Sunday, November 22, 2015

It's like Nike says

According to my Starfleet Daily Meditation Manual today’s meditation begins with the admonition from Captain Benjamin Sisko, "Don’t think about it, just do it."

I think that this affirmation has a lot to do with confidence. After so many things that we’ve done, and so many years of doing them successfully, do we still continue to second guess ourselves every time? Some things we do not think about like walking, breathing, tying our shoes.  How many other things do we do daily? Cook, clean, shop. It’s not the function that requires our attention, it’s just the details. The when and the where, but certainly not the how! We just do.
What do we do spiritually? We pray, meditate, practice, support and nurture. These things we also do automatically, as part of our routine. We know the when and the where. It is Spirit that is the how.

We need not spend the time or energy calculating our blessings, asking how, we need only to be grateful. The focus is not on receiving the gift, but being grateful for the richness and abundance the Universe has shown us.  Spending the time and energy by concentrating on receiving those blessings implies that we need to remind the Universe how to do its job. The process that we know for sure is that we are achieving personal growth, that we have what we need when we need it, and that we are right where we are supposed to be. Just do it.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Scary? Close your eyes and just do it!

I used to be afraid of roller-coasters. I remember as a child I rode on one or two rides called the Wild Mouse – zooming bullet shaped cars with a person in the front and the back, reeling around rickety corners on thin metal tracks. It always felt like I was going to be thrown off the tracks at every turn. As I got older, that ride became even MORE scary to me and I stopped riding it.

The first time I went to Disneyland as a child, I managed not to ride on Space Mountain (dark and scary) but I did ride the Matterhorn – a roller-coaster that ducks in and out of the sides of the mountain and has a couple very precarious drops.

When I went with my friend and her niece and nephew to a county fair, she said, ‘I’m glad you’re here so you can ride on all the sick rides with the kids.’ Being given that assignment, I was forced to ride on all the rides that I had previously determined were off my list. There was the Ferris wheel, a winding roller-coaster with a loop in it, the ride that pins you to the inside walls and the floor falls out, and two or three others that I have since wiped from my memory. They were truly the ‘sick’ – as in, makes you nauseated – rides.

The next time the carnival came to my town, I found myself in the front seat of a Salt and Pepper Shaker. This is a ride in which the bullet shaped cars actually spin around at the same time as they drive you face first into what looks like sudden death by crashing into the earth. But that is only half the ride, the other half it reverses assuring that at the end of this ride there will be a short period spent with your head between your knees in recovery.

But that’s not what happened to me. On this occasion, I spent the ride observing my behavior. It was as if I was given this opportunity to truly evaluate what part of the ride was the most disturbing. I was in some carnival ride trance and listening and paying attention to the various parts of my body. I found that if I closed my eyes and didn’t see the ground coming, I enjoyed the thrilling speed of the ride. I found that the constant spinning in a circle was unnerving and my stomach was not happy about that part. I also discovered that I was actually laughing with joy more than I was screaming in fear.
Conclusion? If the ride was fast and furious, I could do it with my eyes closed, but if it spun around too much, it just made me nauseous.

Again, as an adult, I had the opportunity to take my kids to Disneyland. They all decided to ride Space Mountain. I wanted to test my theory. There we were, zooming through the dark, as the panic started to rise in me, I merely closed my eyes. What a thrill! I enjoyed that roller-coaster immensely although I must say I didn’t see much of it.

When they were determined to ride one of the famous sick and spinning rides (the swing that rolls out and smashes the person on the outside against it's walls, for example) I chose to bow out.

Next stop, a challenge. In Nevada, we have a roller-coaster famous for its first drop – 1 mile straight down. As the roller-coaster climbed, I felt the panic start to rise in me as well, and I remembered - ‘close your eyes’ – which I did. 

Tons of stories of childhood came flooding into my memory both positive and negative. Closing my eyes to get a shot, surprise me. Closing my eyes at funerals with open caskets, spare me. Closing my eyes in a warm embrace, hold me. 

And when it was done, we whooped and hollered and cheered our success!

So I figured out that for me, if it feels like it's going to make me sick, I avoid it altogether. But if it’s just scary, whatever it is, all I have to do is close my eyes and get through it. Take the ride and when it’s over, celebrate the outcome!

