Magic Words Can Lead to Magic in Deeds

Magic Words Can Lead to Magic in Deeds

Uruguay Amethyst Geode

It’s happened to you. You are reading something and you come across one sentence, or a paragraph–WORDS that hold you to the page or your screen. Words that have revealed a thought you’ve had, but expressed in a way that  jumps off the page–like magic.

Consider:

It was a nice thing for her to say. In her way. With Greta, you have to look out for the nice things buried in the rest of her mean stuff. Greta’s talk is like a geode. Ugly as anything on the outside and for the most part the same on the inside, but every once in a while there’s something that shines through.

I love this passage, because it relays the thoughts of fourteen-year-old June Elbus who tells us the story of her relationship with her Uncle Finn, an artist who died of AIDS. But the “Greta” in the quote is her sister, a few years older, the one she now tangles with on a regular basis. Can they make it right by each other. (The novel is: TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME by Carol Rifka Brunt.)

June’s words, her reflection is on page 52 of a complex story, but it leaped off the page for me, not only because it’s an insight that will come back to complete the story, help the troubled relationship between the two sisters. But also because it is TRUTH.

In our lives, the people that make us crazy, who we sometimes wish we had never met–they are the ones we must acknowledge as human and in the most surprising moments they can say things or do things that reveal their humanity: something that shines through.

Do you know a person who talks a line that starts to give you hope? And then they turn around and annihilate that hope in what they do. THINK: some politicians!! or a friend, even a family member. And think: what did our mothers or fathers tell us when this happened?

  • Oh, she didn’t mean it.
  • Give the guy a break.
  • Tolerance, could we just have a little tolerance in these situations.

Those are all good suggestions, and as June in the novel learns–and we all learn–some people you give space to, hoping they’ll come around and HAVE YOUR BACK–don’t fail you. They wake up. They arrive when you need them. They cement a bond that might have been broken.

But there are also those that never do come around. They are:

  • the salt in a wound instead of the salt of the earth.
  • Their first thought is of themselves and you can go blow in the wind.

Or actually I might be wrong about both those evaluations. Sometimes we just don’t know why the love we sail over to them, the phone calls, the emails, the attention–falls flat. They might arrive in your life years down the road and think nothing of it. But you do, because you wanted to keep that relationship alive. You wanted to be there for them and they wanted to disappear.

Ironically, great thinkers and leaders know that’s not the way to go. If another human being reaches out to someone, a response should occur. It cannot always be commensurate with need, but one dollar, one meal, one phone call, one smile–is better than none.

So if there’s a person in your life, right today, who you are trying to reach, trying to love or help–listen for the magic words. They might be there–and you’re so angry you can’t hear them. Or they might be disguised in bravado or sorrow. That happens ALL THE TIME. But if you keep on giving of yourself, the right words just might come shining through. They won’t be MEAN. They’ll be the KEYS to more communication.

At the end of the novel, Greta helps June to accomplish an enormous task. She’s her support, she provides encouragement–which is something we all need:

“It’s all going to work out fine…I’ll keep an eye on you.”

Here’s hoping that someone in your life RIGHT NOW will open up, keep an eye on you, give some magic sign that they know you need them and they NEED YOU TOO.

Photo credit: The Crystal Rock Store Uruguay Amethyst Geode

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The Latest Skinny on Soul Mates

The Latest Skinny on Soul Mates

I totally believe that my husband and I are soul mates. But what does that mean exactly? To expand on my own ideas, I’m sharing sections of a piece by Ada Calhoun that appeared in TIME. Her recent book is the memoir WEDDING TOASTS I’LL NEVER GIVE.

HISTORY OF THE SOUL MATE CONCEPT

The idea of soul mate goes back to Plato’s Symposium. Zeus, thinking to humble humans, split them in half, forcing us to wander in search of our other half. As Calhoun writes, this mythological concept is VERY ROMANTIC, but has kind of messed us up–as some people keep searching, denying that a happy, healthy relationship fits that bill–and casting about continuously for THE ONE.

Calhoun admits to thinking she had met the magical one–only to discover in the bright light of reality that no–if he was her soul mate, they are definitely over-rated.

ROMANTIC CHIVALRIC TRADITION

J.R.R. Tolkien loved his wife from his teens until her death at the age of 82. But he also had some interesting things to say about our obsession with soul mates and blamed it on the Romantic Tradition. He wrote: “Its weakness is, of course, that it began as an artificial courtly game, a way of enjoying love for its own sake…It takes, or in the past has taken the young man’s eye off women as they are–that is companions in shipwreck…not guiding stars.” 

Such a great statement and so realistic. Life can never be all positives. It’s when the loved person is there when things get tough, when there’s some kind of shipwreck, that real love comes through. Long-lasting love affairs, Calhoun writes, are about time, patience and commitment. Possibly years of dating can also develop these ties that bind. In the end, you are a kindred spirit or the soul mate, because of true knowledge of the other, forgiveness, and consistent love and understanding.

ARE WE CREATING A SOUL MATE? 

In her piece, Calhoun writes about a friend’s parents who appeared to be soul mates, but really didn’t have much to bind them together. “She was Jewish, and he had a good job. That was enough for the marriage to begin.” But they struggled while raising their family and talked about separating when that part of their lives was completed. But what had happened during that time? When the children were grown, they discovered that neither wanted to leave the marriage.

