One of the biggest ideas that came from the Cuban Revolution was that everyone, as a human right, should have access to healthcare and should have access to education. So Cuba has prided itself in making sure that these are very much pillars of its revolution, and that their people would always have access to that.
“In the South Bronx, Dr. Melissa Barber is putting into practice lessons she learned more than a decade ago from her training as a medical student in Cuba at the Latin American School of Medicine, or ELAM as it’s known by its Spanish initials. For Barber, healthcare doesn’t start with an ambulance ride to the hospital but with community organizing and a deep familiarity with the needs of one’s neighbors. Barber is also the coordinator for the U.S.-Cuba scholarship program that provides free medical school training in Cuba for aspiring doctors who commit to return and serve in their communities.”
In this year’s training ground, as I climbed further toward destiny, I realized that ALL of the users, deceivers, and life drainers have also been dead weight dragging me down and preventing me from feeling and getting that oxygen supply I needed to climb. The people in my life who only called me or appeared when they wanted or needed something kindly got told that they no longer had access or got completely cut off or blocked.
Letting Go of Old things (Embracing the New Season Ahead)
Author: Melissa Barber
Happy Thirtieth (and Final) Day of Thanks
“To be blessed by everything you hate, to shift from suffering to ecstasy of ache. This is your year to no longer be who you were, to rise from the embers, to be guided by Her. This is your year to be carried by grace, out of the matrix and away from the race. This is your year to be the clear-visioned goddess, to bear the heaviness of a crown, a sacred promise. This is your year to live the life of your dreams, to heal, to witness, to be the one who queens. This is your year to forever change the rest, to un-tame, to shift, to lead, and to live blessed. Woman, This is Your Year.” –Tanya Markul (2019).
Today, I give thanks for the ability to let go in all of the necessary areas of my life to embrace the God given destiny that lies ahead. This year has been one of the toughest years of my life. I literally cried in this 2019 New Year. As I sat at midnight, crying, feeling like I had been completely forgotten about and passed over, denied some of my truest heart’s desires, delayed in so many blessings, was financially spent and not feeling like God was anywhere to be found, I hoped that the moment wasn’t symbolically representing my year ahead.
I wish the crying and the depth of my heartache was only for that moment, but it lasted for days and weaved throughout the year such that it has seemed like an eternity. I lost significant people in my support system. Four days into the New Year, I almost lost my best friend. Thirty days into the New Year, I lost my mom, Nehanda. A few days after that, I caught a flu that had me down for at least two weeks. And overwhelming life situations just kept coming. Everywhere I turned, there was something new to address.
However, in the midst of the chaos and pain, I kept pressing and fighting to take one step at a time and live each day in the present. (And if most of you would also tell the truth, sometimes it’s all about getting through the day and not worrying about a tomorrow.) As I got through another day and another experience, climbing the mountain to my destiny, I’d hear the whispers of my soul telling me that there was something or someone else to let go. For those of you who climb heights, you know that the higher you go, the lower the air pressure, which makes it feel like there is less oxygen. If it feels like there is less oxygen, it’s more difficult to breathe, and thus, there is no room for dead weight and unnecessary excess. As I was climbing toward the top of my destiny mountain, I was starting to feel all of the dead and excess weight that I was carrying and suddenly it became too hard for me to breathe.
I wrestled with myself (and God) about keeping those dead weights because I’ve always had such a hard time letting go of people and things. But, the cutting off of my air supply meant I had to take drastic measures and do what I dreaded to do. I had to fight for me and my survival. So, this year was my training ground to get rid of all the dead weight and let go of the things, ideas, and people in my life that couldn’t be brought into my new season. This was the year that I stopped caring about what other people thought (about me or the decisions I made) and stood boldly, telling my truth, ideas and thoughts, whether other people liked them or wanted to hear them. This was the year that I couldn’t be convinced to stay in a friendship or situations that did not have my best in mind too. This was also the year that I listened to my soul as it gently reminded me that there was another closure needed in another area of my life.
Although this year’s journey has been filled with so much pain, heartache,tears, much prayer and restless nights, I have never known a freedom like this before. It’s the strangest thing to say that in the midst of so much pain, I feel freer. But, it’s true. Putting myself first, doing the things that I love and have always wanted to do, setting necessary boundaries, gave me my air supply back. I went to the ocean (Day 28) and got my second confirmation that I had to let go of my current job and finalized letting go of someone I really loved. My third confirmation about my job came on the last day of an orientation retreat I was hosting. (It’s always amazing how God will use an unsuspecting person to speak to your heart in the rarest of moments). It was about 3 am in the morning when my friend’s nephew starting speaking to me. He said, “You are such a hard worker and do some really amazing work with these students. It’s evident that you really love and care about them. But, you remind me so much of my mother.”
