Seeking Connections (Seek & Ye Shall Find)

Three months ago I met with Mr. Willard Smith to discuss how my organization M & L Care could help his organization Vetshouse Inc. in winning a Facebook contest sponsored by Home Depot to win a $25,000 grant.  I had no idea what I was getting into, it was just another assignment on my to do list as marketing director at the home care agency I worked for.  My boss suggested that I to meet me and the plan of action was to offer my social media savvy in exchange for referrals of veterans who may be able to use our service.

Mr. Smith a gracious host and a full of great information.  After we exchanged pleasantries, exchanged business cards and gave each other a brief description of what we did professionally I was comfortable enough to let my guard down and just speak my mind.

Vetshouse Inc. works with homeless veterans.  They provide a myriad of services to assist veterans with job skills, finding work, keeping work and integrating back into society successfully.  It’s honorable work.  I feel for anyone that is homeless.  It’s common to see men with long beards holding a cardboard sign that says “Homeless Veteran, Please Help, God Bless You.”  I typically give these men whatever $1 dollar bills I have in my wallet and drive on.  I always wonder if you’re a veteran how are you homeless?  Don’t you get a check, some kind of pension?  The journalist in me wants to stop and ask questions, but then I’m fearful of meeting someone that may be mentally unstable so I drive on.

Listening to Mr. Smith talk with such passion and hearing so many success stories I became intrigued beyond my normal nosey curiosity.  I admitted to him that I didn’t know anything beyond dates regarding WWI, WWII or the Vietnam War.  I felt stupid and ashamed.  I told him that there seemed to be a disconnect with my generation and the previous one’s.  I was born in the seventies and the United States didn’t go back to war until the conflicts in the middle East that we’re still trying to extricate from.

70% of my job is to get clients for M & L Care.  We are a non-medical home care agency.  We provide companion care, run errands and assist with daily living activities for anyone in need.  Right now the majority of our clients are veterans or the spouses of veterans.  Long-term care is expensive.  The cost for our veteran clients has been offset by the “Aid & Attendance” benefit offered by the VA.  (I’ll discuss that in detail later—OK one plug) it’s a little known TAX FREE benefit that is available to Veterans, their spouses & their widows.

Now back to this disconnect.  I wasn’t raised in a military family and I didn’t grow up in Hampton Roads so my interaction with service members was limited to an older uncle that had retired long ago, but I knew he fought in some war and was very proud. I suppose the onus really wasn’t on me to learn these things a child, I only know what I was taught.  But now that I’m grown well.. It’s never too late to learn.  It’s never too late to do better.

So I’ve been seeking out individuals to hear their stories.  I’ve been doing this in my own informal haphazard way.  I’m an activist and an agitator by nature.  I have to temper my action with my within the confines of my job (most of the time).  So I keep my brochures with me wherever I go & if I see someone that appears to be over the age of 60 in military gear I speak.  If they give me slightest inclination that I can hold a conversation with them I do.  That was the case yesterday I was hanging out with my husband at the local flea market.  We did a full circle around the property I didn’t see anything to purchase ( I collect stamps & coins) but I thought that most of the vendors were veterans.  They had on their jackets and hats with insignia, so I started asking “are you a veteran?” Booth after booth every one I talked to was.  Some were more talkative than others but I made a connection with each one.  The 1st veteran I met told me how he volunteers at a local agency helping other veterans weekly.  The 2nd veteran told me he works with veterans daily and is eager to partner with organizations that offer services for vets like mine..BUT…but he explained that we are here for the Veterans and they need to be our priority.  To which of course I nodded in agreement, but..he expounded on that and I’m glad.  He asked had I ever saw a country succumbed; to which my response was no.  I assumed it was a war movie, honestly I still don’t know if it is a film or not..but he gave me the graphic details.  He apologized before speaking..then he said when a country succumbs the relationship between husband & wife no longer exist because wives, daughters & mother’s must make themselves sexually available to the victors of war to survive.  This picture is a reality in other parts of the world, he told me to thank a veteran and honor the service of veterans because the only reason that horrific picture isn’t a reality in the United States is because of the service of Vets!  That story changed my perspective.  I won’t look at any veteran the same.  At first I thought I was connecting with people through the services that my job offered, but speaking with that veteran gave me a patriotic connection one that will last.  I’ll be going about my work differently now.  I’ve made a connection.  That was yesterday…..

