Beauty Is the Harvest of Presence

~This is the second blog entry chronicling my experience as a volunteer at a school for homeless children. The title of this post is from Beauty by David Whyte. I will not identify the children by name and in general write of composite personalities so that I can best illustrate common experiences among the children without violating their confidentiality and more importantly, the trust of the people who allow me to volunteer at the school.

Arriving at the emergency school today, the children greeted me with smiles, surprised looks of recognition and in general a sense that something exciting was about to happen. Later in the evening at my yoga class, our teacher discussed the Spring equinox and its impact on the energy floating around us. Aha, I thought, that’s what was shooting through everyone in school today.

The 4th-grade classroom boasted 9 children today.  Most were kids I’d met before, but two sets of siblings are new to me although the teacher said they had been there previously about two years ago.  Homelessness comes and goes for these kids. Unfortunately, its transient nature impacts them more than if they were chronically homeless and as a result were enrolled in the school on a daily basis.  For example, one of the boys (Andy) has been in class consistently having perfect attendance since the first day of the school year.  As a result, he is excelling in his studies, is happy, and has established a set of friendships that he clearly cherishes. Sadly, however, his family is still not able to find a permanent place to live and continue to reside in a non-fully operational vehicle that they manage to move from place to in order to keep from drawing negative law enforcement attention to themselves. Meanwhile, Andy makes it to school every day and for a few hours, enjoys himself immensely. At the end of the day, he and a few others board a school van and are dropped off with their families.

Today started as a stormy morning complete with rain, lightening, and thunder.  The kids were chock full of mischief.  One of the “new” girls asked me to play one on one basketball with her.  I pretended that I knew no rules and that perhaps if she had patience with me that she could teach me how to play. She tried to pull a few rule violations but when I spoke to her about it and consulted with another child, she smiled broadly and acquiesced.  At that point, she resorted to taunting me, which indeed made me laugh.  “Come on Old Lady, let’s see what you got!”  She lined up with the other children to report to her classroom as the small, hand-held lunch bell tinkled away at the hands of a younger child who’d earned the privilege from the PE Teacher. The look on her face when I lined up behind her was priceless.  “How you like me now?” I whispered.  We laughed.

In the classroom, the teacher asked me to work with one of the new boys, whose older sister was in class as well.  She sat behind us as I sat next to him.  We were instructed to work on addition.  First things first, I asked him to write his first and last name on the page. He wrote his name, Miguel at the top of the page in typical 8-year-old  printing. When asked to write his last name, he turned to his sister for help.  She wrote their surname on a scrap of paper and handed it to me.  I asked him to pronounce it for me and he did. Except, I could not understand his words.  He has a speech impediment that makes it difficult to understand what he is saying.  I looked at the teacher, who said, let’s get some assessment as far as what he does know and where we should start with him.

I sat next to him and whispered instructions and made mental notes about his needs.  After recess, the teacher asked me to pull him into a separate location so that I could speak more freely and so that he could focus better on the tasks before him.  I pulled some short stories appropriate for him and off we went.  I soon discovered that addition, in its simplest form, would require much one on one time. We tried to recite the alphabet without much luck. So we wrote the alphabet and practiced naming each letter and the sound it produces. Sensing that Miguel was getting tired, I offered him a snack and let him eat while I read some stories to him.  Eventually, we were ready to read Green Eggs and Ham.  He was engrossed in the story as I exaggerated the words and reactions of the characters.  He smiled. When the story ended I heard him excitedly say, “Read it again!”

And so I did.  Only this time, I left out some of the rhyming words and withheld some of the hand gestures I used before.  He caught me.  He started filling in the endings of sentences and while sometimes he used the wrong words, he was clearly engaged in the story. He found it particularly funny to see Sam I Am underwater holding the plate of food of which one egg was clearly about to fall off.

We read the book a third time. This time Miguel had no problem helping tell the story. He smiled and said, “I like that book. When’s it time to eat?”  We returned to the classroom in time to prepare for lunch….No Green Eggs and Ham, though, just corn dogs and sides.

After lunch, I worked with Isaac who despite all his efforts seems to get in trouble every day.  His transgressions are minimal in the greater scheme of things, but in a school where every second of the day counts and manners are a must, he just can’t toe the line.  I love Isaac. He is funny, has a higher sense of humor, dances like a Jackson, and cares for others; especially, if it is he that caused their injury.

So off we went, armed with flash cards, blank paper, and a book to read together. His first test of me came immediately.  “Can we sit outside?” he asked.  After assurances that he would indeed be able to concentrate and pleading brown eyes, I agreed.  As we sat we talked about why he seems to get into trouble with the teacher so much. He seemed genuinely baffled.  But after a quarter hour of examples from me and justifications from him, he agreed that arguing with the teacher would always result in a recorded loss on his score card.  He decided that when he was being reprimanded for responding to someone when he was supposed to be silent, that the best tactic for him would be to stop talking. Fairness is important to Isaac, but he understands that arguing in this case, will not help.

