Wednesday, December 29, 2021



I’ve been given a gift.

Every day, for the last thirty-four years, I’ve been given a tree-like blessing, which changes and grows, in season. Like a tree, it produces more than it consumes. It’s lovely. It’s something I don’t deserve, but it’s mine. Every day.

My tree makes its home in the earth, where the roots go down. It holds on to something greater than itself. It stretches itself upwards, and actually believes it is part of the unreachable sky on good days.

Everywhere, everywhere, are threats to its happiness, but the tree grows stronger each day it stands.

My gift, my tree, has survived wood-boring insects, periods of drought, and mighty winds that could have easily toppled it. It’s been threatened by fire, stripped of its bark, and had words of death spoken about it, in front of it, and to it, by well-meaning friends who are “just trying to be honest.” They have accused me of destroying it. Sometimes they’ve been right. Sometimes, after they leave, I lean against it and cry.

This is an organic gift, a living world, a microcosm of the complicated world around it. It’s in my care, a responsibility I don’t take lightly. Today, it celebrates a lifespan of thirty-four years.

I’m not a great gardener. In fact, there are days I’m a terrible one, but the tree is a treasure , and I know I'm entrusted with its care. I believe it lives beyond me, so I don’t treat it like my servant; I treat it like a living thing, in need of me.

I grew up watching a tree like this one grow, in front of me. I have a clear advantage in tending this one just because I know it can be done, it can work, it can survive, against the odds.

I believe it can live, and it deserves to live. I believe in its might.

I believe, I believe, I believe.



Thank you, and Happy Anniversary,

to my beautiful Mario, who I don’t deserve...

For the tree-like blessing of marriage these 34 years

Tuesday, December 28, 2021



Today, December 28, 2021, at my desk

Today I am fifty-nine years old, and I will love this year.

Despite what I’d heard, and maybe thought to myself when I was younger, the fifties, as a decade have been amazing. Tonight, I told Mario, “I feel the same today as I did when I was thirty-nine.”

“And now, you’re more financially stable,” he said.

I laughed. Mario and I think so differently. In a gazillion years, I would never have thought of financial stability. Never. Finances and I don’t mingle or mix, so I don’t even think about them. And yet, Mario is right. we have finally reached a point in our lives where we can look ahead. Our kids are on their own, with children of their own, and the joy of grandparenting dominates our lives.

On my thirty-ninth birthday, twenty years ago, I had just run my first marathon. I had read (and finished) Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I was teaching full-time. Vince and Alicia were teenagers, living at home, and David and Joe were in college. I couldn’t see the next ten years ahead of us, and I wouldn’t want to. They would be fraught with disaster, roads so filled with mines, I would never want to cross them. Today, I can say this: I made it through. I’m still alive. My family still talks to me.  

Sometimes it’s best if we can’t see the road ahead.


Each birthday, I look up the corresponding Psalm, just to see what God’s word says about the number that corresponds with my birthday year. Today, I read Psalm 59, which begins with these two daunting verses:

1Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
    be my fortress against those who are attacking me.
Deliver me from evildoers

    and save me from those who are after my blood.

Oh no.

I don’t want to think about anyone who doesn’t like me, let alone admit I could have enemies. I love most people, even the ones who don’t care for me. I feel pain deeply, rejoice jubilantly, and I want to talk about friends and promises and a future where I make good choices.

Reality has proven, for me, that the world is filled with people who won’t like me, even some who will hate me. I have a deliverer, and he can deliver me.


This year, despite being fully vaccinated, Mario tested positive for Covid in December. Despite testing negative, and never exhibiting symptoms, I quarantined right along with him. His negative test, on the 20th was what we were waiting for, and served as a green light for us to host.

 We just celebrated Christmas, and we hosted, in our house, a beautiful, noisy, chaotic explosion of life. We sang Christmas carols as our grandchildren shook jingle bells and shook maracas. Children wandered around with beverages, in cups with no lids, and ice, sloshing around. It was marvelous. Our fifteen-year-old fake Christmas tree, pulled from the shed, and fluffed up as much as possible, made the only laughable imitation of something real. Everything else about our Christmas was genuine.

