Joy is the Greatest Blessing of All

When I tell people that I lived in a homeless shelter, the knee-jerk reaction is almost always an immediate “I’m sorry!” And tell them “Why? I’m not”, which usually puts them in just enough shock so as to listen.

Living in the shelter, I regard as one of the most beautiful experiences in my life. I had nothing, they had nothing. And yet I had friends who had my back and not because they could get something from me, or get somewhere because of me, etc.

To experience that much honesty is so overwhelming and it has changed me forever. It was then that I stopped caring about doing what other people wanted or working for other people’s attention or acceptance (emotionally abusive marriage aside) because I could see the price tag of one’s actions.  It is for those reasons that I found a way to reach out and help others, it is my motivation to not only feel but also share those feelings.

I am blessed to have 5 best friends along with Kid. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these relationships are honest and that we want nothing from or for each other but love and happiness. I know of no other blessings in life that are more valuable than these.

 

These last 7 years have been harder than I can put into words, but there is still the blessing of the friendships I have, the support they have given me, and after wading through the muck finding myself again and realizing my own self-worth. There is no greater blessing.

It is my personal belief that happiness is fleeting, joy is forever.  It marks your heart, it warms you in a cold world.  Happiness is a pay raise or going to a concert or having dinner with friends.  Joy is the love you feel from others, it is the love you have for your children, your family of friends, etc.  It is the feeling that “I’m going to be okay” in a devastating situation.  Joy is the permanent marks on your heart and soul that heals you, that warms you to the core, that keeps you going and can make you smile in a room by yourself when you think about and feel those moments all over again because they are permanently attached to your soul.

Joy is the permanent marks on your heart and soul that heals you, that warms you to the core, that keeps you going and can make you smile in a room by yourself when you think about and feel those moments all over again because they are permanently attached to your soul.

It is the feeling that “I’m going to be okay” in a devastating situation. It’s a person of faith’s feeling the love and serenity of their God.  Joy is the permanent marks on your heart and soul that heals you, that warms you to the core, that keeps you going and can make you smile in a room by yourself when you think about and feel those moments.

Maggie 

Dedicated to Matthew, Cheri, Dani, Steph, Bonna & Kid.  I wouldn’t be here today without all of you.

Activist or Slacktivist?

ACT - Action Changes Things

Do you remember seeing weird posts from friends like “I like it on the bed”, “I just found out I’m pregnant” or “Post the color of your bra…”?

I think we’ve all seen one of those weird status posts that a friend will make and when you reach out to find out what’s going on you get a private message something like this…

“Hey! You should not have liked or commented! Now you have to pick one of the 14 below and post to your status. This was the 2014 breast cancer awareness game:

Don’t be a spoil sport choose your poison, and change your status 1) Damn diarrhea 2) Just used my boobs to get out of a speeding ticket 3) Anyone have a tampon, I’m out 4) How do you get rid of foot fungus 5) Why is nobody around when I’m horny? 6) No toilet paper goodbye socks! 7) Someone offered me a job as a prostitute but I’m hesitant. 8) I think I’m in love with someone what should I do? 9) I’ve decided 2 stop wearing underwear. 10) I still love my ex. 11) I really don’t know how 2 tell anyone and I’m sick of hiding it I’m gay. 12) Guess it was 2 good 2 b true I’m pregnant. 13) Just won $7000 on a scratchy. 14) I’ve just found out I’ve been cheated on for the past 5 months. Post with no explanations. Sorry, I fell for it too!”

A respected friend and former co-worker posted this with a tidy rant about people being “slactivists” by just playing these games that get nothing done and to do something worthwhile for a worthy cause. I couldn’t agree more.

I’d never heard the word “slacktivist” before but it fits so perfectly.  You know, the person who hits “like” but doesn’t lift more than there mousing finger to help.

This is the 2017 breast cancer game.  This does nothing to spread awareness of a horrible disease, how does this save lives?  Men need to be aware of this too, their wives, daughters, mothers and even they can wind up with breast cancer!

