Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Unmasked

I began attending a free grant writing workshop in mid-March of 2014.  The leader of the workshop offers a certificate upon completion of all six classes. The classes stand on their own and my first class was class six in the series of six; The Zen of Schmoozing.  During the class break, I overheard the co-facilitator tell another attendee that she was going to offer an internship to a few women who had completed the workshop series.  

After the co-facilitator was finished speaking with the student, I asked about the internship and how I could get involved.  She told me that the internship was only going to be offered to students that had already completed the six classes.  I gave her my email anyway.

The workshop was held at a community shelter in El Cajon.  A chef popped his head in, during the class, and asked how many folks were staying for lunch.  I raised my hand.  I had to commute via bus back to downtown San Diego and I knew I was going to be hungry.  The co-facilitator also stayed for lunch.  And so did the women who were cherry picked to intern.  We all sat at the same table. Each woman began telling me how they came across the free grant writing workshop and the variety of reasons they had decided to attend. 

One woman was a creative writing professor at UCSD extension.  Another founded a successful nonprofit and she is looking to begin another one soon.  One woman was a freelance writer.  The co-facilitator, a nonprofit program development consultant. 

Then, the eyes were on me.

“Umm, I love to write and want to help my community”.  Keeping my cards close to my chest; I opt for the generic.  The conversation continued.  

Although I was sitting at the same table, because I refused to open up, I blocked myself off from the company that surrounded me; I felt like a ghost.  After a few minutes of chit-chat, that I could not hear (because of the voices in my head), I spoke up.

"Well, part of the reason I'm here..", a hush came over the table. 

It was a moment out of a movie.  You know, like the scene in Steele Magnolias: Daryl Hanna's character, the mysterious, new, single girl in town is renting a room, from Dolly Parton (the town's stylist), and all the women are getting their hair done in the salon and Daryl Hanna begins to speak and tell the girls why she is alone, without a man, in a strange town renting a single room.  The whole salon stops, silence falls, and necks crane.  It felt like that.     

“Well, part of the reason I'm here is because I live in a homeless shelter and I want to learn how to write grants so that I can give back to a community that has resurrected my hope in myself.”

Choking back my emotions, I went on.:

“A lifetime of addiction landed me in a homeless shelter.  Rock Bottom. Strike three. Lights out. But what a gift. I have been uplifted by the community I am involved in.  I have a passion for writing and a gratitude in my heart for all the community services that have helped me along the way.  Yoga and meditation have revolutionized my life and I want to further my journey by bringing these practices to county shelters and recovery homes.  Introduce others to the truth, that through yoga,meditation, and community, we can heal ourselves."  

It is possible to be at peace with who we are.

I threw my cards on the table and the response was kind.  Don't quote me on this, but, I think it was Carl Jung who said something like,’ when we share our faults with others it thrusts us into the welcoming arms of humanity.’ 

I unmasked and my dignity and integrity remained intact; a week later, I was invited to become a grant writing intern.     
 
  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

At the corner of Broadway and Fifth:


"AHHHHH!!  YOU FUCKERS!!  AHHHHH!!"

Standing on the corner of Broadway and Fifth, in front of the fast food Chinese restaurant, I heard the vibrations of a thirty - something, black man who was screaming, as loud as he could. He was half a block away and barreling towards me.  

I looked down at my phone. 

Living downtown you learn to avoid eye contact with those who are in an aggressive rage. I know a woman who was hit by a man, because she stood there, watching him, during one of his episodes. But it's a delicate balance. I also intentionally make eye contact with several others, because we all crave human interaction and I've come to believe that homeless people become invisible, after a time. I've learned that, sometimes unconsciously, folks act crazy to garner human interaction; for someone to notice them. City living has educated me, for the most part, on how to tell the difference. 

The man's screams echoed off the buildings. My gaze was fixed on my phone. Speed walking and barefoot, I felt him come upon me. Two inches from my face, he screamed, "AHHHHH!!YOU STUPID FUCKING BITCH!!" I could see the leftover lunch in his teeth. I felt the heat of his breath and the palpitations of his frustration and fear.

Immobilized, I stood there absorbing all of the man's hate and rage, as he stormed off, screaming up Fifth Avenue. I didn't dare turn around. Unsure about what had happened, I noticed the light turned green. I stepped off the curb and into the crosswalk. 





Monday, September 22, 2014

Revisited: 25 things To Do Before My Birthday

I turned forty this weekend. Let's see what I've accomplished....

1.   Write 3 thank you notes a week:

  • I write at least one every two weeks. Sometimes I send thank you emails.

2.   Read often:

  • Always

3.   Write daily:

  • I'm enrolled in an online writing class and I complete the assigned writing twice a week. I journal at least once a week and I have three three clients that I research and write grants for, which has me crafting and tweaking proposals, at least, twice a week. I don't creatively write everyday, but I write SOMETHING at lease five times a week.
4.   Edit more

  • I'm trying. A couple of colleagues help me edit my proposals. I've read an editing book but it is not my strong suit.
5.   Practice yoga

  • Not at all like I'd like to. But, I start my yoga teacher training at UCSD Extension on October 13!