DIVIDE and CONQUER

I can only speak from the one marriage that has blessed my life. When we started out, we were both working, but SILLY ME insisted that I take over the household chores, because my husband came from a large family and had already had a large share of domestic life. He bought me a washer and dryer a month after our wedding. YAY. We had a small townhouse (thank you Park Forest, Illinois) with hardly any yard to mow. To save money, I made lunches for me to take to my teaching job and he to take to his insurance adjuster job in downtown Chicago.

The lunch thing ended abruptly for my husband when in front of co-workers, he opened a sandwich of liver sausage on raisin bread. I was fired! (That’s all I had in the fridge.) But you see, we were developing a marriage. I was forgiven and yet a fable was born.

I fired him from lawn mowing because “I’ll do it on the weekend” just didn’t work in a Chicago spring when it rained every weekend and the grass was a foot high. GIVE AND TAKE.

Like the saying that a cold with medication lasts two weeks and one without medication lasts 14 days, our marriage is solid. No one could have provided for me better, loved me more and fathered our children with constant care, understanding and humor than he. A photographer, trip planner, universal fixer, wine connoisseur, film partner and of course loving husband–he is mine. A total blessing. We decided a few years ago, that marriage should feel comfortable, like a worn and beloved pair of slippers. Anxiety is out. Our home is warm and companionship reigns and he always remembers to set the light timer and check the smoke detectors!! Good will abides within our home.

THUS COMFORT REIGNS 

Tolkien believed “The real soul mate is the one you are actually married to.” That makes sense to me. The years of discovering this person within a marriage–his and her depths, beliefs, weaknesses and strengths–is like water flowing against a rock or a tree growing against a wall. Throughout the years, the give and take forms and shapes us within the relationship. We learn when to push ahead and when to pull back. As Calhoun states in her piece, THE IDEAL PARTNER IS THE ONE YOU CREATE.

Photo: TIME MAGAZINE online

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Updates on My Life: Parenting, Writing

Updates on My Life: Parenting, Writing

On the way home from a writer’s retreat, I’m up in an airplane, praying. No, it’s not turbulence, it’s thankfulness. I have just attended a four day retreat with fellow writers, and I’m feeling grateful for: words, ideas, computers, paper and pen–and most of all READERS and fellow writers.

THREE BELOW

But as always, I think of my three children down below me–their lives spanning the continent: one in Boston, one in Chicago and one in Palos Verdes California. Ah, they are all so different, yet all working with the same DNA. They are my dear friends and sometimes my quiet critics–and they are all mine and my husband’s amazing fault! But the prayer is one of thanksgiving and of WONDER.

Because here I am still adventuring and they are living their own pathways and their own adventures.

STARTING OFF POINT: THE SAME

At some point, all three started the journey with the same gifts: ate the same foods, heard the same loving words and lullabies, enjoyed the same childhood books and music, were hugged and tickled, encouraged and guided by the same parents, grandparents and other family members.

But being their own individual people, along the journey, doors opened or closed to these common elements. They chose who they would love, where they would live, what they would like and dislike, what is most meaningful or as #2 says, what blows your hair back. 

It’s called becoming who we will be and has many labels. Here are a few: guitarist, classicist, vegan, green, poet, agnostic, spiritual counselor, politically involved, iconoclast, getting by, wealthy, MA, BA–singular in choices and proud of it.

And I am proud of each of them–their pursuits, the people and places they love, the devotion they give to music, children, work, the environment, their lover, their country and always the words on the page. They all know the value of reading, of poetry and prose, of research and knowledge. Damn, they are all so WONDERFUL.

BUT ENOUGH OF MINE  

These words, I hope, lead to thoughts of your own creations, whether living on the planet or existing in your head, the children of your mind. We bring to our culture so much besides our DNA–great thoughts power the globe.

FINAL OFFERING…

is a link to my book of stories which continues the journey of being a mother and having a mother (we all do.) It’s my A MOTHER’S TIME CAPSULE, now available on Amazon in ebook form at a lower price–3.99.

Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075PH3D2D/

Thanks for reading. Thanks for all you do to help another human being, whether it’s your own flesh and blood or a total stranger. We are all in this together.

P.S. Sample story here: http://boomerhighway.org/windows-one-mothers-view-of-her-world/

Updates on My Life: Parenting, Writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo credits: independent.co. uk.  Foreverland Press.

Feelin’ Groovy–You Can Too!

http://www.designerspics.com/,

They are just for you.

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy.

This is POETRY, MAN…(and woman)  So lift me up, make me feel good and groovy.

Today, during these times that we are living, more than ever, I need groovy. I need Paul Simon’s song and lyrics, or to be immersed in a Bach fuge or Bill Evans’ endless piano trills. Call it escape if you want to, but sometimes we just need to be SAVED from gathering darkness, fear, illness, lies, hurts, you name it.