Hi beautiful ladies so here it is the time of year again when we try to raise awareness of breast cancer through a game. Its very easy and i would like all of you to participate. Last year we had to write the colour of our bra’s on our status. Men wondered for days what was going on with random colors on status’s. This year we make reference to our love life status as a flavor. Do not answer to this message just post corresponding word on your status and send this message privately to all the girls on your friends list. Blueberry is single, pineapple is its complicated, raspberry is I dont want to commit, apple is engaged, cherry is in a relationship, banana is married, avacado is I’m the better half, strawberry is can’t find mr right, lemon is I want to be single and raisin is I want to get married to my partner. Last time the bra game was mentioned on t.v let’s see if we can get there with this one. Please resend this to all your girly friends then update your status with your answer ONLY! DONT TELL ANY GUYS! I hope to see lots of fruit

I like fun and games as much as the next person, but really how does this promote breast cancer awareness?  Most of the statements have nothing to do with breast cancer (and are mostly obnoxious).  How does this get people to self-check? Or donate for research? Or support those who are living with it currently or have survived it?

My mother had breast cancer.  She was quite lucky in the grand scheme of things.  She found a lump in a self-check and told the doctor.  She was then sent for a mammogram and then had a lumpectomy to remove the mass and test to confirm that it was indeed cancer.  She went through a couple of months of radiation and that was it.  Other family, friends, and acquaintances haven’t been so lucky.

Be sure to check out Whispers Kill, Check Them Before You Wreck Them!!!

I don’t think I know a single person that hasn’t been impacted by cancer, breast cancer or otherwise.  Do you?  I personally know people who are currently battling cancer, who have multiple sclerosis (MS), muscular dystrophy (MD) and autism.  And that’s just the top of the list.  (BTW, if you haven’t heard the new numbers are out.  Autism now affects 1 in 68 children.  Horrifying!)

Now to be fair, participating in these little games is not indicative of what else you do to support issues that you’re passionate about in the rest of your life… participating in fundraisers, making donations, purchasing items that donate to your cause, boycotting items, etc.

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You don’t have to chain yourself to a fence at a nuclear reactor or march or be arrested to be an activist.  You just have to be involved and active.

Here are some links to get you started if you’re interested in donating, clicking on any of them will open a new page for that organization:

CLICK HERE  to read a great article from Just Give.org about how to help the homeless.  Remember that almost all organizations are always looking for volunteers.  Check out Volunteer Match.org to find volunteering opportunities in your neighborhood.

Don’t forget your local community needs your help too!  Libraries, homeless shelters, animal shelter, blood drives, various coat/clothing/food drives at area churches, food pantries are always looking for donations and volunteers.  Being active in your community helps to build a better place to live!

If you recall recent news, due to an incident in a Utah school, people have been donating money to local schools to pay unpaid lunch tabs to ensure that kids get to eat lunch.  How awesome is that?

So be proud, tell people what you’ve done and encourage them to do the same.  Remember, even if it’s the $2 you were going to spend for your morning coffee, it still helps!  Click that “other” box and fill out the amount.  No matter how much or how little you can help it will be appreciated.

Participate in breast cancer walks, MDA walks, blood drives, food drives or volunteer your time.  Check out my post called Reading is FUNdamental for another great idea for volunteerism!  Get your kids involved and teach them to care about their community.

Remember that there can be other rewards as well.  I knew a woman who volunteered at the local Y so she could have a family membership in return.  My daughter used to volunteer at a local stable during hippotherapy sessions; in exchange, volunteers were offered free riding time.  Our local science museum (COSI) trades membership for volunteer hours. If you complete the maximum amount of hours, you get lifetime family admission, which is also good at any reciprocal science center in the country.

Volunteering is also a great way to get on the job experience without having a paid job, a great way for the kids to start out before they start looking for paid work.  Throughout my high school years, I babysat for the blood mobile, babysat for a bowling alley during league play, assisted the leader of my sister’s Girl Scout troop and was an obedience instructor at our local canine club.

And the best part?  Activism makes you feel good about yourself and connected to the world around you!

So show off your passions, promote your causes, make people aware and care, tell them what you do and challenge them to join you.  Be an activist and help those causes that you’re passionate about, show those “slactivists” how it’s done.  Let them know it’s not enough to play silly games, they have to help.  Then post pictures, give dates of drives and ask your friends what they’re doing and see if they want to join you in the fun.