I asked him to explain why and how I was like his mother. He said, “You both are so passionate about the things you do and you take care of and sacrifice everything for other people. But, you both never take the time to sacrifice for your own selves and your own happiness.” I interjected (proud that I had spent much of the earlier part of the year doing the work to be intentional about solidifying my happiness and sacrificing for me) and said that I was making sure that I was taking care of myself too. He said, “If you were really taking care of yourself and sacrificing for yourself, then you would do and have done what you know you were supposed to do concerning this job. I can’t and won’t tell you what to do because only you can make that decision for yourself. But, there is no reason that you should be stuck here, making this ridiculously low salary when you have a family to support and talents way beyond what this has to offer you.” (Talk about an ouch moment that was all God speaking through this 22 year old man child!)
Everything he was saying was completely right. Earlier in the year, I had to set hard boundaries about my work hours because I needed to hustle to find ways to complete other projects to make money. When I signed on to my current job years ago, I agreed to do thirty hours per week. The thirty hours easily became fifty to sixty (or more) hour weeks; the extra twenty to thirty hours of which I never got financially compensated. I worked for seven years without ever getting a raise or a financial bonus, even though my work significantly increased and I suddenly took on the work responsibilities of the many people who left. I had been doing the work of two to three people for a long time and saw no relief or help in sight. On my salary alone, I could not support my family and survived off of my credit card to make ends meet. (I’m in a ridiculous amount of debt now because I didn’t make the choice to leave much sooner.)
Each time I thought to leave my job, I thought of all the students and how my leaving would impact them. Most everyone who is familiar with my program convinced me that I needed to stay because I was doing great work. Or, I had negotiated something for the program and didn’t want anything in the new negotiations to fall apart because there would be no one to pick it up. In essence, I thought of myself as too important or essential and let others convince me that my role was such as well. Ultimately, the truth is that regardless of how difficult a transition would be for my job if I left, I am, in fact, replaceable and there is always someone else who can learn to do the job. And this job should have been paying me accordingly as the work and demands increased but it had not and was not thinking about compensating me for all of my work.
As you could imagine, after that 3 am conversation, I had a great deal of thinking and decision making to do. God had spoken loud and clear through this vessel he had chosen. Here was yet another area in my life of which I needed to let go of something to embrace new opportunities for my own business growth and development as well as financial wealth.
In this year’s training ground, as I climbed further toward destiny, I realized that ALL of the users, deceivers, and life drainers have also been dead weight dragging me down and preventing me from feeling and getting that oxygen supply I needed to climb. The people in my life who only called me or appeared when they wanted or needed something kindly got told that they no longer had access or got completely cut off or blocked. The bitter people, like my mom, who couldn’t get completely cut off but who only had negativity to spread got placed in a location that was at longer than arms distance away and loved from there. Tiny feats I conquered gave me a little more of my lung capacity back.
I discovered that I was being completely deceived and undervalued by someone who I thought loved and claimed to love me. He had a secret life with a wife and child in it and, I guess, imagined that my love for him would allow him to play games and have me take second place and receive his sloppy seconds. While Love can make people entertain and contemplate dumb and crazy things, I was way past the stage of being that kind of stupid for a man. And as much as my actions shocked the heck out of us and the people around us, I let him go too. I ignored his “I love you” and “you mean everything to me” messages. I stopped entertaining his suggestions of meeting to discuss things. I had to tell a member of his family that I did not need or want updates on his life or for him to be a middle man to filter me information. I was really done. (Can you imagine me co-signing to get someone’s sloppy seconds? Puhlease! That V-8-dose of mental clarity-couldn’t come quick enough!) That move gave me so much more of my lung capacity back to climb further up my destiny mountain. I took all the time I needed to purge myself and my heart of that situation, continued to work on decluttering my life, and have become more open and intentional about meeting and dating people. (I’m taking it slow but it’s been going really well in that department so far.)
One of the hardest things I’ve had to remember (and learn) during this season of training is to look for resources and blessings to come in the most unexpected ways and from the most unexpected people. I found myself depending on specific people who committed to do certain things for me but all too often found them MIA when they needed to produce. Some of these were great people, who were totally reliable and dependable before, which allowed me to trust in them. But, I’m sure you can image my heartbreak when they didn’t come through and didn’t even give an explanation of what happened and why they didn’t come through. I prayed about these situations so that my heart was full of forgiveness and that God would provide a ram in the bush. God did it every time and whispered another valuable lesson to my soul. Instead of counting on/depending on specific people to be my source, I had to remember that God is. (He will always be my ultimate source for everything in my life!) That is going to be a nugget that I will have to keep near and dear to me as I charter into the new, unchartered territory of this coming season. My spiritual ears and sight will have to be so fine-tuned to not miss even the smallest of crumbs from God’s mouth and hands.
