Categories
Community Care Core is Christ

Happy Birthday, Rev. Cecile Williams!

While I have lived in the S.F. Bay Area since 1988, last Sunday, I finally walked through Glide Memorial’s doors. I have known about their works for years and have been invited by my cousin and more recently and repeatedly, by my sister, but the despair of downtown has always challenged me. The moment of acceptance arrived the day before Cecile’s birthday bash, as we were scouring my closet for the perfect dress for me to wear in celebration of my 50th birthday. My sister squealed with excitement and jumped up and down as I finally accepted her invitation.

Let me tell you, I love the Lord. I rarely miss church and I would love more than anything to mix my deep pull to help those that have lost Hope and praising the Lord, but the despair quickly consumes me and I get lost in my own fog. Unfortunately, I have seen very dark things in the city, certain images that have haunted me for years, taking weeks for my mind to recover. I have been practicing immersion therapy for years and this past year, I have taken it to another level. So off we went, en route to the heart of the city. My Crew.

What I normally do when I go into the city is sit as a passenger and look at my phone. This time, I conferred with my husband and we decided I needed to face my fears. So I drove the streets littered with human souls, allowing my own to settle into their reality. As we were walking to the church, I noticed that my anxiety levels were not as high as they were a year ago. When I saw the church, I was surprised, as I expected something far more elaborate. We were welcomed by the greeters and instructed where to sit. The church is like a mini opera; it even has a balcony section. The stage is consumed by tiered rows for the choir and musical equipment, making it clear that music is prominent. We were fortunate enough to find a seat close to the front, as we were told it was standing room only. The Choir.

As soon as the music started, my sister became animated, singing and clapping, the music moving her soul. There was an energy that I am not accustomed to in the Catholic church. It reminded me more of a party with a touch of an A.A. meeting. Perhaps, it was more like a party since they were celebrating Rev. Cecil Williams 90th birthday, but I am sure I wouldn’t be wrong to think that it must feel like this every Sunday. We were asked to hug everyone around us and the person who normally hides behind a peace sign in the Catholic pews, yours truly, gave hugs! We started with a prayer poem from Cecil’s wife. It was profoundly perfect. It spoke of love and recovery and settling into a pattern of life that most souls search for on this planet. In between beautiful songs, there were a few individuals who spoke directly to the reverend on behalf of his birthday, including his daughter. The theme woven throughout their stories was how this beautiful soul assisted them into recovery. I was so moved when one man presented himself with a laundry list of things that a lot of folks find fault with, including being a gay, Latin, recovering man. As he spoke, his words dripped with gratitude. The prayer poem was profound, but his testimony touched the slumbering addict in my own soul. This beautiful, humble man, was profoundly grateful to Rev. Cecile for assisting him in finding his way home. His Daughter's Testimony.

When we were told to give a gift for Rev. Cecil’s birthday, I grabbed the orange envelope they suggested and filled it with our monetary donations. The seal of the envelope was glaring at my OCD-filled eyes, but I looked at my sister, we exchanged a look of challenge, and then I embraced my immersion therapy and licked that very envelope! I can’t say that this very act didn’t cause me angst throughout the rest of my day, forcing me to come to terms with it in my mind, but I have lived to tell that the choppy waters of my mind eventually calmed.

At one point, a protester walked into God’s house with her own message from God about sinners going to hell, but she was quietly escorted out, but not before a beautiful soul behind me told her to leave or they would personally escort her out. Clearly, these folks have Rev. Cecile’s back!

Attending this church woke my soul, for it is a place where Hope, Help, and Healing are solving the world’s woes. At this church, all souls are radically welcomed because this man embraced the lost, at all costs.

When we were walking back to the car, we ran into the head of the choir and I thanked him for his profound performance. I shared with him that this was my first time at Glide and why I don’t get down here that often. I even told him I licked an envelope! I was like a child, sharing my minor growth, but for me it was monumental.

Categories
Business & Politics

Doing Business in a Trump World

America is deeply divided, right down to its dining room tables. Social media unfriending is rampant, businesses are refusing to serve people of a certain political party, boycotts are in full effect, while others are rejecting work based upon their religious beliefs. How do we remain in a business as usual frame of mind while terms such as Trump Derangement Syndrome, fake news, snowflake, and racist are vehemently being tossed around?

While at our core, we know it is best to separate business and politics, yet in this era of cell phones and social media, it may not be that easy. Should we follow Maxine Watters’ direction and call folks out, telling them they are not welcome anymore, anywhere? Should we refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple? After all, Americans enjoy Amendment I. As business owners, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. Yet, just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.