Starting Something

For years I have been wanting the things that are in my heart to also be how I earned income. The things that I have done run the gamut from writing, dancing, stage managing, producing, directing, teaching, coaching and more! I do these things because they are my AVOCATION. But they have never been the things I do for my VOCATION. My vocation includes all the administrative, executive and paper-pushing business functions that you can imagine.

I went to graduate school to get a degree that certified my combination of these unique business skills with my artistic sensibilities but came home to a recession that dashed my hopes of ever combining the two. So I went back to work in an office and played 'producer' by night and on the weekends.

I feel like I have spent all of my life with one foot in each of these areas, in spite of my newly acquired (well, I'll say 'recently' acquired since it's been almost a decade!) degree in Arts Administration. Often, I share with my friends that idea that some cities are ripe for some skills, talents and activities, yet some are not. Las Vegas, for example, has no real business infrastructure. The casinos are and will always be, the number one employer of the city. Timeshares run a close second. Without an interest in casino work or timeshares, the rest of the town are tons and tons of small businesses with few workers and a plethora of minimum wage jobs.

I have recently been inspired to yet ANOTHER opportunity, and it’s all because of an event that I went to in October, 2014 in Tempe, Arizona. The event was hosted by who are “building a movement to tap the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world.”

Through conversation, presentations and videos I was deeply inspired and motivated to participate in a local movement of the Baby Boomer generation in Las Vegas. We have lots of retirees, at least as many as Arizona. I was thinking surely there were lots of organizations here already that I could join to support this movement of re-purposing the lives of folks that retired from one thing and ready to do another. Individuals that I was sure would be interested in giving back to their communities in Clark County.

As it turns out, there are almost no organizations that support elder Americans in pursuit of alternatives to retirement here in Las Vegas. There are age-restricted communities that have activities inside their walls, but no organizations that support training or retraining individuals, that support Manager or Mentor programs for companies, or even true volunteer opportunities because, like I said, beyond Casinos, there’s not much else going on.

So I started ‘Your Next Option’ as an organization that supports elder Americans with an option for ‘UN-Retirement.’ That is, individuals who are 55 years of age or older who are not interested in retiring from the workforce, but retiring from what they’re doing NOW to perhaps do something that they’ve always dreamed of. We started with a meetup. Once a month we meet to get together and address personal challenges, use a questionnaire for talking points, brainstorm issues and eat a few snacks.

In January, I’m adding an education component to address financial issues for people over 50, palliative care, alternative housing options, and other critical issues vital to an aging population.

I will give it my best shot. I’ll keep you posted.

Me and the Universe

On Wednesday morning I went to the ‘How to Write a Business Plan’ class at a local facility that holds business classes for folks just getting started. People introduced themselves in the class. The woman sitting in front of me said her name was India Winner. She told the story about being a dancer and working on creating a performing arts center. When it was my turn, I first said, India, I know you, and then I introduced myself to the group. She turned to look at me quizzically, so I just smiled and waved in a gesture indicating that we’d talk after.

When the class was over, I said to India that our mutual friend Leila told me all about her. Turns out that Leila talks to India all about me as well! This was the first time we ever met in person. And then as we jogged down the rabbit hole of people and places, we discovered other friends and relationships that we had in common.

My cousin says, ‘When you are on the path, you are going to meet others on the path who also know who you know on the path!’

So India took a selfie and sent it to Leila (who screamed upon receipt of the photo, of course) and then sent back a text to India that I was the woman she was thinking about because I had a degree in Arts Administration. When I asked India what that meant, she told me the story of their goal to acquire a Dance Studio out near our local Community College and that they wanted to find an Executive Director. She had mentioned a different woman to Leila, but Leila had told her she had someone else in mind, and it turns out that it was ME!

That is how my day began. Afterward, I went to see my Internist, Dr. V. She has an office down the street from my Ob-gyn, Dr. J, who is more than my doctor; she is also my friend socially. So when I go to see my Internist, I park in Dr. J's parking lot and I always try to stick my head in Dr. J’s door as I go by. I rarely get to see her, though, or to even say hello because she is so busy. On this day, though, I really wanted to see her in person. However, discouraged from having tried unsuccessfully on several other occasions to see her, instead of sticking my head in her door, I just got in my car and drove away.

