Sunday, August 21, 2016

Yellow Kitchen Gloves & A Mask (The Great Louisiana Flood of 2016)

I still feel a little nauseous at the thought of food this morning.  And yet, I am in a cool, dry, safe air conditioned home and so very many in South Louisiana are not.  The number of gallons of water that fell in one week in South Louisiana was 6,900,000,000,000.  Tens of thousands of homes were flooded and need to be stripped before mold begins growing.  Yesterday, I went for the first time to a flooded area and it will stay with me for quite a while.  The devastation has ripped across South Louisiana and it is going to take quite some time to recover.  Stress is palpable as is good will.

My older daughter and I had a National Charity League meeting which happened to be at our church yesterday morning.  For the last week, everyday through my Facebook feed,  I have seen the exquisite needs of so many people, from rescuing out of homes, to now the necessity of houses needed demo'ing.  And it can be overwhelming to see the volume of need for the sensitive soul that I have come to understand that I am.  I read that one focus of the many of my church this Saturday morning was on Hope Community United Methodist Church on Evangeline Street in north Baton Rouge. This seemed like a logical step for me as it was not far from where I would be.  I wrote a blog a month ago about stepping out of my comfort zone helping with home repair after the shooting death of Alton Sterling in the northern part of the city and the hug that I received from the homeowner.  I have wondered if North Baton Rouge is going to be left out during this recovery.  Resources are just not the same.

I invited one of Riley's friends who was at the meeting to go with us.  I'm not sure if she will ever go with me anywhere again!  We made our way to the church on streets with the tell-tale large piles of flooded home contents along the way.   We began to see a familiar face or two from our church, found our lead pastor who told us to find Tom Edd.  We found him and learned he is one of the pastors and said we MUST have masks and gloves.  Riley and I broke three masks between us because they were inexpensive and I felt guilty for that because it had been hard to find them.  We got suited up and it was explained that much of what was going on now was heavy lifting but that a freezer and refrigerator needed cleaning out now before conditions worsened.  We were in the daycare area of the church and our first task was to remove large blue mats used for napping and I knew the girls could handle that so I tackled the freezer.

The sight and smell of this area and the visual of the brown liquid (sewage mixed in?)  and flying bugs of the freezer will stay with me for a long time.  Bit by bit with small blue buckets, I removed the soggy contents of this overturned deep freeze and took them outside to "our dumpster."  The trick was to get things in there without the brown liquid slinging on myself or others.   After a while, two more friends from church appeared and we began to work in tandem.  My yellow kitchen gloves were wet on the inside and out, and I didn't want to touch anything but what we were removing.  The heat of an August summer day in Louisiana wasn't so terrible as we were mostly in the shade of the building but my nose and mouth inside the mask was hot.  And after a while, I could feel my nose dripping.  There was a feeling of not being able to breathe.  I began to feel a little nauseated after removing all of the contents of the freezer and took a break.  I pushed the mask up to feel like I could breathe, but then the stench overtook me and back in place it went.  We began removing bins of heavy wet papers and balanced on chairs to get the contents of the bins into the tall dumpster.  A few doors down, the girls were helping Mrs. Woods who ran the daycare to clean out an office.  Every few minutes, I began to feel overwhelmed in the heat and the smell and knew that after an hour and a half, I could not stay much longer.  Time stood still in this place of God.   Every minute seemed like five.  I also worried that my child would never go with me anywhere again when I asked.  She has a terribly keen sense of smell that I knew was being overpowered as was I.

It was time to move on, and we tried to find a place to wash our hands and did.  Mrs. Woods was in there with her two co-workers.  It has taken me a long time to learn how to speak up when the occasion calls for it.  I wanted to tell them what a great job they were doing and lift them up just a small bit in this time of devastation.  This is what my heart saying but it doesn't come out of my mouth.  I told the ladies that I was so sorry they were flooded.  As I began to try to use my words to say what a good job they were doing, one by one they stopped what they were doing and walked across the room and hugged me.  They hugged Riley and Cooper.  We each said, "God Bless You."  And we all carried on.

