October 30, 2010

Enchanted - and they pay me to do this?

I tell people all the time, foster kids are like your kids, like my grand kids, they are just kids. Chloe loved princesses just like my granddaughter Lucy does!. Her mother was a wanderer, who meets the wrong guys, isn't very stable and ends up in the wrong places, she makes too many bad choices and comes home one day to find her kids in foster care. This isn't a violent story, it isn't one that makes you cringe at the details, but it is always sad when children are separated from their parent, no matter what the reason.

I never really noticed the movie Enchanted until that day. It was on the TV above my desk, as I arrived at work. Chloe was on the couch engrossed in the movie.  Her arm encirled a giant princess  teapot, that looked bigger than her! Leaning on a magazine she was busy sketching  a princess on a small tablet, mesmerized by the movie. Enchanted is one of those wonderful movies girls adore.  There's lots of cute animals; a handsome prince,  the "True Love's Kiss" guy;  and a princess most girl dream of being.   As Chloe watched on this sad day for her, this simple movie seemed to distract and also rekindle any dream hidden in her heart.

"Don't you love the songs?" she asks  without moving her eyes from the screen.  She looked down only for a minute to work on her princess.
"Yes! I love them!" I tell her.  Who wouldn't I thought!  I could hardly do my work.  The movie's princess creatively makes dresses out of drapes and has her furry friends (even roaches) clean the house. She's kind and oh so beautiful, selfless, full of goodness and incredibly trusting in values few embrace. It was so uplifting and lovely.
When the movie is over Chloe asks if I will take care of her teapot while she goes to lunch.

"Watch it every minute okay?! Don't let anyone even touch it! Promise?  Only you!! No one but you can hold it! Promise??! " I promise, but she asks me several times again before she finally leaves for lunch.  Our nurse asks me what that is about, I tell her.
"They lived in a lot of shelters" she understands now.

When Chloe returns after lunch she stands in front of my desk  and I tell her NO ONE has touched the teapot, not a soul!  She is relieved and tells me,
"I love to talk!" Smiling, I tell her,
"Well me too!" I ignore the low laughter of my co-workers and say, "You came to the right place! What do you like to talk about?!"
"My mom! I love to talk about my mom, she's wonderful!" Chloe says. That is the beginning of a long conversation about her mother, her family and some interesting adventures.  We talk for a long time. Everything is about her mother. No questions, no unspoken judgements, I just work and listen. This child. is so delightful, so honest, so pure, and so untainted.

"Do you know who I want to be when I grow up?" she asks me to guess.
"Your mom?" I am pretty sure I nailed it!
"Nope, like the princess in the movie, and do you know why? " she asks, her eyes sparkling. I try to guess why she's chosen her, maybe her power over the animals, her beautiful dresses, her lovely singing voice, her "True Love's Kiss" guy?
No. no. no...so I give up!
"No...because she's nice, she's good."
"Yes" I agree "She's wonderful, just like you! Yes, I am sure you will be just like her when you grow up!"  The child is pleased with my affirmation.

Before long she leaves with her brothers....I watch her hugging the princess teapot which only she and I have touched.....yes, I think Chloe will be just like the princess ...........I smile as she turns the corner to the elevator..........and they pay me to do this job?!?

October 17, 2010

Goodbye Rita....my sweet Rita

It was days before I was to leave for Richmond and I still didn't have a plane ticket.  I'm a procrastinator but it was getting ridicules!  Prices were rising!  Somehow I think I was  afraid Rita would slip away if I left town, and somehow buying the ticket made it so. For years there were times when I watched her slipping down but she ALWAYS rallied!!   Yes, Rita had this amazing way of surprising us, like a little imp, playing a trick on us. Frank and I often joked that she would outlive us all...and it really felt like that for many years. But we all knew  it was changing.  Lately, as I drove home in the darkness along Quail Roost  Dr I'd  think of the simplest thing and I would begin to cry, soon I was bawling my eyes out....until last week when I asked, myself
     "What is wrong with you Ginny? You cry every time you come down this road!"   Now it would seem obvious to most but maybe  I needed to form the words in my mind.
     "Rita IS dying and I am very sad......"  answering my own question.  I didn't know when, but I knew it was going to happen, and nothing could stop it. Yes, I knew she was old, yes,she was failing, yes she would be in a better place!  YES! YES! YES!!  Rita was my 2nd job, NO!...she was my friend and I hoped I was hers too.  So I was gentle with myself, agreeing it was okay to be sad and I went home and bought the ticket. 

Rita was strong, tenacious, and tough, with an amazing will to live even in that dark place called Alzheimer's Disease.  Was it really dark I often wondered??  I did not know, some days she seemed confused and frightened but most of the time she was quite content.  During our visits, I wanted to bring stability and peace to her heart, through touch, gentle words, stories, and songs. So in the best way I knew how, that is what I did for 11 years, always believing SOMEWHERE there was a connection...a place where she knew she was safe and loved very much. 

Several weeks ago I found Rita in her reclining chair gazing into the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the window. I stood looking down at her, she seemed so frail and finally I spoke,
     "Rita, are you tired?"  A small tear formed in her eye, just a tiny one brimming to the edge  but not falling on her cheek...and then she gave the smallest little nod.  Was it real, did she understand? Was she trying to tell me she really was tired? I think so. I told her we knew she had fought a good fight, that she was brave and gave us courage.

On October 11, 2010 I rode the Virginia Creeper Trail on a lovely blue cruiser, with my dear, sweet family.  I hadn't taken a real bike ride in 40 years, but that day I rode 17 miles in the most incredible beauty. Beauty that leaves you breathless, engulfed in the Creator's love!! 

When the day ended, waiting for me were the words .... "Rita  passed away this morning".......

Today I am remembering and am so grateful for....
....Rita's faithful loving husband of 69 years who knew how to "raise hell" to take care of his girl
....Rita's caring daughter, my dear friend who has always respected and honored her parents, moving mountains to make their lives rich and good.  An awesome woman!!
....my husband who loved Rita too, and saw visiting her as a privilege and joy...connecting with her in an amazing way.
....Rita showing me that all life is precious
....her singing I Love You Truly, It Had To Be You & Hark The Herald Angels Sing
....the day Rita told me about how she walked alone in the snow to school, and she was so afraid
....Lou crying at Christmas, wishing every elderly person had a loving family like Rita's
....a kind priest
....Rita's incredible creations made of shells from Sanibel
....holding hands in Mass
....this moment
....Rita's hand on mine, saying "It will be alright" as we sat outside on the bench- a word from God
....the last day Rita tried to say her rosary, instead said the Pledge of Allegiance
....her thousand mile days in the PCV walker
....how she liked to sit in the sunshine
....her KEDS
....she never had bedsores
....Rita had few wrinkles at 90
....the way we sometimes laughed together
....the year I explained the meaning  of the Easter holiday and Rita asked in horror if Jesus was okay now
....the young man from the singing group that spoke a blessing over Rita last Christmas
....when she winked at you
....the time she said "Be careful" when I said good-night.
....that there is no end to this list

Thank you LORD for,
....a day in VA when beauty reigned through sadness
....the comfort of the Milky Way
....that two young boys offered genuine consolation
....for a friend who knows suffering and walks with you in sadness
....for a desperately needed text that says  I am remembered & loved on the day I say good-bye to my friend
....Your sweet presence at death

Rita, I never saw this picture of you! Frank says this is your engagement picture.  He said he chased you for two years!!  Wow....that sounds like you. I will treasure it.  I want to remember you always as this youthful young woman, for in truth, it was how I  knew you, full of beauty and spunk, in a body that just grew old.  Yes, that is the girl I know and will always love! Goodbye Sweet Friend!