While Maxine Watters is encouraging us to invoke Amendment I, she should revisit the words and encourage people to peaceably assemble, not declare to fellow Americans that they are no longer welcome.

We are fortunate enough to live in a country where free will is allowed, but the versatility of our expressions will forever culminate in the clashing of sides. How do we get past someone’s politics without refusing business? Sometimes we can’t; instead, proceed with the transaction and remember that your true power is at the polls. If casting a ballot is not enough, volunteer for your party or promote it by placing a sign in your front yard. This is your business, so empower it to be the best that it can be; a professional establishment that reflects a positive you. After all, do you really want to align with the infamous bakery that drew a line laced in frosting?

Can we find middle ground? My husband wonders why I listen to conservative talk show stations, as well as far left ones. While there are statements on both sides that cause me to switch between radio stations, I choose to listen to both sides in pursuit of greater understanding, finding commonalities, and better-shaping my own views. If we wish to grow through this presidency, we must acknowledge that there is growth to be had on both sides. America has always been a work in progress and while it is okay to settle into evolved views, we must remain open to changing them as well. Our forefathers had the desire to change and evolve from an erect society, so it is our responsibility as citizens to remain vigilant and not become the erect society they once escaped.

 

 

 

Categories
Community Care Full Circle

Case for My Grandpa’s Missing Tools

Yesterday, I received a telephone call from my mother’s landlady. She told me that MAG gave her another letter (my mother is infamous for writing very, very, very lengthy letters), requesting a work order to fix her front door lock (it was recently replaced) and that someone has broken into her apartment – again! This time, her father’s tools were stolen. After getting off the phone with her landlady, I called MAG and she told me the entire story, including that she had been crying all day because these tools are very sentimental to her. As usual, I tried to reason with her, but I need to realize that this doesn’t help her – this is her truth. Also, it doesn’t help my stress and frustration levels. My husband suggested we go look for the missing tools (We have done this before – Case of the Missing Jewels). We arrived and started rummaging through her things. It didn’t take long for one of us to find the tools, nicely wrapped and hidden in one of many boxes residing in her small apartment. I showed her the evidence and she said, “Where did you find them? I have been looking for them for five days!” Faced with the evidence in hand, I forced her to acknowledge that there are no thieves, but that she is experiencing short-term memory loss, hiding her things because she thinks people are breaking in, and then forgetting where she puts them. Her spirit broke and mine withered. While her social worker has told me not to confront her on her delusions, I am tired of entertaining them, as they are too taxing on all involved.

Often times, my husband ends up playing bad cop. While I don’t always agree with him, his role sometimes serves a purpose. Unfortunately, he remains convinced that he can speak sense into her. He indicated to MAG that if she doesn’t stop blaming other tenants for breaking into her home and stealing things (essentially, calling them liars), it is going to end in one way – with her going into a home. My mother, a rebel consistently with a cause, placed a finger gun to her head while grabbing air in a specific area said, “Don’t ever put me in a home, I will shoot myself and I have the *cajones to do it!” MAG is quite the character and has always caused a reaction, but her antics have worn thin with us, especially when our eight-year-old daughter is sitting on the couch and I have to reassure her later on that her grandma is not going to kill herself. Far worse, is that my mother can no longer make the connection that it is truly insensitive to put suicide on the table, when we both lived through the pain and suffering caused by my brother taking his own life.

While my mother thinks her landlady is against her, I believe she has been more than fair to her. Once we solved the case of the missing tools, I called her landlady and asked, once again, for compassion for my mother, who is experiencing dementia. I told her that my husband will fix the lock (He tightened the base and we both assured MAG that it is normal for the lever to work freely) and next week, I will help her get rid of some of her stuff (again) and organize and label the remaining items for easier accessibility. This is not the first time I have walked MAG’s landlady off the ledge and with MAG’s lack of memory, I will probably have to do it again – but it is what I do.

For now, I honor my mother’s plea for autonomy, but I balance her wants with the safety of her needs. There will come a time when I must allow MAG’s social worker to place her on the waiting list for assisted living. Being a parent has prepared me for this; I can’t always be a friend.

Where I find myself now is what troubles my soul – encountering the confusion and sadness found in my mother’s eyes – her soul is lost within a vessel that is nearing its end, driven by a mind that is waning.

