Malicious Friends

I don’t know about you, but I get a shit ton of fake friend requests on Facebook and Instagram, so many that I started keeping track for like a month. Then I Googled the phenomenon for insight. Andy O’Donnell of Livewire says that some are scammers to gain access to personal information that might set you up for a phishing attack, a cyber attack via e-mail claiming to be from a valid financial or eCommerce provider. Some are malicious linkers who post malicious links to your newsfeeds after you have accepted the friend request. Some are catfishers who create elaborate online profiles in an attempt to hook victims looking for love. Some are ex-wives/husbands/lovers, some are current significant others, and some are private investigators. Although I don’t think I’m under investigation by my husband or any exes or a PI, I would prefer to avoid being a victim of an avoidable scam or attack.

By the way, do you know any men named Sarah (see above)? That reminds me of that Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue.” Oh, or was this request generated by a robot? Dan Tynan of IT World says that 5-6% of all accounts are bogus, which puts the number of Facebook fakes between 40-50 million. Basically, there are two types of fakes. The first kind, operated by humans, pretending to be who they are not. And the second, created and operated remotely by software.

Then there are those messages, which show up in Facebook Messenger and may or may not be a threat. Without doubt, they’re a nuisance.  

Be careful: I got a message from you or it shown on our wall here.. Please tell all the contacts in our messenger list not to accept friendship request from Andrea Wilson. She is a hacker and has the system connected to your Facebook account. If one of your contacts accepts it, you will also be hacked, so make sure that all your friends know it. Thanks. Forwarded as received. Hold your finger down on the message. At the bottom in the middle it will say forward. Hit that then click on the names of those in your list and it will send to them THIS is REAL

“It shown on our wall here..”?? If you notice grammar and punctuation issues, IT IS NOT REAL. There is no need to forward any messages to all of your friends.

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Look! Even Jon Hamm wants to be my friend.

I’m probably not saying anything you don’t know, but fake friends are very recognizable. We usually have zero mutual friends. They usually have handsome profile photos and few followers in comparison to the number they follow. They’re often military or athletic or dog lovers. Then there was Marye looking for a serious sugar baby to spoil with a weekly allowance and Margaret whose profile says, “I’m a loving, humble, and caring person that loves putting a smile on people’s faces.” I mean, if you’re that loving, humble, and caring, Margaret, just be that. I find that when people feel compelled to tell you who they are, especially total strangers, more often than not, they’re overcompensating. I’m just trying to be a better person today than I was yesterday. Actions speak louder than words.   

So, trust your intuition, and be careful. I thought I might have known Alex below, so I accepted his request. Lo and behold, he sent me roses. I don’t know about you, but I have better things to do and other things to worry about.  

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If “Hello dear” doesn’t work, neither will “Hey.” Delete.

To report a fake Facebook account, click here for the step-by-step process at Rick’s Daily Tips. He offers friendly help only.  

Villanelle

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The crack is moving down the wall.
Defective plaster isn’t all the cause.
We must remain until the roof falls in.

It’s mildly cheering to recall
That every building has its little flaws.
The crack is moving down the wall.

Here in the kitchen, drinking gin,
We can accept the damndest laws.
We must remain until the roof falls in.

And though there’s no one here at all,
One searches every room because
The crack is moving down the wall.

Repairs? But how can one begin?
The lease has warnings buried in each clause.
We must remain until the roof falls in.

These nights one hears a creaking in the hall,
The sort of thing that gives one pause.
The crack is moving down the wall.
We must remain until the roof falls in.

Weldon Keys

I stumbled upon the villanelle form in my book Staying Alive for my summer poetry class. My class is mainly poetry appreciation intended to inspire poetry of my own. I quite like Weldon Keys “Villanelle.” Sometimes cracks are visible, and for whatever reason, we often seem to wait for the roof to crash. As for my own poems, I have my work cut out for me, nothing ready to share.

