Day 22, 2019

Henry Reeve Medical Brigade

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Twenty Second Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today I send much love to and give thanks for the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade.  Many lives have been saved and communities completely restored because these medical angels have altruistically given their time and have devoted their lives to giving the gift of health and well being to the poor and disaster devastated communities.

Several days ago,  I read an article about the US’ latest attack on Cuba. (When imperialism targets Cuban doctors, it targets human solidarity). The US has this obsession with trying to crush the spirit of this beautiful island 90 miles from its shore and you would think after 60 plus years of not succeeding they would give it up and let Cuba live and govern its own sovereign nation how it deems fit. (I guess that’s my wishful thinking!) This time the US has decided to intervene in Cuba’s medical collaborations throughout the world. Unfortunately, this tactic, ultimately, really oppresses the poor and medically underserved people of the world that are being serviced as much as it does the government of Cuba (and it does effects Cuba’s finances and economy badly).  The latest attack has involved pressuring governments like Brazil, Ecuador, and Bolivia to force out (basically exile) Cuban doctors, (medical missionaries) who were working in the most remote areas of those countries and with the poorest of the poor to give them the free gift of (universal) healthcare and wellness for possibly the first time in their lives. Now that the Cuban doctors have been removed, these governments have not made any moves to replace these doctors in the area/communities in which the Cuban doctors were serving. (You guessed it! Those communities of poor people no longer have doctors and probably have no access to medical care for miles.)

In past months, I have heard the onslaught of lies that have been told about the Cuban doctors in these countries and the claims of their “incompetence” or about the Cuban doctor’s “enslavement” or “indentured servitude,” which is farthest from the truth.  The lies are not only pissing me off and sparking a “righteous” anger, I’m wondering where are the voices of the world that have benefited from services provided by these medical revolutionaries. To date, Cuban doctors have served in over 164 countries through its medical collaborations. Through Operation Miracle (Operación Milagro), Cuban surgeons have performed over 2.9 million surgeries to restore the sight of patients in 34 different countries throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.  From 1999-2017, Cuban doctors in their medical collaborations in other countries have attended to 1,667,248, 707 medical cases; 510,789,672 were home visits; 234,462,192 were pediatric cases; 12,188,554 surgical operations were performed; 3,188,554 babies were delivered; 14,001,911 vaccines were given; 6,296,489 lives were saved.  (I don’t know about you but there is nothing about these numbers that suggest incompetence to me.) I think what is most shocking to me is that I don’t hear an outcry from the almost 40,000 doctors (some from these same countries) who have been medically trained FOR FREE in Cuba via The Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) rising up to check and shut down all of these lies (The gangsta in me is wanting to surface!).  From 1966 to 2017, Cuba has medically trained 33,974 doctors from 135 different countries; 84% of these doctors have graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) since 2005. [5,184 Bolivians, 2093 Ecuadorians, 1214 Brazilians and 185 US citizens] Cuba has established seven medical schools outside of Cuba, mainly in Venezuela and Angola, and has been responsible for the medical training of these doctors. They have matriculated over 47,000 students.  

The US has allocated millions of dollars in its budget to execute their plans to oppress this small island, once again, with the intentions to destroy Cuba’s economic stability. But I’m really shaking my head at the slander–“incompetent doctors” and “modern slavery”. Talking about Cuba and the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade is like talking about my mama or messing with my family, for which the other someone is sure to get “whupped.” It’s that spoken code that those outside the unit better” keep their mouth off of the unit!” That is an open assault to my crew and the Brother/Sister Hood of Batas Blancas [White “Medical” Coats], the Cuban and Cuban trained Medical Missionaries/Revolutionaries, who have been trained well and have pledged their lives to serving the poor and their communities (anywhere in the world), giving them access to health as a right.  We are Fidel’s babies, Medicos de Ciencia y Conciencia (Doctors of Science and Conscience), and have been trained by the best to work in any conditions (sometimes the worst), still producing the best outcomes. 

In every natural disaster, from Hurricanes to Mudslides to Earthquakes to the Ebola Crisis, our medical brigade, the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade, is usually the first on the ground (with little to no media presence announcing us), providing comprehensive medical and surgical services to the victims of the disaster with an aim to preserve life as best possible. 

“How do you know”, you ask? Because I am one of those medical revolutionaries who proudly stood up (and will still stand up) to help my brothers and sisters when one of those earthquakes struck.  I was on the ground working along side my Cuban medical colleagues. As a team we daily served over 500 patients, who came from hours away to get free medical attention. (The patients started lining up at 3:30 am in the morning waiting for us to open the doors to our makeshift clinic at 7:30 am.) During our on call hours, we usually facilitated at least 7-10 births per night and the pregnant women would specifically come to our clinic instead of their local medical clinic. I was there to receive several mothers who, after walking for days to get to our clinic, were carrying their severely dehydrated, almost dead children to get them medical attention.  Some got to us in the nick of time and their severely dehydrated children were restored to complete health, while others weren’t as blessed and arrived way too late.  Since there was a lost of so many mother’s lives in that earthquake, in addition to providing medical attention to families, we often met needs, providing milk and formula for newborns. We fought for every one of our patients and to save every life that walked through our doors in bad shape. 

So, incompetent is not an adjective that you can ascribe to my brigade (How dare you!)When the medical team rotated to the public health portion of our work, each of us did home and community visits that centered around educating the community on prevention, we set up a vaccination program for the rural communities we were visiting, we visited the tent cities to see if anyone needed medical attention in them. Our team of exterminators fumigated communities to stop the spread of mosquitoes. (And for all of you that claimed the neurological symptoms and the sonic attack experienced by the US people in the Cuban embassy were because of fumigation, how do you explain that there were over 40,000 students exposed to seven years worth of daily fumigation and never had an issue? You may want to make up another lie that has a better foundation on which to stand.)
We wasted no resources and worked efficiently all the time. Again, no incompetent doctors or health professionals among our ranks! Our brigade was well taken care of and provided for by the Cuban government. The missions allowed the doctors to provide for themselves and their families back home very well. All of our supplies came from Cuba and not the host country. So, I’m not sure where the idea or term of “modern slavery” is coming from either. In the US we have so many programs that are designed as loan forgiveness programs (ie. National Service Corp, Americorp). When the participants are sent to underserved regions to work as pay back for funding given or to erase debt, are we calling them indentured servants? Do we consider them as being enslaved and under a system of modern slavery/trafficking? So why are Cuban doctors who are (1) voluntarily going on medical missions to other countries, (2) working for and being paid by the Cuban government who hired them for the service, (3) and who have received free education and rations all of their lives, considered slaves and indentured servants on these missions? Can you explain the logic to me? As I said previously, the Cuban doctors are paid and taken care of completely by their government on these missions. (Or is this another case of one of those US double standards?)