I pulled out multiplication flash cards.  He zipped through all the ones I expected him to have memorized and when larger numbers came up, like 8×8, he patiently counted sets of eight fingers until he spouted off the correct answer.  We decided to review the multiplication tables as a set of patterns that he could easily learn.

“Beauty is almost always found in symmetries: the symmetries seen out in creation, the wings of the moth, the airy sky and the solid earth, the restful, focused eyes of a loving face in which we see our own self reflected:”… (David Whyte)

We looked for the symmetries in the math.  We looked for the patterns in the numbers. We looked for the reflections in the table as we worked left to right and top to bottom.

Within a short while, Isaac stopped abruptly, turned to look me in the eye and he proclaimed, “OH!! I get it!”    We were off to the races.  I showed him that he already knew much of table and that as a result, his task would be to memorize the methods we discussed, and ultimately, return the completed table to me the next time I see him.  I made sure he took a pen with him and he happily took his homework with him.

I understand that I will not see him for a week and that even then, he may not be there when I return. But for now, he will be treated as any student would.  He seemed to appreciate the expectations I have for him and also appeared confident that he could do the work.

The end of the day came much too quickly and as they lined up to leave the school the children spoke of the sun shining and no more rain, at least for the day. They quietly exited the room.  As I was leaving, one of the boys, Miguel returned to retrieve a forgotten jacket.  He smiled and waved at me and said, “See you next weekend!” The teacher escorting him shot me a questioning glance but I just waved it off.  I know what Miguel meant.  He was echoing my farewell when I said, “See you in a week.”

Sometimes we aren’t perfect, but we are perfect in our imperfection.  Such a bounty I harvested today.

Thanks for reading.

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Just Be There

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I rushed out of the house with my negative TB test in hand.  My first day as a volunteer at a local, private emergency school for children whose parents are homeless.  Children attend school to learn, play, eat, relax and in general, forget about their circumstances for a little while.  I had no idea how I would be able to manage a full day of what I considered might be emotional at best or difficult at worst.

I arrived just before a young father came in to drop off his daughter.  He acted erratically and was suspicious of me when I offered to walk his child to the classroom since I was going that way.  The paid staff waved me off and took over the discussion.  The little girl never made it to class. Most likely her dad changed his mind.

gently knocked on the green door and was hailed inside by a baseball cap wearing gentleman with an easy smile and a friendly voice.  I explained I was there to volunteer. The three little boys sitting at their desks glanced at me then turned to their seat work,  while the teacher and I whispered our hellos.

I learned that on any one day there could be anywhere from a couple to a dozen children in this classroom. Today there were only three.  Eventually, I was introduced to the boys, all about nine years old and they learned my name as Miss Caro.  Together, we went over the schedule and the rest of the day was spent following it to the “T,” while the boys took turns explaining to me what each activity entailed.

The boys were each remarkably similar and yet, drastically different.  All three boys struck me as very open to me even though they didn’t know who I am. Each child beamed at being able to teach me about the classroom routine.  Each child showed signs of street life.  Each child smiled broadly and laughed easily. Yet, not one talked about himself outside of school.

Mike is tall and athletic with developing broad shoulders and has an exotic look about him. Everything about Mike reeks of manipulation. All the rules of the basketball game he joined were somehow tweaked to his advantage and while he was kind, clearly his goal was to be the best at all costs.

Mike is super observant. While reading The Wizard of Oz aloud to them I asked them if they knew what a lion’s mane is? They did not.  I explained it and kept reading. Later that afternoon as they read their creative writing exercise Mike proudly used the word “mane” in his story. He was rewarded with the teacher’s acknowledgment that his accomplishment was worthy of great praise.

Similarly, while shorter and with a more generic, round face of a mischievous child, Andy also made it clear that his voice was to be heard. Andy is more cerebral and has a vocabulary of a much older, wiser child. His ideas are well developed and it is clear that he has a love of reading. He too argues on the playground and puts himself in the simultaneous position of arbitrator and player; I get another turn because…; that doesn’t count because…, and on and on.

In the classroom, Andy excels in all areas of study. He is a voracious reader and his vocabulary includes words like “affect” and “opportunity.”  Andy’s writing assignment also incorporates his experiences from earlier in the day. He writes that he wishes he could fly like a bird. He would squeeze himself into an unsuspecting flock of black birds and go all over the world. He would want to fly to see Santa at the North Pole more than anything else.

Dan is stout, sports a mohawk that was clearly just touched up and developmentally seems to be much younger than the other boys. While playing a game of pickle, he fell and outright cried saying he didn’t want to play anymore as he lay on the court. The other boys ran to help him and treated him likewise, as a child much younger than they.  After a band-aid and a hug, he resumed play but not in the manner of the other two boys. He was content to hang back and watch the other two try to out maneuver each other.