Mario bought the tree in South Africa, where I was depressed and told him I couldn’t celebrate Christmas because it was so damn hot. I wept every time I saw a green Christmas tree. I couldn’t find a decent tamale in Johannesburg. Who was I kidding? I couldn’t find any tamales. I asked Mario if he missed home as much as I did.

One day, he bought the Christmas tree. It was white and pre-lit with little white lights, like the ones I admired in the States, but could never afford.

“It’s white,” Mario said, dripping with sweat as he wrestled it from its box. “I know you can’t do green because it’s too much like home, but we need a tree to celebrate and I figured we can do white here, and it can be a new tradition.”

I loved that white tree. I loved South Africa. I loved our new home.

I missed real Christmas trees. I missed our home. I missed our family.

I learned that two conflicting emotions could live side by side, without hypocrisy.

In our Sacramento house, the white tree was used because we were quarantined. Mario had forgotten about it being in our backyard garden shed. He looked surprised when I wrestled it from its box and set it up. It was put in the corner, and looked lonely and out-of-place. It’s pre-lit branches had to be stripped because the RSA uses 220 and the USA uses 110. We strung our own lights around the branches, and decorated it with our ornaments, many with the pictures of new grandchildren on them.

The tree reminded me that our life in South Africa came at a cost to us. It reminded me of the longing I had for tamales and molasses cookies. It reminded me of how the whole country of South Africa took one miraculous month off to celebrate the holiday, and genuinely loved their hot, hot Christmases. The white tree reminded me of our years in Johannesburg, where my heart ached to be near family, especially during Christmas. Oh, Lord, it is a miracle that we continued on, and loved it.

Sometimes we need reminders of miracles.


I’m taking a break to write this blog because I am on a major deadline.

I signed a book contract with Prickly Pear Publishing, and I have to turn the book in at the beginning of the year. Getting a book ready for the publisher is like getting a house ready for sale. Getting a daughter ready to be married. Getting a piece of furniture ready to be refinished. No, it’s harder than all those things.

It's literally like getting a book ready for the publisher. That’s what it’s like.


           The final two verses of Psalm 59 are encouraging ones, and I’ve quoted them often:

16 But I will sing of your strength,
    in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
    my refuge in times of trouble.

17You are my strength, I sing praise to you;

   you, God, are my fortress

   my God on whom I can rely.

Without the first two, there cannot be the last two. Like a chef planning the perfect dish, our lives need the balance of salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami.

            This year, I pray for that balance.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


 "Measure" is a poem about my true love, Mario, and an event that actually happened.

At the Cairo Hospital...looking at my true love.

February is a short month when
couples measure love
in strange ways:
waterfront restaurants, candle-lit dinners, long-stemmed roses,
 diamonds, proposals, making love, roaoring fires...
Measures of love, pitted against
each other, their spurred talons and greased 
feathers flying. I don't want to play.

My true love doesn't do waterfront restaurants.
I once ordered Maine lobster at market price, a mistake
we've never repeated. He would never buy diamonds, 
after seeing the toil of mine labor, 
and gives me potted, living roses, not falling
for overpriced, drying flowers in cellophane.
His idea of a roaring fire is at the end of a good cigar.
But he puts the seat down, does the laundry,
and has strong arms. 

These arms 
once supported me as I
tried to act normal, plodding
up stairs in Cairo—uneven stone
steps in front of a hospital—littered
with candy wrappers. Women in black
wool hijabs looked at me, intense eyes begging 
me not to touch them. They kept hands tucked beneath 
their dresses, not outstretched to me, their figures leaning
away from my shadow as we passed. Wide-eyes, terror filled, stared 
at us, and made me think I was dying. But as we walked, his arms lifted me 
just enough for my steps to feel easier. 

Weak from blood loss, no fluid was staying inside
my eyes, my body, even my blood was sandy. We had to 
could we? stop the bleeding. I  focused everything I had 
to lean on him, his primal scent of perspiration, one hand clasped 
over mine.