July 11, 2010

Saying good-bye to a FRIEND

I took this picture the last time I saw my dear friend David. He was surrounded by his grandchildren, they were so bright and fresh, so engaging, so lovely. Everyone seemed to be enjoying each other. He went around the circle introducing everyone and at the end, he turned to me, then holding my hand, he announced to everyone,

"This... is my friend!!" I felt so proud in that moment and so very blessed to know this sweet man.

I don't remember when I met him, maybe it was in the chapel during Mass. I had grown to love the words of the liturgy, but more than anything else, I loved the man from the Philippines who sat in the back in a wheelchair. His deeply resonating voice had grown louder every day due to his deafness, it could be heard above others who repeated the Mass, known since childhood, in a rote manner. But David would linger on phrases, saying them with great feeling as the kindly Father Meyers waited. I so loved that, the patient priest and the old man in the wheelchair, for I knew David felt each word deeply, just as I did

For years as I entered the nursing home's front entrance, there sat David with a greeting for all. He was smart and articulate and could carry on a conversation about anything from a world crisis to his pondering why teen girls would make a pregnancy pact. "Where were their parents?" he would say. I always loved his thinning hair that stood up in a "butch" style. His parting words were always the same,a blessing given to thousands over the years,

"Have a good day (or evening) May the good LORD bless and guide you!" And my response was always the same too. "Thank you!! He does David, He does!!" It was a ritual we had, and continued long after he stopped hearing well

David and I spoke often, he was such an encouragement, so appreciative for the moments we chatted. I found him to be a man of honor and great faith. He told me how he had grown up in the Philippines and had attended a mission school. He told funny stories about his classmates, about a girl he loved there but how he would later find the love of his life. One afternoon he sang me a song, I watched as he lifted his good hand in front of him, that was strange I thought. Then it occurred to me that he was raising his hand in praise as a choir boy would but the paralyzed hand just wouldn't meet it's partner. That did not deter him as he sang his childhood song;

"Praise Him! Praise Him, all ye little children, God is Love, God is Love..." Oh I loved it!! People looking from every direction enjoyed it too. Then I sang him the song about the shepherd boy David who slayed the giant Goliath. We talked about his job with IBM, golf, working in Manhattan and teaching at a University. He said they promised to keep his position after he had his stroke, and lately he had been thinking about taking them up on that offer. I told him I thought he should consider that, the students would love him.

He reminded me, though sharing the same name as the great Old Testament King, he had never dishonored his wife, who had died many years before. No one would ever say he acted inappropriately with any woman or staff in the nursing home. Then with a wink he added,

"I think she watches me." how we laughed about that!

One weekend morning I found him in the chapel, sitting in his wheelchair with his head hanging low. I slipped over and knelt down beside him.

"David, are you sad?" Strangely he heard me.

"Yes" he spoke slowly and deliberately. "I am wondering, all these years, why am I here. I always believed God brought me here to encourage and help others, even with my stroke ...but I wonder now" His head dropped lower as we grasped each others hands.

"Oh David, if only knew what your life means to so many" but I was crying now with no words of comfort, "David, can we pray together?" he nodded yes.

So I prayed not caring or knowing if David could hear or understand. My heart was breaking with sadness so I poured it out on the Savior who welcomes us. I told Him that I had seen His very face in this man, His child, a man with a broken body, sitting in diapers and his breakfast on his shirt. I told God David had been such a blessing to so many, I spoke of David's caring kindness, his smiles and blessings, how he was a light in a sometimes a dark place where people live out their lives, where staff have their own struggles, where people's dreams end. And in the midst, David was there, a missionary like the ones who taught him the praise song, always the same, a constant blessing to oh so many.. And then I just asked the LORD to show David how important he is, how valued he is and what an instrument of love and grace David had been, especially to me. I think God knew it all anyway but it was a good reminder that even the encourager need encouraging. And best of all I knew He'd come to David, prayer or no prayer.

I didn't know when he died, I just saw the paper on the bulletin board inviting everyone to his Celebration of Life. It was week old when I saw it, but I will always celebrate my friend David's life. I miss him. But for now...

Have a good day and may the good LORD bless and guide you!!

July 5, 2010

Life is Hard

I was not happy to be riding the "bad bus" vs the "good bus" ...with valid reasons of course. Remember this? http://marmiesmusings.blogspot.com/2009/04/just-boy.html But the ride on the 38 never fails to bring me into some kind of reality about life. On a crowded bus we have to look at each others faces and literally rub against one another, like it or not. There are mean people, kind people, funny people, and always people to remind you of things you have forgotten.

I heard the infant crying, a brand new baby I thought. I turned to see the man gently lift the baby from the carrier to his shoulder. Usually people just juggle those ugly carriers in an effort to quiet a screaming baby, but not this man, he was deliberate and caring. The child quieted after a few simple pats on the back. The man looked weary as he spoke in Creole to a child seated next to him, she was so tiny I could barely see the top of her head. As the bus emptied I waited and asked if I could help, he nodded in relief as I cautiously took the child's hand. She was unsure of me so I reached in my bag for the little Cabbage Patch doll I had stashed there for just the right time. It sits next to a matchbox car in the bag I carry every day. You just never know. With a nod from dad she took it in her hand, that tiny little doll my own little girls held.

Once settled on the train he tells me his story. For three weeks his wife complained of pain, twice he took her back to be checked, but they sent her away. She became very sick and they finally kept her at the hospital. He visited once, but he hadn't been able to reach her for several days and he was concerned. With no phone of his own a friend named Billy is kind enough to make or take a call for him. His two older boys are in a daycare, so he is going to the hospital with the two little ones to find his wife and see if she is okay. It's difficult with a newborn and a 2 year old to travel from Florida City to downtown on the bus, but he manages, and he's grateful to ride the 38.

He has done all kinds of jobs, he explains but he's out of work right now with times being harder. "It's difficult" I say, he nods. I have no cash, but he's not asking for help. Baby Christopher is content, and resting but I'm sure his mother is wondering about him. Gabby, looks up at me, her face is so angelic, wondering who I am. Little barretts hang on the end of her braids, two pink plastic flowers that sway as she walks. The rest if her hair is braided close to her head, the braids are getting nappy now, her mom isn't there to braid her hair, and dad can do only so much.the child sits quietly on my lap as her father speaks over the rumble of the train.

I hate to say good-bye as the train pulls into Government Center, the man thanks me profusely and assures me he will be fine. I wonder about him all day and into the weekend. Is the wife okay? Do they have enough to eat? Formula is so expensive! No, the kids have Medicaid and WIC for the baby, that's something. Will someone braid Gabby's hair? Who do we know who can give him a job? Surely we can give him some yard work and I could help with the kids
Everyday I see abused and neglected children but today I am reminded there are lots of people out there going through hard times, they are not doing drugs or neglecting their kids, they are just poor and need a helping hand, even if they do not ask. I search all over for the post-it with Billy's name and number on it...but is GONE!!! Nowhere to be found! Usually I loose things and just roll with it, like loosing my keys, forgetting my ID and having to fly without it, leaving my phone at work. I loose everything! Just as our meeting was providential, maybe loosing that small paper is too. But I am just so mad, so darn mad at myself. God please send someone to help them!

A Princess in My Ear

The child takes the otoscope from the doctor's set and announces she was going to check my ear.

ME - Okay, I was just thinking I needed my ear checked (as she moves forward I wonder whose ear it had been in last, but I cannot resist this cheeky little four year old.)

HER - Hmmm.........(she was so contempaltive)

ME - What do you see in there?

HER - I see a princess, a beautiful princess!

