Current Events, Every Day Living, Grief And Loss, Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Irma Don’t Own Me

Disclaimer: I have legit hurricane-related PTSD stemming back to Hurricane David while living in St Maarten. I was four. But I distinctly remember my dad taking me to school and him picking me up in knee deep water. We walked home. Due to roof leakage, we lost half of our family photos at that time. I lost trust in aluminum roofs. Irma came and decimated St. Maarten and there went my plans to return for our 20th anniversary trip. It would have been my first time back. Pray for the people of St. Martin/St. Maarten. 

Andrew. Enough said. The people of those communities still recall the smells and sounds. I know colleagues who just couldn’t deal with it this time around. They just left. To preserve life and peace of mind. 

Wilma swung by and found me as a fairly new homeowner trying to keep grips on my one earthly major investment. We lost a patio, replaced a roof, and watched our pockets bleed dry from an insurance company’s piracy for many years to come. 

So when Irma came around, I was as ready as could be (or so I thought). The hurricane that never was (Matthew in 2016) had me in stores buying up all the canned goods I could get. What threw me for a loop was the water thing this time around. Water was gone by Monday, Labor Day. Like even the one you were supposed to get via Walmart Grocery Pick Up or Instacart. I got nervous. But God knew best and sent an angel our way to bless us as we had just days before blessed Houston. 

Hurricanes are a part of life in these parts. And as much as we would like to prefer it not be, it just is. But there are things to mitigate the level of impact physically and emotionally. Here’s a glimpse into some things I learned along the way. 

Don’t be cheap. Invest in the canned foods, rice and beans. They last two to three years and annual review of your supplies can mean blessing a shelter or homeless program with items that may expire soon. 

Invest in some big ticket items. Invest in a generator. Homeowners, you can’t go wrong with this investment. Your perishable items will last in the fridge and you can power up your electronics with ease. Invest in a deep freezer and keep it stocked with ice and frozen water year round.  This kept our stuff cold through five days of no power. Invest in a grill and/or table top hot plates. Hot food. Every. Day. Enough said. 

Invest in a portable TV. We kept updated with relevant news during that time. The not knowing can sometimes be at a detriment to self and loved ones. We were able to pass along info to others because of this. Invest in a stand alone or window AC. Our handy man gave us this idea one day before our electricity came back on. Twenty twenty being hindsight, I still would have gotten it. Thirty minutes of set up, a line to the generator and we had a guest room where my husband and I and his mom slept in comfort. Too bad we got the idea one day before power returned. We placed the AC back in the box. No we are not returning it. Hurricanes aren’t an IF but a WHEN type of occurrence. 

I used the word INVEST several times. Something that some may find to be a foreign idea. Simply put. One pair of shoes bought at Ross is a portable TV. One Dooney and Burke purse on sale at TJ Maxx is a portable AC. A Louis Vuitton purse from Nordstrom (2016 Damier) can get you a generator, grill, deep freezer, solar powered lamps, and fully stocked food and supplies. 

So when I told people I didn’t have power, it meant I took cold showers and didn’t have AC (until my most recent investment). It meant I read a book in one day. It meant my clothes were washed from the week before. It meant I ate hot meals and planned the day’s menu with my husband and his mom. It meant my brother and dad coming over for a hot meal. It meant catching the breeze with extended family and eating more avocados than the law allows. 

Don’t let your trying times overwhelm you into inertia. Not having power does not mean you don’t have POWER. I am no expert. Just a student of life who takes copious notes and learn from my experiences and that of others. 

Manage what’s within your realm and see what God does with the rest. 

Faith, Grief And Loss, Life Coach, Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Waiting Season 

I got caged in to teach at a local church last evening. I mean what else do you call preparing to speak about a subject that you’re still yourself wading deep in the water about? That God would deign the stars and moon to align in this season of my life to speak about grief and loss is beyond my peanut brain’s capacity to understand. But He’s that Father. You know the one who allows you to flay your arm in the water while he’s under you. And then out of no where goes missing just to see if you can float by yourself. He’s that Father who wakes up one day and says “training wheels off!” 

