Puerto Rico…Almost Like Praying!

Thanks to Lin Manual Miranda for inspiring this blog post.

 

Sixteen years ago, the world came together in a way I’d never seen before in my life. I was filled with a sense of comfort. I felt stronger. I certainly stopped feeling alone.

Since then, the world has seen other terrorist acts, they’ve seen cities destroyed by tornadoes, hurricanes and fires. And yet again, the world came together to help. It restored my faith in humanity each and every time.

And now we have Puerto Rico….

The excuses so many people made as to why this or that didn’t happen was the problem, and when it was explained, the answers were almost identical. “All you people want is for someone to take care of you.” No one thought that of Florida or Texas.

No. We don’t need any one to take care of us. We are a strong people witnessed by the many reports that have been out there. NOT FAKE NEWS, regardless of what #45 says.

Let me tell you a little story about a recent experience I had with my family.

The island was definitely in crisis. Prices were up, stores were shut down. But there were no beggars on the street, because people take care of their own. We went to a restaurant. We know the fancy ones may cook the island food but it’s not the way our parents cooked it, so we went to the tiny restaurants. And sure enough, with each bite of food, we’d close our eyes and relish the tasteful delights of our ancestors gifts. Then when we asked for dessert, the woman took our order and left. Fully trusting that no one in the restaurant would take anything. She came back with our desserts.

That was odd.

“Did you have to go out and buy it?” We asked.

“No, we are going through terrible times so we decided instead of closing our restaurants that our neighbor would cook parts of the meal and this way we can remain open.”

Our appetizers was from the restaurant across the street by a husband and wife who had inherited the business from their parents. The delicious desserts came from the woman on the other side of the restaurant who had opened her business two years ago and could not afford to lose the income she was making. So all three businesses came up with the plan to help each other in order to exist and remain opened. No, we don’t want any one to do everything for us. We can manage.

We grabbed a bunch of business cards and spread them every where we went. We made friends in the pool, they had the card and would tell us of the delicious meal they had the night before and how they would be bringing their friends that evening. Before we knew it, every one we had met by the pool had eaten there and were not disappointed. Even my doctor went there.

This is just an example of how our people helped each other through the fiscal crisis they did not create.

No, the island is not filled with Welfare lazy people as many have said. No, the island isn’t filled with women who have children by five different fathers living off government assistance. Truth be told, isn’t that like most cities in America? Puerto Rico is not the only place where this happens, but suddenly it happens to be to those who are ignorant and racist. There I said it. AND WHAT?

Yes, there is crime. Is there crime where you live?

Yes there are those in power that take advantage of the people’s money, is that happening where you live too?

Is their racism? I’m sure there is. But I haven’t seen it. Because all Puerto Rican’s come in different sizes, shapes and colors.

I did notice that men love their women to be voluptuous and as they walk down the streets, they hold each others hands proud to be in each others companies.

I did notice the cruise ships heading for the local Artists taking in the local culture and dancing every time un Jibarito would start to play his music. They didn’t know the dance, but they felt the music and that’s all that’s important.

Then Hurricane Maria came like no other.

And all that beauty was gone. What the press doesn’t show you is how people created tents and began to cook, not just for their families but for the families down the road. We don’t want you to do everything for us. We need help.

Then #45 comes after he lifts the Jones act ten days later which he did immediately for Florida and Texas. But he only lifted it for ten days. Because we aren’t worth as much as Texas and Florida.

Then #45 came and said Katrina lost many more people than you and he had to ask the person next to him for the number?

To add insult to a people who were already suffering, he even said that Puerto Rico was costing him a lot of money. And that matters now because?

He didn’t visit the island. Did he dirty  his shoes? Did he go to a town to see the devastation? No he stayed close to his plane. Afraid to catch a Puerto Rico Disease? He came a good ten days after if not a bit longer but not before he went to a golf tournament, because we didn’t matter and a trophy did.

I think #45 thought he was at a football game throwing paper towels to the people who were paid to be there. Why do I say that? Look at the picture closely. Mostly every one had cell phones correct? If there was no power, then how were they able to take those selfies and pictures? Someone was smart enough to charge those phones for the great Kodak moment that would prove to the world that #45 is not heartless. And for that they received paper towels, perhaps a few batteries and a free charging station until the great orange one and his puppets left.  Even when he bid someone adios and said, “Have a good time,” what did he think they were doing all this time? Have a good time? Doing what? Cleaning out mud, trying to set up a home base to live in until provisions are brought in? Have a good time?!!!!

Knowing my people, before long, someone will bring out their congas, their maracas… and start the music of the island to bring joy to all and to remind them that they will persevere. ALMOST LIKE PRAYING….

