Friday, June 26, 2020

Watering a Dead Plant

I've been watering a dead plant and I can't seem to throw it away. It's not because of apathy or laziness or an unwillingness to admit defeat, it's something else entirely. And while I consider myself a nurturing person, I'm not sure my plants would agree. Only the fighters survive my benign neglect and know to reward my occasional watering by perking up instantly. Anticipating flowers helps a lot. When I see a bud appear, I snap into watering mode, tending to the slender shoot like it's a baby bird incubating inside its shell. Orchids know how to deliver the goods, producing brilliant flowers six at a time, and Anthurium, with its waxy red heart-shaped leaves, makes me smile.

My miniature tea rose is another story. Most of the time, it seems moribund with barely a spot of green and not even a prayer of flowering. I water it anyway and then suddenly, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, a tiny rose will appear, turning its crimson face toward the afternoon sun.

I bought the snake plant because it was advertised as no green thumb required. This turned out to be true. It keeps on going--if by going you mean not dying. But it's just kind of there, growing a little bit taller but otherwise unremarkable. Although I don't expect my plants to be trained circus animals I do need something from them to keep my attention. In short, if you don't do anything interesting there's a good chance I'll forget about you. Lucky for the snake plant his neighbors draw me in with their tricks.

And then there's the dead plant, a small bromeliad in a clay pot. It was the only plant I tried very hard to keep alive for the past five years. It was a gift and, while I don't know who brought it over, I do know when and I do know why. I had hosted many parties and gatherings over the years, but none like this one, so last-minute, with many strangers on the guest list. It was an impromptu memorial service for my friend Leslie who had died suddenly three days before. My funny, irreverent, smart-mouthed, cat-loving friend with her Boston accent and wonderful laugh, the one who ended every phone call, with love you, my friend, was gone. All I could do was invite people over, make some food, and trade photos and stories of the woman we all missed so much.

It was a beautiful sun-lit day filled with flowers and laughter and love. Someone brought me a plant, a bromeliad. Leslie would have loved it.      

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Indie Authors' Panel on June 25th :-)


Check it out! I'm speaking on an Indie Author's panel on June 25th through the Broward County Library. :-D Any one can sign up to listen and it's free. 


And if you are interested in learning more about Black history and social justice issues, check out my new book--Accidental Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four. This memoir was co-written with my son Josh and recounts his successful 4-year quest to obtain posthumous pardons for four Black men wrongfully convicted of a heinous crime in the Jim Crow South. It is a primer for activism and an uplifting story of the power of perseverance and love. It is also still extremely relevant today. I have free audio-book download codes to give away. Excellent narrator! 

Here's the link on Amazon:

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Family Ties :-)


My husband grew up in a small town in Tasmania where almost everyone was related by blood or marriage. As a transplant from another country, he wasn't related to anyone, but was soon accepted into this big, messy, close-knit family of a town that he would later name our son after. (To clarify, we named our son Scott, not Scottsdale. With a surname of twelve letters, the poor kid didn't need a first name with ten more.)

Although I, too, come from a big extended family, I couldn't imagine one that encompassed an entire town. It sounded wonderful. In my mind they were always cheerful and happy to be together, watching each other's children, bringing each other casseroles, and never having to plan family reunions because they lived in one.

Apparently, it wasn't like that. They were just regular people with regular problems who had their share of illness, addiction, sad stories, and squabbles. I was so disappointed to hear it. Surely, there was something special about this inter-related town? It turns out there was. When anyone had a problem, word quickly spread through the family grapevine. If you fell, someone would pick you up, if you were hungry, they would feed you, and if you were feeling down, they would sit with you. Ah, that's more like it! If only we could all live in a town like that.

In my first year as a lawyer, we hired a law clerk named Mindy who was engaged to be married. When Mindy's future mother-in-law Sondra asked who she worked with Mindy mentioned my name. Sondra said she had attended my wedding. After Mindy picked her jaw up off the floor she learned that Sondra was my mother's second cousin, that their grandfathers had been brothers. The next day, Mindy brought her fiancé to work so she could introduce me to my third cousin, a new lawyer himself who looked like he could be my brother--if I had a brother. It was surreal. Now, whenever I have an immigration question I call him up and say "Hey Cuz, got a minute?" He and Mindy broke up but he will always be my cousin.

My mother loved to host huge Thanksgiving dinners at our home in Florida and invite all the relatives. One year, my great-uncle Al, a widower in his 70's who had just remarried, brought his new wife Diana to dinner. As he was introducing her, he said, "Diana, I want you to meet someone from Connecticut." She replied, "I only know one person from Connecticut--Harry Sugarman." To which my other great-uncle replied, "I'm Harry Sugarman!" It turned out that Diana and Harry had dated fifty years ago. In other words, my grandmother's brother married a woman who had dated my grandfather's brother and they reunited by chance in a different state half a century later. The odds of that happening seemed astronomical, but were they really? If we reached out to strangers and asked enough questions, wouldn't we ultimately find a connection?

After my father died, his cousin provided some family history that we were unaware of. He told us that when my great-grandfather immigrated to the United States in 1885, his brother went to Africa and they never saw each other again. So, I may have family in Africa too.

