Time to Read

 My Brenda Jackson Book Collection!

My Brenda Jackson Book Collection!

Reading and writing are two of my FAVORITE things to do.

I read to escape, from work, from daily pressures, to get out of my own head. I read to see how others live and love. To explore parts of the world I have not yet discovered. To see another’s perspective and views on the world. 

When I read, I hear new voices. Voices other my own. I can think about what life could be, outside of my regular day to day. 

Reading was the way I started to expand my mind, to begin to discover all the possibilities I might pursue. Reading the stories of others made me realize that my own story was worth telling.

Time to read is an important activity that I just have not put enough priority on. When I set aside time to read, I feel free and unburdened. Reading takes me to another place. A place where I can dream and think about the world and possibilities for the future. Reading draws out the creativity deep inside me that my typically analytically focused mind seems to crowd out. I am by nature analytical first. Creativity takes time and work for me, but when I reach that place of creativity, I can be BRILLIANT!

There are always so many other things to do. Those things that take priority before I can settle down with time to read. I’m not that girl who can read during the weekends or on my daily commute. There are too many other things that take precedence in each day. Those things that would keep me from concentrating on reading anyway. So I tend to collect books. Books that I plan to read on vacation or long plane rides. I have been known to read 2-3 books back to back while away on vacation. I have at least 100 books in my “retirement” collection; books I plan to read when I no longer have a grueling daily commute. Most are classics, American literature, Black history, the BIBLE. Many I have read but all are books that I want so much to read… that I need time to savor. I can’t wait! No that’s not a hint that I am retiring soon. Just sharing a thought regarding how I intend to spend my time, when I have some.

When I am tired or stressed, I crawl under covers with a romance novel, usually one by my favorite author Brenda Jackson. Brenda has written over 100 books and I own and have read every single one of them.  Some multiple times. Brenda’s writing takes me away from the day-to-day pressures of life to a fairy tale of my own. To a place that I know may not exist, yet it feels glorious when I get lost in her words; and when I’m done, usually overnight or within only a few hours, I am replenished and ready to jump back in to the grind.

It’s difficult to explain. I just know that reading has always been an escape for me. Thank GOD I can read!

While reading allows me to escape, writing gives me the opportunity to express. Express my troubles, my feelings, what I have learned, my dreams.

When I read, I think more clearly. When I read, I am inspired to WRITE. Reading about someone else’s story reminds me that so much of my own story is still untold. Lessons in my life that are worth telling. Inspiring words to boost the spirits of others flow freely when I’m writing.

I don’t have a bucket list. Maybe I should. But there are things I enjoy doing and reading and writing, thinking and dreaming, top my list. Making time to read and to write is high on my priority list. 

In addition to the books I plan to read, there are at least a dozen books in my head, some I have started to draft that I want to write one day. I will write a book on leadership. I dream of writing a romance novel. The thought makes me chuckle. ME...a romance novelist! Brenda Jackson watch out. You’ve inspired me. This girl is going to give you some competition!

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Copyright © 2018 by Valerie Rainford. All Rights Reserved

One Step Away...

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There I sat at Newark’s Penn Station awaiting a train to Washington D.C. where I would attend a family event. I typically travel via air in order to be as efficient as possible, but I had been in the air quite a bit and I indulged an instinct to avoid air travel for this trip. Following my gut, I booked a train ticket from New Jersey to D.C. even though I rarely travel by train.

I arrived at the station early and discovered the train had a scheduled hour-long delay. The Northeast Corridor had just experienced one of the worst nor'easter storms of the season. The train station was crowded. Trains were delayed and oversold for multiple days due to the storm. Dozens awaited their trains undoubtedly frustrated. No problem I told myself. I will simply find a seat and await my train’s arrival.

As I searched to find a seat to settle in to wait, I could find none. Even the seats marked “Reserved for ticketed customers” were fully occupied. But, then I found one. I stepped toward it and set down my bags.

Looking around, what struck me first were the vast number of people sitting nearby who looked homeless, likely inside to escape the cold. I watched a tall man pass by carrying a plant. He was talking to himself. He paused to place the plant on the station windowsill and then turned and left. A maintenance worker came by a few minutes later and cleared the plant away. Moments later, a woman who sat near me, who looked like a waiting passenger, simply stood and circled the seating area then returned and sat back down. It wasn’t until she stood and circled the bench - eyes blank - five additional times, in less than 10 minutes, that I realized that this was her place of refuge as well. I watched her circle the bench and sit for 2 minutes at a time then circle the bench again; this ritual went on for almost 20 minutes. It bothered me a great deal to witness her agony. So much that I stood and changed my seat. I’ll just move to the other side of the terminal lobby I thought.

On the other side of the terminal was the tall man with yet another plant. He placed it on the windowsill. Again. The worker appeared a short while later and cleared that one too. To my right, I watched another man picking through the trash searching for bottles to recycle.

A younger man dressed in all black came along next. He paced the room talking to himself. Walking back and forth. He continually passed a woman draped in a blanket, walking as well, with no shoes on her feet. Hmmm, more rituals I thought.

I then noticed a woman who looked like a tourist stand to take a photo. It turned my stomach that the photo she was so eager to capture was of a young boy - presumably her son - posed and smiling as he handed a care package to one of the homeless men sitting on a bench – a paper bag with a peanut butter sandwich, chips, and a bottle of water. The man hung his head in shame as they passed him the bag, took the photo and walked away. A sad display acted out by the privileged, I thought.

It occurred to me that when we stop and pay attention, that there seemed to be as many homeless people in that train station as there were travelers. Strikingly, nearly every one of the homeless were Black people - and almost all BLACK MEN. Black men who probably never envisioned this plight for themselves. Black men whose sole possessions were worn on their backs or carried in plastic bags.

I was meant to be in that train station to remind me of what’s important. The privilege I enjoy today is only possessed by a few.

Any one of those black men could have been my brother, my cousin, my Dad. The women amongst them could have easily been my mother. In them, I cannot help but remember what it was like to grow up not knowing privilege. The days of having only beans and rice for dinner. To have a mother who had to work two and sometimes three jobs to support her family. To grow up one step away...

One step away from a major illness…

One step away from not knowing where your next meal is coming from…

One step away from matted hair and filthy clothing with no place to call home…

One step away, with nowhere to go but the local train station…

One step away from hopelessness…walking around draped in a blanket!

One step away from losing your dignity.

There are too many among us who are One Step away...

America, we are better than this!

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Copyright © 2009 by Valerie Rainford. All Rights Reserved