And what did I do for my island? I don’t need to brag here, but I certainly did not  throw paper towels to any one and certainly did not hope they all had a good time. And let us not forget because apparently #45 did, Puerto Rico was hit by a Hurricane just a week before. The island was prepared, for THAT hurricane. It needed time to prepare for Maria but that is a BIG factor many fail to remember.

Yes we know that Puerto Rico is an island surrounded by water, lots and lots of water because that’s what makes an island.

But the Island of Manhattan is also surrounded by water and sixteen years ago, no one asked if there was a Puerto Rican in the rubble or if a Puerto Rican needed help, so they could move on to someone more valuable. Sixteen years ago we were one nation, one country, one race, THE HUMAN RACE. And we took care of each other.

And for those that like to scream FAKE NEWS!

I wrote this. I had family there that were relocated here. We are still missing two family members and the news doesn’t look good.
But we are survivors… we can do this… we are asking for basic needs, we are asking for our roads to be cleared so supplies much-needed can get to  us. We are asking for humanity.

 

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And here is a bit more understanding for those of you that still believe it’s an island with lots and lots of water…

From Lin Manual Miranda…

Most of the lyrics to “Almost Like Praying,” the benefit single for Puerto Rican hurricane relief organized by Lin-Manuel Miranda, are the names of towns in Puerto Rico, passionately sung and rapped by a multigenerational assembly of 20 American and Latin-American musicians including Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Luis Fonsi, Juan Luis Guerra, Rubén Blades, Gloria Estefan, Camila Cabello, Ednita Nazario, Fat Joe and Rita Moreno. The music is multigenerational, too, bridging reggaeton, salsa and Broadway, with Mr. Miranda singing lines from the “West Side Story” song named, like the hurricane, “Maria.”

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“I was acutely aware that the name Maria, which is the name of my favorite song from ‘West Side Story’ would forever have a destructive connotation as a result of this natural disaster, so my mind began flipping lyrics from ‘Maria’ to figure out how we could flip this tragedy into something positive, which is why I reached out to Stephen Sondheim for his permission to use it.” Lin Manual Miranda

The lyrics of “Almost Like Praying” immediately kick off with lines from the West Side Story tune with Hamilton creator Miranda belting out,

 

 

With “Maria” at its backdrop, “Almost Like Praying” proves to be deep-rooted in terms of its origin. Not only is Maria, unforgettably, the name designated to the Category 4 disaster that ravaged the island, but the inference also borrows from the fact that the tale of West Side Story was one that incorporated a largely Puerto Rican cast.

 

 

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Why? When?

Why do we hate?

Because we don’t agree on the same things?

Why do we hate?

Because we have different beliefs?

Why do we hate?

Because I don’t look like you?

Why do we judge?

Because I don’t do the things that you do?

Why do we condemn?

Because we think for ourselves and are not afraid to speak up for others?

Why?

Why do we do things that are so dark and hurtful when doing things that are positive and brings light into our world is so much easier?

Why can’t we just agree to disagree without judgement, condemnation, anger or critique? If I can respect your feelings, your thoughts, and your right to what you believe in, why can’t you respect mine? If you speak, then so can I.

Why are people shooting people? Because they are angry? Because they are filled with hate? Because they are mentally  ill?

Why aren’t we standing in unity? Why aren’t we, who feel this hurt and disbelief, just put our differences aside, unite and show the world that it can be done? Why? Is it easier to hate than it is to show peace and unity?

Why can’t we love one another as the race we all belong to, the human race?

And When….

When will we all realize that coming together in unity, in spite of our differences, accepting each other’s beliefs and differences, is the only way we can show the world that we are not ugly Americans. That we are the world… we are the children and we can, do this… we can come together… we can be a united nation. Not just Americans, every one.

I don’t care if you are in support of the president and I am not. There have been years when the person I voted for wasn’t in office and we stood together still to make this world a better place.

I have friends that believe in this president. I don’t see how I can believe in him but the same way I believe in things you don’t then maybe you can see what I see and leave it at that. Respect is so important.

If you don’t want to stand for the flag, then I have to respect that about you but I don’t have to agree with it.

If you don’t want to stand for the National Anthem, then don’t. It is your belief but when I express mine, don’t call me racist or stupid. I believe you can find another way to protest. I have even joined in on protests. I just don’t believe you should disrespect the flag that so many died and fought for. But that’s my belief. Don’t hate me or ridicule me for that.

Let us all take a moment, a deep breath and realize that we are all different and we are all the same.

You hurt like I do. You cry like I do. You bleed like I do.

You may not think or feel like I do but that’s what makes us unique. And that’s what we should accept and respect.

A divided nation is a weak nation.

Mother Theresa once said,

“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”

Let us come together and show the world that in spite of our differences we can all be peaceful people. We can all hold hands and show the world that it can be done.

