March 29 – My Bosom Was Buzzing: Tales From A Reluctant Techie

by Carol Ziel

cell phone

I am a serial cell phone loser. There should be a Twelve Step group for people like me.

“Hi, my name is Caroline and I just lost another cell phone!”

They fall into the toilet, the gutter, and the Twilight Zone. I rarely find them. I’m sure that they have formed some kind of club plotting to kidnap my current one.

Usually cell phones are black, navy, or brown and blend into the ambiance of coffee stains, sofa cushions, and area rugs. They are so small–small enough to fit in my bra. I have breast-fed twice so discreetly removing a cellphone from my bra is easy peasy, and if I keep it on vibrate it gives my day an extra kick, if you know what I mean.

Occasionally I have a senior moment and don’t know where the buzzing is coming from.  Then my grandson tells me: “Babcia, your bosom is buzzing !”

This is an observation that hopefully will not arrest his development.

Last Tuesday I put it on the nightstand after work and it vaporized by morning so it was time to visit my friendly neighborhood Sprint store. If they had the same reward system as my favorite coffee cartel has it would be time for a freebie: if you lose 8 you get one free. No way.

This time my primary criteria for buying a phone was size because sometimes size does matter. I wanted the biggest phone in stock, and I got it–a 3″ by 7″ Otter iPhone; it is almost as big as my Kindle. And heavy. If I wasn’t afraid of cracking the screen I could clobber someone into his or her next lifetime.

Although my only criteria was size I should not have been surprised that its magnificent circumference hosted three hundred apps. I can now translate text messages into Spanish although I don’t know how to send them.

The Vienna Boys Choir can wake me up singing like trumpets and force me to complete a puzzle before they are silenced. I can track my Weight Watcher’s points, use Mapquest, take a selfie, check my email, and learn to crochet on You Tube. I can video, do calculations, and file memos. I have a calendar and both an analog and digital clock. I can edit slides and file my life on Life Square. I can listen to music and make movies.

But I cannot figure out how to answer my phone or check voicemail.

I have always been reluctant to get an iPhone or a smart phone as I didn’t want to be at the mercy family and friends. Instead I’m at the mercy of widgets. My acquaintances can dial on the hour but until I decode the mystery of correctly swiping the icons I may never hear their sweet voices again.

I may have successfully found a way to never lose my phone, but I may never find a way to use it either.

Carol has been a grateful member of SCN for four years. She is also a gardener grandmother, social worker, and Goddess centered woman who is delighted to learn and grow in the company of such splendid women.

March 22 – Becoming a “Very Best Thing”

by Kali’ Rourke

I started mentoring this year, after nearly a decade of helping provide opportunities for others to mentor.

Why did I wait so long?

Well, based on my experiences with another program, I thought I wasn’t good at it. You see, I had been thrown into challenging situation pools with little training or support…and I drowned.

Mentee 1 announced to me at the end of her 7th grade year that she had “decided to flunk.” I was appalled and said all of the wrong things. She said that flunking meant summer school, where she would “get food every day, see friends, and avoid her sister’s boyfriend.” The water slipped ever deeper over my head. I felt powerless and that I must have failed.

I tried with Mentee 2, and again, was totally out of my depth. She was an extremely manipulative person and was in the relationship for what she thought she could get out of it. I had no strategies for setting healthy boundaries. After months of becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the situation, I fled and vowed I would never mentor again.

God laughs at “never.”

When the Seedling Foundation decided to create a mentoring program at the request of Austin ISD, my opportunity to change things arrived. As President of the Board, I requested we flip the existing paradigm and invest our resources in the mentoring adults. Mentors should be a self-renewing resource, but due to inadequate training and support, society is simply wasting them. They come when called, have terrible experiences, and like me, never mentor again.

Seedling’s Promise was born and under the direction of our experienced counseling professionals, it has become an amazingly successful program.

But enough about the past. Let’s talk about now, when I am mentoring a first grader who has sparkling brown eyes, the personality to match, and an imagination that delights me every time we spend lunch time together. Milk cartons become princesses, and chicken nuggets become “booty,” to be gleefully scooped up and savored. I bring baby carrots with me, and together we are bunnies for a few minutes, imagining what sounds bunnies make as they munch.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried a little game that another Mentor with Seedling had recommended. It is called “The Best and The Worst,” and you ask each other what was the very best thing that happened to you all week and what was the very worst thing that happened to you all week.

I explained the game to her and asked her, “What was the very best thing that happened to you last week?” She looked at me with a very serious look on her face, and said…”When you came.”

I was stunned. As I left that day and reflected over the next week or so, it just kept amazing me that I was someone’s “very best thing.” How many times in our lives do we get that chance?

I am a Mentor. Join me and be a special little someone’s “very best thing.”

ia-headshot-2011Kali’ is a philanthropist and volunteer, a wife and mother, a writer and a singer and an agent for positive change in Austin, Texas. Oh, and she is a Mentor!

www.seedlingfoundation.org

March 19 – Chemobearapy

by Cathy Scibelli

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I write a blog dedicated to those with serious illnesses but rarely discuss topics specifically related to illness, preferring to focus on stories that will make people laugh and forget for a while the problems they face. However, there are times when the very act of dealing with illness brings love and laughter into my life. I thought I would share a recent example of how I’ve changed “chemotherapy” into “chemobearapy.”

