Turnip Trust





It was a big step for me last weekend to open and warm up a can of Kroger Chopped Turnip Greens With Diced White Turnips. You see, my daughter and I gave away most of my deceased son’s belongings last December when we sorted through them in the state where he lived when he was alive. However, one thing I couldn’t part with was his cans of food. Looking back, our 600-mile return “food drive” home likely symbolized my desire to continue to sustain him. After all, aren’t moms the first to sustain their babies?

Needless to say, I have stored some 12 cans in my garage since that time. Last weekend, I baked chicken and didn’t have a fresh side vegetable. I made a can run. Staring at the can, you’d think pieces of my red heart were chopped in with the green and white turnips. I realized that if I prolonged the task, I’d pass the expiration date. Everything has an expiration date. A limited shelf life, my ex-husband called it.

I beelined it for the kitchen and click! The can opener sliced through the lid quickly. No time to overthink it! I did not spoil our festive dinner feast and mention the turnip green story and what it symbolized. In a purely secular sense, it tasted good.

Later that night while I was on the internet, I discovered an aerial photo of sand inscribed with the following statement: “I decided to stay behind.”

I’ve learned through this grieving process that when a mom loses a son or daughter it is common for her to yearn to follow their child. I will attest to the fact that survivor’s guilt feels like a four-season sunburn under your skin that is painful whether you touch it or not. To top this excruciating state off, I have also discovered that being torn between two worlds, limbo is torture too.

Not to mention, Who abandoned who? That agonizing question impinges on every piece of fabric on my body, mind and soul that, against all odds, escapes from anguish. The kind of anguish that turns you into a state of pulp as you grin and bear life in your new detached normal life, mastering fake smiles like tying your sneakers.


As much as I wanted to hold onto that can of turnip greens, I chose to relinquish control of the chopped greens as well as my shredded heart.

Nourishment along with other things, though, helped me survive another weekend. Maybe in the coming days, weeks I can open the can of corn next and in my mind have the faith that my son is okay with the idea that “I decided to stay behind.” At least for now. And that’s what faith does, strings you along and sustains you, so you can open a can and have the next meal and simply pause, stay. Trail behind just a little longer.


Faith Muscle


Pink Elephants

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.  The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific, and religious freedom have always been nonconformists.  In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist!” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King


Over 20 years ago, as an “art in a cart” lesson volunteer, I tried to teach first-graders to draw pink elephants, but failed. By first grade, I realized these children couldn’t think beyond gray elephants and resisted coloring them in any other hue.

Don’t get me wrong, gray elephants have merit, but with an abundant palette, why not risk using an “unconventional” color?

As a writer and appreciator of art and culture, I have a penchant for asking the “Whys.” As a matter of fact, I was expelled for a day from sixth grade for “asking too many questions.”

Most people, myself included, are conformists who work in the framework of norms and respective boundaries. As I’ve grown older, I aim to find the courage to target the time when it is necessary to speak out, not freak out and act out disrespectfully and become the disciplined non-conformist.

Rep. John Robert Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and civil rights leader, who died last week is a prime example of a disciplined non-conformist. May he rest in peace and may we live up to his legacy.

My daughter illustrated another perfect example of a disciplined nonconformist. She was traveling in the Pennsylvania back roads and she spotted a sole white male holding a “Back Lives Matter” sign. He soldiered alone in his mission and, perhaps, in this particular area, risked his life doing so.

I put my faith in people with guts. People who are typically lone, unique voices.

This command not to conform comes not only from Paul but also from our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, the world’s most dedicated nonconformist, whose ethical nonconformity still challenges the conscience of mankind.

Everywhere and at all times, the love ethic of Jesus is a radiant light revealing the ugliness of our stale conformity.

In spite of this imperative demand to live differently, we have cultivated a mass mind and have moved from the extreme of rugged individualism to the even greater extreme of rugged collectivism.  We are not makers of history; we are made by history. ~

~ Excerpt from Rev. Dr. King from one of his sermons preached in November 1954 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

Here is another one of my favorite quotes from that sermon: “Or to change the figure, most people, and Christians in particular, are thermometers that record or register the temperature of majority opinion, not thermostats that transform and regulate the temperature of society.

Everyday for nearly 36 years, I’ve been grateful to consistently aim to live my life on a spiritual plane. I work very actively for this ambition through tools I’ve learned in the 12-Step Community. Basically, the first nine steps are known are ego-deflation steps. After we work the first nine and begin to shed our egos, life in the spirit begins (Steps 10, 11 and 12).

Here’s the benefit of living life in the spirit. You don’t HAVE to look like a paper doll in the chain. You don’t have to buy anyone’s faulty bag of judgmental goods. You have your own timeline. And you get to be straight, gay, trans, polka-dotted, black, white or absolutely no gender, race or religion, if it feels as natural as the finger pads on your hands feel. You are free to be who YOU are because you are free from the bondage of self (and the bondage of society). You are free from the Ego. In other words, YOU are free to draw pink elephants and like them even when the herd poo-poos them.



Better yet, toss a few purple elephants into the mix and as you are mocked and feel mortified, realize you are on the trailblazing journey of setting the world on fire, and that’s what having faith is all about.



