Refocusing or May I Have a Donut?

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I have been watching my friend Abby, from the infamous Abby Gabbs blog, posting pictures with the hashtag #100happydays. I wasn’t sure what it was about, but I loved the pictures. Today, Abby posted that she had completed the challenge, and I finally understood what it meant.

It is a very simply challenge- every day submit a picture of what made you happy! Post the picture to your Instagram or facebook and tag it. At first it seemed to be a rather Brady Bunch, Leave it to Beaver look at your life. Yet, the more I read, the more I realized that some days I only focus on the fear or the negative. Every day has something that brings happiness. Every day I can chose to be grateful for something.   I know this is pretty simple, and I know it won’t change the circumstances of daily living, but it might just change my attitude a bit.

The challenge says, “#100happyday challenge is for you – not for anyone else. It is not a happiness competition or a showing off contest. If you try to please / make others jealous via your pictures – you lose without even starting.

I decided to take the challenge. I won’t be posting to facebook every day, but my Instagram will be updated daily. I will post again in a couple of weeks, and let you know if my attitude has changed.  I hope I don’t have to buy too many donuts!

Off the Computer and Into the Streets?

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The past few months have been a time of questioning and feeling powerless.  It began when I read the story of 200 young girls in Nigeria who were kidnapped and held hostage.  A movement called #bringbackourgirls was started, and the internet exploded with people posting concerns, demanding action, and praying that the girls not be forgotten.  I quickly jumped on board.  I chose and committed to praying for not only all the girls, but for one young girl named Naomi.   I changed my profile picture on facebook to the logo for the movement.   I signed a petition  and tweeted about the girls.

Last week, I changed my profile picture back to my own picture.  As I did it,  sadness filled my heart knowing that we are approaching 100 days, and the girls are still being held captive.  Did all my efforts mean nothing?  Is it useless to try to effect change?   I hope not.  Yet, I wonder if it is enough.  Could I have done or do more? What would that look like?

I am thinking about the answer to questions like these as I take classes this summer.  In the first semester class, we watched  Half the Sky documentary about the lives of women and girls around the world who are abused, treated as slaves, sold as property, and mutilated.   We saw sex trafficking here in our own country, as well as around the world.   We discovered girls being denied access to education just because they are girls.  We also watched a documentary about the conditions of people  around the world living without proper sanitation or access to clean water.   We looked at poverty at home and globally.

This semester we are talking about social problems and solutions.  In one of our discussion posts, I wrote about the use of the internet and social media to effect change.  I know these movements bring issues to light and help unite people around a common cause, but are they enough?  My professor asked a difficult question, and I am trying to find an answer within myself.  She called using social media, etc.  “armchair activism”.   She asked “What do you think it might take to get people off the computer and into the streets?”.

It seems like a radical idea, doesn’t it?   Yet, isn’t that how change has taken place in our country since the beginning?  Please understand that I am not talking about violence or overthrowing the government, but I am talking about finding ways to have a voice that will make a difference.   Social media can have an impact; a study last year showed that people were more likely to vote if their friend’s post about voting.  Many people learn about politics and politicians on the internet.  Social media has been helpful in creating movements that do make a difference.

Take Molly Katchpole. She was 22, working two jobs, and struggling to make ends meet. When Bank of America announced a new $5/month banking fee, she thought it was unfair and decided to do something about it. She used Change.org to start a petition, shared the effort with her friends, and got 300,000 petition signatures, which pressured Bank of America to scrap plans to institute the fee.   http://techchange.org/2013/07/02/social-movements-and-social-media-spark-a-movement-change-the-world/

Let’s talk about voting.  Do you vote?  Do you know that America has one of the lowest percentages of voter turnout for countries that allow voting?  Among the 58% of people that did vote in the last election, how many actually took time to research and learn about those for whom they voted?    Do you know that according to the constitution the only requirements for running for the House of Representatives are being 25 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and live in the state they represent?  Of course, I understand that  you need to find backers with money, etc. in order to win.  Or do you?

I am asking questions because I want to do something.  I work in a field where I  talk with  so many people who are facing issues that are far too common in our country.   I look at statistics about our county or read stories in news, and  I hear people say, “That is so sad or so horrible. Why doesn’t someone do something?”  It reminds me of a couple of quotes that seem appropriate right now.

I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”    Lily Tomlin

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.” “Well, why don’t you ask Him?” “Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”   (Anonymous) -a quote from A Hole in the Gospel, by Richard Stearn, President of World Vision.