 

 

 

Categories
Community Care Full Circle

Ground Zero: Positive Perception

I went home recently, but this visit placed me on a different plane. While I outgrew my troubled youth long ago, something profound happened this time – bringing me full circle.

I survived a very difficult upbringing, one that often leads to misery, prison, and/or death. What adds additional depth to this story is that the date my cousin settled on for hosting my aunt’s birthday party (March 10), is one of two birthdays I celebrate – 29 years of clean and sober living. While my body recovered from the abuse long ago, memories do not fade as fast as scars.

A few weeks before I arrived in Reedley, I became very anxious about going home. This is something that has happened for decades, for my hometown is littered with dark and light memories. However, as the date of departure got closer, my anxiety decreased. I had gained momentum with a particular project in my life, so this could have enhanced my mood, but I recognized something deeper. As the roads flattened and the endless rows of fruit trees and grapevines consumed my sight, I reflected as I always do, but this time with a positive perspective.

When I drove into town, I had different expectations – visiting with family, touring Fresno State University with my son, attending my aunt’s 84th birthday party, going to church as a family, visiting the graves, and then returning home. I was able to visit with some of the family, but instead of attending my aunt’s birthday party, I had to visit her in ICU. As usual, l was forced to face life as it is, not as I will it to be. Yet, my positive perception remained.

Our campus tour happened and while I have dark feelings about my son returning to an area that has caused me so much grief, I am armed with the knowledge that I raised a very different child. My other aunt and cousins were happy to entertain us, so we had dinner at our favorite Chinese spot and watched a few movies at my aunt’s house (a favorite childhood pastime). Most of all, I was blessed to have a deep discussion with one of my favorite cousins, who was forced to return from his former life, back to ground zero.

When Sunday arrived, I had very little time left for the graves. Time has always been an enemy, so I woke up earlier than I wanted to, so I could visit with the dead before church. I honored my deceased relatives and decorated their graves and when I had less than ten minutes, I ran to my childhood sweetheart’s grave. As I was running, Pandora switched on and the journey to his plot gained a soundtrack, Alan Jackson’s “Remember When.” As I ran, the first verse magnified memories: Remember when, I was young and so where you . . . It always takes awhile to find his grave; although, I will never lose track of the general vicinity, as it is marked by a huge pine tree. I placed the artificial flowers that I had purchased on his grave and I reflected on where we are now. My eyes settled on the mountains capped in snow, blurred by the tears that began to fall. An addict’s life is truly tragic, oftentimes, ending in a final high. As I stood over his body that has been resting for over two decades, I finally made peace with our paths. Ground zero is tough, but six feet under is finite. I grieve for my first love, as I grieve for the troubled girl of my youth. This grave, his grave, is not just his, it belongs to a part of me that sleeps.

 

 

Categories
Core is Christ

Day of Ashes

“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

“Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.”

Yesterday, these two phrases permeated Catholics churches across Planet Earth, meant to inspire us to reevaluate our spiritual and physical practices. Will we heed the call?

I religiously adhere to the dietary restrictions and consistently identify what I will be giving up, but I find far more purpose in increasing my charitable acts and improving myself. While I routinely greet my mornings as clean slates, Ash Wednesday has always served as annual checkup. Forty days without something is generally achievable; however, the hope for humans has always been that we continue righting our paths. For example, my mother gave up drinking for Lent over thirteen years ago.

Annually, the first thing I attempt to give up is cussing. This is very hard, because I do it instinctively. This morning, before I cussed out loud, I had already cussed in my thoughts. Regardless, I will continue to try and refrain in hopes of ridding cussing from my vocal chords and my mind. This year, in addition to trying not to cuss, I have decided to give up tea (hot and cold). I drink a lot of tea and I enjoy it very much. Last night, my neighbor brought up giving up coffee, but coffee is part of what keeps me running and able to take care of all that I need to on Planet Earth. That said, I do not have to drink more than one cup a day. So, in addition to trying to give up cussing and tea, I will limit my coffee intake to one cup per day. That is right, no more soy lattes, unless I forgo my morning cup of java. Since I drink one cup of coffee a day and it is first thing in the morning, this will probably mean that soy lattes will go by the wayside. Perhaps, this is a good thing. Have you seen the price of a tall soy latte?

So, my journey to the foot of the cross begins. I will work hard to strengthen my body by exercising more often, avoid overindulging with my food consumption, refrain from drinking tea, and attempt to train my tongue not to curse.

Now, onto my charitable acts!

