Posted in Personal Journal Blog, writing

#GetThePlasticOuttaHere!

When a lot of us came back from evacuation following hurricane Irma, we found that our yards were filled with knocked-over trees, brush, and branches everywhere! Some neighborhoods were flooded, people had lost their homes completely, electricity was out, telephone lines were down; it was a real mess. The Naples water table had been contaminated and our water was not potable. A lot of people had stocked up on plastic bottles or jugs of water while preparing for the hurricane’s arrival.

I remember growing up in Naples during hurricane season and one of the things that my mom used to do when a hurricane was coming was sterilize and scrub out the bathtub. She would fill it with water in case we needed it for the toilet, whenever we needed to flush it. We never ended up using the water in the tub but it was a precaution in case our water supply was cut off as a result of the storm. If you’ve never been in Florida or any of the southern states for that matter, during hurricane season then you might not be familiar with hurricane preparedness. Getting ready for a hurricane here is similar to getting ready for a blizzard or a snowstorm up north. However, in Florida, we board up our windows or pull down or hurricane shutters, instead of putting chains on our car tires.

People run out to the store and buy canned food, water, and maybe charcoal for the grill. When I was a child, we used to buy little tins of butane for chafing dishes or fondue pots and oil for our oil lamps. Yes, seriously, we had oil lamps; they were made out of clear glass with a fabric wick, and the oil was golden yellow or pink sometimes. I don’t even know if anybody has those anymore. To this day, we fill our cars and propane bottles with gas and buy flashlights, tons of batteries, and first aid kits. Those who can afford it purchase nice new shiny generators that run off fossil fuel and can power an electric air conditioning unit, if you have one handy. This is super practical and brilliant. I wish we would’ve thought of that before Irma hit.

You see, hurricane season is during the hottest months of the year here in Florida (August, September, and October). Naples is down at the bottom of the state. It’s damp, hot, muggy, and sticky, and there is no going outside to cool off when there’s no electricity. We have mosquitoes by the millions, more little bloodsucking insects than people.

We get hurricane days off school in Florida the same way kids have snow days up north. I looked forward to those as a youngster, what school-aged child and teacher or two didn’t? We would prepare the house while listening to the radio and watch the news waiting for the meteorologist from the Florida Hurricane Center in Miami to come on. I would check outside periodically to see how the sky looked. Yes, that’s right, we would check to see if the sky was turning a gray-green hue because sometimes this indicates a tornado being close by. We kept our eye out for funnel clouds, and if there was an announcement that there was a tornado in our area, we had to take shelter. We would take our battery-powered radio into the tub with many pillows and wait for the announcement that it was all clear to come out. We didn’t have the weather channel. We didn’t have a weather app or read weather radars on our phones. I’m talking about when we didn’t have computers in our homes in the 70s and 80s. We used to get updates on the hurricane’s speed and position every half hour through a “special bulletin” either on the television or again on the radio if the tv wasn’t working. I would sit underneath the dining room table with my pillow and blanket in a central part of our house, far away from any windows that could shatter. Anxiously I would listen for the coordinates announced by the broadcaster and plot them on the little hurricane map in the back of the Florida phonebook!! Does anyone else remember that? Please don’t tell me I was the only person nerdy enough to sit there with my marker, all through the night plotting the course of our impending doom as some wild as hurricane approached us? It was scary and exciting at the same time.

When the eye of the storm approached, it was silent and still. We would go outside to secure things. I always felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, emerging cautiously from her farmhouse after flying through the black and white sky and landing with a massive bump on top of the wicked witch of the East. I was so disappointed when I got out the door to find that I wasn’t going to be greeted by a bunch of cheery, singing munchkins offering me loads of candy and gifts. No, it was those pesky mosquitoes and loads of branches and palm fronds. Those were the days, young innocent, naïve, and thinking that the event of a hurricane was exciting and fun.

