UNEMPLOYED: 50 AND OLDER

Being unemployed, having no job, and not being able to find a job can be emotionally stressful and devastating, particularly for those who are fifty years old and older. Since I am in that age bracket, it seems to me that employers are not interested in hiring baby boomers. If a person is not a millennial, a baby boomer has a tough row to hoe in today’s economy and job market.

In October 2015, I, along with 70 other people, was laid off from my job because the company lost a multi-million dollar contract. Although I had a small savings, I was confident that I would be able to find part-time or full time work or even temporary work by the spring of 2016.

Before I was laid off, I assisted in writing procurements for solicitation for housing construction contracts. In addition, I meticulously managed a five million dollar contract budget, prepared financial reports, processed approximately 7,000 invoices per year for accounts payable and accounts receivable, trained new contractors in LCP Tracker software application in order to certify payroll, and accurately entered all construction contracts into Yardi Yoyager. Of the voluminous amount of paperwork that I had to process each day, by the grace of God, I was able to exceed my manager’s expectations.

In February 2016, I actively started looking for work. In March 2016, I had my first interview with a temporary agency, who called me. I went to the job interview with samples of my work from my previous employment. After completing the job application in the waiting area and after waiting thirty minutes to be interviewed, the interviewer entered the waiting area. She did not stop to extend a welcome; she did not stop to shake my hand; and she did not stop to ensure that I was well taken care of. She nonchalantly walked passed me and said, “Follow me.” From observation of her non-verbal behavior, I immediately knew that this interviewer was not interested in me. During the interview, my initial assessment was confirmed. Despite the situation, I still sent the interviewer an email, thanking her for the interview, and I also sent her a very nice handwritten thank-you note.

When you have people in your life (like your husband, your wife, your children, your partner, your mama, your daddy) who depend on your income, there is no such thing as pride, at least for me. Even though I have a Master’s Degree, in May 2016, I resulted to applying for banquet work with two temporary agencies. Fifteen years ago, I worked in banquets (fine dining) as a part-time weekend gig. During my second interview, the interviewer asked me, “What year did you graduate college?” I refused to answer the question because the interviewer was fishing for my age. I politely responded, “If you need a copy of my highest degree, I can provide that for you.” I was so stunned, and upset, about that question, especially for a banquet server’s position, which does not even require a high school diploma.

During the spring and summer of 2016, I soon learned that the temporary agency landscape has tremendously changed in seven years. In large metropolitan areas, at least in Chicago, a person can no longer stop by a temporary agency to complete a job application. If you call a temporary agency about possible employment, they will screen you on the phone to determine if you are “appropriate” for their agency and it has nothing to do with your skillset. In my opinion, this is a form of discrimination. If your resume is posted to CareerBuilder or to Monster Jobs and if a temporary agency calls you, they are not interested in recruiting you. They want to screen you and vet you over the phone to see if you are “appropriate” for their agency. This has been my experience, and I think it is blatant discrimination, and there is no state law to prevent it.

Even though my background was in mental health, I no longer work in that field, although I still possess the skills. My passion now is helping people to deal and cope with the losses in their lives. When a person loses their job or loses their income, it is a significant loss.

Having lost my job and not having an income for almost two years, I do my best to stay in good spirits. The main thing that keeps my pieces together is my faith in God. I know that in all our lives, there will be both sunshine and rain. Despite the weather forecast in my life, I must hold on to the Good Lord, because I know that God is more than able to help me and you during troubled times in our lives. And, you know what? I have not stopped helping others as I survive off of little. I believe that if someone needs your help, you help them the best way you can, without asking anything in return.

My savings is all depleted. I am now selling my DVD and book collection on eBay to put food on the table. I don’t regret it one bit.

If you are unemployed and cannot find a job, especially if you are a baby boomer, I ask you to trust in the Good Lord and have faith in the Good Lord. God will provide, and be thankful to God for what He is doing in your life right now! One of these days, and hopefully soon, God will bless you with a job, and when He does, make sure you give Him all the praise.