Do think it is important to do something about things going on in our world?  A student in my class said that he believed people either feel helpless or just don’t care.- Do you  feel helpless?   What do you think you can do to effect change?

 

 

Country Roads and Finding Home

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.     TS Eliot

Just one year ago, I wrote a post called Road Trip , where I talked about taking a car trip from South Carolina to a very small community called Flat Top, West Va.  It gets it name from level highlands upon which it is situated—the “flat top,” which follows the crest of “Great Flat Top Mountain”.   At the summit, it is 4001 feet above sea level.  All I can really remember is that there was a small country store/ gas station with “pop” as they call it there,  and snacks, etc.  close to my grandparents farm.  There was a small school house across the street, a few more farm homes, and another small country store that served as the post office.   I also remember cows and chickens, although I am sure there was more to it.

In my previous post, I explained that the trip each summer was to visit my brother who had been adopted by my paternal grandparents.  I was four when we were separated following my parents divorce.  I would travel with my grandmother every summer until I was sixteen to visit for a couple of weeks.   The first time I went to visit there was when I was eight years old.  The local paper came out to take a picture and report on the strange visitors from down South.   Here is that article:

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I remember pulling up to the house and feeling excited and scared all at the same time. I was told that I had been there to visit when my parents were married, but I was too young to remember that. Yet, I felt a strange sense of familiarity with the house and my brother. There was a connection there, which is hard to explain.

In my post last year, I ended with suggesting that my brother Mike and I make a road trip and visit Flat Top together in the coming year. He jumped on board quickly, and we decided to make it happen. Early this year, we talked with my brother Billy (my father’s son) and his wife Susan about the trip. After bouncing a few dates back and forth, we chose the last week in July for our adventure.

Let me digress for just a moment. My father remarried shortly after his divorce. He married a young woman who lived just down the road from his parent’s farm. He and his wife had five children together. I didn’t get to spend much time with them growing up, but my brother Billy and I have always had a strong connection. In fact, he is the only one of the kids to whom I am close. Just a couple of years ago, after his mother died, he and Susan bought the farm and live there full time. We will all be spending the week together. I am working many extra hours the next two weeks to be sure I can afford the gas to get there!

I am excited to visit my brothers and sister-in-laws, and I am excited to see the place I spent so many summers. I am also a bit anxious; memories might be stirred or maybe there will be triggers during this trip. We hope to find some other relatives or family friends who may help shed some light on some family questions. I want to enjoy the peace and beauty of the mountains, as well. Some new information I recently discovered is making me even more excited about seeing Flat Top. I have been searching for information about my father (he was adopted), grandparents, and other family. While helping my friend Jan with some research on her family, I discovered some great resources. One was a great website with old newspaper clippings. I found some newspapers from West Virginia that gave me some exciting information. Before my mother passed away, she explained that my name was Carolyn or Carol Lynn when I was born , and that I was called Lynn until my grandmother adopted me and changed my name.  I wrote about it in a post called “Will the Real Cathy Please Stand Up“.  I was also told that I was born in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital and then moved back home to Charleston, SC shortly after.

There were some newspaper stories about the Flat Top Farm Women’s club in some of the old newspapers. Several of these included the names of the women attending the meeting. I was shocked to see my mother’s name listed with “her daughter Lynn.” By putting the dates and names together, I discovered that after I was born, my mother went to live with my grandparents in Flap Top while my father was out to sea. We lived there until after my brother was born, moving to Charleston when I about two.

I believe this trip will be a journey home for me. In the quote at the beginning of the post, TS Eliot says that we “will arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. I don’t really know what I hope to find or gain from this journey to my first home, yet I believe it will hold more significance and meaning than I imagined when we planned this reunion. Maybe I will meet my little girl Lynn while I am there. I will surely give her a hug and tell her how very happy I am to know her.

What You Don’t Know Won’t Hurt You…

This summer I am taking Women’s Global Health and Human Rights at College of Charleston.   One of our big assignments was to create a YouTube video PSA.   Only after completing the video and posting it on the class site did I learn (finally read the rubric) that I had to get over 400 hits to get full points.

This is my first attempt at making a movie or a PSA so it is a bit rough around the edges.  Please be sure to click on the link and help me get 400 views!

Would love some feedback or ideas about how to make the next one better.  I already know that the audio on the videos wasn’t the best so that is something to work on!!

Thanks everyone!