So this new season I’m expecting and embracing involves the reaping of the fruit from the decades of years that I have sown seeds and watered them with my sweat and tears. A new job(s) is/are coming that will increase my finances three fold (and get me out of this debt!); I’m working on doing some things that I have always wanted to do and am passionate about. (Yay!) I have about $1100 more to give the publisher so that my book will be printed and released. (And I don’t think I’ll have to resort to dancing on a pole or being a lady of the night! I have faith that the book is going to be released much sooner than later because I know and believe that the resources are coming even as I write.) When my book is released, please support it and find your way to my book signing/release party. Start saving your money now for bus, plane, or train tickets to NY because I want you all here to celebrate that moment of destiny with me. Be prepared for a real party too!
(What if it’s a best seller that jump-starts our thanks movement onto a national and international platform? Hey! ya never know! Eyes have not seen, ears have not heard nor can minds comprehend the great things God has for those who love Him.)
I’m willing and expecting for God to blow my mind.
Ms. Diva, Delilah Christina, has had some challenges this year but God has been so faithful. Her mama remains the fiercest advocate for her that she will ever know. She remains completely successful on her keto diet (when maintained by the other caretakers in her life). Her seizures have been kept to a minimum; she is finally on prescribed Epidiolex (which now saves me $300 out of pocket every 3 weeks. Hallelujah! because that financial burden was drowning me). She is working on job training skills in school, still loves fashion and modeling and will officially become an adult in about ten more months. We’ll have to start the guardianship process soon. (Please pray that there will be no hiccups or hindrances but a smooth process.) I’m still expecting God to blow my mind with her complete healing and fluency of speech. I know that the dream I saw of her on the platform of that packed out stadium singing and declaring some things that shook the earth completely awaits her and I can’t wait to see it with my own eyes.
Today as I give thanks for letting go of old things and embracing a new season, I ask that you highlight your own organization to give. (Sure, it can be one previously mentioned on the journey that you haven’t given to yet.) I also encourage you with the words of one of my favorite Toni Braxton songs: “Let it go, let it flow, let it flow, let it flow. Everything’s gonna work out right, ya know.” I’ll keep you posted and can’t wait to see you all at the book signing party.
On this Christmas Day, I give all thanks for the real reason of this season, the coming of a Savior (My savior), Jesus.
I understand that many of you reading this reflection today may not be Christian nor share the same faith as I do (It’s okay!). I would still ask that you indulge me and keep reading as I share why I give thanks for a Savior and symbolically celebrate this Holiday season.
In my (every day)acknowledgement of how much of a complete mess I am, there is so much comfort in knowing that I am not alone to do life by myself but that I have someone (Jesus) who walks out life with me and saves me from myself and all the dis-eases that this life brings me. Imagine being in the deep of a body of water and a tide comes in to over take you. The first thing you do is fight for survival. In that very instant, your will to fight prevents even a life guard from helping you because your fight mode will probably drown the life guard too. So, the life guard waits until you have exhausted your fight and you are at the end of your rope, and with little to no strength left to survive, the life guard pulls up and gives you a lifeline. He saves you and brings you back to shore. This is what Jesus’s coming did for me. When I was about to drown in all the messes/mistakes/failures of my life, Jesus threw me a life line, transforming my life, and said (John 10:10)” I am come that you might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
The awesome thing about the lifeline is that it came with three types of life: a new life, an abundant life and an eternal life. The new life washes my slate completely clean. It says forget about the old junk, you can start completely afresh. Jesus says I’ve saved you from all your past, present and future sins. The abundant life means that I can do more than just survive, but that I can be intentional about living my life on purpose and with meaning every day. Jesus saves me from worry, fear, doubt, guilt, mistakes, unforgiveness, living a purposeless life, just to name a few things. The eternal life (as Pastor Sheryl Brady eloquently says) means that i have God’s retirement plan attached to my life that secures even my future.
Have you ever needed guidance and a little nudge to get to the next phase of your life? I have found myself (on many occasions) not knowing what to do or where to go next and completely overwhelmed by having to make decisions or figure things out on my own. Jesus, my savior, stepped in once again and gave me guidance and shed light on my path. Jesus reminds me (John 8:12) “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” I cannot tell you of the countless times that I prayed and asked Jesus to “let there be light” on a situation or to “open my eyes, Lord, so that I can see and receive the plan or blueprint that you have in mind.” And no sooner than I asked, did I receive what I asked for. Jesus guided me to the next phase in my life, showed me the next thing I was supposed to do, or opened the door for another opportunity that blessed my life. And it was right on time.
