Welcome to Alaska – Cabot Creamery Style

IMG_0761

A few months ago, Joe and I decided to redo our bucket list. We had lost a few friends due to 9/11 related illnesses and reality was hitting us hard. Years before we had said we wanted to go on a cruise, either to Alaska or the Caribbean. Then our daughter came along and those dreams were put on hold.

We made another bucket list and those two places were still on it. But things have changed since the first time we made the list plus we were much younger back then and could do all the things we had written down. Then life has a way of throwing you curve balls and we had too many we could not catch, so the list was now a far away dream.

We knew, without saying the words, that life was becoming increasingly short, and we should revisit that list. I kept the Caribbean cruise on the top of the list and moved Alaska to the bottom because I just didn’t think we’d get there and to be honest, the Caribbean cruise was something we wanted to experience with our daughter, so that remained on the top of the list with Alaska earning an asterisk. (Just in case the stars were aligned just right for us.)

Our daughter added to that list and off we went to la la land to dream of these not so far away places.

Then about two weeks later, I’d get an email.

It stated:

Congratulations! You’ve  won a cruise!

(It said more than that but…

I thought…”Ha ha.. whose the joker who did this?”

I didn’t say anything that first day. But in cleaning out my mail box, there it was, the email I had ignored. This time I read it all the way to the end.

“Carissa? Can you read this for me? I think I won a cruise.”

Carissa ran to the computer.

“Mom, you did. But it doesn’t say where.”

Well we are believers that if you put it out there, it will come to you. Of course we also believe you’ve got to work for it as well.

I searched and searched and I saw on the site that there were cruises from the past but it wasn’t clear where this cruise was going.

A while after that, another email.

“Hi Sonia, my name is Cheryl. I’m from Cabot Creamery.”

I knew without reading any further that this was not a joke. This was real. Cabot Creamery is very real. It’s an amazing organization/co-operative family. It does some astounding things for people all over the world. And farmers, (yes, you read that right,) Farmers, the folks that work hard so we can have the best tasting food in life, are behind it all. (More on that later.)

We were going to Alaska.

We held our breaths. Do we choose the date? Or is it a set date?

We didn’t dare think about it again.

Carissa would say, “As much as I’d love to go with you and dad, if I can’t, this is a sign that you were meant to go. Remember that first list you made? I wasn’t born yet. It’s a sign mom. Don’t say no because of me. I get to have the place to myself for an entire week!” she smiled but I’ve never been that far away without my baby girl. (Well on vacation that is. I’ve been to Japan.;o)

The dates were set. She couldn’t go.

But she was okay with it.

“Mom, the same way you do things to help others, I do that as well. I can’t leave my students for one week. Not this close to the end of school. Please don’t say no. Go!”

And before I knew it, phone calls were made, arrangements were made, I was packing up suitcases and then unpacking them because the clothes didn’t work for me.

And then I’d “Meet” online a few of the other winners.

This was really happening. Soon we began asking questions, sharing tips and before I knew it, I was walking into a hotel in Seattle.

Roberta would greet me first.

“I knew it was you Sonia. Just like your picture.”

I thought, “Ugh. That fishbowl picture that Nate asked me to resend. Now everyone would see it. Ugh ugh ugh.”

Roberta had cow pants on. Yes she did and I believe she might be the only person on earth who could wear them and look good. And don’t get me started on the red plaid shirts of which I have a few and the black T-shirts the staff wore. Cool comfort. Stylish and not in my suitcase!

Right behind her was Cheryl. Ready with a newsletter, two name tags and the biggest smile.

This was for real.

When I woke up from this dream, I was on a bus, getting sashed. I saw the ship I would spend 6 nights with my husband –  suddenly get bigger and bigger as we got closer and closer.

Cabot getting on bus

Cabot getting sashed cheryl

Cabot getting sashed

 

Then something splendiferous began to happen.

“Hi where are you from?”

“You must be Ramona! I recognize you from your pictures.”

“I saw your post on Facebook while you were waiting for the plane.”

It didn’t matter if we all had just met. Cabot worked their magic, again, and we were friends that just hadn’t met in person yet. The excitement on everyone’s faces were contagious. The stories behind each smile was inspiring.

At one point, I turned to my husband and said,”We are among the best of the best. What are WE doing here? Have you read what they have all done?”

My husband said, “You think they made a mistake? Cause I’m not getting off this ship.”

They did not make a mistake. And we were among the best of the best. And  there are so many more like us out there and Cabot Creamery Co-operative puts us all together.

There was one thing that bothered my husband and I. How could we accept such a gift for our volunteer work? We don’t volunteer for attention, we don’t volunteer for gifts, we just volunteer. It’s what we need to do to give back to a community that has lost so much.

And then…

Our first workshop… the third item on the list for all of us to do/remember was to be proud. Be proud of your work. Be proud of what you do. When you are proud you honor your community. And it’s okay to be proud.

I smiled.

I let go of that uneasy feeling.I had an entire day to make up.

There are no words for the magnificent folks from Cabot Creamery. The entire staff does phenomenal work and not just putting the cruise together but what they do each and every day. And they do it for us, for you, for me, for all of us that give back to our communities. Many of you who have read my posts daily have seen me post my volunteer time on Facebook. Did you know that you could do the same thing as well. Again, not just for you. It’s not really about you, it’s about the work you do. (But Cabot does make it about you. They spoil you. And it feels oh so very good.) But in posting my volunteer hours, I am actually highlighting the organizations I volunteer for. I’m bringing awareness to the cause I believe in. And that in and of itself is what brings others to volunteer, not just for my organization but for others that post their hours as well. It’s a win win situation and I can’t see how this can’t work. It has and it does and it continues to do so.

So here’s how it works.

Go to RewardsVolunteer.

Sign up, enter the name of your organization(s).

Every time you volunteer, go to the site, clock in your hours, report and share and VOILA! You are done!

It’s that easy. If I can do it, so can you. And most of you know I am computer challenged. Every time you report and share, others get to see it. You are bringing awareness to your organization and that inspires others to do the same. And isn’t it what volunteering is all about? Giving back!

