Huge Thanks!

IMG_2228Thank you to everyone who attended the Celebration of Life for my cousin, Artina Richardson, on Saturday May 20, 2017. We can’t thank you enough for the kind words, compassionate care, prayers, and financial gifts, which have helped to lessen our burden. We pray that God will abundantly bless you in return.

We extend a very special note of thanks to the staff at Peers-Lorentzen Funeral Service, Tulare CA, for their excellent assistance.

With love,
The Family of Carla Artina Richardson

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A Chance to Help Someone in Need (GoFundMe)!

Hello, beloved followers! Long time no see, but I wanted to extend an opportunity and a request, as my cousin is in desperate need. Thanks for reading!

Artina’s GoFundMe Page 

Carla Artina (Tina) Richardson is a 37-year-old single mother of two beautiful children. She is a hardworking woman dearly loved by her extended family and friends. For the past several months Artina Richardson has been literally fighting to breathe. Although the cause is unknown, the diagnoses are definite: she has somehow developed nearly every major chronic and life-threatening lung disorder, including: Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, Asthma, and COPD. But the most dangerous of all is a very rare variation of a condition known as Pulmonary Fibrosis–a disease for which there is no cure. 
Pulmonary Fibrosis is a disease that is marked by severe and progressive irreversible scarring of the deep tissue of the lungs. The condition is most common in individuals ages 50-75. Due to her young age, doctors are confounded by the circumstances leading to her life-threatening situation. 

During Tina’s current stay in the hospital to undergo a biopsy, she encountered several complications: her lungs have collapsed several times, she has had a blood transfusion due to internal bleeding, and her oxygen level continues to stay well below normal. It has been confirmed that she does not have cancer but there is no precedent for her situation, either.

At this point, Tina is still hospitalized. The goal right now is to get her strong and stable enough to transfer to a rehabilitation facility. However, she was just recently notified by her insurance carrier that her medical bills are not being covered due to the fact that her condition is so rare. 

The only hope to improve her prognosis is to eventually have a lung transplant but, at this point in time, she is too sick to even be placed on the transplant waiting list. Right now she needs our help.

Funds raised will support Tina to continue receiving treatment in the hospital and cover the cost of the rehabilitation home to prepare her for the transplant eligibility waiting list. Lastly, because she has not been able to work and is hospitalized in Fort Worth, TX, away from her family and support system, the funds would also be used to provide care for her children.

Artina desperately needs the support of caring and compassionate friends; time is of the essence. Your generosity is very much appreciated!

Here is the link to the GoFundMe page:

Artina’s GoFundMe Page

Friday’s Featured Writer: Rayvell Snowden, Sr. (reprise)

Happy Feature Friday, everybody! As we bring this inspirational campaign to a close I leave you with another wisdom-filled, reflective piece — a bookend, if you will — in honor of Black History Month. Please welcome once again, my dad. Please leave your comments and encouragements below!

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Segregation: from my perspective
by
Rayvell Snowden

seg·re·ga·tion (seɡrəˈɡāSH(ə)n/), n. – a setting apart or separation of people or things from others or from the main body or group.

I have been asked on many occasions over the years, what it was like the live in America during the time of segregation. I answer this way: if any of us today had a problem there are many things that we might do to rid ourselves of the problem. We could hire an attorney, go talk to a judge, a priest, policemen. Or, we might even approach an upstanding individual to get some help, some kind of relief. But suppose that all of the people mentioned above were in agreement against you. Where could you go? To whom could you turn for help?

Looking at segregation from the perspective of those not affected by segregation makes it seem quite benign. However, for those who have lived it, it is one of the most degrading and humiliating situations imaginable. People and animals are naturally segregated and should be. We segregate criminals from the mainstream society for the safety of the non-criminals; that, too, should be. But to segregate one group of law-abiding people from the mainstream of society because of the color of their skin is a different issue. To deprive certain citizens of the privileges allowed to the rest of the citizens should have been criminal, and likely, it was. Consequently, in the case of segregation, the law had to be suspended in order for it to work. That meant that an awful lot of citizens had to agree to the segregation, and they did.

The truth of the matter is that we, African Americans, had absolutely no choice about it. Everyone made us feel inferior. Worthless. At one point we were not even considered to be human — that according to the constitution of the country! Imagine a seventy-year-old black man or woman having to say “yes, sir” or “no, ma’am” to a two- or three-year-old white child. If they failed to do so, they could be beaten, arrested or even hanged, depending on the mercy (or a lack of mercy) of any white people present at the time. We had to ride in the back of the bus and we were not allowed to walk past a white person on the sidewalk. We would have to yield the sidewalk to them by stepping into the gutter if we crossed paths; and we could not ever approach the front door of white person’s home. It was a trying time for African Americans in this country.  If there had been a way for us to hide who we were, we surely would have just escaped that terrible humiliation. I have heard lots of different groups declare that there is no difference between their struggle and that of the African Americans.  I beg to differ.