The villanelle is a nineteen-line poem with two rhymes throughout, consisting of five tercets (three-line stanzas) and ending with a quatrain (four-line stanza). The first and third lines of the opening tercet recur alternately at the ends of the other tercets and with both repeated at the end of the closing quatrain. Some of the tercets above might look a wee bit, um, janky (with a fourth line) via phone. On my laptop, they come across as intended. 

Probably the most famous villanelle is Dylan Thomas’s poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Who knew that this one is a villanelle? I did not. You are welcome.

If you have a minute and a half, here is Thomas reciting his poem in 1952, a year before his untimely death at age 39. For Dylan’s text, click here.

Source:
Staying Alive, ed Neil Astley, Miramax Books, 2003.

 

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Source: Being Alive, ed Neil Astley, Bloodaxe, 2004

Meet Laura-Jane Barber

Laura-Jane was a Spanish teacher back in Plano, a Dallas suburb where I taught English for fourteen years. At our high school, her mailbox always topped mine in the teacher workroom. Barber. Byers. And although we worked on separate sides of the building, we often chatted while picking up our mail or making copies. We still chat via Facebook and now on WordPress, too, and I’ve found her words lingering in my head.

Hi, my name is Laura-Jane, and I am the most selfish person I know and maybe the most selfish person you know. Because I am so selfish, I can see the selfishness in others, and when I see it in others, it’s almost worse because then I’m reminded of things I’ve said or done because of my selfishness.

I see so many people ignoring the cry of our black brothers and sisters for selfish reasons. I have been guilty of it too in the past. I’ll give you an example from my life.

When Colin Kaepernick knelt for the National Anthem. I didn’t even try to hear why. I didn’t care to understand because I was so disrespected by it. The National Anthem makes me cry because I have a husband who has served on deployments in dangerous parts of the world 3 times since we’ve been together. On one, his vehicle was blown up, and his experiences have changed him and our family forever. I focused on that and didn’t even know why Colin Kaepernick knelt for the flag until this year. That’s right, I assumed it was something to do with race, but I didn’t even know the specifics. Go ahead and judge me. I deserve it.

I was so focused on what his act appeared to say to me that I didn’t even care to find out why he actually did it. And if you know me at all, you probably also know I can be quite stubborn when I feel I’m right.

I was so selfish and self-righteous over the National Anthem. Over a song. A symbol. And you know what I found here in my circle in Texas—a lot of people who agreed. So I was able to sit in my pride and self-righteousness with support all around. No one told me, “LJ, maybe you’re making this about you when it’s actually not.” Okay, maybe one or two on Facebook commented that on a post, and I probably ripped them to shreds with my “righteous anger.”

Today, I roll my eyes at 2016 LJ. I want to go back and shake her. I WAS WRONG. I am shouting it because I sure shouted back then in my selfishness. I WAS WRONG. I didn’t know that statistics show that police brutality against blacks is significantly higher than towards whites. If you don’t know this and go researching, be sure to pay attention to the breakdown of race in our country. If you look at numbers, there will be less listed for blacks, but whites are something like 70% of our population vs. 15% black. That is vital information to understand the numbers accurately.

I was in denial about the racism that still exists in my beautiful country. I LOVE THE USA! Anyone who knows me knows I have both USA pride and Texas pride. Sharing all of this is not me trying to destroy America (PS, I don’t identify with either party), it’s me trying to make America a place where all people have the same privilege that I do as a white person. I love this land so much.

I share this because…click here to finish reading.

Meet Kionna Walker LeMalle

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

Meet Jessica Cobbs

Ten years ago, Jessica was my student. Now she’s an actress and a model using her voice and calling for change.

I don’t say much because I like to stay in silence. I’ve been told many times—your nickname should be MIA or ghost but when I need to speak I will and I will state all facts because I’ve watched for years, studied for so long, and witnessed first hand!

7 years old (Louisiana) – my teacher talked about me to my face, called me stupid, said I would never be anything.