{{{hugs}}}

Maggie

P.S.  If there are any great causes that you are passionate about, leave me a message and I’ll be happy to add it to this list for others to see!

The Quiet Hero

Despite Diagnosis McCain Returns to Senate Floor for Critical Debate and Subsequent Vote on Healthcare Bill

This is a man I respect and admire. He was not my choice for president but that had more to do with his running mate and his oppositions platform, but that had no bearing on my respect for him. To go through the hell he did as a tortured POW for several years, to take all that time healing both physically and as much as he could mentally, only to continue a life of service to this nation and its people…. That is someone to be admired and revered.

Not long ago I, like many of you, were watching the senate hearings and saw Senator McCain acting a bit out of character and became genuinely concerned, commenting to several people that I felt that something was wrong with him, he wasn’t acting right. The man is sharp as a tack and always on his game and he seemed almost sedated.

Then to hear about his health diagnosis just broke my heart. My prayers go to him and his family. His daughter was quoted that while they were all devastated with the news, the one who was calm and consoling everyone else was him.  That somehow doesn’t surprise me.

This man has once again been handed the shitty end of the stick in life and instead of immediately turning inward overwhelmed with what this means to him and his family and to spending whatever quality time he has to look forward to with his family, no that’s not his focus, not yet at least.   Instead, he’s returning to the floor to fight the good fight for the 23 million good, hard-working people of this nation who will not have the means to pay for treatment for a broken arm, their children’s vaccinations,  much less to pay for treatment for a cancer diagnosis like he has been.

Stop here and read that again, let that sink in.  Because it truly is mind-blowing to think about this in context.

How many of us would continue our duty and make it a continued priority in his situation? The answer is more than we realize. Maybe not because we want to or because we feel a higher calling or purpose, but because we have to. Yes, we take pride in our jobs and our contribution to our communities, but the fact of the matter is that millions of Americans get up and go to work each day, with pain, with a bleak prognosis, working 2 and 3 jobs, because we have to.  Because we have to pay the bills, put food on the table and keep a roof over our family’s heads.  And through all that, we hope that we can continue to have the medical care we need to make it through… another year, another month, another week, or just one day at a time because more than that is too much to bear.

I don’t use the word hero very often; as a matter of course, I find the word to be grossly overused.  However today I will say it here and mean it with every fiber of my being.  Senator John McCain is an American hero, his military service goes without saying, but for his unwavering service and dedication to his constituency, and his commitment to this great nation of ours.

I can only hope that his actions will humble and continue to inspire his co-workers to stand up for the people they have been sent to represent. Senator McCain is the man showing those in power and reminding all of us just how to make America great again.  It’s the word we’ve been looking for for a while now but it wasn’t in any of the sound bites.

“Make America great again” shouldn’t be a slogan or a brand, it’s an action and one that many of us have forgotten how to do or neglected to demand from our representatives. It’s done by standing up not just for those who stood in the polling lines for your party, but for all the people who should have representation.

The men and women who have been working to make America great again do so by reminding us of words and phrases describing what made the American people the greatest in the world… words like honor, loyalty, integrity, pride, work ethic, vision, community, melting pot.

It doesn’t have to be done on a battle field on the other side of the world for it to count. It can be done on the other side of the classroom or a coffee counter,  by donating or volunteering, by looking out for your neighbors, bartering for services, supporting local businesses, by showing pride in your community and making it a better place to be,  and not just in one place where everyone can, but in all areas of our lives, great and small.

To learn more about John McCain, click here.

Namaste` ~ Maggie ॐ

 Let’s Make It Fair Across The Board And Give A Hand Up

This is another blog post that I made about ten years ago that I had tucked away on another server.  I thought it was time to dust it off.


I agree there’s a need for low-income housing in this country but I’m not sure that we’re going about it the right way.  With the exception of the elderly or the permanently disabled, I’m of the opinion that subsidized housing should be a vehicle to help until you’re ready to move to a better position.  Instead it tends to permanent placement.

A recent local television news story highlighted how an upscale apartment complex was about to have a new complex built next to them.  The two complexes would be virtually similar but one would be subsidized.  The “powers that be” assured folks that it would be nice and modern and not “look like” low-income housing so that no one could complain about depreciating property values.  How angry would you be, paying maybe $1000 a month for your apartment knowing that someone now could get virtually the same apartment in the same neighborhood for less than $200?  I know I’d be livid!

