Family, Inspiration

An Inspiring and Compassionate Birthday Wish

Happy Birthday, creative commons lic.
Happy Birthday, creative commons lic.

 

Some of us approach birthdays with trepidation, others with a sense of joy, and some people really don’t think about being another year old.

My mother used to be in the first category, especially in the last two decades. Her image of youth and trying to maintain it seemed to be constantly on her mind. She took a glamor shot at 72 years old and at the time, we (her kids) rolled our eyes. Now I think, damn, I hope I can look that good.

Mom used to see her friends at work, after work, and at community functions. She marched with farmworkers, participated in strikes, rallied for parks in the neighborhood, and was in more civil rights organizations than I can remember. Sunday visits to relatives, birthday parties, wedding’s and baptisms filled the weekends.

I’ve called her my “Hurricane Mother,” in previous posts.

Now her brothers and sisters have passed on. She can’t drive. When she sees friends it’s at funerals and that number is dwindling because the friend is ‘in’ the funeral.

This reality bites. She’s been known to misquote Bette Davis:

“Old Age Ain’t For Sissies,” by saying ‘old age is a bitch,” pardon her french.

She’s mellowed out now and finds joy in most situations. She loves to have a good time, a great Bloody Mary, a cold Corona, or a moist chunk of chocolate cake. And two out of three is even better.

On Mother’s Day, she gathered us and the grandkids around the table in the backyard to talk about her upcoming birthday. “If you planned to give me a party, don’t. I have everything I need or want and I’ve been blessed more than I can say…”

She then told us a story about a young mother in our county who was burned in a horrible attack which left her with medical bills, without a job, and who is now struggling to keep her apartment.

Anything you were going to get me, give to her. Donate the money to her and her four children.

We were momentarily stunned. She loves parties and gifts. But then again, she loves helping people and that’s what she’s done all of her life.

I found the newspaper article on the victim and found out her husband committed the crime. He doused her with gasoline and lit a match. The evilness of this act can only be surpassed by the compassion of other people and by the mother and children surviving and thriving.

This is the link to the GoFundMe campaign set up by two women in the victim’s community.

https://www.gofundme.com/marthavenegas
Mother and Children, GoFundMe.com

I think this is an important part of celebrating another year. To pass on joy to others, to contribute to happiness, and to create family memories.

 

living life fully before death
Encouragement, Faith, Inspiration, life lessons

How To Live Before You Die

living life fully before death
Live Like You’re Dying

 

The last week was a blur. I attended the Association of Writing Professionals (AWP) 43rd conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center with three of my writing group sisters.

The week of ‘conferencing’ was a good one, inspiring and fun, but when I say conference I mean a 12,000 peopled flow of writers, editors, booksellers, professors, and others. 

The hours were filled with writing techniques, editors/agent panels, poets reading heart-wrenching poetry, and writers speaking eloquent words. You know how even great stuff is exhausting and truth be told this great stuff was also intimidating.

Did I measure up, should I be writing fiction, should I revise, should I be spending countless hours writing? What was I doing?

I ‘shoulded’ all over myself.

When I got home from sleeping in a different bed, meeting people, and eating out I just wanted to decompensate and breathe.

The next day, my mind and body wanted to sleep in and tune out. The suitcase, books, and an art piece I bought lay strewn at the foot of my bed.

Could I skip a Sunday service? I had so much to do before my next day departure to Denver to see my young adult kids. But I hadn’t missed a Sunday service in years unless I was really sick.

The mess would have to wait. I dressed and left for service and was grateful I attended. The message was:

Life is a gift and what you do with it matters…

Our pastor told us the average lifespan was 79 years of age or 28,835 minutes. If those minutes were on a clock, a fifty-year-old would have 18 minutes of their life left. That put life in perspective.

Was I living a life that was significant and meaningful? Is there compassion in what I do and say. Do I give gratitude, show kindness? Do I live my life in a way where others will know I’m a Christian? Do I trust and have faith when the going gets tough?

I thought of all these questions after the service and how the sermon put everything in perspective. I was striving to live the answers to these questions. Trying is good. Trying is movement. There were no more “Should’s.” I felt balanced once again.

