Sunday, May 30, 2010

"The Secret Life of Bees"....and Friendship

I finished the book "The Secret Life of Bees" a few days ago. I had purchased it off of a table at one of my favorite used bookstores, but hadn't gotten around to reading it. What a great story on perseverance, friendship, and the support you get from women. Although it is a sad story, it is also a very uplifting one - and a great read!

I save quotes and always mark up books with things I think are written particularly well or just something to remember. It is amazing to me how many times I will be reading something that really touches on a situation I just went through. This is especially true when it is a well written story.

Sue Monk Kidd, the author of the book, does an interview after the story is completed. She quotes Isak Dinesen in saying: "All sorrows can be borne if we put them in a story or tell a story about them." As a writer, I wholeheartedly agree.

She goes on to say: "When women bond together in a community in such a way that 'sisterhood' is created, it gives them an accepting and intimate forum to tell their stories and have them heard and validated by others. The community not only helps to heal their circumstance, but encourages them to grow into their larger destiny. This is what happened to Lily. She found a sanctuary of women where she could tell her story, and have it heard and validated - an act that allowed her not only to bear her sorrow but transform it."

I always remember the quote "Writers live things twice." Some of the most painful things I've been through in my life are the strongest pieces I've written. And I always learn something from it. It is always my hope that my deepest writing will touch others in a way that will help them when they are facing a difficult time.

I am fortunate to have many wonderful, supportive friends - both male and female. But, there is a special bond with the close female friends. There is something special about that bond, that support, that sisterhood. They believe in me as I believe in them. I am thankful everyday for that.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rest in Peace, Pat

There are many difficult parts to social services. There are difficult situations, and sometimes difficult clients - but it is usually the situations, physical pain, mental illness, or a lifetime of hurts that make them difficult. I've always been able to see past all of it. It just takes a little compassion.

The most difficult is when we lose a client. And we aren't supposed to have favorites, but there are always those who just plain are. Pat was one of those. An 86 year-old woman with the exuberance and sharp sense of humor of someone half her age, she was one I always looked forward to seeing. After a long busy week, full of one crisis after another, and constant phone calls, she was a great way to end the week on a Friday afternoon.

At almost 2:30 AM, I am unable to sleep. Pat's oldest son called me today to tell me his mother had passed away on May 12th. He thought I already knew. I knew she was ill, and back in the hospital. I'm sure each kid thought the other had called. In their grief, who can really blame them? She had a wonderful family full of dedicated kids that adored her. In fact her house was often full of one or more of the kids or a neighbor who had stopped by to say hi and play a game of cribbage. When we were done working, she would often ask me to stay a bit longer on my own time and play a game.

Then there were her kids. Her daughter, Mary, who lived with her and tended the backyard garden and cooked for everyone. Her daughter, Katie, who lived a few miles away and stopped by often. The sons who didn't live nearby but who called frequently, and her son, Tom, who she took care of until very recently - resisting putting him in assisted living until she had to. Then there was Buck, a Labradoodle with bushy eyebrows and legs as long as a horse, who would lean his 100 pound body against you and jump through hula hoops on command. Sitting in a nearby chair on the porch, he sat tall and looked around like he was a person. He only barked until he realized a friend had come to visit.

I am awake and sad, quiet and reflective. Pat had one of the greatest senses of humor I've ever been around. She didn't care what people thought, flirted with her doctors, and loved everybody. She surpassed being just a client several years ago. Her "I Love ya" always followed you out the door, and you could never leave without a hug. She was proud of being Irish, happy with her life, and loyal to her Catholic faith.

I will miss the Friday afternoons there. Miss helping her with whatever she needed help with on that day. I am sorry she was so ill at the end, sorry her smoking took over her lungs, sorry she had to resort to an oxygen tank. I will miss Mary and Tom and Katie. And I will miss Buck - one of the funniest dogs I've yet to come across - who once ate an entire tray of chicken drumsticks just off the grill, bones and all.

But, I will miss Pat terribly. She was such a joy, such a sweetheart, and so much fun. I am fortunate to have known her. I hope she is no longer suffering and at peace. She has touched my life in a way that few have. While I have lost clients before, she was an extra special one that it was an honor to know. I will hold you in my heart, Pat, and never forget you - and in your own words: "I love ya."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Hub Bike Co-op

I don't always post my articles, but I found this place to be particularly interesting. There are a lot of great co-ops in the Twin Cities. I am often quite glad I can walk to one and drive short distances to the others. There is nothing like fresh, locally grown, organic food...

But this article was on a completely different idea for a co-op: a co-op for bike riders. As it says in my article for The Mix:

The Hub Bike-Co-op is an integral part of bicycle culture in the Twin Cities. As a worker-owned cooperative for eight years, they have focused on the environment and consumer education. They look at riding bikes as much more than just a recreational activity—bikes are a main source of transit that can improve the world, creating less pollution and waste in the process. The co-op’s supplies are also green, from recycled paper to biodegradable chain lube, and they recycle their tires and all aluminum and steel left over from bicycle repairs.

There were three original founders of the Hub Bike Co-op, and now there are 12 current owners as the business has grown. “We decided it was a very democratic way to run a business, with no hierarchy,” said co-owner Amber Schmidt, “It takes a lot of compromise, but it’s very fair and balances out with all the different personalities.”

The co-op’s philosophy is seen in their business motto: “All types of bikes for all types of people.” Although they see bikes as more than recreational, they also realize bikes can be used for all purposes, whether it is for sport, racing, or for transit. Said Schmidt, “We advocate for using your bike the way you want to use it.”

Besides selling bikes, the co-op is strongly focused on bicycle education. “We offer in-store basic maintenance classes and have smaller events on bike safety,” said Schmidt. They also teach about the different types of bikes. Having three stores (Cedar- Riverside, Minnetonka, and the new store set to open on the University of Minnesota campus this spring), really focuses on individual customers’ needs.

“We even have a do-it-yourself stand at our larger Minnehaha store,” said Schmidt, “You can repair your own bikes there, so you don’t have to go out and buy tools.” The new location on the school campus is also set up for commuters with 24-hour access to showers, lockers, bike storage, and a public computer to look up bike routes and offer bicycling tips.

In a time when being green is important - as well as the always important need to get some healthy exercise - what a great idea. This is definitely the place I'll go to now when I need a bike tune-up!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Disappointments & Deadlines

After a few difficult weeks full of crisis situations (clients), near scares (mom), a huge disappointment turning into being depressed and overwhelmed (me), and illness (my fiance), things are starting to turn around.

It is funny that, as a writer, the most therapeutic thing to do when you are struggling is to write. It is healing, it is meditative, it is beyond helpful. Yet, every time I thought of writing, I ignored it. I'm not sure why I do this. I would do the dishes, be a couch name it - when the thing I love the most got pushed aside. And I probably lost out on some good material that might have taught me something.

Fortunately, I have an article due and am on a deadline - so I at least had to do an interview and work on writing that. And, thankfully, I have moved on from the ridiculous depressed/overwhelmed state I seemed to have plummeted into - thanks to good friends, a great fiance...and time.

Sometimes we really only get perspective when we have a little hindsight. I am grateful my clients are now okay, my fiance is getting better, my mom is doing better - and I am now very thankful that the huge disappointment didn't work out anyway. What's that old saying? Hindsight is 20/20? Sure beats the fog I had over my eyes for the last couple of weeks....