Also, what’s the motivation for the person in the $200 apartment to work hard, gain job skills and advance their income only to be in the same place at several times their current cost?  It’s not fair to either party.  It’s also not fair to the taxpayers knowing that the difference in rents is not markup or profit margin for the landlord but rather the bill is being paid by taxpayers in the form of higher taxes. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time paying my own bills without having to pay someone else’s.

I’m of the opinion that percentages are fair.  For example, sales taxes are fair, you pay according to what you spend and everyone pays proportionally.  Flat taxes are disproportionate.  A $500 fee will crush the person making $300 a week but would be only irritating or inconvenient to the person with a 6-figure income.

The housing market in this country is completely based on paying per square foot, in both the commercial and residential markets.  So I think that (again with the exception of the elderly and the permanently disabled) we should make an effort to build smaller housing.

If we’re paying by the square foot, then there shouldn’t be the need (or as much of a need) to subsidize to create affordable housing.  The smaller the housing, the more efficient you make it… Solar power, smaller, more energy efficient appliances, all keeps utility bills low or nonexistent, so there’s less/no need to subsidize them either.   Provide wifi in the cost so that residents still have ample opportunities for schooling, work, etc. especially for folks with children.

Make sure it’s functional and efficient and if you want more room to spread out, then you work harder to make more money so that you can afford a bigger place.   No entitlement, you work and you earn, then you get because you deserve.  Principals that this country was founded on that we need to get back to.

Unfortunately (and I was guilty of this too) a young person often feels that they should continue to live in the lifestyle they’ve been accustomed to while living with their parents, not realizing that this should be their goal, but it’s not owed to them.  Their parents live that way because they’ve worked hard to achieve it.  Sadly, this sense of entitlement causes a lot of heartaches because it’s not readily achievable.  It sets people up for failure.  We need to teach people that you start small and get as big as you’re willing to work and save.

Many people look at Tiny Houses and shake their head, but I know when I lived in a homeless shelter I would have LOVED to have one of these to live in, and I know that many others I was with would have as well.

Imagine a homeless shelter being replaced with a “subdivision” of Tiny houses.  You could easily put 100 of them in just a couple of acres. And in the process help people get re-established so they can work their way back up instead of dealing in depression and anxiety at the overwhelming situation they’re in.  The ability to have a place your own, to keep what few treasured possessions you have, privacy, dignity.  That people can make or break someone.


Places like Hong Kong and Japan have limited space with large populations.  It’s not uncommon for people to live in 300 sq. ft. apartments with all their necessities.   Utilizing their models, not only could we offer affordable housing to more of our citizens but we’d also be able to house more people in less space.  Imagine being able to take a current apartment complex and tripling or quadrupling the number of people that can live there. You now have the potential to reduce waiting lists, people living in cars and living on the streets because they have nowhere to turn without warehousing or supporting them in the process.

26 crazy pictures of micro-apartments around the world

Helping people, not only those who need affordable housing, but also the taxpayers who can’t handle the financial burden anymore while motivating folks to work for what they want in life.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Maggie

Bittersweet Memories

I was doing laundry today and I had to wash my backpack because I had spilled some sweet tea on it.

This is the backpack I have, I love corduroy for some reason. The fact that it’s now listed as “vintage” really helped my melancholy moment of nostalgia I must say. LOL

Suddenly I remembered that I got it when I was in NYC visiting my grandfather. My sister and I were going to pop in for visit for the weekend (and so we could go to the doctor with him to get a straight answer) then he wound up in NYU hospital in Manhattan for a week.

We could only visit 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening, and parking for 2 hours was considered all day parking ($26 then, I’m afraid to think of what it is now) so we weren’t driving anywhere because we’d have to pay for it again.  And we’d been out of the city for so long that I didn’t feel comfortable taking the subway.  So to kill the time, since we left NYC when my sister was 4 and she didn’t really remember it, I would take her sightseeing. We’d walk as far as we could and then take a cab back.