So many stone steps, uneven path to healing, stones
between us and the surgeon. I had to stop twice, 
and when I cried, the women hid their faces. 
He kept whispering: “A few more steps, just
a few more steps…” And I took one up, and then two,
and neither of us knew the way, but he whispered just 
a few more steps anyway. I pleaded to stop and lie down. 
He shook his head, and didn't feel sorry for me, and the hospital 
was there, at the end of the steps, just like he said it would be.

My measure of romance will always be this:
The strength of his arms, and his whispers, leading
When my self is a weak, bleeding, staggering
thing, and the world is a bleak place with
long, stony paths, all uneven, he steadies me.
Moreover, he believes I can do it and says so.
I get there with him, one step at a time.
He knows me and walks beside me

On steps like these,
too weak and bloodless 
to stop crying, having nothing 
left to give, he asks me for nothing
and expects nothing. He never leaves.
This is the measure of my true love’s heart.

Friday, February 12, 2021



Chinese Tiger Versus Dragon
by Heatherbeast

This afternoon I took Pippi out to her favorite Chinese restaurant for Chinese New Year. I wanted to celebrate with her on one of her rare days off.   Even with her three-year-old twin boys in tow, I knew it would be a special mother-daughter luncheon.

I was hoping it would be like the old days.

Our family used to live next to Chinatown. Jose and I still laugh, wondering how we raised five kids in that  house in such a questionable area. Penelope was our baby, and our only girl. The boys called her Pippi. When all the boys were in school, we would run the errands together. I'd sometimes take her shopping and then out to eat at one of the authentic restaurants for which Chinatown was so famous. Pippi learned how to use chopsticks when she was five. Her favorite thing was showing off to her father and brothers, who still preferred forks.

“Did you and Mama eat in Chinatown again?” Jose would ask her, as Pippi dexterously used her bamboo sticks to pick up rice and veggies from her bowl. I’d wink at her, as if our trips were secret and special.  In our large family, lunch dates became times of female bonding. 

“Why does she always get to go with you?” Roberto, my youngest son, asked one night. Like his brothers, he never got to have shopping trips and lunch with me.

“Because I’m Chinese, and you're not!” she answered. Everyone laughed. Pippi had my grandmother's almond shaped eyes, my straight black hair, and rosy apple-cheeks, like a painting. "God made me Chinese, and all of you are Mexican. Why do you think I'm the only one who can use chopsticks?"

We never corrected Pippa's misconception, thinking it was cute. Part of me thought it did no harm, since she did anything to distinguish herself from among her brothers. It didn't take long before my thinking backfired.

The next week, Jose joined Pippa and I for lunch at Happy Dragon, one of our favorite restaurants.  Mrs. Lee, our favorite seating hostess, looked at Jose suspiciously when she first met him.

"I thought you were married to an Asian man," she said, pointing to Pippa. "Because of your daughter." 

"We're Mexican," I said. "In some regions of Mexico, the people sometimes have the same physical characteristics as Asians."

"Uh-huh," Mrs. Lee said, handing us our menus. I could tell she didn't trust my explanation.

"I am Chinese, Mama!" Pippa said, loudly. Mrs. Lee looked at her and smiled. As I tried to laugh and explain this outburst, Pippa shouted. "Tell her the truth! Tell the truth about our family!"

 I avoided Happy Dragon after that. 

Pippa grew, and her eyes became her trademark. They were framed with long lashes, and .  Everywhere we went, Pippi was admired.  I wasn’t ready for her adolescence, which came too quickly. It was like Pippa was body-snatched in the middle of the night and replaced with someone who wanted to fight about everything.

She never wanted to eat what I made for dinner. She never wanted to sleep or study. She suddenly withheld her affection. She was convinced I nagged and pushed her too hard. I probably did. In high school, she was an honor student and was in band, playing the flute.  One day after school I made the mistake of suggesting she branch out into different areas.  The remark brought a tearful eruption.

“I’ll never be good enough for you,” she screamed. 

“Why do you say that?  Such drama!  All I’m saying is…”

“I do my best and my best isn’t good enough for you.”