My savior, Jesus, is the ultimate when it comes to healing me of all my wounds and hurts (even the deep ones that I often hide from the world), without condemning me. I know that may be really hard for some of you to believe because you have met (on many occasions) so called Christ representors who do a great deal more of judging and condemning than loving. But, hear Jesus’s words for yourself. (John12:47)”If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Jesus’ ultimate plan is to not condemn or judge you but to love you into salvation. [Take and receive this message if you can’t grasp anything else that I write.] Jesus is a Healer and does heal us from ALL manner of diseases. [My proofs: Delilah (hormonal imbalance, multiple seizures, soon autism and the rest of those seizures), Irene (double strokes), Shamika (rheumatoid arthritis), Neida (cancer), Bill (Kidney disease]
Do you see why Jesus is my reason for the season and why I get so excited that the angel announced(Luke 2:10-11) “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Jesus transforms my life; Jesus illuminates my path and guides me; Jesus gives me the blueprint for my divine destiny; Jesus heals me. And, most importantly, Jesus saves me.
Today as i give thanks for Jesus, my Savior, i invite you to know this Savior, if you’d like, so that He can do the same things for you that He does for me. Be blessed and enjoy the rest of your Christmas day.
Knowing that I was completely overwhelmed, over-stressed and under-helped, but pressing to achieve excellence, my Mama and sisterhood sponsored me to attend the annual Soul Sister’s Retreat in Los Angeles, California. They knew that this Sister’s Retreat would rejuvenate me, give me clarity, and send me back into the belly of the beast with reminders of how loved, cherished, and supported I am. Because I had no idea what to expect going to this retreat, before arriving to LAX, I vowed to be open to see/hear/feel everything within the experience. There was not one activity, workshop, presentation or experience that did not make my heart sing.
I love music and to sing from the depths of my soul; it has been something that has gotten me through my entire life. So, the fact that I was immersed in music during the entire retreat (as I learned more about sisterhood, as I was given tools to continue conquering life, as I got free, as I let go of some big weights and as I forgave a little more), I allowed the “Spirit of the Lord to be upon me” and I basked in that glory the entire weekend.
One of the greatest moments of the retreat took place at 5am. (Crazy right?) Each day, there were droves of carpoolers that crammed in cars just to get to our morning activity. After a 10 minutes drive, we made it to the endpoint of our journey. Moments later, we were engulfed in sand, feeling the cool wind hitting our faces and hearing the sound of the crashing waves hit the shore. Our morning activity involved music (again), several stretching exercises, and emotionally liberating activities with a partner. After the activities, most people stripped and ran into the ocean. (That was not happening for me because I was cold!) I kept all of my clothes and layers on. One of my soul sisters commented that I should get rid of some of my layers because I looked like I was stifled and carrying too much weight.But, what she didn’t know was that as I stood flat footed before the ocean with my arms wide open and my ankles and feet buried in the sand, I let the sun kiss my face; I had a talk with God and I let the ocean purify my soul. The ebb and flow of those waves were so calming to me; they soothed my aching heart.
For the first time in a long time, I partook in the ritual of going to the water and laying all my burdens down. In those remaining minutes, I had a conversation with God and told Him about each of my troubles. I even asked for the healing of my broken heart. As I cried tears for all of those burdens, I decided that it would be my last time crying over them. As I was cleansed, I finally found the courage and the strength to let go of those troubles and threw each into the water. Symbolically, I let the ocean carry them away.
That trip to the ocean was such a pivotal moment; it defined a shift in my life and declared a new season. I was released from my old season and everything that was attached to it. (That old season consisted of many dark nights of sowing in tears, sacrifice, deceptions, heart brakes, denials and more delays.) This new season was the joy that comes in the morning and I needed to make room for it.
I not only left the ocean freer that day, I moved one step closer to divine destiny.
Today as I give thanks for the ocean and its ability to purify, I highlight the organization Charity: Water https://www.charitywater.org the spring) whose mission is to get clean drinking water to people in developing countries. They’ve funded 38,113 water projects for 9.6 million people in 24 countries around the world. In the last nine years, the organization dug more than 16,000 water projects, raised more than $200 million from donors, and set new standards for donor engagement and public communication. 100% of all the money given by donors goes directly to the water projects. Please give as much as you can to this wonderful organization.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I started getting the onslaught of rolls (those things men jokingly call love handles) on the sides of my abdomen that started rounding out my pleasantly plump figure into a nice pear shape (SMH!) and body changes that involved smells that I have never experienced before.
Today I give thanks for the humor that is associated with aging. (One day each of you will be able to relate.)
Many of you who know me are very acquainted with my tales (or woes) of peri-menopause. You know that I panicked every time my menstrual cycle would come and I’d wake up with a pregnant woman’s elephantitis, heavy bleeding that I termed the red sea because I’d soak through my keeper and size 5 Always-overnight pads in less than an hour, a migraine over my right eye that was out of this world, bouts of wooziness that were indicative of ridiculous spikes in my blood sugar and a belly that looks like I have two new butt cheeks that are bigger than the butt cheeks on my backside (which I never imagined was possible!)