I have to admit though, I do get a lot out of volunteering.
I meet great people. I educate. I honor and remember and at the end of my day,  I know I’ve made a difference.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who have given so much time of themselves, their hearts, their souls, and their passions have helped make a difference in the lives of so many. If you ever doubt that you have not done enough, just look at all the pictures posted on Facebook. Look into your camera’s and remember how great you felt because of all that you do.

I’d like to thank the farmers who made all of this possible. Your work is hard enough on a daily basis and yet you remember us. You appreciate us. We value you as well.

And last not least, to the Cabot Creamery Staff/Rewards Volunteer Staff. All the work you did to make this trip an amazing one was spectacular, superb, and amazing, We know you have families of your own. We know you do so much more than what we saw but what I’d like you to know is that you made so many people feel the love of the farmers, your love and you gave us all the experience of a lifetime, including a couple who 35 years ago gave up on a dream and got to live it 2 weeks ago.

Thank you! Merci. Prego, Arregat0, Gracias from our hearts to yours.

If you’ve read this far, check out RewardsVolunteer… you are making a difference now for your organization, now show the world who they are and what you do.

If I can do it….So can you!

#CabotCreameryCo-operative @CabotCreameryCo-operative #rewardsvolunteer

 

Hashtag DO IT! You will not regret it.
What you do today will make a difference tomorrow.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

And eat CHEESE! CABOT CHEESE…

Tell them Sonia sent ya!

(More pics to follow. Can’t post them all now. I have some volunteering to do.)

 

 

 

I’m An Islander, I Am An Islander.

About two years ago or so, I read a book. “The Day The World Came To Town.” When I saw the book in Barnes and Noble I was curious. I had no idea that it was about September 11th, 2001. For years, it’s alway been hard for my family and I to read, watch or even converse about anything related to 9/11.

For years, our world was connected to those who were there. That was probably the only time we felt comfortable discussing the day our lives changed. But this book, was different. I brought it home and by the next morning, I had read the entire book.

I exhaled when I was done.

When we were experiencing the worst of humanity, the town of Gander, Newfoundland was showing the best of humanity. I was compelled to read it again the following evening, this time slower and with a highlighter pen. I needed to know each and every character. I lived each and every moment with each paragraph I read.

I exhaled when I was done.

Fast forward to one lovely mid afternoon day. A friend, Vernoy P. was talking to some of the docents on a break. I was reading an email that just came through that needed my attention. As I was almost done with my task, I could hear Vernoy speaking about something that seemed so very familiar to me. When I mentioned that it sounded like a book I had read, she said, “The Day The World Came to Town?” Immediately we began to talk about parts of the book and I told her my favorite character was Oz Fudge, the constable and Beulah Cooper. The conversation went on and on to the point that we both forgot the time which made us a bit late for our assigned posts.

Vernoy was talking about wanting to go to Gander. I was interested until she said it would be for the 15th year of the attacks. I shut down after that. I couldn’t leave NY on 9/11. I had other obligations the day after. As much as I would have loved to go, there was no way I could go. But Ms. Vernoy is one persistent woman: when she sets her mind to do something, it will get done.

Weeks later, on another break, she would ask my husband and I to come along. We explained we had obligations to which she responded, “You don’t have to be back on that Monday, it’s a day off from NY schools. You can come!” But we still had the issue that all the hotels were filled to capacity. As she grabbed her phone, she said, “I believe I booked 2 rooms. Let me check.” I looked at my husband and said, “If a room becomes available, it’s a sign.” My husband lowered his head and said, “I don’t know if I can be anywhere else but here on 9/11. It took me so long to come back to Ground Zero and now I can’t leave.” We both agreed that there were a few obstacles in our way that somehow were not  obstacles any more. So we agreed, if Vernoy told us she had the room, we would go.

Vernon walked towards us smiling.

We were going to Gander.

Gander at the airport

(Karen, Jeanette, Joe and me at the airport in Toronto)

We had a few months to plan and before we knew it, we were all meeting in Toronto. This was really happening.

We went to the schools to share the 9/11 story. We brought Stars of Hope to the town, giving them to the businesses that helped all the plane people. While half of the group were giving out the stars in town, some of us were tying yellow ribbons in Heritage Park where we were going to have a 102 minute ceremony to honor the Canadians that were killed along with family and friends who were killed in NY.

 

(Paul and Joe  and Jeanette, speaking to the students. Jeanette, Diane and Joe)

102 minutes was the time it took for 2,977 people to be murdered on 9/11 in all three attacks.

That evening, we were screeched in. We had read about it in the book, but now here we were, with fishermen hats, ready to take the plunge which included, Newfie steak (bologna), eating a piece of salted fish, chewing on a hard roll, tossing back some screech (bad Jamaican rum, which wasn’t bad at all to be honest,) and finally kissing a freshly caught Cod. We almost got away with not doing it but Jeanette mentioned it and Beulah’s face lit up and before we knew it, the cod was ready for us. Now we all had to pass the cod and kiss it, right smack in the lips.

 

Gander, ready to be screached

Gander, drank the screech

gander-911-037-1

 

We were now Newfoundlanders!

Saturday we were at the firehouse greeting friends. Meeting one and all whom we came to say thank you, but they were telling us THANK YOU! Here were these magnificent people who did so much for so many, who showed the best of humanity when we were seeing the worst, were telling us, THANK YOU? Their hearts were much bigger than we could have ever imagined. Those thank you’s filled our hearts with Joy. Their hugs, comforted us.

Paul, Ellen, Jeanette, Joe and I were there. Each of us saw it all, we experienced it and we still live it today. Those hugs were telling us, “You’ll be okay. We are with you. ”

We were indeed Islanders even before we screeched.

(The Brothers Fudge… Major from the Salvation Army… Presenting Plaque to the fire department and a plague to the mayor of Appleton.)

It had rained every day that we were there.

Gander ribbons at heritage park

On the morning of 9/11/16, the rain stopped.

 

ganderimg_0362

Our ceremony was simple. We read passages from poems and songs. We read the names, stopping 6 times to ring bells similar to the ones used in the New York Memorial Services every year. My husband, Joe and Paul I, a former NYC detective rang the bells. After the names were read by each person, they would place a Canadian and an American Flag in a circle I had put together with yellow ribbon. These flags would be presented to the Legion. I presented one of the bells to a Sargent from the Salvation Army. I brought the other one home.