Anyway, back to the reason I started this story, during Irma, which was in 2017. We didn’t have any water at the house, but my husband had a stockpile of it at work!! I was so thankful and went with him to pick some up. I don’t know what I thought he had on hand in the shop, but it was not what I had expected. It was a mountain of individual PLASTIC BOTTLES, WRAPPED IN PLASTIC!!! As a stared at the heap of water, a movie reel of world disaster playing through my mind, and I pictured a little atomic mushroom cloud exploding over my head! I said, “man, I don’t want that!” Paul replied, “well, what else are you going to drink? Where are you going to get water”? Stuck between a spring rock and a plastic hard place, I hated to take it to the house but had no choice.

Months after Irma had left her mark on our state, there were still plastic bottles of water floating around our home and in the refrigerator. I kept seeing them laying half-drunk all over the place. Why were my family members still drinking or just opening these??!! What happened to glasses and the filtered water from the fridge? I said, that’s it! #gettheplasticouttahere!

Knowing that plastic takes up to 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill and enough plastic is thrown away every year to circle the earth four times, I had decided to wage war on plastic water bottles. It’s a war that will be hard-won if at all. We have left a mammoth size carbon footprint stamped across Mother Earth’s heart and the repeated blows are taking her down. I’m pretty sure my husband and children think I’m over the top about this but I know I’m not. You see there will continue to be hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods; more than ever before because we are making our planet sick. The intensity of the storms we will weather will get stronger and stronger until mother earth just totally loses her s**t.

I see the rich spending trillions and trillions of dollars building rockets to send us to make homes on Mars, a place where there’s no breathable air for human beings. And I wonder, “why are people trying to find a way off of our planet with their money, instead of spending their money to come up with ways to fix our problems here, on earth where we belong? It doesn’t make sense to me. I have always believed that the only way to fix a problem is to work through it, not go around it or, in this case, Rocket Off into space away from it. I take the matter of caring for mother earth very seriously because I want my children and grandchildren to live long, healthy, happy lives. I want them to grow and thrive and discover the beauty in this world that we have and still have the ability to share with others. We need to change yesterday, decades ago. We can’t evacuate from the earth like we’re evacuating from a hurricane. We’re past the preparedness stage, and the reality is, unlike the beloved character Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we are not going to be able to click our heels three times say the words “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home” and magically return to the place we once loved and the people we shared it with. The storm is coming, and there will be no pulling down shutters on this one.

AUTHORS NOTE: We can change the ending of this story. The only requirement for a happy ending is that EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US CHANGE OUR WAYS, today, right this minute.

Posted in writing

FATISM

I have always noticed clear discrimination between skinny or athletic people and overweight/fat people. I am built like my mom was. Voluptuous, curvy, buxom, whatever you want to call it, I’m it!! I watched my mom my whole life struggle with her weight. She went to the gym; she tried every diet anyone could ever be on. She read countless books and fasted; she did it all. For short periods she would have unsustainable success. She would look thinner, but not ever skinny, for about six months, and then the weight would come back, and the battle would begin again. It was hard to watch her as she struggled with her emotions over feeling unloved because of her size.

Carole Sue was a beautiful woman, yet her self-esteem was shattered. She had the glamor of Elizabeth Taylor, with striking brown eyes that had a light blue ring around them and a smile that would light up a room and, oh my God, her laugh! That amazing jolly joyful laugh was infectious. She was strong and worked hard. She did have her demons, though, drowning her pain of abandonment with wine or Manhattans and focusing on her battle with the bulge. She always dressed stylishly even though plus-size clothes had not always been readily available until recently. Now fashion has begun to truely embrace the human body’s diversity and is slightly sympathetic to the fact that not all women’s dress sizes run between a 2 and 12. (Sometimes 14 in the less discriminating designer stores).

My mom told me that sometimes she thought she was unloveable because of her size. That’s sad! She said men always said to her that she had a beautiful face and nice legs. She thought they were saying that because they found the parts in between undesirable. When she died, I felt relief for her as she lay in the hospital bed. She looked peaceful, light, and free from her uncomfortable body. But, this story isn’t about my mom. I’m simply saying I get it, and I have experienced the same fat-a-phobia as she and other voluptuous women have.

As defined by Merriam Webster, it’s called: “fatism noun fat·ism | \ ˈfat-ˌi-zəm Definition of fatism: prejudice or discrimination against fat people.”

