Friday, January 29, 2010

St. Joseph's Altar

Photograph by Anna Maria Chupa
In March 1987, I had to attend a meeting in New Orleans and Moody accompanied me.  We went early because a friend, Al Gourrieu, invited us to a St. Joseph's Altar.  We had never attended one, nor did we know anything about St. Joseph, but we happily accepted.

According to an article by Sharon Keating, (from the tradition began at the end of the nineteenth century, brought to America by Sicilian immigrants. At one time, they were on the brink of starvation because of drought in their native country. They turned in prayer to St. Joseph, and soon, the rains came, the crops grew, and the people were saved. To thank their patron, they gave him back the gift they were given, in the form of a feast laid on an "altar." The altar features three tiers, representing the Trinity. A statue of St. Joseph presides on the top level, surrounded by candles, flowers, and of course, food.

Many families believe that having a St. Joseph Altar can bring good fortune. It is common to hear stories about favors received (a loved one’s recovery from an illness, for example) which are in turn attributed to the family’s dedication to St. Joseph.

Fava beans, used as fodder for cattle in Sicily, were consumed by the starving inhabitants prior to St. Joseph's intervention. They are now featured on every altar, as blessed "lucky beans." If you keep one, you will always have money, or so the saying goes, and we promptly put our beans in our wallets.

Everyone was given a sheet of paper, asked to write their wishes for the future, and then burn the paper in a large metal bowl.  Moody and I looked at each other, trying to hide our skepticism and questioning whether this would work. Our answer came the next day.

We had no idea that our fate was about to change, and to this day, we credit attending the St. Joseph Altar for transforming our lives.

The next day, Saturday, we met Ruth Love for cocktails. Out of the blue, I became very anxious.  For some reason, I was compelled to return home.  I told Moody and Ruth that I was going back to the hotel to pack and call airlines to check on seat availability for Sunday.  Moody reminded me that my meeting (the reason we had come to New Orleans) had not even begun and that we had non-refundable tickets.  I insisted that I could make it happen; we were going home.  With a quiet anxiousness, I walked back to our hotel, alone.

All of the airlines I called said the same thing, no seats to Detroit.  On a whim I called Midwest Airlines and was told that they had only two seats available on an afternoon flight to Chicago.  I figured that if we took that flight, we could rent a car and drive back to Michigan, if we couldn't get a flight to Detroit. Midwest even agreed to take our tickets and just charge us a small fee.

After completing the arrangements, I started to pack.  The phone rang.  It was a student from the University of Michigan asking if Moody could return tomorrow, Sunday, because Black Action Movement III had started and the University was shut down.  Jesse Jackson was due on Sunday to help with negotiations and he needed Moody to assist in the discussions.  I told the student no problem, I had already changed our tickets.

Moody returned, shaking his head at my crazy impulse. As I was telling him about the call from the student, the phone rang again.  It was a Vice President of the University with the same request. Could we return to Ann Arbor tomorrow?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ten Things That Make Me Happy - Tagged

And now, I will tag ten other blogs to do this happiness post!  

When I read that statement from the blog, When a Woman Shakes Her Tablecloth, I was puzzled about what I would write. Reading her list I knew that it doesn't take BIG things to make me happy, if you don't count winning the lottery.  We are not rich people with money, we're rich in other ways, but I often tell my husband how happy we were when we had NOTHING.


1.  Someone with a baby.  I'm just happy it's not me. Of course it would get me some needed money since I'm over seventy.

2.  The look on a child's face when he or she finally "gets it."  Love that "light bulb" moment.

3.  Hearing from someone, or seeing someone I haven't seen in a long time, who remembers and reminiscences about a  special moment we shared.

4.  World War II movies and books, which is strange because I hate war. I used the movie, Twelve O'Clock High, to demonstrate leadership styles when I was conducting leadership workshops.

5.  Conquering a new recipe and adding my own touches.  I always try it just as written the first time.  Then I begin to make additions or subtractions until it is ready to serve my bridge club.  They are good cooks and I have to be at the top of my game.