Today while thumbing through the Virginia Pilot in the Books section there is a book review of “Island of Destiny” a book by military historian John Prados discusses the key to winning WWII which in his opinion was beyond the midway point which was actually at the Solomon Islands.  Without reading the book I gained more knowledge than I ever got out of one of my history books.

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Craigslist Revenge

I’m home sick today.  Head cold, I could manage but my throat is so sore.  I have the biggest speaking engagement of my career on Thursday so resting my vocal chords trying lots of home remedies to cure myself.

Part of my daily routine is to go on www.craigslist.org and search the local listing for free stuff. Cheap fun.  Today I had a extra time so I browsed other categories, and came accross this in news.

The Accused Name Appeared Here    ADULTERER (MOYOCK, NC)

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Complete Physical Address was listed here.  ( I don’t want to contribute to this mess so I’ve deleted it in the interest of privacy)

DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN ALONE WITH YOUR WIFE. He had an adulterous affair with his friend who was my wife. This was his FRIEND She had just come out of a breast cancer operation and was still undergoing therapy She was drinking heavily at the time She had soooo much on her mind she was so easily lead, vulnerable, naive and so easy for him to get her into his bed by taking advantage of her need for acceptance after her mastectomy THIS P I G KNEW SHE WAS MARRIED. HAVING REPAIRABLE MARITAL PROBLEMS, HAD A FAMILY and INSTEAD OF TREATING HER LIKE A TRUE FRIEND HE HAD SEX WITH HER in every way imaginable. HE USED HER and ABUSED HER TRUST IN HIM AS A FRIEND. Ruined her marriage, family and destroyed her. HE IS IN HIS LATE 50’s, short, pudgy, long dark hair, stupid looking, egomaniac, has never been married and is a failure with single women HE CAN NOT BE TRUSTED WITH A MARRIED WOMAN. DO NOT LEAVE HIM ALONE WITH YOUR WIFE HE DESTROYED MINE. She will never be the same. She is sad every day. Feels foolish,embarrassed and DIRTY EVERY DAY FOR LETTING The accused full name of MOYOCK USE HER at his COMPLETE ADDRESS home.
WOW!!
I get it this spouse is mad and hurt.  His wife cheated on him and he’s venting.  Listing the man’s name and address is a bit over the top and dangerous in my opinion.  He rationalizes his wife’s infidelity on her illness.  It’s possible.  He never mentions his reaction to his wife’s double masectomy.  He completely blames the “other man”. 
I also find it interesting how he describes his wife’s or what may be soon to be his ex-wife’s demeanor.  “She is sad every day. Feels foolish,embarrassed and DIRTY EVERY DAY”  He emphasizes dirty.  I wonder how dirty he (spouse) made her feel.  It’s natural when you are hurt and betrayed to want the one’s that hurt you to feel the same emotions.  We’re all human.  But..(long sigh) what is this solving? 
Cheating is wrong.  Adultry is wrong.  There are better ways to deal with bad situations.  Often our reactions to bad situations will determine whether we come out victorious or not. 
I’ve been cheated on and lied to.  It hurts.  It cuts deep.  Have you ever watched “Snapped” ?  Snapped is OXYGEN’S  hit true crime series,  it profiles the cases of women accused of murder. Revenge is often the motive.  Who want’s to wind up on a true crime series?  Who wants to spend their life in jail?  Who wants to destroy their family in such a way.  We need better coping skills men & women. 
I’ve been with my husband for 20 years; we’ve been married for 7.  The last time he cheated on me he got a girl pregnant.  Oh the rage I felt.  Oh what a blow to my ego.  I thought all sorts of ungodly things.  I remembered how my sister acted when her husband cheated, she went batty.  She embarrassed herself, the family, marked her children for life and it didn’t change anything.  I didn’t want to be that person. 
I wanted to be like Hillary Clinton & Princess Diana.  Deal with it in my home, on my terms and move on.  So I ran to God.  Best decision I ever made. 
**side note I have an absolutely wonderful relationship with my step-daughter**
I’m praying for this couple.  We have to forgive those that wrong us whether we choose to stay or go. 
Revenge is glorified in the media, but it’s nothing heroic about doing prison time for murder.  This is what the Bible says about revenge. Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.God will take care of justice. It may not be when we want it. It may not be how we want it. But He will make sure that justice is done.

This policy is not a lack of justice. It is a call not to take personal revenge in order to get justice. Leave justice and revenge to God.

When you’re enduring a crisis it’s hard to see past your pain.  But I am a living witness if you trust God and make up your mind to move on you can. 