There seems to be a thing with me trying to "help" others and receiving hugs in the process.


If you want to support relief efforts, my home church is one of many leading the charge and any money you send will go 100% to recovery.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

1.2 Miles Away (My 225 Experience)

As you well know, Alton Sterling was shot and killed by a police officer at the Triple S Food Mart on North Foster in my home city.   I watched the video a few times to see if I could decipher what occurred. Then the next day,  I watched the video of Philando Castile's girlfriend and him bleeding out and dying before my eyes.  I had to detach a bit knowing this was not a movie, this was real.  I don't watch the news anymore because I have learned that it does not serve me well.  It is mostly negative, and I have the tendency to stay in fear and foreboding and scarcity.  I don't want to live in scarcity anymore.

I don't want to discuss what I think of the shootings, because it's just so much more complex than a simple "black and white answer."  It is not cut and dry.  I just know from listening that living in black skin can be a lot more difficult than for most people living in white skin.  I know that racism exists and our community is hurting.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

While reading one of my friend's Facebook posts about going to a prayer vigil in a north Baton Rouge church last Thursday night, she described secondhand how much pain the black community was in and there was discussion of whether the white community cared.  This broke my heart.

How do I show I care? What can I do to step out of my South Baton Rouge comfort zone?

This is where I am going to be really honest. Although, there is a desire to show up at a prayer vigil or some sort of protest to say, let's come together, I support you!  I don't think I can.

I have fear.

Growing up and in a very small town, the mentality I developed was if you drive to New Orleans and get out the car, you were going to get shot.  This goes for pretty much any large city.  That is the impression I had and have lived with for most of my life.  Don't drive in the bad parts of town.  For that matter,  when I'm walking the dogs at night in my own neighborhood, I get alarmed when a car drives by and I'm watching closely for something bad to happen.

As I have begun determining what I believe authentically, miraculously at the same time an ease has materialized in my day to day living.  I realize how much anxiety and fear on a daily basis that I lived with.  My mind was constantly afraid of every small action that I needed to take even when I knew what I needed to do, I didn't.  I was afraid to speak up... anywhere.   I was frozen in my tracks for as long as I can remember.  This type of fear has to be taken down bit by bit over time.  Exposure by exposure and by practicing, a lot of practicing.

Sunday morning, I went to my book study at church and one of the suggestions was to do your part where you are, with who was in front of you each day.  And to examine your own beliefs, and where you may be contributing to the problem.

That morning, I learned that the three out of state groups that were scheduled to come and work our church's Revive 225 program this week had cancelled.  Our church was looking for volunteers to do the house repairs of homes that are within a 5 mile radius of our downtown church.  When I met up with my oldest daughter in the church gym, I looked at her without any prior planning and blurted out, "Do you want to work?" intuitively knowing that she would.  Now, in my class the hour before,  I had said out loud to the group, it's over 100 degrees outside, I can't do that, are they crazy?  But what was really going on were the other fears in my mind.  The north Baton Rouge fears... (and the heat too!)

But we signed up anyway.

We signed up on the youth page.  Mallory was enrolled in a morning camp so we could work the morning shift.  Baby steps.  Later on that night, I watched the news just to see what was going on with the protests.  There was a large confrontation between police and protestors with fifty arrests just a few blocks from our church...

But I knew I still wanted to go.

I told myself the protesters who were from mostly out of town, would be leaving.  I was slightly anxious, but the kind that I've worked through before when I step out of my comfort zone.  I awoke early, and worried about driving my car around north Baton Rouge.

But I knew I still wanted to go.