Have we forgotten the hate that we all experienced on 9/11/01?

Have we forgotten how this country came together to show each other that we are united?

I didn’t like our president then, but I did my job in spite of people saying our government was responsible for the attacks. I went there for those that needed the help. I went there to show support. I went there because it’s what we all had to do to show the world we are stronger than whatever hatred, differences or judgements people have about us.

Whether this shooter had an issue with Las Vegas, whether he was mentally ill or not, the fact remains that fifty lives were taken, fifty families will never be the same and for those that witnessed this, their lives will forever be changed. Let’s not make this yet another issue to fight over and instead remember those that were taken because of this man’s actions. Let us remember those that now are members of a club they did not ask to be a part of, just like we didn’t ask to be a part of 9/11.

For today… stop  …stop and count your blessings. Then stop and think of all those whose life has changed. Then stop and think about how your life changed sixteen years ago. And think…does all of what the president is doing really matter at this moment in time? He is going to do whatever he wants in spite of how we feel. That’s his path. How we react is ours.

Let us react with hope and faith and most importantly love for each other. Let us not be against each other.

I am not perfect. I speak my mind and it’s not always a popular thought for some. I am, after all, human.

Let’s leave hate alone for today…

Let’s leave hate and judgement alone for tomorrow….

Let’s leave hate, judgement and anger alone the day after.

Then let’s start again.

In the name of peace. Let’s start again.

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Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me

Be kind to yourself and others. Today and always.

Sonia

 

I Didn’t Know.

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When my daughter was eight, she’d come into my room one morning, noticing a jar filled with coins.

“Wowsa mom! That’s a lot of coin there,” She said, and I knew she had visions of what we were going to do once we counted it.

“That’s my Random Acts of Kindness jar.”

“What’s that mom?” she inquired.

“It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a single young lady. I didn’t always have great Christmases and when I was able to be in a better place, I remembered how it felt and so I started this jar and every December I go buy some things and give them out.” I didn’t think she’d get it because of the look on her face.

“I have some change, can I put it in the jar and help to?” she asked.

And that’s how Helping Hands got started.

It became a fun thing for us to do. We’d decorate jars for various donations we’d make and when needed, we counted the coins, wrapped them, took them to the bank and went shopping. She learned a valuable lesson and that was that it was fun to go shopping for yourself; who doesn’t like a shopping spree, but when you do  for others, it’s a great feeling.

My daughter would go to High School where each year the students were required to do service in their communities. We expanded the helping hands project(Now it became a project) to include little baggies of toiletries for the homeless.  We began to distribute these bags in my mother’s church and someone got a hold of the media and before we knew it, she was on New York 1 talking about how easy it was to help others.

A few weeks later, a dentist shipped us a box of toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Kindness is contagious.

A few weeks after that, friends started sending me the toiletries that the hotels provided for their stay and before long we were bagging and sharing.

One year, we heard of two families living in the area where my daughter went to grade school, that were in really bad shape. One had a fire and the other family had a member that was sick and couldn’t work. The first thing out of my daughter’s mouth was,”Mom, can we switch the jars around and split the money to help these families? I know it might not be much but who knows?”

“If it puts a smile on their face, it’s worth it. ”

So off we went, counted our money, made our plans and off to the stores to go shopping. You’d be surprised at the treasures one can find in stores like The Dollar Tree, Five Below and the Dollar Bonanza. We came home with bags and my husband thought we had  hit the lottery. It was that or I had spent our entire monthly household cash.

We began to separate, add this to that and the wrapping began. We bought cards with positive messages and made sure that there were at least two items for each person in addition to what we bought for the entire family. Now we had to deliver it but how could we do that in a neighborhood that was so close knit? Someone was sure to see us at any time.

We picked a day and just drove around and when we were sure there was no-one  looking, we ran and placed the boxes on the porch and quickly got back in the car. One down, one to go we said as we giggled to our next stop.

Our hearts were beating but we had to complete the mission. Two blocks down, we had to do this again but this time there were way to many people around, so we decided to take a lunch break and wait. It paid off. We delivered our boxes, drove home and felt “totally amazing!” as my daughter would say.

Every year was different for us. If we heard of a family needing something, we’d take what we had, washed it, ironed it and pack it up nicely. It was always rewarding.

Then 9/11 happened and we didn’t even think of the jars. We couldn’t find any joy in doing anything. We didn’t even decorate much at all. And if you know me, by mid-November, my home becomes Santa’s village.

That December, feeling so lost, I just put up an American flag in the hallway where the elevator opens. I put a sign up that said,”Please keep the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 in your thoughts and prayers. Please keep our soldiers in your prayers as well. ”

Before long, there were messages written on pieces of paper, tagged on to the poster board I had put up. I put up another one and wrote, “Please share your thoughts and prayers with all.” And before long there were three more poster boards. People needed to express how they felt and here was a plain piece of poster board that would bring them some release. I never saw those poster boards or messages. If it made someone feel better then I’m happy about it.

