Healing, Health, poetry, Self Care, tough times, Wisdom

What to Do When You Don’t Feel Safe

Anne Lamott self care quote
Unplugging-Anne Lamott

This has been a frightening week, interspersed with personal trying periods, and a need to bury my head for a couple of hours at a time.

My daughter texted me after the tragedy in Nice, France.

iPhone text
Text One
iphone text
Text Two


I hated that she felt unsafe. I hated that I couldn’t stretch my arms across 1,000 miles and give her a hug, kiss her forehead. All I could offer her was to look for hope and to take a deep breath.

But I had to remember that feeling unsafe doesn’t mean that we are.

This was my reaction to feeling powerless, angry, and fearful.

I wanted to share the power of prayer with her, but she isn’t Christian or of any faith anymore. That in itself added to my sadness. But, also gave me the opportunity, later, to have a conversation with her about why I pray and how that helps me.

That night the news across all channels broadcast the tragedy. Soon there was another world event, the attempted coup in Turkey, and another, the sniper attack on police officers in Baton Rouge.

I had to keep the television off and stay off social media. My mind, spirit, and body were out of whack.

My attempts at ‘righting’ myself was to practice some self-care. I tried to find ways to relax and experience safety.

The garden beckoned. The Monarch caterpillars had decimated the milkweed leaving it a skeletal reminder of a once gorgeous fiery orange headed plant. Meanwhile, new butterflies showed off acrobatic skills over the remaining fronds of the second milkweed bush.

Butterfly acrobatics
Butterfly acrobatics

While watering the potted succulents I found that two blossomed with beautiful flowers. Being in the garden helped and somehow pushed me to go to the gym and exercise.

Flowering Christmas Cactus in July-Southern Calif.
Flowering Christmas Cactus in July-Southern Calif.

That evening I decided not to go out and sat in my backyard coloring. My sister gifted me with the adult coloring books a few months back. This may sound cheesy, but I felt a lot of pleasure wielding the colored pencils, so much that I had to go buy me a box of Crayola crayons, the giant 64 set box.

The next day, I read a mesmerizing book of poetry written by a man who had been a slave and put into the ‘service’ of a wealthy slave owner as a child of six years of age. Although his verses expose the cruelty of slavery, his poetry reflects the beauty he finds with his parents and his own world.

Book of poetry, cuban poet Juan Francisco Manzano
The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle. Poetry of Juan Francisco Manzano.

Meditation via my cell phone is a life saver. I either go to Pandora and listen to Deepak Chopra or I go to the Oprah channel and listen to one of Chopra’s 21 days of meditations. (Many times they are free).

On Sunday, I attended church service where I’m a greeter a couple of times a month. As I passed out bulletins to numerous families, teenagers and the elderly, the smiles people gave after a “good morning, I hope you enjoy the service” enlivened me.

I wondered why I felt a new energy, and it dawned on me that although the people were heavily burdened, they were trying to live and do the best they could.

Over the weekend, I kept in close contact with my daughter and shared the photos above with her. I don’t know if this helped her but it sure helped me.

Do the best you can. Create your own safe space. Hugs. 




Family, Parenting

How I Found Happy Family Memories in a Token

French solider mask, cinco de mayo parade
A Real Cinco de Mayo Parade, photo by Kym Janisch, creative commons


I was going to write about the commercialization of Cinco de Mayo and how much I disliked the marketing of a cultural holiday that symbolizes the hope and pride of a people. About how much I hate to see “Drinko De Mayo,” and “Nacho Ordinary Cinco,” slogans. The distaste for ads featuring tacos and sombreros.

The post for this week was preempted by memories that had me travel many years back. So I changed my mind. But, if you’d like to read about what Cinco de Mayo really means and the French invasion of Mexico, I have an old post here. There are several posts about Cinco de Mayo. I like the one given by the History Channel.

The idea of a Cinco de Mayo post came to an end when I cleaned out my desk drawer hunting for an emery board. Underneath ink pens, rubber bands, post-its and an old address book, I found some foreign money. Coins representing four countries and two Chuck E. Cheese tokens. So make that five countries. Thus began my time travel.

Chuck E. Cheese token, circa 1993. “Smile America Say”


The faded image on the fake bronze coin showed a big nosed rat in bowtie and bowler hat, circa 1993. Why the weird phrase  “Smile America Say,” is engraved on it is a mystery to me. The other token had a different saying, but I lost that one between last night and this morning.

The rat took me back to the colorful sights and chaotic sounds of our local Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, “Where a Kid Can Be A Kid.”

All three of my children celebrated birthdays at the place among shrieking delighted kids and parents who moaned at the noise level and overpriced bland cheese pizzas.

Chuck E. Cheese parties for the kids in our extended family was a rite of passage, for the children, moms, and dads. We entered the fun zone as proud parents holding onto the small hands of excited birthday boys or girls and left as frazzled shell-shocked adults, sometimes forgetting one of the kids until halfway down the freeway, (she knows who she is).

Kids ran to dive into the orange, yellow and green balls, disappear into fluorescent plastic tunnels, while parents covered their eyes and ears from the blinking lights, electronic noises, and shrieks. Some of which probably came from the parents who’d been in the place for half an hour.

Try keeping track of your kid in the crowd of pint-sized children all waving arms, jumping, twirling, or cowering in a corner. (Wait, the cowering would be at the parent table).

All that excitement doubled when the red curtain rose and the mechanical singing chicken, mustachioed chef, and the blue guy who appeared. The smarmy dancing and squawking of the robotic characters, behind the arm-waving teenage CEC workers, delighted the under six-year-old set whose parents tried to look semi-excited but came off as confused, scared or both.

confused parents
Confused or Scared? flickr.com creative commons photo

When the bottom heavy rat strode into the melee of children I thought he looked like a thug rat in a knockoff Mickey Mouse film. But the kids, especially my toddler daughter hugged the seven-foot gangster rat like he was her cuddly stuffed lamb. Her eyes and body danced to the songs of the chickens, while one son veered away from Mr. Chuck E. Cheese and the noise, concentrating on a birthday cake and waving balloons. The older son ran circles around the rat and scampered back to the game zone, clutching trailing strips of orange tickets.

Ah yes, the memories. Happy and frightening at the same time. All those germ infested rainbow balls, tickets and tokens, bland pizzas and a giant rat returned to me via a grubby Chuck E. Cheese token.

Maybe I should have stuck with a Cinco de Mayo post.