In the classroom, I learned that unlike the other boys Dan has literally never been in a regular school. In fact, he has rarely attended the emergency school. He struggles with reading, has not yet mastered the concept that when adding numbers by counting on his fingers that he can start by knowing he has five fingers on each hand and count six, then seven, then eight, etc. Dan has to begin counting at one every time. Often, he has to start over because he loses his place on the number line. He does not know his birthdate. I took dictation for his creative writing assignment. His writing prompt asks him to describe his favorite Christmas present.  He talks about the ChooChoo train he received as well as the chameleon that can hang from the ceiling by its tongue.

At the end of the day, the teacher rewarded the boys for their hard work and good behavior by letting them pick a game to play with me. We played Candyland and despite their best efforts Andy and Mike were not allowed to change rules to suit them. We snickered at bad draws and guffawed when a player had to go back so far they would never catch up again. Soon the teacher said, time to line up, signaling the end of the school day.

I reminded them that had a great time with them and that I would see them next week. They went to the area where their parent would retrieve them and I walked out through the office entrance.

As I headed to my car I heard, “Miss Caro! Miss Caro!” I turned to see Andy waving furiously as he waited to board a van that I came to understand would take him to the shelter for women and their children. I waved back yelling, “ciao dahling!”

I plopped into my car to check emails and texts, and peek at FaceBook.  As I looked up to grab my shoulder strap of the seatbelt I saw Dan walking down the sidewalk.  He was with his mother, brother and two sisters, the youngest of which was fast asleep in an umbrella stroller.  His mom pushed her as the other children skipped around them. They walked down the street, going to a shelter. No, hopefully going to a shelter I thought.

I wondered what circumstances lead a woman with four children to be chronically homeless.  I wondered why she couldn’t work a little more with Dan. I wondered why Andy’s intelligence was being ignored by his parent. Clearly, he has a crazy amount of potential. Why was Mike’s natural athleticism and leadership not being developed?

I stopped myself.  I cried. I drove away in the silence, listening to my thoughts. I found myself saying,

“Give without expectations. Help without judging.  Love without condition.  Repeat.”

I can’t wait to go back just to be there.

 

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The Hidden Message

creative-hidden-logo-37Yesterday I read a post on FaceBook by a man who essentially said that women in the United States are not oppressed and then went on to list how de facto oppressed women are treated. After all, we have all the rights and privileges we are allowed to have.

He mansplained that, “When you’re told to kneel by a wall while the man you were forced to marry shops in the market while you sit like a common dog, you’re oppressed. When you’re forced to wear coverings for your face and body, you’re oppressed. When you are forced to work the fields, receive no pay, have your clit castrated, are taught that you are below a man, and are not allowed to vote, you are oppressed.”

Whew.  Glad he cleared that up.

So let’s think about this.  If your culture does not allow you to participate in shopping because you’re a female, its oppression.  The Los Angeles Adventurers Club does not allow women to participate in solidarity as adventurers of the globe. There are many golf clubs Men Only Golfing Clubs that still don’t allow women to join; they must be a guest of a male member (ha!) to attend any club function.   The National Coalition for Men exists to provide a safe space for men from those pesky feminists.  There are probably more such havens that don’t allow women to participate, but they probably allow them to shop, so there’s that.

It is true that women in this country are not “forced” to wear “coverings” for their faces and bodies.  However, there is that fact that women (and men) who choose to wear them are threatened, belittled, accused of being submissive, and otherwise attacked for their CHOICE. Similarly, try to wear a simple pant suit as business attire.  Some men think you just shouldn’t do it because it detracts from the most important aspect of a woman as a person; her femininity.  After all, shouldn’t you be a lady first, then when you master that you can maybe become President of the United States.  Wait….

As for being forced to work in the fields, privilege much? I worked in the fields because that was the work most available to me.  It was hard and unlike my parents who did it for years until they through education and opportunity were able to move on to less strenuous work, I chose at an earlier age to find different employment, again facilitated through an education. And sir, if you think that people who work always get paid for their labor, look no further than our newly elected POTUS.  Sometimes he just didn’t like the way the work was performed so he didn’t fulfill his contract, other times he just decided that he had to cut his losses and move on; those people could surely find an education somewhere else. Heck, maybe they could take out a loan like I did. I paid it back easily in just about 10 years. Ms. Betsy would be more than happy to help you get to her bank for funding. Oh and stop with the minimum wage hikes already. Let the market decide.

Now, I will say, thank you baby Jesus I was not forced to have my clitoris mutilated. I just hope that my sisters who won’t be able to afford medical care when that disgusting Planned Parenthood is shut down can avoid hurting their clits when they use a clothes hanger to terminate a pregnancy. Clitorises are more important than cervixes or uteruses because those are messy, and in fact, why not just get rid of them after we pop out a baby or two.  We should, however, Save the Tatas because they are fun and bouncy; just don’t show them if the baby is hungry; go to the bathroom with that mess.