Every three weeks, I go to the Monter Center on Long Island to receive a “maintenance dose” of Herceptin to control the breast cancer that has metastasized in my body. My blog sidekick, a 3″ teddy bear named Stretch, comes along with me.

Most of the nurses in the center know about Stretch, so when we arrive he’s greeted and fussed over. Last Friday we had a nurse, Jane, who hasn’t treated us before so she was curious about the hub bub that Stretch causes. I explained to her about the blog and introduced her to Stretch. Their eyes met, she smiled at him, and it was love at first sight.

Stretch of course wanted to impress her, so he volunteered to help her by watching my IV monitor. As he was sitting on the monitor, another visitor arrived, a social worker named Sandra who came to tell us about some new support programs the Monter Center is starting for breast cancer patients. In turn, I introduced her to Stretch.

Well, that fickle little bear left his post at the IV monitor, crawled into Sandra’s pocket, and proceeded to charm her and offer his assistance in getting the word out about the new programs. But he deftly managed to get back to the cubicle in time to look as if he had been sitting there diligently watching the chemo monitor just as the alarm went off to indicate the session was completed.

We shared some hugs and laughs all around, Stretch presented Jane with a St. Patrick’s Day plant to reassure her that she was Number One in his heart, and we went on our way feeling that not only had we treated our cancer, we had also replenished our spirit.

Living with a life-threatening illness is like being on a roller coaster. Friday was one of the days when you reach the top of the hill and instead of crashing down in terror, you plunge laughing and waving your arms, forgetting your fears. Unfortunately you don’t get to step off the roller coaster at the bottom. But as the ride continues it’s always good to look forward in hopeful anticipation that the next loop around the bend will be fun instead of scary, and make sure you take along fellow riders who give you courage and inspire you. I was going to suggest you might want to find your own little mascot, too–but be warned that they are high maintenance and tend to take over your blog, as well as run your life.

Cathy Scibelli has been living with metastatic breast cancer since 2012. She blogs about the ways she continues to enjoy her life with her sidekick Stretch who always has a unique perspective on their adventures.

January 21 – Keeping A Secret

by Letty Watt

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My mother’s family kept secrets. My father’s relatives said we had skeletons in the closest. I vowed never to keep family secrets, but now that has changed. I hope it is only a brief time in my life that I hold this secret.

We live four hours from the home town, Norman, Oklahoma where we raised our children and where my husband grew up. His mother who is 90 years old still lives there, as well as our daughter, my sister, and his brother. Now that we are both retired we have decided to move back home. Sadly, we’ve decided not to tell his mother until we find a home to buy, sell ours, and make plans to move. We simply don’t want her to get her hopes up, only to have them dashed as we spend hours house hunting and finding nothing in the area we want, or that meets our present day needs, mainly a one level home with wide hallways. We are secretly planning for an unknown future, when she might live with us, or in our later years when we may need to use a walker or wheelchair.

The secret creates knots in my belly. Normally, I chatter with friends about life and write on my blog about what’s going on, but for the last two months I’ve been inwardly quiet, not able to share with our friends of eighteen years that we will be leaving.

So today we wait. We made an offer on a house two days ago, then drove the long road back to Kansas with our secret. After spending two days during the Christmas holidays house hunting, and the prior three days driving around Norman with our realtor, looking at homes, making notes and dreams, we finally smiled and found two that met our needs. Then like a young couple buying their first home we made the list of what we needed in a home and rated the two. When the count was made the two homes were one point apart. Relief flowed over us as we agreed totally on the new home. Time is passing slowly today as we wait nervously. The couple has a deadline of 5pm tonight to accept our offer.

I’d like to say I’ve not wasted time dreaming of paint colors for the walls or how we’d decorate, but then I’d be lying. I have tossed and turned in my sleep, taken a river cruise up a mountain (in my dreams), doodled in a journal, and today I’ve cleaned all of the ceiling fans, dusted in three rooms, and thought about writing. My husband has tinkered with electronics, and now stands in the garage rearranging tools, puttering around accomplishing little. I’m relieved just to have my fingers typing on keys.   Phone….

Letty loves to walk the dog through the field and reflect on life and smile. When she’s not walking, she’s reading, writing, playing golf on warm days or digging in the garden. Her hands are always busy, like her mind.

January 18 – Righteously Pissed Off

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

wheelchair

“Mrs. Bubel just take your son home and wait for him to die.”

These are the words that resonated in my ears as yet another M.D. gave me this advice. Stephen was born at Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas in August of 1965. He weighed 4 lbs. 8 oz. The diagnosis was Cytomegalic Inclusion Disease–a viral infection contracted by the mother in the first trimester of pregnancy.

On January 6, 2014 there was yet another meeting with staff members regarding the state of Stephen Bubel’s care, or lack thereof. For you see, Stephen did not die as predicted. His 24/7 care led me to call one of those M.D.’s in desperation.