I used to be insecure about it and, at one period in my life, struggled with anorexia (a story for another time). Now I am secure and just keenly aware. Coping with a large body size takes up a lot of headspace. You feel it when you move, when you’re out in public, when you meet someone athletic or just plain skinny. You feel it even when your shopping for an outfit to “knock em dead” in. It weighs heavy on your mind. Yes, that was a pun. And darn it, I know it’s not punny.

I love the moment in Pitch Perfect when Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) Is asked about her name,

I get it. I can relate. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve said it too. I’ve felt it and heard it. I also point out my imperfections before anyone else can.

I’m stunned at how shallow some people are sometimes. One evening a mother, of our middle daughter’s friend, came to pick up her child, and I invited her in for a glass of wine. She was a small, attractive, tennis-playing woman who hung with the gossip moms of Naples. There is definitely a defined group, trust me. They know who they are, and I’m pretty sure I’m not a member of said group. Anyway, I tried to develop a relationship with her because our two girls were so close. She sat at my kitchen table while I cooked, with a glass of wine in hand, and began to spout out the local goss. She told me about a mom she knew who was going through a divorce. She said, “she is really nice, but she is overweight, kind of fat.” This was not the first time she’d made comments like this to me. I thought, what the fuck does that have to do with ANYTHING?! Was she insinuating that this was the reason her husband was dumping her? Then she said, “she’s a kind of large woman, but I’m friends with her.” My jaw dropped. I am 5’7” and 224 lbs. what about me? Why is she sitting in my kitchen? I’m a large woman!! I must be really nice?! I’m not a violent person, but I suddenly went red. In my mind, I went full Yosemite Sam from Loony Tunes on her ass. I wanted to punch her little tennis skirt-wearing body through the kitchen wall and certainly didn’t want to share my wine with her!! I could reverse it “she’s a tiny woman, kind of skinny,” but I wouldn’t be adding that she was a nice person. Yeah, switching it doesn’t quite have the same sting. I am afraid I could only say she was an ignorant, shallow woman. And that was the end of that friendship endeavor. WOW!! What the heck!! I fed her and kept smiling. I shooed her out the door the minute she took her last sip of wine and breathed a sigh of relief that she was gone.

Fat, fat, fat, fat. Man, the word echoes in my ears. The first time I ever felt conscious of this state of being was when I was at my sister Robin’s wedding. It was around 1977. She was 18, and we were out on her husband’s family farm having a field wedding. At the reception, I sat on my oldest brother’s lap, happily eating a big spoon full of icing off of the wedding cake. I was blissfully unaware of what was about to happen. My brother said, “you know you’re getting pretty fat.” I don’t remember what I said but I remember him slapping the spoonful of icing out of my hand. He looked so angry. I felt so stupid, ashamed for eating that horrible treat and being happy about it. I ran into the house crying and had no idea that this would be the first of many times I would feel this shame and sadness over my body or relationship with food.

We moved to Florida right after the wedding. My mom and I drove there from Ohio. It was a lonely time. I felt like my whole family was gone. Robin was married and gone; I’m not sure where Tami was; Bobby stayed in Ohio with my dad and, well, my Dad, yeah he was well and truly gone. It was clear I was not a priority for him. He had someone new to love, and it wasn’t us. Florida was hot, and I didn’t have any friends. I played a lot with my niece Shawn who is 5 yrs younger than me, but I always felt anxious being at her house with my older brother. Yes, the spoon of icing slapping brother, a real peach. He drank a lot. My mom had to work, and she was trying to find her way in this new environment.