 

 

 

 

Categories
Community Care Dog Walks

Collecting More Than My Thoughts

Sometimes, the ocean is all one needs to collect their thoughts, or in my neighbor’s dialect, find your Chi.

After a cold and rainy spell, my wounded neighbor (R) shared with me that she was finally able to go outdoors, sit on her porch, and absorb some vitamin D. Having dislocated her right kneecap, she has been trapped at home – a reluctant homebody. I, on the other hand, am a homebody, especially in times of despair. I didn’t care, for I knew what I had to do. R was thrilled to hear that I was willing to take her to the beach and out for lunch. I collected R and my dog, Scooter, and I drove us down the hill. Scooter whined the whole way; he knew where we were headed. As soon as we heard the waves breaking, our true journey began. I situated R on a bench so she could find her Chi and I went off with my sidekick for a walk on the berm. We walked on the berm until I saw dogs off their leashes (laws, people, laws), so we journeyed down to the beach. You see, Scooter is a very troubled pound dog, that doesn’t socialize well. This is why I take him to the beach, so he can sniff out his own version of Chi. Scooter sniffed and chased the orange ball I tossed, while my thoughts turned to words. What can I write? How can I improve my blog? How can I manifest products that will help mental challenges? With each visit, my written world expands. It is here, where my soul connects with the elements: fire, air, earth, and water. The sun warms me, the cool, salty breeze fills me, the Earth stabilizes me, and the waves renew me. Human needs that we take for granted.

So I walk, I self-soothe, I collect more than my thoughts; including, pretty shells, tiny pieces of driftwood, neighbors who need a lift to paradise, and photographs of things too large to carry in my hands, but forever linger on my mind.

A dolphin!

Categories
Community Care

Adventures with MAG and Min

I arrived at my mother’s church last Sunday, as previously planned, but MAG was MIA. When MAG has plans, she is religiously ready and waiting, but not this day. I called her and she declared, “I thought we were going to the movies.” Shortly thereafter, she arrived at church, completely apologetic, but I reassured her that it was okay.

My mother’s short-term memory loss has been a challenge for us and at times, the ramifications are not as easy to smile at (like forgetting she has diabetes and landing in E.R. or forgetting to take her medications, resulting in the same outcome), but forgetting about one of two activities that we had planned for the day is hardly a battle that I pick in this timeline.

My daughter (Min) helped MAG get situated on the pew and find her place in the missal. Throughout mass, Min showed MAG, line by line, where we were. You see, MAG has numerous challenges, including being deaf. Because Min was on her best behavior, I actually got to hear the sermon and I only had to shush them a few times. The best part? We got to sing “How Great Thou Art.” This song is one of my aunt’s favorite, so I sang a tad louder and reflected on beautiful memories of MAG’s eldest sister. I took a quick photo of the page we were on, so I could send it to my aunt and my cousin, her caregiver.

After church, we went to the movies and while we were walking to the theater, my Min saw a car approaching, so she waited for MAG in order to grab her hand. My mother thanked her profusely. When they got to safety, I smiled at them and I told Min how wonderful it is to see her helping MAG. Min told me that she was so worried that the car was going to hit her. Watching my daughter assisting my mother is a far better show than the movies Min routinely chooses. What did we watch? Picture Perfect 3. How do I rate the movie? I don’t. Instead, I focus on what truly matters – spending quality time with MAG and Min.

Categories
Community Care

Growing Up, Growing Down: From Eight to Seventy-Eight.

I am raising two children (eight and sixteen), while trying to cope with my mother (MAG) who is currently growing down. Strange term, I know, far stranger is the day-to-day of it. It was surreal the day I connected a parallel between events happening with my children and MAG.

I remember when we moved MAG from her old place to her recent abode. She had to stay with us a few weeks before her new place was ready. When it came time for me to take her to her new place, she was afraid – she didn’t want to go. She was crying; she was scared. She kept finding reasons not to leave my home. When I finally got her outside, before she got into my car, she asked to spend the night one last time – she told me she would leave tomorrow. My son is sixteen and although his timeline hasn’t arrived for such an event, in this distorted timeline, I was the mother, comforting a child who wasn’t ready to leave home. I was the one armed with the knowledge that things would be okay.

MAG has been settled in her home for several years now and even though she asks to spend the night as often as she can, she is doing okay in her apartment (a quick five minute drive from my home). Not long ago, my family was grocery shopping and there was a clown outside the store. MAG was so happy to see the clown, she begged for us to stop for a bit. My husband is leery of folks and chose not to indulge MAG, but this event shed significant light on my mother’s zeal and excitement for childhood treats. The last time my sister came to visit, she asked MAG where she would like to go. MAG said, “The Zoo,” so off they went.