ME - Really? I am so happy! (I don't know how having a little girl tell you you have a princess in your ear can transform you but it does! )

Her baby brother is being checked out by the nurse, but the little girl is a busy bee checking out all the toys in our medical office, like she belonged there. She is bright, confident and oh so cute. Two minutes you will fall in love with her. Her mother who is there for a visit, steps in to speak to the nurse and proudly announces she is a former client "Really?" I say. She was a foster child in our residential home, and now her little ones have come into care too, that is by far, the saddest of thoughts. Regardless of the reasons as to why her children are in foster care, she asks numerous questions about her baby son health and make demands any good mother would make. She's their mom and we don't forget that, nor do we judge her. She has to say good-bye to her children after 2 hours. She passes off the baby but the little girl hangs on her leg;

HER - "No, no!! I want to go with you!!" She's screaming uncontrolably. I am sad for them

MOM - "No! You go with them, I have to go to school. You can't come with me! Go!" She is strong but not mean, she knows the routine.

After that, I see the little girl as I pass the visitation room. She's funny and charming and always says she's going home with her mom, wailing at the end of every visit. That is not unusual for children in care but this little one has a flair for drama. This time the worker kindly tells her they are going downstairs where people are working and she cannot make all that noise. She instantly stops crying and says, "Okay." My granddaughter can do the same thing, she just stops crying when it isn't working for her anymore.

They stop by the medical office and she want to check my ear again

ME - What do you see in there today?

HER - Hmmmm............

ME - A princess?

HER - No.............I see a dragon

ME - A dragon?!!?

HER. - Yes a dragon, but he's just eating grass

I don't know what it all means but I will never forget her and pray she goes home with mom and has a good life. Me??! The princess and grass-eating dragon really works for me!

October 25, 2009

Rachel & the Camera Epiphany

It was a lovely night, a small celebration for Tizita and Eyerusalem. The air was rich with scents arising from the pot filled with our Ethiopian dinner. Soon I gravitated outside to the party in the warm, inviting West Coconut Grove yard. The girls, dressed in their Ethiopian garb scampered around as Isaac, gave strong instructions about the dangers of a fire pit, as he stood much too close! Years ago with a camera always in hand, I would see a million shots to capture on such an auspicious occasion. But on this night, I just drank it all in as I greeted Rachel, my daughter's childhood friend. A girl I just adore!

Before long, I could stand it no longer and I rooted through my purse for my small automatic camera stashed away for times like this. I immediately started snapping pictures.

“Mrs. Hammond!! I cannot believe you have that camera!! I thought you would have a real professional camera by now” Rachel was serious.
“What’s wrong with that camera?” Michael chimed in “I have the same camera, it takes great pictures Rachel!” he defended.
“No, no…You don’t understand, Mrs. Hammond is like a professional! She takes fantastic pictures, you should see them! Get your good camera, let her take the pictures here at the party, she’s amazing!”

At that moment, crawling under the table did not seem appropriate for a woman of my age, so I just laughed at her. But Rachel wanted to know what had happened to me?? She was very serious and I had no answer. Recently I had been flipping through Facebook finding pictures posted by my girls' friends, pictures taken by me, wonderful posterity shots of happy high school friends. Why did I stop?

My last good camera was lost at a wedding and I never replaced it. I had been busy working and left it somewhere that fateful day. No one at the church seemed to know what happened to it. I felt so irresponsible; my cameras had always been gifts from my husband. Then digitals came out. No, I wondered, what WAS the reason I had given up photography? It wasn’t just loosing my camera. No..... somewhere along the way I shifted to enjoying other people’s talents; people with more ability, particularly my daughter’s. She was becoming a very proficient photographer. We could talk for hours on the phone as I milled through her pics on line. In next few years two more of our daughters showed great interest in photography and were taking exceptional pictures, not to mention the new art form of altering photos to bring about incredible artistic effects.

But I pushed the questions aside until the morning at Government Center. I had passed the sculpture "Rhythm of the Train" many times; but this particular day, I stopped to read the information. Yes! ...and to take a few shots! Pulling out my iPhone with over 1400 pictures on it, I started snapping! Then I caught this shadow on the pavement! I could not stop laughing, it seemed ridicules! Me, capturing the world on an iPhone!

"That’s it!! I am saving for a camera, I love this too much!!" And I think I truly understand the wealth of pictures, even those cheesy pics I used to take of people lined up at a celebration! I always used to say "There are good pictures or there are pictures for posterity, and on a good day you get one that is both!" They tell stories. These stories came to mind.

I once was invited to a baby shower for a girl I had met while volunteering at a pregnancy center. She had come from South America to visit a relative. While here she had fallen in love and become pregnant. The boy had long abandoned her and her family told her not to return home as she would shame them. A social worker from a church took an interest and this girl blossomed under this committed lovely woman’s nurturing. As Elaina opened each gift at the shower that night, the giver/givers would stand next to her for a picture. I thought this a little strange, and the only English speaking person close by was a young girl. She explained it was a custom but for this baby it was special;
“The pictures will go in a book for the baby so he will know he is welcomed into the world, that we are waiting for him. He will know we love his mother and and we are promising to stand by her” I wept driving home.

The other picture story...
“Miss, Miss! Does this look like me???” Our client thrusts a photo album from our former Gladstone Center for Girls on my desk as she drops her body on top of my papers. I study the pictures but then tell her,
“Hmmmm … Sweetie it looks a little like you but I really don’t know for sure, I wasn’t here back then, go ask Marta or Lucy” Off she goes to find some answers while I am thinking how sad it is that we are this child’s family, and we collaboratively hold her childhood memories. But she’s tenacious, she’s tough because she’s been to hell and back. Weeks later she returns excitedly, carrying two pictures in her hand.
“Miss!! This is me!!” We look at them together discussing her hair length, who else is in the pic, what they were doing… but mostly we just celebrate her, her value, her power, her beginning, even if she was 5 and living in a shelter.” I don't weep when she leaves, I cannot think of her losses, I just go back to work, happy she has found a picture!

Yes Rachel…I do need a new camera, maybe not professional, but I need to see my world through a lens again, and feel that rush of capturing something real. I need to capture the beauty of people I love, of kids who have lost their childhood and yes Rachel I need to take pictures of your sweet baby!! Thank you, thank you for asking what happened!!!

September 3, 2009

My Friend Joseph

When I saw this man sharing the little he had with Moe, the police horse, I was reminded of the many things street people have taught me: 1) They don’t always want a handout 2) Sometimes they just want to tell their stories 3) They are not all mentally unstable 4) Many share the little they have, with the animals & birds 5) Everyone is a teacher to a learner.....

And then I remembered Joseph....

A man nearing 70, Joseph was tall and very lanky with an engaging personality. I don't remember how we met or how we became friends. I suppose Joseph was just another familiar face on my daily walks from Government Center to my office blocks away. Greeting and opening doors for people entering local restaurants; he was known and liked by many. He told me once I was his friend, I hope so, for his person taught me much about kindness and gratitude.

Joseph lived in a small cheap room. It was difficult for him to afford both his medications and food, so he supplemented by panhandling on the streets of downtown Miami. Asking for spare change, he was gracious and understanding. He could make a person feel comfortable when they refused him. I really don’t remember giving him that much, but when I did, the next time I’d see him, he would put up his hands and say he didn’t need anything this time. He would then fall into place next to me and we’d walk together talking. Once Joseph told me he had spent the holiday dinner with “Mr. So & So” from the courthouse. He just assumed I would know this attorney. Joseph described the day as “swell” and told me every detail of their shared meal. What a pleasure for Mr. So & So and his family to have Joseph at their celebration!

