Wednesday, November 26, 2014
It was about a year ago today when I went to a Little Caesar’s pizza place nearby my workplace to try their lunch combo box for the first time. Admittedly, I wasn’t all that proud of where I was ending up for lunch that day, but I worked in a food desert and my options were limited. After all, pizza and a soda for $5 was the best deal around for me and my post-college finances.
I remember the staff was very friendly the first time I was there. They quickly helped me locate the meal deal I was looking for, and before I knew it, I was on my way back to the office to eat my lunch amidst a discussion of Weight Watchers and Grey’s Anatomy with my middle-aged female co-workers.
Over the next few weeks I would go there two, maybe three, times a week. The staff was consistently just as friendly as they were the first visit. The young man at the cash register was always smiling when I came in and would welcome me with, “California! How’s it going playa’!?” He was about my age, maybe a little older, maybe a little taller as well. He had several tattoos sporadically engraved onto his chestnut colored forearms. I never asked him what they meant. He was a student at the local community college, working hard to save up for school. He wasn't sure exactly what he wanted to do yet. “Something with kids and sports.”
Eventually my project ended and I moved on to a different workplace. I honestly haven’t thought about that Little Caesar’s or the young man behind the counter since I left, not until last night anyway, when I watched it burn to the ground on National Television.
I’ve been asked a lot about what has been going on in Ferguson the past few months. I understand the curiosity of those who aren’t here, wondering if it really is the warzone that they are watching on TV, asking me which side I supported and reminding me to stay safe and inside. If I had to describe which side I supported, it would be that of the young man behind the counter of that Little Caesar.
It would be the owner of the beauty supply, the auto stores, the car dealership and other business that have been looted and destroyed over the course of the last few months. I support the innocent livelihoods that were shattered like the glass that protected them, wrecked by their neighbors, brandished by the media, ensuring that the torching of their futures will be burned in their minds and the minds of their loved ones forever.
But why is it that I have to choose a side in this? The victim or the shooter? How can I possibly choose a side in a scenario that I couldn’t imagine being in, with facts that have been clouded by rumors and misinformation, diluted by emotions and subjectivity, and existing in a culture I cannot, and will never, completely comprehend? I wasn’t there, and quite truthfully, I cannot count on anything I have heard from either side about this. Therefore, I cannot decide.
Here are the facts that I can count on: There is a voice in the dialogue of America that is persistently frustrated because it feels that it is not being listened to. A voice that is consequentially being overshadowed by the unfortunate opportunists that exist in humanity who are addicted to the chaos of disorder; a societal faction that is reinsured and celebrated by a media that has a catalyzing fetish for romanticizing scenes of violence, rousing others to compete for unrivaled national attention. They work to diminish the legitimacy of a frustrated voice, and counteract the positive production of a peaceful protest that is trying to exercise their civil liberties.
There is a systematic distrust by BOTH sides of argument, on BOTH sides of the argument, which is catastrophically cycling from generation to generation, dismantling any hope of a productive conversation, which in turn creates a drought of cooperation and compromise.
There is a necessary difficult conversation on race in this country that needs to be had and no longer side-stepped like it has been since the 1800s. The conversation cannot be the way it is today, fueled by assumptions and accusations, opinions and misguided inferences, where sides are chosen before the conversation even begins and the only thing that keeps it going is the tantalizing seduction of confirmation bias. The conversation needs to exist outside of anger; outside of the anger of the black community that has been systematically stepped on since the foundation of this great nation, and outside of the anger and resentment of the white community that is sick of being “labeled misguided or racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – widening the racial divide and blocking the path of understanding.”
Most importantly, the conversation needs to exist outside of the poisonous, toxic, malicious machine that is media, both mainstream and social, where misinformation and rumors surround the minds of Americans like sharks in water, perpetuating assumptions and opinions, inferences and accusations, escorting people to confirm they were right all along no matter which side they decided to take before the conversation even began. A playground for the previously mentioned “trolls,” addicted to chaos and disorder, to manipulate the conversation in a way that is powerfully destructive.
The conversation instead needs to happen face to face, neighbor to neighbor, parent to child, teacher to student, community leader to community. There is no easy solution to fix what is going on, if there was, the problem would have been solved 50-200 years ago. “We cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together.” It will take time, and it may very well take a few generations, but we owe it to ourselves to put in the effort and come to a level of understanding in which we can work with each other productively, and we owe it to the people like Michael Brown’s family, Officer Wilson, the young man behind the counter at Little Caesar’s, people that have lost everything because of incidents that highlight the inherent lack of understanding we have for one another as members of our melting-pot American communities. What gives me hope, and what I hope gives you hope, is the conversation I’ve had with others; the simple act of asking questions, the curiosity for the facts and the truth, and the attitudes, beliefs, and hopes of others that one day we’ll change. That is what I’ve seen in Ferguson, and that is what I see in America.