I remember one day, when I was in junior high school, three of us young boys were very upset and crying because some white kids had passed by and yelled at us. They’d called us names (some derogatory in nature). I remember our P.E. teacher, Mr. P. E. Pile, came by and asked what we were so upset over. We told him what had happened and we asked him why the white people hated us so much. They didn’t even know us. What did we ever do to them?

Mr. Pile told us that God had made all of mankind out of the soil (dirt) of the earth. Then he asked us, “Would you rather be made of white sand, red clay or black mud?” All three of us had spent time working in the fields, so we knew the type of soil that was used to plant crops in. So, we answered, “Black mud.”

“That’s right,” he said, “because black mud has all the nutrients and minerals and produce grows the best there. So, you see? God made made you out of the best stuff. So don’t you feel inferior to anybody.” Even though that didn’t change one little thing in our lives from the outside, I think that we all felt a little better about ourselves. At least we knew why we were so hated.

Segregation had the tendency to strip a person of any sense of worth. I remember that at one time I thought that the white people were so superior to us that they never even had to use the restroom. But even as a young kid I recognized how stupid the whole thing was. We segregate animals because they generally have very little in common. You wouldn’t put dogs and rabbits together. No tigers and antelopes, or snakes and squirrels, not even cats and birds. But people? People are the same, only with a different color coat on.

I remember that during a tornado we could share a storm cellar. But once the storm had passed, things went back to the way they were. Never the twain shall meet. Our mothers could nurse their babies, train their children and even teach them. They could not, however, use the same restroom or drink from the same water fountain. It’s hard to wrap one’s head around what must have gone wrong with people who could think and believe like that.

There are many people who came through those times who cannot get over the hatred that was thrown at them; they are scarred for life. But as for me, I think that we made it out. The reason that the windshield in our cars is so much larger than the rear-view mirror is because it is not profitable to spend too much time looking back. We have already gotten past that point in our lives and we were not destroyed. I, for one, am not willing to be destroyed by something that I have already beaten.

God has restored far more to me than I ever lost, including a heart that can love and be loved. The only thing that I’m taking out of the past is me. I will live in my blessings; I will honor my blessings; I will share my blessings; I will use my blessings to be a blessing to others. I have laid all of the hurt and humiliation at the feet of those evil people who perpetrated such devastation upon us, and I pray for them.

As our celebration of Black History Month comes to a close, I hope that people will remember that our history serves to show us how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.

 

daddy2About the author: Anyone who has had the privilege of a conversation with Ray knows that he is a well of wisdom. A lifetime of sometimes unbelievable but always amazing experiences has served all who know him very well — family, friends and strangers, alike. Although he is retired from the field of college education — he ran the Industrial Technology Department at Allan Hancock College for almost thirty years and his time there is decorated with countless accolades — Ray continues to teach one class each semester in order to continue imparting his life and work experience on the next generation. He is currently writing his memoir.

Friday’s Featured Writer: Anji Harris

Happy Feature Friday, everybody! For our third installment, please welcome my friend, the talented Anji Harris. Sit back and enjoy this  charming sample from her upcoming novel, Sweetly Broken and please leave your comments and encouragements below!

“Sweetly Broken”

 Excerpt from upcoming novel, Sweetly Broken

Sometimes I lie to myself.  I tell myself, “I’m going to be okay.”  When the truth is, I’m not.  The perfect little fairy tale I’ve yet again created in my pretty little head begins to play out until its inevitable devastating end.  Then I sit there in tears, alone again, wondering what just happened as another guy exits stage left and the curtain falls.

I knew it even as we were standing there “just talking” that I would fall for him.  I guess it didn’t take much those days; seeing I had been single for what seemed like forever!  But I really liked Nick.  Besides being handsome, he had this truth about him that I admired.  A truth that I sometimes wish I was brave enough to muster up the courage to embrace.  A truth that isn’t afraid to just be—to just live in the moment.

I can’t say that I’ve ever just lived in the moment.  It seems like every move that I make is somehow carefully orchestrated.  It’s like I’m just playing a role in a play, reciting lines, waiting for a response from the audience.  If I perform well then maybe, just maybe I’d get a round of applause or even a standing ovation.  But usually it’s just the same old thing, a quiet house—an audience of one!