I knew in my gut, all would be well.  We showed up at the first house and worked to remove debris that had been taken down previously.  Our youth director mentioned that we were not that far away from the Triple S.  (Alrighty then.) We went to a second house not far away and picked up more materials. At this point, Riley went with the rest of the youth group to work longer and I stayed behind in order to pick Mal up from her camp.  I went in to the house to see if they needed help. Several church members were removing old ceiling tile and repairing it.  I went to ask the homeowner for a broom.  As I knocked to announce my presence in the room she was in, she got up with the warmest smile and presence and walked across the room with open arms and we hugged.

Those who go with the intention to "help others", end up receiving the blessing.

I didn't know I needed a hug that day, and the homeowner in north Baton Rouge gave it to me.

I didn't stay long, because there wasn't much for me to do, and I went to say bye to the homeowner.  Of course, I forgot her name as I forget everything that I don't type in to Notes these days.  But she remembered mine.

"Bye Miss Carol"

We mutually hugged again.

I feel less scared to go back another time.  Baby steps.

At home that afternoon, I had the addresses in my GPS and I looked up where the Triple S Food Mart was from where we were.  It was 1.2 miles away.

She lived 1.2 miles away from the deadly shooting and I am the one who received the hug.  In actuality, I give myself credit that I immediately put my arms up when I saw her reaction.

Bit by bit, the fear and feelings of scarcity will cease and be overtaken by love.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Thankful for Power Outages?!

Late yesterday afternoon around 6:22 p.m. to be exact, the power went out in our house in broad sunny daylight.  George sprang, and I mean sprang into action.  Within five minutes, he had the portable generator sitting on the back patio and was carrying the A/C window unit into our bedroom.  I assisted where I could, finding the proper extension cords, tools, etc.

And I thank him.

It is brutally hot in south Louisiana.

I tried to find a working flashlight and discovered most of them had dead batteries or no batteries at all.  Then I cursed myself for the times I found Mallory with a powered on flashlight not using it.  Allowing the sun in for light, meant you were allowing the sun in with HEAT.  And it's been in the 90's, feeling like at least one hundred degrees with humidity.

It was a good test for hurricane season.
I have started my list of things we need.
The window unit & Ralph Macchio on the computer screen.

I also felt justified for every time I have kept my devices charged to the max.  My family makes fun of me.  My phone was 33% charged.  My computer at 26%.  How will I get communication from Entergy or neighbors to stay in the know?

This is a nightmare.

Ok, it's not a nightmare at all but my first instincts says it is.  My mind and emotions go back to past episodes of tropical storms and/or hurricanes.  I will never forgot the time the power was out for a long while after Gustav in 2008 and my mother in law and my much younger daughters and I drove to the nearby Walmart plaza and it was crazy.  I was looking for ice.  We had no generator at that time and the parking lot was packed, hard to navigate and reeked of desperation.  I felt very alone and unsure of how to handle what was going on.  George was working and living at the hospital.   We were told the power would be out for a couple of weeks and after the Walmart experience, we fled to Atlanta to my sister in laws.  I had never driven that far by myself without another driver.   I have a bit of post traumatic stress (really bad memories of being completely unnerved by the situation) and other past experiences (being nine months pregnant when Hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath roared through for another)

I cringed a little on the inside with my uncharged devices and said out loud that I will never let the family make fun of me for charging again (in my best Scarlett O'Hara voice)  Being without power is an inconvenience and hot but it brings our family (and from what I hear the neighborhood) together.  This is what my new mindful brain tells me.  This is not what I did eight years ago.  Anxiety was my middle name.  I lived in discomfort the entire ordeal.

Thank you for the practice of mindfulness.

After we got the most important things connected to the generator:  my phone(!), A/C, a fan, the refrigerator, and freezer,  we settled down after George grilled hamburgers.  Mallory was away at a birthday party.  George, Riley and I piled in the king sized bed in the cooled bedroom with closed shutters, drapes and doors.  The two dogs and one of the cats was with us and we began watching "The Outsiders" on DVD on our old laptop with added special effect water speakers.  Portable air conditioners and fans make a lot of noise.  The teenager was forced to be with us, but secretly I think she liked it.