6.  Meeting new people and hearing their stories. I believe that everyone has a compelling story. I think that's why I like reading blogs; you can learn something from everyone you meet.  

For example, we went to a jazz club with another couple and I saw an attractive woman, sitting alone with her eyes closed, singing quietly along with the band, while she tapped her fingers to the beat of the drums. She exuded glamour and loneliness yet I could visualize an intriguing past. The couple we were with, and my husband, thought I was crazy when I left them, walked over to her table, introduced myself, and stated that she looked like she had a riveting story to tell. "Please tell me your story." I said. "I want to hear it."  She stared at me for a little while, invited me to have a seat, and proceeded to tell me her story.  She was the first wife of Sammy Davis, Jr., and what a story she told about an "arranged marriage." 
Loray White, Wife of Sammy Davis, Jr Seeks Divorce - Jet Magazine, October 2, 1958 by vieilles_annonces.

7.  Star Trek. I'm a Trekkie, I watch reruns, wear Bajoran earrings, and read the The Physics of Star Trek

8.  A beautiful sunset over the mountains.  I don't see many sunrises because I don't get up early, but a sunset with breathtaking, muted colors is so calming.

9. My friends. I have some of the best friends in the world, even the ones as crazy as me.  Couldn't make it without them.  

10.  Last, but not least, my family.  They make me happy because they have allowed an eccentric woman, (sounds better than crazy) to do a lot of spontaneous (sounds better than impulsive) things and still support me, even when I'm wrong, which happens more than I would like to admit.

This list could grow, but I'll stop (except to add milk chocolate peanut clusters because I can eat one pound in one sitting and how having an iphone would make me happy, I think) and tag others.  

Get ready, you're tagged.
The K is no longer silent
b. vikki vintage
Chocolate covered daydreams 
Peeling an orange with a screwdriver
At Twilight
A Fabulously Good Life
Fifty and Still Figuring it Out...
A Woman's Life Stages

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Eighties - Part 2 Where is the family now?

We became "in-laws" and grandparents in the 80s.  I'm doing this posting because I can't believe how quickly children become adults and some postings of struggling, young parents remind me of our past.

There were days I wanted to give up and throw in the towel.  I want to tell them, hold on, this is a part of will get better.  One day you can laugh at your children when they struggle with their own family.

We've been blessed with the best daughters-in-law, sons, and grandchildren.

David and Karla's Wedding Picture

David and Karla's family 27 years later.
David owns a construction company in Atlanta that helped build the 1996 Olympic Stadium and is now working on the airport addition in Atlanta. Granddaughter, Karia, a graduate of Spelman College, is an aspiring singer and actress.  Grandson, Charles, a graduate of Morehouse College, works in the family business, but has decided to go for his Ph.D in education.

Corey (Middle Son) and Kim's Wedding

Corey and Kim's family, 23 years later.  Kelsey is a senior in high school, Katelyne is at Purdue, and Kourtney is at the University of Michigan.  On Friday, January 8, 2010, Corey will open his second CPA office in Las Vegas.  The first one is in Atlanta.  Kim is an administrator with the Clark County School District.

Cameron, the youngest, never married.  He is Director of Administration for the Executive Office of the President of the United States.  He lives the life, spending the last twelve years working for the Democratic Conventions (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) and the Summer and Winter Olympics, and has lived all over the world.

Whenever I feel unsure and wonder if we were good parents, I look at our sons and their families and think we did OK.  When you are young, and the kids are driving you crazy, it easy to believe that you're doing something wrong.  This makes me feel we did OK.

It was worth all we gave up or never had.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why a Blog on Memories

Someone asked me why was I doing a blog on our life?  I'm just trying to make sense about where we've been and what's it all about.  We are ordinary people from humble beginnings with hopes and dreams for a good life.  We worked hard, even when we watched some of our dreams crash. We've been blessed to live in a remarkable time, from segregation to integration.

Dr. King's birthday offers an opportunity to write about the why. We were in Montgomery on a segregated bus the same year that Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat, and because of King's actions, our lives, and many others, have been transformed.