HELP FROM SOME POETS 

  • Jill Bialosky has written the book POETRY WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. So which poem saved her: Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.
  • “I read my own story in (that poem). There are two roads one might travel: The road where families are whole and not broken, and fathers don’t die young, and mothers are happy…and the road I travel, which is crooked and not quite right, with bumps along the way. I know it is important I choose the right course.”
  • The poem helped Bialosky realize that what she was experiencing did not have to mark the rest of her life. For her, poetry made her see: “…I’m included. I belong. My imagination has given me a coping skill.”
  • Then today, I stumbled upon this line: “Don’t Fear Poetry”…an interview with poet Matthew Zapruder and his book Why PoetryHe wants you to read poetry and feel comfortable. 
  • He sees a poem as a kind of individual portal: “Poetry comes to be, each time, in the mind of each half-dreaming reader.” Poetry is not a puzzle, a code or riddle to solve. Rather when things are hard to talk about, poetry works. Poetry relates complex ideas in the “simplest way possible.”
  • Zapruder says that when he was reading poetry, he would get mysterious feelings about life, things hard to talk about, but things so precious to him. Thus he became a poet and a lover of poetry BECAUSE that’s what he wanted from his life!
  • Zapruder says: In a poem, language remains itself–yet is also made to feel different, even sacred, like a spell. I love that. You can fall under the spell of poetry. 

BUT POETRY TODAY, REALLY?

Yes. You are in the doctor’s office; you are on your lunch break; you are in a car waiting to pick up your child. What are you doing? Where before we had to search for print media–a newspaper, a magazine, a book (I still try to always have a book in my bag)–today, as Zapruder says, “I just pull out my phone.”

But then he questions himself.  What happened to all those moments? What happened to all that time? 

And he makes a very good point. “I think that poems remind me of what that time was like before everything was so harnessed to usefulness. …the old technology of the book. It starts giving you a little bit of your time back.

WHAT DOES HE MEAN? He means that we all can be poets, that with a notebook app or a pen and paper, we can recreate what life once was for us, the life we noticed.

  • jot down how the sky looks; the sun on the grass;
  • describe the smile and laughter of our child this past morning;
  • briefly defend with language a point of view;
  • capsule feelings about a friend, enemy, bit of news, the world you are seeing right now;

But the final point that Zapruder makes is the most important one.

  • Don’t SHARE what you write.
  • This is just for you.

I confess writing is an intricate part of my day–almost every day. I keep a notepad by my bed and I jot stuff over articles and on ads–where paper and pen are handy. Sometimes even my phone. And I look them over. Some I discard. Some I keep. WHY, because they’re good, I can use them in future blogs or in my novel. Because, basically, they’re GROOVY.

GOT A FAVORITE POEM???  Which one. This you can share. 

Photo: DesignersPics.com  free download

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Daddy’s Penny Box

Daddy's Penny Box

small cardboard box, plain white, probably once covered with the dark green Marshall Field cover.

It’s sometimes hard to hold on to a dream, or make a plan work out. The very definition of “life” includes disappointment. But humanity has dealt with this by educating people that can help us: doctors, counselors, lawyers etc. They study so that they can supply us with help and care when our dreams, our bodies are failing. Today, you can search the net for advice if you want to be a photographer, writer, artist—the list is endless. Our endeavors are endless. And complicated.

But notice, I have yet to mention the first person each of us encounters who begins the process: comforts us when we have pain; praises us when we do the right thing and scolds and should explain why, when do the wrong thing. Parents. Parent. Guardian. The one who is there when we need to be fed and our diapers changed. The beginning.

Growing up I had one parent. I lost my father when I was three. (Many of you already know this.) But my two brothers and I had this amazing woman for a mother. A loving, complicated, intelligent woman (Jinni) who probably never sought out a grief counselor when left with three children to raise—ages: 3 months, 3 and 6 years. How the hell did she do it?

Jinni had her own family behind her (mother, father, brother and two single sisters), people used to working for a purpose, people whose first reaction to a sad and complicated situation was kindness and how can I help.

But no person suddenly bereft of the one they counted on, bereft of the vision they had of their future finds this a happy fact. Jinni certainly had her moments of doubt and fear. But then she went on. There are so many examples of this in my personal story. Can you think of one in yours? If so, it’s good to be grateful.

Jinni’s three kids are older now, and though she lived into her late nineties, she shines bright and vigorous in our minds and always will.

But I’m going to take you back to our house in Chicago, to our dining room that had built-in cabinets with glass doors above and yet a cabinet below that was child accessible. In this cabinet was a small cardboard box, plain white, probably once covered with the dark green Marshall Field & Co. cover. But it was open and into it Jinni tossed pennies—change from her trips to the store. She called it Daddy’s Penny Box, because she started it after he died, and probably because when going through his top dresser drawer, she found a bunch of pennies.

In our Southside neighborhood, there was a deli that we could walk to in under five minutes. It had a counter with candy displayed in a glass case. We called it Mary’s Candy Store, and many times we would interrupt Jinni, who might be typing insurance policies in the corner of our dining room to pay the bills, to ask if we could go to Mary’s. In my memory, 99% of the time she said yes. And we knew what to do. Grab a few pennies from the box and go. Keary Moran, who lived on our street, once relayed to the neighborhood that we were rich! Of course we weren’t, but he was a kid. He’d seen all those pennies in the box.

But here’s the thing. We were rich. We had Jinni. When she sold our house years later, after my brothers had moved out of state, after I was married and teaching high school, there were still pennies in that box! Lots of them. Jinni believed in us and in our lives and our dreams. Daddy’s Penny Box was a symbol of that belief and promise. It could never become empty because her counsel, her care, her belief in our dreams and goals would never falter. Maybe we should have renamed it, Jinni’s Penny Box. But she would have said no.