But good thing women in these United States are not taught that they are below a man. Poor Madonna.  She’s only allowed to speak at a rally only because “she’s a celebrity who offered to blow men for votes.”  I’m kinda rethinking writing this.  Do I have to blow some man to post this?  Most importantly, it’s a good thing girls are not taught that they are below a man…in any way…by any means.

You may ask why I don’t mention his name. It is because he lives off of clicks and I don’t want to send anyone else to his page. And really, his words are not what worry me. He does have a right to speak out.  It’s the comments of his readers.  It’s the re-posting of this man’s words that is the saddest of all. I came across this post because someone I know posted it for everyone who marched on January 21st to read.

The message that the author was trying to get across is that the way he sees it, this country is fine the way it is. Women should not complain because men allow us to have so much. Women should not march because there is nothing to complain about. However, like in birth control, prevention is the key. If we don’t share our voices now, we will, in fact, be oppressed.

I came across this post because someone posted it for us loud-mouthed protesters (and our daughters) to read.  Good thing that our girls are not being taught that they don’t matter.

 

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for our sisters and daughters; our brothers and sons

img_5471Empowerment is a word I often used.  No more. Yesterday at the Women’s March on Sacramento I stood in the cold as I heard a woman representing the disabled community say that telling someone you are empowering them presumes that you are in possession of their power … and that in fact, this puts them in a subrogated position.

As you know, I worked in corrections for a long time.  During my years inside correctional facilities, I always wondered why three people could control a housing unit filled with 100 men. I did not work with women, but its the same concept. What was it in our “authority” that caused our wards to allow us to manage them.  There were many times when these young people did act out and group disturbances occurred.  Usually, these instances happened when the groups had a change in their own internal pecking orders, or more likely when they felt that they could no longer trust the staff to keep them safe. They acted out more when they were worried about their well being, feeling perhaps that they had to take matters into their own hands.

img_5427As we marched, I asked my friend, if there are more of us that didn’t vote for Mr. Trump, then we out-number those who did. If there are that many of us, why did we give away our power? Why did we allow ourselves to feel safe and protected without maintaining an eye on those we trusted with our very lives?  We should have done more to help the president move us forward, past the obstructionism. We should have done more to get out the vote.

I have been gnashing my teeth and wailing since before the election. A very close friend of mine looked me in the eye and said, “Maybe this is God’s way of getting our attention. Maybe this is the only way that things will change.”

Nail. Hammer. Head.

I realized that my grief over this election was caused by my reliance on President Obama to watch out for what I believe in. He was the voice I trusted and my the voice that best echoes my sentiments.  The days just before the inauguration he seemed to be around but only to thank the nation and say goodbyes.  Meanwhile, Mr. Trump continued to voice his priorities and became louder with his rhetoric and bravado.  He started to more openly show his preference for the rich, his disdain for social justice or social constructs that do not benefit his rich cronies outright. The vetting of his cabinet members began, and the world was privy to their backgrounds, their preferences, and their lack of concern for the country they will purportedly lead. I literally looked around to see if Mr. Obama would step in and respond.  Perhaps he could come back and protect us, even if just with a few words.

Of course, the most valued ritual we have in this country is the peaceful and orderly transition of power. There is no way for our beloved President to interfere with that process.  For the same reason that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign would not contest the suspected voting irregularities, and why we should all still be screaming about the Russian intrusion into our election process, Mr. Obama would not be anything by graceful and careful in his comments about the new administration; the transfer of power is sacred and our way of remaining unified in the face of world scrutiny and threat.

The truth of the matter is, as long as we refuse to watch out for each other or fail to put on the face of unity, we will always be weaker and more vulnerable. Inmates know that. Yet, we squabble over agendas that are issues of choice and allow these squabbles to cause a rift in us over issues of survival. We expose the weaknesses in our unity and by doing so weaken all our causes.  We cannot allow stratification and self-sorting to take precedence over the ultimate prize, the pursuit of happiness.

The peaceful transition of power is also the reason that I and many Americans felt grief over the loss of a decent man as leader and the despair over the impending inauguration. There was simply nothing that could or should be done about the inauguration of this new President. Our long history of peaceful, orderly transition of power can not and should never be interrupted. Mr. Trump is the POTUS. That’s that. In that sense, we should “get over it.”

But oh, there is the day after.  The day we gather together and roll up our sleeves to begin to minimize the damage until he and all his elected supporters, and those who do not fight the good fight against him, can be removed; midterm elections will be here soon.

So now that we have to face that our world of security and liberty is endangered, we are called to action.  We will rise and protest, organize and participate, volunteer and create assistance for those who can’t, and, we shall vote.

img_5236I, like many of my friends, will no longer wait to be empowered.  It’s already in us. It’s in the hearts of our younger generations and it is in the memories of those who fought before us. We were born with it, we just have to learn how to use it.

I will use my voice in every way I can.  I will no longer silence myself in front of one of my “employees,” voted into their job.  Nope.  They work for us. They have to listen. I will not ask permission to be heard.

