Tag Archives: children

Open Wound in Paradise

Just returned from a fun vacation in San Diego with my two boys. Many beautiful memories run through my head of boats, bikes, the beach, Legoland, and the zoo. Special moments with my children inspire me to plan more vacations and outings, but in the midst of all this joy, my heart feels heavy. Not because anything is wrong in my life. It’s something in all of our lives that I haven’t been exposed to on a daily basis since moving to northern California to live in a small rural town. It’s not that this element of life doesn’t exist here, it’s just not as obvious because I don’t live in a place with tons of city streets or big tourist areas.

homeless-man-sleeping-on-sidewalk-in-prado-centro-medellin-colombia2It’s been years since I’ve walked or driven down the streets of a big busy city and I had forgotten about the overwhelming presence of homeless. When I clicked on the little box on the webpage to rent a bike and visit a museum along the shimmering ocean side, I didn’t think about the people who’d be sleeping on the sidewalk along the way. I forgot they’d be there. I wouldn’t have done anything differently in planning my vacation, but I would have prepared myself emotionally and I would have prepared my children better.

I know there are homeless people everywhere, but it’s different in some places. I’ve become used to the man or woman at the street corner with a cardboard sign asking for money, food, etc. They’re not on every corner, but they are present. I’ve been approached by homeless while ordering food at a fast food restaurant and while walking to my car outside of a grocery store. There are many homeless people outside of the public library and near convenience stores and sometimes I feel nervous when entering or leaving those places, but nothing has ever happened. Just the uncomfortable feeling I get when I say “no” to the occasional request for money.

Maybe the presence of homeless shouldn’t affect a vacation, but maybe it should. Forgetting they are there seems to be what I do to cope with the homeless and I feel bad about that. While riding down the sidewalk along the beach in my nice rented bike, enjoying our ice cream cones, we passed by homeless people about every fifteen to twenty feet. I couldn’t believe how many there were. Most were sleeping. Some were asking for money. Some were chatting with other homeless people. One had a sign that said, “Ass, Gas, or Grass”. My ten year old really wanted to know what that one meant. I did my best at explaining.

I tried not to see them and I feel bad admitting that. I have a friend that will approach homeless and start a conversation. I’ve never had the guts or compassion to do that. I feel bad about that too. I have given money out on occasion and I’ve donated to different causes, but nothing seems to feel like enough, especially after this trip. One homeless man who was hunched over on the ground next to his grocery cart had a huge open wound on his leg the size of a large grapefruit. It looked infected. He looked dead. I stopped the bike and walked closer to him to see if his chest was moving. I thought about tapping his shoulder, but I was afraid. His chest moved. I returned to the bike and sat. I didn’t know what to do. It didn’t feel right to just leave, but it didn’t feel right to wake him. So I rode until I found a security guard and I told him about the man. He said there was nothing he could do. He knew about the man and said that he refuses any kind of help. Shocked, I went on my way and tried to forget.

I can’t forget.

I keep wondering if he’s okay and why he won’t get help. I keep thinking I should have given him some water, food, and first aid items. I wish I had.

I recently watched a video on viral4real.com about an experiment with a freezing child on a busy city sidewalk. The young child, who was wearing only jeans, a torn up t-shirt and a trash bag, stood and laid on the sidewalk for over two hours while several people walked by him with their warm jackets, boots and gloves. Not one person stopped to help him. Not one. I cried. I never want to be one of those people who was blind to a suffering human, let alone a child. The only person who came to the child’s aide was a homeless man sitting across from the boy. He gave him his jacket. I cried. Watch the video if you haven’t yet. http://viral4real.com/2015/02/24/the-homeless-child-was-freezing-to-death-while-no-one-approached-him-i-never-thought-this-guy-would-be-the-only-one/

The open wound on that man’s leg made me realize that what I do in regards to homeless people leaves me with an open wound in my heart. I want to do more. I’m not sure what exactly, but walking by people who are suffering and in need and trying not to see them is not working. A quote from viral4real, “If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up doing nothing for nobody.”

I think the blessing bags are a good idea and that’s where I’ll start. It’s not much, but maybe it will heal a few wounds.

blessing-bag-1

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My Cousin Gave To Me

Last night I looked back at my journal. Every year in December I write down what I wish to happen in the future. I believe if we put our dreams out into the universe, there’s more of a chance they’ll happen. They may not occcyn 1ur in our time frame or exactly as we picture them, but some of them will happen in some way. I don’t ask God to accomplish my dreams and goals. I just write what should happen like, Cousin gets published. Become Zumba instructor before birthday. Buy a house. Meet George Lucas. Three out of those four happened. Still waiting on George, but seeing my cousin, Cynthia Kremsner, realize her dream of becoming a published illustrator is way above meeting the creator of Star Wars. (I’ll write that one again this year…still dreaming I am.)

Of course, my little wishes didn’t make her dream come true, all of her hard work did. She put in the hours, the sweat, and the tears. She challenged herself in a mentor program, learned and practiced new techniques, presented at workshops, took criticism, read the rejections, blogged, submitted, and never never gave up. I cannot list all that she did, but Cynthia dedicated herself to her craft and it has been incredible to watch it start to pay off. Her accomplishments make me smile and inspire me.

If I would’ve had pom poms, I would’ve been cheering like the cheer team captain the day I was able to attend a book signing with Cynthia at Barnes and Noble in Roseville, Ca. I could barely contain myself. I already love going to bookstores, but walking in with a published illustrator for her book signing…are you kidding me? Her husband even brought a keyboard so we could singIMG_5512 along to the Twelve Days of Christmas tune of her book, What My Puppy Gave to Me by Cheryl Dannenbring. I never had so much fun in a bookstore.