6.   Meditate daily

  • A must. I've skipped a few days here and there but for the most part my nightly meditation practice is strong.
7.   Write a successful grant proposal

  • I now help write for three nonprofits. I've submitted about nine proposals and have not yet heard back from any of the funders. But, my fingers are crossed.
8.   Try the CrossFit gym in my neighborhood

  • I had friendly emails back and forth with the owner of the East Village Crossfit but I did not invest. 
9.   Decorate my apartment with plants

  • I still have the same three plants. 


10. Cook regularly

  • Nope
11. Donate clothes I don't wear

  • I've downsized a little bit, but the amount of stuff I have still overwhelms me some days. I have trouble letting go, in every arena of my life. 
12. Visit my son, Matthew, in Massachusetts

  • I fly out of San Diego on October 2nd for ten days, to visit my boy, in Hudson, MA 
13. Have fun w/ Matthew this summer in San Diego

  • He and I had a great time this summer. His buddy from Massachusetts joined him in San Diego for a week. We went out to dinner and on a road trip to Ilan-Laeu.

14. Practice putting things away when I'm finished           with them.

  • I try. But, I need to try harder. 
15. Stop the overuse of 'I'm sorry' 

  • I've become come more confident and I'm getting better.

16. Commit to a weekly Artist's Date 

  • I've gone to about 8 in the last 90 days.
17. Get a massage

  • Nope
18. Commit random acts of kindness

  • I do
19. Complete 3 financial amends

  • I've completed one.
20. Drink more green tea

  • Not so much. But, my sister and I shared an iced green tea last week.

21. Get over my ex

  • He's out of my system.
22. Go out on a date

  • Yeah, right. 
23. Find a monthly volunteer commitment

  • This weekend I volunteered for a fundraising event for the Somali Bantu Association of America. This is one of the organizations I help write grants for, but this weekend was strictly volunteer work. It was an amazing time the food and dancing were incredible! I'm learning so much!
24. Save money

  • I have over $500 in my account. A miracle.

25. Stay sober

  • I could not have done one single thing on this list without my sobriety. This one is the biggest accomplishment of them all!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Snapshot of My Youth


My inspiration for this post was from Beloit College's Mindset List


My seventh birthday party was Pac-Man themed. 

I could solve the Rubic's Cube in under five minutes when I was nine.

Our family gathered to watch the once a year showing of the Sound of Music.

My family could not afford cable at times; I would stay up late Friday nights to watch A PBS program that would air videos (Joe Jackson, Steve Perry) with subtitles. A bouncing ball would accent certain syllables the video show was focusing on that week.

One of my favorite toys growing up was the Speak-N-Spell.

One of my favorite Sunday pastimes was to dig in the edges of fresh cut grass and search for Roly-Polys.

My family's first computer was a Compaq Portable. We played games on the 4" by 4" green screen and printed rudimentary greeting cards on a dot matrix printer.

I wore several black rubber bracelets on both wrists to the roller skating rink.


To this day - I still believe, if you drink a soda while eating pop rocks you will explode. 





Thursday, August 21, 2014

Spiral Notebooks

Buying spiral notebooks has been a compulsion of mine that started when I was in grade school. 

Lately, I buy the color that relates to the chakra I am focusing on.

I love the texture of the cardboard, as I glide my palm over the colored cover. There are two notebooks in my line of sight. A purple one, I have not yet written in and a yellow one that is under a stack of books. 

There are two notebooks in my purse, and one in my research tote. The laptop I'm typing on is propped up by a red one.

Back to school is one of my favorite times of the year. Although I buy various pens and notebooks year round, back to school shopping provides me a plausible excuse, to feed my addiction.


Under the local box mart fluorescent lights, I’m teeming with intentions of filling the blank pages with stories, dialogue and brilliant insights. I grab various bargained priced, one subject, cardboard spiral notebooks - but - once I get home, the blank page fills me with fear. My mind tells me: you have nothing to say, writing is too hard, I’ll sit down and write, after I do this, or that.



Friday, August 1, 2014

My Mini Miracle


Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. - Abraham Lincoln

I'm barely beginning to wrap my mind around my new grant writing profession. Letters of intent, grant proposals, budget developments, comprehensive fundraising plans, social media marketing...see what I mean?

My boss, Penny, has been so patient and generous during my learning process at Grant Writing Specialists. She adoringly watched me for the first 45 days, while I slashed around, in the kiddie pool of grant writing. Then, the time came when she put orange floaties, around my arms, and pulled me into the shallow end of the swimming pool with her. It was there, where I began mimicking her movements, in the grant writing waters.

One of my first assignments has been to provide 10 hours of grant writing instruction, for two board members, at a local High School Robotics Team. Penny was the lead, and I was her assistant.

My newbie status kept me quiet much of the 10 hours, and although I'd written Letters of Intent (LOI), a main focus of the Robotic team's instruction, I'd felt too inexperienced to regularly add my impressions, in front of the clients. BUT -  we ended up stuck, crafting a  LOI, for 4 weeks!