I will dig in my heels and refuse to go backward.

I will not allow distraction, lies, and talking heads to confuse me. They seek only to remove my power.

I will pay attention, and help others pay attention as to how our “employees” perform. If they aren’t doing their job as expected, then I will use my power to vote them out.

I shall not be a prisoner of my own making.

I shall stand tall in my power.

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A special thank you to the women and men who stepped up to organize our local Women’s March on Sacramento and all over the world. You used your power wisely.

To those reading this, thank you for listening.

 

 

 

 

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Murmuration Nation

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The other day I ran across an NPR post on Facebook about the secret to successful murmuration among flocking birds (Video: Swooping Starlings In Murmuration – NPR).  While I have seen birds display this behavior along the Interstate 5 corridor of Northern California, I didn’t know what it is called, and most certainly I didn’t know how it is even possible to fly like this without a massive crash or two among the participants. The behavior/ flight patterns are mesmerizing and absolutely a joy to behold.

As I watched the video and read the intriguing explanation as to how such coordinated and seemingly choreographed events are even possible I scarcely breathed.  The author explained,

A few years ago, George F. Young and his colleagues investigated starlings’ “remarkable ability to maintain cohesion as a group in highly uncertain environments and with limited, noisy information” — a nice description of what goes on in a murmuration.

Going in, Young et al. already knew that starlings pay attention to a fixed number of their neighbors in the flock, regardless of flock density — seven, to be exact. Their new contribution was to figure out that “when uncertainty in sensing is present, interacting with six or seven neighbors optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort.”

And like a bell ringing in the dark, I was sharply oriented into the present and as suddenly as metaphoric sound traveled through my brain, I understood what has to happen in a post-Trump era of fear and confusion.  This awareness while perhaps not novel to the grass roots organizers of days ago, or even to those pulling us together for Marches on Capitols in the present, was like a bolt of lightening to me; the person who is not an organizer of large numbers of people.    It simply made perfect sense in the realm of the small, defined and finite groups of people to whom I belong.

The key words, “when uncertainty in sensing is present, interacting with six or seven neighbors optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort.” 

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Eureka! This is what is missing for many of us feeling overwhelmed and alone! We are missing each other. We feel alone because we are ignoring those flying among us, also feeling alone. The key to successful murmuration is relying on 6 or 7 of those closest to us, our neighbors by proximity or ideation; and they relying on their closest 6 or 7.

We shall not stand silent. We shall not merely watch as others crash against each other.

We shall not try to work alone and feel hopeless. We will seek to help where help is needed by lessening the load as possible.

We shall send our thoughts into the universe and aim them at the people who are struggling to make sense of the irrational and nonsensical.

We shall share our ideas or even just fleeting thoughts with those closest to our whispers so that perhaps they can whisper back what we need to hear in order to continue forward.

We shall listen to the whispers of others so that we too can lend support to keep the group together and moving in the same direction. We each will contribute our knowledge.

We shall listen to the relayed whispers of those farther away from our immediate flock so that our small community can absorb any lessons delivered to us by distant communities, who while far away, are still striving to travel in the same direction as we.

For it is in listening that we hear our own voices echoed in the heart chambers of others. It is in observing that we are supported by the actions of those far from us, similarly struggling to fly in beauty and cohesion.

This is what we must do…..it’s nothing just created. I’ve heard it time and again in the intimate bosom of my closest friends via Walt Whitman:

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

We just have to do it amongst 7 of our closest friends, and they, among theirs, and they among theirs.

Soon the murmuration will lift us above the fog of egotistical tyrants.

The murmuration will itself guide us to the best solution for ALL of us and not just some of us.

The murmuration will allow us to discuss without judgment and to act altruistically.

The murmuration requires inclusivism to be successful. The murmuration will allow us to change course as needed and to create beauty along the away; leaving no one behind.

So let the whispering begin. Listen to girls. Listen to women. Listen to those different than ourselves. Listen and whisper.  Pass it on with clarity and love, for this is what it means to be moved by the Spirit.

Together we shall soar in beauty and truth, for the good of us all.

Thanks for being my friends.

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Sad, Not Sorry

dump-16Everyone…well almost everyone, is lamenting 2016 as a terribly difficult year, myself included.  To those of you that aren’t sad, you may want to avert your mouse to a different blog post.

During this year we lost so many people as a community.  In my house, we lost a grandmother. She was the first grandparent to pass and our kids, while adults, were greatly affected. My husband lost his mom and well there are no words.

I personally lost my mind.

The election process was and still is devastating to me. I can not seem to grasp how anyone could have voted for the PEOTUS. In my heart, voting for him is a vote for all the horrible things he and his cronies stand for.  Isn’t that the very definition of voting?

