Category Archives: HUMANITY

BUSINESS, HUMANITY

Share Your Strength

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Shedding Light

I once spoke at a Women’s Conference called “Business in Heels,” a well-attended one-day event in a beautiful setting. I felt fortunate to be included in their agenda. Not only did I make several new friends, but I learned a bit more about women in business locally and what they are achieving.

The program cover featured slender beautiful legs donned by a pair of hot pink pumps – not exactly my attire, and at the top of my presentation, I told the audience that I hoped next year’s event would be titled “Business in Flip-Flops” – this warranted a low chuckle from the nearly all-female crowd but got me thinking about expectations and how business and life has changed over the last ten to fifteen years. Many women, like myself, and men are fortunate enough to work from home, for a company or running a small business.

Not one morning of my adult, working life have I awakened thinking, “Oh damn, I am a woman, therefore – my day in the world of business will be tougher than if I were a man. How can I fight this injustice?” I simply thought, “Oh damn, the price of Lucky Charms and gas went up again — I need to work even harder so I can afford to be a mom.”  Much of my struggles are no different than other single moms or dads, as well as multiple two-income homes.

Life is expensive, whether or not you have a family.

I Made Choices

Life as a single mom is not easy, but I never had time to dwell on those difficulties. Fifteen years ago, it was normal for me to fall asleep at my computer, writing and working until 1 to 2 am, only to rise by 6 am to get four kids out the door. The end of a couple marriages, surviving a couple controlling relationships that included all kinds of often unspoken abuse, returning to college to get my biz degree, getting a great job then losing my home to foreclosure, being fired from a job I thought was great, unemployment or underemployment for extended periods of time, being drugged but escaping sexual assault while on a business trip, and yet another broken heart….

It’s been tough and I have not been shy about writing and sharing these tough times. The best part? Others have let me know that I am not alone – men and women who have have similar experiences have messaged or connected with me to share their own stories. We all have our individual paths paved with thorns. I readily recognize the responsibility I bear when it comes to my lot in life and the cards I have been dealt. Some of my choices have added to my struggle, there is no denying.

I Am Becoming More and More Aware

With the continued fights against racism and bias, as well as other injustices like LGBTQ prejudices, domestic abuse, and un-equal pay, a resounding personal awareness has come to light.

The fight must be fought by ALL,
not just those who suffer from injustice.

No one who hears my story can believe that I was once an abused wife. “You are such a strong woman, how did you ever let that happen?”

It didn’t happen overnight. It was years of conditioning – of guilt, regret, of “this is my lot”, and how could I possibly ever leave? No academic degree and four mouths to feed. I never thought I could leave until a man, actually several men who were family friends, told me I deserved better. None of my women friends told me to leave. Afraid to get involved? Afraid to break up a family, like I was?

The decision to leave became real when I finally realized it wouldn’t change, it wouldn’t get better, and that one of us would soon be dead. That is a frightening realization. One of us would be dead. 

I didn’t want that someone to be me. I needed to be here for my kids. I had more life to live. And I didn’t deserve it, no matter what I had done or not done – I didn’t deserve to be beaten on a regular basis or fear for my life during the next drinking binge. I deserved better.

Sharing the Strength

The strength of those not subjected to abuses, racism, or discrimination must be shared with those who do suffer, undeservedly or not. If you can be a voice, a hand, a lift – please be that voice and that hand. It is not our place, my place, to remain silent when your/my voice or strength can make a difference.

One more thing…

My fire or passion may not burn within you – and that is ok — we are all in the place or getting to the place where we need to be. It is a journey. My journey – my path – is different than yours.

And if I can share anything, please remember:

Just because you do not see or experience injustice
or inequality yourself doesn’t mean it does not exist.

I never had a bruise on my face, but there were plenty on the back of my head and in my heart.  Lift where you can. Shed light where it is dark. You may be saving the heart or life of your best friend, your brother or sister, your child.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

HUMANITY

The Pursuit of Happiness: Like a Room without a Roof

The Pursuit of Happiness

The best way I have found for me, personally, to combat depression is to discover new levels / places where happiness can be found or discovered: an actual pursuit. Seems elementary, right? I suppose it is, at its base. I want to be happy – I think most people do. But do most people aggressively pursue happiness? Or do they wait for it to show up at their door, unannounced but welcomed with significant fanfare, given today’s social media-infused environment? We live in a strange time – it would seem that gone are the days of suffering in silence, of struggling alone in our heartbreak or addiction, and certainly gone are days of quiet celebration or humility.