Norfolk, VA Growing Cooler Daily

I’ve been struggling with writing my first blog post.  I stressed over writing about personal issues, things make my life less mundane but I was worried about my tendency to over share.  Then I wanted to write about work, but I worried about my passive aggressive sarcasm not being fully appreciated.  I’m on this spiritual journey and my faith and relationship with God is growing, but I don’t want my sometimes undisciplined walk to cause someone else to stumble.

So, while thumbing through the pages of the March Issue of Entrepreneur Magazine http://www.entrepreneur.com/magazine/index.html I came across an article spot lighting Drew Ungvarsky.  If you’re like me, you’re wondering who is that.  Drew is a local entrepreneur.  He’s the owner of Grow a digital advertising and production company based in Norfolk, VA! http://www.norfolk.gov/

Well that is just too close to home, Virginia Beach, VA for me not to get excited.   http://www.vbgov.com/Pages/home.aspx  I enjoy reading positive things about people & businesses in my community.  It makes me proud and keeps me hopeful.  Being featured in              Entrepreneur Magazine is impressive.  With a circulation is 600,000. Total readership exceeds 2.4 million per issue.  In their own words they are “the premier source for everything small business”

My  entrepreneur experience is microscopic compared to the people featured between these pages.  I read with the intent to learn.  I especially enjoy those  features that spark my curiosity to the point that I want to explore a topic beyond what I’m reading.  The write-up on Drew Ungvarsky did just that.

Googling you will find they eye-popping website for his business, Grow. http://www.thisisgrow.com/  and several nice write ups are featured in our own Virginian-Pilot. http://hamptonroads.com/2012/09/one-restaurant-aims-change-face-city.  The Entrepreneur article discusses the community building efforts of Drew Ungvarsky.  He’s done some pretty cool things for the city including creating a temporary park “The Plot” on a vacant 2-acre lot that was formally an eyesore. “The Plot” features 3 shipping containers turned on their sides.   Funny I walked by “The Plot” almost daily last year marvelling at it’s creative beauty never realizing it had such a story behind its creation.  The Plot even has Wi-Fi connectivity.  How many city parks can boast that?  Kudos Norfolk!

If you live in Hampton Roads or will be traveling here go to the corner Granby & Main Street to enjoy “The Plot” first hand.  For everyone else here is a photo presentation  http://www.downtownnorfolk.org/documents/PLOT_Photo_Presentation.pdf

I got a burst of renewed creative energy from this one article.  It motivated me into action; I finished my first blog post!

My Father’s Legacy

Scan18_0018Before I even knew that God existed he had decided to gift me with an extraordinary life as the youngest daughter of James S. Hursey.      Being a Hursey living in small town Bridgeton, New Jersey came with it’s own set of unique challenges, high expectations and sweet privileges.   By the time I cam along in the 70’s the Hursey’s were already established as a family of public servants, educators, philanthropist and business owners.

     Daddy being the oldest son and the most vocal by my recollection was making his mark in local politics, propelling himself under the scrutiny of the public eye.  Everybody knows Jim Hursey, so when he died three weeks ago as I worked to plan his funeral, struggled to take care of my mother, prayed for peace among family members, and  not die myself of  heartbreak in the process…I was lost for words when I attempted to articulate to a reporter from he Bridgeton Evening News on what would be my father’s legacy.

  • Twelve years on Bridgeton City Council, several spent as president.
  • X number of years a member of the housing authority.
  • Another stint as Commissioner of Fire & Police.
  • 40 years a special education teacher.
  • The “go to” guy for a grave in Cedar Hill Memorial Park.
  • Local landlord, insurance salesman, former track coach.

I wanted to arrogantly instruct the reporter to “google” my dad and pull from news archives, compiling a succinct story of his life; to add human interest speak my two aunt’s Carol Laster & Christine Miles.  Then call me back after for a quote, fax me a copy for my approval before printing.  I envisioned a front page article worthy of royalty.  I heard daddy’s voice in my head; as I often do (before & after death) saying “don’t try that BS Jenjer!”

So encumbered by time constraints, confusion,and very much against my better judgement I humbled myself and gave the task to my eldest and only sister Joni Hursey Wingate.  [PAUSE- long sigh]. 

Since daddy’s hospitilization I had been yeilding my emotions, opinions, and overall feelings to accomodate Joni..what more damage could be done?  Daddy’s gone. 