I went crazy the night of the election and wrote a lengthy rant about people who voted for PEOTUS being supportive of his process and beliefs. I offended many people when I asked them to get off my FB page if they voted for him.  Many simply deleted me from their “friends” list.  Others barked back at me and then deleted me.  I deleted a couple who even after I voiced my feelings continued to post anti-Clinton and anti-Obama sentiments on my posts. I had simply had enough.  After eight years of putting up with Obama bashing, I could not face another second of hypocritical behavior from people who are too selfish to care about anyone but themselves; the years of hurt they imposed with their words apparently isn’t as bad as the hurt I imposed when I asked them to look at themselves.

There is a lot more to my dismay that cannot be shared here because of space, and time restrictions as well as my desire to stop digging the hole in which I currently find myself.

I have offended people that were the heart and soul of my life.  How I didn’t know that they do not feel the same way about me is disconcerting.  I gave up much of my life for these people. Yet, that didn’t seem to warrant a discussion about the pain I was feeling.

I thought about it and have been thinking about it since 11/10/2016.  And here is my conclusion.

I have over the last 7 years been in a terrible spot in my personal life.  I have shared that with only a handful of people.  Two of those people I would consider to be my closest friends in the absolute world.  Over the last 7 years, not once did those friends ask, “how are you doing?” Not once.

Yet, when I voice my concern over the way the world is going and that we should not support a person who garners and encourages hate among us, I am attacked and dismissed, again without a word or even seeming concern. (Believe me, there is more about this that will not be said here.)

I recognize that telling people how to vote is not democratic.  I also recognize that voting is secretive. But I also know that for 8 years I listened to complaints, lies, derogatory comments, racial slurs, etc about our president without end.  Yet, the minute I question the veracity of hiding behind their polling booth curtain I suddenly am not a Christian, not patriotic and certainly not worthy of friendship.

Saying the election doesn’t affect you personally is not good enough. Saying that it’s not Christian-like to expect your closest friends to disavow hate is hypocritical at best and blasphemous at worst.

Well, sorry, I’m not sorry. Thank you for tossing me out of your lives so unceremoniously, it’s the first time I’ve seen the truth about how little I meant to you.  Frankly, it does sadden me in that I’ve lived a false life. I have to get my priorities straight and move on…after all, isn’t that what the PEOTUS is asking us to do?

Time to reassess, reprioritize and live well.  Time to give back without judgment. Time to reaffirm to the younger generation that it’s not just about them, but how they fit into the bigger picture.

I’m sad.  But I’m not sorry that I’m sad. Sometimes it hurts to be on the right side of history.  I’m sure I’ll stop crying soon.

Cheers to a productive, focused, healthy and love-based 2017.

Agape

(Matthew 22:37-41)

Posted in Friendship | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Chunky

There are a number of times, perhaps in the hundreds that I have heard or read we all have a soundtrack to our lives and that when we hear certain songs we are immediately transported to a place and time stored in between the lines of the lyrics. Sometimes these realizations occur in real time.

A friend of mine posted on facebook that she really enjoyed the new Bruno Mars cd titled 24K Magic…so naturally I bought it.  I’ve listened to it a few times and really do like it.

Last Thursday I was reminded via text that my husband’s office Christmas party was that evening.  Yikes!  Why don’t I write these things down? I grimaced at the thought of looking for something to wear in a closet that belongs mostly to size 8 me.  Perfectly beautiful clothing that was purchased in the excitement of a great deal of weight loss with the hopes that I would stay motivated if my clothes got tighter.

Now, I’m no Nancy Reagan.  I don’t always buy a new dress for a special occasion. In fact,  I’m more of a Rosalynn Carter kinda girl in that I will wear my dresses more than once and don’t care who knows it. So I dug around and found a perfectly suitable size 10 shiny party dress.  Yes!!

Then I turned to looking for matching shoes.  My heart dropped.  Crap, I have to wear high heels.  It’s likely been a year since I last wore high heels. In fact, when a friend and I recently went to the opera in San Francisco, I left my heels in the box in the car and walked in flat sandals. Yup, hate heels, having worn them for much of my working life.  But, I found the shoes.

My heart literally stopped when I realized that I actually had to wear pantyhose. I don’t even own pantyhose…and it was pouring rain.  But, well, the dress called for black sheer pantyhose.  I grabbed my rain boots and headed out to my favorite Marshalls hoping to find what I needed just a few blocks from my house rather than having to go into the downtown Macy’s.  I drove through flooded streets and into a parking lot that was literally 5-7 inches deep in rain water.  HA! I calmly walked into the store looking like THE Gordon’s fisherman and within minutes, I found the stockings.  Sheer. Black. Beautiful. AND cheap.  I bought two pairs just in case…you never know.

I rushed home to find my spouse getting ready. I turned up my music put 24K Magic on shuffle.  I curled my hair, put on some mascara and said, that’s fine, time to dress.

I grabbed the packages of pantyhose and tore one open.  Wow, its been a while.  I stuck my left hand into the left leg of the garment and immediately felt my nail snag the super sheer fabric.