 

“Did you put that up Sonia?” Ms. Whithey would ask me.

“Put what up?” I asked.

“The poster boards with all the dedications for 9/11. It’s taken on a life all its own. This is a community gift. I need to know who did this,” and she walked away.

The following year it seemed like there were suddenly an abundance of kids living on our floor. I put up Welcome back to school decorations and I designated a wall for FYI’s – DID YOU KNOW? And every morning, children who weren’t living on our floor would come and read another FYI.

Halloween, the same.

Thanksgiving, the same.

Thanksgiving evening, when all was in bed after a lot of food, my daughter and I sneek  out of our apartment quietly and begin to decorate our  hallways. We wanted every one to wake up and be in a winter wonderland. And a lot of DID YOU KNOWS went up.

“Sonia, do you know who is doing this? Other floors are doing this. It’s bringing every one in and it’s the topic at the tenants meeting. Come on find out for me. We need to thank them.”

I said I’d  try.

One year, we heard a loud bang on our door. My husband opened the door and rushed to my room to get me. It was our neighbor and something was happening to her. It was a panic attack I had never seen before. It almost felt like a seizure but again nothing I had ever experienced like this. I finally calmed her down and called for an ambulance. I ran to her apartment to secure if and grabbed her pocketbook and cell phone. I looked for any number that would  tell me it was a family member. Before long the apartment was secure and she was on her way to the hospital. Her children who lived near by came the following day to thank me. A few days later I’d received a beautiful plant.

Months went by and every time I saw Carmen, she’d smile and say thank you again so much and I would tell her, I’m here any time you need me for whatever reason.

We met on the way into the building a few months after that and she told me,
” I believe we live in a world where people take too much for granted and others are just never happy for the things they do have. I will always be grateful to you for what you did for me and my children. And by the way, Thank you for the hallway decorations.”

I looked up quickly. “Huh? What hallway…..

I know it’s you. Your spirit is in everything you do and I believe that when we feel a good way about something we should share it. After 9/11, I saw you leaving your home every night. I saw your husband coming home with dusty clothes every day. I figured out that he was doing days and you were doing midnights. I wish I could have said something to you both but you looked so sad, I didn’t know what to say. But the decorations, that’s you. ”

I just smiled. I didn’t know what else to say.

One Saturday, the doorbell rang.

It was  Carmen’s daughter.

Carmen had passed away.

I hugged her.

“I wanted you to know that every day that she left her apartment and every day that she came home, she was greeted with your gift. And it made her day. It brought her happiness. I wanted to thank you for that.”

I didn’t know.

Then the illnesses of friends from Ground Zero started becoming a part of our lives and we lost that gift.

“I don’t know what’s going on with you Miss Thang. But you best get over it and start decorating our hallways again.” Ms. Whithey would say to me in the elevator one day.

“How do you know? Did Carmen say something?”

“No one told me. But I saw you rushing back and forth  to her place and yours, making phone calls and stopping to fix one of the decorations that fell. You knew where to put it and later on when you were cleaning the mess the medics made, you had tape in your pocket and you stabilized the decorations again. It’s you. It’s been you. And thank you. It’s one of the most joyful things I can come home to every day. Cause you know, Doctors can cure  you but they can kill your spirit with their hundred dollar words.”

I smiled and walked away. BUSTED! The secret was out.

And then Ms. Whithy went home too. And what spirit I had left, was gone. I   found no joy in decorating. I found no joy in the gift to my neighbors.

Two weeks after Thanksgiving, I’d walk out into the hallway to get on the elevator and there were notes on the wall.

“Please decorate our halls again. It’s our smile in the morning and our smile in the evening. Thank You.”

No one knew! With renewed strength and encouragement, we decorated it. This time we didn’t sneak around. We played music and all the kids on the floor came out. “Can I help?”

That’s how a community of people work together. Each different in their beliefs, their religion and their thoughts. We even had people who did not celebrate any of the holidays but were so grateful that I always put up a wall that said, “To those that don’t celebrate the holidays, may the New Year bring you an abundance of love, joy, happiness and health. Thanks for being our neighbors.

I never knew  that a simple gesture could mean so much. And it is with that thought and the memories that have stayed with me, that I happily decorate our halls today.

I didn’t know it then but I do now… Anything we can do to bring a community together, needs to be done.

I never knew that any of what I did would matter to any one in particular. It was just a fun thing and I felt, I’d eventually phase out of it.

Not today.

What will you do for your community?