Joni called the reporter and gave him an interview resulting in what appeared in Thursday’s paper.  http://www.nj.com/bridgeton/index.ssf?/base/news-6/1250223913159250.xml&coll=10

The article embarrassed and disappointed me.  That’s not what I meant I lamented quietly to myself, wondering what I had done.  My mother immediately let me know her displeasure too.  She ranted the remainder of the day about what she decided to term “Joni’s article.”  Although she didn’t use the term narcissistic she eluded to my sister having those behavior traits as I often rolled my eyes out of her sight of course thinking isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black. 

As I sat with tears streaming down my face, feeling betrayed yet again..I was comforted by daddy’s voice “that’s the way it be’s sometimes baby.”

As I went about the remainder of my day I wondered what would I have said differently.  The thoughts that came to my mind were the practical things that daddy taught me, the financial wisdom he instilled in me, and how he just indulged me—from cradle to grave. 

But would those things be appropriate or relevant for publication…yet still I ponder…what to share, what to keep. 

“Spare the rod, spoil the child” was one of the things that I remember my mother telling my father often as I grew up.  I could tell you stories that would raise the hair on your neck….one in particular comes to mind.  Daddy never spanked me, he didn’t like for mommy to spank me, and he would become absolutely livid if anyone else chastised me ( and he knew about it—-I knew this).  One Sunday I was misbehaving in church and one of the elders spoke to me and gently popped my leg.  Well I was just appalled, and I wasted no time telling her that MY DADDY does not like for people to hit me, and she was going to be in trouble, then I promptly snuck out off and used the phone to call my daddy; well ten minutes later he was at that church laying that lady out and taking his baby home.  Thinking back on it all I can do is shake my head.

Daddy use to host poker games at the house on Friday nights.  But before a glass of scotch could be poured, a card deck opened, a note of jazz played…the guest had to attentively listen to me recite something I learned from school that week, then fein excitement as I performed a ballet or tap routine.  They would cheer me on and applaud.  I often wonder if daddy knew at the time how much those weekly shows bolstered my confidence.

Or how about the time mommy and I took the Amtrak train to Virginia.  I had never been on train ride and mommy thought it would be a good experience and fun.  Well it wasn’t.  Reservations do not guarantee you a seat, we stood the entire time, I was miserable.  We stopped mid-way and called daddy..I was crying and complaining..that’s all it took, by the time the train arrived in Virginia; my daddy was there to take me home.  He beat the train!  

Aside from those sweet over the top indulgences; daddy was also a wonderful role model, a great teacher, a good listener and a confidant.

He didn’t just spoil me—there are very practical lessons too!

  • Working hard, keep your nose clean (stay out of trouble) and put your little money up ( save & invest wisely.)
  • Daddy taught me to drive a stick shift, jump a tire, &  change my oil and a tire.
  • Daddy taught me how to propagate plants, re-pot them, and test the soil.
  • Daddy loved working with his hands—together with my husband we built the flower bed that beautifully adorns my front yard, my house is full of shelves he built.   

Throughout my adult life daddy continued to be my strongest supporter and staunchest critic. 

I am reminded of the time I went to daddy crying hysterically over a boy–he looked at me with such disgust and proceed to curse me out. [Be INDEPENDENT…you don’t need a man!]  Admonishing me to never ever cry over a man unless he dies—then it’s OK to cry.  So in the upcoming weeks and months as I process my grief I’m sure I will cry….

You can not walk into my parents house without witnessing the walls of pictures of daddy–yes I said walls.  Daddy loved taking pictures.  The last picture I took of him was at his request in the hospital…while he struggled to breath–he had me snapping pictures.  While I’m sure he was contemplating his impending death he was gently teaching me acceptance while comforting me–he was putting on his “game face” even though we both knew that “things were shaky”. 

Finally, I have a $3 t-shirt that boast  “I love my hubby”  I made the mistake of wearing that in front on daddy–“where’s the shirt that says I love my daddy?” he asked.  The following day I had to get a shirt made with our picture on it that said “I love my daddy.” he has one with my picture “daddy’s girl.” that he proudly wore.  That was the unique bond and relationship that my father and I shared.  It felt especially good when people would inquire—they assumed the shirt was to memorialize him…no it another way for me to honor him in life. 

I am going to be OK, daddy taught me –that no matter what happens–the sun is still going to rise tomorrow.  These lessons—the way I will continue to live my life—ME, I am his legacy.

Facebook Follies “Social Networking Free Therapy”

I recently joined the online social network Facebook. Facebook allows users to join networks organized by various demographics: city, workplace, school, and region to connect and interact with other people. I first thought of it as nothing more than a glorified MySpace web site dedicated to shameless boasting of one’s true or perceived accomplishments and ambitions. I wanted to appear above the fray. The Jennifer I self promote is much too busy for such trivial pursuits.