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I started getting the onslaught of rolls (those things men jokingly call love handles) on the sides of my abdomen that started rounding out my pleasantly plump figure into a nice pear shape (SMH!) and body changes that involved smells that I have never experienced before. (No more fabrics that don’t entail the one and only breathable cotton!)Now, just about every joint in my knee has a crackling pop sound, climbing the stairs to my jobs’ four story walk up seem like an almost impossible venture (every day) and I have a straight line of white whiskers at the very front of my hairline. The icing on the cake is that I have now entered into the era of the Cough-Sneeze-Laugh Pee syndrome where pantiliners are an absolute must to grab the dribbles of pee that seep out for every cough, every laugh, and every sneeze experienced in a day and wipes to freshen up throughout the entire day. (I can not go out smelling like pee every day!)
The discovery of all these new and wonderful changes has been nothing less than humorous to me. I crack up every morning as I shake my head and discover a new change with aging and that all of the older women in my life dupped me because they never told me all of this would be my wonderful gift with age.
During my last visit to my primary care physician, she was doing a gynecological exam and discovered a miniature polyp on my cervix. When I asked her, “how in the heck did that get there?” She said, “I’ll give you a print out of papers that will explain it to you” because I’m sure she was really too embarrassed to tell me what the paper said. The paper’s explanation started, “with aging . . .” and in the middle somewhere said “lack of use.” I really had to shake my head then! That damn paper had the nerve to tell me (what I think most sane woman hate to hear or dread) that my coochie was OLD and UNUSED!!!! [Really shaking my head now!]
Lord, have mercy! I just entered the phase of life where the adjectives most description of my vagina was associated with the words “OLD!” and “UNUSED!” and I’d be caught in the cross hairs of the jokes of one of those raunchy comedians who always mentioned “I don’t want no OLD coochie!”
Are you seeing the funny in all of this? I am. It’s a wonder that a woman can stay secure and balance everything while going through all of these changes. And Men are not exempt either–with their midlife crisis. (Their aim is not as strong and they pee too with their newfound hair spray ons and toupees!)
And honestly, I thank God every day that I don’t have to add hot flashes to the already mounting list of things. When I see my girlfriends talking to me and in mid sentence suddenly start to pour rivers of sweat from every orifice of their body and claim they wish they could immerse their entire bodies in a walk-in ice freezer for hours and that it still doesn’t change the hot like hell fire they are experiencing, I know there is a God that has truly spared me. And I also know that the torment of hell is not a place that I want to go or experience in my after life.
Hilarious! You have to laugh to keep you from crying or screaming.
Just recently I got this funny but true meme that listed the alphabet for seniors that I want to share so you can laugh even more about some of the changes you may be going through as you age. But, on a more serious note, Please find ways to get in shape, stay mental active, and eat healthily so that you don’t have to experience the onslaught of all these things at one time.
A: arthritisB: bad backC: chest painD: dental decay and declineE:eyesight decline (can no longer read the top line!)F: fluid retention and fissuresG: gasH: high blood pressureI: Incisions (and scars you can show)J: joints that are out of socket and won’t mendK: knees that crack when you bendL: loss of loveM: Memory and forgetting what comes next.N: Neuralgia in nerves way down lowO: osteoporosis, because bones no longer grow.P: Prescriptions because you’ll have a few; that pill will make you good as newQ: Queasy wondering if it’s fatal or a fluR: Reflux because one meal turns into twoS: sleepless nightsT: tinnitus for the bell ringing in your earU: Urinary incontinence and all the troubles with leaking flowsV: vertigo, dizzy you know.W: worry for what’s going roundX: Xray and what may be foundY: Years that you are left here behindZ: Zest that you still have in your mind
Cheers! Here’s to aging gracefully. Today as I give thanks for the humor that comes with aging, I’d like to highlight the organization Love for the Elderly (Love for the Elderly). Their initiatives and projects have brought joy to the lives of so many seniors. One of their projects consist of writing letters or sending cards to seniors in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospices and senior centers in over 66 different countries. Please consider writing a letter or donating some funds to put a smile on a seniors face.
Just recently, my daughter’s school needed basketball uniforms for their special needs team. I told the coach that I would call my friend Ernest, who was heavily involved in the basketball world, to see which sports companies were well known for their charitable giving, in hopes that we could solicit one of them for the uniforms. That evening, I got the biggest, best surprise of my life.
Don’t you just love surprises (good ones, not the bad ones!)? I remember when my great grandfather, after like 40 years of marriage, got my great grandmother another engagement and wedding ring. He was real broke when they got married so he gave her this real simple ring that she wore and was more than happy with for their entire marriage. (Although she loved the newer ring, she wanted to be buried in the first one for its sentimental value to her.) A few of us were in on the surprise and got all the information and stuff needed for Papa to execute his plan to give her this new ring. He did it up so well, let just say Mama gave him so real good loving that night.
That is probably one of the best good surprises that I have seen until recently.
