To the Women Who Wrote Before Us

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-for my daughter and sister

 

Family photos remind me of women who rise

from the folds of our knuckles. They crawl

pursed lips first with heads titled back.

 

Their miniature arms and legs anchor

pencil to page. Limbs wrap around wood

like kids hugging trees afraid

 

to fall. Wild with story

they ride our fingers like horses

until they fly off

 

loud birds–these women–

loud birds

with words for wings

 

Shawn R. Jones (12/28/17)

 

 

 

 

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The First Time I had ever been Frisked

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It was the first time I had ever been frisked.   My husband was next.  Neither of us said anything.  Then about fifty of us were jammed into a small area where guards, holding semi-automatic weapons, stood above us on a balcony. I would call the area a room, but it didn’t have a ceiling, just the blue sky, which would have been nice just about anywhere else in the world.  At first, there were three walls, battleship gray.  Then the fourth wall, a steel door, came thundering down, “SHUMP!”  I jumped, grabbed the right side of my neck, and scanned the crowd.  The other visitors looked angry, but not afraid.  It was definitely a part of their routine. 

     Glaring down at us, the guards bellowed, “Tighten up! Tighten up and be quiet!” We got as close as we could get to each other.   

     To my surprise, my husband yelled back at the armed guards, “You can’t talk to us like that!  We’re visitors! We’re not prisoners!”

     I was trying to blend in with the crowd.  I thought that would be easy since most of us were minorities, but once my husband spoke, I knew he would give us away.  Even though we were from the city, neither of us had a strong urban dialect.  I squeezed his hand, signaling him to be quiet.  I was shocked by what happened next. 

     The other visitors cheered my husband on.  He had become their spokesperson.  Tattoos, gaudy jewelry, gold teeth, and tight clothes stood in agreement with him, and even though the bible says, “Do not judge or you, too, will be judged” (Matthew 7:1), I judged them for what they had on and how they cussed. Notice I wrote, “how” they cussed because I cussed, too, but with less passion and bass.  It is interesting how we can sometimes judge people who commit the same sins we commit, as if we are somehow sinning more elegantly, but there is nothing elegant about sin.  Sin is always ugly, but I couldn’t see that at the time. 

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     While I continued to be afraid of the other visitors who had much more in common with me than I realized, my husband was holding lengthy conversations with them. 

     “They don’t want you to come here,” my husband explained, “so they want to make it as unpleasant of a visit as possible.  This is absolutely-“

     My husband’s words became less audible as the guards bellowed more commands. I grew increasingly nervous. I turned my rings around and pulled nervously on my string of secondhand pearls.  I should not have worn any jewelry, especially not pearls.  No other piece of jewelry could say, “I have lost touch,” more clearly than a string of pearls on a brown neck, but ironically, I wanted to make a good impression on an incarcerated cousin I had not seen in twenty years. 

head down

     In my memory, he was the cousin who took me to his clubhouse with his group of “cool” friends.  It was an abandoned house that smelled like urine and soot. Yet, I felt special being there, climbing broken steps to the top floor and kicking through bits and pieces of someone else’s past.   At seven-years old, I was a tomboy who just wanted to fit in.  There were no adults around to draw the line between danger and fun. So when the cops came and my cousin helped me escape from the second floor window onto a dirty mattress, I thought that was fun, and when he whizzed me home on the handle bars of his bike, I thought that was fun, too.    He was my cousin who introduced me to the streets of Atlantic City before mischief became murder. 

We were from the same place and the same family, but when my mother and I moved out of the housing projects to the suburbs, my cousin and I didn’t see each other as often.  He and I lived drastically different lives, but my affection for him never changed.  I couldn’t love him any less or anymore.  I knew him long before he had become tainted by his environment, and I witnessed the abuse of his household.  I also knew him before he drank hard, smoked marijuana, and shot heroin.  He was the quiet little boy with the cute smile, wide eyes and good grades, and he would forever be the cousin who reached for me when I leapt from the window.  I really didn’t know the man I was visiting in a maximum security prison with a 30 year sentence. So when he walked into the sunlit prison yard, bright orange and strong, I hugged the little boy who once held out his arms for me. 

     The love I feel for my cousin is stronger than the disdain I feel for his crimes.  Can I claim that I feel that way about everybody?  Of course I can’t because I don’t feel that kind of love for everyone I pass on the street.  We, as humans, are limited in who we love and how much we love.  There are people we love unconditionally, yet fragmentally, because human love, as intense as it may seem, is just a fragment of God’s divine love.  However, God, unlike us, loves everyone unconditionally and wholeheartedly.   There is nothing fragmented about His love.  His arms are always held out for you, no matter who you are, and He couldn’t love you any more or less than He does at this very moment. 