With all of that factual information, it’s easy to see how and why Cuba’s medical collaborations are so powerful and important to the world. Cuba serves as a threat to the US because the world is seeing what could be done with sheer political will—free universal healthcare and education as a right can be implemented in every nation.  The world is embracing solidarity with Cuba and democratic socialism. All the myths, lies, hidden agendas of our country are being exposed. Cuba’s revolutionary movement is a movement for the poor to get behind and declare that it has had enough of being exploited, given scraps of money and education and told to survive while the rich and bullies get away with creating subpar conditions on our earth. If the poor rising up and standing in their power is definitely a threat to the empower which they have declared must be shut down and have made moves to do so. But stay tuned… us poor folk are going to kick fighting for better and until the walls of Jericho crumble.

Every day, I’m honored that I have earned my badge, my Bata Blanca (white coat), which means the world to me. I am proud to have been one of the seven (first) inductees of the ELAM Contingent of the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade. And I will always, in solidarity with Cuba, stand among and support the contingent of medical doctors of science and conscience (revolutionaries) that aim to serve and provide universal free health care to my community and those communities around the world. I salute you Cuba! (Viva Cuba!) I salute you the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade! (Viva la Brigada Medica de Henry Reeve!) Keep showing the world your light. 

Love Ya,

Have A Wonderful Day of Thanks!
 Melissa Barber

Day 21, 2019

Although I love Lilah’s creative expression, she chooses the most complicated designs that take what seems like an eternity to create and makes the house look like more of a disaster because we have to use so many different mediums and crafting materials for her one design.

Creative and Witty Ideas and Inventions (Side Hustles)

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Twenty First Day of Thanks!

Today I give thanks to God for the many creative and witty ideas and inventions, talents and side hustles that He has given me. They have always allowed me to reinvent myself and make the money I need(ed) to supply financial needs.Each year, Lilah and I start a project around the holidays.  Our projects may involve inventing our annual Christmas tree or making the Christmas presents that we are going to gift to others. Sometimes, because of our low funds in the midst of our great needs, our projects turn into entrepreneurial ventures (that usually surprise even us).  After being invited to our autistic parents’ Walk Out Ugly Christmas Sweater Party and venturing to make my own sweater for the party, Lilah and I decided that our project would be making what I coined “Pretty Ugly Christmas Sweaters.”  When I started making them and put a feeler out for whether people would like them or not as Christmas presents for their office parties, my cousin really hyped me up and said you should sell those. She came up with a quick marketing plan and suggested the pricing for the sweaters.  I was still not as convinced but was eventually sold when she said the extra funds could help with Lilah’s food and medicine for the month (which is always a bill that hovers like a dark cloud) or help me to pay the publisher to get my book printed for the masses.

Before I could say anything, she ran with the idea and even gave me $20 of seed money to start buying supplies.  I had seed (faith) money so there was no turning back at this point.  I ordered several sweatshirts, crafting supplies, Christmas materials, and made sure that Lilah and I would work around the clock to produce some insanely gorgeous, handcrafted “Pretty Ugly Christmas Sweaters.”  Lilah and I have had sweat in the game for the last several days to produce sweaters before the holiday parties this week.  Lilah has been beading, gluing and designing Christmas stockings all weekend (Yes, I believe in child labor because she is expensive and is benefiting from the funds!), while I do most of the heavy work of hand sewing and designing the layouts of the sweaters.  Although I love Lilah’s creative expression, she chooses the most complicated designs that take what seems like an eternity to create and makes the house look like more of a disaster because we have to use so many different mediums and crafting materials for her one design. (That is what I get for creating a fashion diva!) But, we have been having so much fun singing to some of our favorite music tunes, while doing the crafting we love for hours.  And if I do say so myself, we have created some of the most pretty, artistic Ugly Christmas Sweaters around town. 

As we have been working on the sweaters, I have been truly grateful for the blessing of God’s provision.  I was just asking God in prayer days earlier to provide a way for me to get all of the necessary funding for the onslaught of bills (especially Lilah’s food, life insurance and publishing bills) that usually drown me around the holidays and the New Year.  And no sooner than I prayed the prayer, here was an idea that could utilize one of my skills (talent) and seed money to get started.   Interestingly enough, God’s track record with me has been consistent in providing the ideas (and sometimes the seed money) and the practical ways to get what I need done.  [God has always given me a seed and basically says go multiply it.  I ain’t mad at the people who get the instantaneous miracles. It has just never been my story. I hope one day that is my story so that I can know God in that facet too.] In high school and college when I needed some extra money, in addition to my jobs, I would use my hair salon dryer to do wash and sets on hair or braid it to get bills paid.  In later year, I would plan menus and cook entire meals, edit papers and dissertations, crotchet something, make earrings, help people buy clothes (in another lifetime, I would have been a great fashion buyer!).  The ideas were always on time, they always involved my inherent talents or skills and the funding they created always met the need.  God is good!Today as we give thanks for the creative and witty ideas and side hustles that almost always save us financially, I’d like to highlight the organization Art & Creativity For Healing (Front Page – Art & Creativity for Healing).  Their mission is to support emotional healing through art and creative expression for those who are living in pain, dealing with grief, depression, stress or anxiety. Please think about give your time and resources to this amazing organization so that they can continue doing great work for their clientele. 
Front Page – Art & Creativity for HealingSupporting emotional healing for injured veterans, ill children, abused women and military families through art …

Day 20, 2019

One of the best parts of the night was taking a walk down memory lane and reminiscing on all the wonderful, awe-inspiring, tear-jerking, sometimes sad and sometimes absolutely crazy moments that we had lived through in the 20 plus years of our friendship.