I WEEP FOR THOSE WHO HAVE DIED IN THE WAR…

“I Weep For Those…” was a poem that I wrote on the night of May 30, 2004, as I watched Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes acknowledge and pay tribute to the soldiers who had died in the Iraq War. During Mr. Rooney’s commentary, the faces, the names, the ages of 800 plus soldiers illuminated the TV screen and their spirits and souls glowed with so much light until I felt as if I were on holy ground. As I was watching the commentary and writing the poem, I literally was in tears. I could not even begin to imagine the depth of loss and of pain that so many families were experiencing and dealing with.

Over the past thirteen years, I have only shared this poem with few. This Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, I have decided to share and publish this poem in hope that someone will find some comfort in reading it.

I am truly grateful for the huge sacrifice that all soldiers throughout the years have made. Their lives, their sacrifices, and their memories should never be forgotten. God bless each and every man and woman who gave their lives for a better United States of America and God bless their families who miss them, and love them.

I Weep For Those…

who have died in the war
800 plus of them so far
I cried over each and every one of them

As their faces
graced the TV screen,
and as their souls
glowed with luminous light,
knowing that they
had died in a fight,
in keeping me, and you, alive,
and protecting freedom for freedom’s sake
Yes, I am humble and grateful.

I cannot begin to imagine the grief unspoken,
or grief that cannot be put into words

Mothers without sons
Fathers without daughters
Wives without husbands
Husbands without wives

Someone special has died.
And in lamentations, I cried.

What do you do when a loved one dies?
Whether in war, on the streets, in the air, or at home, or in cold places unknown

The answer can be a difficult one, especially,
when there appears not to be a solution for:

The tears that flow like a river at night
The pain that grips the heart all tight
The arms that cannot hold one’s loved one quite,
like before.

In times of loss,
I pray that my faith gets me through my darkest hours.
In times of loss,
I hold on to the beautiful memories my loved one left behind.
In times of loss,
I miraculously discover a strength within myself that I didn’t know was there.

And from that strength, I realize:
I will survive.
I will heal.
I will love, again.

And as long as I am alive,
my loved one still
lives
within the precious memories that occupy my soul.

In memory of all the soldiers who died, I cried,
because someone very, very, very special has died.

SUICIDE: SO YOUNG, AND TOO SOON

When a loved one commits suicide, it’s a life-shattering experience. One is shocked beyond belief! Why and what questions begin to attack one’s mind. Why did she commit suicide? What could I have done to prevent him from killing himself? The loss and the pain is an excruciating, living nightmare.

When someone commits suicide, it seems to me that the person was in a lot of emotional pain, and the only way to stop the pain and to escape from the pain was to kill oneself.

We live in a time and age when almost everyone and everything is scrutinized, from how we look to how we dress, whether we are rich or whether we are poor. Our value and our worth as human beings have the tendency to be judged by people who really, truly don’t know a dam thing about us! This malicious judging, condemnation, belittling and bullying of people have magnified exponentially through social media. There is a cesspool of terrible, awful comments made about people just for the fun of it. Making fun of people, especially people whom you don’t know anything about, is not funny or amusing. For once, put yourself in another person’s shoes and ask yourself if you would enjoy someone poking fun at you and writing obscene, nasty comments about you all over the internet and throughout social media.

Present-day society has become callous and cruel to other people’s feelings. Just because the first amendment right guarantees free speech, it does not give us the right to say whatever we want. There is power in words; there is power behind words; and words can have unthinkable consequences. And there are times when we need to shut our mouths.

When I read and hear of children and young people killing themselves, it’s emotionally devastating. I cannot even begin to imagine the heartbreak that a family has to endure from having to survive the suicide of a loved one. Not only do parents suffer emotional pain, but the sisters and the brothers of the one who committed suicide suffer emotionally too. The whole family grieves over the loss of their beloved.

Over the years I have been asked, “What do you do for someone who is dealing with the death of a loved one?” My reply was “be.” Oftentimes people feel as if they need to say something or do something to help a person through grief. My experience has taught me that through such trying and emotional times, the best gift that a person can give a human being who is grieving is their presence. Being there for another human being, without even saying a word, carries so much power, comfort, and care. There is healing in silence. Too often we feel as if we need to say something, when we really shouldn’t. Holding someone’s hand or giving someone a hug can speak volumes beyond any words.