It was cozy and comfortable and familially unifying.  After a total of two hours, and a fourth of the way into our movie,  I was a little sad when the power came on.

Well, maybe for a nanosecond.

I love air conditioning.

Forced family togetherness on vacation and in power outages can be a hot beautiful thing.  


Life or Death Decision (A hijacked blog)

Since George and I met twenty-three years ago, we have had a favorite child, non favorite child, two dogs, three cats, many fish and an assortment of other caged animals. I have grown into an animal person. I have also become a nap needed person I nap ALOT. I feel asleep while watching anything literally anything. I Carolyn am an introvert. I call myself a social introvert but my children do not think so. I also do not like to cook, clean up or any activity that involves moving. If I could I would sit in by bed all day. I am that kind of lazy person. I also do not have a good since of timing. My least favorite child thinks when you say a time you have to stick to the time. (Which is correct!!). I also text and drive which put myself, those also in the car with me and other around me in danger. Many Americans text and drive  but that needs to stop, myself included. While driving put your phone up, it CAN wait. So on conclusion on the short blog, I tell ALL my readers to not text and drive, AKA don't do anything on your cellular device when driving a car.

Please keep American and all Americans Save
Carolyn Ann Roddy Golightly, a texter and driver trying to quit.

I still text and drive.

Is this a guest blog or did I write this myself? The world may never know.

Friday, June 24, 2016

I Said No, Finally

Vacation Bible School was this week.  When the email came out a few months ago, I did something that it took years for me to do.  I sent out a polite email and said, I would not be volunteering this year.

I said no.

Not only did I not volunteer, I haven't even been driving to church every morning.  My teenager is working VBS as a youth leader and my ten year old is participating in Mission Day Camp and we are carpooling!!  I have volunteered for the last 10-12 years. Two years ago, I went totally nuts and led (the children) through a week of Mission Day Camp and if that wasn't enough, I volunteered to be in charge of the craft for VBS.   I put my time in.  And it wasn't without inner turmoil.

From the very beginning, VBS overwhelmed me.  Coming from a very small country church with a handful of kids, I distinctly remember walking into my large church's gym for the first time and feeling overpowered by the intensity of nearly four hundred kids.  I didn't even have my own kids yet.  This gym was boisterous, loud, and full of energetic children.  And for several of the next years, I was responsible for groups of those loud, energetic children.  And even though the week wore me down like no other, and I had no energy for my own children, I persisted in volunteering year after year because that is what I was supposed to do.

In hindsight, I worried what it would look like that I was a stay at home mom who did not volunteer for VBS.   I let my concern over what I thought other people would think prevail over what I absolutely knew was true about myself. And then throw God in the mix and I was totally set up for years of inner angst!  I was never meant to be a teacher of kids.  I tried really hard to mold myself into that but it didn't work.  Girl Scout leader didn't stick either.

Yet I learned.  One year, I filled out a scathing review at the end of the week because I did not know how to ask for help.  That year, I was leading an "active" group that needed a lot of intervention and my co-leader's daughter got sick and I was ALONE with my lot.  I needed to ask for more help but I did not want to bother anybody.  I was miserable and it seeped out in the questionnaire.

Over time, I learned to listen to my intuition, I learned to be assertive, I learned that I was capable of leading children, I was capable of being in charge of something important but it is not my passion.  When you are passionate about something, it is near effortless and you gain energy!  What feels like work in one area, just flows in another.  (and that's God flowing through)

I am an introvert (albeit a social one).  Being around people drains me, especially children : )   I have to cocoon for a long time after spending a week with four hundred children.  Every summer, I would have an emotional meltdown towards the end of the summer and it was awful.  I didn't know how to listen to my intuition, and act on it.  I didn't ask for a quieter job.

But I know now.