One of the last times I saw him, he was standing outside of Granny Feelgood’s. When we hugged I could feel the bones of his ribcage under his thin coat. My South Beach breakfast was perfect for a diabetic. Joseph was indignant, surely I needed a good breakfast to do my job, but I insisted, he was so hungry. After much coaxing, he received it. Then for over a year, he seemed missing from the streets. No one seemed to know where he was or what had happened to him. Then one day Joseph came walking down 1st Avenue. I hardly recognized him. His glasses were gone, his clothes were filthy and he carried a large garbage bag over his shoulder.

“Joseph!! Joseph!!” I called to him as he passed by. As he turned I saw a wild, out-of-control look in his eyes, he didn’t recognize me, he said he was going someplace and he was in a BIG hurry. I knew he was homeless, and he very afraid of me. Sadly I remembered all our walks together, Joseph seemed lost forever. I feared for his safety.

Later that month I ran into him again, he had his glasses on and he was quite friendly though he did not recognize me. When I inquired how he was doing he related he had stayed with "the folks" for a while but they had their own problems so he moved on. By “folks” Joseph meant his mother and father, like many older people, he was now in a time warp. Did he need anything I asked? No, he happily assured me, he was doing just fine, everyone has struggles he reminded me.

Recently while walking up Flagler from the Bay, I was thinking about the hustle and bustle of life and how desperately so many of us need to kick our lives into slow motion. Then I caught a glimpse of a man in a long thin coat quietly feeding small sparrows from his brown bag. Watching for a moment, then his eyes rose to meet mine, “They are hungry too” he said gently as he returned to feeding the small birds now gathering around him. That was the last time I saw Joseph. I remember reading not one sparrow is forgotten by God, so I know He will not forget Joseph.

August 24, 2009

Eat Pray Love All Day!

Today I am sick, no…maybe just exhausted from imagining my husband having an abdominal aortic aneurysm. I take my Ziacam and cough less, snuggling in bed with “Eat Pray Love”… enjoying the read!

I remember lying on our old plaid couch in our family room in Elverson reading, it was probably something girly and nonsensical like an old Grace Livington Hill book. The sun would drop behind the trees in the woodlands and I would be squinting…just a few more pages before the girls would ask why I was reading in the dark and if we were ever having dinner? I just needed some comic relief raising four girls with a husband who was on the road quite often.

Reading was a necessity in life, I read to the girls, they loved books! I had them read to each other and we wandered around the Dalton’s Book at Cutler Ridge Mall taking turns pushing the youngest in a stroller while we searched out interesting books and sat on the floor Indian style sucking it all in. I often tell the girls we were the originators of the current book store trends where people are welcomed to read for hours in comfy chairs. Back then, no one complained about sitting on the floor.

As the years passed and the girls grew older, I graduated to the Coral Gables Library where I spent every Wednesday night waiting for them to finish youth group or choir or whatever. Art, movies, history of religion, psychology, science, autobiographies jumped from the pages of books, magazines and even those machines with the tapes in them! There were also chairs, but from time to time, I still sat on the floor amongst the book shelves. I loved those evenings!!

My father never finished high school; he worked with his father and became a cement mason. Being an excellent craftsman gave him certain satisfaction but deep inside he always felt uneducated. When my brother went to college, it seemed to bring something vicariously to his learning soul but he yearned to study everything about the world around him… and reading was his outlet. He ferociously read everything he got his hands on, becoming more of a scholar than he realized. I would not describe myself like that but I feel that same hunger to know about everything, and reading is my delight and pleasure too.

But I have a little sickness about my reading, I am so afraid I will miss a good book, especially if it is about a topic I love, or am interested in. Sooooo I order books constantly on amazon.com. Having my iPhone Amazon, makes buying that much easier! In Jan 2009 I asked 10 co-workers I love and respect, what book they thought I should read this year, there's ten right there (no I didn't buy them all) So books are everywhere, on shelves, in piles and stashed away! Many started but then set aside when next one arrived.

Here are just a few

Held at a Distance
The Art of Aging
The Hole in the Gospel
Fostering Health
Let Them In
Change Your Brain Change Your Life
The White Man’s Burden
The New Friars
Aging With Grace
Dare to Journey
Escape from Slavery
Dr. Sa’eed of Iran
Natural Medicine in the Tropics Treatments

Suddenly what I love has become depressing, I tell myself I am an irresponsible steward for buying so many books. I mentally make a schedule of how I can get these books read! Since I love reading so much, shouldn't I take care of my responsibilities first? There's the cleaning, wash and how about the thank you notes and isn’t writing to the grandchildren more important!!? Shouldn’t I be checking my work emails if I called in sick?? Then I have an epiphany, I remember what Elizabeth Gilbert writes in this book I am reading. She questions her sense of Puritanical guilt, does she deserve this or that pleasure? She describes it as an American concept too, have I earned a pleasure? How can I read??...have I earned this privilege yet?? Oh dear how “OFF” is that, does it ever happen to you??

Well that’s me…. But today I decided …I don’t need a Taskmaster to rule my reading life, who shames me for buying books or my reading performance, no!!!... I kicked him out the front door and turned the lock behind him! At my age, maybe I just need to "throw caution to the wind" and read ALL day if I wish! Yes, that is an excellent idea…and when I am done this book I might just find my old Grace Livingston Hill books!!

Please know I have tried but cannot get comments for some unknown reason, if you wish, please comment to ginny.hammond@gmail.com THANKS!

May 10, 2009

To My Girls On Mother's Day!

Being a mother to our four girls, was what I dreamed of my whole life. Well, actually I dreamed of having 4 boys, but when each daughter arrived, there was no disappointment, we could not have been happier. In those days, most moms did what I was doing, I didn't know a lot of working mothers and the few I knew, well, I felt badly for them that they had to leave their kids all day, most didn't want to. My friends and I were just doing what our moms had done. Today I am remembering those dear friends. They made being moms together throughout the years, so much fun.

I remember how my nephew Dave would come home from work and find his wife Karen, my dearest friend and I laughing hysterically about nothing;

"What have you girls been doing all day?" he always asked half jokingly "What a fluff-life you two have!!" We both knew he was a little jealous of our life. WE did have a good life.

Some days, now that I am surrounded by working women, I look back and think, what a slacker I was, playing in a pool half the day with a bunch of kids! Maybe I should have gone back to work, heaven knows we needed the money from time to time. What did I do all those years when the girls finally went to school. Today, women "do it all" and very well too. So what did I do all those years??? Fortunately, I often run into people from my past, at a restaurant, on Facebook, at a funeral or even in Publix, and they remind me all I did throughout the years raising four children.
I prayed constantly and always for my girls, God was so kind to me throughout those years. My husband always believed I was the best mother ever, as did my own mother. I just lived life doing the best I could, I truly loved it all. They say with time memories fade, I hope not...I can still feel my heart beating fast in my chest, as Jennifer, wearing her navy blue smocked dress, carrying her new lunchbox stretched her tiny legs to climb on to that big yellow monster, like she was taking on the world. Or when Krissy did her "bright-lights" and her big brown eyes that were supposed to be blue widened like saucers making us all laugh, or when Jim and I watched Pachie singing and swinging happily in the backyard in Elverson, all by herself. Jim with arms around my waist and his head resting my shoulder, just watching; or Katie's sparkly eyes bringing me the smallest flowers, showing me a starry sky. Precious memories.......

My girls are amazing women today, each one brings a richness to her world by just being who she is. I am blessed to be their mother! They make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me happy, they make me sad, but they fill my heart with a delight that cannot be contained. I thank God for how rich they have made my life, for being my teachers, for loving me and for showing me grace, and honoring me on this special day.