Who am I kidding?  There is no one sitting somewhere thinking about me.  There is no one waiting for my call because they just want to hear my voice.  There is no one anticipating seeing me again just for the chance to be near me.  There is no one longing to feel the warmth of my skin.  There is no one.  Yet, the fairy tale plays on in my head never skipping a beat or missing a line.

Maybe I am crazy?  Or at least a glutton for punishment?  Because who in their “right” mind would allow such foolishness to exist?  I mean, why keep the fantasy going if you know it’s not real? Or have I become so used to the fantasy that I can’t distinguish it from reality?  In which case I definitely need some help! I mean like, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” call 9-1-1 help!

Maybe I’ve fallen out of touch with reality or maybe I’ve just fallen out of touch with love. I don’t think I’d mind the latter. We seem to never ever be on the same page at the same time anyway.  It’s almost laughable.  It’s like it dares me to even have the inkling of interest in someone or to even venture out to make myself known—then SMACK!  Smack down right on the canvas.  Another love T.K.O.  That’s right Teddy!  Here’s yet another blow to my already ailing heart and another shot to my weakening esteem.  Way to go love!  But like a fool, I keep coming back for more, hoping, wishing and praying that this time, it will be different – that this time, love will actually love me back.

So, when Nick called earlier that day to say that, “we need to talk,” in my heart of hearts I knew it was the end.  But the ever optimist in me, you know that “happily ever after” fairy tale thing I have going on, was actually hoping for a slightly different outcome.  It was hoping for what was behind door number “2”—a romantic proposal or even door number “3” – a verbal declaration of his undying love for me.  But the likelihood that door number “1 ”was the winner—“I think it’s best if we go our separate ways,”  was looming in the depths of my heart.  Reality sucks!

Am I a fool for believing that I am worthy of love?  Okay, so don’t get all super-spiritual on me right now.  I know I have the ultimate love—God’s love.  Believe you me, if it wasn’t for HIS unconditional love I wouldn’t be able to write this.  But for real, I mean the love of another.  Is it too much to ask or desire to be loved for who I am?  Or is “who I am” too much for anyone to love?

I know in the past I’ve been told I was too independent and I believe I’ve worked on that by asking for help and not thinking that by asking, I was somehow “less than” or would be viewed as “weak”; and also by letting go of that need to be in control. I mean, I was so used to doing things on my own and in my own way, that I didn’t realize I had created this huge pitfall in my relationships.  And whenever anyone stepped over the line to try to help me, into the ditch they’d fall.  I didn’t know how much of a problem it was until one of my exes had the courage to tell me the truth.  Thank you Marcus.  I needed that one!

But what about now?  I mean, I’ve been working on myself for years and I’m so not the person I was five years ago, let alone, last year.  I am constantly learning and correcting as I go, but who isn’t?  So, why am I yet on the verge of another “You’re perfect, but not perfect for me” speech!

Now I know what you’re going to say. “God is preparing the perfect guy for me. Right?”  or “Love is just around the corner!”  And I thank you for your heartfelt well wishes.  I do.  But I’m just thinking, either God lost the blueprint for this “perfect guy” or this dude has absolutely no sense of direction, because apparently he’s around the wrong corner!

I imagined Nick would be different.  He would be the one to rescue me from the hell of singleness I had grown accustomed to and whisk me off into the glorious light of coupledom!  We’d be that couple that others admired and wondered how we kept the love alive in our relationship.  We’d travel the world together, exploring different cultures and exotic cuisines, all while giving back to the communities we traveled to through charity work.  We would be awesome together!

If there was something to talk about, Nick was pretty comfortable discussing it right then and there.  So what on earth could this be?  Could it be something that he’s actually sat and contemplated about?  Yikes!  Has he been secretly analyzing my every word and now ready to call me out as a farce? A pretender?  A hopeless dreamer? Did he take a peek behind door number “2” or door number “3” and decide I was completely loony?  Have I reverted back to my old ways? Or did I share too much too soon or not enough?

If experience has taught me anything, it was that this wasn’t a good sign; however, in my fairy tale, all was well in “Nina Land”.  All that experience was wrong!  But when I heard the booming knock at the door, my heart sank as it began to race.  This was it.  I let out a big sigh as I unlocked the door and opened it.

Sweetly Broken follows the life of its narrator Nina Sanders, as she navigates through one of life’s most challenging feats—falling in love.  Her open and honest assessment of life and her own personal struggles invite the reader into her world that is often times ridiculous, funny or downright outrageous.