 

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others and remember any thing you do… a smile, a hug, anything does go a long way for those in need.

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With much love and many blessings,

Sonia

 

I’ve Learned…

 

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Things I’ve learned:

I’ve learned that people will stick with you as long as you have something to offer them-after that, they have no use for you—-until the next time.

I’ve learned that kindness to others goes a long way. It’s a great way to end your day, knowing that you made a difference.

I’ve learned that those that say, they don’t like drama, remain silent as they witness injustice, and unfairness because they don’t have a backbone and yet expect you to stand for them, when the shoe is on the other foot.

I’ve learned that when you ask God for something and you don’t get it, it doesn’t mean he wasn’t listening, it means that what you asked for isn’t what you need. Trust in him. He knows better. Besides, he did answer your prayers, he said NO.

I’ve learned that just because you help someone, stand up for them, lend an ear  when they need to vent, they are not necessarily your friends. Be careful of who you share things with.

I’ve learned that ego is a big deal for some, to the point that they will do their very best to dismiss you because they must always stay relevant.

I’ve learned it’s easier for some people to hang out and side with the bully because they realize that one day, they may be the ones that will get bullied.

I’ve learned that random acts of kindness is the best thing in the world. Because it makes the world the best place to be in.

I’ve learned when you stand by and see someone being talked about, mistreated and disrespected and do nothing about it, that you are just as guilty as the person who is doing the bashing.

I’ve learned that people say one thing and  mean another because being truthful will not let them be as popular as they wish to be.

 

I’ve learned never to let hurt continue to live in me as it is a poison that can turn me into what I never want to be.

I’ve learned that when my faith is tested, that’s when I need to pray even more.

I’ve learned that when people say there is no GOD, that they don’t believe in GOD, that’s its okay as long as I believe in him. Every one is entitled to believe what they choose to believe.

I’ve learned that when things aren’t going so well, to stop and count my blessings. I can still feel sad about it, but blessings have a way of changing that frown upside down.

I’ve learned it’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.

I’ve learned that I’m not on this earth to compete with any one. I’m here to love, cherish, make memories, help others and be happy.

I’ve learned that just because someone says something doesn’t make it true.

I’ve learned to forgive. It’s hard. Try it. But with forgiveness comes peace. And once that peace is obtained, your life will be so much better.

I’ve learned it’s okay to disagree with someone but it’s not okay to be attacked for your/their beliefs.

I’ve learned that when people advertise all of their accomplishments, they need to be relevant and that includes stepping on any one’s toes. (The toes you step on today will be the ass you have to kiss tomorrow.)

I’ve learned that when people go out of their way to hurt you, it’s not about you, it’s a reflection of who they are. I don’t pity them but I do try to understand them. Understanding them, doesn’t mean I am in agreement with what they have done, I’m in agreement that they are helpless, lonely people who need attention and they will do whatever it takes to be the center of it all. You can’t be angry at that because it’s got to be tough to live in their bodies.

I’ve learned to laugh, to live, to love.  It raises my endorphins and it makes others who can’t stand to see you that way, wonder:” Just how does this keep happening to her and not me?”

 

I’ve learned that it’s not always a good thing when people ask you “How are you?” And you tell them. They really don’t want to know. They are just being polite. I’ve learned to accept that politeness because it is better than being rude.

I’ve learned that phonyness comes in all sizes, shapes, nationalities and cultures. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you are a phony to others, eventually, you have to live with the phony in you and that’s not a good thing. Which, I guess it’s why people  keep being phony. Because they know the reactions they are getting comes from a reaction to their phoniness, and at the end of their day, they realize nothing was truly real. It’s a crazy circle.

I’ve learned that people will like me, love me for who I am regardless of what my beliefs are because all people are looking for is honesty and sincerity.

I’ve learned that a true friend will always ask, wonder and care about what is going on in your life. I’ve learned that a true friend will be honest and sincere in their thoughts and in their words.

I’ve learned that sometimes family isn’t always the ones you are biologically connected to but someone that absolutely loves you and vice versa.

What have you learned?

Sonia

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Where Were You On September 10th, 2001?

Yesterday was a glorious day.

Our friends from Gander came for a visit and we went to First Responders day at Rye Beach. Roxanne and I don’t do rides but we enjoyed watching our husbands and daughters, filled with glee, getting on those crazy rides they call fun.

They had a BBQ for all first responders. We ate well.

They were taking up a collection for the victims of Harvey.  We felt good we could be a part of that.

The last ride was the hardest for them all, so rather than risk getting sick, we went to the arcade. Chloe, Roxanne’s daughter had over 1,000 tickets to trade in for prizes. Then someone mentioned pizza . Off we went to test one of the top ten pizza restaurants. Between the yummms and the Oh-this-is-Really Good comments, we were once again filled to the gills with all things delicious. We didn’t stop there. Roxanne was on a mission to try out New York cheesecake and a cannoli. So off we went and no one was disappointed.