I even managed to score tickets for a last-minute production of Lord of the Dance at Radio City Music Hall on St Patrick’s Day!  At the end of the week my sister went home to pack and put in her notice at work and I wound up there for another 4 weeks taking care of him until my sister could get back and move in and my mother and daughter were with her and we had a big party for my grandfather’s birthday.

Photo by Lanre Olusola

It was 1998 not all that long ago, but a lifetime ago. My mother’s gone, my grandfather went after her, then my godfather and almost all of my grandfather’s friends who were at the party…all gone. It’s almost a surreal feeling. Crazy how your brain can pour out so much information over looking at a piece of laundry.

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

My Epiphany For Social Change

I want to precursor this by letting you know that I actually wrote this about 10 years ago.  It’s just as relevant now as it was then.  I probably should have sent it to the White House as a petition.

If any of you have any ideas or connections to make this happen, or make it better, by all means, let me know and feel free to share this.

A little back story… My ex-husband (Kid’s biological father) was ordered to court when she was 5 so we could start receiving child support.  He never responded to or complied with court information requests for job and income information.  The child support order was written based on minimum wage (which was $4.25 at the time).  Truly, each time there was a minimum wage increase I should have gone back to court to have it adjusted.  I, however, didn’t feel it worth the time since he wasn’t paying it anyway.

President Clinton signed into law a bill making it a felony to flee the state to avoid paying child support.  Shortly afterward, I discovered that he moved to Kentucky.  I called child support enforcement and was told that they couldn’t go after him because even though we were separated we were still legally married.  (I was not able to collect government assistance including him in our ranks however because we didn’t live together.  See a little problem there?  I know I did.)

Fast forward our story to about 3 years ago.  All of a sudden I start receiving small child support checks.  To this day I’m not sure if a) he just ran out of under the table jobs, b) he finally stayed at a job long enough for the support order to kick in or c) lost track of time and thought she was too old to have to pay child support somehow thinking it goes away when they get older.

The checks lasted a couple of months (every two weeks) before child support finally issued me one of their new debit cards.  Then the payments stopped.  Over the next year, I would get one randomly here or there before they stopped again altogether.

Well these sporadic payments triggered an audit and I was required to go to court several times and of course, he never showed up.  After almost 14 years of non-support and arrearages of over $20,000 (remember, this was based on $4.25 an hour) child support they decided that it was the time that an arrest warrant was issued and that he should go to jail.

I asked the attorney when he goes to prison does the state pay the support on his behalf?  No.  So let me get this straight… he hasn’t willingly contributed to the raising of his daughter at any opportunity, he owes me over $20K and now I have to support him during his incarceration via my tax dollars???  In addition, when he gets out of prison he’ll have a record making it even more difficult for him to get a job?  How does this help me, our daughter, him, anyone really?

I know that mine is not the only side of the coin on this issue.  I know that many “deadbeats” are classed as such, not because they don’t want to take care of their kids but because they can’t.  Poor job markets, unfair support orders (ones favoring the child/ren with the ex but not factoring in the children living with you because you don’t have a support order for them since they live in your home), support orders that don’t allow enough left in your check for you to live on but if you get a second job they’ll take that too, etc…

So here’s the epiphany… open the draft to “deadbeat parents” after say, one year of non-support.  Don’t wait for 5, 10, 15 years for things to get so out of control.  Here’s my reasoning…

By being drafted into the military, the draftee’s pay is based on the number of dependants guaranteeing that all parties are covered and no one is getting the short end of the stick.

All parties would be covered by insurance.  Sadly, even if an employer does offer insurance the cost is even more prohibitive when you have child support being deducted from your pay.  In addition, life insurance is also part of the package making sure that your child will continue to be taken care of on your behalf should something happen to you before they reach 18.

Being in the military is recession proof as well as lazy proof.  You can’t get laid off or fired.  Your job will never be outsourced and your hours will never be cut.

Being in the military is salaried position so there are no fluctuations in pay making it difficult to pay a set support amount if you miss a days work.

Being in the military will offer the opportunity for you to learn a trade and/or go to college.  Most Americans can’t afford to go back to college once they take on the financial responsibilities of a family.  This tends to add to the frustration because this is where we truly see the value of an education at its fullest as an adult. We now “get it” that we need the degree to get the better job to better support our families.  The military allows you to do both without you or your family starving and/or becoming homeless.