Well that’s what happened the other night and I suspect that’s going to happen more and more in this coming season of my life. I’ve been meditating on the Holy Spirit’s nudging of being in what I call the “waiting season.” For me it’s the season where I’m literally in a spiritual room where the doors are shut and I’m waiting to hear the prognosis from the doctor at any moment. I’m waiting to hear some news, any news about next steps, next goals, next dreams, next directions. I’ve ticked off some things off my list but I suspect God has some other things in store that had nothing to do with my five year plans.

 As I wait, God reminds me to remain faithful in my actions. That waiting isn’t an immobile activity. Rather it’s an activity where preparation is taking place for when those doors do open and the results are in. 

I once took my laptop to the ER with me. I had an ankle sprain that had been bothering me. I saw people just sitting there bored out of their minds, counting cracks in the wall. Me? Well I was pecking away at my laptop, trying to meet some deadline or other. Before I knew it I was in my flow; didn’t even realize time had passed and even got annoyed the few times they kept calling me up to verify information. You see in my waiting I found something to do. Something to keep me occupied. Something to keep my mind and body going. Something to keep me on top of my game for such a time as when that door of opportunity opened and voila! I would be ready. 

Last night was that kind of night. I didn’t get invited to speak because my mother had died and that by some random designation I had become some expert at grief. I don’t do random and I don’t do happenstance. That’s for people who just “let” life happen to them

 God’s people don’t let life happen. They make life happen. There was more to it than losing my mother to cancer. Words would only simplify the journey that led to that one hour of speaking to one of the toughest audience groups I know. Haitian adults. In a church. Both men and women. Most whom have me by at least 15-20 years of age. Most who have had some inexplicable losses that my mind can’t even fathom. Words would only serve to minimize how at peace I felt in that moment. In that space in time speaking to those I have prayed to God that I could share my heart with. There are no words for that. 

Your waiting season may be here now. It may be laden with impatience and frustration. Remain faithful in your doing. Those doors will fling wide open. Just you wait and see. 

Your waiting season may be just around the corner. Don’t get blindsided by it. Own it. Accept it. Prepare for it. 

Your waiting season may be a thing of yesterday and you are right now hollering your praise to the Most High. Just don’t forget there are others who were exactly where you were. They can benefit from your wise counsel. 

Off will come those training wheels. Off will come those flotation devices. And off you will go forward once your waiting season is done. 

Current Events, Grief And Loss

Survivors’ Stairs 

Leave it to me to make my first visit to NYC and opting to pay homage at Ground Zero.  I am sure my travel buddy husband would have preferred to head to Central Park or something else. But he humored me and we both were blessed by the experience.  I was 26 when I stood next to police officers at my old police payroll civilian job, watching some of the toughest dudes I know allow tears to fall freely.  We had just ran to the cafeteria in time to see the second plane hit.   Hands over mouth. Silent.

The memories of life before and after 9-11 came back in trickles then tidal waves of emotions at the 911 Museum. We walked into spaces with mangled metal. Timelines set minute by minute outlining what would be a defining moment in our nation’s history. Death had come to our soil. Terrorism had come to pay its due. We sat to listen to voices of loved ones sharing the memories of those who now make up walls of faces. Nearly 3000 photos of people overwhelmed one corridor. Wedding photos. Graduation photos. Fuzzy photos. Smiling faces. Stern faces. Mild faces. Serious faces. Young faces. Old faces. All faces no longer with us. Faces frozen in time. 

I think the room that hit me the most was the one of first responders realizing this disaster was truly beyond any earthly understanding. Hearing the radio chatter from one battalion leader to the next. Smoke. Burning flesh. People trapped on floors responders would never be able to get to. Making promises they knew they could never keep. And I’m sitting there hoping that they will be like the protagonist in the movies. That they will save the day and everyone goes home. We get to the end and none of them make it. An entire fire house gone. One survivor was exiting what is now known as The Survivors Stairs, the only stairwell in one of the buildings that was still functioning. “I saw the firefighters going up to help other people. I realized that I was going down to live and they were going up to their death.” 