For those of you who are surviving the loss of a love to suicide, I suggest that you openly and honestly talk about your feelings, even those scary feelings like anger, with your family and with those who are dear and close to you. Remember, grief is a journey, and healing takes time. And I believe God is with us during our deepest and greatest pain.

No matter what society and others may think about suicide, please don’t ever forget the memory of your beloved. Take out the photographs and remember the times that you shared together. The memories may bring some tears, but there is healing in the tears. And I hope as you remember your beloved, there will be a lot of smiles from the joy that your precious beloved left behind.

SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW

In December 2002 when I was jobless and almost homeless, a young cousin of mine who was attending Virginia Commonwealth University asked me when I was going to get my poems published. Going through the rigorous process in getting my poems even noticed was the last thing on my mind. But during that sweet, uplifting conversation with my cousin, he inspired me to write fifty short vignettes, which I started writing in January 2003 and which took four and a half years to write. These vignettes are just little snippets of my life as I was growing up as a child. Some are crazy funny. Some are sad. Some make you angry. Some will make you think about life. As I was writing each vignette, I was truly missing the security, the comfort, the love, and the joy that my mama and daddy gave me during my childhood. Each vignette was written during a time in my adult life when security, comfort, love and joy had been stripped away. But in the process, God taught me many valuable life lessons. The title of my collection of short vignettes is: The Little Things I Miss. If I happen to be privileged to have you read one of these short vignettes, I hope you too will discover or remember a little thing in your childhood that you cherished, and miss.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Those colors in the sky were some kinna beautiful after a fresh spring or summer rain. I saw red, orange, purple, blue, green, and yellow. Mama told me that those colors were a rainbow. And the way the rainbow arched itself in the sky, it seemed that it had an unknown starting point with no particular destination in mind.

When I was a child, I often wondered where the rainbow led to. Some said to a pot of gold. I thought maybe it led to a crystal city, full of color and full of light, and where everything was perfect and beautiful. Yes, as a child, I envisioned a world that was loving and pain-free and where there was no sorrow or regrets.

A few days ago, my twelve year old cousin pointed to a rainbow in the sky, as we were being driven to town by his father. I asked him as to why God puts a rainbow in the sky. He didn’t know why but wanted to know the answer. I told him that every time he sees a rainbow in the sky, it is to remind us that God will never destroy the earth by water again.

We need reminders along the journey of life to remind us where we have been and where we are and to where we should be going. I have taken many detours on life’s journey, which led to dead ends. If I had remembered the “littleliest” things that flavored my life with amazing tastes, then I would not have sought after people and things which didn’t even come close to the “H” in Happiness.

Rainbows make me happy. They remind me of days when I marveled at God’s mysteries and how my precociousness left me with many, unanswered questions, many of which I still don’t have answers for, and it doesn’t bother me one bit if the answers stay locked up somewhere over the rainbow.

I appreciate rainbows, not only for their color, but also for the simple fact that God reminds me to embrace the littleliest things in life, because that’s where you will find real happiness. Oh, how I have missed the littleliest things of my childhood, which caused me to appreciate and celebrate the many small glories that have blessed my life.

The Children, The Violence, The Deaths, The Loss, The Hurt, The Pain

Children are being killed at alarming rates, not only in the United States, but all over the world. But, in the United States, countless children are killing children. Adults are killing children. Police are killing children. It seems that every time you turn on the TV, a child has been killed.

Black children in particular are senselessly killed almost every day, especially in large urban areas such as Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. Black-on-Black violence has become shamefully devastating. Regardless of color or gender or sexual orientation, the death of a child is traumatic.

I cannot begin to imagine the pain, the hurt, and the emotional devastation from the death and loss of a child. I believe that one of the greatest sorrows on this earth is when parents have to accept the fact that their child, “their baby,” has died. Regardless of the situation, every child, I believe, has value and significance. And every child that is born brings a light and a gift to make a difference in this world.