Years ago during one of my great friend’s funeral, I met his best friend who I’ll call Ernest. During the funeral, in front of everyone, Ernest pledged to mentor and help my dead friend’s son, which I also wanted to do, so, afterwards, I talked to him to figure out how we could collaborate on helping my friend’s son. I gave him my contact information and told him to call me when he finished setting up the fundraiser or whatever project he planned so that we could makes sure my friend’s son had what he needed for college. Several days later, I received a call from Ernest. He spent less time talking about the fundraiser and more time asking about me. We talked for a little while and made arrangements to talk again after I came back from my trip to Cuba.
After my trip, Ernest and I talked several times, each time with him hinting that he wanted to take me on a date. (For those of you know how blunt I am, after a month or so of those hints, I said, “I’ve been hearing you say that you are going to ask me out on a date every time we talk, are you ever going to get around to asking me or are you trying to find out if I have a significant other?”) We finally went on that date and continued to be friends. In all honestly, I believe that when Ernest asked me on that date, he had no idea that the date would go really well or that he would eventually really like me and fall in love with me. (And he was not at all ready for any of that!)
During our friendship, I discovered that Ernest was not only a very shy person, but was a loner and had become very anger and bitter because he was deeply wounded in his personal life. His bitterness and wounded-ness often made him very mean-spirited in his words and caused him to set up barriers in his heart that keeps real love and friendship at a distance. He was also very selfish (I have never met someone that selfish in my life!). No matter how much I offered my genuine love and friendship, Ernest could and did not receive it. I always knew that there was a good person with a good heart somewhere in Ernest but still decided to walk away from our relationship because I didn’t want to spend more time being punished for something someone else did to him years before I had ever come along. It was very hard to completely walk away from him because he and Lilah had formed such a bond and were hard core buddies. (Go figure that when I was done and no longer wanted to be bothered with Ernest, Lilah wanted me to call him and pray for him! Initially, she also wanted to see him!)
I still offered my friendship and checked on him from time to time. (I’ve always worried about him because shutting people out like he does leads to such a lonely existence. Also, because his mom is so elderly and she is his world, I imagine that when she is gone, he will be all alone in the world.) I’ve always wished him the best, given him advice, celebrated his victories and encouraged him as best as I could but still kept my distance. If God revealed something concerning him, Lilah and I would always pray for him and let him know that we were covering him in prayer.
Just recently, my daughter’s school needed basketball uniforms for their special needs team. I told the coach that I would call my friend Ernest, who was heavily involved in the basketball world, to see which sports companies were well known for their charitable giving, in hopes that we could solicit one of them for the uniforms. That evening, I got the biggest, best surprise of my life. When I called Ernest to ask him which companies we should solicit, he asked me how many uniforms were needed for the team. I said that I didn’t really know but assumed no more than 15-20. Ernest, then, offered to sponsor the team and get the uniforms. When I tell you that my mouth was wide open for almost a minute (I kid you not) and that I was so shocked, I had to ask Ernest twice if I had heard him correctly. This was so unusual and unheard from Ernest (at least in my extensive knowledge of him.)
I was wondering what happened to the Ernest that I knew because this was not him. (You remember that I told you that the Ernest I knew was very selfish; he would have never done that.) The sponsorship of the uniforms wasn’t even the icing on the cake. Ernest asked for the school logo then designed and ordered reversible uniforms that cost at least $100 each. The designs were so breath-taking; I couldn’t stop smiling for a week. I texted Ernest and told, “if you were trying to impress me, consider me very happy, smiling and beyond impressed with you right now.” I got a smile emoji back. I literally have to apologize in front of the world for calling him selfish because obviously he is not that way anymore. In the last few months, as the uniforms were being made, we have had some of the best exchanges (he’s been surprisingly nice and really different during most encounters!) He let me know that because I wanted these uniforms for the team, he wanted to ensure that they would be my gift to the school. Talk about a good surprise! The uniforms have arrived and they are absolutely beautiful.
I really don’t know who this new person is but I really like this new guy and hope that he stays.
Today as we give thanks for good surprises, I would like to highlight the organization KEEN- Kids Enjoy Exercise Now https://www.keennewyork.org). They provide sports and arts programming to children with special needs year around. Please donate your time and financial resources to this organization.
Today I give thanks for the many dream teams (power couples) who build love, life and community together. God is so good and always on time! I was trying to gather my thoughts and write about this theme and center it around my Mama and Papi’s love and life story for a few days. Every time I tried to write, I’d get passed the introduction and get stuck. Since it wouldn’t go where I wanted it to go, I’d put it down and started working on another “Pretty, Ugly Christmas Sweater” or content for another theme of thanks. I started talking to God in my morning prayer and asked why this particular theme of thanks wasn’t flowing out of me like the others were. Several minutes later, at 5:04 am, I looked at my email and saw that my Mama had sent me her long awaited theme of thanks reflection. Guess what? (I don’t even have to tell you because you are about to read it for yourself.) She had the complete content of my theme of thanks sitting in my inbox. Talk about my mama always being in sync with me. All I had to do was be patient because the “perfect” story about my theme was coming and told by the woman herself. And thanks to another dynamite woman, who I had only heard about and finally got to meet two years ago, Ms. Tina Roberts, who encouraged me to stay focused and pursue the community center. She has the model of what I want and have dreamed of… the black marriage and community center wrapped in one. Please welcome to the stage my Mama, Ms. Kathyrn Hall-Trujillo and enjoy this reflection.