Birthdays

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Twentieth Day of Thanks Everyone!

As you all know, Lilah and I love birthdays. And we, like most black folk, celebrate for the entire month. Recently, I drove down to Delaware with one of my besties to celebrate the 40th birthday of our other bestie at a Brazilian steakhouse. We ate until our hearts were content—a full salad bar, lamb, rib eye steak, sirloin steak, sausages, chicken or steak wrapped in bacon. I’m not much of a meat eater but I know I’d be in heaven with all of the choices they had available for us.  Not only was the food great but the company was amazing.  I saw people who I had not seen since my college years (which was a long time ago!)

My bestie and her family are my family.  I saw dad, my younger sister, my auntie, my in-laws and my nephews (who I can’t believe are growing so fast before my eyes).  Because my bestie is a teacher, in addition to the games we played, we had pages of fun facts and trivia of the year she was born. We took cute photos, had tilted wonder woman cake (that was a good cup of diabetes all by itself!) and watched mama open her presents.

One of the best parts of the night was taking a walk down memory lane and reminiscing on all the wonderful, awe-inspiring, tear-jerking, sometimes sad and sometimes absolutely crazy moments that we had lived through in the 20 plus years of our friendship.  We had so much fun in college!  We went on vacation for the whole summer in Puerto Rico together one year and had a blast. In college, among all of our friends, we all knew that my bestie turning 40 that night would be the first one of us to get married and have children. So imagine the surprise a few years after graduation when she called me and said, “I have something to tell you!” My reply was, “I have something to tell you too!” Her next response was, “you’re not going to believe my news!” I said, “You’re not going to believe my news either!” She said, “I’m pregnant!” I said, “I’m pregnant too!” We just started laughing like crazy.  The laugh was because I was due first. (In college, I was voted as the last one of my friends to have children, if I ever had one!) Interestingly enough, my nephew came prematurely and was born 4 days before Lilah. (When I spoke to my bestie, I told her, “We said you were going to be first!) And both of our kids are baby huey, looking like full grown adults as teenagers. (SMH!) One year, my nephew had a bowling party. Lilah got so fascinated with the bowling balls going down the lane, she decided to chase one and running after her, I busted my butt and slide all the way down the lane trying to catch her. (Now, Lilah is something kinda fierce in bowling so that fall was well worth it!) I’ve been there for weddings, baby showers, christenings and any other occasion you can possibly think of, as well as a funeral.  We just recently lost her mom. When the night was over, we (semi) decided that we would do the next round of birthday play dates to celebrate other besties in January.  

We all looked amazing and were aging like fine wine. I love birthdays.

Today as we give thanks for birthdays (having life and aging another year), I’m highlighting the organization, Dream Foundation (https://www.dreamfoundation.org/). Their mission is to serve terminally-ill adults and their families by providing end-of-life Dreams that offer inspiration, comfort and closure.  As you are thankful for one more day of life, please give your financial donation or volunteering skills to this organization to make a person’s dream, while nearing the end of their life, come true. 

Love Ya, Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Day 19, 2019

After I learned about one of Delilah’s most recent episodes of serving up that dish, I asked God, frustrated, where in the world does she get that temper from and why does she act like this? God’s reply was, “You, of all people, don’t know from where she gets her temper!”

Deliverance from Old Ways and Bad Habits

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Nineteenth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Good evening all, I just realized that I sent the wrong version of Day 19 to you all by accident.  I’ve been having trouble with my laptop and had to switch between phone and laptop several times to complete this day. In my hurry, I must have copied and pasted the wrong version. I guess no one realized that it wasn’t complete. (Please forgive me and receive the corrected version.)

Today, I give thanks for deliverance from old ways and bad habits. I thank God that I am not the old Melissa I used to be; I’ve been transformed so much that I almost didn’t remember (actually, completely forgot) who my old self used to be.   

For all you parents out there, have you ever had a moment when your child(ren) behaved in a certain way and you ask yourself “where in the world do they get that from?” Then, God gives you the side eye and starts laughing and gently reminds you that their wratched behavior comes from you. I recently had one of those moments. 

My beautiful, sweet, kind, lovely Ms. Diva (Delilah Christina) has a serious temper (that turns into rage quickly!) when someone makes her upset. Her upset usually occurs during her menstrual cycle time or when people take her food from her and tell her that she can’t have food.  She will deliver a serious whipping on somebody in that fight-now-talk-later kind of way that will completely take you by surprise. And she is no respecter of persons when it comes to serving up that dish of “whip butt”.  After I learned about one of Delilah’s most recent episodes of serving up that dish, I asked God, frustrated, where in the world does she get that temper from and why does she act like this? God’s reply was, “You, of all people, don’t know from where she gets her temper!” 

Admitting my truth, I can say that I used to have a really bad temper that would go from zero to one thousand amps (in a second) too.  But, in my defense (if I even have one to stand on), my temper existed way before Delilah was born and she has never seen it. (Talk about generational curses being passed down a family lineage!) I was delivered from rage about three or four years before Lilah was even born so we are talking about the “old Melissa” of at least twenty years ago.  It’s quite intriguing that Rage was something so long ago in my past that my new self completely forgot that my old self existed.  It was only through a recent encounter that I had with a particular person that reminded me that the “old Melissa” was trying to surface and destroy my livelihood.

Recently at work, I had an encounter with my boss that was very verbally and emotionally abusive toward me.  In the first part of the encounter my boss spent 30 min yelling at me at the top of her lungs in her office with another staff person there, trying to convince me of a point that she was trying to make of which I didn’t agree.  I stayed quiet and only spoke very softly to interject that she should not put words or thoughts into my mouth that I had not expressed.  Half way into the incident, when she would not shut up but kept screaming, I started to see red. (That’s when I knew that if I didn’t leave her office things would take a really bad turn for the worse.)  I finally had to let her know that I was done tolerating the yelling and had to get back to finishing a report I had to send before my work day was complete. Pissed off, I left her office which is down the hall from mine and went to finish my report. Ten minutes later she left her office and came to mine to start round two of her yelling episode. 