The society and culture in which we now live has become extremely violent and aggressive. Oftentimes conflict is resolved only by violence and aggression, whether in real life on the streets or in fantasy life on TV crime shows or in video games. When I see the lack of remorse and hear the justification of the killing of a child, I wonder about the moral and spiritual compass of the one who killed.

If you are a Christian, as I am, most Christians seem to forget that God had a Son who lived on this earth and who eventually was killed. When Jesus Christ was killed on the Cross, do we ever think about the pain and the hurt that God felt, seeing His Son murdered? And do we ever think about the pain and the hurt that Mary, the mother of Jesus, felt, seeing her son tortured, crucified, and killed in front of her eyes?

If you have lost a child, I am convinced that God feels your grief and understands your pain because He too experienced the death of a child. And I believe that God is the Source of our healing when we experience traumatic and dramatic events in our lives.

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 11, verse 28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” I believe that in this particular Scripture, Jesus is asking us to bring all our hurt, all of our pain, all of our unspeakable grief, all of our anger, all of our rage, all of our sadness, all of our tears to Him and He will restore healing and peace to our hearts and to our souls, if we let Him. There is no burden that is too hard or too heavy for Jesus Christ to carry for us and to heal us from.

When a parent loses a child, I believe that there is not a day that goes by when you don’t think about your child. What helps me when one of my loves goes home to be with the Good Lord is remembering the sweet times and the quiet moments that we shared, which have me smiling and crying at the same time. Yes, I miss my love, but I am forever grateful to God for allowing my life to be touched by such a precious, beautiful light. And I hope you feel blessed to have had the privilege to love a child, who in return loved you back. What a gift.

Children and Grief: Lesson One

It is important to understand that children grieve. Children may not grieve the same way as adults after the death of a loved one, after the death of a friend, or from being confronted by a violent situation. But children do grieve. 

Today, we live in neighborhoods, communities, societies, and cultures that have no similarity to the way people lived fifty or sixty years ago. Yes, life presented a myriad of challenges back then. But there was a sense of community, a sense of neighborness, and a sense of family in America’s tapestry that helped to heal some of the pain and the hurt that resulted from grief. 

It seems as if today’s problems, even the world’s problems, have multiplied exponentially in the past thirty years. People, even children, are exposed and overwhelmed by so much aggression and violence that can be seen on television, through social media, and even in their own neighborhood and community. 

When children are exposed to death and to violent situations, I believe that parents and caregivers need to have age-appropriate honest-talks with their children. Honest-talk is about keeping it real and not engaging in unrealistic, fantasy type conversations. (Please be mindful that children are very intelligent and very perceptive.)  When children are given a safe space and permission to talk about their feelings, parents and caretakers need to listen.

Grief is about feelings. And in order for children to heal from a loss in their life, they must know that it is okay to talk about their feelings. The expression of feelings can be uncomfortable to the listener, but the listener must listen.

Today’s culture is fast-paced. Almost everyone is in a rush, and it seems that everything must be done in a nanosecond. Sometimes, it seems as if people do not have time or will not make the time for the special people in their lives. But when grief interrupts our children’s lives, we must stop whatever we are doing, and we must give our children the attention, the love, and the care they so rightfully deserve so that they can feel safe and thrive.  

There will be several future lessons related to children and grief, and this is just an introduction.

When Angels Sing: The Time My Cousin Died

The poem, When Angels Sing, was a poem I wrote a few years after the traumatic death of my cousin Mark, who was killed on February 26, 1995, at the young age of 24, in a head-on car and truck collision, with a driver who was drunk and who was driving on the wrong side of the road.

The car and truck collision was so violent in that Mark was killed instantly. His chest was crushed from the deadly impact. His forehead was deeply gashed. One of his legs was broken. In spite of this horrific tragedy—and loss, the drunk driver did not receive a scratch nor suffered any consequences for shortening my cousin’s life.

At that time, I had never experienced the death of a family member or anyone who was close to me who ended up being killed. The emotions I felt were beyond devastation. How can a person possibly wrap their mind around the fact that a young person, with so much life and so much life to share and give, was dead? It felt like a nightmare, but the nightmare was real.