“Dr. Dutton,” I said, “I need help before either Stephen or myself winds up in an institution.”

My plea was heeded and help was provided.  Stephen has lived in an institutional setting ever since. Caring for the Stephen’s of the world does not pay well and is never-ending. Care has ranged from being first class to benign neglect.

“So….what are Stephen’s strengths?” the coordinator asked.

“We have been over this every year,” I said in protest. “Can’t you see that his wheelchair has no footrest…he is unshaven….his hygiene sucks…and you want to know what his strengths are? I want to know when his daily needs are met. Fuck your damn forms.”

Yes, I was “righteously pissed off.”

Another meeting of the minds and words is scheduled for February 10th. I am once again hopeful that his basic needs will be attended to as they have been intermittently over his 48 years. Stephen is unable to walk, talk, or take care of bodily needs unless his mother does become “righteously pissed off.”

Patricia Roop (Bubel) Hollinger was the mother of Michael Bubel who died in 2009 and Stephen Bubel, age 48. She is an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, and LCPC by profession. She is also a cat lover, a voracious reader lover of words, gardener, bird-watcher, and she plays piano and organ. Pat married her high school heartthrob in 2010 after the death of her second husband.

January 17 – Thanking Our Mentors

by Kali’ Rourke

mentoring

It is National “Thank Your Mentor Day,” and in honor of that, I sent out my thanks to a few folks (not relatives) who shaped my life over the years.

I thanked my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Garrison, who pulled me aside one day and said, “I think you are a writer. I love this poem you wrote and I would like to send it in for publication in a magazine if that is okay with you.” My self-image changed in an instant. I was a writer! A few months later, I was a published writer!

Was it a great poem? Probably not, but Mr. G. saw potential in me that I hadn’t discovered for myself yet, and took the extra time and effort to name it and set it free to grow.

I was the new girl in my junior year of high school, transferring in at the second semester. Fortunately, the talented Phillip Burton was my Speech teacher. He had chosen “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” as the spring play, and reading through it in class; it spoke to me. I asked Mr. Burton if I should try out and he encouraged me to give it a shot. I was cast as the lead in my first play ever, and Mr. Burton’s faith in my ability to pull off a character that was older, had teenage children, a horrible back story and the dysfunctional behaviors that go along with it, was life changing. I developed a lifelong love of live theater and did many shows in my twenties. Mr. Burton also directed the Concert Choir, and some of my best memories of that time were spent with him and the other “choir and theater geeks” in my high school.

The next Mentor in my life was my roommate in my early twenties. Her name is Harriett and she was a youth counselor when we became roommates. Her insights, advice and above all, her faith that I could and would do amazing things were transforming. Much of what I have become as a person, I attribute to those few years we spent together.

There have been more Mentors since then, and each one is a precious gift.

Did any of these people know they were mentoring me? Doubtful.

They were just doing their jobs, living their lives and being the people they were. Even today, if I did not take the time to thank them for the amazing force they were in my life, they would probably have no idea.

Today I take time to thank them, to appreciate them, and encourage them to keep on being the positive force in the world that they were to me. Their examples have inspired me to become a mentor myself, and who knows what seeds have been planted?

Do you know who your Mentors are? Have you taken the time to thank them for the gifts they gave you?

It’s a great way to spend a day.

Kali’ is a Wife, a Mom, a Passionate Philanthropist and a Songwriting Diva, making a difference in Austin, Texas. She is a member of the Board of the Seedling Foundation and Impact Austin. Kali’ is also currently mentoring a first grade girl through the Seedling Foundation’s “Seedling’s Promise” Mentoring Program for children with parents in prison.

December 30 – My Next Door Neighbor

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

nails

As a hospice volunteer I entered the room of a new resident who had just been transported to the Dove House. Often just my presence sitting by the side of the bed is all that is needed, but that was not to be with this still-very-much-alive woman.

Often, as death is imminent one begins to reflect on one’s life. What events have constituted the days, minutes, and years that we spend in these physical bodies?

This woman became tearful as she poured out a story of an abusive father she remembered as being drunk most of the time and getting her mother pregnant with yet another mouth to feed and care for. He sexually abused her and her sisters. They survived the best way they could, getting a couple of bucks here and there to go dancing. Yes, her face lit up as she talked about going dancing.

“Oh,” she said, “You fingernails are beautiful. I want polish on my fingernails.”

I headed for the nurses station and several different shades of red polish were already awaiting me. They had heard the request.

Ragged edges on her nails were filed and then polished with her choice of red. She was ready for dancing again.

“My sisters didn’t have time for me,” she said, “so I would go to the next door neighbor’s. She had an abundance of kids herself. She was poor, but she always gave me a sugar cookie. She believed me when I told her of the abuse. My next door neighbor was my safe haven all those years.”

If you are a next door neighbor, always remember that it may be through you that the Divine Presence shows up in someone’s life.

Patricia Roop Hollinger, better known as “Pat”, is a Pastoral Counselor in a mental health facility. Voracious reader. Lover of cats. Losses in life have been launch pads for future ventures. She married her high school heart-throb in 2010.