Our TV became my friend. It was cool inside on the couch, and my new friend talked to me, made me smile, and took me away from the new life we had. I was a couch potato, eating frozen pizza, hotdogs with cheese melted on them, candy that I rode my bike to 7-11 to get, and any snack food that was lying around. I was like any other kid who liked to snack and watch TV. It didn’t have a good effect on me, though. I was at that age between 10 and 12, where you gain a bit before you reach puberty, and I was; as a result, a chubby girl, just as my brother had said. My mom struggled to find me clothes that fit at Sears, Kmart, and sometimes Goodwill. I wished I could squeeze into the thin girl sizes. But they never quite fit my shape. When I got to Gulfview Middle School, I wanted so badly to wear Levi corduroys, Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, or Jordache jeans as all the popular girls did, but they weren’t in our budget, and they didn’t fit me. Every young girl wanted to look like Brooke Shields in her jeans on the pages of Teen Magazine or extensive billboard campaigns, just teasing us with the flirtatious line: “Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

A critical moment that scarred me was when a couple of football-playing boys in middle school called me p-p-p-porky repeatedly. I was ashamed again. I felt ugly and less than the skinny girls. Anyone would. Enough was going on at home that made me feel bad without having to deal with this too. I had found my singing voice by this time, and the band and choir teachers made me their pet project. They allowed me to use the practice rooms during lunch, and there I would sit quietly, alone at the piano keyboard, and eat my liver worst with mustard (not the most popular kids lunch) or PB&J sandwich. I was scared of the world inside the lunchroom and even more afraid of the courtyard where everyone gossiped or played when they were done eating.

At one point, I had made a friend, a good friend. She, too, was a chubby, loving girl. She talked me into eating with her and her friends in the lunchroom, and I did. It was so exciting having this newfound confidence and the feeling of belonging to her friend group. She had one friend, in particular, Renee, who was a small girl, shy and soft-spoken. These two girls made me feel like I belonged for the first time. And then one day, my pudgy fellow friend didn’t come to school. Renee showed up, distressed, quiet, and without her sidekick. She was hurting inside because Jurine had tragically died. She had been sitting on the easement grass near her house playing, and a drunk man ran her over. It was a hit and run. They say he didn’t stop because he thought he had hit trash cans. Our friend was dead, and our hearts were so heavy. I couldn’t cope with the loss and talked less and less to Renee. I went back to the practice rooms. Music teachers and music remained my friends. I ate my food there in peace and didn’t feel ashamed because there was no one to mock or judge me. I didn’t mention this to anyone at home.

I have told my girls about this sad and shame-filled time in my life. I told them a story about some football players sticking me on top of the school lockers, just outside the gym. The buses were lining up on the backfield loop, and everyone was leaving. I didn’t have a bus to catch because I could walk home. We lived on 7th street near the school in apartments that NCH owned. If you were an employee there, you could live in the apartments with a discounted monthly rent. My mom was a bookkeeper at NCH, so we qualified. Anyway, I remember making light of being put on top of the lockers to minimize the shame, but I honestly was afraid to climb down. It seemed so high off the ground. I lay up there helpless as kids walked by laughing on their way off Campus. The halls emptied. It got quiet and time ticked by. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so I couldn’t send a text to my mom or sisters saying, “Hey! I’m at the school stuck on top of a locker; save me!!! No, I just laid there and looked at the ceiling in defeat. P-p-p-porky played over and over in my ears. And then I heard a voice. Coach Stevenson was locking up the gym. He lived in our apartment building. I thought, miracle of all miracles!!! He said, “Hey, who is that on top of that locker? Climb down from there”! I said, “it’s me, coach, Jeri Moore, I’m stuck”! He couldn’t believe his eyes and seemed pretty compassionate as I told him my story while he helped me down. I rode with him to our apartment building. I knew his girls; they were my age. He seemed to be a good dad, and he had just recently divorced. He had struggles too. I knew this because I heard those good old gossipy Naples moms talking. My mom would be getting off work soon, and I just wanted to get home.

I wouldn’t say I liked school. And for the years after my dad had left, home felt like shaky ground. Nothing was secure, people’s emotions and actions felt unpredictable, and there were times I didn’t feel safe there either. But the TV would always have the same shows at the same time each day and night, and even if no one came home, I could count on my favorite TV friends to be there, along with the frozen pizza or hot dogs from the fridge. They were always there to give me a feeling of comfort and warmth. I would settle in and skip my homework. In fact, for many years, I didn’t even bring my school books home. I felt it didn’t matter if I got bad or good grades. My sister Tami was the only person who asked about my report card anyway. She’s the only one who would scold me about my grades and make me question my ability to learn or have common sense. Besides that, it was pretty safe to say I could settle In front of the TV, and there would be no threat of being pulled out of my safe, comfortable world of imagination (unless I had a voice lesson or performance). Everyone had their own lives to concentrate on.