Jeanette G and I had made a promise, not to cry. The whole point of this trip was to say thank you but for Jeanette, Paul I, Ellen, Joe and I, we were stepping out of our comfort box. We needed to do something different but what,how? Gander was it. Later on, watching the video someone took for me, I could hear Jeanette’s voice and mine crack. We inhaled several times. Joe and Paul were standing at attention, so proud in their handsome uniforms. I could see each time they rang the bells, how hard it was for the both of them.

I kept saying to myself, “don’t let go now. Hang in there. You can do it.”

When the ceremony was over, the folks that joined us came to us. The hugs were abundant. They were comforting. They were just what we needed from a town that faced fear, uncertainty but still pushed through it and gave so much of themselves to people they didn’t know.

They were OUR hero’s.

We had gone on a tour of the airport with the Mayor and others. Before we left on our trip I had told Vernoy, I wanted to bring some gifts of gratitude to the town. Our group was called Tour of Gratitude.

Before I knew it I had a bronze stature from the NYPD union, a plaque that was made by one of our docents at the 9/11 Tribute Museum, another plaque made by Paul’s brother. Paul had brought some certificates from the Detectives union. We gave the constables and Beulah a Tree of life wooden box filled with patches from the NYPD, FDNY and pins from each organization along with Challenge coins.

I knew we didn’t have to do this. They were happy just being with us but we wanted to say thank you in so many ways.

One of the visits some of us made was to the Search and Rescue of the Canadian Air-force. It was rather amazing to be inside a helicopter were so many rescues had taken place.

 

That evening would be our last. We were invited to the Ecumenical Ceremony where they had the choir sing, the mayor speak and it was all about unity, peace and honoring the  lives lost. Joe, Paul, Ellen and I were asked to walk in with the Royal Canadian Army. Joe kept saying no, we couldn’t do that but before we knew it, we were in the front, walking arm in arm with them. They told us they were honored to have us in the procession. I didn’t feel as if I should have been there. I pulled the officer aside and said, “Let the men walk, we’ll wait up front.” His reply?” You were there too. You know what many of our families deal with. You deserve to walk with us as well.”

I begged my tears not to start. Jeanette says I cry ugly. So I’m sparing you those pictures. ;o)

Instead I’d rather show you a picture of what an angel looks like sitting next to me.

That’s Beulah Cooper.
Every request, question or thought we had about our visit, went to Beulah and this splendiferous woman, had answers for all and if she didn’t, she’d find them. Her smile in infectious. Her hugs the best medicine in town.

Gander gift to Beulah

That evening was our last dinner together. It was also my husbands birthday. After 9/11, he made it clear he did not want us to celebrate his birthday. No cards, no cakes, maybe a hug. For him it was the day he lost both partners and we lost several close friends. I was the day so many innocent lives were lost. I tried one year to surprise him with a dinner. He smiled here and there, pulled me aside and asked, “What do I say when they tell me Happy Birthday?” I told him to say thank you.”Why?” he would say. “I’m here and so many others aren’t. I can’t do this.”

The morning of September 11th, 2001, I woke up to a clear beautiful bright blue sky. Our daughter was excited as we would be joining Joe at the precinct that night with a pot of home-made chili which Joe’s crew loved to eat. I had made the chili the night before and fully intended, after I did a few things in Manhattan that day, to meet up with Carissa and Joe to celebrate his birthday.

Instead, the world as we knew it had changed, suddenly and violently. We would not hear from Joe until about 5 pm that night. He told us where he was and how horrible  everything was. We had never heard our spiderman speak that way. Moments after our phone call, we would be told that the building where he was near had collapsed. He was supposed to call us at 10 that evening and he never did. On the morning of September 12th, we thought and discussed briefly of a funeral. My daughter reminded me of what I always told her when things weren’t going well, “Without Hope, We cannot Cope.” I held on to that until Joe walked in later on that morning, injured, in shock and covered in soot. He would never speak of his time there for many years. He only spoke 3 days after 9/11 to read off the names of the people who were missing, or as he said, “Their gone. All gone. Why them? Why wasn’t I taken as well?” I had lost the man I had kissed the morning of 9/11.

He was never the same.

Until….

Our last dinner.

Eating, chatting, laughing we were suddenly silent as Robert, an amazing singer and actor stood up and came behind Joe. With both his hands on Joe’s shoulder, he sang Happy Birthday to Joe. I held my breath.

Joe smiled. He really really smiled.

Earlier that day, Paul and Ellen had given Joe two gifts. One was a pair of sunglasses that Paul had worn before and Joe had admired. Paul found a pair for Joe.

The other was a picture of the both of them in gallery five of the Tribute Center. (Now the 911 Tribute Museum)

 

We  headed back to our hotel, ready to pack and rest before our early morning flight. As we got into bed, Joe said,”This was nice. I haven’t smiled so much in such a long time. These people lived 9/11 like we did. I think I can do this.”

I’m not sure what he meant by the last comment but it didn’t matter to me. He was smiling. He was happy and it was still September 11th, 2016.

But it didn’t end there.

We made life long friends or as the from Gandor, Mayor Claude Elliot would tell us, “No, not friends, you are family.”

Oz kept in touch with Joe all the time and I could hear Joe sometimes laughing so loud. I’d walk into the living room and see phone in hand. He’d hold it up and say, “That Oz… do you know what he said?” And he’d continue to laugh.

Oz calls me the war department but that’s fine because he calls his wife the same thing so I am in good company.

Weeks later, Joe would ask if there was something we could do for the folks in  Gander who were coming to NY. I jumped from my chair and said, “Here? In our hometown? How? Why? And do we have room for all of them? Where can we put them all? Oh this is too cool… What should I cook? Should I cook different dishes made with cod? Oh wait, maybe we should have our own screech ceremony.”

I called Jeanette telling her to help me put a screech ceremony together. No matter what we came up with, we soon realized that our family from Gander would not even blink an eye no matter what we came up with. They’d drink castor oil and eat raw fish if they had to. They were warm-hearted people but they were also fearless.

We soon gave up on that idea.