My mother was given a major disappointment, one she had not expected. She accepted the help of family, friends, doctors (many who knew my father) and a lawyer friend. But that was early on. Once she got her stride, Jinni instinctively knew what to do. The Penny Box was part of that. She gave love and attention to her three kids. She fulfilled a dream–that she could succeed on her own, and in doing that, she helped fulfill ours.

My older brother is John C. Pfordresher, professor of English at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. His book THE SECRET HISTORY OF JANE EYRE has just been published by Norton. You can read more about it here. 

Daddy's Penny Box

No small accomplishment. Dad would be proud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My younger brother is William F. Pfordresher (Bill) who went to LA in the early 70s to make it in the music business. HE DID. Read about him here.

And me, I have an amazing husband and family I hold dear. And though I’m  enjoying the process of writing a novel, I still have some dreams to fulfill.

Photo credit: Ebay, Amazon

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Do You Like To Vacuum ? Applauding Manual Labor

Do You Like To Vacuum ? Applauding Manual Labor

There seems a human instinct to want to do physical work.

Do you like to vacuum? Weed in a garden? Plant vegetables? Wash your car? Maybe you enjoy grilling out when the weather is good or taking on a small chore like painting the porch floor or sanding a piece of furniture out in the yard. I’ve done all of these things and more, because I enjoy some physical labor. There are benefits for sure. Physical labor can: burn calories; increase pride of accomplishment; satisfy the urge to be creative.

The Decline of Manual Labor Jobs

Victor David Hanson writes about our changing society in his article AS PHYSICAL JOBS DECLINE, SOMETHING IS LOST. He asks if the reader thinks that the decline of physical jobs in our new culture is to our advantage. “…life superficially appears to get better. Cheap cellphones, video games, the Internet, social media and labor-saving appliances all make things easier and suggest that even more and better benefits are on the horizon.”

But is this a good thing? Hanson talked to academics, lawyers and CEOs, to find that most of them made sure that they biked or ran or lifted weights. So if obesity rates are higher in the class of people doing manual labor, why is this. One possible answer I found: these men and women started out being active and their diet consisted of many calories to support that activity. But as they aged and their metabolism slowed, their eating habits did not change. And possibly they rose up in their jobs and were foremen, more than laborers. Thus age meant packing on the pounds and not burning the calories. Of course not all are overweight. Many are quite fit due to their active work and healthy eating.

But Hanson And I Have A Question For You

What did you do in your past life that you would love to brag about? Or what did you watch or experience that really got your juices going? Hanson claims that the greater percentage of answers would include physical work–the expending of exhausting energy. Like climbing a mountain, conquering a sport for the first time, building something–and to that effect watching someone else expend that physical power. Hanson writes: THERE SEEMS A HUMAN INSTINCT TO WANT TO DO PHYSICAL WORK.

Does TV Have the Answer?

Think about how content on television has changed. While we go to the pantry to get more chips or some caloric snack, we might watch reality TV where people do energy expending stuff. Hanson writes: “In a society that supposedly despises menial jobs, the television ratings..suggest that lots of Americans enjoy watching people of action who work with their hands.”

WHY IS THIS? Because despite our advances, physical labor is the platform, the basis for our success. Men and women have to build cars, pump oil. No app can do that. Hanson writes: “The high-tech, post-modern society still depends on low-tech, pre-modern labor.” That could be you working to prepare a meal for your family, or the mechanic trying to discover why the computer on your car is reading an error. Someone has to get down and dirty to make things happen.

Those I Depended On

When my husband worked in his white collar job, I tended the household. There were many physical things that I could do to keep our home running smoothly. Some of them I mentioned above. But when the basement began to seep water, when termites were found behind a wall, when the roof leaked–I needed the American worker. Without them, house and home would crumble around us. Though to be fair, right this moment my husband is repairing a drawer in our kitchen, one with an odd working angle, not a fun project. He’s found the necessary part and powered up the drill. I will allow a brag or more when he gets the job done.

More of Us Need to Do Physical Stuff

There are many upsides to taking up a chore. As Hanson writes doing what my husband is doing saves money and increases independence. It also helps we humans identity and find common ground with men and women who work.

Philosophical Benefits of Manual Labor

Hanson also mentions something we might forget when shut up in our air conditioned houses and cars, or eager to always dine at a restaurant where we don’t see the slime of meat or the detritus of vegetables. That kind of life hides reality. Some things that we encounter in day to day living must remind us of the struggles of human kind. Maybe they are not our immediate struggles, but someone’s. Hanson writes: “Working outdoors, often alone, with one’s hands, encourages a tragic acceptance of nature and its limitations.” He goes on to say that people who work 20 hours or more in minimum wage jobs know reality more than he did teaching in college.

Final Thought 

Hanson ends his piece by quoting Euripides, the ancient Athenian playwright: “The hopes of countless men are infinite in number. Some make men rich; some come to nothing. So I consider that man (or woman) blessed who lives a happy existence day by day.”

Thanks for reading. I’m going to do some chores now.

PS The Bureau of Labor Statistics States: Among workers age 25 and over, those with an advanced degree were more likely to work at home than were persons with lower levels of educational attainment—43 percent of those with an advanced degree performed some work at home on days worked, compared with 12 percent of those with a high school diploma. (But work at home means sitting at a computer, not building a highway or putting out fires.)

Photo Credit: The New York Times. Take a Labor Day Tour of Blue Color Art.