In times like these, I am saddened by the state of our world. So much suffering. So much evil. There is yet that still small voice that whispers reminders of hope. The first responder who was just done signing off on some retirement papers made his way to Ground Zero. The architect and metal worker who knew how to dismantle this hundred year old edifice to find survivors made their way to Ground Zero. Total strangers who held on to purses and workbags praying and searching for their owners. Countless stories of humanity at its best. Refusing to bow to evil. 

There was one American not on Earth that fateful morning. From his vantage point, astronaut Frank Culberston was told by NASA that we were “not having a very good day down here on Earth.”  He was halfway done reading Tom Clancy’s “The Sum of All Fears” and felt halfway into fiction and halfway into reality. His words still ring true fifteen years later. “Many things will never be the same again after September 11, 2001. Not just for the thousands and thousands of people directly affected by these horrendous acts of terrorism, but probably for all of us.” 

When we now find ourselves along divisive lines with rhetoric as our weapons, I want us to think of that fateful September morning. When the dust and debris from the fallen buildings hid the color of one’s skin.  And that no one stopped to ask about creed or faith or beliefs as they each helped each other run/walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. As each person took steps down the Survivors’ Stairs escaping death, there was no checking for status or where you stood in your politics. It was simply humananity trying to hold on to each other for dear life. 

To the memory of those whose lives were cut short that September morning. 

Faith, Grief And Loss, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized

Not All For Naught

Not sure what prompted a mentor of mine to tell me this particular story. Maybe she saw that I was going a hundred miles a minute with no brakes. Or that I had bitten off more at a time that I could possibly chew. Whatever it was, I remember her recounting the story of a head janitor that fell dead in the school office and the principal bending over, unhooking the master keys and passing it on to the next janitor. 

I’m sure there was some wailing and carrying at that moment. I’m pretty sure blood pressures were sky high and tears flowed down like the River Nile. I’m even sure that the memorial service for this head janitor was packed to the gills. I’m sure his loved ones miss that dear man deeply and that life without him is unbearable. 

I am also sure that life still went on. 

We rise from bed, we drink our coffee and we start each day. Some of us pray. Some of us don’t. Our days are filled with agendas, meetings, conference calls, classes, all sorts of activities that keep us busy busy busy. 

When a life is cut short be it at twenty or ninety we seldom pause to take stock of our respective lives and ask God:

Am I where I need to be? Am I doing what I should be doing? What am I driven by? Why do I even bother? 

Experiencing loss is the worse and the best thing that can take place. Worse in that the devastation that grips you and won’t release its hold can lay you real low. But best in that while you are out for the count, God does His best work in you. Paradigms shift. Transformation takes place. Dead skin is shed. And you walk away changed. 

I guess my mentor was trying to drive home the point that all this right here wasn’t worth a damn at the end of the day. That the Ecclesiastical outlook on life is the real truth. You are born. You live. You die. What’s done in between makes a world of a difference. Your eternity’s destination is the final call. 

Because when they reach over your body and hand the keys to someone else, it cannot be all for naught. 

Faith, Family, Grief And Loss

Permission To Live

This summer marked the first time in four years where words like doctors, medication, Cancer and death didn’t float around my mind like alphabet soup. I knew going in to these dog days of summer that it would be different this year. My mom’s passing last May meant no more case managing her life. No more phone calls sequestered in a corner at work haggling with the doctors. No more keeping two appointment books. No more dealing with the home health agency. No more pain. No more suffering. 

There will be times in your life where you get so caught up in just existing that you scarce can’t remember what breathing normal felt like. That your heartbeat’s regular pace is really not abnormal. When life’s turmoils take us for a somersault we never believe that we will bounce back. Yet eventually we do. 

And when we do, it’s always wise to take stock of where we have landed. Like change that falls out of our pockets during roller coaster rides, some things are evidently loss to us. Never to be seen again.  What’s since been lost to you? Has friendships changed? Has priorities changed? Has your mindset changed?