I realize this is a two-sided coin.  There are those that would find the miliary as a deterrant and that’s fine.  Do what you have to do to keep from being drafted.  For others out there, this would be a welcome solution and a means to get on track as opposed to prison which will have negative ramifications for the rest of your life.  By and large I believe this could be the most proactive step our country could take to reform a system that isn’t working.

Please give me your feedback and let me know what you think.  If you really like the idea, share it with others – including people in position to make change.

Maggie

Why are you whispering? Check Them Before You Wreck Them!!

It’s that time of year again, and by that I mean it’s the time for slacktivism in the name of breast cancer. While the games haven’t surfaced (yet), There’s a different one currently going on.  I woke up to see a notification on messenger from my friend’s daughter that said the following:

She sent the words, I made the graphic.

As per my usual stance I had to tell her no because these things make me angry, but assured her that I would get a reminder out.  If you’re new to following me, I must explain that I get really angry with the slactivism.  You see both of my parents died of cancer.  My father died of a mesothelioma (the ones that the attorney’s advertise) and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer just 6 months later.

She went through months of medication and radiation, constantly in pain from the literal burns to her skin.  6-1/2 years later, and after yet another clean bill of health from her bi-annual checkups from her breast oncologist, we went on the vacation she’d always dreamed of to Alaska. She had fallen getting in and out the boat she boarded to go salmon fishing.  She caught a nice one too, over 2 feet long!


When we got home her shoulder suddenly started getting worse instead of better.  That’s when  they found a spot on her liver.  They did further testing and revealed that a tumor was in her liver and not on it as it appeared initially and was progressing pretty rapidly.   With the confirmation they gave her 4-6 months to live, but she died one month later when the tumor had grown so large that it literally caused her liver to rupture/explode.


Oddly enough her death certificate lists the cause of death, not as liver cancer, but as metastasized breast cancer, meaning that breast cancer returned has spread.  When I questioned this I was informed that any time someone has breast cancer and then dies of cancer, regardless of what type, the death certificate will always list it as metastasized breast cancer.  I always wonder how much the numbers are skewed by that policy since breast cancer is touted to be the biggest cancer risk to women.


Now for those who haven’t been around someone with cancer, there are several forms of treatment, chemo and radiation being to the two biggest.  Radiation therapy causes a burn to the skin that’s like the worst sunburn you’ve ever had. It was brutal, and it hurt her so bad, just putting a t-shirt on was painful and putting on a bra and going to work, much less going to work all day.  Think about working with the worst sunburn you’ve ever had and then multiply it several times.  It can also cause other issues like lumps under the skin (doesn’t that sound like it would be pleasant to add to already wonderful situation.

Chemotherapy is another type of radiation therapy but instead of being topical (directed to the skin from outside the body) it is invasive, meaning taken internally.  And because it’s an invasive therapy, it means that it can have side effects anywhere in the body instead of it remaining in the area targeted like radiation therapy does.  There’s too long of a list for me to cover all the side effects of chemotherapy;  if you’d like to see them and learn more please visit the National Cancer Institute’s Chemotherapy Side Effects series, there are 18 documents in total.

Educating yourself and others is what needs to be done to finally win this battle.  Cancer has claimed *BILLIONS* of lives.  There is nothing to whisper about behind the scenes. Preventing cancer is not in poor taste, it’s not obscene.  For the record not only do men have wives, mothers, girlfriends, sisters and daughters who have, have had or possibly will have this and they need to know about this too, men can also get breast cancer.  Tell me the last time you saw a game of tag about that?

So speak up and speak out.  Stop whispering and playing online games, and thinking you’re off the hook because you bought something with a pink ribbon on it in the past 20 years.  We need to save the people, not the tatas.  So please, check them before cancer wrecks them.  If you’re a woman who is sexually active, consider doing it with your partner since chances are they are more intimate with your boobs than you are (or at least they try to be).  The Five Steps of a Breast Cancer Exam

So remember…

 

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

 

P.S.  While we’re talking about it, guys need to be reminded too.

 

 

My virtual gallery, combined with personal ramblings & opinions, ideas, food and DIY

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