Today I am thinking about and thankful for the power of love. The longer I live, the more I continue to understand the different manifestations of this indefinable and unquantifiable force that can drown or wash us fresh…that can strip us of everything we hold dear or grow and nurture deep roots that connect us to the essence of life…sometimes all of the above and more.
When I think of the power of love, I think of Tina and Darrell Roberts. Their love has demonstrated to all of us who know and love them (even) before they became a family, how a family can become a strong foundation in building community. From the beginning, they defined “equally yoked” as their equal intention and commitment to building something endearing and enduring together for the benefit of families in their neighborhood. The requested gifts for their wedding reception were items for their new family community center.
I need to confess that I was happy for Tina on her wedding day but I was also sad because she was one of the founders and the administrator of the The Center for Community Health & Well-Being, home of Nia, the Birthing Project Clinic. I did not want to see her leave us because she was such an integral part of the Birthing Project. She was an extraordinary Birthing Project Sisterfriend and when we decided we needed to build our own clinic…we had all looked at her because she was the only one who had some hands on experience working in the medical field. And, she used all of her experience, compassion and sheer grit to do what had not been done before in the US. Nia became the first community based, not-for-profit, women of color (yes, we were a rainbow coalition), maternal and women’s health care clinic in the country!
However, from the beginning, Tina had always told us that her dream was to have a place for the children and their families. She would tease us and say the Birthing Project helps babies to be born as healthy as possible and I want to make sure their parents have what they need to nurture, educate and raise them.
As the Birthing Project was growing into The Center for Community Health & Well-Being, a full scope women health and social service agency, Darrell Roberts was directing other community based projects, such as St Hope Academy, Healthy Start and the Salvation Army Community Center. And, he was dreaming of one day having his own community center for families.
Then one day, the two discovered that they loved each other and the reason they were such great friends and colleagues is because they shared a dream. The rest is history. The fruit of their marriage has been the Roberts Family Development Center (RFDC). It is more than a dream for the two of them; it is something they are building to honor the legacies of the grandparents on whose shoulders they stand. The vision of the center is to provide services to the Greater Sacramento area that meet the individual needs of each family member. The services provide a holistic approach focusing on PreK-12th grade academic support and enrichment, parent education, and community involvement and advocacy.
The Center is nationally acknowledged as a model for educating, nurturing and supporting our parents and their children to envision and co-create the society we want for them. The programs that are offered there include: Freedom School, After School Program, Black Child Legacy, Teen Scene, Pacers Moving Forward and Parent Empowerment. Even though there are now seven service sites throughout Sacramento, the original building that anchors the center is a beautiful restored house in a real neighborhood.
Most importantly, everyone who is involved with RFDC, from funders and stakeholders, policy influencers and participating families are greeted by a couple committed to each other leading the organization. Tina and Darrel have been transparent in the work and rewards involved in creating and sustaining a marriage and a business. This is so valuable because it negates the primary stereotype of Black families. When I walk through their doors, it feels like a home…with the parents figuring out how to hold it all together while making sure the children know they are loved and safe.
Now, almost 20 years since I sat there feeling sorry for the loss of Tina, I am grateful for all the ways she has taught and influenced me to follow my own dreams. I, too, had a yearning to combine my personal and “career” passion with a partner. Many of us are told all the time that it is asking for trouble to combine home and work. While that may be true, the work of service that was put on my heart is a part of who I am. When I was honestly ready to love and care for a partner and work as hard to make my marriage work as I did the Birthing Project…Arnold Trujillo walked in the door! And, did I say “honestly willing to share and trust” my beloved Birthing Project with him?
Arnold is an amazing photographer and documentarian. He portrays the essence of the Birthing Project in one picture in a way that I can never say with words. There are so many things we do not agree on and we have to have rules that there are times and places where work and love are separate. But the sweet spot is that satisfaction of putting our heads, hands and hearts together to co-create the world we both dream about. Those times when we say “our baby doctors In Cuba” or “look at our leadership team or “wow, that hurt” and we knew it meant “us”. So, I am asking you to check out the RFDC (https://www.robertsfdc.org/) and see what Tina and Darrell have built with their love. If you like what you see, please donate to their organization. I do this as often as I can…not just for their impactful and critical work but for their demonstration of how love can be a foundation to create something wonderful! (Please see the attachment to see their lovely photos. No matter how hard I tried to get it in this email, it would not paste.) Love Ya,Have A Great Day of Thanks!