It began when we gave our clients a LOI homework assignment; then met back with the team. Penny and I spent time giving gentle feedback and ideas; we gingerly instructed them about the necessary contents of a LOI. We distributed handouts that recaped what needed to be included in the letter, in order for a funder to invite the Robotics team to submit a formal grant proposal. Yet, week after week, we were presented, with a revised letter, that contained almost none of the edits or suggestions we'd discussed.


It's like the cliche' in AA:  'Help me. But don't tell me what to do.'

The final two hour session, with the Robotics Team, was earlier this week. The first ten minutes, Penny firmly reminded our clients that the necessary components for a successful LOI were discussed last class. And, once again, the final product failed to include what was agreed upon, last time we met. Exasperated, Penny then announced, "Today we are going to have a working meeting. B and K (the two robotics team board members) we are going into the main office and Liz is going to sit, at the computer, and help write the letter we're looking for."

Me? Huh? Wait. What?

My silent ways had caused B and K to size me up, as suspect, at best, and hell, I agreed! Yet, there Penny was, assigning ME to delete most of their work, while they watched. Great! The mute would be in charge of nudging the clients onto the right path.

Without warning, Penny had decided - it was time. She removed my floaties, hoisted me over her head, and tossed me into the deep end of the water.

If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.- Epictetus


After I deleted 85% of the letter, we were ready to put something on the page. B stared at me for a few moments, her eyes questioned my very right to exist in the space she occupied. Staring at me, for what felt like a lifetime, she finally said, "- well?"

The silence, pregnant with expectation, demanded delivery. Ahem (mustering my best professional tone), "Like Penny said...", citing a reference that held way more credentials than mine, "...we want to st-", B immediately cut me off, "OK, just quit fudging. Say what you mean."

Those things that hurt, instruct. Benjamin Franklin

Silenced, I realized, my officious pontificating wasn't going to phase B. My fledgling confidence -dismissed- with a single statement.

Unconsciously, I was trying to regurgitate what Penny taught, in order to fully grasp it myself. But, the board members had heard it before; and, they sure as hell, weren't hearing it from me. My mind went blank and I began asking pointed questions, "In what year was the high school established; and in what year did it become an Academy?"

B rejected my questions. Asserting those facts weren't necessary to include (BUT THEY WERE!). She then decided that K would sit at the keyboard, and I would hover, in the background.

In less than a millisecond, I was convinced of my inadequacy. I. Was. A. Fudging. Failure.

Then, something funny happened. I noticed my mind whipping up a gigantic serving of self-hatred. A flash of insight reminded me to observe what was going on in my body. I planted my feet into the ground, pressed all my toes onto the earth, and took some, low key, deep breaths; intentionally sending the breath into the bony basket of my pelvis. This technique helped to settle the visceral knee jerk response of self-flagellation. Then, I began to inquire about the physical sensations, in my body.

I noticed, my heart was pounding, my cheeks were warm, and it felt like lava was rising from my feet to my solar plexus. As I awkwardly learned to dance with the sensation of embarrassment, I had a revelation. Okay, so I felt embarrassed, but not devastated. That was a first. Then, the quote by Epictetus, "If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish or stupid," popped in my mind. Silently, I began repeating it to myself, like a mantra. And because I concentrated on the physical sensation, of my experience, it stopped my old beliefs from bossing me around. I went from devastated to determined, in less than ten minutes. I forgave myself for not being perfect and quickly reminded myself of how fucking far I have come. I felt energized and continued to actively participate, in the difficult instruction, of prodding B and K to produce a solid LOI.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Long Ride


I could not concentrate any longer on the book I was reading. All I kept thinking, as he walked to the back of the bus, where I was sitting was, 'act natural. Keep reading your book. Keep reading your book.' As he approached my row, I shot a glance at him and smiled. My eyes darted away too quick to notice if he reciprocated the gesture.

He: the man I had a, two year, crush on, eight years ago, took a seat, three rows behind me, at the very back of the bus. Cursing my lazy ways, I straitened my spine. I tend to slump during the weeks - strike that - months of no exercise. I inched my back up the seat; reminded myself not to sit up too straight, too quickly. God forbid my adjustment went noticed. I yanked my t-shirt down over the waist of my jeans.

I crossed my left ankle over my right knee and began shaking my foot. Until, I realized, I was shaking my foot. I quickly uncrossed my legs. With my toes on the ground, I struggled not to bounce my thighs.

'Should I take my hair down from the halfhearted ponytail I gathered, earlier that morning, to wash my face?' No. Too obvious.

I pensively stared out the window; feigning deep thought. HA - deep thought. My monkey mind jumped up and down, while it banged on her cage. 

I strategically stared out the window, because I realized I had been staring at the same page of my book, for at least five stops, since he boarded the bus. I stuffed the book I was holding into my purse and grabbed another.

He probably didn't even recognize me. And I doubt he witnessed my internal meltdown from behind, but still, it was a long ride.