But the mind is a funny thing. This past Monday morning, even though I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that I was hanging my VBS volunteer hat up for good, I did feel the need to tell two near strangers at church, that I was not working this year.  And guess what? THEY DID NOT CARE.

I'm the only one that cared!

 I'm the one that had to change my thoughts about it.  The only person I had to truly disappoint was me.  (well my oldest is giving me a small amount of flak, but she's a teenager and well, you know...) Thoughts are so powerful.  Paying attention to what you tell yourself about any given situation is so powerful.  Are the thoughts true?  Is the story that is repeated all day long in your head, true?  Those thoughts can mean misery or freedom.  It is the most important thing to do, to challenge the thoughts that you tell yourself about yourself all day long.  It takes time, but they can be rewired.

So today is the last day of VBS, and I am not even going for the closing service.  I will show up at noon when it's completely over, and gather my children together.  And I'm at peace with that.  I get to stay at home and write today. Pure Bliss.


Postscript: Everyone should volunteer for a few years if able.  I just volunteered for about five years too long.

Monday, June 20, 2016

What is Holding You Back Is All In Your Head

We recently got home from a fantastic vacation in New England.  We are a family that tries to hit as many tourist sites as we can and as a result watch our Fitbit steps skyrocket.  So now I'm depleted.  This week is VBS and Mission Day Camp for the girls and I finally said no to volunteering.  I have 2.5 hours alone each morning this week.  And I look around and see all that needs to be done: rooms that need picking up, baskets of laundry, a basket of papers, a basket of mismatched socks, counters that need cleaning, and a plethora of cat and dog hair that collected while we were gone, etc. etc.  I see closets that need attention.  I see everything that needs attention.

And it overwhelms me.

And what I really want to do it write.

And I'm tired.  Did I say I was tired? And I know when I'm tired, my thoughts can spiral downward in a negative fashion.  And in the last few years, I know that if I rest, take the time out to take care of myself, I will recover.

The introvert in me, needs to cocoon for a few hours to recover.  But we don't live in a society that recognizes that rest is a magnificent and necessary thing.  Culture says we are supposed to be on the go, go, go. Produce in some way, stay connected and go.   I have finally learned how to give myself permission to rest.  And those who live in my house are learning to allow me that as well. They do call me lazy which stings, but they can't understand exactly who I am where they are at.  We don't all have to understand each other, but accept each other as is. It is okay to disappoint loved ones.

I have found that when I feel overwhelmed and exhausted, my thoughts tell me that I will NEVER feel rested again.  And I have learned that those NEVERS usually passes in a few hours or a day and sometimes it takes 2-3 days.  And then I have energy again and begin the day with a more positive outlook and ready to GO.  Allowing myself the time to breathe and cocoon, is a necessity.

But today, in between periods of rest, I am attempting laundry.  One thing that I despise is laundry.  Actually I despise the folding, and putting away of said laundry.  I love to gather dirty laundry,  and put it in the washer and dryer - someone else is doing the job during this portion.  It's the folding that gets me.  It feels like a beast.  It feels like I am unable to ever get ahead.

So with the laundry, I feel like that horse in the above picture.  I am chained down with these thoughts that seem so heavy and...

 It's just a rickety plastic chair holding me back.

Every now and then I give in and I fold the laundry and it takes like 5 minutes.  I spend so much time, thinking that a task is TOO MUCH and I can't accomplish it and it takes 5-10 minutes.  It's amazing how thoughts work.  It is incredible if you change your thoughts, you can change your life.

It takes a lot of time, patience, awareness, and intention.  I love mindfulness.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

So Trump is the Presumptive Nominee...and Why Mindfulness Matters

Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee for President for the Republican party.

The Republican party has imploded.


My small self, with a small s, (my ego) is repulsed by this.  The nomination not the implosion.