In the fall of 2017-2018, our youngest girl, Zoë started 6th grade at Gulfview. She was so excited to be attending her mom’s school. On the night of the open house, she had so many cool things to show me, but there was one crucial thing that she wanted to share. Remembering my story about being put on top of the lockers there, she pulled me to the hallway where her locker was and said, “Mum, look, they made the tops of the lockers slanted so no one can put anything on top of them.” I said, “that is wonderful, Zoë.,” She replied, “don’t you remember what happened to you”? Of course, I remember it. Tiny scars fade, but they rarely, completely disappear and are forgotten. Then she said, “yes, well I guess they can’t do that anymore.” In her mind, it was a small victory. I am sure there were several reasons for putting a slant on top of the lockers. To us this an excellent feature to add. I remember those days and those kids and and have forgiven them. I even look back and chuckle to myself about how stupid it all was, yet i still feel a slight hint of sadness for that awkward middle school girl.

Written by Jeri Moore Brunton

Me in 8th grade at Gulfview Middle School
Posted in writing

Paper Vs. Digital Journals

Experience and Opinion

I always struggle with whether I should write my deepest darkest secrets, desires, and memories on paper or digitally. Let us consider the pros and cons of both options. When writing digitally, I can write as quickly as my thoughts process, and it flows like the spoken word. Digital journals can be loaded to the cloud and will not get lost in the shuffle. If you have had a life anything like mine, eventually, after years of writing, it feels like you are toting your library around the world. This can be a heavy job.

Fun fact, I am left-handed. No, the rumors of left-handed people are not valid. We do not write with the hand of the devil, and we are not possessed. Most left-handed people are right-brained, and some say, “the only ones in our right minds!” When writing digitally, I can write freely and cleanly, which is hard to achieve on paper as a lefty. I turn my journal cockeyed, hold my pencil in a fist hold, curl my hand above the writing line and pull my pen across the paper, trying as hard as I can not to smudge the ink or get oil from my palm on the page. When my pen hits the oil slick from my greasy little mitt, my pen stops working. This interrupts my flow of thought. My cockeyed handwriting and smudge paper problems are probably the number one reason I prefer digital journal writing over paper journaling. Typing my thoughts out is much less painful than writing them out, especially on those days when I have a lot to say. If you have ever experienced writer’s cramp, you will understand what I mean. That feeling when your hand muscles get fatigued from the repetitive motion of writing, pressing down on the paper, and for me, having a death grip on the pen! A digital journal will also allow for quickly placing photos in a story. Adding a visual makes your publication a bit more interesting and will give others a glimpse of the memories you are working so hard to preserve.

I think it is clear so far that I lean positively towards digital journal writing over paper journaling. But what about those fancy paper journals that are so fun to collect?! I admit that I have spent a pretty penny on beautiful journals over the years, stacks of books that I plan to fill with all my dreams, desires, secrets, angst, joy, and personal history. My journal is my therapy and is a safe place to blow off steam. It is also my preserved thoughts that I have intended to leave behind for my family when I am departed from this earth, assuming they want to read what I had to say.

I am a sucker for a pretty journal. I walk into a stationery shop or bookstore and make a beeline for the journal section. Oh, the fabulous covers, some with prints by classic artists, flashy fonts, affirmations, quotes from the great authors and poets who inspire me, words of hope intended to help lift you and get you through the day. Oh, and how about those engraved leather covers that feel like butter to the touch?! Oh, the smell of a fresh new journal. The warm earthy aroma as I flip through each crisp virginal page unspoiled by the touch of anyone else but me. The sensory joy that comes from using a paper journal goes far beyond the look and smell. Think of all the coloring you can do in it! If you are a creative person, then paper journals are not just a place to pen your most extraordinary thoughts. They are also a place where you can insert some artistic flare.