After taking them back to their hotel, Joe and I began to talk. What a great day it was.

“I can’t remember the last time I was this happy before 9/11,” he said.

“I can’t either but this is what we should be doing. We’ll be sad enough on Monday” I replied.

Joe didn’t feel well and I realized he missed taking his afternoon meds.

I was all achy but for me, I would have preferred to feel all that we were feeling that what was going through our heads just a day before.

 

We got home after a call from the docs to come in for a quick checkup.

Tired, we showered, got in our jammies and slept. As I woke up this morning, pain shot through the lower part of my body. I could only stand up using one leg. But if you know me, I only go to the doctors for everyone else, not for me. I had a mission today. It didn’t look like I would accomplish it.

Laying in bed on 9/10 when you are in pain brings up memories you want to forget. I tried to go back to sleep. I was on the verge of tears wanting to go downtown for the Mychale Judge walk. It didn’t look at all that it would happen. My heart was broken. I’ve wanted to do this walk for the last few years and couldn’t muster up the guts to do it. I had my clothes laid out and made plans with my soul sister Freyda. I was going to do this finally!

It wouldn’t happen at all.

One by one, text messages started coming.

“We’re thinking of you.”
“Hang in their friend, we’re praying for you.”

“We know today is hard and tomorrow harder but we are here if you need us.”

Then the best message of all..”Sonia I can’t stop thinking of you in this period of this year. Every 9/11 I have your voice in me heard, I have tears in my eyes because of all the emotions I had when I met you. Hearing your story and seeing how strong you are. I will be running my first marathon in Verona, the city of love. I will be wearing the shirt I designed with your logo.”

I met Davide a few years ago. He came a second time with his family. We have stayed in touch all of these years. Davide lives in Italy.

 

This is the T shirt he designed using my logo.

David shirt

Seeing this, reading his message brought tears to my eyes. Someone from so far away is thinking of us. Not just me, but all of us. Because he knows what we all went through. We are truly not alone. This run he is doing, this t shirt he is wearing is for us. All of us.

And then Freyda would sent me a message: “You coming?”

I stayed silent, unmoving and unprepared for what happened next. A memory I had long forgotten.

“Mom, what will you make for dad’s birthday tomorrow?” My sixteen year old daughter would ask.

“Chili of course, and cornbread and after school, we’ll take it to him so the guys at the precinct can enjoy a nice home cooked meal. Do you think we should bring his gifts with us to open them with his friends?” I asked her.

“No, I like when we do the gift thing in private. Besides you got him the Marines raising the Flag statue. I know he loves that and he won’t show his emotions in front of his buddies. That was a good find.”

That afternoon, I prepared the chili. Baked the cornbread and wrapped his gifts. He loved seeing pictures of the Marines raising the American flag during WWII. To him it was always about strength, courage and resiliency. It also meant, that we were strong. We could accomplish anything. We were one country, one nation.”

I remember trying to find  a replica of that moment in history. When I did, I knew, no mater what the cost, that he would love it.

I didn’t realize then how much more that statue would mean to him a week later. We didn’t celebrate his birthday the following day. Or the day after, or the day after that. He wouldn’t speak to us. In fact, I had completely forgotten the statue until the fourth day after 9/11 when he came home and began to read the names of people we knew.

“What are you doing? What does this mean?” I asked.

“They are gone. All of them.”

“Gone? As in they  reassigned them?” I asked a little more desperately.

“No! Gone as in dead. My partners are gone. Why did they die and I’m still here. Our friends are dead.  GONE. Just gone!”

Carissa and I would cry that night. We never stopped to think about any one else but Joe and we felt so guilty about that. In our minds, everyone was ok. The following night when he came back from his detail, I made him a sandwich as he just wouldn’t eat anything the days before that. I placed the present in front of him.

“I’m not doing this Sonia. It’s not my birthday. ”

“Just open this one. Please.” I begged

His eyes welled up with tears. He touched the statue as if it was a million dollar prize.

“You know, the Fire department and the police department hung up flags near the rubble.” he muttered sadly.

He took a bite out of his sandwich and did what he had been doing every night since 9/11. He sat in front of the TV without looking at anything else.

Days later, I became a recovery worker. I met some folks from near and far. They were hugging me as I was trying to help others. They were comforting me as I was trying to comfort others.

“It’s hard for me to comprehend this. September 10th, was a typical rainy day and I love rainy days. Where were you on September 10th, what were you doing?”

“Making chili, wrapping a gift, feeling excited because September 11th was going to be the best birthday ever for my husband.” I walked away after that. I don’t even remember where I went.