Not a Professional

I am not a psychologist; I have visited a few. I am not a doctor of any kind; I have visited many different kinds. Most have wanted to prescribe a pill to help me sleep, to battle light anxiety, to keep me alert, to combat fatigue, to ease digestion issues, and reflux – an so on, you are most likely familiar. I am not against pills or drugs. I am, however, against the masking of issues or unnecessarily prescribing drugs.

Let me clarify, I do not suffer, as many do, from clinical depression or anxiety. I am a person with typical aches, pains, joys, and sorrows that accompany being a human. I’d call myself “normal” if I didn’t have so much trouble believing there is such a thing.

Bipolar Disorder

My father was diagnosed as manic depressive 25+ years ago, before Bipolar became the chosen name of his disorder. He was a light-hearted, loving man who taught me, not only the power of a solid handshake, but also how to see beyond a moment, a place, a person. He truly loved all people.

Even today, many years after his death, I receive messages from people telling me how much they genuinely loved my dad and what a difference he made in their life. That is quite a legacy of someone who suffered severely from mental illness for many years – of someone who made many mistakes later in life – of someone who hurt family and friends with those mistakes.

He never stopped loving people or trying to achieve success. He never gave up on happiness. Just two of the many lessons I learned from him.

The Pursuit

I think it is my responsibility to grow, to develop talents or learn new skills – these things bring me happiness or help me to see beyond a current level of status quo or a feeling of being trapped.

An example of this would be my current obsession with visiting cities or landmarks I have never seen on recent road trips. It’s easy to visit Carmel a dozen times and dine at the same restaurants on every visit. It’s another thing to step outside your comfort zone and take a bit of time to learn something new – you don’t know everything, as much as you would like to believe you do.

Dr. Daniel Crosby, author of The Laws of Wealth,  states in a recent article, “Eighty percent of the non-genetic components of happiness can be controlled by our attitude and by making choices that are consistent with finding true joy. The first step in this pursuit is ensuring that the goals we are setting for ourselves are consistent with finding true happiness.” – Can Money Buy Happiness? Sort of.

Pursuits can be as simple as discovering a new hobby or talent. A little over  a year ago, a good friend introduced me to mosaics. It is an art form very different from what I was accustomed to. I am still learning, even after re-tiling my hearth and a couple window sills, creating several decorative trays, platter, and plates. Expanding my horizons keeps me from being locked in old ways, with old, stale thoughts and same old experiences. For me, NEW = Happy.

Out of the Box

The unexpected in life, as well as meeting new and different people can enrich your soul and change perspectives. You are not done – you are not complete. The moment you find comfort in your own little, lonely box is the moment personal growth retards and doors close for lifelong learning and the actual search for happiness. I am determined to stay outside of that little box which has been my life until now.

Happiness A worthy pursuit, yet somehow, most of us fail.  And in our failure, of what do we miss out?  Does it affect our partners, spouses, families, or friends?  Our work?  Our lives?  Of course, but do we even notice?  We get so caught up in living that we don’t even realize or even care when we are unhappy – it has become our normal.  And then, we fail to recognize when we are happy.  Sometimes, the simplest things alter our attitude and mood enough to allow a little bit of joy to creep in. And sometimes, it’s just faking it – and hell, if it works, why not?

Don’t Miss It

Like grabbing the brass ring, it is easy to miss.  Life goes whizzing by so quickly that we can’t even see the joy we have found or slow down enough to embrace it and feel the difference between happiness and a droning existence or what we think we should be doing, how we think we should be feeling — what the world or our world expects of us.

My Little Tip

I use a fab little app called Sleep Cycle – every morning when I wake, it asks me how I feel. I started selecting the smiley face, no matter how I felt upon waking – guess what? It has made a huge difference in how I start my day. And why wouldn’t it? Perception becomes reality. If it works the opposite way, it stands to reason, right?

Happiness is contagious and NOT underrated. Share it. Like a room without a roof.

**Stay Tuned for my new 3-part Key Point Podcast series with Dr.Daniel Crosby: “The Pursuit of Happiness”

BUSINESS, HUMANITY

A Guy Walks Into a Bar: The Music That Binds

#StandTogether

“Those who have not lived in New Orleans have missed an incredible, glorious, vital city–a place with an energy unlike anywhere else in the world, a majority-African American city where resistance to white supremacy has cultivated and supported a generous, subversive, and unique culture of vivid beauty.
― 
Jordan Flaherty

So this guy walks into a bar, you’ve heard the joke, right? Well, if you haven’t you sure are missing out on, what usually becomes, a bad witticism. This post is not about a bad joke but about what could have been a choice, with truly extreme consequences, that should not be in place in the United States after all these years. This is not a post about recruiting, sourcing, or social media; it’s much more than that. I am penning a #truestory of a night not to be forgotten in a parish outside of New Orleans in a bar that forged an understanding of what racism is and how a genre of music, with the understanding of genuine respect, can bring people together.