 

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Jobs Stop Bullets

Jobs Stop Bullets

“Gang violence is about a lethal absence of hope,” Father Boyle has said. “Nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang.”

Last week in my post I said I would write more about that topic which was the importance of good education for everyone. A few of you wrote “bring it on.” So here goes–one solution that is working for some kids. It’s only one, but it’s tossing a stone into the pool–it’s making some ripples.

Have you ever heard of the Homeboy Program? I had. But I didn’t know very much about it, until a friend from Chicago who worked with a volunteer group helping others,The Ignatian Volunteer Core, sent me an article which talked out it.

THE PERSONAL CONNECTION

While reading the piece, I immediately found a personal connection–this caused me to read every word. IT STARTED: …One of Saint Margaret of Scotland’s graduates, where I am an IVC volunteer, was gunned down and killed last year. He was only a Sophomore. ”What is the answer?” I asked the priest I was working with.

St. Margaret’s! The church I walked by every day when I attended The Academy of Our Lady High School, better known as Longwood on the southside of Chicago. Knowing that the story was about a place that I could claim as mine, made me more invested.

Our lives go on, some places in our lives feel static–but they are moving and changing just as we are. (In fact that’s a primary concept in the novel I am writing. PLACE defines us, digs in our hearts, brings up memories, but nothing is static. For better or for worse, we humans change and everything around us does also.)

I cherish the old house I was raised in and drive by it when I am back in Chicago. I often drive the roadways that took me to familiar places. I reminisce. So here is more of the story.

The priest admitted right off that the question as to why young men and women are dying on Chicago streets is complex. He stated clearly that such a problem cannot be solved with only surveillance cameras or even gun laws. He said: “That does not get to the root problem.”

That’s when he mentioned Father Greg Boyle who started Homeboy Industries.

THE FOUNDER OF HOMEBOY

Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J. founded Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.

A Catholic prises and Jesuit, he has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English from Gonzaga University, a master’s degree in English from Loyola Marymount University, a Master of Divinity degree from the Weston School of Theology, and a Master of Sacred Theology degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.

He spent a year living and working with Christian base communities in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Then in 1986, he was appointed pastor of Dolores Mission Church in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East LA, the poorest Catholic parish in the city, located between two large public housing projects with the highest concentration of gang activity in Los Angeles.

He witnessed the devastating impact of gang violence on his community during what he has called “the decade of death” that began in the late 1980’s. He witnessed suppression and mass incarceration as the means to end gang violence. (Which is what the current administration wants to do again.)

So Father Boyle and parish and community members adopted what was a radical approach at the time: treating gang members as human beings. 

“Gang violence is about a lethal absence of hope,” Father Boyle has said.  “Nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang.”

In the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Jobs for a Future, a community-organizing project begun at Dolores Mission, launched their first social enterprise business in an abandoned bakery that Hollywood producer Ray Stark helped them purchase. They called it Homeboy Bakery. If you ever fly into LAX, you just might find yourself purchasing something at one of their kiosks.

Today, Homeboy Industries employs and trains former gang members in a range of social enterprises, as well as provides critical services to 15,000 men and women who walk through its doors every year seeking a better life.

  • Father Boyle is the author of the New York Times-bestseller Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, which was named one of the Best Books of 2010 by Publishers Weekly and received the PEN Center USA 2011 Creative Nonfiction Award. 
  • The book received that title because: Father Greg was talking to one of his Homeboys and he said something very profound. He said that ‘jobs stop bullets’.  When the Homeboy heard that he responded ‘Damn G , I think I will tattoo that on my heart.’  Think about it. Jobs help attack poverty and idleness at the same time.”
  • Father Boyle is the subject of Academy Award winner Freida Lee Mock’s 2012 documentary, G-Dog.  He has received the California Peace Prize and been inducted into the California Hall of Fame.  In 2014, the White House named Father Boyle a Champion of Change.  He received the 2016 Humanitarian of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation, the national culinary-arts organization.

The Things We Already Know Are Truly Right in Front of Our Eyes

My friend Tom, who sent me the article about Homeboy, recalled that his mother would say: ‘Idleness is the devil’s workshop.’  He decided that was why she always gave him lots of chores. My brothers and I can say the very same about our mother. Give kids a  job and they feel pride. THEY FEEL HUMAN.

Another member of the Ignatian Volunteer Core probably said it best. “I think the key to making it work is what Father Boyle calls “exquisite mutuality”. There is no “them” and “us”; there is only “us”.”

Think about the pride you felt when you brought home your first paycheck. You were entering the adult world, taking on the mantel of responsibility, growing up!! Helping your family.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every small town, city and village across our country could see it that way?

PRIDE in WORK.

SUMMER JOBS or JOBS THROUGH THE YEAR: cleaning vacant lots; repairing run-down properties. A wonderful suggestion: statewide and national programs to begin to rebuild our infrastructure. With the right program, we could millions of jobs for our kids. Give them a good start for their lives.

Someone has suggested that doing this would be like starting a revolution. JOBS STOP BULLETS. We as citizens going about our daily jobs of parenting, grand-parenting, having talks with friends and co-workers can spread this message of ONLY US and JOBS STOP BULLETS.

So I just wanted to share this idea with you. Who knows? In conversation with someone looking for summer help or someone looking to help a community, there are ideas to consider, to expand on. Maybe on a small scale the revolution can start with each one of us.