I got back on my post and a group of First Responders came in. We all went to our stations and I was preparing a bag for each one, then finding a room where they could rest for at least an hour or two.

I never knew his name.  I don’t know what his position was in the fire department. I only know that as I walked him into his sleeping  quarters he grabbed my hand, tight.
“Please don’t let me go in there. I don’t want to close my eyes. I don’t want to see things again. Please just stay here with me.”

I held his hands. I rubbed his back. “I’m here for you. You are not alone. If you don’t want to go in there, then rest out here till you fall asleep. I won’t leave you.”  I was trying hard not to cry.

“Can we pray? I’ve got to find someone. I’ve got to bring a family some peace of mind. Can we pray?”

“Yes.”

When we were done, he looked at me and said, “September 10th was the last time I saw my family. It was the last time I smiled. What were you doing on September 10th? Anything special.”

How could I tell him what I had done? It would only make him hurt more.

“I cooked, I baked, you know the usual stuff. Besides it was raining and rain and my hair are not a good mix.” He smiled!

“Can you stay just a bit longer? I don’t want you to get into trouble?”

“Of course I can stay. Lets sit back and think about something that made us laugh, oh I know …what was the silliest thing you ever did, or t he most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you, or…..”

He nodded off. He had fallen asleep still holding my hand.

I laid my head back on the sofa and just let the tears fall. I was safe for a few moments. But I understood what was haunting my husband.

It would haunt me for years as well.

God be with all of you as the 11th draws near. And if you need to hold my hand, or talk, or just reminisce about an embarrassing moment. I’ve got plenty to share with you. Just remember, you are not alone.

God bless you all.

Sonia

And thank you Davide.

Forever Remembered tag

Do You Ever Wonder….

Sometimes my conversations with a friend always takes us to a place where we  think of something and wonder… Why? How? Really? Seriously?

Yesterday was no different. Hours on the phone, catching up, and comforting each other for what is coming led to, “Do you ever wonder?”

We started talking about friendships. We agreed there are all types of friendships and those friendships are on different levels.

I remembered telling my daughter years ago, that she had to put her friends in categories. She can’t always be upset because a friend of hers wasn’t there for her and didn’t have time to listen. If she did that, she’d be a lonely person. She couldn’t understand that completely so the example I gave was simple:

If Friend A, loves to go to the movies and loves to talk about books but is not really the kind of person that is not into board games, then go to the movies with her, talk about those books you’ve read and invite the friend that does love board games to come over.

If a Friend B, loves board games and is a good listener, that’s the friend who while playing will ask if you are okay and the rest will come. You will speak from your heart, she will listen and understand. Once my daughter understood that, she realized that she was able to enjoy her friends a lot more and a lot less hurtful feelings were experienced.

My buddy was speaking of just that to me last night. She felt a disconnect with a group of friends she had made awhile back. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she was saddened that an incident occurred and she did not involve her friends but in a way they were very much involved because of the choices they had made to exclude her. Little by little she experienced the growing distance. No- How-are-doing? phone calls. No, let’s go have lunch phone calls.   And the biggest one of all for her was to see her buddies taking selfies in a group setting and she was not in the picture. She definitely was being excluded. But why?

My thoughts on that again were simple: If they didn’t take  the time to have a discussion with her on what was upsetting to them or the reason why they had become distance, then there is nothing she could do. Asking them will put them on the spot and they may very well deny everything. Then she  walks away feeling more confused  and hurt than she was before. Maybe if that’s how she is being treated, it’s time to pay attention and put those friends into categories. Just don’t dwell on it because it just adds more hurt and will accomplish nothing.

We talked more about it but I then thought, if this were me, what would I do?

I had to think about my conversation with my daughter and I realized if I know in my heart, I did nothing to any one, and they are being dismissive of me and others are following that lead, then that’s the path  they chose, how I react is the path I chose. I don’t have to defend, define or explain anything if they made the decision to be exclusive. It does hurt but that’s a message being sent.. pay attention… listen closely… protect your heart and never,ever lower yourself to their standards. If they have made the decision to treat you in a negative way, let them. They have to live with choices not me.

We then talked about family. She too has a husband that’s ill from his time spent at Ground Zero. It’s hard for her to watch him deteriorate and suffer so much. It has changed everything in her life, including who she wants and needs to spend time with. But she had decisions to make and she had so many choices to consider and she was at a standstill. What should she do?

Again, I found myself remembering a conversation I had with my daughter.

“If you have to choose between two things that you want or need to do and you can’t make up your mind, do a coin toss. As that coin is in the air, if your first thought is, “I hope it’s heads,” then you already know what you want or need to do.