In the end, we are all like the baby bird in that Dr. Seuss book who goes around asking everyone: "Are you my mother?' But instead we should be asking: "Are you my brother?" The answer to that question is yes.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Review by Audiofile Magazine :-)


Thanks to Audiofile Magazine for a great review of our memoir/primer for grassroots activism: Accidental Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four.

Check it out here:
https://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/175502/

If you want a free audiobook download code, let me know in the comment section. :-)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Smiling With My Eyes :-)


There are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today and I speak only one of them. Despite this shortcoming I am an excellent communicator--and no, I didn’t invent a universal translator. Rather, I am empathetic and smile at everyone, so much so that strangers often feel inclined to tell me their life story without any prompting. Many people think I look familiar to them, like someone they once knew, a cousin or a neighbor. It’s a blessing and a curse, but I do enjoy exchanging smiles with people I encounter. I enjoy passing goodwill to strangers without them even realizing it. Jerry Seinfeld recounts how, as a kid, he would go with his father on sales calls and his father would say to him “Watch this, I’m going to crack that face”, meaning he would get a smile or a laugh. The human face is able to communicate countless emotions without saying a word and the emotions shared through facial expressions are universal. Proof of that is how the same emojis are used the world over and everyone understands what they mean.

As an attorney I have also trained myself to recognize micro expressions--brief, involuntary facial expressions that occur when a person is consciously trying to conceal their feelings. Unlike regular facial expressions, they are almost impossible to hide. In a new study, researchers defined 21 facial expressions used to convey our emotions and found a computer model could tell them apart with a high degree of accuracy. In fact, one of the first skills an infant learns is recognizing facial expressions. By the time infants are five months old, they can match the image of an emotional expression with its corresponding vocal expressions. By age five, a child’s ability to recognize and label facial expressions approaches the competence of most adults.

Now, all of that’s out the window. If the eyes are the window to the soul, then we’re in luck because, with the whole world peering out from behind face masks, the only visible part of our face is our eyes. I feel so disoriented, like Ariel the mermaid losing her voice. After decades of communicating with my face I am at a loss. It hardly matters at the moment since I rarely leave the house, but I have to adjust because I plan to wear a mask in public for the foreseeable future. The bottom line is I’m still friendly, and caring, and interested in you. You may not notice it as quickly as before but if you take the time and look carefully you’ll see that I’m smiling with my eyes. 


Friday, February 21, 2020

Groveland Four Memorial Dedication


Today in Groveland, Florida, a memorial will be dedicated to the Groveland Four, the four men tortured, murdered, and wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn't commit. This event would not be happening but for the tireless efforts of my son Josh Venkataraman, who spent 4 years working to obtain posthumous pardons for the men. 

Transcribed on the plaque: “In July 1949, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, Charles Greenlee and Ernest Thomas — known collectively as the ‘Groveland Four’ — were accused of crimes in Lake County,” the text begins. “Eyewitness accounts, records, and subsequent investigations revealed that these men were subjected to racially motivated oppression and were never given the opportunity to legitimately defend themselves in a court of law.”

To read about Josh's incredible journey, check out our new book--Accidental Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four. 

https://www.amazon.com/Accidental-Activist-Justice-Groveland-Four-ebook/dp/B07Z5TYNT7/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= 


Saturday, February 1, 2020

Accidental Activist on Free promo through Feb. 5th :-)


Don't miss out--my new book, Accidental Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four, is free on Kindle through February 5th. With 4.8 stars out of 5, it is getting rave reviews and moving some readers to tears. I co-authored this book with my son Josh. Here is the description: 

This book will take you through my incredible four year quest for justice for The Groveland Four and teach you how to pursue your own causes, whatever they may be. It is a primer for positive action, a journey through Florida's past as well as its future. Some of the things you will learn: everything takes more time than you think, nothing ever goes according to plan, help can come from unexpected places, time is on your side, everyone is connected to everyone else, you can reach your tipping point for success and not even realize it, your goals can change along the way, and flexibility is key. Let's get started, shall we?

***Proceeds from the sale of this book will be used to establish "The Charles Greenlee Memorial Scholarship" to benefit a child with an incarcerated parent.




Friday, January 17, 2020

New Audio-book free to reviewers! :-)


Happy Friday! I have free download codes for reviewers for my new audio-book--Accidental Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four. The narrator, Joshua Mackey, is fantastic! 

This book, which I co-authored book with my son Josh, is about his successful four-year quest to obtain posthumous pardons for the Groveland Four. Josh was inspired to take up this cause after reading Gilbert King’s Pulitzer Prize winning book chronicling this terrible racial injustice from Florida’s past.  

Leave a comment if you'd like a code for review purposes.

Here’s the link on Audible: 
https://www.audible.com/pd/Accidental-Activist-Audiobook/B083VT41DG?qid=1579281534&sr=1-12&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=43JZQYYRY0RXW65ZTY3P&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_12
  
Book Description: This book will take you through my incredible four year quest for justice for The Groveland Four and teach you how to pursue your own causes, whatever they may be. It is a primer for positive action, a journey through Florida's past as well as its future. Some of the things you will learn: everything takes more time than you think, nothing ever goes according to plan, help can come from unexpected places, time is on your side, everyone is connected to everyone else, you can reach your tipping point for success and not even realize it, your goals can change along the way, and flexibility is key. Let's get started, shall we?