Day 27, 2019

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.

Humor (Aging)

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Twenty Seventh Day of Thanks Everyone!

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.


Love Ya,Have a Great Day of Thanks.

Day 26, 2019

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.

Good Surprises

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Twenty Sixth Day of Thanks Everyone! 

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. 

Love Ya, 

Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Melissa Barber

Day 25, 2019

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.

Dream Teams (Of Love and Community)

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Twenty Fifth Day of Thanks Everyone! 

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!

Day 24, 2019

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.

Rest

Author: Dr. Christina Johnson and Melissa Barber

Happy Twenty Third Day of Thanks Everyone!  

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

Have A Great Day of Thanks!

Day 23, 2019

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.

Akintola (Great African American Men)

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Twenty Third Day of Thanks Everyone!

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)


Love Ya,Have a Great Day of Thanks!

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!