Poem: Within Fire

I read a poetry prompt somewhere that suggested looking at a poem you like by someone else and using the first word from each line as the last word in a poem of your own on a different topic.

I chose “My Mama Moved Among the Days” by Lucille Clifton.

Here’s my poem:

Within Fire

Within fire I discovered my
own ash. My fear reduced me to
a sapless stump that seemed

resigned to its destruction, seemed
sprouted with the knowledge of the pain it
was destined for. Until a burn. Then
I healed right
up. Scarred but upright.

On Today’s Walk: Local History

Since nearby nature trails all seem to be crowded enough to make physical distancing a challenge, I’ve been sticking to city streets and sidewalks. Today’s walk was had an education theme, as I decided to traverse a portion of Columbia, Missouri’s African American History Trail. I did not make it to all 37 sites, but I found a few of them. Maybe I can make it a project to visit all of them before my workplace opens again.

Historic, and recently restored Blind Boone Home.

Blind Boone House, Columbia, MO

The rest of my photos from the walk are just informational markers. But it’s interesting information.



Here’s an article about the building from 2017.


On Today's Walk: Artistic Expression

Did a two-mile afternoon stroll this afternoon, under cloudy skies this time. I found some interesting art. People find all sorts of ways to be creative.

I’m drawn to rocks and rock balancing. It looks like someone had fun in the woody area next to their house.

A few more blocks and I found this:

The same yard contained an eye-catching rainbow pinwheel.
https://youtu.be/ATNdMKN8VSE

You don’t always need expensive or complicated supplies to create art that speaks to others.

On Today's Walk: Spring Anyway

Despite everything going on in the world with humans and viruses, spring is not in quarantine. It’s a little chilly here, but the sun is out for the first time in days, so I ventured out for some fresh air, taking a short walk around the neighborhood, maintaining space from the many other folks I saw out doing the same thing. To be honest, a friendly wave from the distance is my preferred level of social interaction with most of my neighbors in normal times. Not that I dislike any of them. I’m just awkward and introverted.

I found it interesting that I saw as many pedestrians as cars out today in my mile-and-a-half amble. There’s a silver lining, I suppose.

And there are a few little groceries coming up in my yard and others.

Henbit

Henbit really is edible. I’ve snacked on the flowers myself a number of times. Check out Edible Wild Food for more information on which parts are safe to eat.

I’ve never researched magnolia trees, so I don’t know if they do anything other than look beautiful. If not, that’s enough. The blooms are starting to open.

Magnolia tree

The world continues to function, more or less. Humanity is only a part of it.

On Not Eating the Burned Grilled Cheese

I did not martyr myself to this sandwich

Last Wednesday was a crappy day on many fronts. Work stress, bills to pay, minor but annoying health issues, feeling overwhelmed about my to-do list growing faster than my ability to do, a deep despair over the dawning realization that I’m probably never going to see a woman president in my lifetime. I was torn between the desire to smash things and the desire to go to bed forever. But dinner needed made.

I stood dithering in my kitchen for a long time, trying to settle on what I could muster the energy to cook. My top go-to comfort food is a grilled cheese sandwich. So I decided to go easy on myself. There are only three of us in the household now, and three grilled cheeses are quickly made with little effort. I would put apple slices and strawberries on the side. Good enough.

Wouldn’t you know, I let myself get distracted when the first sandwich was in the skillet. It burned while I was washing and slicing fruit. When I took it out and saw the charred surface, my automatic first thought was, “I guess that one’s mine.”

It’s been my default setting for years. The other members of the family get the good ones of whatever thing is being distributed. I get the pancake that was put in before the griddle was hot enough and isn’t quite right, the egg with the broken yolk, you get the idea. This isn’t done with resentment, but as a programmed response, like a factory setting for moms and wives. The thing is, nobody in family would ever ask me to do this. It’s all on me, usually done with little thought.

But not this time. I had the thought. I even took one bite of the sandwich. Then I took myself in hand and lectured me, “You deserve a decent sandwich. You were making this as comfort food because you’re sad and angry about misogyny, for pity’s sake! And here you’re willing to cheat yourself because you’ve internalized messages saying you’re always the one who has to sacrifice.”

There have been times in my life when I couldn’t afford to throw out a sandwich, no matter how scorched. But at present, we have achieved a financial level where I can use two extra pieces of bread and a couple more slices of cheese without facing penury and ruin.