Now I’ll point out where paper journaling surpasses the digital journal. You can create either a “doodling journal,” or for those who use the left and right sides of your brain, are uber-organized and like to categorize your thoughts, you can create a “bullet point journal”! The “bullet point journal” is about more than making pretty penned headers with hand-drawn artistic fonts. No, the bullet point journal is about total thought organization. You tell your story as you go through the day, take meeting notes, keep track of important dates, create cute little calendars and fill each page with colors and fun decorative doodles. There are even journals shared between you and someone else. The latest shared journal I have come across and love is the “You and Me” or “Two-Person” journal. My teen and I shared one of these. She would write down her pubescent middle school struggles and fears, which would be too awkward to talk about face to face, leave it on my dresser at night, and I would write my thoughts, concerns, personal experience and advice, and hopes when it was my turn. Then in the morning, I would leave it in her bedside table drawer. This shared journal was an anonymous way of helping her navigate the wild jungle of crazy teen brain, pimples, sex topics, and smelly friends. Now that is something not as easily done digitally. The physical act of passing the journal made it feel we were members of a secret club all our own.

To wrap up, I’d say that there are pros and cons to both types of journals. Coming to this conclusion means that I will continue to tote my personal library of journals around the world with me, and my phone will be in hand for any lengthy brain dumps.”

Posted in musicians, writing

It’s Not Just A Song

When I listen to music, it sparks me. I feel a range of emotions that sometimes overwhelm me. It’s not just the tune or the lyrics, but sometimes it’s the artists, the fact that they made it. I wonder, what sets me apart from them? I look at the career i had and think of the “what if’s,” and dig deep to find what’s left in me. I get up and sing, memorize and internalize the words. I sing them loud and make them mine. I want to be heard! I want a voice, their words, their perfection, their power of fame. I have the need to stand for something greater than what I am right this moment. I want to be seen and my feelings, dreams, and beliefs to be considered.

I am driven to share my story, to connect the way the artists I’m listening to are. They pull me in. I bend my mind and ride the melody on a wave that changes with every song that plays on my HomePod. When I listen to music, it inspires me to write, dream, live and soar. I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to be adored, to be carried away on a sea of cheering voices, singing the words that came from my mind back towards me—visualizing the future only to sadly arrive to silence.

I don’t just put on a song and relax; I can’t. It has never been that for me. Listening to music is a reminder of every dream and aspiration my mother, family, and teachers ever had for me, for my future and their future. It stirs up where I’ve been, where I was headed, which way I turned, and where I am now. Music is in my blood, a blessing and a curse that I wish I could cut from my soul at times. It is an eternal desire for greatness and a blow of crushing defeat. Sometimes it takes me soaring as high as the sun and other times drops me to rock bottom regret. My melody, always bright enough to propel me to the stars; Only to fall short and flash across the sky, making one last wish on its dimming flicker.

It’s not just a song on a Saturday morning as I sip a cup of coffee or ride in my car. My car, the one place I still crank it up, could drive for days and sing thousands of songs, one after another, breathlessly, endlessly, numbingly baring my soul. The music moves and simultaneously grounds me, glueing me to a single moment. It sends me flowing backward and forward in time and, with a single note, can set my life flashing before my eyes. It is rebirth, heartbreak, joy, love and delight, death, praise, and worship. Music is so much, wrapped up in one single simple pattern of rectangular bars, little black notes, dots, and sticks floating over a white page or just spinning in my brain.

When I listen to music, I see a snapshot of every moment that coincides with the particular lyric I am listening to. My life rises and falls with the melody. When I listen to music, it is more than just a sound; it is the fiber of my being that no one else will ever experience or understand because their not me. My memories shape the unique way I hear, sing, feel, remember, see and understand music. Music has asked a lot of me and also given me so much. It has scared me, freed me, made me wild, disciplined, and moved me. It has taken me not just emotionally but physically from state to state and country to country. It has introduced me to the loves in my life and taken me away from them. Taunted me until I’d spill my secrets or to bend the truth to tell my story. When I listen to a song, I hear the sound, and I brace myself as the waves of audible art surge over me in its power, and it penetrates me. In wonder, I’m transported. In all honesty, when I listen to music, it’s not just the tune, the lyrics, or the Artist; it’s everything.