We talked more about our children, work and volunteering. She is grateful her children are grown because she gets to work part-time and volunteer whenever she can. But it’s always around her husband’s schedule and she felt her life had changed completely.

Her life is taking a new road. She is where she’s supposed to be. I stopped fighting the internal what ifs, each and every day. I am now more comfortable with my choices and if I need to redo something, that’s what I need to do to get to where I need to be.

We said our goodbyes and see you laters.

I am blessed. I have friends that do care. I have friends that are considerate of me and my family. I have friends that enjoy my company as I enjoy theirs. I also have people in my life that introduce me as a friend but that’s where it ends. The “friendship” doesn’t go past the intro phase until of course, there is something I can help them with. That’s okay too. I don’t mind helping anyone because at the end of my day, regardless of their motives, mine were sincere.

Friendships are valuable treasures. They are memories that bring smiles to your faces on days when you need to smile. Friendships are about two, three, four or twenty people who enjoy each other’s company and are always there for a good laugh, a long hug or a good cry. Friendship is about respect.

So if you are reading this think about these things:

If you have a good friend, treasure them. Honor them with thoughtfulness, respect, love and acceptance. If you are friends with someone who has hurt you, and that friendship was once valuable, if it’s worth salvaging, make that call and talk it out. If you have friends that say they are your friends and then proceed to do things without you, don’t be  upset, count your blessings, because you already know what they bring to the table and it’s not about you. How they treat you is about them, how you react to that is about you.

If someone you thought was a friend  turned out not to be one, try being one to them. They may have had a hard time about something and pulled away. They may have said something that was out of line and not realized it. Always try to mend that fence. Once you have, if the fence keeps breaking, then move on. It’s not meant to be and don’t beat up on yourself because of it. You tried, maybe they did to.

Most importantly, don’t hurt those that have never done anything to you simply because “the group” needs to stand by someone. Don’t be that person. Be a friend, a true friend. Show your backbone and let those that want to follow the road to negativity and exclusion, that you have a mind of your own.

That was me, in my twenties. And I am so grateful that I learned that lesson early on in my life. Don’t learn that lesson when it’s too late.. it’s never better late than never. That doesn’t always apply to situations like this.

It was always easier for me to follow the crowd because it was the path that had the least drama. But all the while, I knew that my doing this was hurting someone who never did anything to me. I stood up for myself. I stood up for them. I let those that were creating the drama and backbiting understand that I could no longer follow the crowd because I didn’t want drama. I could not hurt another simply because it was the easy way out to not get others angry and upset with me. They tried to talk me out of it and I knew then that their mission was one to hurt. They wanted me to be a part of that mission and I could not do it any more.

I began to have my lunch breaks with her. We did our Christmas shopping during our “extended” lunch hours. We went out to eat every pay-day. We’d take a day or two off from work and have a long weekend at the beach. Thankfully we didn’t work in the same department. And finally we talked about what happened.

“Of all of them, I never thought you’d follow. Why have you stopped doing  that? Why are you here with me after all this time?”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I have no excuse except to say I was wrong. You did nothing to me. I know they were upset about something you did but it was easier for them to turn their backs on you and it was easier for me to do the same because I didn’t want to be that person who didn’t follow the crowd. I’m so sorry I hurt you but I’m also happy I stood up to them by not allowing them to get into my head any more.”

We hugged. We did more things on our lunch hours and dinners were always fun. We even had sleep overs. They are fun at any age. And because of this friendship we found other friends who became part of the lunch dates, dinner dates and sleep overs.

I vowed I would never turn my back on someone even if they did something to me. I would not wait for an apology either. if one came, I’d accept it and build from there. If  no apology came, I’d move on knowing I did my best.  I made it a point from that moment on, to think for myself, take advice with a grain of salt and find out for myself what the truth was. I knew that being a follower was only when it came to God. No one else.

Life began to change for us and having those sleep overs then included our babies.    Some of our friends moved and we kept in touch as often as we could, others, just faded away. Nothing happened, their life just took another turn.

As for my friend and me, had we not had that conversationyears before, had I not stood up to the group that felt it was okay to exclude her, I wouldn’t have had the best conversation I’ve had in a long time last night.

Treasure your friends.

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Sonia

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Forever Remembered

Welcome To My World

There’s no way to avoid it.

It happens every year.

I think about other things

But this day begins to appear.

It happens very subtly,

A song, a picture or two

And then I begin to remember,

A sky … oh so blue.

You woke up that morning

Said your goodbye’s

Little did you know

Hours later you would die

I didn’t know your name

Never met you in fact

But you were with my friends

That were there and never came back

It’s been 14 years since last I enjoyed a blue sky

It’s been 14 years since many of us  said goodbye

I’d like to know that you’re okay

Looking from above

Knowing that you are truly missed

By all those you love

Forever Remembered

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