My husband works with the Conejo Valley Youth Employment Services, helping homeless people and high school students find jobs. He talks with them, discovers their interests, what their skill set might be or is tending to. One person at a time he is making a difference. And so is my friend Tom, who sent me this article and has given freely of his medical expertise to people who need it.

One day at a time. One person at a time. One kid at a time–you can tattoo something wonderful on some kid’s heart.

For more about HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES go to http://www.homeboyindustries.org.

Thanks to Tom Essig. And of course, John.

 

Creative Power: A Mother’s Actions & Words

Creative Power: A Mother's Actions & Words

My husband bought me flowers for Mother’s Day. He often jokes that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were created by Hallmark. So I looked it up. The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Jarvis would later denounce the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar. She did not succeed. I love Mother’s Day, a time to think more intensely about my own mother and a day when I am guaranteed phone calls and gifts from my own three children. It’s wonderful.

Birth: An Ongoing Process

Once a mother gives birth, she day to day continues that birthing process, determining what we will become, the person we will be because of her physical love, guidance and nurturing. The words a mother says and the choices she makes in her raising, profoundly affects the person each of us becomes.

Introducing the Outside World 

The womb is great. It’s the time the mother has total control over her child, literally takes the kid with her everywhere–controls the environment. After birth??? Is that person supporting the head? Does my aging aunt have a good grip on the bottle? “Oh that’s okay, I’ll change his diaper, his skin is well… ”  You don’t want to say he’ll get a diaper rash if I don’t do this. We’ve all been there and it gets worse, because we often see the control we have as very fragile and tenuous. But is there a lucky charm?

When Tess’s daughter Sara almost loses her sight in a dumb accident, she has to release her mother-fears and at the same time release her daughter into the real world.

“It is one month after the accident. Sara no longer has to wear an eye patch so Tess takes the children to the pool. Summer is ending and pool is quiet…The child has a large inner tube that she twirls in the water, throwing her head back and laughing as she goes around and around. Tess feels a rush of contentment and leans back to look up at the solid blue sky…”  Later that night, after she tucks her two children in bed and they profess their love and that they will see her in the morning, she has a final thought about the future and the love they share. “Tess stops. She listens, the words falling on her with their weight of wonder. And welcoming all of it, she holds them, keeps them like a charm her two have hung gently around her neck.”

Then Comes the Birds and the Bees

Consider Cara, in the seventh grade, moving closer to body changes that will eventually make her a woman. But right now, she’s beginning to bump into that adult world, and one night tells her mother: “Tom Brody said I was a sexpot. But I’m not fat, Mom, and I don’t look anything like a pot. I don’t get it.”

Divorced and struggling with her own sex life, Cara’s mother goes to bed that night, realizing that the words and ideas she will share with her daughter are crucial.

“Cara’s question about sexpot comes back to me; half asleep, the fatigue of the day taking over, I pretend I am her age, wrestling with the word myself, struggling to visualize it. All that forms in my mind is something round and soft. Sexpot. Maybe my own mother, her belly, when as a kid I needed comfort and plunged my head into her warm, apron-covered lap. Yes, that’s it. I fall asleep.”

Raising a Child is Always about Looking Forward and Looking Back 

Rachel has just been divorced from her husband and charged with the deft process of raising her daughter Heather–who of course is suffering because of the divorce. But not all ties will ever be cut. Rachel has spent the better part of her day taking her mother-in-law to the dentist. Now home, she tries to organize her thoughts with the reality of this situation that is her LIFE.

“At the kitchen sink Rachel turned on the water. She stood waiting for it to get warm. Though she could hear Heather’s chatter in the next room and feel the light and space around her, she was still looking down, still seeing her mother-in-law’s face and remembering what a doctor once told her at a cocktail party. ‘You wouldn’t believe the number of children women are capable of having. Why even after they’re dead, you can cut open an ovary and there they are–all those seeds.’ Rachel bent to the water, cupping her hands. In a moment she would hold her face in the towel for as long as she needed to.”

No Matter Your Life Choice, There’s a Mother In It–Your Own

When my mother was slowing dying, fighting dementia, living in the Memory Unit of a Senior Facility, I had to write about how I felt–lost, useless, angry, confused. All of it. There was no ONE MESSAGE anyone could give me to soothe my state of mind. And if it happens to you, forgive yourself. Because there is NO ONE MESSAGE for this time in your life–the point of not wanting to hear the last line in the excerpt below.

“Ruth was awake, not wanting to be, but awake. Dan was softly snoring next to her, their upper arms touching, so that his sonorous noises almost vibrated through her. But her thoughts went immediately to her mother–the ninety-six-year-old probably having her breakfast, sitting in her wheelchair, her hair flat against the bones of her head, her hand trembling, raising the lukewarm cup of coffee. No aid had called during the night–no Kathy, Betty Mary. This the pattern of her nights and days, ups and downs: how was mom or how mom was. When to plan–anything; or how to plan anything. But you’re so fortunate to still have her.”

Thanks for reading and sharing these moments with me.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. Every day the role of being a mother and having a mother is one to hold close, to consider and to most often cherish.

Tess, Cara and her mother, Rachel and Ruth continue to live in my collection of short stories, A Mother’s Time Capsule. I had the privilege of talking to M Eileen Williams about A Mother’s Time Capsule on her podcast on blogtalkradio.com Thanks again, Eileen. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/feisty-side-of-fifty/2017/05/04/elizabeth-havey-a-mothers-time-capsule     M Eileen Williams and Feisty Side of Fifty.