I decided to have lunch since I had another appointment with my Practitioner on this side of town and didn’t want to drive home in between. I called a couple friends but no one was answering their phone. I decided to just take myself to lunch. I stopped at a local Mediterranean eatery. I ordered my food, and just when it arrived I happened to look out of the window, and there was my Ob-gyn coming into the restaurant! I just stood up and opened my arms. She looked up when she entered and came rushing over to my embrace! We giggled and squealed and I told her that I had manifested her because I really wanted to see her. It turns out that she was coming in to have lunch with a few friends who were patiently awaiting her arrival. We hugged again. Then I went back to my lunch and she went on to her friends.

I still had a little more time so I made a quick stop to visit my friend who works at the library. I told her about my morning and how I had manifested my doctor. We laughed about how many times I have done that! Then we talked a bit about a project I am working on, and I mentioned a friend that owns a store on another side of town who wants to work with me as a sponsor. When I mentioned her store, my friend from the library said, ‘I know her, we’ve worked together before.’ I laughed and said ‘Of course you know her, that’s how my day is going!’ We chatted for a little while longer, and then I left.

I finally went to my appointment with my Practitioner. I told her about the woman that I had met that morning and manifesting my doctor at the Mediterranean eatery. As I was discussing the ‘magical’ day I was having, I also told her that I had just discovered another friend of mine was also a Practitioner, Diana Jones. It turns out that my Practitioner had sat on Diana’s confirmation panel!

I had one of those days because, for me, that’s how the Universe works.

*true story but not real names 

Monday, October 5, 2015

It is time

Perhaps it is now my turn. It is my turn to make an impact. It is my turn to make a difference. Perhaps all of my life has been leading up to this. 

Perhaps I have deeply loved and lost and learned many lessons on the way so that I could share my empathy.

Perhaps I have had many trials and tribulations of my own so that I could help others overcome theirs. 

Perhaps I have been the recipient and often the catalyst for amazing adventures so that I would have stories to share.

Perhaps all of that was leading to such a time as this.

It is my turn to educate, inspire and influence others. 

Well, I’m ready.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Brava Bowling

I want to bowl. Sounds crazy, but I really want to bowl. I worked in an office for a while that had a bowling league. I had the best time! I bowled with folks from work that I really didn’t have a relationship with except for the ‘high five’ on the bowling lanes. And I loved it!

I have fond memories of bowling. Not me, though, my Dad. My Mom used to bowl, too. She had a slew of trophies but I didn’t get to watch her bowl unless we went out as a family. She bowled with a league from work, so I would usually not see her until afterwards on bowling night.

My Dad bowled for as long as I can remember.  When I was younger, I used to go hang out with him at the bowling alley and he would give me coins to play the pinball machines. (Y’all remember pinball machines?) I would play for a while and then come back for more quarters. Sometimes I’d be gone for a significant length of time because I was doing well. Other times, I was there with my hand out, in what seemed like just minutes later.

When my Mother died, I used to go to the alley to hang out with him. I wouldn’t see him otherwise. I even joined the league, but I didn’t go much. I went a couple times, but my friend Peter bowled on our team and he and I had a falling out, so I didn’t really want to face him at the bowling alley. And I had a crush on another guy at the alley, but he and I had an ‘I-almost-got-raped’ moment, and I thought my Dad might be able to tell, so I was dodging him as well.

At the end of the season, when they won their money, the team didn’t think I deserved any. But my Dad insisted that he had put in for me all those weeks – so I got a bonus at the end anyway. I didn’t really want it to end. I wanted to believe that I could still go to that alley on any given Thursday night and he would be there. That was not to be.

A couple years later, after I had been living in Las Vegas, one of his ‘girlfriends’ called me.

‘Your Dad is in the hospital,’ she said. ‘You need to come home.’  Almost immediately, I began to get calls from the hospital.

He had a stroke. They had trouble getting to him because he was in a doorway, blocking their access. They literally destroyed the door to get to him. I flew out immediately.

When he was in the hospital as a result of the stroke, I called my friend the nurse to visit the hospital with me to interpret his chart and all his ailments. When I visited, they told me that they needed me to sign documents to move him to a nursing home for therapy.  After much chaos and conflicting information, I signed all the appropriate paperwork and he was off to a nursing home.

Ultimately, he spent two years in that nursing home out in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. Far away from friends and family. Hardly anyone got to see him very often. I was 3,000 miles away. His sister was several hundred miles away. She went a couple times. I sent things. I was broke most of the time and struggling to keep my head above water. I was not in a position to help. I felt awful, but at the time, I thought I had no recourse.