I could not believe that she was provoking another encounter for a second time, literally ten minutes later. I tried to stay calm. She was yelling much louder, she was moving much closer to me and she was now in front of other staff and a new pregnant intern that we had just received. I was livid! I knew things were really bad when I started having an Ally McBeal moment and started to calculate if she was close enough for me to grab her by her neck and start ripping out pieces of her throat before I did the real damage I wanted to do. During her yelling fit, the last straw for me was when she made a few verbally abusive statements about my intellectual capacity (or lack thereof) and accused me of not being a “team player.”  In a real calm voice, I told my boss, “I’m going to need you to get out of my face and stop yelling at me because this is no longer going to go well.”  When I’m really angry and I remain really calm and talk in a calm voice, it means I’m in the worst stage of rage, which is attack mode.  At that point everything in my psyche says to me that I am in a hostile, threatening environment and I need to at all cost protect and preserve my life. (It’s a real dangerous place for me and the other party involved because my reaction provokes and reaches the point of no return.)

In that moment, I literally started begging God to help me not to do something that would put me in prison for the rest of my life. I mumbled the prayer, “Please send your angels to hold me down to this chair and put a force field of your presence to surround me so that I can’t move from where I am and hurt her.” I love it when God answers prayer immediately. In that moment, I felt his presence and a peace so strong just surrounding me. I was able to calm down and rest in that presence for a few minutes and tune out my boss’ yelling completely.  But fifteen to twenty minutes into that second encounter, I said to my boss, “I’m done. I don’t want to hear any more.”  She started to say something else but stopped herself and said, “No, I won’t say that.” My reply was “Thank you.” I turned away from her to my computer screen and proceeded to finish my assignment. At my designated time to leave work, I picked up my things and left.  It took me almost three days to calm down.

Although I was angry, I was so proud of myself. I passed the test! I remained calm. I didn’t react violently or hurt anyone. I didn’t quit my job.  In my time of trouble, I called on my rock and He delivered me from my trouble and all my fears. (Whew! That was close.) The most breath-taking part of this experience was that it literally took place two days after I asked God from where Lilah got her temper. God had to show me who I was and what I was capable of doing.  And how, by God’s grace and mercy (and, of course, my willingness), I am a new (transformed) creature in Christ. Old things have completely passed away. 

I learned some valuable lessons from this experience. First, I needed to be reminded that my deliverance from rage was real and that I wasn’t that old person who responded in the same way.  Second, I had to practice my faith and forgive and release my boss for the wrong she did to me. Since I did not want to waste energy on harboring anger or holding bitterness, I had to run to the feet of Jesus and ask Him, repeatedly, to help me to release the anger that I felt about the situation to forgive her.  I have since forgiven my boss. (Later, we were able to talk about the situation and I maturely and professionally warned that it could never (and would never) happen again.) Third, I became aware of the generational curse of Rage that was handed down to Lilah, without my knowing it.  My mother has an issue with rage. I was delivered from rage about twenty years ago. And here Lilah was having the same issues with it too. (Talk about curses being passed to the third and fourth generation!) I now know that I have to do the work of renouncing the spirit of Rage and getting it out of Lilah’s life so that it doesn’t become part of her life’s normal fabric.  She as well as her generations will walk in total and complete freedom! (Amen.)

Just so that I knew my deliverance was solidified, several weeks after this incident, I had another situation with someone else that involved her treating Lilah inappropriately (really bordering on abuse). Again, everything inside me screamed to react because someone messed with my baby. But once again, I stayed calm and handled the situation maturely.  Another test passed!  (I love having victory over the enemy!)

Today, I’m not going to highlight an organization but ask that you reflect on the many great things you have been delivered from.  Get excited and have your own gratefulness dance break. (Praise God!)  

Love Ya,Have A Great Day of Thanks!

Day 18, 2019

Although I knew he was visually impaired, it was not until that very moment that I was made aware that I never realized (and even took for granted) that he couldn’t see me. For months, he was vulnerably exposed to trust me to be his eyes for countless tasks, never knowing if I would or was doing the right thing by him or not.

Hands That See

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Eighteenth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today I Give thanks to God for beings so creative and imaginative when creating us human beings; our bodies can do such amazing things. We have eyes that can hear, ears that can feel, noses that can taste and hands that can see. 

This year I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet and work with a new intern at my job.  I wanted to look at my boss real side-eyed when she told me that this new intern was coming, because I knew that she and our office were in no way really ready to accommodate all of his needs to work with us. Windows have been cracked for a semicentennial of years, wiring and nails are in the most random places; the fourth floor walk-up has a rare shaped banister.  Our computers would need additional software and programming.  Concerning serving his needs, the list of inadequacies went on.  Truth be told, I also knew that the work required to really accommodate him would suddenly sneak and fall [more like drop] into my lap, among the list of other jobs and task that had also found themselves there during the years of working for this company. 

If you haven’t guessed it by now, our new interns is a uniquely-abled person who is also visually impaired.  If you know me, you know that I treat him like I treat any other human being and that he (like my daughter) gets no passes for his impairment. The expectations of efficiency in tasks are still required. I love that visual impairment has not stopped him from pursuing his life goals, playing his guitar and booking gigs, and being a social butterfly. He has quite the personality and is an absolute riot (more like a hot mess!). He is really funny, quite the politician and has the gift of gab. For the several months that I have been working with him, I have learned so much about his world and how he “sees”, in addition to the many frustrations that present from a lack of sight. And it is nothing less than inspiring.