It was in those times of personal pain that I sought God the most. He has proved to be the only constant. He, the Rock that is higher than I, has remained steadfast. I learned to take care of me better than before. I learned to grieve honestly and personally. 

This summer was a lesson in just living in the moment. Summer concerts on the lawn. Multiple stamps on my passport. TV binging–my latest and oh so guilty pleasure. Books that turned my brain to mush or stirred my inner self. Permitting myself to live–to move on. 

It is good to give ourself permission to live. To love. To laugh again. 

Grief And Loss, Life Coach, Uncategorized

All About Perspective

I believe mental health professionals remain in a constant state of reflection and soul searching. We are diagnosing ourselves at every turn. Taking our temperature, checking our pulse, all things one does to remain sane and to keep the crazies away. 

Enduring the absence of a loved one tends to send one into reflection overdrive. It has been no different for me. A recent personal character survey ranked Perspective as number one of my top 25 character traits. Why am I not surprised?!

While folks are quick to judge, lash out, or be angered, I have opted to just sit back and watch these days.  I was usually game for a rousting match of wits. I now opt to travel a different road. Elevating my blood pressure because of differences of opinion just isn’t my cup of tea. Allowing myself to be swallowed into the vortex of slights and misunderstandings (real and imagined) just doesn’t cut it. Drama was never a friend of mine. But these days, I’m not even trying to associate with those who are magnets for the foolery. 

Perspective causes your patience to increase. A 45-minute ride in the wilds of foreign island, on a hot bus, on bumpy roads, becomes less of a nuisance and more of an adventure.  Planning a lunch date with a 20-something whom you have little in common with, becomes less of an obligation and more of a chance to build a relationship. Meeting deadlines, raising children, balancing budgets, all potentially stressful events and undertakings. All potentially rewarding and enriching experiences. 

It’s all in perspective. I didn’t lay down my gauntlet and decide to become a carpet for folks to parade about on. But I did become someone who not only picks my battles, but my weapons too. 

Family, Grief And Loss, Uncategorized

May Is The Month

A casualty of being a Pastor wife is the whole living in a glass house with popcorn eating spectators on the other side. On a day like Mothers Day when folks stopped asking about babies and after losing my mom nearly a year ago this month, I opted to skip Sunday Service altogether. Didn’t feel like putting on a show for non-paying customers today. So thankful for a husband who doesn’t want a shell for a wife, but a happy wife. 

Am I wallowing in bed this Mother’s Day weekend? No. Am I soaking my pillow case with tears? Sporadically. Am I making the best of this first Mother’s Day without my mom? I’m trying. Having my darling husband silently stand in our bedroom doorway, waiting and watching for the next episodic “miss my mom” fit is touching and somewhat funny. God bless those who have to live with the grieving!

Asked for the day off two months ago. Told my boss I needed a mental health day. I was sane and in my right mind when I filed that request. But I knew better. And whether I needed it or not, I deserved it. I enjoyed breakfast with my dad and my mom in law with hubby and his brother yesterday.  Just the five of us. No fan fare. Just casual conversation and hanging out with the parents I have left. Finding my mother-in-law a new wig and buying her clothes and summer sandals. Highlight of my day. She’s a headache and half. And her for sons are only too happy to send her off to me to do all these girly things. I don’t mind. My momma raised a good girl. 

I went somewhere all by myself yesterday. No “super star” hubby at my side. No instant recognition. No one is looking for a Pastor wife in a pair of red converse anyway! I moved from friend to classmate to church acquaintance and back to being by myself. That was fun. I wore myself out good and tired like a toddler. To fall asleep without much thought of contemplating for the day ahead. 

I’m gonna hang with my friend today. She lost her mom mere months after mine. Love my friends dearly but I kinda wanna be with someone who gets me on today. No pretences. Just some good food, great mimosas, and good conversations. 

May was the month my mom was officially diagnosed with cancer. May was the month she went back to the hospital for the last time. May is the month I lost her. May is the month I have to sludge through making new memories along the way.