This blog is my attempt to offer a peek into the lives of a typical, middle-class family that lived and worked in America when, as Bob Dylan wrote, The Times They Are A-Changin'.

African Americans lived in the shadows. Our lives weren't documented or studied, except in some sociology texts where a deficit model was used.  Yet, throughout America's history many lived quiet, unassuming, unnoticed lives. Some were successful; others were not.  The Civil Rights Movement changed how we were viewed and the election of Barack Obama put a spotlight on the Black family.

Blacks moved from slaves to honored guests in the White House — President Abraham Lincoln met with abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth in the White House — to indispensable parts of White House life. President Andrew Johnson appointed William Slade as the first White House steward, the person charged with running the domestic side of the White House.

Not only did Blacks work in the White House, they also started working at the White House. E. Frederick Morrow was the first African-American appointed a White House aide by Eisenhower in 1955;  (The year we married.) John F. Kennedy named Andrew Hatcher associate press secretary in 1960.

The progress was hardly smooth.

In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt formally invited Booker T. Washington to the White House for dinner.... Southern newspapers were outraged and publicly condemned Roosevelt after they learned of the invitation from an Associated Press dispatch. Roosevelt never invited another African-American to a White House dinner.

In 1935, Mary McLeod Bethune, was chosen as Roosevelt's special advisor on Minority Affairs. Now, today, an African American family lives in the White House. Many of us older African Americans are still processing this.  Because of our country's past history, we still find it hard to believe.

It is nostalgic as well as enlightening to rewind all these experiences, smile and remember them again.

I have to admit that I was unsure in the beginning if it would be of interest to anyone.  Many of you been very kind with your comments and I hope you continue to find our memories worthwhile.  One thing is sure--we have had some wonderful adventures.

One philosopher said ...When you create beautiful memories you get to enjoy them twice, once while doing them and again when remembering them...and it is not the number of breaths we take but the moments that take out breath away...that's the measure of your life... !!!

Please allow me to repeat a favorite poem of mine:

I am old and need to remember.
You are young and need to learn.
If I forget the words
Will you remember the music?
from Swaziland

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Salute to my Mom

Love you, Mom

Today is my Mom's birthday, it's either today or yesterday.  She wasn't sure which day but we usually celebrated on January 7. She was born in 1896, 114 years ago.  This is the earliest picture I have of her.

My drawing of Mom

Every year she had a big party.  The entire family, and all of our friends, were invited. You were expected to bring a gift even if you were broke from Christmas.  She cooked all of the food for her party and after several beers would entertain us with her way of dancing.  We would play Keno, knowing that she would cheat, and take all of our money.

Mom with her beer.

When we lived in Chicago it was easy to make her birthday party but after the move to Michigan the weather could cause problems.  I remember our struggling through the snow, hoping we would make it. Many times we went to Chicago early, if snow was predicted, to make sure we attended the party.

She raised the seven of us the best way she could, without a husband.  My youngest sister will be 70 this year and my oldest sister would be 95, if she were alive.   Three sisters were married when I was born so she never had seven children in the house at one time.

She was so strong.  What was she like when she was young?  A beauty, we know for sure.  Petite, slim, and vivacious, with long, flowing red hair.  Many men found her irresistible.  I imagine her as a carefree, young woman, teasing men with her flirtatious smile.

Then reality takes over.  She worked many hours in a cotton field and could drag a bag that was at least half her weight.  She sun must have been merciless in Georgia.  There were no pretty clothes for my Mom to wear to parties and parades.  Instead there were many floors to scrub, innumerable dishes to wash, and an abundant stack of diapers for the children she raised.

We would often ask her about our fathers, there were several, but she refused to discuss it.  We never told her how much we discovered from other family members, nor did we ever tell her that we knew that our grandfather, who I never knew, was not her father.

Yes, she was the Queen of the family.  Anything she wanted, she got.

We were on welfare and she did daywork, cleaning homes, but she taught us that any work is honest work.  She had one wish, that none of us would end up on welfare, and none of us did.  That was very important to her.