I have learned much about Fusion. Among its many functions, the software reads all documents, emails and digital information to him and magnifies his screen so that he can see as many shadows and figments on the screen to be a point of reference. But, I have experienced many frustrations with this software too.  While Fusion is very helpful, it is often incompatible with many other programs and has on more than one occasion wiped out and erased data from the computer which I have had to restore! (The hours of horror!) I was more perturbed with that darn program than the intern was who mentioned that he had been so accustomed to losing data that he had already learned to adjust and not get upset. (Can you imagine that?  Your norm being learning to adjust to missing stuff because a program you needed for your daily functioning has “personality” glitches?)

I have learned about the many opportunities available to people who are visually impaired to get funding for higher education. I’ve learned so much information about the many accessibility programs available.  It’s been another depth of education that I often wonder how it’s preparing me for the next season of my life. I think the most wonderful and important thing that I have learned is that hands do in fact see. Our senses have an incredible way of compensating for each other when functionality is lost. After months of working together, the intern asked me, “one day, not right now, will it be possible for me to touch your face, after I thoroughly clean my hands, so that I can see what you look like? I want to see if the image in my head matches what you really look like.”  

How mind-blowing a question on so many levels! Although I knew he was visually impaired, it was not until that very moment that I was made aware that I never realized (and even took for granted) that he couldn’t see me.  For months, he was vulnerably exposed to trust me to be his eyes for countless tasks, never knowing if I would or was doing the right thing by him or not. What trust! (I’m not sure that I could ever be that comfortable with trusting someone else that I didn’t know like that.) I took for granted that I usually look directly at someone’s face and into their eyes to determine if they were genuine or liars. This whole time, he couldn’t do that with me and I had no idea if he was using another set of criteria to determine who I was. I also thought what an honor that he would even want to see me! (You know–intelligent, loveable, adorable, sexy, cute, gangsta me!)

One day, he finally got his wish.  He said, “I’m ready. Can I touch your face now?” Of course, my reply was jokingly, smart, because I was a little nervous. “Did you wash your hands?” I stood completely still in front of him and guided his hands towards my face. His hands moved across my face, touching every crevice. He saw my flat big forehead. He saw my almond shaped eyes. I guess the size of my cheeks when I smile surprised him because he verbally commented on how big they were and contoured over them a third time to make sure that he really saw every detail about them. He then grazed over my mouth and chin too.

If I’m being honest, that was such a vulnerable, yet intimate moment.  I was allowing him to see every detail of my face and I couldn’t hide any of me or my flaws. I wanted to laugh that uncomfortable, awkward nervous laugh because what exactly do you say or do in such a moment when someone is getting to really, intimately, see you. But, I stood, silently, letting him see me, the person he trusted, blindly, when I’m sure he wanted to emit one of those awkward and uncomfortable laughs on many occasions as well.  It was such a pure and sacred moment. I never bothered to ask him if what his hands saw matched the image in his head. I decided to let the moment be and gave thanks for the awareness (for the first time) that hands, too, could see. 

Today, I want to highlight The 145th Street Alliance (https://145alliance.com/) whose mission is to advocate for pedestrian safety, economic access and accessibility services for the visually-impaired. Although they have done great work to advance their cause for several years, they are still working on getting their 501c3 status. The founder, Mr. Brodie Enoch, who is visually impaired, mentioned that the organization is in need of a technologically savvy person to help their website and social media presence as well as a person willing to be his eyes to read and navigate the 501c3 paperwork process. If you or anyone you know can help the organization, please help them and donate in any way you can.

Love Ya, 

Have A Great Day of Thanks!

Day 17, 2019

As complex as we make faith out to be, faith is really just seeing the future in advance and making a reality from your imagination. Spiritually speaking, faith is seeing what God knows and believing it, adamantly, enough to carry it out. It is being daring enough to accomplish a dream or goal (sometimes by a set time) not even knowing how you will get there.

Faith                       

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Seventeenth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today we give thanks for faith because it’s how we active dormant dreams and goals and really please God into trusting us to carry out His/Her perfect design for our lives and divine purpose.

As a child, I remember always having these big, lofty plans for my future. I knew at the age of 10 that I was going to be a doctor (I specifically wanted to be an OB/GYN).  By age 12, I planned to one day establish two community/social medicine clinics in the Bronx. By high school age, I knew that I wanted to travel the world and be a medical missionary.  During high school, I knew I wanted to globally impact the lives of women and children. Later, I knew that I wanted to write at least two books (hoping they’d be on someone’s best seller list). 

For a dirt poor, black woman from the South Bronx these were some pretty big plans. I had no money and no real support or guidance to be on any of those paths. But, I had something really simple called faith.  As complex as we make faith out to be, faith is really just seeing the future in advance and making a reality from your imagination. Spiritually speaking, faith is seeing what God knows and believing it, adamantly, enough to carry it out. It is being daring enough to accomplish a dream or goal (sometimes by a set time) not even knowing how you will get there.  

As I share this reflection, I can put a check mark by a few of those dreams/goals. Doctor. Check. Travel outside the US. Check. Medical Mission in Haiti. Check. Impacting the lives of women and children. Check. Wrote my first book. Check.  Of course, all of those dreams at the time I was imagining them seemed absolutely impossible. But, I just proved to you and myself that the impossible was and still is possible (eventually). And if we are being honest, doesn’t ever great achievement really start by someone believing or imagining it to be possible? 

It pains me to admit that I’ve been a little laxed lately in dreaming big because of the disappointment in having to wait so long to see things come to fruition. But as I write, I’m encouraging myself to get back in the game. I’m screaming to myself—“HAVE FAITH! DREAM BIG! TRUST GOD! You had faith for all those things before and got the necessary and effective results.”   

So what dream are you seeing in advance? What impossible goal do you want to trust God for in your near or far future? 

(I want my wall to wall bookshelf completed to start organizing the millions of books in my house. I want to make billions to do the kind of real philanthropy work that I want to do. I want to travel the entire world.  I want American Indians on reservations to have a better quality of life. I want to speak several other languages and interpret tongues. I want to sing again. I want God to use my hand to do miracles frequently. I want to crack the code to understand/cure autism so that millions will be healed from it. I want to settle down and get married. To name a few.)