Artwork: XiPan Gallery Painting

Making America Sick Again? But It’s National Nurses Week!

Making America Sick Again? But It's National Nurses Week!

MASA: Making America Sick Again or as one Congressman from Idaho argued: “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.” Well, as a good RN would, let me EXAMINE THAT.

CAN A STORY HAVE A HAPPY ENDING? SOMETIMES… 

Once upon a time there was a kind leader who examined the number of people in his country who were sick with chronic illnesses or whose children had birth defects or whose parents could no longer work and pay the bills because of health concerns. And he worked and read, consulted and studied and called in the experts to fix the problem. And with their help, he did. Healthcare became a thing. People who could never afford to see a doctor on a regular basis were now able to. It was amazing. It was called the Affordable Care Act. 

Because consider: a friend of mine who does landscape work for a living had what is termed catastrophic insurance. It meant that before his policy paid anything on a claim, he had to pay 10,000 dollars out of pocket.

Another kind of insurance that is not user friendly involved limited networks. If you happened to be traveling and became ill or were injured, there was no guarantee you would be near a hospital or med center that accepted your insurance. Other types of health insurance products that did not qualify as major medical health insurance include: Short-Term Health Insurance and Gap Insurance (Accident, Critical Illness, Telemedicine, etc).

My friend who is a landscaper was thrilled when he could get The ACA, the Affordable Care ACT. Bye, bye catastrophic insurance.

NOW THE UPDATE ON THAT AMAZING STORY

But then a group of mostly men looked around and decided to change things. They did not take their time, they threw something together and then voted YES on it. They were all so happy to be taking the ACA away from my landscape worker friend and millions of others.

And when some of the people who also loved the ACA argued, ONE MAN IN PARTICULAR stood up and said: NO ONE DIES BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE HEALTHCARE. No one dies. No one dies. (This is the guy I mentioned above, the one from Idaho. But I won’t hold that against Idaho. They’ll get rid of him. As they say, he’s toast.) Sorry, as a nurse I should not sound mean. But I am angry.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY

I don’t know what kind of life this Idaho guy lives or who he knows and how his heart beats when he’s by himself in the dark. But hasn’t every one of us at some time in our lives said: LIFE IS GOOD IF YOU HAVE YOUR HEALTH.

Here are some voices from friends and family:

  • I had breast cancer and I had to have surgery and chemotherapy and radiation and now I get up each day and life is good because I have my health.
  • My child was born with a heart defect and every moment of my life from his birth on was concerned with the surgeries, all the testing, how the defect would hurt his normal growth. Now all the lives in my family are good because he is doing so well.
  • My husband has a chronic form of leukemia and he has fought this battle for years and now with amazing medical research he is taking a new medication and his blood work is great, he feels good. Wow. Life is good when you have your health.

We all have a story to add to these three. Right?? I’m not being a Twinkle Fairy here. You can live a clean, perfect life where you eat well, exercise, get a lot of sleep, practice safe sex, give to charity–I mean illness, cancer, accidents, birth defects–this is vicarious stuff. You do not call it upon yourself.

DON’T BUY THE GUILT TRIP FROM OUR LAWMAKERS  

But there is this cynical current of thought running under that statement: Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care. No One Dies : because it’s your fault!

Just look at me, I’m healthy and it’s because I made that happen. Oh yes, some congressmen would like to slap that on each American citizen. YOU ARE TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE for your health. So don’t ask us to help you. Healthcare is not a right. It’s your fault if you get sick .

Want to talk turkey about that?

  • water quality (government) Think Flint, Michigan.
  • air quality (government)  Think the Environmental Protection Act and how that is being harmed.
  • access to healthy fresh fruits and vegetables (income inequality works against this. How about raising the minimum wage??)
  • access to safe neighborhoods (racism affects this; how about getting rid of the NRA or at least put in some laws that control the sale of guns. My God mentally ill people can buy a gun now. ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME???))
  • ability to know what foods to eat, how to exercise — (poverty works against this)

So go ahead and rebuke my ideas. Comment. I’m waiting.

  • If you have your health you can go to school, get an education. (well, Betsy would disagree, but so far we still have public schools.)
  • If you have your health your chances of getting work and getting a paycheck are greatly improved.
  • If you have your health you can feed yourself and hopefully your family. If you have one.
  • People without good health often do not have a companion and they do not reproduce. They are lonely and depressed. GOOD HEALTH IS LIFE-GIVING.
  • AND THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT.

If you don’t have good health, your entire life is affected. There might be twenty or more things YOU have to be concerned about before you can get a job. Before you can even get out the door to that job. Before people will hire you.

Ask someone who is handicapped. Has a chronic illness. Has hearing loss or is blind, lost a limb, was born with a birth defect.

NO ONE DIES BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE HEALTHCARE. Are you (lots of swear words here) kidding me? PEOPLE DIE EVERY DAY because they did not get treatment for cancer or a chronic disease.

NO ONE DIES BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE HEALTHCARE. WRONG!!! So Keep calm but then get angry. Call your Congressman or Congresswoman, your State Senators. Or write to them. Maybe the White House? Hmm. Not sure they know where the mailbox is. But keep calm and resist. Your health matters and the health of those you love.