AY!  I gently pulled my hand out, made a fist and tried again.  Success! I made it to the foot portion and then realized that I had to lift my sore, tight runner’s leg high enough for my short arms to get my foot into the opening.  Huffing and puffing, I got the left leg into the sheath. Now for the right leg…..done!

Women will understand this….now to shimmy these things over my hips.

CUE the damn music.

She got to shake her little something (shake her little something), ooh
Throwing that thing from left, right, side to side.

I heard the lyrics and hoped my spouse was ignoring them.  I dared not look up lest I start laughing. If I laughed, he would laugh. Then I would get mad and well, it was supposed to be a fun Christmas party. I dared not make eye contact.

Then it happened.  I stuck my thumb through the fabric.  I cursed out loud. I took them off and thought, good thing I bought two!

She got to have her own money (she got her own money), oh yeah
Shout out to the girls that pay they rent on time

I opened the second package as the iPod blared Bruno’s mocking lyrics at me.

Ooh, chunky
Looking for them girls with the big old hoops

I again averted my eyes and kept my focus on sticking my legs into the pantyhose. In my younger days, I would have plopped to the floor and figured it out.  Yeah, those were the days when the midsection didn’t prevent me from folding over. I started to sweat again.

I’m looking at you
Yeah, you baby

My husband slipped on his sweater and declared he was ready to go. Bruno laughed and said,

Now let me hear you say you ready (I’m ready), oh yeah
Girl, you better have you hair weave strapped on tight
‘Cause once we can go, where we rolling

Ooh, chunky

I said loudly, to cover the lyrics and get him out of the room, you should go get an umbrella and put the gifts into the car. I will be right down.  I adjusted the waistband on the very restrictive undergarment and slipped into my dress.

You got what I want
Girl, you got what I need
37-27-42
Ooh, squeeze all of that into my coupe

Rude.

I grabbed slipped my shoes on and my feet slid to the front where my previously unrestricted toes slammed into the all but forgotten scrunched position.  I gingerly walked to the stairs and wondered how I would ever get down without throwing my back out, or falling.  Old runners trick: go down backward.

Chunky

I’m looking at you
Yeah, you baby

I turned off the iPod and thought…I can do this. It’s just 5 hours, complete with dancing.

I should have put Old Blues Eyes on the record player…”You’re lovely….the way you look tonight.”

Siempre hacia adelante!

Posted in Auto-Biographical Fiction, Happiness | Tagged , , , ,

To Receive You Have to Let Go

cim-medal

I decided to volunteer at the CIM because a friend, Laura was running, another friend, Ellisa asked us to, and because I needed to give back to this community of mine that has opened so many doors and exposed me to so many great adventures.

Being a last minute volunteer I was excited and happy to find a slot in the “heat blanket brigade.” I showed up at 730 am and got to work. After personally tearing open and separating 800 blankets (4 boxes), I moved on to unwrapping medals.

I watched as first, the wheelchair winner came across the finish line, followed by the men’s first, second and third place finishers crossed. Then the woman’s winner.

I watched, while I pulled plastic from the gorgeous medals and I thought about how it must feel to run that fast. I watched as the runners continued to come in, all sweaty, most breathing hard, some wobbly. I listened as they talked about mile 23, about the perfect weather, about how happy they were to run together.

I had already talked to a supervisor and asked permission to look for my friend Laura so that I could give her her medal. Laura is more than experienced so I kind of knew when she would be coming in. I watched the gun timer and the third hour decided to move to the finish line to hand out medals until Laura came in.

At last, I saw her turn the corner. I grew excited and started yelling encouragement. She, of course, was in the moment and likely didn’t hear me at all. As she got over the line and headed toward the group of volunteers handing out medals, a group I had already warned not to give her a medal, I caught her attention. It took a second for it to register but she hugged me and said she was happy I was there to give her it to her. She went on to get a heat blanket and find some rest and recovery.

I thought for a bit that I should go back to my assigned station. But I decided to stay. We each handed out hundreds of medals. My arms ache from carrying bunches at a time and lifting them all to place one around the neck of each finisher.

We yelled and greeted each runner with the name printed on their bib. The sound of their individual name being said somehow brought the runners into quick attention and often to tears.

Some asked for a hug. Others just grabbed on. Medical staff helped those who couldn’t walk anymore. Families greeted their runners. The lady whose bib read: “112th marathon” crossed the line. The blind runners and their guides smiled to hear their names yelled out as we draped their medals over their heads.

As time passed, the great swell of the middle of the pack seemed to overwhelm us. And then the crowd observing and the crowd running became sparser. After five and a half hours we were seeing the last of the runners come in. Or were we?

The timer said six and a half hours. Still, they came. One after the other, one foot in front of the other. Husbands and wives holding hands, celebrating his 40th birthday. Twin brothers dressed exactly alike save their bib numbers. Very old runners. Moms crying and holding their children. Two unrelated runners asked me to say hi to their respective mother and son via FaceTime. I happily and loudly obliged.