And for all of the same reasons so many people are also completely and utterly turned off by him: bigotry, racism, misogyny, inciting violence and hatred, making fun of the disabled and the list goes on and on and on.  His ego is soft, and he cannot handle criticism or opposing views.  He attacks his "opponent" viciously with superficial arguments like gender or physical attributes, not the issue at hand.  He is like a toddler.  It is his way or the highway.  This is the level of emotional maturity that he is working under.

He is the textbook definition of a narcissist.

And a portion of the population is voting for him in droves.

And this is America.  It is a democracy.  And this is our process!

I can have my opinion and vote and you can too.

How will his temperament serve our country in foreign matters? His anti-Muslim rhetoric and big talk of bombing ISIS only makes their job of recruitment easier.  He plays into their hands.

This isn't an episode of Celebrity Apprentice or Miss USA.  The U.S. has to get along with the rest of the world.   Nothing about Trump says that he can be diplomatic. Nothing.

His presence in the race has provided hours of ratings for the media and entertainment for the masses but it has been cringeworthy every step of the way.  EVERY step of the way. 

I never liked him as an entertainer, because who he is as a person showed through.  He IS a child of God, as we ALL are but his attitude regarding women, is deplorable.  He has no experience in politics.  None.   His record of being a businessman has so many holes in it.  An article in Fortune Magazine, says that he would have billions more if he had just invested what he inherited in index funds rather than all of his failed businesses.  With the bankruptcies that he can't acknowledge, and failed businesses (the defunct Trump University is currently in litigation for false claims and illegal business practices) where is this business acumen the authoritarian voters cling to when asked why he is an attractive candidate?   He is media savvy.  He knows about branding.  The Trump name just appeals to his voters because it says luxury, but some of it is a facade.  He doesn't even own all the buildings that his name is on, he just licenses them to carry his name.  Appearances.

The people who are voting for him really don't know what they are getting themselves into.  He has changed his stance on many issues to appeal to the extreme right which is normal for politicians.  Yet he has no track record to review, to know what the heck he would do in the most powerful position in the world.  He knows what to say, to get a segment of the population riled up.  And most of it, is in three and four word sentence fragments that have no real meaning.

It's not just that he is a Republican and I am firmly on the Democratic side.

It's who he is as a person.  He has no common decency.  It's all about looks.

He makes fun of the "least of these."

It would be embarrassing to have him as our leader.

And with all that said, this is really my point.   This is where the Self with a Big S comes into play for me.   The idea of a Trump presidency is revolting in every way imaginable.   And in the past, this presumptive nomination would have kept me awake at night, and worked up and anxious for days. And for me, that is no way to live.  And mindfulness has gotten me to a place where even if he is elected President, I could accept it.  Acceptance of people, places and things that don't fit with my ideals is terribly hard work but doable.  Life is about acceptance and letting go.  Life is about love.  And I work my way towards that as much as possible.

I don't hate Donald Trump, I just don't agree with him very much, at all.

I would not watch the news. (I don't watch it now though)   I would accept that I have no control over it EXCEPT to vote and contact my Congressman both state and federally.  And I would let it go to a Higher Power.

Our country has gone through many terrible events and our government is one of checks and balances.  The U.S. would survive.

From a Reuters article in March by Peter Apps:

"For all his rhetoric, a President Trump would, like all other occupants of the Oval Office, find himself constrained by the Constitution, judiciary and Congress. Even if the Republicans do retain control of the House and Senate, many members of Congress are already voicing their opposition. And if a Trump presidency proves as contentious as many expect, it could easily deliver the Democrats control of Congress in 2018."
He would more than likely be a one term President.  That helps my endeavor of mindfulness!!  It would be a test but it could be done. I want to sleep at night. I don't want to worry about politics although they are very important.  In the past, I would have worried excessively.  

I want to engage FULLY  in the people in my life right where I am, as a thoughtful, caring, loving present human being.  I can't do that worrying about who the next President will be.

Mindfulness.  Don't leave home without it.