The Sunday night when Mark was killed, I was on-call in providing overnight shelter to homeless youth who were in crisis. My beeper beeped throughout the night. Usually, during a weekend on-call assignment, the need and request for emergency shelter was minimal. But the Sunday night when Mark was killed, there were so many young people who were in desperate need of emergency shelter, and by the grace and the mercy of the Lord, I was able to find shelter for all of them. I sat my grief aside to help a very vulnerable population.

Monday morning, February 27, 1995, was one of the most beautiful, winter mornings that I had ever seen in my life. It looked like a crystal wonderland outside. The trees were covered with long icicles that looked like crystals. It seemed as if heaven had paused for a few seconds to cry over the death of my cousin. The morning was simply breath-taking, and beautiful.

During the week of Mark’s death, I was bold enough to ask God to show me his death through my spiritual sight, and He did. I saw the whole deadly scene. Believe it or not, what was so surprising was the fact that Mark (his spirit, his true self) was not all conscious of what had happened to him. It was as if his spirit was in a daze and shock, trying to make sense of what had happened.

As I was in one of my morning prayers (during the same week of Mark’s death), God directed me to light this beautiful eggshell blue candle that I had bought years ago, to help guide Mark’s spirit to the light. Up to the time of Mark’s funeral, I was in deep prayer and was in tune to his spirit, asking him to go to the light. (I know some of my readers may think that I have lost my mind.) But, truly, this actually happened.

I cannot exactly tell you when, but shortly after Mark’s death and burial, I had a dream of him one morning. There he was in the midst of this beautiful autumn scenery, and he was smiling and grinning from ear to ear (and that boy could smile too). I cannot even describe how beautiful the trees looked. The trees were glowing with beautiful golden and brown colors, and beautiful light penetrated everything around. While in this dream, Mark said to me, smiling, with happiness like I had never seen, “I’m alright. I’m happy. Thank you.” I woke up immediately, in happy tears, knowing that my obedience to God assisted Mark in getting home safely and with the assurance that I will see him again.

Something good can come from a bad situation. Mark’s death penetrated my heart and soul with a fierce and passionate determination to sit at the feet of God to learn as much as I could about death and dying. During this process, God gave me the vision of “Working Through It.” And nineteen years later, after having experienced so much in life, here I am, sharing my vision, dream and knowledge and hoping that someone, anyone, finds comfort and benefit from one of these posts. And to God goes the glory!

I would like to share my poem, “When Angels Sing,” which I wrote in 1997 in memory of Mark. We don’t know how long a loved one or one of our earthly angels will be with us. But while we have them in our lives, let’s cherish them and love them and let them know how much they’re loved and appreciated, even if they are now in heaven.

When Angels Sing

O how beautiful do angels sing
Just like the flutter of butterfly wings
They sing so ever sweetly
Like beautiful cords of angelic melodies
They come in all colors and shades
Beige, licorice, amber, mahogany, including jade

You never know when an angel will sing
Nor what gifts they will bring
Angels cross our paths everyday
Some come for a moment, while others come to stay

If you are hungry and thirsty and someone brings you manna
and drink in your wilderness,
That’s an angel.

What about the time when you were sick and there was
only one lonesome somebody to hold your hand.
That was an angel.

An expense is due, and a gentle hand places a folded napkin
in the palm of your hand.
To your surprise, it contained a hundred dollar bill.
That’s an angel.

O how beautiful do angels sing
Just like the flutter of butterfly wings.

When I see the color purple dancing in the wind
The sunshine in my face becomes a grin.
When I see two squirrels playing and romping about
It fills me with joy, without a doubt.
When I see a baby shaking its rattle in pure delight
It makes my day that much bright.
Or when I see a mother lovingly wipes the tears from her child’s eyes
The feeling that rushes through my heart requires no name or a reason why.

O how beautiful do angels sing
Just like the flutter of butterfly wings.

When you give:
a cup of water
a thank you
a hug
a “you’re welcome”
laughter
or even an “I love you”

An angel sings
Just like the flutter of butterfly wings
Just like the flutter of butterfly wings
Just like the flutter of butterfly wings.

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