 

Hey, Listen: I’m a Woman and I’ve Got a Brain

Hey, Listen: I'm a Woman and I've Got a Brain

Thanks a lot, Eve, I guess you were the beginning of it all. And it really sucks: women are temptresses; men need protection from women; and men, because they gained power first, (at least in some countries) get to talk first, deny first. “None of her accusations were true.” “I did not have sex with that woman.” Yes they are and yes you did.

WOMEN, A VICE PRESIDENT and a TV PERSONALITY MAKE SEX the NEWS

So let’s consider some so-called solutions to the eternal men/women quagmire: don’t dine with a woman alone and for sure take your wife to any social occasion if alcohol is being served. Really? Take that temptress, that woman, your wife–how can she help you out? I will state that religion can be a good thing. But good things can get out of control, run to extremes that make absolutely no sense.

Current news underlines that. The VP is the one who needs his wife to protect him. And a certain TV personality claims ( like another male who now dominates the news) that his role working with women is exemplary. He works at Fox News, so maybe not. Because this guy is sometimes into FAKE NEWS and my guess is he’s also into FAKE MORALITY. How did we get here? Our VP might say it’s because women are in the workplace and if you’re a married man–watch out–we’re coming for you. (Snark comment about the VP could go here, but I won’t.)

CONSIDER the JOB INTERVIEW

Instead I’ll take you back some years when I was interviewing for a job. In the tumult of the current news cycle, I reflected on my own life in the workplace. First job interviews.

In my early twenties I applied at three major high schools in the southern suburbs of the city of Chicago. I was interviewed at the first two by men. They were cordial. That’s all I remember. At the third I was interviewed by two women who would become my department chair and co-chair. They sent me to meet the principal who shook my hand and then the school superintendent for the entire district. He happened to be in the building that day and I was invited into his office. He asked me questions about my education, questions I don’t remember. He did ask me one question that I will never forget.

“Would you still want the job if I told you that a student could come at you with a knife?” “Yes.”

When you like everything you have just experienced and then you are asked this question, there might be some hesitation in your answer, BUT YOU SAY YES. You are a female and you can handle your life as well as any male who might or might not be asked the same question. If later I did ask my fellow newly-hired teachers if that was part of their interview, I confess–I don’t remember what they answered. I GOT THE JOB. I loved the job. I handled myself with dignity and quick thinking when we had race riots in our school about two years later. I matured.

As a young teacher and then later on when I became an RN, worked at two different hospitals, a telecommunication center and a health department–I WAS ALWAYS INTERVIEWED BY WOMEN. The interviews were not easy. At one hospital she would not consider hiring me in the labor and delivery department unless I agreed to work on a medical floor. I did not agree and instead interviewed and got a position in an L&D unit at a Chicago inner-city hospital. Best work decision I ever made. Like my teaching position, I GREW in that job. It’s actually the impetus for the novel I am writing. But I digress.

WOMEN WORKING with Men–A GIVEN 

Florence Nightingale was surrounded by men and they thanked God for her presence. She and her fellow nurses saved lives–and there was alcohol present–you know, it’s a germicide. My point is that each person, male and female, has a responsibility to conduct themselves properly in the work place. But of course that doesn’t always happen. Chalk it up to being human–or something along those lines.

Because my work experience has been in professions that are predominantly women, I have had little to no problem with sexual advances or discrimination. Yes, once in an elevator a doctor I had never seen before took advantage of my school-nurse uniform and propositioned me. Luckily, I got off at the next floor. And all of the MDs on the L&D units were not always verbally “proper”. There was no name-calling, but there was tension that went to the stress of a busy night with clients in pain or annoying family members, or just two many children coming into the world in a 30 minute period. You let off steam and sometimes it’s a female nurse you have shouted at. We shouted back. A given. Reprimands were about a mis-diagnosis, or not always putting the patient first–and rightly so. Lots of life is on the line. But the stress of aiding in a difficult birth comes with some passes.

For me it has always been an acknowledgment either spoken or unspoken that I’m doing a good job, if not a great job, and that I have a brain. That’s what counts. Of course different jobs have different work cultures. Being a female working with the men on Fox News speaks to that, compels a woman to know that culture and to be aware of it. I truly hope there will be a time when someone working there breaks the harassment that seems to be endemic.

On an L&D unit when there’s down time, interns, docs, nurses might talk about family, or whose dating who, or even grumble about the anesthesiologist. (We did that a lot, but he was really okay.) When I did leave my nursing position in that Chicago hospital, a doctor wrote me a letter, mailed to my home, asking me to come back, telling me how he valued what I had given to my patients. That was awesome.

HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED DISCRIMINATION? 

The other part of this discussion speaks to your own personal relationships. If you are single, the workplace can often become the arena for meeting a future partner. And if you work at home but your spouse or partner goes to an office or studio or hospital etc every day, then your relationship relies on its strength. But that’s just the way it should be. Forget some norm that you (if you are a woman) cannot have alcohol after work with a client, boss or co-worker unless he has his partner or spouse with him. Truly, are you kidding me? That’s not to say that nasty stuff is impossible. It is. It definitely is. Use that awesome brain of yours. Be alert. If necessary talk back. Discrimination exists, but there are laws. And within the workplace, it’s great to be noticed. But I for one would advise that the notice relates to your brain, your smarts. What do you think?

Thanks to MrsProfessionalism wordpress.com