Today as we give thanks for faith and the activation of dreams, big or small, I want to highlight the I Have a Dream Foundation (“I Have A Dream” Foundation) whose vision is to create a world where every child has equal access to educational and career opportunities that will ignite their innate potential. The foundation works to ensure that all children in under-resourced communities have the opportunity to pursue higher education, fulfill their potential, and achieve their dreams by providing tuition support, among other supports, to remove financial barriers. Please donate your time and money to this wonderful organization. 

“I Have A Dream” Foundation provides individualized social, emotional, and academic support to young people from low-income communities.

Love ya, 

Have a great day of Thanks!

Day 16, 2019

Silence: It can be captured in the pause of wind or breeze, the halt of traffic on a generally busy road, the moment just after a live performance ends and the burst of applause begins, the space between the notes of a song.

Silence and Sound

Authors: Dr. Carol Marie Webster and Melissa Barber

Happy Sixteenth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today, we give thanks for Silence and Sound and their ability to introduce us to the world and to ourselves. Please enjoy this reflection by Dr. Carol Marie Webster. 

At some point early in my life, let’s say somewhere between ages 6 and 8, I became aware of the role of silence in my life, specifically its impact on my sense of self and well-being.  And, while I likely would not have articulated it in this manner in my early years, it is fair to say that this awareness led me to search out, find, and bask in various manifestations of silence.  Without getting too philosophical, I define silence as a space of balance that is audible; it can be heard and thus felt.  With this definition it is clear that sound and silence are in a dynamic relationship. 

Sound: I was born in the 20th century during a time that smacking a baby’s bottom was the common technique used to jumpstart a baby’s lungs for breathing.  In this scenario the introduction to sound (hearing the smack on one’s own bottom), pain, and breathing happen within such close succession (at points overlapping) that the experience meld as concurrent events. Although the technique of jumpstarting a baby’s lungs has changed, the common human experience is to enter the world in full sound, where voice (our yells and screams) announce health and wellness, and preparedness for the journey of living.  In the beginning was sound; silence portends disaster. 

Painting By, Carol Sorhaindo

Yet, human relationship with sound begins before birth. From conception, humans bathe in the sounds of the inner workings of the body of the birth mother (the pumping of the heart, the movement of blood through the body, the expanse and collapse of lungs breathing) and the rhythm of the world outside the birth mother’s body.  It is here that humans begin to learn to understand some of the nuances of life and living and our potential role in it.  In the birth mother’s womb, with limited yet powerful abilities – through movement and chemical changes – babies participate in the life of she who incubates our delicate development.  But it is in entering the world that we lay claim to it and take ownership of our role as a member of the community of the living.  

Silence:  It can be captured in the pause of wind or breeze, the halt of traffic on a generally busy road, the moment just after a live performance ends and the burst of applause begins, the space between the notes of a song.  Silence is also in a caregiver’s humming, the exquisite rhythms of African and Afro-Caribbean spiritual drumming, and the unbridled laughter of children.  Silence is not in the hesitations of life – often filled with anxiety, hungers, unease, and unrest, but in the balance of life.  Silence is the presence of present: in the hum of a chant or prayer, the suspension in deep meditative rituals and in ecstatic ritual dances.   In silence we rest, rejuvenate, allow our cells to exhale, and enter into conversation with our deepest selves and with that which is greater than and beyond ourselves.  

On this 16th day of Melissa Thanks, I invite readers to search, discover, find, make, and/or invite silence into their life journey.  With this I encourage giving to Third Root Community Health Center https://thirdroot.org

Love Ya,Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Melissa Barber

Day 14, 2019

Honestly (the helper, care-giver, help-mate etc) they don’t want to Burden anyone, they end up talking themselves out of the help they need! I’ll fix my mess after I help so and so because they REALLY need MY help!!! because I guess I Am blessed, because after all I Am not as bad as __ or MY situation isn’t the same as ___.

Life, Mental Health Wellness and the Happiness Movement  

Authors: Melissa Barber and Irene Watson

Happy Fourteenth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today we give thanks for the Happiness Movement which promotes and encourages life and mental health wellness. In the midst of life’s daily dosage of pain and suffering, some of us know just how real the struggle is to stay happy and keep our joy. Sometimes, it’s even a wonder that we have managed to keep our sanity and find time to laugh.  

I asked my friend Irene Watson, the Happiness Movement Guru, to share a day of thanks with us.  In my text to her I said, “who better to talk about thanks for ‘happiness’ than the happiness movement guru or thanks for ‘health’ or ‘life’ than someone who had such a close encounter with God and death. I think my writing about it at the moment would be so pale in comparison.” I share that excerpt because most people who know Irene, my BFF and accountabuddy, know that she has an incredible testimony and is a walking miracle. We know her as the Happiness Movement Guru because in our Bronx Parent’s Autism Support Circle, she encouraged every member all the time to do self-care.  It’s where all of us adopted the idea of walk-outs (we leave our autistic children and families with someone for the evening so we can walk out to have a mental break and a self-care moment.)  She reminded us to have conversations about ourselves and “our” happiness and to stop talking about our children and their needs for just a moment. She had planners and worksheets and daily devotions dedicated to creating her Happiness Movement to go viral around the world.  And if there was anyone who could start a movement, especially about happiness, in spite of the crazy going on around them, in our minds, it was (still is) Irene. 

In a few weeks, Irene will be celebrating her first anniversary of being reborn.  At the beginning of this year, she had two major strokes, one hemorrhagic and one ischemic, at the same time in two different locations of her brain.  If truth be told, she should have never made it off anybody’s surgical table. BUT THERE IS A GOD! AND HE IS STILL IN THE BUSINESS OF HEALING AND SAVING!  It was the sweetest sound to my ears, when I called her husband a few days after her surgeries and heard her talking about me. As I was calling him, she was on the other side of the phone telling him to call me and tell me to pray and to bring her a bible. It is something, when someone knows that you and your crew of prayer warriors can bombard heaven with prayer to get the needed answers, outcomes and results!  (And, Yes we got to work and saw God answer every prayer!) The real amazement was that this was days after her surgery and a near death experience and she was coherently talking, without slurred speech. There weren’t even creases, droops, or visible signs in her face to prove she had strokes. 