So for a little personal history, my Grandfather was from New Orleans before he and his father headed west to San Diego for better fortunes during the Depression. I remember, as a kid, sitting at his feet listening to the stories of his childhood growing up there. He told me of the jazz and the blues music that would fill the streets with passion while the people would dance and sing along. It was a magical place, transformed into a dance hall on the streets at night with people drinking libations, mingling together enjoying the music and food. It all sounded like Nirvana to me, even at the tender age of twelve. I would listen to the music he played on the record player; Robert Johnson (King of the Delta Blues), Lead Belly, B.B. King, Bessie Smith (The Empress of the Blues), Howlin’ Wolf, and of course, Muddy Waters (father of modern Chicago blues). Over time, it became a passion for me to go to music halls, of any kind, to hear and feel the music live and in person. I grew up in the Southwest, and I only had a few opportunities to get to see a genre that I grew up listening to on my Grandad’s old Victrola. When I got the first chance to go to New Orleans, I planned my trip, accordingly, to listen to the music live in a city that was part of my heritage.

#StandTogether

Play That Funky Music White Boy

“And here’s to the blues, the real blues— where there’s a hint of hope in every cry of desperation.”
― 
David Mutti Clark

A friend of mine, Jimmy, was getting married, and we were doing a road trip from Phoenix to Connecticut where the wedding was being held. It was a Bachelor Party on wheels, and one of the destinations was going to be New Orleans. I looked forward to all that was packed into the City of Music and Home to Jazz and, of course, the Blues. The air was wet with perspiration, and you could smell the alcohol sweating out of the tourists walking around The Quarter, taking in the liquid hurricanes and feeling the music blasting from the bars. It was my first time in New Orleans, and this kid was going to take in every sight and sound he could.

It turned out that a lack of sufficient hydration, while causing that dehydration to increase with alcohol, is not something that an individual used to dry heat, gets used to on their first night in NOLA. Needless to say, my man was down, my pal Jimmy was miserable the next day after our debauchery in The Quarter, bar hopping and being invincible. So, the next night I was left to my own devices, alone to find my next adventure, and I had an appetite for something a little different than wandering The Quarter.

I wanted to hear the Blues, the real Blues, not the kind abridged for tourists but in a REAL Blues bar. You know, the kind in the movies, filled with smoke and bourbon, hope and despair, happiness and hopelessness. I wanted the local experience; I wanted to see my heroes or legends who would find that back alley bar to try out new music with the only people listening already gone in their minds and who use the music to anchor them here one more day because they are just barely holding on.

I caught a cab and asked the driver where the best Blues club was in the city, and I am not talking the French Quarter. I got the most charming, wry smile and chuckle. He asked, “What you want to do that for?mThat’s what the Quarters are all about, blues and jazz for the tourists.” I politely told him I was looking for the real Blues, not the faux stuff, but a place where the locals would go to unwind and listen to the music. He laughed a laugh that only could be best described as Geoffery Holder from the 7-up commercials of the early 80’s commercials. “I know just the place,” he said. I introduced myself to my new friend and he said, “Name’s Cornelius, my man.” Then he told me “When we get there, it will be best that I walk you in, you know, just in case.” I, in fact, did not know what this meant, but I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Sounds good to me, let’s go!”

#StandTogether

A Guy Walks into a Bar and…

“Black, white, Latino, gay, straight – if any one of them came across a bear in the woods, they’d all taste like chicken.” 
― 
Jennifer Lane

We drove out of the city and, well, a little out of my comfort zone. We ended up in what could best be described as a shanty town-like building with yellow light coming through the makeshift windows and cracks in the aluminum siding that were meant for walls. Entering the bar, I was excited, there was a titillation I had not felt before in my life, a newness to the unknown, I guess. Then a sense of reality quickly set in, a slap in the face that so many minorities I am sure to have felt when going to a place that was not where they were used to. I was the only white person in the establishment, and being like an odd 80s teen angst movie from John Hughes, the eight or so patrons all turned and stared at me.

The whole bar was quiet as I sat down on the last stool at the bar, closest to the door, and asked Cornelius, who had just come in and sat one stool over from me what was going on. He said, “This ain’t exactly a white man’s bar, if you get my meaning” I, once again, had no idea what he was talking about, but I was about to find out.