     If you and I can love someone pass their faults, than how deeply does God love? 

     He is love (1 John 4:8).  He is not like love, just in favor of love, or just a supporter of love.  God is love. Why wouldn’t we want to have a relationship with someone like that, knowing we can’t have a relationship that deep with anyone else in the world.  When I think of how profound that is, I ask myself, “Why don’t I read my bible more?  Why don’t I pray more?”  While God consistently has His arms reaching towards me, why do I sometimes run in the other direction? Maybe you do that, too, but does it make sense? Even if you are skeptical, do you really want to walk away and take a chance on being separated from God’s divine love?

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     We have to learn to stay as close to God as we possibly can, relaxing in His embrace as the world twists and turns around us.  Sometimes we may be a little uncomfortable, wiggling like a toddler in our Father’s arms, but it is crucial that we stay there with His word in our hearts.  It is crucial that we stay, so we can love others who feel unloved and so we can face the challenges of our own lives without falling apart. It is crucial that we stay, so we can experience the totality of His love.

     Dear Lord, I know that if my cousin has a strand of heartbreaking stories behind him, then the rest of the prison population and many of their visitors also have a strand of equally distressing stories.  Please remind me that I am not more special or better than anyone else because I have had fewer tragedies in my life. Please teach me to love others unconditionally with this in the forefront of my mind. Amen.

 

By Shawn R. Jones

 website: www.shawnrjones.com

Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain, 

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1

  

Midlife Creative

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“Midlife Creative” is a term I much prefer over midlife crisis. I have never heard it used before, so I am going to assume I made it up.  I have to make sure I “google” it later, though, just in case.  I am posting for a few reasons today.  First, to see if this post publishes successfully.  Recently I had my web designer , Jim, combined my blog with my website, so I want to see how it works together when I post. Second, I miss communicating with my fellow bloggers!  Third, I wonder if there is anyone who can tell me how in the world I am supposed to make my photos smaller.  I notice WordPress has changed some things since I have been on here.  I am not the most swift when it comes to technology, which is why I have to hire people to do the more fancy stuff for me.  Fourth, or is that fifth?  Let me look back.  Oh yeah, fourth, I wanted to let you know that my husband and I have expanded our tutoring company.  Here is the website if you would like to know more about it: http://www.tailoredtutoringllc.com.  Fifth, I feel “midlife creative.”  

 

Now, how is “midlife creative” different from “midlife crisis.”  Ugh!  I feel like I am about to write a comparative essay, so let’s not. Let’s not do that at all.  I don’t feel like writing it, and you probably don’t feel like reading it. Let me just tell you what it means, well what I think I would like it to mean because actually…I thought it just sounded cool and uh…creative.  I feel like I should really think of something clever about now, but really, it just is not coming to me at all.  Well, let me give it a try. Just imagine me clearing my throat now. Midlife creative is that time in an artist’s life when she realizes she has over a million creative ideas.  She thinks faster than she implements, so most days she feels incomplete like something is left undone. Oh no, this is starting to sound hopeless, and that is not my intention. Um…and even though she feels unaccomplished on most days, she feels hopeful that one of those ideas will come to life on paper or canvas, across a dance floor, or through the lens of a camera.  She hopes that someday, her art, whatever it may be, finds its way to the right people and heals, changes, and inspires.

Midlife Creative. That’s where I am right now.  Where are you?

It Will Never Be Enough

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Everybody thinks they know what money is and what it can do for them until they get it. They suddenly realize things like high cost is not necessarily high quality and there are more acceptable and just as comfortable shoes to wear to the market besides flip flops and bedroom slippers and any dress with nude shoes is classier than a mustard dress with mustard shoes. There are many insignificant things that money teaches us once we get it–things that will never matter much in the end–things that actually do not matter much now.

Then there are those lessons money teaches us, heavy with knowledge and pain.  We learn that name brands cannot cure poor health, heartache, or hatred. We always knew that, but there are always those days we know it like we never knew it before. But we may continue to pretend because those diamonds, those purses, and those cars make us feel better about ourselves because we have felt worthless most of our lives because we are too dark, too light, too short, too tall, or too much of something no one else likes, admires, respects or appreciates and instead of reframing our thoughts, opening our hearts and forgiving that parent, that man, that woman, or that god we have assigned to our lives, we continue to tip high and feel low.

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**I wrote this piece while I was in the mountains. My husband and I made a weekend out of a couple week days.  I told myself I was not going to write at all.  I was just going to read Toni Morrison’s Jazz. Well, as I should have suspected, I got inspired.  I left my computer and notebooks home on purpose, so I could devote my days to reading.