And then they were here.

The opening of Come From Away. A broadway show about Gander, the people of Gander, the plane people.

How can a story about 9/11 be turned into a musical?

Gander, invite to Gotham Hall

 

Well, they did it. Almost fourteen awards later and Sunday, June 11th, maybe seven more awards to be added to this phenomenal play, they did it. The Tony Awards.

We laughed. We cried. We smiled. We now knew of another story. The story of the plane people. The world would see the book come to life on stage in the most simplest of ways. In a most profound way. There was fear, that turned into comfort, that turned into love, that turned into uncertainty with love still there. And the end… spoke volumes to those of us from the 9/11 Tribute Museum…

Gander comes to tribute center

Our family from Gander visits the 9/11 Tribute Center (Now the 9/11 Tribute Museum.)

Gander,kell and me

(The magnificent Kelly)

Gander Oz Carissa joe and gander man

(Oz, Joe Carissa and Gander Man)

Gander, opening night gino geanette and me

(Jeanette, Moi and Gino, who plays Oz, very very well)

 

Gander opening night paul ellen beaulah and me

(Our angel, Paul and Ellen)

Gander opening night. Joe and me

(Yup that’s us, The Agrons)

(Ahhh Leo, sweet Leo who accepted the circle of flags for the legion and Diane… sweet sweet Diane who has a heart of gold…and always reminds me about responding to quizzes on FB.)

(Gino and moi. I told him I adored Oz and well, he just smiled and a Kodak moment was born)

=================================<<>>==========================
Tonight we honor what was lost but we commemorate what was found.And those simple words tell another story.

The story of a community that suffered so much loss coming together in a small gallery to share their stories with the world with the hope of peace, the hope that communities will stand together regardless of religion, political beliefs or cultures. We have all honored those that were taken from us and in our stories, in our sharing the knowledge of what we can all do as a community, we have become friends, sharing each others blessings. We have honored what was lost but we have commemorated what we found: each other. And that includes our family in Gander.

===========<<>>===========<<>>=========<<>>=========<<>>=======

On the northeast tip of North America, on an island called Newfoundland, there’s an airport.It used to be one of the biggest airports in the world, and next to it is a town called Gander.

Welcome to the rock if you come from away,
You’ll probably understand about half of what we say.
They say no man’s an island but an island makes a man,
Especially when one comes from one like Newfoundland.
Welcome to the Rock

Welcome to the wildest weather that you’ve ever heard of.
Where every one is nicer but it’s never nice above.
Welcome to the farthest place you’ll get from Disneyland.
Fish and chips and shipwrecks, this is Newfoundland.

Welcome to the land where the winters try to kill us and we say, “we will not be killed.”
Welcome to the land where the waters try to drown us and we said, “we will not be drowned.”
Welcome to the land where we lost our loved ones and we said, “we will still go on”
Welcome to the land where winds try to blow, and we said “No!”

Welcome to the fog, welcome to the trees,
to the ocean and the sky, and whatever’s in between.
To the one’s who left, you are never truly gone.
Our candle’s in the window and our candle’s always on.
When the sun is coming, and the world has come ashore.
If you’re hoping for a harbor than you’ll find an open door.
In the winter, from the water, through whatever’s in the way,
to the ones who have come from away,
Welcome to the rock!

 

Welcome to the friends who have come from away
Welcome to the locals who have always said they’d stay
If you’re comin’ from Toledo or you’re comin’ from Taipei
Because we come from everywhere,  we all come from away:
Welcome to the Rock!

 

=====================================================

Nine months later, we are still reliving our moments in Gander. We have seen the play six times and will be going as a group from the 9/11 Tribute Museum in September.

We speak to our family in  Gander and have planned a trip back to our home away from home. Or as Oz says, “You can stay with us but I’m going to put you to work.”

We have made the most amazing connections with a town not too many people knew about and hopefully soon, very soon, they will know that there is hope, there is love, there is kindness, there is acceptance, there is another place to call home:Gander Newfoundland.

I’m an Islander, I AM AN ISLANDER.

Sonia Agron

#ComeFromAway #911TributeCenter #911TributeMuseum

This is a copyrighted article as are the pictures. Please do not use without permision from the author.

 

Is This The New Normal?

Last week I attended the wake of a fellow EMT. I did not know her but I didn’t have to. You see, once a first responder, always a first responder. I had to pay my respects. I had to be there.

When I was interviewed after I left the funeral home, the reporter would ask me what it was like inside. I told her, “I mean no disrespect but what’s inside is a story for you to share with your readers. What’s inside for me, are broken hearts, lives that must start to heal and human beings from all over saying goodbye to one of our own. There is a reason why you are not allowed in there.” She said she understood and then proceeded to ask me other questions. I thought about it at first and then I realized, I tell stories of people who have died almost 16 years ago. I do it because I want people to never forget and while I did not know Yadira, I thought this is the moment where a reporter can tell our stories. Stories where we are always in danger, where we have no way out should someone come after us. I told her stories of courage and how we would do it all over again, whatever the call was, because it’s not a job, it’s a calling.

I had hoped that this would be a good way to let the world know that we don’t have the same safety features in place as other first responders do. Instead my comments were put in the obituary section and just a few words were mentioned. Already forgotten.

I’ve been told so many times that the job of a first responder is something we all chose. Yes indeed we did. But it wasn’t for the money, it certainly wasn’t because of the uniform or the city tin we all get called shields. It was because each and every one of us understood the need to help others, to save lives and to make a difference. It’s not a job, it’s a calling.

In the midst of going to the wake, we would hear of 3 more first responders that died due to  9/11 related illnesses. In January, we lost 9, February we lost 9 and March was looking to be the same.

Is this our new normal? Are we to wait, holding our breaths, that today will be the day someone else will die? It seems that way.
There is much sadness in our community and it doesn’t look like it will get any better.

My husband used to put his uniform in the back of the closet because he didn’t use it much and now it seems it goes to the cleaners at least once a month, “to have it ready for the next funeral,” as he says.

I don’t wear a uniform. I don’t want to. I don’t want to wear a suit, a nice dress or a suitable outfit for any funeral. I don’t want to go to any more funerals.