Jennifer, Krissy, Pache and Katie......I honor you today.....All my love, YMGH

May 9, 2009

Things I Love

The way my husband loves me and cares for me
Daisies in June along a PA country road
Nighttime starry skies when you can see the Milky Way
Thick newly cut grass
Florida morning skies
My Krissy’s heart
Crocus pushing through the snow in late February
Stories old people tell
The genuine laughter of children, especially those who have suffered great pain
Flying at sunrise when the clouds beneath are blazing like lava
A full moon reflecting off the ocean waters
Queen Anne’s lace
People who fight for the rights of children
Ethan’s “Great ideas!” and how Nate thinks they are great too
Pache’s strength in hard times
The way the eternal God visits me and whispers in my ear

The camaraderie of women
The singing of birds right before sunrise
How God “shows up” at death, and every other place
The way people love children at CHARLEE
That my grandchildren have the best fathers ever!!
My baby girl’s way of making me smile and giving me joy!
Men that cry, and apologize for being so sappy
Flower chains made by the ladies in Guntur

The beauty of autumn leaves
My Lucy Girl and her love for shoes
Purple lilacs in May
People who love the brokenhearted
Old, old songs
Walking in downtown Miami early in the morning
Old ladies who beat off robbers

Mada and Carter’s love for each other
The smell of a newborn baby’s skin
How Jorgie makes me laugh
Being called Mama
That Katie will ALWAYS be my baby
The small purple iris that grew by our home in Elverson
The giggle of African women walking home in the dark on the road to Pegari

Jen’s soulful art and written words
Making a game of all tasks
My nails when they are long
Weaves and hairstyles African American women wear
Black women who hate weaves
Finding old friends in Facebook
How dogs love their owners
Wild flowers

A newborn baby in my arms, especially Mason Gray
Crackling fires on a cold winter night
The way Marilyn March weeps every time she speaks about CHARLEE
Jonathan Scott singing
Ostentatious Christmas poinsettias at the Bank of America
Woman who are brave and courageous
The way tiny babies talk back to you when you speak to them eye to eye

That my mother knew I loved her
Kedy telling me he wished I was his “grandma”
People who understand and love old people
How Josiah loves Lyra
Linda’s childlike faith
The sea of colorful saris on a crowded Indian street
The way Jack looks at Josiah
Colorful flowers growing along the interstate highways
My sister-in-law Jane’s hands
Late afternoons on the beach when everyone leaves

The way my friend Kathy T has absolutely no idea how incredible she is
Reading in my swing
My sister – everything about her
Strangers that tell you their stories
Shoe-shine men and ladies

Sunsets in the Keys
Airports everywhere
People who adopt children and call them by their birth name
Knowing that an eternal God knows and loves me

Rita, Rita, Rita
My Jesus Never Fails sign – that hung in my childhood home
Jaywalking anywhere and everywhere
Singing around a campfire
When a foster child finds a home where they are unconditionally and deeply loved
Older black women with very, very short hair
My brother’s words that healed my soul
My husband, my friend

May 6, 2009

I Love Blogging!

My kids put me on to blogging…they were on the ground floor when it took off. I thought our daughter invented it but that shows how naïve a proud parent can be. Now it seems EVERYONE has a blog for just about everything! A year or two ago, I attended a Health Foundation event where Steve Marcus (CEO) asked how many organizations and agencies present had a blog. Few hands went up but I was proud to raise mine as our agency had recently started one. He then asked how many people knew what a blog was. Shockingly…only a small percentage actually knew. In their defense, it was a group of people catering to social services, well known for being over-worked and underpaid, treading water rather than sprinting ahead. He then said, “Young people today are not getting their hands dirty from news print; they are following life on the internet.”

My sister reminds me that we are immigrants in this technological world while our grandchildren are natives. Even though I have so much to learn, I find myself helping my younger co-workers who are amazed that a woman my age has an iPhone. I just keep jumping in, hoping I will somehow stay in the technology race even when others are so far ahead, and everyday something new is being introduced. Some things seem silly to me, like Twitter, yes I am on there but I keep thinking....who the heck cares what I am doing!? But blogging...well I like it!
My real favorites are the everyday blogs people write about themselves and the life they are living. If you want an experience, just be a blogger on Blogspot and it will allow you the opportunity to move to the next blog. As I moved along it was absolutely amazing …in 20 blogs I had circled the world, and also visit a few old hometown sites. People blogging about their business, their children, ever advancing technology, their struggles, their memories, their dreams, their illness, their future…..the list goes on and on.

I enjoy writing and everyday I write a story in my head, no matter what I am doing or thinking, unfortunately it never reaches a paper or computer. And my journals are full of whining and moaning, not my stories or encounters with people. So a couple of years ago I began this blog. Having this blog has reminded me that writing is oh so important the older we get. But I didn't think anyone read it, and I felt quite comfortable because the comments didn't work. It feels safe, it causes me to remember to learn on the journey, to remember the stories of people around me..

I will admit, blogging isn’t for everyone, but I want to encourage those who say “I don’t have time”….you do because someone needs to hear your story, that is what life is about….telling our stories.

Here are some people who need a blog, Don March, my sister-in-law Jane, Lucy Hernandez, my husband, Sharah and Karen Grace. Go for it guys!!

May 3, 2009

Thanksgiving Revisited in May

Last week I saw the little Latino lady again. She seemed healthier but most likely is still living in the streets. She brushed past me with no recognition, but I remembered clearly the little lesson she taught me about being grateful.

It was a brisk sunny morning right before Thanksgiving, a cold day for most South Floridians, especially if you are on the streets. I was in a hurry, at 7:30am I wanted to get a jump on my day. But then I saw her. Her hooded sweatshirt was pulled tightly around her face, tuffs of white hair sticking out everywhere, she was my age. Our eyes met, big blue eyes, like my dad’s, swimming with tears…. she didn’t say anything but the pain was etched deeply in her face. Confusion filled her eyes, she looked sick. Maybe disoriented? Even crazy?? Well I don’t make those assumptions anymore in the city; we are all a little crazy to varying degrees.

“Do you need something” I ask edsoftly, “Are you hungry?” She rambled on in Spanish, I understood very little. Again I asked if she is hungry, putting my fingers to my mouth. That would be me, I just want to fix something, everything, what do you need…I’ll try!

She shook her head no and whispered “café con leche” She just wanted some hot coffee. We headed back to the favorite place of early morning workers entering Government Center. We joined the line for the “specials” where you choose from a variety of breakfast dishes offering a full breakfast menu, including the coffee, all at a great price. The lady seemed hesitant but the girl behind the counter caught on quickly and spoke kindly to her in Spanish, offering everything in generous amounts. I smiled, I just loved that Bottega worker for that!! I finally paid and we headed for the tables.

I dropped to the chair beside the small lady who was now more comfortable and opening up in Spanish. Truthfully I just wanted to get to the office. I do not speak Spanish so the whole exercise seemed pointless, but I sat for a minute. She was fed...right? As her meal sat still boxed, she just wanted to tell me her story, something about a fever, the ER, her neck, something about aspirin. Thinking of the boys from this book I remembered that street people just need to tell their stories, they need to be heard. I wasn't really listening. Oh dear I just wanted to get to work!! I stayed for a minute, then told her she could go back to the ER but our communication was so poor. I had to leave!! I am sure she saw my impatience, she started saying

“Tank you Mommy, Tank you Mommy…Deos te bendiga! Usted es una buena mujer!”

We embraced but I was barely out the door when I heard the voice! Who is that voice anyway?? Is it me, my conscience, some sicko thing I have going, or....does God really speak to my soul! It is always quiet and just comes.... age and years have taught me to pay attention.