Today we give thanks for Rest and the many ways it restores our bodies, minds and spirit. Please enjoy this reflection by Dr. Christina Johnson.
I am thankful for rest.
At the end of this work year, my office manager came to me and asked if I was aware that I had 17 days left of my vacation time for the year. I honestly had no idea! During the year I had delayed taking any significant time off so that I could help cover for other people, work more intensely on projects with tight deadlines, or just save up the time for later. While God continued to give me opportunities for collaboration, work, increased patient care (as a physician) and teaching over the course of the year, it also dawned on me that he wanted me to also pursue time in rest.
Rest means different things to different people. In the 23rd Psalm, rest reflects God’s guiding hand and provision. It is a time of refreshment, revitalization and cleansing. I was able to recoup some of my time this week. I slept, read books, exercised, and spent time with family and friends. I feel even more at rest while in quiet solitude. Sometimes, rest for me also means learning new things – visiting a museum, watching a documentary, or listening to new music.
I encourage you to consider contributing to yourself this week in restorative rest. Or find a museum, author, or a musician who has helped you to more fully enter a period of rest and contribute to their work.
Psalms 23: 1-3: The Lord is my Shephard, I shall not want. He lets me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still and quiet waters. He refreshes and restores my soul; he leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Please consider donating to Family Promise of Union County (https://familypromise.org/family-promise-union-county/). Family Promise is a national organization dedicated to the wellness of homeless families. They have a comprehensive wellness program for families to experience fun and cultural activities, counseling, exercise, and other activities that encourage whole person wellness and rest.’ Love Ya
His presence is huge and is always felt. He has never hurt me; in fact, at some of my lowest emotional moments, his words, which came unexpectedly, were balm that soothed and healed some of my deepest wounds. He is attentive and very observant. In his own way (and however possible), he shows up for me and encourages me, without me asking or seeking his attention.
There is this beautiful, dark-chocolate, warrior man whom I know that always makes me smile deep. (When I say beautiful, it’s really an understatement because I can’t find an equivalent word to describe the embodiment of his internal and external nature). His skin is perfectly kissed by the sun. His body is rock solid every time I see it and he stands real tall with his head up in the world. (As we say, he comes from good stock.) His spirit is quiet, yet so strong and wisefully discerning. His approach is always gentle, kind and respectful. I’ve never seen him outwardly angry, just always relaxed and chill (seriously, zen). I think what I love the most about him is that he’s simple and so unique in that “what you see is what you get” type of way. (No flare for the dramatic, no flashy clothes or style, just simple). He consistently shows up as himself and is rock steady at specializing in him and who he is. (I love it!)
I have never know him to be a “hoe” or heard about him “sowing his oats” to be exploitative to women or others. There are no babies or baby mama-drama that lurks in his shadow. His presence is huge and is always felt. He has never hurt me; in fact, at some of my lowest emotional moments, his words, which came unexpectedly, were balm that soothed and healed some of my deepest wounds. He is attentive and very observant. In his own way (and however possible), he shows up for me and encourages me, without me asking or seeking his attention. I thinks what drives me absolutely wild about him is that he is so intelligent and can have stimulating conscious-driven conversation with me. (I’m a sucker for a nerd any day!)
In a very uncanny way, he’s looked through me and wasn’t afraid. He is one of the few men who has looked me directly in my eyes as I stared directly into his and said to me, “I see you.” He’s seen my many physical phases, my frustrations, and probably knows some of my deepest flaws and hasn’t run away yet. (It doesn’t hurt that he calls me beautiful and tells me that he thinks I’m quite special too.)He listens and hears me when I speak (and even asks follow up questions). He was blown away when he found out that we shared many of the same ideals and interest. He loves music and chuckled at my jazz phase aspirations (and asked if a jazz phase was really a thing). He understands my drive and passion for community because much of it is shared. And he is such a great person and mentor to some of the younger African American males that i know.
I don’t know if he even knows it but he is one of my anchors. He has become one of my pillars that holds me up when I feel like letting go. Most importantly, he keeps my hope alive. His presence tells and shows me that there are still great black men in this world that are available, marriage material and will one day form dream teams that will build family and community, while holding down careers.
Today, as I give thanks for great (African American) men, I ask that you tell the great men in your life, how special you think they are and how much you appreciate them. I’d also like to highlight the organization The Cave of Adullam. It is a Transformational Training Academy (CATTA) based in Detroit Michigan where boys who are emotionally distressed, mentally discontented and spiritually in debt, gather to be trained and transformed into comprehensive men of the Most High. I fell in love with this academy when I saw one of its instructors in a Youtube video. Please donate your resources so that they can reach more young boys and teach them how to be men in the world. (Please watch this video so that you will fall in love with it too Breaking Through Emotional Barriers)
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.