A Tale of Fire and Rain

This last week was a harrowing one for thousands in California.   I managed to contact two of my west coast friends to make sure they were safe from the fires. The wine country and San Francisco area were heavily affected.  My late husband also has family in northern California.

I remember the fires from my years in California, but it also keeps getting worse.  There were photos of heavily scarred sequoia trees this year, with reassurances from scientists that the noble trees, many over 2000 years old, will ultimately survive.

Walking in one of the sequoia forests north of San Francisco always made me feel it was sacred ground and reminded me of the arc of history and our small role in terms of years.  A part of my heart will always be out west and my prayers go out daily here – as well as south to those affected by the category 4 Hurricane Laura and the resulting flooding and winds that devastated St. Charles, Louisiana last Thursday.  A week of fire and rain.

Civil Rights Icon John Lewis Remembered

John Lewis, who became a civil rights icon and a longtime Georgia congressman, died July 17 at the age of 80.  As I watched the many tributes this last week, I was amazed that Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama and only moved to Georgia later in his career.  I remember Lewis because I joined my late husband Tim Robinson, who was born and raised near Birmingham, Al in crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the 30th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in 1995.  That day commemorated the original March when Lewis, the one-time “Freedom Rider” was among civil rights demonstrators, including Martin Luther King, attacked and beaten by state troopers in 1965.  Tim had covered “Bloody Sunday” as a teenage reporter for the Birmingham Post Herald and photographed the beatings.  Lewis was at the commemoration.

More recently, I became aware that Lewis was a respected Georgia congressman in Washington DC and watched a documentary completed shortly before his death.  I found it heroic that Lewis pledged to honor his friend Martin Luther King’s devotion to non-violence – resulting in many beatings and concussions, but no regrets.  In fact, he continued to be known as “The Boy from Troy” the nickname King gave Lewis at their first meeting in 1958 in Montgomery.  The celebrations for Lewis have continued for several days, and will end with his funeral on Thursday, July 30th.  I will always remember the hymn “Amazing Grace” echoing in the U.S Congress Building at a special televised memorial ceremony this week.  It summed up his grace and courage.

For more on the life of John Lewis, you can read a tribute in the Detroit Free Press –  https://www.freep.com/story/news/nation/2020/07/26/civil-rights-icon-john-lewis-remembered-his-passion-leadership/5477561002/

Farewell to Alabama columnist, reporter Rick Watson

I am sadly trying to accept that my Alabama friend Rick Watson is truly gone. I learned about his passing in a facebook announcement from his wife Jilda – also a dear friend.  Among many other hats, Rick was a columnist and reporter for the Daily Mountain Eagle, a newspaper in Jasper, Al.  Rick and Jilda also had a 12 acre farm that through his writings became “the Walden of Walker County.”  Rick and Jilda were also talented musical entertainers and recorded albums together, strumming their guitars and singing glorious harmonies.


I will never forget this couple’s devotion to each other and to my late husband, Tim Robinson.  Rick and Tim went to the same high school and while different ages, they became great friends. It lasted a lifetime.  After Tim’s sudden death in 2003, my bondage with Rick and Jilda only grew tighter.  They supported me and Tim’s family in starting a yearly Forum for Tim at Samford University and Rick always covered the event. I hope you will read some of Rick’s columns and stories, which are archived and can be searched at mountaineagle.com. I had called Tim’s sister Terah Sherer to find out if his obituary had appeared yet – I was able to read it online on July 16.  His obit can be searched at mountaineagle.com/obituaries.  And finally Rick’s blog is at http://www.rickwatson-writer.com.


I will miss you, dear friend!

Media Now a Target for Violence

George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer who held his knee on the handcuffed black prisoner’s neck as he pleaded for air – “I can’t breathe” –  has resulted in nationwide demonstrations for several days so far.

For me, it was yet again a revival of the emotions originally raised after the 1967 Detroit riots, ignited by an early morning police raid on an after-hours club that exploded into a deadly riot near my college, Wayne State University.  The second time a riot against police actions was especially personal occurred when I was attending Graduate School in 1992, at USC’s Annenberg School for Communications. The campus was shut down as rioting exploded near campus after the police trial and acquittal for the beating of Rodney King.   Each time the violence spiraled into flames across the country in a way that feels eerily similar. But one thing is different – this time the media have also been the targets of the police.

I hope the government in Minneapolis is able to hold the officers accountable this time for an abuse of force on Floyd and on protesters.  And I hope a dialogue will also expand on why the media also became the target of the police at a riot scene.   As a journalist in various stages of my career, I am appalled at this new development and I am ready to battle any attempts to further target journalists doing their job, especially in dangerous situations.


TV Gold to Lift the Spirits

During the pandemic I found two new shows that helped kept my spirits up during the turbulent spring weather that often kept me locked inside.  The first I discovered was a special 20th anniversary edition of “Who Wants to be A Millionaire” hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the late night talk show host. Kimmel gleefully asks the questions and jokes with celebrity contestants, with  winnings going to the charity of their choice.

I’ve seen two shows with Eric Stonestreet and Nikki Glaser so far – and it reminded me of the original with Regis Philbin, which I used to watch for awhile in California when it originally launched in the mid-90s.  It is not scheduled to run much longer, but in a statement Kimmel said Philbin “came to him in a dream” and asked him to do the show with the promise of his own necktie collection.  “I had little choice but to say yes,” Kimmel told the media. I’m glad he did. Check ABC for local broadcasts in May.

The second series that lifted my spirits was “The Last Dance,” a documentary on the legendary Chicago Bulls basketball star, Michael Jordan.
The 10-part series was initially scheduled to air in June during the NBA Finals, but ESPN moved up its release after fans begged for it on social media amid the cancellation of the rest of the NBA season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Those fans, all of them hungry for substantive athlete-focused entertainment and some of them basketball legends themselves, were very satisfied, according to NBC.  I was too!

The Network writes that “The Last Dance” is partially a product of film dating back to 1997, when Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and head coach Phil Jackson agreed to let an NBA Entertainment film crew follow the team for the season. It features archival footage of the entire span of Jordan’s youth and college career, alongside new interviews with his former teammates, high school and college coaches and former President Barack Obama, whose start in politics in Chicago overlapped with Jordan’s time with the Bulls.

For a few years in the ’90s I worked closely with a Chicago news broadcaster who had moved with her husband to California and continued following her hometown team, introducing me to the power of Jordan’s dominance in basketball. I will never forget it – thanks Sydney Weisman and David Hamlin.  Check ESPN for future listings on May 10 and 17.

I recommend that lovers of great game shows or historic basketball documentaries tune in to both shows this month – it’s a special treat about to disappear!

Meditating During the Pandemic

I discovered meditation in my 20s and it helped me deal with the immense grief and guilt after my father’s death and focus again on creating joy.   During the pandemic, I am so glad that I chose to use the time sheltering at home to sign up for Laughter Meditation for Manifestation.

At the time my creativity was blocked by health issues arising from my hospice work at a nursing home and the resulting grief and complications from severe pneumonia when my relative died.   During the pandemic, I relied on the meditation and constant work online with my coach Pragito Dove and other students to create the joy and faith that made the isolation less formidable.

My contact with family was limited and so I concentrated on manifesting the creativity to continue the work I had almost completed a book proposal about my work in hospice.  That three week meditation set my purpose and now a second three week program called on How to Thrive when Life isn’t going Your Way is finally resulting in a rough draft of the long-stalled writing in my heart.

It is so good to know that even pandemics can’t stop us when we opt for joy and optimism in dangerous times.