“Go back and give her some money….she needs Tylenol or Motrin for the fever, she has a virus” I turned back reluctantly and headed for the table. She didn’t see me coming but I had a clear view of her back. Her head moving like she is talking to someone but no one is there. As I approached, I could see her eyes looking high above and her hands poised in prayer, like those alter boys I've seen in the Catholic Church. Her face looked like an angel, her fear gone and with my poor Spanish I could understand her words. "Thank you God! Thank you Jesus” she rattled on through her tears, I could see she was immersed in pure joy!…truly thankful. She suddenly turned in my direct as I stood in front of her, telling me something in Spanish about God, pointing to the untouched food and then to the ceiling of the high atrium. Now I was awkward, so I handed her the money and told her she needed medicine, I told her to talk to the pharmacist pointing to the downstairs pharmacy. Walking away, I turned, she was eating the food.

I was hurrying along till I heard the voice again, resonating from deep inside, pregnant with truth;

“Ginny, THAT was Thanksgiving”

In all my plans that year, I was not in a place of true Thanksgiving. I cannot explain it but there was something about that little lady’s spirit, she was truly grateful, in a way that being needy brings. I was very needy too, but I didn’t even know it till I met her. God bless her wherever she is. What would I ever do without all these strangers teaching me every day?!

April 26, 2009

Aren't the clouds amazing???

When our children were growing up, my Dad used to say, "Did you write that down?" He was referring to the amazing words that seemed to tumble daily from the mouths of our four girls. "That is so cute!" he would tell me. Even when I KNEW my kids were incredible, I was too busy to stop and write anything down. But in Dad's shirt pocket, he kept a small notebook which he pulled out frequently, jotting down reminders of things he might forget as he grew older. Though I never found those notebooks, for sure, he wrote down our girls' words that seemed to charm him so. As the years flew by I often wished I had written down my girls' words, so cute, so honest, so profound. With today's technology mothers write beautiful blogs that not only report the details of daily living but also capture the soulful tales of how a child grows into the amazing person they are meant to be.

Children are our greatest teachers, they sometimes see what we miss, what we are too busy to notice or learn. They don't say just cute things...they say important things we need to hear. That happened to me the other day. With a major computer issue at work, we all joyfully made an early escape from the world of child welfare. As I climbed on to the Commuter Express, a mother with 3 children occupied the first row of seats. In her arms she held a wiggly baby under a year. A toddler sat next to her by the window and the big sister, a girl about 6, occupied the window seat directly across the aisle from her mom. Her companion seat was piled high with bags of every type, an umbrella stroller stood collapsed by the seat. The bus had just pulled out from it's bay at Dadeland South when I heard a tiny voice say,

"I think it is so amazing how the clouds look in the sky!" Through the small space I could see the small girls' eyes transfixed on the deep blue Florida sky filled with fluffy white clouds. I wasn't sure if she was speaking to her mother or was just in awe of the lovely sky above her head as she gazed through the window of the bus. Looking back, I remember thinking how touched everyone must be to hear her sweet childish words, but only I had heard them. Without even looking out the window I stood and leaned over the comfortable seat and said gently touching her shoulder,

"I think it is so amazing too!" There was something about her wistful little voice, discovering a treasure that touched her soul, I wanted to affirm her and agree with her about that beautiful truth. As I sat down, looking for no response, her mother asked her what the lady had said. The question seemed to be a check on whether the child had done something wrong. Immediately I spoke, quoting her daughters words then mine. She gave me a tired, relieved smile, soon she was asleep with her baby resting soundly stretched across her knees, her arm around the toddler.

But through the small space I watched the little girl, her eyes fixed on everything, missing nothing until her tired eyes reluctantly closed, her head resting against the window.
How many times are we so encumbered with the busyness of life that we don't just watch the clouds in the sky, or receive the wisdom of a small child, take an old person's hand or listen to a homeless person's story? Maybe for me too many...but am so grateful for that sweet little girl who reminded me. I am reminded daily that Jesus told his disciples that the Kingdom of God is like a little child. God bless her wherever she is today and may nothing steal the wonder and love for beauty in her soul!

April 25, 2009

I love this child...

One morning while visiting in Virginia, I came into the family room to find Ethan pointing to his brother Nate's trike that had been placed at the end of the sofa. Since we had been talking about respecting people and things, I couldn't imagine what he was thinking.

"Look Marm, isn't this cool?!??" Totally enthusiastic, leaving me confused. I couldn't imagine what could be cool about a trike on the sofa.

"No Buddy, that isn't cool because trikes are to ride on and their wheels get very dirty and could make the sofa very dirty too." As I reached to get it down he assisted me and with no guile pointed to the large stain and said,

"But Marm I needed to put it there because it covers up where I spilled my milk by accident, so it is cool!" His seriousness just made me laugh. There is something about this child who is often thought of as a terror by his mother. His tender spirit many times appears and cracks open like an egg when he really shows you what is in his heart, and that is what I love. It is being a child.

Once when he was visiting us in Miami I heard a noise in the bedroom. Turning on the light I ask him why the lamp cord is on the bed. He explains he is wondering what would happen it you break the cord open so he was chewing on it. I try believe it, most of the time I think his mother must be lying when she tells me about her boys escapades! Maybe not I tell myself grabbing the cord off the bed. I am not a screamer.... but I strongly tell him that is dangerous, fearing too much acknowledgement may cause him to be more curious.

"Buddy, I think you are not tired yet, how about I read to you?" He declines and I suggest a movie on my laptop. We browse Netflix together and I ask him what he'd like.

"Marm, I would like something very inappropriate." he tells me "INAPPROPRIATE!??" I am thinking, what could he possibly be mean?!

"Buddy, could you tell me what that means?" I ask cautiously.

"You know Marm, with a lot of bad guys.." Ethan explains. Isn't that so how we are as adults but would never speak the words. We have internal restraints that keep us from saying what is in our hearts. Even the outspoken have them.....but children, well, not so much, and there is something refreshing about it.

"Lets call Mom and ask her about this, okay?" He thinks that is a good idea but explains his mom doesn't like him to watch those movies. Strangely he doesn't care if I check with her.

"Okay Buddy, let's not bother her. I have some DVDs in the closet" and I head for the door.

"And Marm....no Bob Squarepants! He's rude!" Ethan calls from the bed.

"Gotcha covered Buddy, no Bob Squarepants!" I love this kid!

April 14, 2009

This is a rerun pic but I loved it....Happy Birthday Katie!!! We love you!!

April 10, 2009

It's gone....right out of my hand!

It happened in a second, as his small hands brushed roughly against mine. Immediately I felt instant possessiveness, like the smallest child must feel when another takes his/her toy. It's instinctive, "Hey! it's mine!!" I didn't speak those words but I felt them. For milliseconds I sat paralysed in shock, stunned, not moving from my seat on the 38 Bus at 220 Street. Then I jumped to my feet, rushing to tell the driver what had happened! As he reached for his phone we silently watched the boy of 12 or 13 dressed in jean shorts and a white tee dash across the bus way and across US 1.

Was it his adrenaline flowing that made him fly? Or maybe it was the excitement of holding my iPhone in his hand that caused him to run so hard with a strong, long stride, holding his head high. He could run track I thought. He was gone in seconds, melting into a back street. No one would chase after him. He disappeared. It was then I noticed the people on the bus were yelling,

"Hey!! You going to start this ___________bus or not!!??" I turned to a sea of impatient angry faces discussing what had happened.

"I..I'm very sorry for the delay!" I called out softly as I dropped to my Rosa Park seat. I always try to sit there, I want to sit in a seat named for such a brave woman. A kind girl stepped forward and handed me her phone to use. Then, like a herd of cattle, the crowded bus was suddenly emptying, people pushing against one another's backs, hoping to make the 38 bus that had pulled up along side our bus...they exited grumbling, even the man in the wheel chair. There was no hero to run after the boy, it was just a cell phone, and who needs such a fancy phone.