9 years old (Virginia) – walking home from school a group of kids on the back of a pick up truck threw bottles at my feet and yelled, “dance monkey dance.” I ran home (thank God for my father’s speed) but yet they yelled, “run little ni*** run”… I never told my mother but I cried for days from bad dreams.

10 or 11 years old (Tennessee) – my teacher called me the n** word, wouldn’t let me use the restroom, and put F’s on my papers without even looking at it.

15 years old (Texas) – A kid at school said I can pass/be cool with both bc I’m “paper bag brown” so I can sit at both tables. He said if I was a few shades darker I couldn’t sit with them bc then I would be targeted and they would see me as the rest…in his eyes “trouble makers.”

22 years old (working a flight in nyc): “you’re pretty for a black girl. I’m sure your ancestors were some of us bc your hair is wayyy too pretty and you’re way too educated to be just a black. Are you sure you’re black sweetheart? I just never seen one like you.”

The list goes on from different places around the world!! But I can honestly say I’ve met the most beautiful amazing God given people in ALL races! We all are one. We all bleed the same red blood. WE ALL ARE HUMANS!! My life matters just like the next and for those who think mine or my brothers and sisters do not, I will pray for your souls. Everyone be careful and stay prayed up. Our time is coming and it’s closer than we think.

We all bleed the same red blood.

Jessica Cobbs, May 31, 2020

Still I Rise

by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
"Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

A Day in the Classroom

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.

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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.

Meet Dawna-Diamond Tyson

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

Ready or Not

Not long ago I saw this movie—Ready or Not, and I can’t get it off of my mind.

IMDb describes the film as “a horror-comedy and social satire that comically exaggerates the anxieties attendant with marrying into a wealthy family and mocks the insular nature of such families, so obsessed with their wealth that they’ve become disconnected from the real world.” Hmmm. Just thinking about the meaning of the word insular and the idea of being disconnected from the real world.

hide and seek

After a beautiful wedding at the Le Domas family estate, Alex reveals a family tradition to his unsuspecting bride Grace. She must hide in the mansion while her in-laws not only seek but also hunt her down with weapons galore. I don’t mention the movie as a must see. Quite frankly, it’s a bloodbath with one unforgettable line:

“You’ll almost do anything if your family says it’s okay.”

And the Winner Is…

Drumroll please.

Me!

Back in April when I rose to the challenge of blogging twenty-six posts from A to Z, I received a couple of awards from bloggers who showed up almost daily to read my work. I’m sure that Bridget and Eliza have more to do than read my blog every day, but there they were, tapping that little blue star and leaving me nice little notes. However, not only did they support me by reading, they passed my name and website along to others. One thing I’ve noticed about this blogging world is the kindness of others. I’ve met so many people who stop to straighten my crown and leave sunshine in their wakes.

Bridget A. Thomas is a Christian author who turns her dreams over to God, lets him work it out, and inspires others to do the same. She nominated me for the Fix Her Crown Award. It’s an award for women who lend a helping hand to other women whose crowns seem too heavy, who appreciate the sister who dares to be her own glorious self, who raise strong young women, who smile at the sister journeying alone and walk beside her for a time, who stand with the sister whose crown has been knocked off her head time after time, and who shine as their own beautifully unique selves. Thank you, Bridget! I’m completely humbled by that description!!

Eliza is a twenty-something blogger-friend who reminds me of my daughter and most often writes about gratitude and mental health. Her posts spread glitter, love, and light, and I always appreciate her perspective. She nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award and grouped me with others she called inspirational, calming, and gorgeous for taking time to read and respond to her posts. Eliza, you’re a doll! How could I not rise to the challenge of paying it forward?