“You will always be good enough for me!”  Before I could clarify my words, she was running down the hall and then slamming her door.

What happened to my daughter?  Would I ever see my little girl again?  The one who loved me and knew I loved her?

Today we had lunch together and our conversation was like the careful, polite exchanges of two people who have only just met each other.  We have learned to be civil with each other so we don’t fight.

“That was good,”  I say, as we finish.

“Grandma,” Jacob asks me, looking at the ceiling.  “What is your favorite thing here?”

“Besides you two?” I joke, looking between him and Josh.  “I think it is….”

“Grandma’s favorite is the eggroll, always.” Pippa smiles, answering for me.  The boys agree that it’s their favorite, too.  I don’t have the heart to tell them that their Mom is wrong.  My favorite is the noodles without dressing.  It is a traditional Chinese favorite that Pippi and I have ordered for years. 

“Mommy, can we play in the kids area now?” Josh asks his mother.  Jacob waits closely behind him for her answer.

“I guess…”

“Thank you!”  They sing in unison and run toward the slides and swings that flank the restaurant. 

“Thanks for lunch, Mom,” Pippa yawns.   I know it’s been a busy week for her.  She and her husband, Greg,  have just landed a big account in their business and they’ve both been working a lot of hours. 

“When are you going to slow down?”

My daughter rolls her eyes.  “Don’t start, Mom.”

“You have twin boys, you know.”

“Really, do I?  Because I forgot!”

I let it drop and there’s a bit of silence as she reaches in her purse for her phone.  After checking her  messages our waitress comes over and picks up the check.

“You want to take with you?” She points at the last egg roll, a juicy temptation left between us.

“Not for me,” I say, raising my eyebrows at Pippi.  She shakes her head and the waitress smiles and walks off with the leather check-holder with the cash inside.  I forget to tell her to keep the change before she walks off.

“The last eggroll,” Pippi smiles as she texts. “You know you’ve been on a diet as long as I can remember?  Why don’t you ever give yourself a treat?”

The remark stings and she can tell.

“Really?” she says. “That offends you?  Admit it, you’re always on a diet.”

“I guess,”  I start to feel her claws against my neck. I feel trapped, unable to say the right thing.   

“Why can’t I say anything to you anymore?”

“You can,” I begin. I want to tell her that I feel the same way. I can't say anything to her anymore without offending. Even those words seem barbed, so I say nothin.

“Whatever,” she says. She finishes her text and puts her phone down on the table. I can tell she feels misunderstood.  I remember a younger version of the same face smiling broadly at me, picking up her bamboo chopsticks.

“Pippi, let’s not fight,” I say. "We see each other so rarely these days. Let's not waste a day with a fight.

“You know, Mom,” she says, “every time I’m with you I feel like a child!  You’re the only one who still calls me Pippi! My brothers, Dad, my husband, my friends? They all call me Penelope, which is my adult name!”

Silence descends again. I'm looking at the placemat in front of me, a paper sheet with a circle in the middle. The Chinese Zodiak is explained in the middle. Pippi sighs. I wonder when we became so distant. How many mothers and daughters, who really do love each other, feel misunderstood or disrespected in their relationship?  I want to ask her opinion, but I don’t know how. Instead, I ask her a simple question.

“You want me to call you Penelope?”

“Yes,” she says.

“Alright, I will.”

“I’ve heard that before,” she says. I look up at her, and she's watching the boys. They're at the waterfall, an elaborate fish and turtle pond in the middle of the restaurant. A small children's slide and swing set is next to it. 

“Do you want some help getting the boys together?” I ask.  “I can load one of them in their car seats…”

“No, they’re having fun,” she says. “Can we just sit here and have some tea?” 

I nervously agree. “Alright, I guess.”  I want to add: “BUT let’s not start picking each other apart, okay?” but I don’t. 

The waitress returns with our change and I tell her to keep it. 

“Thank you,” she says, and smiles. 

“Can we still order some tea?” I ask.

“Actually,” Pippi interjects, smiling broadly. “Since tea comes with our meal, and we didn't have it, can we just have a pot of tea now?”