Runners thanked us for “staying there” so they could get their medal. We yelled louder at the end simply because the spectators were now gone and those runners needed encouragement.

Finally, I had to leave because my family was waiting. I think that all the runners ahead of the course sweepers were already in. I handed a medal to a woman whose husband would not make it in before the sweepers. She said he won’t stop until he’s finished. She wanted him to be assured his medal.

I ran this marathon last year and as many of you will recall, I was very disappointed in my performance. I’ll tell you what. Not anymore.

I saw myself in those people struggling to finish. I saw that I didn’t give up. I saw that my accomplishment was just as great as theirs. I handed medals to 3-hour marathoners and 6:45 marathoners. The accomplishment was in some ways more amazing for the slower group than for the fleet of feet.

I wasn’t jealous either. I thought I would be, but it didn’t happen. I was just happy for them and for myself that I was in such a great place to witness the triumph of the human spirit; the will’s power over the body’s performance.

I am sore. I am hoarse. I am tired. It was a perfect day.

Congratulations to those whose goals were met or exceeded…. which is just about everyone who ran today. Well done.

CIM 2017….??? Maybe.

Posted in Gratitude, Running | Tagged , , ,

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

sunset-10-20I went for a walk, as usual, today.  The late afternoon, pre-dusk hours are magical time on our Sacramento levee .  Sure there are thousands of little gnats that drive you crazy and so many dogs that you literally need a set of traffic rules just to make sure no one gets too excited, but the peace of mind that comes with a slow stroll makes it all worth it.

I meander over to the levee at least once a day and am always pleasantly surprised by what I get to see.  If I’m lucky, there are turtles on logs sunning themselves always on the lookout for anyone or anything that comes too close.  Or perhaps, the wayward seal will return and pop his little head out just long enough to give us a bark or two then disappear again.

There are always fishermen on the water. If it’s a warmer day, the sound of ski boats pulling skiers through the water, howling with joy or fear depending on their level of expertise, fills the air.

Today, my heart leaped for joy when I looked up to see  a man and his grown son walking hand in hand.  Both were grinning as big as day. As they passed me, the older man winked and wished me a good afternoon.

I turned to watch as they continued down the asphalt paved road.  The were still holding hands, and swinging them.  I watched them as they headed toward the bend and I wondered aloud, why don’t we see more of this?

When do kids stop needing to hold our hands?  When do we stop asking them to hold hands with us?  Has this custom of days past become obsolete.  Sure, people who are romantically involved hold hands to some extent, but even that tends to fade.  Even younger children don’t hold their parent’s hands unless there is a perceived opportunity for danger, like in crossing a street or maneuvering in a crowded place.

I miss my kids holding my hand.  I know that they are adults and are busy with their own lives, but perhaps next time I have the chance, I’ll remind them of how it feels to be connected.  There is nothing better than being connected to your child, emotionally and physically…whether they are 2 or 22…it’s a great feeling.

Kudos to this father and his son for maintaining that “one-ness” that binds their relationship physically as well as emotionally.  There will be no regret about their relationship because they demonstrate their love for each other without reservation. Sometimes, you have to let people know they are loved.

Sometimes, you have to let people know they are loved.

It can be as simple as holding their hand.

holding-hands

*Pictures taken on iPhone 7.

 

 

Posted in Auto-Biographical Fiction, Happiness, Love | Tagged ,

If You Give a Mexican a Taco….

jalapenoIf you ask a first generation Mexican American to describe a taco for you they will tell you that it is anything wrapped in a tortilla.  So when you ask for a burrito, it’s really just a taco being eaten by someone other than a first gen Mex-Am.

This is what I think about when I’m alone and have a day to myself. JS

So I was stuffing my face with a taco this afternoon when I decided I needed a jalapeño to add to the experience.

Not having any in the house, I started to panic. So I went into the fridge where I remembered I had jalapeño stuffed olives.

(insert the sound of angels singing here)

I bit into my taco and took a bite of my olive.  Perfect: a little salty, a little garlic-y, a little spicy.

Whew, a little spicy!

I need a beer. Found one last stout and said, “Gracias, Rasputin!”

I took a swig and realized, I was out of taco.

So I grabbed the comal and made another taco.

Eat and repeat.

Except this time, I was out of the Rick Bayless sautéed chicken I made the night before and still had beer left.

I said to myself….

Ok I said out loud, “Careful y’all she’s going back in!”

BINGO!  I found leftover grilled pork…that would make a great taco!

The comal got another workout and I finished my beer and taco.

But now, I had this bitter beer taste in my mouth.

And I remembered…I have carrot cake….

 

Yeah, this is why I don’t look like the princesses on the Mexican bakery calendars.

girl-calendar

(OK we have the same lips)

Siempre hacia adelante!

 

Posted in Auto-Biographical Fiction | Tagged , , | 3 Comments