As for me, I’m going on three years of catapulting my ideas into the blogosphere, but I still remember what it was like in the beginning to have like three followers and no idea how to find other good blogs. [Stage left. Enter the awards.] The awards, no matter which one, are all about promoting other bloggers’ blogs and helping them be part of the community. In no way would I want to add pressure for someone to respond, so I’m not posting any rules to follow or questions to answer, just non-gender-specific blogs that I love and haven’t had the opportunity to mention until now. By the way, it’s so hard to narrow down my list, and because I received two nominations for two awards, I’m combining the love into two brand-new awards. Drumroll please. And now for the moment you’ve been waiting for—the winners of the Somebody Loves Your Blog Award:

  • All Things Thriller indulges Pamela Lowe Saldana’s love of film, music, and literature. A DJ by profession, she draws inspiration from her west Texas roots and true crimes.
  • ALTAIR 5G Theatre: During this quarantine time when I’ve overextended my capacity for television and even reading, I look to my French friend’s site for virtual culture: orchestra, opera, tango, street dancing, just to name a few.
  • The Art of Becoming a Wildflower: Jerry Snider has a gift for telling the simplest of stories that make me laugh out loud and think for a while. His children’s book Buddy Bloom Wildflower follows the life of a lost seed who only wants to become a flower.
  • Fear-and-Hope.com is the newbiest (is that a word?) blog on my list. Meet my cousin. She is a 42-year veteran teacher who dedicates her life to students with social, emotional, behavioral, and academic weaknesses. God bless her, and please give her a follow!
  • Cheryl Oreglia at Living in the Gap cracks me up every time. She blogs on the joys of being a Grammie and the bliss of marriage. One of my favorite recent posts is Grow Dammit.
  • KA (Allan) Gould at PhotoblographyToo is a retired Canadian just living his best life, through photography, gardening, cycling, skiing, and traveling. Just this year, I’ve traveled with him to Banff National Park, Vancouver, and Ireland.
  • London Life with Liz, as the site title suggests, covers all-things-London from literature to pop culture, history to politics, and so much more. I don’t know if Liz has ever taught school, but I always walk away from her posts having learned something fascinating.
  • Priscilla Bettis has led the life of an engineering physicist and a swim team coach, and she aspires to be a horror novelist. One of my favorite posts is her beautiful tribute R.I.P. Daddy.
  • The Thought Badger hails from the UK, marries photography with the written word and shows how our experiences with animals have the power to make thoughts happen.

Blog Award

Geez, it seems my list could go on and on, but it wouldn’t be a true award show without thanking a few more authors who have been so kind to support me here on WordPress as well as on Twitter (even though my Twitter game lacks). And now for the Outstanding Supporter Awards: Jean Lee (young adult fantasy, fierce heroines, and storytelling strategy), Melissa Henderson (children’s books and Christian themes), Mark Bierman (action and adventure, fiction and non),  Alaedin Fazel, (psychology, philosophy, family, and culture) and Freya Pickard (poetry, epic fantasies, and tales of passion). Thank you all, sincerely.

Outstanding Supporter

What have I learned in three years about growing a blog? Well, just like a garden, growth requires nurturing. Back in April I saw that if I build it, they will come, and if I build relationships (reading other blogs and interacting), they will stay. Interesting how relationships work that way. This April I had more traffic to my site than in my entire first full year of blogging, and that’s because I posted 26 times in April 2020 and 29 times in all of 2018. Now for me, posting almost every day is like a no-income job. I need more balance between my everyday and online lives. But can I post more than twice a month? Yes. Twice a month was my personal commitment back in the beginning, September of 2017 when I taught full-time, lived in a hotel for ten months, and oversaw a home re-build. In the month of May 2020, I posted six times, and that felt pretty natural and doable. Have I grown as a writer? I think so. And guess what? May was my second most successful blogging month ever.

120 posts later, I’ve been practicing, and I feel like a winner today. The blogging rewards are rich, and the awards are awesome, too. Thank you, Bridget! Thank you, Eliza! Thank you, dear reader, for visiting my blog, supporting me, and checking out a few of my friends!