Faith Muscle

Alien Bird

phoenix-1301889_1920Nearly 20 years ago, when we first moved into the house I live in now, I was awakened at the crack of dawn by a succession of mysterious flat-line whistles. I realized it was a bird.

From that day, whenever I heard the visitor outside my window, I exclaimed, “Alien Bird!” to my two young children.

We never thought of the bird until it appeared in the spring and summertime. The bird’s call signaled us to freeze, stop and listen. I associated the strange hum-like sound with joy and bit into it like a bittersweet fruit that marked each season’s passage as I witnessed my two young children grow into adolescents and, finally, young adults.

Interestingly, about five years ago, when each of my children relocated to start their own adult lives,  Alien Bird disappeared, and I did not notice.

This past spring, “Alien Bird!”

For the first time at 11:30 a.m. on a Monday morning, I heard each note clear and distinct.

“Mar-shall-llll! Mar-shall-llll!”

I heard it cry out my 26-year-old son’s name who passed last fall.

The call pulled at the fragments left of my heart. I pushed the grief down, but like a buoy, the painful memory resurfaced to salt my wounds. For weeks, I padded my ears with the palms of my hands and fought not to hear the triggers that amounted to a series of terrifying electrical currents, probably something akin to what death row prisoners experienced while being executed on the electric chair.

Then one day, Alien Bird made me recall, how, when my son was young, he would never respond when I first called him, “Marshall!”

It wasn’t until the second, third or fourth time, and he would finally stop what he was doing to respond. “Yea-hhhhh.”

I would feel so frustrated. “You never answer when I call you!”

In hindsight, he did answer when I called — with delay.

Now, he does not answer.

“Mar-shall-llll! Mar-shall-llll!”

When he was alive, my son was a painfully quiet young man, who internalized everything. He had no voice. In adolescence, he was bullied and took cover best he could.

One day he said to me very intensely, “I will never be famous.”

From that moment on, he knew his life did not matter. He did not receive the worldly acceptance and accolades that I suppose on some level we all seek. He sought desperately for society’s conditional love without avail. Defeated, he fell further and further inward.

In a way, Marshall was born an alien bird who had arrived in a world where he did not belong. Today, I am building my faith stairway to reach the belief that my son has earned a custom-made seat reserved with his name inscribed on it. He has all the attention and fame possible, wrapped in a blanket of unconditional love. His toil to achieve and excel and perform has taken a final bow.

In life, he was faceless. Now, in death that dang Alien Bird shouts his name everywhere.

Lately, I eagerly await Alien Bird’s 11:30 a.m. showtime.

“Mar-shall-llll! Mar-shall-llll!”

And, when I hear it, I say in my mind, “Sing it loud! Sing it clear! Belt out your unique song to the world without changing anything. Let everyone, far and wide, hear you. Don’t hold back. And, maybe, just may, it will wake up this tainted world with all it’s judgments, restrictions, constrictions, exclusions and lack of thought and imagination, to hear, listen and accept a voice so very unlike any voice — untrained, only natural and beautiful on it own accord. Sing it high to the heavens.

One-two. One-two.

“Mar-shall-llll! Mar-shall-llll!”

Sing it loud! Sing it free!


Faith Muscle

Those People, Go I *

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

“God, help them get through the day!”

I always prayed for “those” people. Sometimes those were the people making headline news. Other times they were acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors or friends struck by tragedies, such as out-of-order death, sudden, unexpected death and other hardships.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly had my share of my own personal hardships and sorrows. But I must say, everything pales to my 26-year-old son’s untimely death. That was the moment when I became a full-fledged group member of one of “those” people. In fact, I know the exact moment I realized that I had crossed over to the “those” people group. It was about a week after losing my son. I was driving down our road with my daughter in the car, and I waved at my neighbor. She’s the one with healthy young sons, husband, who has a permanent grin on his face, and two sets of geraniums on the porch that never wilt from under or over-watering. Anyway, for nearly two decades, I’ve waved to her countless times and this time she scared the bejesus out of me. Body shuddering, her eyes bulged out at me and her mouth gaped opened with fear she could not voice.

My first thought was, “Is she alright?”

Both my daughter and I turned to each other, asking, “Is she alright?”

Suddenly, I experienced the light bulb moment. My neighbor’s life has remained Copasetic. On the other hand, I had now become the mother whom every mother feared to become. I was one of “those” mothers who had experienced the unimaginable, which IS imaginable, but too painful to deal with so it’s wise to avoid pain and conveniently file the experience into the unimaginable category and, thereby, deny its existence.

So, I’m one of those people in the other group. This is my new place now. I’m learning to sit back and let it all in, because what choice do I have? Wasted fix-it prayers poured on un-fixable things? It’s like when you survive a house fire, no amount of prayer will salvage your belongings from ash.

My goal now is to be fully present without intent to preach, teach, judge or fix myself or any of the “others” with prayer or in any other way. It’s a tall order, but all it takes is a smidgen of faith.

* This post was inspired by my dear friend Michelle Falcone. I am forever grateful for her friendship, compassion and her angel wings that have lifted me up for many years.


Faith Muscle