“Yes, yes,” the waitress says. “Of course. Oolong tea or Jasmine ?”

As I say Oolong, Pippi says Jasmine. We look at each other and smile. I start to defer her wishes, but the waitress laughs.

“I'll bring you green tea?” she suggests. “Green tea is made with the fresh leaf and costs a little bit more but I won’t charge you.”

I look at Pippi, who smiles and nods.  As our waitress walks away, and I think of what Pippi has just said.  Do I really treat her like a child?  Do I really not listen?  

In the ten years she has been away from home, she's become a mother and a wife and a business owner.  In very many ways she’ll always be my little girl.

“What are you thinking?” she asks, suspiciously.

“Nothing, really.”

“What is it?”

“Do you really think I don’t listen to you?”

“Oh, yeah,” Pippi  laughs, as if this is an understatement.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” she says.  “Just listen to me.”

I have to swallow hard to accept her words.  I wonder if she knows how much her words hurt.  

“Here's, your tea!”  The waitress lays clean placemats before us and then white cups with no handles.  In the middle of the table she places a pot of green tea.  Pippi lifts the lid and decides it needs to sit awhile. 

“I’m just gonna check on the boys,” she says, leaving her seat. I sigh, looking down at my placemat. The Chinese Zodiac calendar gives an image of each animal, what year it corresponds to, and a brief description of people born under the sign. 

According to the chart, I am a tiger: a creative individual who is optimistic, resilient, and influential.  It also says I am sensitive and prone to getting my feeling hurt too easily.  Am I?

I quickly scan the chart to find Pippi. It says she's a dragon.  It reads: “Proud, strong, and self-assured, Dragons don’t have to ask for things, they demand them. They can be dictatorial and inflexible in their associations with others, but at the same time be the warmest, most gentle individuals you may meet.”  I smile and look around for Pippi, my Penelope, just to show her. 

She's walking toward me, Joshua following her closely.  “I’m sorry, Mom. I’m going to have to take a rain check on the tea, Josh wet his pants.”  I can tell she frustrated and I start looking around for Jacob, who comes running to her in tears. 

“Why do we have to go?” he is crying.  “Josh wet his pants, not me!”  His sobs echo through the restaurant as his mother tries to calm him. Josh, on the other hand, is ready to leave. 

“Bye, Grandma,” he says, almost too quickly. 

“Is there anything I can do?” I ask Pippi. 

“No, nothing.”

I pick up the placemat and follow her as she marches out to the parking lot. The waitress watches us, nonplussed, as we've left the teapot untouched on the table. I follow her to her car, even though Jacob is crying. He still doesn’t want to leave. Josh jumps into the car and buckles himself into his own carseat.

“Pip… Penelope, do you want to take this placemat home?” I ask. She turns around, and her face is like mine, or like mine was twenty years ago, when I was trying to corral the kids into the car. I numbly lift up the paper placemat, and it flaps in the cold wind. "I thought the kids might like to see it. It's Chinese New Year, after all. I was just reading these descriptions of the dragon and tiger…”  I try to show her twhat I'm talking about, but she looks at me like I've lost my mind.  

“Really, Mom?” she says. She clicks Jacob's car seat buckle and shuts his door.  “Are you kidding me?  Remember how you used to make the waitresses take that shit off the table? Because it conflicted with out beliefs? You didn’t want me being deceived by the Chinese Zodiac? All that stuff  you used to say, and it was so embarrassing. Remember?”

Her voice is agitated. It's drowned out only by Jacob's cries. I suddenly recognize my insensitivity. 

“Sorry, honey,” I say.  “I was just trying to lighten the mood, I guess.”

“Yeah, well, she says, fumbling with her keys. “I can’t understand you, sometimes.  I mean, sometimes I wonder why you used to be so… ”

She looks like she's trying to be careful with her words. I really want to know what I used to be, something that might explain why we're not friends.

“So what?”

“Never mind. Thanks for lunch.”

She gives me an obligatory hug and gets into the car. I blow the boys kisses; they manage a weak wave back. Pippi drives off, leaving me in the parking lot, filled with disappointment, and waving at the taillights of her Rav4 . 