I want my friends to be free of disease. I want my friends to get well and begin to live the lives that were taken from them. In a perfect world..

 

If only….

Today, I have to say goodbye to yet another friend.

Today I have to find the strength to carry on.

Today I have another story to tell.

 

tapsMA11057614-0091

Conversations With God

It never ceases to amaze me when I speak to people about prayers that their idea of prayer are the standard prayers we’ve learned in school or church. I love those prayers. They are very meaningful. But prayers are also conversations with God. At least for me they are.Many times, I am with friends and someone will poke me, ask if I am okay and I’ll respond that I was having a “God moment.” Those that know me, understand what that means: I was having my attitude of gratitude with God. Those that don’t get it, will just give me the hairy eye-ball and well, to that, I say, “move on, you don’t know what you are missing.”

My conversations with God have been the most precious thing that I own. It is mine. I do not have to share it with any one but when I do, it is a gift and if you know me, you know I love the act of giving. So when I share my conversations with God with you, know that it is a very precious gift.

I also know that there have been times when without meaning to have a conversation with God, he can choose to have one with me and such was the case very early this morning.

I have not done this in a very long while. In fact, it’s been at least 8 years since I’ve done this. The last time was when my mother was dying and I felt desperate. I felt as if I was choking and I woke up one morning, got in my car and drove to the beach. It’s not far from where I live. I parked until it was time for the sun to rise and walked to the shore. I cried, screamed and let the waves soothe my soul.

My mother went home a few days later.

Thank you God. She went home in peace.

And now this morning, with a reality I had to face, with sleep escaping me all night long, with a family nestled in their beds, I quietly got up, dressed warmly, got in my car and drove to the beach. It would only be an hour or so before the sun set anyway. I just had to get out of the house. I was choking again.

These past few weeks things had just begun to unravel. Too many things were falling out of sync. Some things are out of my control and those things are safely in Gods hands. God knows me. I’m okay questioning him. I no longer feel bad about asking why. I’m human. I know he’s okay with that. I know he knows I’m hurting. And I know when I put my fist in the air and tell him to take my husband’s pain away and do it now! He knows I’m not being nasty or rude or mean. I’m scared and hurting and well he just knows. I don’t ask for myself because well that’s just rude and selfish. And he already knows how I feel so why repeat all that stuff? But there are those certain things that you can see coming and you try to make sense of them and you can’t. There are people who are telling you that things are happening, they are telling you to wake up, get out-of-the-way, but you can’t because you won’t accept the fact that the people you have come to know, trust, and like would be anything less than what you thought they were. So you ignore the warning signs because they just can’t be real. And then they become real.

Then the sledgehammer meets you dead center at the same time that the other things in your life are gaining speed. And you know. You understand.

And your find yourself at the beach.

Now everyone knows I do not like sand, so if I am sitting on the sand, well you know my mind is not where my body is.

The waves rushing to the shore were most soothing. The tears slowly began to flow as the wind took them away. I began to mentally make a list of all the things that had occurred. Where did I go wrong? When did I stop paying attention? How did I not see it? Why didn’t I pay attention? And then I took a deep breath, exhaled and thought, I did see it all. I just didn’t want to accept it. I truly believed that in the end, the truth would prevail and that friendship and honesty would be the elements that would win.

But in the end it was all about self. It was all about self-importance. In the end, it wasn’t about friendship or honesty or even about truth. And we believed it was.

As I began to accept the reality of all of this and go over the conversations of some of my friends that we had shared earlier in the day, I realized that their intentions were heartfelt and I counted my blessings. I made another note to call them later in the day and thank them but also apologize to them for not seeing what was so obvious. But I had a decision to make. I don’t like not being friends with others. That’s so not me but I don’t like being a phony. However, once I understand what a person is all about, I don’t play their game but I can co-exist. I just have to figure out how to do it in the day-to-day existence and how to extract them from the personal part of my life and so that became my mission.

I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Are you okay?”

“Oh yes. I’m just enjoying the sunset.”

“Mind if I sit. I was going for a ride. Thought I’d enjoy the sunset too.”

Taking in the waves, breathing in the intoxicating ocean breeze, feeling the chilling air lifting the sand around us, I buried my toes into the sand. I hate the sand.

“I lost a friend yesterday.”

“I’m so sorry.” I said. It was now my turn to put my hand on their shoulder.

“It’s okay. I actually lost them a few months ago. I just let them go yesterday. It was time.”

I didn’t understand what that meant, so I looked out into the ocean.

“I know it sounds weird. But sometimes you have to let go of people in your life no matter how much you care for them. Sometimes they are toxic. Sometimes they are users. Sometimes they are phony. Sometimes they are just not who you thought they were and the disappointment becomes too much to bear. And when you have had enough, it’s time to let go and I let go yesterday and today, I’m sad but I’m kind of glad. It’s a new beginning and I no longer have to wonder if tomorrow I’m going to be used again or lied to or whatever!!! I’m free.”

(Insert exhale here)

“Wow!” I whispered. Was this for real. I actually looked around. You can’t make this stuff up.

“Did you lose someone?”

“No. Well, yes but not really. More like someones. But no. I haven’t let go yet. Not sure how. Not sure if there is any letting go to do. Not sure if they even care. I’m not even sure if there is anything to be concerned about. I do know that I cared more and I think that I’m the one being sad about this and knowing that it’s not affecting anyone but the folks that warned me is what’s probably the bad part here but after listening to you it kind of feels normal. But it’s a lot of other stuff. The beach is just peaceful. I need peaceful now. And I don’t like the beach.”

“Ha ha… I hate the beach too. But no one’s here and I love to hear the waves. It’s the white sound I have in my bedroom.”

We sat quietly for a few more minutes.

“Do you have any children.”

“I have two boys. I don’t see them often but when I do, they make up for lost time. So I’m grateful. You?”

“I have a daughter. I see her all the time. She lives with me. She’s a teacher. I’m grateful for all my time with her. I don’t know how I would handle not seeing her like you not seeing your sons. I’m such a wuss.”

“Oh trust me. I’m a bigger wuss. I miss it all too.”

“My husband is sick. So am I.”

We both looked at each other. Who said that? Did we both say that?