 

Five Years of Blogging–Oh, I Mean Writing

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I wrote my first blog post in January of 2009.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I was determined to try it.  My son Teddy (blatant use of blog to endorse my son) had created a blog to have a web presence for his writing.  You check out his webpage and his author’s page on Amazon here.  He encouraged me to  start a webpage or blog since I had started writing again.   I created a website, Cathysvoice.com using Go Daddy and one of the options for pages was a blog.     I posted my first blog on the Go Daddy site but quickly discovered Blogger and made the move.

I only shared my blog with a handful of people at the time.  In fact, I kept some posts private, never sharing them with anyone.  It took over a year before I made my blog a public blog, however no one really knew it was there.   Many of my writer friends had started blogs and were using WordPress.  I made the change to WordPress in June of 2012.  I was getting braver in sharing my work.   In May of 2012, I decided to going BlogaThon and commit to writing a blog everyday that month.  I was officially hooked on blogging.

Today, I have almost 700 blog followers. and in the past two years, I have posted 211 blog posts. And no, I don’t assure that 700 people read every post.  I assume a 10% hit would be a good day.    I blog about everything from my weight loss/healthy living journey, to my recovery, to women who annoy me in bathrooms.   I have written passionately about stories in the news about abuse or injustices.  I have shared my joys, my triumphs, and my pain.   A friend once asked me if I wasn’t concerned about sharing so much in a public forum.   I assured him that I was no long concerned about that, after all, my blog is called Cathy’s Voice.

I have had the good fortune to meet some amazing people through blogging.  I connected with them through their posts and shared emails and facebook chats with them.  I attended a writer’s conference at Montreat and was pleasantly surprised to find one of my online blogging friends there.   I even have a new friend in Australia.

I am a part of several online blogging communities. One of the sites offers the opportunity for other writers to give feedback about writing style, grammar, and more.  There are often blogging challenges or the opportunity to share a blog post as a guest on another blog.

I often read debates questioning if blogging is really writing.  I found this quote recently that says it best,   “And it occurred to me that there is no such thing as blogging. There is no such thing as a blogger. Blogging is just writing — writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology.” (Simon Dumenco)

So, I will continue to write and share it in my blog, as well continue my other writing.  I want to thank all of you who have supported and encouraged me in my writing journey.   If you are a new reader or someone who has been following me for a while, I  thank you and hope you will keep reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be The Change

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

“This is the Crisis Hotline.  How can I help you?”   I almost hung up when I heard those words on the other end of the phone.  I was angry, frightened, and lost.

“I tried to kill myself, but it isn’t working.”  I waited for a response.

“OK, let me get a counselor to help you.”

I didn’t think anyone could help, but I didn’t know what else to do.  A woman talked to me that night for a very long time.  I don’t remember everything she said, but I will never forget her compassion and caring that night.  She listened-really listened-without judgement or condemnation.   She saved my life that night.

Several years later, I made a decision to volunteer with crisis hotline in the town where I lived.   The 35+ hours of training consisted of learning active listening skills, crisis intervention skills, and more.   I was excited about answering calls and helping someone just as I had been helped.  Little did I know that one call on that line would change my life.

I was in an abusive marriage.  I knew I needed to leave, but I kept making excuses for staying.  One afternoon I answered a call from a women, who was hiding in a closet while we talked.  I stayed on the phone with her as I heard her husband banging on the door and screaming at her.  We were able to send help to her and get her out.  I don’t know what happened with her after that day, but as I talked with her I realized it could easily have been me on the other end of the call.  It was time for a change.

Within a couple of months, I left my marriage and moved back home to South Carolina for a new start. A couple of years later,  I saw an ad for a position as the Volunteer Coordinator for our local Hotline.   I was ecstatic when I was offered the job.  I have been blessed to part of the 2-1-1 Hotline here in Charleston, SC ever since.

The staff and volunteers are an amazing group of people. We have volunteers from every walk of life and every age range.  We have college students majoring in psychology or social work.  We have senior citizens who are retired and love talking with callers.  We have people from varied philosophical  ideas, from every political affiliation, from all faith and religious backgrounds, and more.  The common thread is a desire to help others.

People often ask what is required to be a 2-1-1 Hotline volunteer.  Here is what it takes:

  • Respect of others and non-judgmental attitude
  • Empathy or understanding
  • Level head and ability to stay calm in a crisis
  • Dependability and honesty

Our training program covers general counseling skills, crisis intervention and issue education to prepare you for the wide variety of calls you may take.  We ask for a commitment of4 four-hour shifts a month, with flexible scheduling 24 hours a day, for 9 months following the completion of training.