When I return home, I sit at my computer, and start editing a piece for the Sun-Times that is due in eight hours. Instead of giving it my full attention, my mind drifts back to the lunch with my daughter. I start to get tears in my eyes. I decide to draft an email to her. Jose has asked me not to send Pippi emails until he's read them first. I resolve to save it as a draft for him to read later. 

Dear Penelope,

I can’t stop thinking of you. 

You are my daughter, the beautiful blessing that God decided to give me.  Today as we left the restaurant, I wanted to grab you and hold you and scream “I love you! How can I help you receive my love?” Instead, I said nothing and just waved to you like you were any other person I have in my life.
But you’re not. 

You’re not like any other person I have in my life.  You are the one who is so close to me that you can hear me purr or growl before the rest of the world does. You can see right through the wall I've built and know me for who I really am. For all the years we have struggled, we have also understood each other. 

I thought it would be fun to go out on Chinese New Year for the same reason I thought it would be fun to read you what the placemats said about the tiger (me) and the dragon (you).  I don’t put much belief in that stuff, as you inferred earlier, but I thought it brought comic relief to all of the tension we were having at lunch. 

The truth is, every mother and daughter does this dance that we do.  We trade places in frustration, belief, hope and anger.  We sometimes believe (falsely) that we don’t understand one another.  We think we can’t see the other, but the truth is we do. I should say that I want to understand you; I want to know you; I want to love and be loved by you. 

Isn’t that better than thinking we already know each other? 

I love you and I’m proud of you.


Instead of saving it to a draft, I hit send.

When Jose comes home, I show him the letter and he rubs his forehead. 

“I thought we agreed you wouldn't send letters to Penelope without showing me first?” 

I smile, sheepishly. Then I ask him when he stopped calling her Pippi and started calling her Penelope. He tells me he started when she asked him to, and that was when she was twelve years old. 

Monday, January 18, 2021


We Americans worship heroes we barely know.  We follow athletes because of their sports statistics rather than their character or what they stand for.  We elect presidents because they can argue persuasively in debates, even when we don’t know much about their lives or lifestyles.

Martin Luther King is an exception.  He is an American hero who wanted to be known.  He had incredible family roots and beliefs, which he communicated powerfully through the written and spoken word.  While he was known for his letters and speeches, there is still enough about him that remains a mystery.  

Today, I celebrate his birthday by re-publishing this blog.  These are surprising bits of trivia about Martin Luther King that I hope you enjoy:

1.  Martin Luther King was not his real name.

Michael was born in Atlanta in 1929, named after his father, Michael Sr. When he was only two years old, Michael Jr. (our beloved MLK) went with his family to Europe. Michael Senior was so profoundly affected by the person of Martin Luther, the great reformer,  that upon his return to the States changed his name to Martin Luther King, Sr.  and his son’s to Martin Luther King, Jr.

2.  He came from a powerful and spiritual family.

His father and mother were both ordained ministers. Educated and respected leaders in the Atlanta community, the family lived with his maternal grandparents, the Reverend and Mrs. A.D. Williams.  

While the Kings were known for their virtue, they were also seen as radicals, embracing not only racial, but gender equality. At this point in time, the Christian church preached the submission of women (not much has changed in some churches). The King men were staunch believers in the power of Jesus Christ and the Bible and believed in living according to the word of God, which teaches nothing less.  They led Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, right down the street from their home. 

3.  His call to stand up for the civil rights of a nation started in childhood.

Martin Jr. grew up in a racially segregated world. It really didn’t matter that his parents were educated; the American south had enforced laws about the separation of blacks and whites. 

Etched clearly in King’s memory was  a story of his family's outing to buy new shoes. Excited at the prospect, Martin entered the store with his family, only to be immediately ushered to the back exit. 

“No coloreds.” The store owner said.  The Kings knew this--they weren't ignorant of the segregation--and the elder Kings called these "daily protests" against segregation. They regularly shopped at "white only" stores just so the owners would be forced to confront their own racist policies. 