Staring at each other, eyes opened wide, tears flowing down our chins.

“He has the big C and I have MS. We are going to tell the boys this week.”

“He has 9 diseases, I have 5. I tell him it’s the first time in our marriage he has beat me at anything. But soon, I’ll be seeing some “specialists” so I just might be beating him after all.”

Staring at me confused, I tell her, “My husband was a 9/11 first responder and I was a recovery worker.”

We hug.
“Thank you for your service. I cannot begin to imagine what you both saw. What you both lived. I’ve talked about it to my boys and my grandchildren but it will never be anything compared to the stories you both can tell. Thank you. I am so very sorry.”

And there it was. What my true friends had been telling me. My husband and I have lived a history so many talk about but have no idea what it truly is all about. But they have no problem being our friends when it is beneficial to them. And with that, someone I had never met, someone carrying their own cross to bear, knew what was in my heart, hugged me, watched the sun rise with me, hated the sand with me, cried with me and understood me.  And it all became very clear.

Thank you God for this wonderful conversation.

 

Here’s To You, My New Friend

It is not always easy to accept the end of a friendship.

Perhaps it never really was a friendship. Perhaps it was just a shell of one.

Maybe there was a lot of pretends going on and you are the kind of person that takes things for face value. Maybe you think that people are true and kind and honest and why would they pretend to be something they are not? Why waste all that time and energy on something they don’t mean or something they are not?

I recently met sadness. Well, she was sad. That’s all I could see.
I would see her every few days, standing in the same aisle, doing the same thing, with a pretend smile, but the sadness couldn’t be faked. I could feel it.

I accepted one of the brochures. I took the time to read it and struck up a conversation. I asked what it all meant. Very eloquently, she spoke and I listened.  While she was speaking I could hear her counter parts speaking as well but something was disturbing. They all seemed to be connecting except for her. I asked if she was okay. She shrugged. I looked over at them and said, “They are a bit loud, aren’t they?” She was surprised at my comment. I smiled.
“They do that every time they see me speak. Apparently, they don’t think I can attack an audience like they can.” she said. Then the sadness crept in.

“Well,” I said, “That’s not nice. You speak just as well as they do, if not nicer since you aren’t as loud or as boisterous as they are.”

“We used to be friends. Or I thought we were friends. I don’t know. Sometimes they act like they are friends and then suddenly, I’m not.”

Ahh, I thought to myself. I know that feeling. That sometimes you like me and sometimes you don’t feeling. Sometimes you talk to me like you really are interested in speaking to me and sometimes, you just want to fill in the time until your real friend comes along. Sometimes, you’ll text me and sometimes, I won’t get the group text to meet you after work like every one else did but I’ll see the dinner pics when I get home. Yea, I’ve been there. So I knew what she was referring to.

“Oh, don’t worry about that. You are a sometimes friend. Which is a good thing. It could be worse. You could be a never ever friend. You could be the she’s not there friend. And that could be worse. Because that would mean they’d walk right by you and it’s like you are not even there. This way, what they are doing means that you are affecting them. What they are doing is basically telling you that in some way, you, something about you, bothers them. And that’s a good thing. Because whatever it is, is a reflection on them, not you. Think about it.”

Her eyebrow furrowed. She looked at me. She looked at them.

“Well now, let’s think about this.” I said. “You have a very pretty face. You have a beautiful smile and just now when you spoke to that young man, you made him laugh and your supervisor noticed that. You handed out most of your pamphlets and those children over there keep coming back to you to ask you questions about the books they should know something about because that’s their department. But they are coming to  you because you, my dear are the approachable one. I’d say those are great qualities and those are reflections of what they do not possess and should.”

The sadness became a happy smile. “I guess.” She said. “But we were friends. We used to have lunches and at times when we closed up, we went out for drinks and to the movies. And now they just leave earlier or later and don’t even ask me any more. I don’t understand. Sometimes they speak to me but it feels forced.”

The sadness returned. “Don’t mourn what never was. They were phony, not you. They pretended, not you. They weren’t honest, not you. If they could do this to you, imagine, one day, they will do this to each other. At least you are out of the way.Stay true to yourself.”

A week later, I came back to see my friend. She was not there but her catty friends were. I came back a week later and she still was not there. I feared she had quit. A month went by and there she was, her back was turned but I knew it was her and she was fixing something on the table. I tapped her on her shoulder.

“Hi.” I haven’t seen you in a while.” I said.

“OH! Hi! I was away. I was training.”

“Training?”

“Yes. I’m now manager of the Children’s Section of the Bookstore. I get to travel now to different area’s to select children’s books and get to meet different authors to bring to the books store to read passages to the children and to sign books as well. It’s amazing and exciting and oh, I’m just going on and on. ” She smiled.

“I’m so happy for you.”

“I’ve only been here a year!”

“Well that’s good right?” I asked

“Well, yes, but they’ve been here for five and they are livid that I got this job.”

“Are you sad?” I inquired quietly

“Oh no, I’m not. I tried to be their friend. I wanted to learn from them but they shut me out. They never let me in on anything so I learned on my own. I reflected!” she said as she held her head up high and smiled.

“Thank you,” she whispered. “I remembered what you told me. “Reflection of who they wish they could be. I wanted to learn what they knew so I taught myself. And now I’m doing what I love. I’m not angry with them and I would love to be their friend but I’ve made some wonderful friends and I’m so happy. I’m reflecting happiness.”

 

And so I walked away learning my very own lesson. Many times I wonder why the people I think are friends say and do things that make no sense to me. I watch them speak of others and I walk away wondering if they speak that way about someone they care for, do they speak that way about me? I see how they behave one way when someone is around and when that someone is not, they become a different person, and I wonder why? Why can’t they be who they want to be? I find myself confused and feeling the toxicity of emotions that shouldn’t be and then I think of this young woman who understood that to thine own self be true is one of the most valuable lessons in life.

To Whom It May Concern….I can hear you.

To Whom It May Concern,

Thank you for your wonderful words. At first I thought, is this really me you are referring to and then I asked and you said yes. I then asked others involved in this task the same thing and the answer was the same. The problem back then that I did not see was that you walked away rather quickly but again, I didn’t notice until I “read”further and understood why.