It might look like a tiny thing, but fighting my own thoughts about how little I’m allowed to need or want is a big step for me. I threw out the burned sandwich and made a different one for myself, perfectly toasted. It was delicious. And liberating.

On Today’s Walk: Tracks in the Snow

In the timeline I currently inhabit, winter storms are scheduled for Wednesdays. Or so it seems. It’s been brrrrrrrr with wash-water gray skies since last Wednesday’s snow, so it didn’t really start melting until today.

This afternoon, the sun is out and it’s a balmy 48 Fahrenheit. Perfect for a jaunt around the neighborhood. I found just enough snow remaining to provide clues about who had preceded me on the journey.

We all leave our mark on the world in one way or another, I suppose, even if it’s temporary.

On Today’s Walk: Women’s March

This is going to be a departure from my usual “On Today’s Walk” type of post. I want to talk about an under-discussed, quiet and insidious form of discrimination that continues to happen to women, and how I’m discovering that it’s widespread.

On today’s walk, I participated in the local Women’s March. The temperature was bitter cold, so I didn’t take photos. But here are a couple of stories to illustrate some reasons we still need to march in this day and age.

An hour before I left to attend the rally and walk, our mail came. The bank where my husband and I have done business for twenty years is being sold to another bank, and in the mail was a letter about a loan we have, explaining how it will be transferred. Here’s the kicker. The loan is in both of our names, but the letter was addressed solely to my husband. My name appears nowhere in it.

I immediately called customer service to get this straightened out, because this is not my first experience with getting erased from an account. It has led to problems in the past. The customer service worker told me the reason my name isn’t on the letter is because my husband is listed as the primary owner of the loan, something that has never been explained to either of us or agreed to by either of us. In fact, I’m the one who makes sure they get their payment every month, since I handle the finances for the household.

In the politest voice and phrasing I could muster, I insisted my name should be included on all correspondence. (How hard can it be?) The young-sounding woman who was helping me wasn’t sure that could be done. She kept repeating that letters go out in the name of the primary person. I also did the broken record thing, saying I never was told that and never agreed to it, and even if it were the case, my name needs to be on all documents related to the loan. My husband and I both signed the paperwork and took on the liability. And I’m certain, if something happened to my spouse, the bank would suddenly remember me and expect me to keep paying. I courteously stood firm in my request. A manager is supposed to contact me on Tuesday.

Before I ended the call, I said, “If this ever happens to you, please speak up for yourself like I am. Don’t let yourself be erased.” I’m probably the story she’s telling at the dinner table tonight.

Over the thirty-plus years of my marriage, this sort of thing has happened to me more times than I can count. My name gets dropped from accounts, left off of correspondence. It has never happened to my husband. Not once.

A few years back, when we still used a landline phone, I contacted CenturyLink to make some changes in the account and they said I didn’t have permission. This was an account I set up when we first moved to town. I personally was the one to go to the phone company and handle everything to do with creating our account here. I put both of our names on it. But at some point in time, the company decided only one name should be on the account, and removed mine. They removed me from my own account that I set up, and then told me I had to get my husband’s permission to be added back on. 

Now my bank has removed my name from correspondence about my own account.

I shared all of this in a facebook post a few hours ago. Since then, I have gotten an outpouring of comments from women saying the same kind of thing has happened to them, and is still happening. A utility company wouldn’t accept a change of address from a woman; they had her husband listed as the account holder, even though — guess what? — she was the one to set up the original account. Another friend had a credit union account in her name, added her husband to it when they got married, and a few years later was denied a car loan from them because she wasn’t listed as the primary account holder. Like with my phone account, nobody could tell her when it was changed or by whom, only that it couldn’t be changed back without her husband’s permission. A woman’s name was left off the title to her house, something she only discovered by accident after a few years, though she was on the hook for the mortgage along with her husband.

One friend direct messaged me because she didn’t want anyone else to see her comment with her name attached to it. She said her now ex-husband was able to get her name removed from their joint bank account when she was leaving an abusive marriage.

As far as I can determine, this is happening repeatedly to wives, and not to one single husband of my acquaintance. It’s the institutional erasure of women.

I want to ask the same thing of all women that I asked of my bank customer service rep. If this happens to you, please don’t accept it without discussion. Please make noise about it. Let’s raise awareness and make it uncomfortable for business and institutions that do this. And seek out better businesses as recipients of our money, if possible.