Achieving writing success is important to me but it isn’t the end all to my life. I reminded myself that I write because I can’t think of not writing, that would kill me inside.

I remembered that I began writing to tell the stories of girls and women who faced challenges, made bad choices, but struggled to do better. The girls who felt like no one cared who they were and only focused on what they did. The unseen women who wore mask upon mask. Girls who grew up through the garbage strewn upon them.Women and girls who needed family, in whatever shape it presented itself.

So how to live before you die?

When I thought of why I write, I remembered we all have the ability to improve the quality of our life.

We can all make choices to improve our spirituality, our health, and our emotional life.

We can love ourself and others.

We can be of service to someone or something.

Living is finding something to have a passion for whether it’s family, service, or a combination of a thousand other things.

Living is making your minutes count and they count when you stop to look at a sunset, a sunrise, notice a smile, hug someone, and other countless ways.

I’ll end with a quote about life from Maya Angelou.

Life Purpose
Life Purpose

 

 

 

Family, Inspiration, Parenting, Strong Women

The Pope and My Mother

old 1950 Mercury car
1950 Mercury

I’m not a Catholic anymore, but like millions of people, I watched Pope Francis’ visit to Washington D.C and the other parts of America.

Since the day he became Pope, I admired his Christian demeanor and his actions above rhetoric. His compassion for the homeless, the children, and immigrants reminded me of a lesson my mother taught my siblings and I a long time ago.

Those were the days of welfare commodities, those big silver containers of oily peanut butter, Spam, powdered milk and eggs. Mom was a divorcee, a single parent with four kids who went to night school to get her diploma after her full-time job.

An asphalt parking lot separated the housing projects, the apartment buildings where we lived. The lot served as a playground for roller skating, a game of tag, or kickball between cars. 

Amid the old Chevy’s, work trucks, and cars on their last legs, sat a hulking tank of a car, decades old, early 1950’s Mercury. Rimless, faded paint, and worn tires made it look ready for the junk yard. The car had a larger front end than a behind with a huge dashboard full of newspapers and junk, blankets in the rear seat.

We found out a man lived in the car. White stubble dotted his chin and neck against the mahogany of his skin color. He appeared overweight since he wore layers of clothes. A black jacket with sweaters over shirts, blue overalls, red bandanas in his pocket. Skimpy mittens stretched over large hands to ward off the cold. He wore a Charlie Chaplin type hat.

The round man who matched his heavy set car slept in a parking lot of cars that left at dawn for the packing houses, dairy, or vegetable fields. Sometimes he used someone’s water hose to douse his head and face. Drying himself with his bandana.

Sometimes he got drunk on cheap wine, telling us he was from the south, never naming the state or maybe we didn’t ask. There was no work, his jalopy broke down near our apartments and he pushed it into the lot, living there ever since.

When he got drunk he’d reach into his pockets, pull out pennies and nickels and throw them into the air. Kids dove for the coins, it was like bolo, being at a Catholic baptismal when the baby’s godfather threw coins on the church steps to celebrate the event.

One morning he came to our back door, hat in hand, asking my mom if she had some spare bread, water, maybe a sandwich?

We watched her from the kitchen table, making a sandwich with some of our fried Spam. She found a mason jar and filled it with iced tea. He glanced from her to us, to his scuffed brown boots and back again, staring at the concrete.

He took his sandwich and tea with many thanks, a big smile, saying “God bless you,” several times. My mom nodded. When she shut the door one of us said something about the wino and why did she give him some of our food. She corrected us saying he was down on his luck, and he needed help. She grew up during the great depression and knew what hunger felt like and we were Catholics, it was our duty to help other people.

After that, mostly during payday, Mom would make him refried bean burritos, kept hot by wrapping them in aluminum foil. She filled the mason jar with tea and send us out to the parking lot to give to the man. The other neighbors occasionally fed him too, bringing him something they picked from the orchards or field. One day we went outside to play and his car was gone. 

I imagined he found a job, lived a better life, but I don’t know what happened to the homeless man. What I do remember is the compassion my mother showed to someone who was poorer than we were, reminding us we had a duty to help others.

Pope Francis quote on mercy and compassion
Pope Francis on Compassion