I’d love to sit and chat with all of you for specifics but you running away tells me you are not capable of that. So here are my specifics…

I am a capable person.

I am a professional.

When I have to step up to the plate, I do and I do my very best.

I don’t require much attention but I do love a good group chat and laughter.

I am mindful of all those around me and I try to be sensitive to things I may not know about or do not understand. That’s how I learn.

I value my right to vote as a human being but most importantly as a woman for I know what so many before me had to contend with. I cannot and will not dishonor them by not voting, even if it’s for the local dog catcher.

I am an American, born and raised in New York City. I consider myself a New-Yorkrican because I am most proud of my parents heritage although thanks to Ancestry.com, I may have to come up with a new title but until that’s worked out, I am a proud American Latina woman. And no, I nor my parents required a green card to come to NY. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the USA.

I love people. Except those that disrespect others, are prejudiced/racist and bullies. Rapists are another category and I must stop short in using the word hate because that seems to be prevalent these days,  but if there is another word for what I feel towards people who do horrible things to children and to women, that’s the word that I would use. If hate is the word, then forgive me for using such a hateful word.

I do not judge others by their religion nor their politics. I want to be respected for mine.I will however, though not always advised, have a conversation with someone if they can enlighten me without frightening me.

I think all people are beautiful and smart until they open their mouths to remove the doubt and still I give them the benefit of the doubt because like me, they could have had a bad day.

I will admit, I don’t like spoiled kids, spoiled adults or spoiled adults who have spoiled kids. But I am tolerant as I do recall a time or two when I have indulged in spoiled child behavior.

I am entitled to my feelings and emotions and make no apologies for them. I do not defend, define nor explain to any one how I feel about something that should be quite obvious. Although I feel if you are reading this, it might seem that that is exactly what I am doing.

I get angry. Don’t you? If I do something from the heart and someone crawls all over it, my feelings get hurt. Wouldn’t yours? So when you seem me reacting like a normal human being, either understand me or don’t, but when you comment about how absurd I am behaving or how YOU think I’m over reacting, just wait till it’s your turn. Then see how it feels.

I get over things quickly. Sometimes, not too quickly but I think that’s because I have this thing called “Being Human.” I can’t help myself, I was born that way.
I’ve been around people who have been hurt, lost their tempers and then well, then I love them still because they have the same thing I do, “Being Human.”

When you see me comfort someone that well, again that human thing, when you see me comfort someone I’m not too crazy about, don’t assume I’m being hypocritical. Believe I’m being compassionate because even people I’m not crazy about have the same thing I have; Being Human.

I do have a problem with people walking over others while still pretending to be a friend. If that’s you, know that I can see you. Peek a boo! I know what you are doing but see below for the rest of this comment.

I get along with every one although sometimes I do keep a little distance from those that pretend they are above us all. I will admit that there have been times when I’ve played the fool because I’ve enjoyed having them believe I have been fooled when in fact they are the ones being fooled. Shall I repeat that?

Why do people get joy out of belittling others? Why do they feel the need to say one thing, but do another  and then pretend, with bashful eyes, “I didn’t realize I was doing that?” Yea that’s catty. I don’t like that either. Do you? Would you tolerate that? I hope not but then again if you are the one doing this, well SHAME ON YOU!

I am a wife, a mother but I was a young girl first. I grew up with a lot of disappointments and a lot of joy and those helped shaped the woman I am today. So please remember that when you feel the need to pass judgement on me because I don’t fit into the world you created for yourself.

I have an illness that cannot be seen. And yes, I have a doctor’s note that can prove it along with permission that says, I can stay in bed, take some medicine that will help with some of these illnesses and with that comes the right to cry and wallow. Please don’t think because you see me daily with makeup and nice clothes that I cannot possibly be ill. I just don’t need to show it and I CHOOSE daily how each day will be for me. I CHOOSE to live with positivity but if I can’t pronounce something correctly or I forget a name or a moment, please don’t make fun of that. It’s part of the illness. And because I choose not to take all the meds that would most definitely put me in bed, I deal with the consequences of that. So if I forget, remember the times you had difficulty in remembering something. Don’t be so harsh. And making fun of me will not earn you any points.

I am not alone in this either. Look around you. That person that walks a little slower but is in their 40’s could be the person that chose to get up that morning and take life by the tail and just swing it. They think they are walking pretty fast, don’t discourage them. Move over.

I also have other ailments because I chose to give my time to my city when they were seeing the worst of humanity. Sometimes, it hurts to laugh because I have to take a deep breathe and the holes in my lungs don’t allow me to do that too often. If I cringe,I’m in pain or possibly constipated which is also another side effect of my meds. I deal with it, you don’t have to but try to understand it or at least be a tiny bit compassionate.

I have a husband who is also ill. Please don’t tell me he looks ill. I don’t know of any day he or I wake up, look at each other or in a mirror and think, we look great today. But we got out of bed and for that we are grateful, and that’s what makes us think we look well. Encourage us. Keep your discouraging words to yourself. I didn’t think them, you did, so you own them.

Please don’t tell me, “Oh, you’ll be fine. Just believe.” The mere fact that I am sitting up and doing something is proof that I do believe but you telling me what I’ve got to do is not encouraging. Sometimes, what I really want to do is scream and cry and say it’s all unfair. If you have not been the recipient of that, well then you know why.

That doesn’t just go for me. It goes for every cancer patient, every person who has an illness you do not see, it goes for someone who is depressed, it also goes for the person who can’t think clearly because they had to choose a medicine they needed to live on over one that would cause them to lie in bed motionless. This goes for all human beings.

When you want to say something comforting to someone and you don’t know what to say, hold my hand. Hug me. (or them) Cry with them. Be angry with them. Then if you want to lift their spirits, support them,but don’t, don’t ever  ever say, “Oh you’ll get over it. It could be worse.” Because IT IS WORSE and it will not get any better and we are trying to live with it. So be there for us or just move along. We can handle that a lot better than phoniness or empty words. Trust me, we’ve been at it a long time now.