When I got to the hospital the next day, God through her was showing off! God was showing us just what He was capable of—God is the giver and sustainer of life.  But, He was also warning us. If we didn’t slow down to let go of the stress and craziness that He didn’t give us, if we didn’t take the time to move into his divine purpose for our lives, if we didn’t stop pretending like we could hold the weight of everyone else’s burdens and never say “NO” or put our feet down and say “Enough is Enough!”  We were headed to a place of darkness from which there may not be a recovery. Or simply, God, in His divine wisdom, would slow us down and get us back on track.  

When I got to Irene’s room with her bible, my anointing oil, and ready to pray, she spoke words to me that will be forever etched into my heart. In addition to her deceased mother telling her that she couldn’t come be with her yet, she said that during her surgery God told Irene that she wasn’t going to die yet because she had a flock that He was calling her to and that she needed to get busy with the purpose to which He called her.  (Reassurance that no matter how hard the enemy tries to attack us and take us out, we are not going anywhere unless God says so and until we have accomplished our purpose for which we were created.) There was no more playing around. This experience was to get Irene’s attention and recalibrate her settings back to God and divine purpose.

God has blessed me beyond measure by allowing me to witness every miracle he has done in Irene’s recovery and rehabilitation.  Videotaping her walking the longest distance she had ever walked and climbing steps during her rehab in preparation for her hospital release had my heart beating in overtime.   I knew she was getting better when she resumed her Facebook posting.  Her hair has grown significantly from her hated, surgical buzz cut. Although, her handwriting is also improving by the minute, she has to do voice activated emails and text (which as you may know is sometimes horrific to understand in grammatical and spelling context). Anyway here is my bff’s share. Please welcome Irene Watson to the stage. Her message is voice activated so excuse all of the typos and just give thanks for the progress of where she is.

What “lies” behind that Smile…?

Come on, tell the truth! when someone looks good you really don’t listen as much when They cry out in pain for our help. Most times it’s that underline of needing our help (we know that chuckle that we ignore, because really there’s no way MY helper needs help!) Honestly (the helper, care-giver, help-mate etc) they don’t want to Burden anyone, they end up talking themselves out of the help they need! I’ll fix my mess after I help so and so because they REALLY need MY help!!! because I guess I Am blessed, because after all I Am not as bad as __ or MY situation isn’t the same as ___. There’s no limit to pain! And no one (that matters) is keeping score that you too (no matter the situation-cause after all your pain ain’t the same as someone else’s and you should never try to compare) is needing help out of YOUR bind too! There’s no Such thing as trivial pain. Real talk, sometimes their just too vain, they just gonna pray about it! (Without work) they can be tired, at the point of giving up and giving in or I’ll just say it, they just have too much pride! It’s funny, when they tell you that their hurt we say things we’re taught to say and know by heart “Girl you can do it! Your a warrior! If anyone can do it Lord knows you can!”, “I’m counting on you to see me through” Or “girl just pray, God has your back! He ain’t gonna give u more than u can bare!!! We talk about that “storm that brews, but trouble don’t last always!” “Theirs always a silver-lining behind that cloud!” Or the new one “girl, put your big girl panties on!” Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying there’s no truth in them words…lol And what do we do? We believe it and conceive it! We keep on keeping on! We just keep on moving, mind you, with OUR problems (that now continues to grow inward) and now THEIRS…(real talk! We only have our OWN cross to bare truthfully). mind you we never “fixed” our situation we just carried on…wow do you know what happens when we just carry on…Even a workhorse will breakdown from over usage!!! Now imagine your mind!!! What we’ve learned to do is take a temporary solution, mask it and made it real pretty and turned it into a permanent fix!!! Now we’re working the mess out of what we now have forgotten was only suppose to be temporary (or borrowed time) and we’re now making it Do what it Do (cause CANT nobody else do it!) and made it permanent-but then we wonder why in the end when it just doesn’t go right or it doesn’t always stay Gold… It stopped working! Oh the self imposed infliction we place upon ourselves! What we need to learn is the power of “Just say no!” Better yet “Go and Tell”…yes we the care givers etc. and the community Nurturers need to go out and find someone to talk to. Believe it or not our shoulders get weak too and it’s a lot. (actually more then we are truthful enough to say or know) Just think of that un-load! Nope we don’t need to give names and put nobody’s business in them streets lol! We don’t even always have to pay top dollar for self-care. While we’re trying to always be laid on the outside, we have a lot of fixing to do on our insides! We need to stop masking and pretending and without guilt or shame get the help we need or get our talk on while we do a nice meal and get our eat on with our true confidants, because not everyone with an ear has your back!!! Or wants your true intentions to come first. (Watch who you confined in! lol) Sometimes our answers comes in someone who can just Be Still themselves, be that shoulder or ear and can just truthfully listen (and they have a confidant lol). very often by just talking it out with someone else we can answer our own questions. Real talk y’all sometimes we have to say “Not yet or Not now”, “when is it DUE by”, “I’ll See” or give a “soft no”, “I’m not sure yet” or better yet “NO”. Sometimes it doesn’t even need that long winded explanation behind it that we often come up with (lol even that takes time!) Yes we often take a lot for granted when we see these proud peacocks strutting their stuff around looking all great! Wow! I wish that was me, they sure have it ALL together! Their grass is green, we assume…they look well, they smell well, and they’re moving well…but what really “Lies” behind that smile? You know in truth we can use the same voice, tell the same story and even use the same energy but in the end of our story it’s really and truly up to only us to be the victim or to be victorious by its outcome! There’s always room for a lesson and a smile believe it or not lol often even a Tilted one – what’s your 3 What Went Wells for today? We forget that suit (their cross) was made JUST for them and we wouldn’t even stand a chance in it, it’s a well designed suit (their Cross). We need to, if anything, find out if it is a permanent fix or a temporary solution…the better question to ask THEM is “Are you truly FEELING well. I’m talking inside and out??? Why not ask them? You just might be surprised by their answer. 