Although Cornelius, was served right away the bartender only looked at me, with a stare and then flipped his bar towel over his shoulder and walked away. I asked Cornelius if this was this normal. He just reiterated his previous comment, then shrugged.  After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, the bartender came over and leaned in, putting his rather large arms down on the bar, then leaned in even further, slowly and with purpose, to look me directly in the eye and said, “I think you are in the wrong bar, you looks to be more of a quarters type of cat, you understand me?” I was, at this moment, and with the entire bar now staring at me yet again confused, then the epiphany set in. I was white, in the south, in a predominantly African-American area, and I was, in a sense, trespassing. Having never been in a situation like this and not entirely knowing what to do, Cornelius jumped into my defense saying, “Carl, the kid just wants to listen to music, man – he don’t want no trouble, I know, I brought him here.” “You should know better than to bring a white boy into this bar,” said the now obviously annoyed bartender. “They have their bars, we have our bars!”

#StandTogether

The Moment That Changed it All

My entire life can be described in one sentence: it didn’t go as planned, and that’s ok.
Rachel Wolchin

I was trembling and became reasonably concerned that this could escalate into a very unpleasant evening for me. Luckily, being from a family whose Grandfather sold liquor to bars and ran a few himself, I knew the industry pretty well – so I took a chance. I asked the bartender what was the most popular drink at the bar, “whiskey, of course! What’s wrong which you?” he asked. I pulled out a $50 bill and pushed it toward him and said with the strongest voice I could, “I would like to buy the bar a round then, and I would like a beer chaser with mine, please.” His eyes of steel resolve softened just a bit and he quietly said, “uhhh huhhh!” Cornelius turned slowly and stared at me with the same smile he had when he told me he was bringing me here. I think now he may have meant this trip as learning a lesson for me or possibly the patrons of that shanty bar; I suspect I’ll never know. Frankly, I don’t think I ever want to. The bartender poured a shot for everyone at the bar, even me, and put my change down next to my drink. I told him to keep it, in hopes of making him an ally for the moment. Just as a side note, that was all the money I had for the night, other than the emergency credit card, but it did not bother me, I figured I was done at this point, anyway.

One of the patrons, a regular I later found out, grabbed his glass and came down to where I was sitting and said, “I appreciate the drink an’ all my man, but I like to know who I am drinking with ‘fore I accept such an offering.” I told him of my appreciation of music, how the Blues spoke to me, how it made me feel, for the lack of better word, better. I spoke of how my Grandfather, being from New Orleans, grew up on the music and let me listen to the songs in the background while telling me stories of where the music came from. The greatest seat in the world is at the feet of your elders, and, yep, it always will be and as it should be.

I spoke that I honestly had no idea what I had done to cause the level of angst that was occurring and said, “As soon as I’m done with this shot and beer I’ll be on my way. I meant no disrespect and didn’t want any trouble.” The stranger that had sat down said, “The hell you will! The men in this bar pay their way, paid more than most, and we all will be buying you shots now. Welcome to the bar, son, and thank you for being real, and honest.” Heads shook, glasses were slammed to the bar, and everyone laughed, backs were slapped, and the clear fact that my pants were still waterless was a total win for me. I was escorted to the other end of the bar as I was told the acoustics were better closer to the stage as there were actual concrete walls and egg cartons to hold the music from escaping out into the night. Pretty soon, they were going to be proven right.

#StandTogether

A Guy Walks out of a Bar…

Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.Dennis Leary

The music and the whiskey flowed that night, and the power of the blues ran through our blood, , because that is what we are all are, human. That night, that very evening, I learned a lesson that, unfortunately, so many go through walking into a new place, any place, where there is a lack of representation of what their race exemplification is. This is sad folks, it is, and we, as humans, all should be ashamed of at this time, this moment, that we allow this in the world. Such a simple gesture of respect, from everyone, made for an unforgettable evening.

Say it out loud with me, WE ALL ARE HUMAN BEINGS!!!

Since that day, and everywhere I go, I take that night with me, not only to new places, but the places I frequent the most. I put out my hand to shake or open my arms to hug; I laugh a boisterous laugh to soften the fear of anyone of any race, creed, or religion to think that they are not wanted or in and unsafe place. You should try, it as well; it is a great feeling, and the people you learn from or the people you can teach spreads the virus of kindness and understanding. I have to tell you it is, now more than ever, needed.

I’ll leave you with this Dr. Kings speech, maybe you have read it, maybe you haven’t, but damn — it speaks the words, don’t it? This is ONE of my favorite passages:

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.”

Here is a link to the whole speech I would recommend taking a listen or reading: I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King

I wrote this piece a few weeks ago, after a conversation with a number of friends about relations in this country and I told them this very story. They told me I should write it down for my next post and in light of recent events, I have chosen to post this, hoping to help heal and let all of us know, we choose how we are with each other and we need to start making better choices. I have a dream, as well; I am not a very religious man, but I will say that I pray. I pray that we as a society, can, in my lifetime, hold hands and build each other up for the betterment of all, not just because of what we look like but because of who we are, and that is one race, the human race.

#life #truestory