I don’t like people who pretend to be a friend and can’t wait to pick me apart when my back is turned. I’ve often wonder, why they think it’s an okay thing to do. They don’t have to like me but why make it their mission to have others join them or choose a side? Are they that insecure? If that’s you, please, go away. I wasn’t put on this earth for a popularity contest and neither were you, but you certainly are not going to win one when you can tear someone apart. Do you not see that others see you do this and will eventually wonder when will it be their turn? To that I can only quote Homer Simpson, “Doh!”

I can like you if you would only give yourself a chance to be liked. For instance, I don’t need to know how many fancy dinners you went to last week when, because I had to pay for medication my insurance wouldn’t cover I could only treat my family to Panera’s. Maybe you didn’t know that but I didn’t need to hear for the hundredth time, who you saw, who you met, what you ate and how much it cost. That’s a bit show-offy. Or, I don’t need to know how expensive your bag is when I asked where you got it. I was in fact admiring the bag, not the price. You didn’t have to tell me, “Oh you couldn’t afford this.”

I can like you if you would give yourself a chance to be liked. For instance, don’t dismiss a conversation someone is having because you are bored and feel the need to talk about something more important, like yourself. Allow people to feel comfortable in your presence, don’t make them feel as if they must have a gazillion bucks to keep up with you. And here’s a clue: It’s NOT about you. Not always. Oh and you do know sometimes I can hear you when I walk away as you mutter something under your breath. I’m sick, not deaf.

I just had a wild thought…. could you be doing these things because you are insecure or do I make you insecure in spite of my lack of whatever it is you possess? Just a thought, but I digress.

To Whom It May Concern, I live in pain. I wake up in pain, I walk through my pain and sometimes, getting out of bed and sitting up is an amazing day for me. I’m most happy that you can get up, get in your car, fill it up, go to your fancy supermarket, shop without coupons, stop for  your $10 cup of double latte,one shot espresso, half cream, half whatever cup of coffee, have someone put your groceries away and then because you are tired, you can go out to eat a $50 salad that I can make for $10. I truly am happy for you. No, I really mean that. But if you find it necessary to constantly remind  those around you that this is what you do, then you also need to remind yourself that you are self-centered, spoiled and uncaring. I sure do hope you put more than your loose change in the cup of that homeless guy you passed by on your way to having that one gray hair colored.

I watch TV. Sometimes it’s mindless TV because reading hurts my hands and either the book becomes heavy or the lite from my old IPAD is too bright. So TV it is. I can be the scullery maid from Downton Abbey or I can be a warrior from Scandal. I can also figure out How To Get Away with Murder and then change the channel and let Laura Ingalls take me away to a simpler time. I can do that because sometimes, that’s all I can do. And if by chance I happen to fall asleep during one of those shows, I’m thrilled because I also have insomnia. It’s not fun. Try it sometimes. Try it for a week. Then come join me in my world.

I sound bitter don’t I? Well only to those who have not experienced half of what I have as so many others have would understand this. It’s not bitterness at all.

For I do not wish to be rich, or spoiled or self-centered. I want to be comfortable. I don’t want to worry about bills being paid but then that’s most Americans. Hark! I am like most Americans! I do not feel the need to rub in any one’s face where I went, how much something cost or that I decided to take a last-minute flight out to Timbuktu. However, if all of these things made me well, I just might try being you for one day. But only because I miss taking deep breaths, I miss walking with no pain, I miss having a clear mind and I miss being well.

Dedicated to all who have been misunderstood because they look so well.

Been there, done that…be patient, still be kind. It’s okay to be angry and cry. *&^%$ to all who don’t get it. Be you! Do you! (Got that last comment from a friend.)

I feel your pain too. You are not alone.

 

Eight Days – 11 Dimes

September 3rd –

Lingering in bed, trying not to face the day. Having no choice, I got out of bed, convinced that today would be a great day. I can’t out run the sadness but maybe I can be a step ahead?

I feel so week that getting into the car is an effort. No sooner did I walk into Target’s to get a few things, I left without paying. I sat in the car as Joe finished the transaction. He said I looked gray. That usually means my numbers are down and infusions will begin. That’s not the way to start a great day, I think.

I picked up a shiny dime on the floor.

Hours later, I’m feeling better. Lots of powerade can do that to you. I begin to pack for my trip. But first, let me empty out the garbage bags in the hallway. We had some retail therapy these past few days, and the empty colorful bags were standing at attention, almost as if they were waiting for round two. As I walked to the dump waiter, I find another dime. Shiny as the last one.

I begin to organize my carry on bags and usually before I do that, I search all the pockets to be sure I didn’t leave anything from the last trip in there. And in the corner, in a tiny pocket there are 3 shiny dimes.

Dimes must be the key word of the day, I think.

A song comes on my IPOD and I push my bag to the floor and sit down for a bit. It was his favorite song. We had song it plenty of times when we used to hang out at City Island. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the unexpected treasure; a memory.

I quickly put on some dance music and it gives me the energy I need to sort through my suitcase. I pushed aside a small evening bag I was planning to take and when it fell on the floor, 2 dimes came out. Not as shiny but they were definitely dimes. Three more and I have a whole dollar.

My head was beginning to take on a mind of its own. Pounding unforgivably.  I took some headache medication, laid down for a bit, and dozed off. Two hours later, I continued what I first started doing hours before but I just wasn’t into it. That’s a first for me. I’m usually packed weeks ahead of time but since I know what I’m packing, I wasn’t stressed. I decided, it was time to de-clutter and so I made piles of keeps, don’t keeps, throw away, donate. Two pocketbooks taking up space longer than I care to remember, were caught on a hook in my closet. Pulling it out, the bag slipped from my fingers and flew on top of my bed. I tossed it upside down to be sure there was nothing in there. A small envelope with a prayer came out. I read it and felt at peace immediately. It was about signs. I believe in them. They are all over. I figured, this was just a great heads up that something good was coming my way.

The rest of the day and evening went by and I was ready to just veg in front of the TV. Joe walks in with the mail, hands me a bag of some items he had exchanged for me earlier and then said, “Oh here’s your change. Weird huh? Three shiny dimes.”

It took me a few minutes but I sat up, looked on my dresser where I had placed the other dimes.

11 in all.

11 dimes on the 3rd of September.

Blessings,
Sonia