Today I’d like to highlight the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (https://adaa.org/) that is dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders through education, practice, and research.  They have a host of information for the public and professionals and have a ton of resources to get help if you (or anyone you know) are experiencing any bouts with any mental conditions. Please donate to this organization. Additionally, be the giver of life today through a smile, a kind gesture or even asking someone if they are feeling and doing okay. (And make sure that you wait around for their response!)Love Ya,Have  great Day of Thanks!

Day 13, 2019

In the military there is an acronym we used at times, K.I.S.S. – keep it simple stupid. It sound simple but not always. What’s the straightest line between A – Z?

Simplicity

Authors: Joe Olivet and Melissa Barber

Happy Thirteenth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today we give thanks for simplicity and its ability to make us innately aware of the small, yet beautiful things in life. Enjoy this sharing of thanks from Joe Olivet.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, simplicity is defined as the “state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded.”

I aim to live my life like this. I aim to guide my children to live their lives much the same way.I aim to value the simple things in life – a quiet moment, an open field, fresh snow, the time after it stops raining, the time in my car driving home, an episode of Seinfeld, etc.

In the military there is an acronym we used at times, K.I.S.S. – keep it simple stupid. It sound simple but not always. What’s the straightest line between A – Z?

I stress simplicity to my students, their parents, co-workers, etc. Again, it sounds simple but not always.

I have always told my oldest child to keep it simple – drink your water, keep your circle small, mind your business, and work hard – keep it simple. Now that he’s 20, he is seeing the light – keeping it simple.

My second oldest child is an observer, just like me – she keeps it simple and follows her routine. At 17 she has learned to keep her circle small. However, she likes things so simple, she has become too rigid at times. We’re slowly working on going with the flow because we can only control what’s within arm’s reach. We’re making progress.

My youngest is five – we call her the destroyer (out of love). I’m aiming to find the middle ground with her. She appears to be very bright and things come easy to her (we attribute this to her older siblings). We stress to her to slow down and enjoy what’s around her. She’s a work in progress – we get a lot of “side eye” from her.

In our busiest days – remember to take a moment and look around – the simple bird flying by, the swaying of a tree in the wind, leaves blowing by you on a sidewalk. 

Remember… SIMPLICITY!

J. Olivet

As we give thanks for simplicity, we highlight the organization A Free Bird (https://afreebird.org/), which is a Brooklyn based non-profit that allows children from the ages of 6-18 who are patients or survivors of juvenile cancer and other chronic diseases to explore their artistic passions and do creative expression through the arts.  Please consider donating your time and resources to this wonderful organization. 

Love Ya, 

Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Melissa Barber

Day 12, 2019

He took time to play with them; he had three of the children constantly hanging off parts of his body from his neck to his legs. He took time to arm wrestle his oldest son of seven years old, who lost the arm wrestling battle because he was getting tickled at the same time.

Great Fathers 

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Twelfth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today, we give thanks to the amazing fathers and father figures who hold down their children and provide the much needed covering and guidance to make them great world citizens.

Lilah and I recently went to Orlando, Florida to visit my sister and her clan. During our visit, I got to see my nephew and his small tribe of four children, my grandnephews and grandniece. They are the most adorable, intelligent, and wholesome children in the world (and I’m not just saying that because their mine.) They really are!

One of the greatest things about my visit was seeing how much of a wonderful father my nephew is to all of his children, in spite of him not having his biological father present for him while growing up.  My nephew not only ensured that each of his children were provided with the necessities (food, water, shelter, clothes, and education), he made sure that each of them knew that he is and will always be very present in their lives, giving them individual and collective attention.  He took time to play with them; he had three of the children constantly hanging off parts of his body from his neck to his legs. He took time to arm wrestle his oldest son of seven years old, who lost the arm wrestling battle because he was getting tickled at the same time. (It was such a joy to hear his burst of laughter; I had to get it on video!) When that was all done, my nephew made sure that each of them had their country music and hip-hop dance break.  Each child got to display their fancy foot work and show how they mastered the latest moves. (OMG! Talk about my heart just melting watching how cute they were!)  

What was even more impressive to me was that, although the oldest two and youngest two children had different mothers, my nephew and my sister made sure that all of the children were raised together as an inseparable clan.  As it should be, there was no distinction in love or treatment between the four children (well except for the fact that my niece is the only princess and will probably be overbearingly guarded and protected by all the men in her life).  Every day after school, all the children were picked up by my sister and brought to her house until my nephew got off from work. During that time, they all spent several hours of quality time together and ate dinner together until they went home with my nephew or were picked up by their respective mothers. 

Despite the great lengths that my nephew has gone through to be an amazing dad and financial provider to all of his children, it pained me to hear that my nephew (without a lawyer) had to recently sit in a court crying as the oldest children’s mother actively ripped custody of his children away from him, out of greed and spite. (She doesn’t know that with that act she just brought fire to her doorstep! And because the devil is a liar and my nephew has in his corner a mother and an aunt who are some fierce prayer warriors, I’m guaranteeing that my nephew will regain co- or full custody of his children real soon!) As of this month, the court mandated that my nephew can only have his oldest two children once or twice a month when they are accustomed to being with him every day. (Pray for my grandnephews as they go through this short, traumatic experience!)  

I’m so glad that as we reunited as a family, celebrating and giving all thanks and praise on Thanksgiving Day, my grandnephews and grandniece got to experience the beautiful Christmas tree they begged for, great food, and one more awesome day of extreme love and fun with their awesome dad.

Today as we give thanks for great dads, I want to highlight the organization the Good+ Foundation (https://goodplusfoundation.org) which works to dismantle multi-generational poverty by pairing tangible goods with innovative services for fathers and low income families.  Once they discovered that   our culture, policy and social service providers were treating fathers as secondary, nonessential actors in children’s well-being, they expanded programming to intentionally include fathers. They believe that stronger fathers build stronger, more resilient families, which are the backbone of thriving communities. The more we invest in fathers, the greater impact we see on children and families as a whole. 

Love Ya,

Have a Great Day of Thanks!