Love like I love.’”
The weekend before last Ryan Leak kicked off the series. He’s a teaching pastor and a professional speaker. And the strange thing is—I saw him for the first time preaching at a church in Houston about a year ago, and then suddenly he’s popping up at my home church back in Dallas. Throughout the pandemic, Chase Oaks Church is my go to for Sunday mornings. I find extra inspiration and hope here. The sermons are archived on their website if needed, and you can fast forward through the music—or not.
Anyway, I go to church each Sunday for my weekly attitude adjustment. I am far from perfect. FAR. But I try. On the day of this U.S. Presidential election, I might not be perfect. Despite results, I’m sure I’ll need to be back in church by Sunday.
Jesus knows we’re all messed up. He offers forgiveness as a gift. And because He would, I’m sending love and peace your way—no matter who or where you are, no matter what you’ve done or what you believe. ❤️
Kionna is my close friend, my classmate, a fellow educator, a motivational speaker, a mother and a writer, like me. She calls me her “soul sister,” and I love her with my whole heart. We are the same in so many ways—except for the color of our skin and our experiences based on race.
“I’ve been quiet about the Ahmaud Arbery case, not because it doesn’t move me but because it almost breaks me. You see, I have four brothers, three sons, and a husband — and ALL of them can share stories of mistreatment because of their race, even my youngest. My husband who is a local pastor has been held at gun point more times than most who know him (except for other black men) can imagine. I suppose one time would be too much. But there have been multiple incidents, including one which my then toddler sons had to witness. We live in this reality though we do not always speak about it out loud.
“I was retwisting my hair a few days ago, and sitting there still and quiet with my household at rest, I found myself crying for Ahmaud. This was the Saturday before Mother’s Day. I cried tears of pain and anger that yet another black mother would not see her son on Mother’s Day for no fault of his own. And it isn’t that unjust murder doesn’t ever happen to others, it is that it so often happens to ours. If you are not raising a black boy, married to a black man, or living in our brown skin, you may not fully get this. That doesn’t make you a bad person. There are things you will never understand. But please stop the rhetoric that turns an innocent black man into a criminal after his death: the rhetoric that says he is aggressive because he tried to defend himself, the rhetoric that turns the self-defense case upside down and makes the murderers justified for defending themselves against an unarmed black man.
“Someone will be angry with me when they read this, and it will likely be someone I love and care for deeply. I know because I read your posts sometimes in silence and pain. Some of you have no idea how much you hurt me with your words, but I lay in bed and pray that the God in me and the God in you, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, will keep bringing us together until the point at which all of us truly value life—all life—as much as our own and our own kind. Kind. It’s a strange word, a word that offends me deeply. We are human—all of us, are we not? And I pray for my husband and my sons and the strength to continue to raise and support them in this world that we live in that vacillates between love and hate in extremes I cannot understand. Ahmaud Arbery could have been any of my sons, and what would you say then? My heart goes out to yet another family who didn’t have a chance to say good-bye and who has to relive the sin of their son’s, nephew’s, brother’s, uncle’s death over and over again while the powers that be try to make a case against yet another voiceless, lifeless black man.”
We are human—all of us, are we not?Kionna Walker LeMalle, May 14, 2020
Back in the fall, I had the privilege to spend twelve weeks as a long-term sub for a good friend and former teaching peer while she took her maternity leave. In English II, our students studied culture, exploring their own backgrounds and heritage before reading Robert Lake’s essay, “An Indian Father’s Plea.” It’s not a piece that students love, but it serves as a study of persuasive writing and a segue into some important conversations about cultural conflicts.
Lake, AKA Medicine Grizzlybear and Bobby Lake-Thom, is a member of the Seneca, Karuk, and Cherokee Indian tribes. He is a native healer and university professor who writes his son’s kindergarten teacher a compelling letter about the systemic racism his five-year-old son Wind-Wolf has faced during his short time in public school. The teacher wants to call Lake’s son Wind, insisting that Wolf must be his middle name, and the other students laugh at him. The teacher also labels him a “slow learner,” yet in Wind-Wolf’s home experience he is learning several Indian languages.
Wind Wolf does make a new friend at school, but when he invites the child to his house, the friend’s mother responds, “It is OK if you have to play with him at school, but we don’t allow those kind of people in our house!” Another little white girl who is his friend at school always tells him, “I like you, Wind-Wolf, because you are a good Indian.”
This is a non-fiction piece. Wind-Wolf is five, and he doesn’t want to go to school. His father advocates on his behalf. Sometimes we all need advocates in our corner.
After reading the essay together and jumping through the hoops of the curriculum, I asked students to put their heads on their desks and close their eyes and answer a yes or no question by raising their hands. The question, I borrowed from Ms. Ranmal, my Canadian/South Asian/Muslim/first-year-teacher/friend next door: Does white privilege exist? I tallied the results.
Two of my three sophomore classes were equally divided by race. In those classes, the black and brown students voted yes, and most white students voted no. The students wanted their voices heard, and they went on to have eloquent, civil dialogue to support their opinions based on their own life experiences. My last sophomore class had a white majority. The one-sided conversation fell flat. Instead we watched Bryan Stevenson’s Ted Talk, “We Need to Talk about an Injustice.”
Overall, the student discourse on the topic of race was the best I had witnessed in my twenty years of classroom teaching (Thank you, Ms. Ranmal!), and students left feeling empowered that day. Do I need to say this makes me sad? Sad, not only to hear so many stories of discrimination, but also because of my own missed opportunities to intentionally structure these conversations into lesson plans for the past twenty years. The interchange is imperative from K-12. Our educational system can do better.
In the days ahead, I’ll be featuring voices other than mine here on the blog. Thank you for listening and learning along with me.
Diamond was my student in English II Pre-AP about seven years ago. In December 2019, she graduated with a bachelor of science in criminal justice around the same time that she posted the following on Facebook. In recent weeks I’ve remembered her words time and again with a heavy heart.
At this hour… I am reminiscing on growing up. And my heart goes out to the people that are my age that experienced heavy bullying, and those that are younger than me attempting to deal with bullying. Growing up, I remember being told a countless number of times that I was “too dark.” I had a guy in elementary school tell me that I was so dark that there would never be a shade of makeup for my complexion, and he too was of my ethnicity and with a similar complexion. I remember being called an “ugly monkey,” by a white child in middle school because I didn’t know how to control my emotions and I thought that I was “in true like with him.” I remember being called “nothing but a slave,” by a kid that was bi-racial, after watching the movie Roots in class. At least once a week the kid would call me a slave name from the movie. I remember being bullied by a large amount of girls because I didn’t dress the same as them…
As a backstory…
This summer I had the opportunity to work with and speak amongst very prestigious and empowered young women in the NEW Leadership Texas Program. And within the week that I was honored to be in their presence, we learned that we all struggled, but we arrived and we are going to continue to arrive and make a positive impact on the world…
Back to the prior issue…
Eventually I grew up. I have said things out of insecurity and I built a barrier around me for so long because I didn’t want to get hurt… But… Eventually I realized that I had to find the real me and I had to remove all of the labels on my skin that had been plastered and rotting for years. I listened to my parents and grew up. I found out who I was, and what I was worth. And I’m still growing. To any kid or to any parent that has a child struggling with a bully, be there for them. Love them, and don’t let an insecure child strongly affect the mental state of you or a child. Support and love is really everything. Remember that you are loved.
I notice that Diamond never called the bullying racism. But it is. Instead I heard her say…
Support and love is really everything.Dawna-Diamond Tyson
December 7, 2019