He had a pension that was keeping him in residence there, and I got regular and positive reports from the nurses. I even got to speak to him occasionally. Until, a little less than two years later, I got a second phone call from a hospital.

‘Your father fell and broke his hip, we decided that he was a fine candidate for surgery, until, soon after the surgery, he had a stroke. His diabetes flared up as a result of the surgery and now he has an infection. Also, it is possible that as a young man, he had syphilis because that disease has appeared as well…’ The Doctor kept talking, but I stopped listening. What could I do?

The hospital started to call me daily asking for my permission to do this or that procedure. Much of it I didn’t understand, but I said yes every time. His body was falling apart. I had to get there quick, fast and in a hurry.

When he went into the hospital this time, I called my dearest friend to hold my hand through the finale. I knew it was the finale even before I arrived at the ICU that day.

‘Your father is here in intensive care,’ the Doctor said. ‘He’s had a stroke and he is unresponsive.’

We would stand in the doorway of the room and call his name. Nothing. His eyes would roll around in his head. When we told him that I was there, still nothing. No response. I visited him every day and stayed for hours at a time. I would leave the room to go cry for several minutes away from his room, or outside. I would then return to his room bright and cheery and start talking to him and calling his name over and over again. No response.

Things went from bad to worse. The Kidney Doctor called to say they wanted to do dialysis. The Heart Doctor called because they were concerned about something or another going on with his heart. The Lung Doctor was afraid that he had pneumonia. He was no longer eating food. They wanted to put a tube in his neck to send food to his stomach.

The Orthopedic Doctor called to apologize because he thought my Dad was a good candidate and he didn’t expect all these complications, and he thought he was doing a good thing…I let him off the hook immediately. You couldn’t have known, I said.

Too many different Doctors were calling. I finally said that I wanted to speak to ONE person who could tell me my options. They sent me the Social worker. The Social worker basically said, ‘He is taking up a bed in the intensive care unit and with all of these things happening his body is shutting down so I suggest hospice care.’

They moved him into a private room. I sat by his bedside every day and read the Daily Word aloud. I cried a lot. I had no brothers or sisters to help carry the burden. My husband was not emotionally available to me at the time. My children did their best to comfort me. They were seriously into Nordic Mythology and the Vikings at the time.  My Number One son told me, ‘Valhalla is ready for him, Mom. He is guaranteed safe passage.’ Somehow, that comforted me.

So I am in the room, and I am nearing the last day of my ‘spontaneous’ vacation. I’m reading the Daily Word. His eyes are rolling around in his head looking here and there. The nurse comes in as usual. I step back so she can give him a shot - he snatches his hand away and says, in PLAIN ENGLISH, ‘I don’t want this anymore.’ We look at each other, startled, neither of us believing what we have just heard. He looks into my eyes and says in a clear voice, ‘I don’t want this anymore.’ And moments later, his eyes started rolling around in his head again.

You heard that? I said to the Nurse.

Yes, yes I did, she replied.

I kissed and stroked his forehead. I said, I love you, Daddy. And I left that day.

He used to say that when he was in the Marines and he came home for TDY, his heart would leap as he saw the trestle bridge over the Trenton River that says, ‘Trenton Makes - the World Takes.’

He was cremated and, years later, scattered onto the Trenton River.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Here I write

I started cleaning up my paperwork, going through old files, digging through boxes and drawers, and I found words at every turn. I have steno pads, note pads, composition books, spiral bound notebooks, 3-ring binders. Any available piece of lined paper - I wrote on it – and, apparently, kept it!

I started writing short stories in the black and white composition books I would get for elementary school. I was always asking for new ones. Often, they would start out as my Math homework or my Science Lab book, and I would have to get a new one and spend half the night transferring the information because I had inevitably written a short story in the middle of a baking soda experiment.

I flunked History in 9th grade, but I went to Creative Writing camp that summer anyway. I visited a cousin who lived in the Midwest and she typed up all my poems. I continued to write. I started keeping a diary. I was recording things I was doing, things I wanted to do, and people I’d meet. I would then make up stories using the personalities of the people I interacted with.

I started writing stories using my friends as fodder. I wrote two novels. It was a mistake to have them read it. I would never do this, one said. I would never say something like this, they said. Now I understood the fiction disclaimer at the beginning of books: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Sure, it was them at the beginning, but we hadn’t lived as much life as I was writing about and liberties had to be taken!