My friend and coworker, Sonia wrote a blog post about her experience with 2-1-1 Hotline as well.  You can read it here.   Sonia is the phone room manager and would love to talk to you about volunteering.  Our next training starts in June.

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Call or e-mail today to set up an interview!! 211@tuw.org or 843-566-7186

 

 

 

It Seems Like Such a Simple Word- Mom

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I stood in the card aisle of the  store every year searching for a Mother’s Day card.  Mother’s Day cards were always hard to buy. Pictures of children with a beautiful mother or one of those mom’s who did everything and wore the Super Mom Cape filled the aisles. Written in verse on the inside were phrases like “You’ve always been there for me”, or “You taught me so much”, and “I love you.” On the front, were big bold letters that declared “For My Mom” or “Mother.” I would finally settle on a rather generic card with a picture of puppies or flowers that read “Happy Mother’s Day-Hope you have a wonderful day.”

I don’t remember much about my mother before she left my brother and me.  I was only four years old. She left me with her mother and my brother was sent to live with my father’s parents. She came back to visit and stayed with us a couple of times after she left, but by the time I was six, she had moved across the county.  I didn’t see her again until I was 16. Letters and phone calls were all that kept us connected, but my grandmother only allowed one short call a week. I think she would have been happier if my mother had just disappeared altogether.

For a while, Grandmother would look at me and say, “I love you” in a way that let me know she was waiting on the proper response. I wouldn’t look at her, but I would respond with, “I love you- But I love my other Momma, too.”  I had to call my Grandmother, Momma. She told me I didn’t have to call her that, but I knew better. So, I did my best not to call her anything. I would walk across an entire room to get her attention and ask a question, so I didn’t have to say “Momma.”

I didn’t understand what had happened or why my mother left until I was grown. In an old trunk of Grandmother’s, I found the note my mother wrote the day she left. Scrawled on small, yellowed, unlined paper, you could feel the pain and panic of her words .  “Please take care of the kids.  I love them more than anything in the world, but they are better off with you. I guess you think I am awful for leaving the kids like this. Me and Joe just can’t get along. I tried to talk to him, but it’s no good. It’s just not good for the kids with me and Joe fighting all the time and him drinking. Please don’t turn them against them. I don’t know if I’ll see them again, but tell them I loved them an awful lot.”   My mother was not only leaving an abusive, alcoholic husband, but was leaving behind her young two children; She had just turned 20 years old.   What I soon learned was that he was not only abusive to her, but to me as well.  She was afraid my brother and I would be hurt if she stayed.

As an adult, I tried to have a relationship with my mother, but it was hard.  She walked away from me so many times; usually for a man.  When my first son was born, she was to come to my house to stay for a few days to help.  Instead she left home and never showed up at my house.  Her husband kept calling me looking for her.  I didn’t hear from her for  three days.  She used my son’s birth as a way to  have time to leave her husband for  her new boyfriend. You get the idea?
 

She was used to shutting people out. She had been hurt by so many for so long. She once told me that she had spent most of her life running away from anything she thought might hurt her.  Many people considered her to be a “hard” woman.  She didn’t take anything from anyone.  However, If you got to know her, you would find that she would go out of her way to help a friend, yet keep her distance emotionally.

I could never bring myself to call her Mom or Mother, but I didn’t want to hurt her feeling by calling her by her given name, so just as I had when I was a child with Grandmother, I tried not to call her anything. Not long before she passed away, I took a trip with her to the place she grew up. She told me stories from her life that helped me understand the pain that made her the woman she was. When we returned from the trip, we sat down to talk before I left for home.  As I was getting ready to leave,  for the only time I can ever remember, she told me that she had always loved me. She paused and said, “You know that, don’t you?” I smiled, took a deep breath,  and said, “Yeah, I know that.”  I gave her a hug and walked to my car.  I took a few steps, stopped and turned back to her.   I said the words that have always come so hard for me.  “I love you,  <PAUSE >  Mom.”   It was the last time I would ever see her. She passed away four months later.

After she passed away, her husband wrote and said, “You were her daughter and she was so proud of you. You meant more to her than you will ever know. She wasn’t good at telling people she loved them, but you were the heart of her joy before I met her and still so to the end. Her greatest joy was being your Mom.”

*I wrote about my mother in another post here.