I searched that house, throwing old toys aside, hoping I would find some scrap paper. Under Godzilla and a Ghost Buster’s car, I found a Crayola Sketchbook.  I thumbed through it and found a few pictures my daughter drew and a message on another page that read, “It is too dark in here.” I guess it was a message my son wrote to my daughter.  I almost cried, thinking of how young they once were.  I was going to throw out the toys, reminders and memories of years I will never see again.  Then I thought of how wonderful it would be to watch my grandson play with those same toys and slide down that same slide now surrounded by knee high mountain fern.

I wrote that piece about money in the sketchbook, ripped out the page, and left the Crayola Sketchbook up there for my grandson’s visit a few years from now.  The thought of it made me smile.  Life is funny like that.

 

By Shawn R. Jones

Author of the inspirational book, Pictures in Glass Frames http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain,

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1

Thin People Are Not Always Healthy

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This winter, I let myself go.  What does that mean?  This winter it was often snowy, icy, and cold outside, and homey, cozy, and warm inside, so what better activity was there to do but eat?  I made a conscious decision to eat whatever I wanted to eat, as often as I wanted to eat it.  I experienced so much freedom in the process.  However, I do not recommend it because I went up a dress size.  For those of you who are thinking, well you were small anyway. Well, let me share a fact with you. Thin people are not always healthy.  An extra five pounds on my short frame, means higher blood pressure.  An extra ten pounds means an increase in my blood pressure medication. Because high blood pressure runs in my family, I have to be extremely careful. While most people only worry about how they look in the mirror… I worry about what a few extra pounds may do to my heart.

I know I am sharing my personal health information, but I really don’t mind. I just need you to know that you CAN be an unhealthy size two and you can be healthy size 10. I am learning to focus less on my clothing size and more on what I put in my mouth.  I admit, I am greedy.  I love my Oreo cookies, vegan ice cream, pancakes with plenty of syrup, Captain Crunch…Oh yes, Captain Crunch with Silk Milk!  Fruit Loops… and any number of sugary vegan treats!  Let me not stay on this too long or I may end up taking a midnight trip to Shop Rite.

For all of you 0, 2, 4, 6ers, you can die of a stroke or heart attack, too. I have squeezed my sugary hips and thighs in a size 6 all winter, blood pressure just dancing all over the place!  Mind you, I have a friend who is three sizes bigger than me and her heart pumps like a symphonic band. What is the difference? We both exercise regularly, but she, unlike me, is not a sugar addict. If you eat what you want, but think you are in great health because you exercise, I have news for you.  I have been there and done that.  All winter, on average, I worked out an hour a day, but I ate sugar like there was a sugar shortage!  Well, guess what?  It’s over.

For the past three days, I have stared at a box of Oreo cookies. Every time, I reach for one, I have to talk to myself. What do I say?  Well, I say the same thing every time.  “Shawn, you are not going to die if you do not have a cookie.”  I had to tell myself the same thing when I was out having dinner with my husband.  “Shawn, you are not going to die if you drink water instead of lemonade.” And the next day, “Shawn, you are not going to die if you have oatmeal without sugar.” Then for lunch, “Shawn you are not going to die if you do not have fries with your vegan burger.”  Then earlier tonight, “Lord, thank you for helping me have self-control today.”

Whew!  It has been days and I am still alive, even though I have not had sugar!  And I got on the scale tonight to discover that I have already lost half the winter weight I gained.  And even better than that, I joined the symphonic band.  In a few months, I plan to be off of this medication.

 

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 Sugar, now you are where you belong, in the trash compactor with the rest of the junk!

By Shawn R. Jones

 website: www.shawnrjones.com

Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain, 

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1

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No Dream Deferred Here!

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Everyone needs a friend like Tanya! I am so inspired by her discipline! I hope this inspires you, too!

Health & Wellness by Lexa's Journal

There is something magical about the many “firsts” that we experience in life, which cannot be duplicated.

The jubilation a mother experiences after hearing the first cry of her newborn, the jittery feeling of starting a new job, the joy of buying the first car or home, your child’s graduation from kindergarten or college, or in my case debuting as a figure competitor at 48 years old are feelings that can never be replicated.

The raw and unexpected ball of emotions that evolve from the onset of something new is remarkable!

Calm… anxious… proud… hype… disbelief… happy… tearful… overwhelmed… and more!

It took nearly two years of me pondering and to man up to the challenge of competing. The seven-month flight took me along a road of expected twists and turns. Today I’m scratching my head and earnestly wondering,

Why the heck did I wait so long?”

I can’t help…

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