These parallels have complicated making hard decisions for my mother. The primary one is her desire to live out her remaining days in the apartment she was so afraid to enter. We have had several hiccups during her residency, including flooding, break-ins, and extended hospital stays. My initial reaction is always to uproot her and place her into a facility offering skilled nursing and/or assisted living, but she begs me not to. Thankfully, her group of support extends farther than yours truly. She has a slew of doctors (including one that told our family she had three days to live – approximately thirteen years ago), another daughter and my husband, who happens to take better care of my mother than her own son. Collectively, we determined that MAG’s childlike zeal for life would be crushed by restricting her freedom and uprooting her, so we weigh the risks, one event at a time.

Things are okay this week. I haven’t received any telephone calls enlightening me otherwise. In fact, she called me while writing this blog entry. MAG wanted to know when I was going to take her to the movies again. I had previously planned a day for us, so I shared it with her: We can attend church together on Sunday and then we can have brunch and/or go to the movies. I will let you know how our day goes . . .

Categories
Writing a New Role

Sincerely, Planet Earth Paralegal

I have been billing time as a Planet Earth Paralegal since 1990. I know, I know, there are far worse careers to be had, but I long to be a paid writer. What qualifies me to be a writer? I have a Master’s in English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing. What hasn’t worked as much? Having an extensive work history as a paralegal. How can one transition from being a paralegal to a writer, or any other title for that matter? The first thing potential employers want to see is experience, but I can’t secure experience without the prerequisite – experience.

One great thing about writing is that regardless of my role, I must write. As a paralegal, I have written and/or revised content for attorneys, executives and companies. In my book (ha, ha), this translates into versatile writing skills. Yes, I can write creatively, but I am a business writer as well. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather write a short story; but as a paralegal, I routinely polish my writing skills. I have summarized depositions, handled extensive communications, promoted patent programs via internal platforms, created and presented marketing materials; assisted with branding needs for various products; created trademark guidelines for corporate communications; and designed copy for various departments. I could go on, but why? Isn’t that enough? What is another talent writers should rock? Research. As a paralegal, I spend a lot of time researching various topics, a skill that served me well during graduate school.

What else is a writer in paralegal clothing to do? Well, for starters, I have hired myself to write right now! This blog site? I created it. All content? Future product line, Push Positive Products? Mine, mine, mine . . .

Now watch me write myself into a new role!

Sincerely,

Planet Earth Paralegal

Categories
Community Care

We Are Not As Unique As We Think.

We are not as unique as we think and although this is sad on so many levels; it lends hope, that we can connect and soothe and grow, along with others suffering and/or rejoicing in similar ways. While I am a solitary being, especially when I fall into darkness, I challenge myself to consistently leave my dwelling and spend time with others. When I am in need of greater assistance, I seek out support groups. Support groups have helped me fight back a variety of darkened states: drug addiction, alcoholism, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and work stress. Sometimes, I receive creative solutions in support of coping with a particular problem. Other times, practices that I know, but are hidden in my current film of darkness, resurface. What wakes my soul is when what I have to say resonates with the group and our light collides.

While we are given only one life, we are given each other. Even a solitary being such as this writer, needs encounters with others. My sphere contains a spouse, a son, a daughter, a mother, other family members, a few fantastic friends, wonderful neighbors, and a support group that is helping me resurrect my light. Social media is an excellent outlet for me as well. I get to socialize with a number of people, in the comfort of my fabricated bubble.

If you are like most adults, you spend the majority of your time at work. Work can be very stressful, but some of my greatest days spent there were because of some very cool and crazy coworkers. While some of us are lucky enough to win the work group lottery, others are not. I recall one particular workplace, where I witnessed a group of coworkers that were so tight, darkness could not seep in. They walked together to lose weight, celebrated personal and work-related milestones and were simply there for each other. Our company went through an acquisition, layoffs and numerous management changes, but they smiled and supported each other through our difficult times. Supportive souls abound, lending each other light so collectively, they shine brighter.

Let’s start reaching out more. Whether we join a march to fight bigotry, or call that friend we have been meaning to get coffee with. Plan a double date or go spend time with the animals at the zoo. If you need deeper healing, seek out a support group. If you can’t find a support group, start your own. This blog is as much for me as it is for you – ya, you – the one immersed in a darkness of your own – I see you.