About the Author: I’m a Chicago native currently residing in sunny California!  I am a proud auntie of three amazing nephews and one fabulous niece.  In my spare time, I can be found watching a movie, reading or writing.  I am currently working on my first self-published title, with hopes of more to come!

Anji_C

“Feature Friday February” trial month kick-off in one week!

FeatureFriday

Okay! So (clearly) not today, Friday, but next Friday I will be posting the first Friday Feature piece and I am really looking forward to it! I had planned on today but then I landed a production gig and, well, better to start a new thing in the new month, right? So next month is going to be a trial month for my guest publication campaign, just to see how many people would like to have their work posted. So I’ve decided to call it “Feature Friday February.” We’ll see how many takers we get and worst case scenario, you’ll get an extra post from me four weeks in a row! =) If you know anyone whose work needs to be seen by the world, send them on over!

**Submission instructions and more info in previous post!!

“Featured Fridays” Call for entries: Share your work on Cotton-pickin’ Blogs!

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The vision behind Art -N- Us Productions is not only to be salt and light in the world; it is also about helping others find their voice and tell their stories — whether through the written word, moving pictures, photographs, painting, or any other creative outlet that resonates with you! With that vision in mind, I am extending the opportunity to you to showcase your work here on my blog spot for what will be called “Featured Fridays.”

Starting with the first Friday in February I would like to share one creative’s work with my followers and, by extension, the world wide web! Maybe you don’t have the desire or know-how to launch your own blog or website, or perhaps you are just venturing into the world of the creative and you want a safe place to wet your feet. OR maybe you just have one particular piece of creative expression that you are just burning to share with an audience. This is your chance to be published! My tribe of followers are mighty in spirit and I would love to share this creative journey with you all in a new way!

So, whether you are a follower, a stopper-by, or you know someone who should submit their work for others to enjoy, please, send it on! I have already chosen a very special piece for a Feature Friday preview post for this week and I know you will all be moved. You will not want to miss out on this opportunity to shine your light and have your voice heard! All ages welcome. I’ll be waiting with bated breath =)

You can email submissions to: artnusprod@gmail.com

Please include:
– your name as you would like it to appear in your post
– If written work, please send as text in the body of the email (not an attachment); copy and paste is fine; just make sure you have paragraph breaks where you want them!
– title of piece, if applicable
– a little blurb about you (1-3 sentences is fine)
– *if you have a video, please just send the embed link (which means you need to upload it to Vimeo or YouTube); do not email me the actual file! =)
– if you are not sure about how to submit, comment here or email me at the address above and I will help you!

*No works featuring inappropriate language or content will be featured, as my subscriber base is quite broad and I want everyone to be able to enjoy!ARTNUS APPROVED DESIGN (2)

Avenue 200

Ave 200 - Grandma_AuntMae_house
We called it going to the Country. Grandma King’s house. Smelling like cow manure every second of every day, and in the summer time it was especially bad because the heat caused the stink to coat itself a little thicker onto your tongue every time you opened your mouth to speak. And if you managed to refrain from talking, it would plow its way through your nostrils and settle at the back of your throat where you couldn’t possibly cough it out. The grass was always muddy from Grandma leaving the hose running in the yard to water the fruit trees. The dirt parking area outside the gate, which ran the length of the entire property, could accommodate twenty cars, no problem. And a lot of times, it did. Whenever we traveled back to Tulare, my birthplace, from the Central Coast to visit our relatives, all the aunts, uncles and cousins would gather at Grandma’s house and the adults would talk while the kids ran around and got motley in the yard and on the farm in the back. When my cousins got there I’d forget about the smelly air and the bad taste it left in my mouth because who has time to complain when there is so much playing to do?

Her backyard extended farther than I ever got the chance to fully experience. As a little one, it seemed to go on forever; by the time I was old enough to really explore it, I had lost interest. I used to think that between Grandma and her sister, Aunt Mae (they were next door neighbors for all of their adult years) they must have owned the entire Country!

This is what I am remembering as we stand outside the gate of the front yard that leads to Grandma’s house because it looks so different now. The endearing but tired blue wood paneling has been stripped away, and it’s all stucco on the outside. It may be beautiful and made over but it’s still Grandma’s house.

“Would you like to come in?” The lady who owns the house offers kindly.

I choke out the words “Yes, please,” and turn to my mom, heart racing, because it’s been seventeen years since I’ve seen the inside. And I know that as soon as we cross the threshold into this memory keeper, my heart will break with longing because there really is no going back to the Country. Not like we used to.

by
Lauren C. Snowden