I hope this has answered the questions some of you have asked me. TT
Sunday, September 08, 2013
Wow! The summer flew by! We've been super wrapped up in a massive home renovation project, and I hadn't realized how long it had been since I last sent an update. I'll try to keep it short:
With the help of several strapping young (and old) men, we tore down the old section of our house in June, and began the long process of rebuilding and renovating. What was a collection of small rooms with uneven floors and several step-ups and step-downs is now a beautiful open and fully accessible floor plan designed by Chris. There's still a lot of finish work, but we hope to be finishing up before the holidays.
In July, Chris spent two weeks on Long Island at the Empower SCI program at Stony Brook University. What an incredible experience he had! Not only did he gain and perfect many self-care and daily living skills, but he also earned the nickname "McGiver" for a few of the innovations he shared with the other participants. This included making bed rails for two of the folks out of PVC piping from the local Home Depot. Chris is very much on the threshold of independence.
In August, Chris had a second driving evaluation, this time with Easter Seals. Besides a vision and PT eval., they also evaluated his response time using a driving simulator, then took him out on the road for nearly two hours of driving time! It was determined that Chris doesn't need some of the assistive "stuff" that the original evaluator thought he would. A new "prescription" was written, and will now go out to bid. MassRehab. will pay for the modifications to a vehicle, but Chris has to buy the vehicle.
Long story short, Chris has begun raising funds on his own through an online site called GoFundMe. He has already raised over 20% of his goal of $25,000 thanks to many of you! To support his efforts, we are also holding a fundraising event in November at Tekoa Country Club in Westfield. A group of wonderful friends (my school family) have offered to organize the event which will be very much like the first one we did almost two years ago. More information will be coming, but here are the particulars so far:
Friday, November 22, 2013, probably starting somewhere around 6:30 pm.
Tekoa Country Club, Rt.20, Westfield, MA.
Cash bar, fingerfoods, desserts
Live band - this is the best part - The Cooper Jones Band will be playing for us! They are a very talented local band with quite a following of their own. Please check out their video by cutting and pasting this address: https://www.reverbnation.com/show/11203655
We went to see them play at Opa Opa's last night, and they were really wonderful! It will be a great time, so mark the date!!!
Once again, our thanks to all of you who continue to cheer us on as we make this journey. Your love and support gives us such strength and determination! We love you all so much!!
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Many of you have prayed for Chris these past two years. His progress has been nothing short of miraculous. Please follow the link and read Chris's own words as he tells his story. Chris has inspired me so much. He has helped us in design of the construction of the porch we are building.
This link does request donations... or monetary gifts to help him with one last hurdle toward independence. Please feel free to donate if you are inspired and able to do so, but prayers are also greatly appreciated. Gifts are not tax deductible...but would be a great pay it forward act of kindness... Even if you cannot donate, go and read his story... and get a first hand look at this amazing young man.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
After many, many moons, Chris has finally been able to get his Trackchair!
Check out the awesome video clips on YouTube!
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Well, many of you know, I have been really struggling with migraines this year. It has greatly interfered with my ability to exercise, which in turn made it harder to eat right and maintain weight. I went to a neurologist last fall when the migraines were really awful... and have been following his care since. It has helped minimally. I requested a referral to another neurologist and met with him Friday. I am now more hopeful. What complicates my care, is that I also have arthritis which has really caused significant neck pain. When in pain, I find I hunch my shoulders to protect myself... this is instinctual... and hard to stop. Well my weight is up and I have gotten pretty discouraged... but am finding myself hopeful after meeting my new doc. He felt my neck and asked me if I could feel a response in the area where the migraines are when he poked various muscles. He is sending me to a PT who works closely with him and can hopefully help me deal with these muscles. It will take brief exercises 10 times a day... I would love to get control of this without pills... What makes me really hopeful is that he was able to describe what I have been thinking is happening to me exactly... so I have made an appointment with my rheumatoid doc and may get a shot in the neck to help ease the pain, will contact the PT to begin therapy... and will hopefully get this under control. Today I started charting my food with greater effort (even though it is St. Patrick's Day!). I am intending to go back to really sparking... because as my page says... for me, at least, sorta sparking is not really effective... I may not get on to post in my groups as often as I would like for a few weeks... but after April 1st work will slow down... so I can become more regular in my groups then... I want to thank the friends who have encouraged me step by step.. these past months. I am more grateful than I have told you... You know who you are... THANK YOU... I do believe that it is amazing how wonderfully helpful it is to have these Spark friends, many of whom I have never met in person, come to mean so much to me. So thank you all for encouraging me, caring about me, praying for me.... it has all been so helpful, that even when I did not comment or appear active, I was receiving your messages and it kept me here... as a Sparker and is making this route back (once again) easier... so thank you all. Spring is coming and with it I find hope and inspiration. I hope you all find the same...
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