My mother died suddenly right after I turned 21. I was devastated. Eighteen months I spent being a zombie. I wasn’t writing much, just journaling mostly, because it was all so painful. I started crying all the time – even when I wasn’t sad. I would wake up in tears. I would be in the middle of a TV production class, and tears would roll down my cheeks. I could be in the middle of telling a funny story..well, you get the picture. 

During one of these uncontrollable episodes, I wandered into the campus therapist’s office. He asked, ‘What do you miss the most?’ I told him that I missed talking to her. He said, ‘Then why don’t you write to her?’ Well, DUH. What a concept! Not to write ABOUT her, but to write TO her. So I did. After writing to her for weeks, I had a breakthrough. In the end, it became the very thing that saved my life. I started writing again in more than my journal. I wrote short stories and poems again. I even wrote a full length play!

Here I will share more of what I wrote and more of how I wrote. Here is a perfect time and a perfect place to share who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. So here I am. Write now.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Is my education a problem?

Yes, I’m a baby boomer. Born of the 1950s generation. Celebrated by many as the generation of impact. Enough of us to change the world.

The Civil Rights era gave us access. We invaded the hallowed halls of previously predominantly white institutions. And yes, we swelled the rolls of the Historically Black Colleges as well. We not only went to public schools, but private and parochial schools as well. Degrees were greater than high school diplomas – Bachelor’s, Masters’ and PhDs.

And beyond Civil Rights, there were wars to be protested. The Hippies who defied convention, the Pacifists and others who marched against the war we decided was unjust and had gone on too long. Protesting and overturning the mandatory recruitment of young men, the burning of draft cards. And the women – demanding the rights afforded the men – hallowed institutions invaded by not just Black people, but rights afforded against all matter of discrimination.

Yes, I attended the first march on Washington, D.C. to protest the war in Viet Nam. Yes, I dated Jewish boys and Italians and learned all the words to protest songs. Yes, my environment was fully integrated - my school, my neighborhood, my friends. In situations where there were only one, or two, or three of us, our solidarity ceased at knowing each other’s names, we were free to befriend whomever we liked.

We traveled. Oh the places we’d go, the borders we’d cross, the people we’d meet, the stereotypes we challenged – both in ourselves, our history, and in others.

At 10 months old I attended my first dance performance at Radio City Music Hall. It was Easter. At 14, I traveled to the British West Indies. At 17, I traveled to Europe with my Girl Scout Troop. At 21, I traversed the continent on a Greyhound bus including Toronto and Montreal, Canada. At 22, I moved from the East Coast to the West Coast and danced in a dance company. 

My friends were doing the same. Girls that were NOT light, bright, or  damn near white, were performing in events OTHER than Black dramas; dancing in more than Black dance companies; working in jobs far more significant than helpers or assistants. We were the generation of hundreds of ‘the first Black…’ fill in the blank. And the culmination of our success was the election of the first Black President!

Yes, we are different. We are doctors and lawyers, judges and teachers, professors and scientists, politicians and poets, and we are independent. 

Whether to our detriment or to our desire, we are fiercely independent. Therein lies the rub. We don’t ‘have’ to live anywhere. We don’t ‘have’ to be anything other than what we work, live and strive to do. There are no boundaries, there is no ‘color’ line in our experience. Maybe society has that notion, but it is not bred into those of us who continue to strive to be ‘more.’ We are more than Middle class as we have overcome more than a monetary distinction; we are more than the elite as we have overcome more than an insidious racial barrier; and we are more than worthy of that which we have striven to learn and become through the overwhelming barriers and obstacles we were forced to conquer.

Don’t be hatin'.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!

As I open my eyes and savor this day, my birthday, I am happy to report that I am in good health, good spirits and blessed by good fortune. I am grateful for a supportive spouse, healthy sons, beautiful grandchildren (their wives contributions duly noted!) and thoughtful friends. Ironically, the last of my Mother’s sisters passed on this same week, yet the legacy continues. I am proud and happy of the bloodline from which I am wrought.

Today I celebrate the abundance of ordinary miracles that are happening all around me. I smell the flowers, I hear the birds chirping from the trees, I touch the soft fur of my dog, and I see the sun shine!

And I say, thank you for this day, another day. And a special thank you to my friends, those who live and those who have passed on, and anyone who has ever crossed my path because each of you has brought me or taught me something. You have all contributed to this life that is my life right here and right now.

Today is my gift, today is my present.