Martin learned on that day that blacks were not allowed in most restaurants, on public beaches or swimming pools.  They couldn’t drink from the same water fountains as white people and couldn’t use the same toilets. His father's daily protests started a fire in Martin's heart.  This shoe-store event began to shape King's passionate crusade for righteousness.

4.  He graduated high school at 15. 

MLK skipped both 9th and 12th grades (some historians have him skipping the 11th), and enrolled in Morehouse College, a prestigious private, all-male, black university in Atlanta. He graduated with a Bachelors degree in sociology at age 19. 

5.  He thought his wife was brave for taking him on.

After Morehouse, King completed seminary and was introduced to Coretta Scott, a woman whose wit and vigor was an incredible match for his. 

As much as Martin is celebrated, Corrie (what he called her) was as well.  A brilliant thinker, gorgeous in physical appearance and social graces, Coretta was also known for her voice: a mezzo-soprano.  Her voice, Martin said later, was angelic and worshipful. 

On the night they wed, the newlyweds were denied entrance to their hotel (supposedly booked knowing it was a whites-only place).  The couple decided to spend their wedding night at a Black-owned funeral home.  It was only the beginning of many stands for justice they took together.

6.  He’s called “Dr. Martin Luther King” because he was a PhD.  This title was not honorary.

After marriage, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, when he was twenty-five years old.  He then began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Ph. D  in 1955. 

He was just getting started.

7.  Rosa sat down and Martin stood up - in that order.

On a December,1955 evening in Montgomery, Rosa Parks rode the bus home seated in the fifth row, which was permissible.  It was, after all, the first row of the "colored section".

It was standard practice that when the bus became full, the seats nearer the front were given to white passengers.  This happened and the bus driver asked Parks and three other African-Americans seated nearby to move: “Move y'all, I want those two seats!"

Three riders complied, but Parks did not.

The bus driver threatened to have her arrested, and Ms. Parks said he had every freedom to do that.  She wasn’t breaking any written law; she was just uppity and he called her bluff. 

Upon hearing of the arrest, King and his colleague (Ralph Abernathy) organized a city-wide boycott intended to cripple the financial legs of the bus companies.  A staunch devotee of nonviolence, the men were adamant that no one should lose their cool.

Martin wrote to the city with the organized plan of protest: Black passengers should be treated with courtesy. Seating should be allotted on a first-come-first-serve basis, with white passengers sitting from front to back and black passengers sitting from back to front. Negro drivers should drive routes that primarily serviced Negroes.

On Monday, December 5, 1955 the boycott went into effect – it was the beginning of organized non-violent protests across the south.  Martin was at the forefront of a revolution. 

8.  He was a man determined to be seen and heard.

From 1957 until his death in 1968, King gave over 2,500 speeches; he traveled more than 6 million miles; and  he wrote five books and countless articles published in newspapers and magazines.
Upon seeing him deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech, John F. Kennedy, amazed and open-mouthed, turned to his chief of staff and said, “Damn, he’s good!”

My favorite writing of his (besides the PERFECT “I have a Dream” speech) is the letter he wrote from an Alabama jail to the surrounding clergymen.  This portion resonates the most in my soul:
“We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience…”

9.  MLK set his face towards Jerusalem.

Martin had two heroes:  Jesus Christ and Martin Luther.  Both men were killed in the middle of their ministry, for their beliefs.   Martin seemed to recognize the same would be true for him.

After many, many death threats and his own people warning him to “go underground for awhile” Martin eventually made peace with the destiny he had – to die for the cause worth dying for.  On April 3, 1968 (the day before he was assassinated), he preached at the at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee:

“Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about a thing. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

10.  Martin’s heart betrayed a life lived at full speed.

King was assassinated in Memphis when he was 39, after two other attempts on his life.  The details of the assassination are sketchy, but all evidence shows it was a conspiracy, not the act of a lone gunman.

 At the hospital, one of the attending doctors noted during his autopsy that King “had the heart of a 60-year-old."  A heart that was tired; overworked and stressed – beating in the man that championed respect and nonviolence.

Martin, we hardly knew ye…