She left home early in the morning to clean homes.  No matter what the weather, she rode many buses and streetcars to homes that were far removed from us on the South Side of Chicago.

Mom would come home, tired and sore, but proceed to the kitchen to prepare dinner.  She bought "good" meat from the stores in the white neighborhood.  Her cooking warmed the heart, as well as the spirit.

Education was also important to her.  She went to elementary school and was one of the smartest woman I knew. She would go to downtown Chicago, to the most expensive store, look at a dress, come home and sew an exact copy.  She never liked anything cheap.

Everybody in the family, and I do mean everybody, has a afghan she made. Whenever someone mentioned that a baby was expected, we had to take her to the yarn store so she could make the afghan before the baby was born.

She lived 97 years, over twenty years after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer. She refused to believe she had cancer and never let it stop her from doing anything.

Even though we loved her, we still discuss how she was an enigma to us, a mysterious beautiful woman with a past, that none of us knew or would ever know.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Eighties - Part I

"It's time to start living the life you've imagined" - Henry James 

We are without children.  We have an empty nest.  We have three children in college and no children at home.  Did I mention that we have an empty nest?  How quickly it came.

Now, we could get about living the life we've imagined.

Us in the late '80s

The '80s were frantic because our careers were in high gear. Writing about the '80s and '90s is going to be difficult because there was so much going on.  Perhaps I'll just do tidbits.

At the beginning of the '80s I was working as Coordinator of Staff Development and Multicultural Education for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.  In the middle of the decade I left the Ann Arbor Schools and was working at Eastern Michigan University in the Student Teaching Office.

My husband was Director of the Program for Educational Opportunity at the University of Michigan. In the late '80s, he was promoted to Vice Provost at the University and our lives and experiences would soar. (More about that later.)

Our hours were long because most workshops took place after school.  We downgraded to one car, (couldn't afford two with those college bills) didn't take any vacations, and bought very little for ourselves.

Both of us also traveled as consultants so we did stay on the road.  NABSE (The National Alliance of Black School Educators) was growing and we were active, he as Founder, (NABSE was an outgrowth of his dissertation) and me as Historian.  This meant traveling not only to the National meetings but also to local meetings as there were now over 100 affiliate chapters all over the USA, Canada, several Caribbean Islands, and in Germany.

The Past Presidents of NABSE with the Founder, Charles D. Moody, Sr.
The lady in the middle, Dr. Deborah Wolfe, was one of the most dynamic women I've ever met.  She knew George Washington Carver.  I don't know why that fascinates me.

NABSE took up a great deal of our time.   We had such high hopes with a membership of over 6,000.  From 1970 until the middle 1990s it was flourishing and the possibilities were endless.  Our mission to improve education was the most important reason for the organization. Our national convention was the highlight of the year where we greeted old friends, enjoyed dinners, workshops, and deep conversations. We met and mingled with the "stars" and worked hard to improve education for African Americans.

Earline and Dr. Jerome Harris, (He is a former Superintendent of the Atlanta Public School.) The Moodys, and Dr. and Mrs. Thomas (He is a former Superintendent in Illinois.)

However, in the 2000s, many factors contributed to the decline of what should have been a stellar organization.  I won't go into the reasons, but NABSE was important because it was the biggest focus of our life during the '80s and now it is our biggest disappointment.

And what a ride it was.  We thought we would change the world and help all of the "diamonds in the rough."  The friendships we made and the ones we did help made it all worthwhile.  We, and the early members (those who are still living for we have lost so many) who really wanted to make contributions, are now all old, tired, and frail.  We're tired of fighting, but we still try to help others.

Us with Andrew Young at a NABSE meeting

Our life has been full.  We've soared with the eagles and fought with the chickens.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year - 2010

Happy New Year to all.  Hope you had a wonderful, joyous holiday.

No explanation for my eye problem--just continued medication and a visit to the doctor scheduled for February.

I hope my friend, Pat, who fell in July and is now paralyzed, walks again.  She made the beautiful jewelry that she's wearing but does not have good use of her hands now.

Will I make resolutions?  No.

What do I want?