We gathered around the table where her books were on display and everyone grabbed a copy to read along. Cynthia introduced herself and started us off, “On the first day of Christmas…” One child held the puppy puppet while her mom sang the words of the book. Seeing so many people enjoy her artwork was so right. I couldn’t stop smiling. Seeing my children and my cousin’s children sing along and participate in this huge event in our family made me appreciate my cousin’s hard work even more. I didn’t know that was possible.  cyn3

I appreciate that she never gives up and is still moving forward no matter what life throws at her. Life tried to stop her and knock her down, but she got up every time. Not everyone does. Not everyone has the courage to put themselves out there for criticism and rejection while dealing with the everyday challenges of life. Many times, just doing life is all people can do, but not Cynthia. She fights the good fight. She works fulltime, raises two kids with her husband, and illustrates books. Yes, illustrates books! After a full day of work, she sits herself down in front of her art desk and she not only creates beautiful pieces of art, but also creates pieces of hope. Her own ambition is contagious. Her drive and belief in her dreams help her reach new goals, but they also help others dare to reach.

Go Cynthia Go!  cyn2

No More Shootings!

No. No. NO! Not another one. I can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. How could this happen? What the hell is going on?Image Does every city have to be tortured with the horror of a massacre? Every time there’s a shooting, I cry, but this time I wept…a lot. Something about it being in a place close to home where I have friends, where I lived and rode my bike to college just shook me in another way. The news of the shooting in Isla Vista made me ache and took me back to my feelings after Sandy Hook. As a teacher and a mother of a fourth grader, I panicked just thinking about the possibility of that happening in my world. I rushed from work, desperate to see my son walk safely from his classroom. Tears ran down my face when I saw him.

“Why are you crying, Mom?”

“Just happy to see you, honey.” I hugged him tight.

No way could I tell him why I cried. He didn’t need to know that so many people would not stop crying for years because their children were murdered. I don’t know how those parents survived after hearing that their child had been shot to death at school. I would die.

            This week more parents must hear that their child was killed while at school, UCSB, my Alma Mater. No parent should ever hear such news. I cried while I watched one parent of a murdered young man rage publically. He yelled and screamed, demanding to know why nothing’s been done since Sandy Hook to prevent such tragedies. He shouted in honor of his son’s life and in honor of all the young children killed before. I wanted to yell and scream with him because I never want to be in his shoes. I never want anyone else to walk in his footsteps, but what do I do? What is the answer? You’d think a society full of as many intelligent people as we have could figure out how to prevent the mass murder of its citizens, but we can’t…or we won’t.

            The tragedies will continue. It’s only a matter of time before someone else’s plan comes to fruition. Whose city will be shot up? Whose children, family, or friends? The news will be shocking, but will we shocked anymore? Are we becoming so used to it, that we turn our heads and count our blessings that it wasn’t our family, friends, or city? After a few days, another news event fills the headlines and we move on. We forget so we can live. We forget so we can still take our kids to school and send them off to college or just go see a movie without a bullet proof vest. Forgetting is our coping mechanism, but it’s preventing us from uniting and finding a solution. We are all vulnerable and our children are too. Our society has created its own version of the suicide bomber, the suicide shooter, and we need to do something about it. WE, all of us.

            Nobody seems to have the answer, but at least we need to look for one. We can’t stop the discussion in the quagmire of gun control controversy. Some think the answer lies in gun control, but the truth is that there will always be access to guns and weapons. Plus, people can kill with anything. The previous killing in Isla Vista was with a car. Sure automatic and semi-automatic weapons make it easier to commit the crime, and we can wish those weapons away, but that’s like teaching abstinence from sex to teenagers and thinking it will prevent teenage pregnancy. Guns will never go away, but teaching responsibility and training gun owners might help. The gun industry could provide some training to those who buy guns. They could require a class or seminar that would help weed out those who shouldn’t own guns. That’s right, some people shouldn’t own guns. Why not require that people bear arms responsibly? What’s so wrong with that? Anyone who buys a gun should have to be accountable for some training and proof of competence. Yes, proof of mental health and stability. If someone recently spent time in a mental health facility or has posted YouTube videos about killing people, maybe he or she shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. Just a thought. When we apply for a job, employers often do background checks and internet searches to learn more about us, why couldn’t the gun industry do the same? It could save lives. Sure it would be complicated and some privacy issues would come up, but just like our bags have to get searched to board a plane, our personal baggage should get searched to own a lethal weapon.

            The bigger issue at hand is the lack of mental health care in this country, the stigma that surrounds issues of mentaImagel illness, and the unwillingness of people in authority to take mental illness seriously. All of us who know and believe that something needs to be done to stop this continual violent rampage must not forget this time. We must continue looking for solutions that address mental illness across the board. We can’t pretend like it doesn’t exist in our neighborhoods, schools, or homes. It’s everywhere. Just be honest about your own depression or someone you loves’ anxiety and people will talk about their issues. Mental health issues are everywhere. Everywhere. We need to talk about it and demand help. We need to educate ourselves about it. Everyone. We collectively created this mess. We collectively need to solve the problem. No one gets a pass. No one is safe from mental illness or the results of mental illness. It’s all of our responsibility to embrace this issue and start finding solutions. The clock is ticking. Someone else is planning another shooting. What are we going to do about it?