Two people remained on the bus. I handed the phone back to the nice girl and told her thanks. She was sorry for me as she rushed for the other bus. Returning to the driver I encouraged him to move on, those two people had somewhere to go! I grasped the plexiglass that separated us.

"Did you see him? He was just a boy!" My chest felt heavy. That boy looked just like M., a foster child. Mary, his case manager worries everyday that the child will end up on a wrong path. She NEVER stops working on his behalf, she wants a good life for him. I burst into tears...not just the kind you shed when sad but I wept deeply.
"Where is this boy's mother? Who gives him dinner and teaches him truth?? Who believes he can make right decisions and tells him so! Did you see him???! Oh he was just a boy!" The driver nods but is silent and lets me weep unashamedly in the front of the 38!
"I am sorry that happened Mommy" Finally he speaks, then gently chides me about how people are and how you should never openly show something like an iPhone. Yes, everyone will say that to me I am sure, others will say the bus is not safe.
"We could ride all the way to your stop and not one person would say a hello! Oh Mommy, people are not nice! They are not!" I object immediately as he vehamently shakes his head. "Mommy did you see the blind lady? She only rode two stops, but no one, NOT ONE gave her a seat!...people are not nice!!"
"A blind lady??!...No..where was she?! I didn't see her!" Then he tells me where she was standing, it was about a foot from me. Me.... Miss Nicey-Nice let the blind lady stand. I felt sad and started to cry once again.
I rode pretty much all the way to Homestead weeping, laughing and telling the bus driver I didn't want to become jaded or fearful about people, that would be the worst thing to happen to me. We talked about Easter and the message of true love and goodness. He gave me his hankerchief, at times his own eyes become watery, he even offered to give me his phone.
I loved my iPhone, and it is wrong to steal. I am not excusing the child. But I was a victim of a crime because I broke all my own rules...I was not careful, nor vigilant nor did I look at the people on the bus, something I always do! What are their stories...what will we learn from one another on this ride (corny...for sure) But there s always good with the bad. And this day is no exception. Jim is waiting...even without receiving the text I was writing him as my phone was snatched away. Always waiting, always there. And as we came to a stop I asked the driver,
"But the boy....that was sad, don't you think?" The bus driver nods yes, he tells me he doesn't meet many good people like me. I shake my head and tell him he does, everyday, people like him.

January 9, 2009

Sitting quietly on the metrorail, I was enjoying my book, hoping for no interruptions. Sitting on one of the two seats that are parallel to the train wall, I was right next to the exit doors. The man rolled in loudly and as the doors closed, he backed his chair into the exit space, grumbling about no place to park, directing his complaints to individuals! Someone snapped back at him , and an arguement insued. I didn't look up. Nothing I could do anyway, I just wanted to read!

ButI felt saddened for this man bearing a veteran's badge, the kind worn for the VA Hospital Clinic. The long, greasy, straggly hair hid his face as he mumbled. The man arguing with him was too young to remember the Viet Nam war, nor to understand why the streets are full of that war's outcasts. What a jerk, I thought.
After listening a while I thought, now that's enough! Leave the guy alone! Hmmm.... he must have read my mind for suddenly all was silent as the train moved along the tracks . Then it happened, just as we pulled into Government Center!
You ________pigs! You ________ terrorists! Go back to where you _______ came from!! Get off this train, I'll kill you even if I am in this chair! It happened as he loudly exited backwards off the train. I stood paralyzed, looking in the direction of his shouting. There sitting the back of the train was the object of his wrath!! A woman veiled, dressed in black; beside her in a stroller was a tiny baby. With people pushing to exit the train around me, our eyes locked.
"Are you okay??" My mouth moves but there is no sound. "I am so, so sorry. Do not listen to him, those are lies!" It was my eyes that were swimming with tears, not hers. Her veil moves and I know she is speaking to me too, also without sound.
"It's okay, I'm okay." she says and nods her head to assure me.

"NO! It is not okay!!!" I scream with still no sound shaking my head, nodding to the stroller. "The baby!! Is the baby okay???" How dare he speak that way to that baby's mother. She nods gently, I can't see it but she smiles and the veil moves again, she says thank you, she wants me to know she's okay, and so is her sweet baby.
The warning bell rings and I step quickly through the door, The train pulls away and I am standing alone, watching. wishing I was with her on the train. I turn in anger hoping to find that man in the chair, I'll push him right down the steps, I will, I swear I will!! I don't care what happened to him in the war! My mind races until eventualy I am still. That's hate, that's ugliness, just like the man's. I feel sorry, so sorry...I want to be like the veiled young mom, not like the man.
I ask God to bless that brave woman and I know she is already whispering words of comfort to her wee babe. Then I ask God to send the man a gracious Visitor to tend to his wounded heart, to forgive him ...............and me.

January 8, 2009

Going to the doctor

I once knew a man who had bypass surgery. The first day we met, I walked into his kitchen and there on the kitchen counter lined up in a row, were his meds....oh so many! He explained, "I just told the doc, give me a pill for everything, because I'm not following any rules, no diets, no restrictions for me...." I was horrified! I thought how irresponsible, especially when he cooked a pound of bacon every Sat morning! Doctors should fire patients like him. Or patients like my father who are extremely friendly with their doctors but do exactly what they want, following only the rules they choose. I wanted to be like my dear mother who religiously obeyed. Yes...I would always be like her, or at least I planned to be!

My PCP is kind and gentle. He looks like his Lebanese mother but sounds like his Irish father, his easy manner reveals his island upbringing. This week I went to see him. Here is how it went....

I tell him my concerns, I tell him I want to be fixed of all my complaints (similar to what I say to my mechanic)...I want to be healthy, I want to see my grandchildren grow up, I want to go back to Africa and India. I don't want you to treat symptoms, that's what I do. I need him to find out if anything is wrong. (That's what I convey to him kindly.) Being a good diagnostician is essential in a doctor. He listens, and asks why am I there today ? Well, I cancelled the last 3 appts for cholesterol checks. Hmmmm...he brings up the Lipitor. I give him a lot of lengthy excuses about insurance and other difficulties until I confess I haven't been talking it. Everything is about the Lipitor with him. Every complaint I have, he tells me I should take the Lipitor. But I am guilty and quiet.

"Haven't you read the Crestor report?" his concern pains me a little, so I tell him to order it for me and I'll take it. I promise! He says good, there is a 5 mg, I tell him no, give me a 10mg and I'll cut it in half and save money. He agrees that it a great idea. I explain it isn't original, one of the insurance companies sent me a pill cutter.

"Will you let me do an EKG? Will you go to the neurologist? Blood work?" he says as he types on the computer with his back to me. Of course, why is he phrasing his questions that way? Turning, he says well, I am not very compliant, he reminds me of everything I have not done, Lipitor, mammogram, ultrasound, bone scan, colonoscopy. Panicked, I jump off the table and peer over his shoulder.

"Are you writing "non-compliant" in my file??!" I ask frantically. "Oh dear!! Please don't put that in there, pleeeeese!!" Non-compliance in our business means rule-to-show-cause, fines...nothing very good. It's a label I do not want. I scan the monitor, until I realize I have become a Elaine on Seinfeld. He laughs out loud and assures me he hasn't. He promises. I remind him I lost 25 lbs. and that is good?....he nods. Sometimes they just forget the right things you do!

The tech who does the EKG and takes my blood is lovely, we speak of her job, her dreams left behind, her wisdom and a beloved grandmother who has passed away, leaving a hole in her heart. She notices Crestor is prescribed and returns with samples, 12 weeks of Crestor 10mg that will last me 24 weeks! (Well maybe a couple of years the way I take it, just kidding)

The doctor returns before I leave, we talk about his ankle surgery. He tells me he has to be in therapy for two more years, explaining the damage done. I ask him if he does everything he's suppose to do, he confesses, "Of course not."

"How old are you? You are too young not to take care of such an important joint! That will become arthritic!" He shakes his head, he knows it's true, maybe that is why he shows me so much grace. I repentantly call to him as he leaves.

"I'm kind of bossy..right?" he nods then turns...and says he likes it, it helps him.

I call to him again, "Okay! Then you take care of that foot and I'll be compliant! I'll be healthy so we can come to your bed and breakfast one day when I am old" I hear him laughing in the hallway. He told me once his dream was to have a bed and breakfast on an island and do humanitarian work, but first he must make a living and raise his family. Such an worthy ultimate goal in life.... I really like this doctor.

As I walk to the corner to catch the bus I realize I am a hypocrite and not much different from the man with the bacon and pills on the counter, at least he was honest about it. And worst of all, I have become my father, in everyone's business AND non-compliant!.....but most of all, I am just happy I didn't get fired! Yes...I will do ALL those right things....I have to...I promised!

November 29, 2008

Don't do as I did!

Some years ago, while cooking, a pot caught fire. My future son-in-law reached for the faucet to fill something with water. I calmly but firmly said;

"Jorgie!!...you never put water on this kind of fire"

"Hmmm...that's right...what is it you pour on it???"" he responded equally as calm as the phone rang. "I can't talk now...your mom started a fire in the kitchen...bye" he hung up.

We both burst into laughter as I reached for the baking soda, while the phone rang incessantly off the hook. Fortunately the fire was out in no time, and Jorge finally answered the phone.

"No, nothing's wrong, we're fine!...oh the fire, I put it out, you know how your mom is...." he hung up laughing.

But it wasn't so funny several months ago when I was up at 5 am cooking. Standing next to the stove, I had put some oil in the cast iron frying pan and turn it to high . Suddenly I heard the "Swish" a fire makes when it ignites. I immediately did all the wrong things, and as I did it in one swooping motion, I KNEW it was wrong. I moved the pan to the sink and turned the water on! Yes I did!!! Immediately flames soared high. I assessed whether it would catch the curtain immediatelly; if it had I would have called 911 first, but I knew I had a second or two so I grabbed the rug, wet it and threw it on top of the whole mess... the fire went out. Even when you know what to do, in a second you could do the WRONG thing....so here is a visual!

November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday

...…it asks nothing, no gifts to buy, no costumes to think up, no cards to send, you don't have to do a thing….. it’s just there, a legitimate day for stuffing ourselves with good food, watching parades or football or just hanging out with friends and family OR doing nothing at all! I always loved cooking in the kitchen with activity bustling around me. There were a million calls to my sister and most of all I loved cooking with my girls!!

Thanksgiving is also a subtle hint that gently reminds us to ask the question “”What AM I thankful for?” Many are blessed beyond measure; the day itself could not contain all their words if we started reciting our blessings at sun-up and finished deep in the darkness. Sometimes we have overshadowing burdens too many to count. But Thanksgiving is not about the ‘haves and “have-nots”. It’s about being grateful no matter what we have, it’s about letting that gratefulness spill out in words and deeds; But most of all it is a gift we give ourselves, for it strangely changes us.

Gratefulness was rather an obsession in my life and I am sure I never afforded my children much opportunity to be ungrateful without a reprimand and a certain amount of shaming (Sorry girls!) But for me, the attitude of being thankful always brought me back to center, it was a place where all the drama I could create daily was quietly calmed by remembering how blessed I was. When times were hard I would drag out my proverbial “THANK YOU” list. You know, a precursor to the beautifully published gratefulness journals? I’d start by saying, “I cannot think of a thing to write!” But slowly…faces of my children came to mind, the sun that shone brightly in the blue Florida sky, and so the list would begin. Most of all, the God that seemed far, gradually became closer like a loving parent. Over the years even my sorrows became my blessings. And all my thankfulness to God strangely became His gift back to me, I think that's why I love Thanksgiving so much, it can bring something to everyone, it gives hope.

November 2, 2008

The Butt-inski

As the bus pulled up, a very big young man sauntered up to the front of the line. Oh my gosh, I thought, he's going to cut right in line! What a jerk!! Here in the USA no one cues up for public transportation. It's like a mad dash, it can get a little nasty too. The only exception is the luxury Commuter Express 34 bus; there is no standing, people line up quite nicely and are counted off as the seats fill up. Most nights cutting in line would be a problem, it would mean someone at the end of the line would not get a seat. But this was not the case tonight, only 15-20 had cued up in a rather unorganized line for the last bus of the night.

"Did you see that?!" I spontaneously asked the girl in front of me.
"Yes" she said wearily, "I'd say something but you never know what people will do."
"True...but I am sitting next to him!" She shrugged, "Whatever, who cares." And I was thinking, she probably doesn't have as many issues as I do.

Climbing on the bus I found him in the third row, sprawled over 2 seats. Though not that tall, his upper body was huge, thick and dense...like a football player, his shoulders alone would fill a seat and half of the other.

"May I please sit there?' he had to get totally out of his seat to let me in. I sat down pleased with myself, thinking of how I'd tell him off. I snapped pics of this smart-aleck kid with my iPhone. "I will blog about this"......but before long, feeling a little silly I was asking myself a few questions like, what is wrong with you?? Who made you the bus monitor? You hate people who try to straighten kids out like this. Look around ginny...nobody cares that he cut in line, they are too tired and not to mention the bus is EMPTY!!

I peered out the window at the darkening sky, then I caught the look on this boy's face. He looked tired and pensive. Just shut-up and let it go!! Tapping his immense arm, oh so lightly, he jerked in my direction.

"Do you know why I sat next to you?" he looked at me like I was crazy and then I said "I was really angry at you!" He immediately asked why and I launched into my defense of proper line etiquette, all the time sensing there is something bigger here. He listened patiently, and I wasn't feeling any better.....just worse! How ridicules I thought! He spoke when I finished.

"I never take the bus and in school no one ever got in a line, I didn't know...I'm really sorry I didn't even notice." Oh dear..who's the jerk now? I swear I always get caught when I do things like this!

"I was in jail all night! " he bemoaned, "I didn't sleep, eat or even shower, I guess I wasn't paying attention" Then I told him I was sorry, that he must need the whole seat to rest and of course he didn't know about the stupid line rule. He then pulled out one of those envelopes everyone gets when they leave the 13th St jail.
The story of the previous night tumbled out of his mouth. The officer had pulled him over and gave him 5 tickets. I perused the tickets, trying to sift through the details as the young man turned toward me. Still not believing you go to jail for 5 non-moving violations, I asked him if he had been rude to the officer. He was emphatic that he had not been.

"I begged him not to tow my car." He had just gotten it and was taking the girlfriend for a spin without proof of registration or insurance. He appeared today before the judge and was released. He pulled out the arrest report and handed it to me to read. It was neatly typed with the facts, just the facts. I read the first page, and turned to him,

"I think it was the gun that threw the cop over the edge" I said thoughtfully. "Was it registered?"

"Yes!! It is, I use it for my work and I did exactly what they told me in the class. When he came to the car I kept my hands on the steering wheel and told him there was a registered weapon in the vehicle. I don't know how I'll get my car out now and look at all these tickets!?"

We talked about his life. Suddenly it was his stop! He jumped up to leave, but not before extending his hand to me. My hand is hidden in his ..."Thanks so much! Sorry about the line!" I watched as the boy fadedinto the darkness. He bears the name a a man who spent a lot of time in jail, I say a prayer for the him, feeling humbled... the story is always more than you know.