But I decided in 2009 that I was going to have even harsher and more gut wrenching honest conversations with myself and with others about myself. I was going to take the poor man’s route to emotional healing.

When you say emotional healing it gives a deep connotation of abuse or trauma. No I only suffered self-inflicted abuse. I have caused myself unnecessary trauma at times by setting my standards too low or too high. Not requiring of myself what I expect from others. Defending myself from fake bullies that are actually masking over raging insecurity and extreme vulnerability. Doing favors for people I don’t even like, whom really don’t like me, but need my skills to accompish some task, usually something business related ( PowerPoint Presentation, Resume’, Business Plan).

My daddy has always told me that each individual is the sum total of their experiences. Some more of his favorite antecdotes “cream always rises to the top”, “don’t lay with dogs or you’ll get fleas”, “water seeks it’s own level”.

On my most recent trip home to visit my parents two weeks ago I debated with him (blamed him) for the majority of my life’s failures and my current career (lack of) situation.

Finally, on the verge of 40 I get it. Good grief, what a learning curve. I was the product of first generation African-American, degreed, professional, middle class parents. I grew up in a small rural community, attended Christian private school for the first nine years of my life. I was very sheltered and highly indulged. Along with my parents, my aunt’s and uncles taught in the community and were active in local politics so everybody knew me; but I wasn’t popular.

I think I was more envied for people’s perception of my life style. ( That sounds so grandiose—I know but I’m telling this story I trust my “friends” to perfect my memories) Living in a three bedroom, brick rancher with a manicured lawn and two working cars out front. I lived the Huxtible life popularized by the Cosby Show.

When I went off to college I met other little princesses whose parents had even more than mine; and for the first time in my life I experienced jealousy. I also met and fell in with the “bad crowd” drug dealers and plain old street thugs. Every week I was either attending a funeral or a court hearing. Loving every moment. Of course my school work suffered and I spent two summer semesters at Norfolk State University completing my degree. I graduated a year later with an OK GPA.

My graduation was uneventful my father was so pissed he refused to let me mail out my announcements which in turn limited the cash gifts I was so anxious to receive. I was 23 with a degree in Political Science, no real ambition other than not to move back home and no direction. I joined the workforce by taking a job at a retail store. I was proud because in comparison to my counterparts I was doing well, they were dead and in jail, I was punching a time clock making $6.25 an hour.

My friends from college moved on to careers, babies and marriage. I worked. I worked in retail, I worked on the phone, I worked back in retail, I’ve worked in customer service roles (glorified phone work with good benefits), and I’ve been an administrative assistant a few times over.

I remember as each of my cousins graduated from college they initially pursued careers in education and by any standards are doing well. I’m happy for them and proud of them. I resent the fact that my mother could never stop her incessant bragging of their accomplishments while belittling my lack their of, but such is life.

To my credit I bought a house that has increased in value several times over. I’m living debt free with the exception of the payment that I make monthly on my dream car. I attend church regularly. I went back to school, paid for and received my MBA. I’m contently married, active and respected in my community. Although I’m prematurely gray around my hairline, I look much younger than my counterparts and my once skeleton frame has blossomed into a womanly shape. For the most part I’m healthy an all around good person and well liked.

The majority of my high school counter parts are funding the education of those children that they had while still in school. Imagine some are helping to raise grandchildren. I didn’t have any children “out of wedlock” much to the pride of my mother; I believe that was always her biggest fear for me; not that I didn’t try. I had my pregnancy scares and had actually one time conceived, but that turned out to be a tubal pregnancy that rendered me infertile.

My politically correct excuse for not having kids earlier had been I wanted to get settled in my career; I’ve been out of college for fifteen years, what career? All the social networking sites ask the same questions. It’s like going to a high school reunion on the internet. Those that have done well for themselves can brag and even be smug if that’s their thing. Those who are lacking in material wealth and the trappings there of are more evasive than not.

It’s easy to fall prey find your self either judging others or justifying your life choices. In a moment of clarity I realized that the fact that I am here is such a wonderful blessing. Thank God know one is delivering the news that I’ve passed on and now my friends are gathering and working to create a memorial page for me.

So at 39 (my birthday is in 7 months) I will start the exhaustive, expensive process to pro-create in Petri dish. The mad rush for a baby is on now more than ever. The hands of my biological clock are ticking much louder. In part because my husband is home from a four year incarceration; he has reconnected with his daughter that is now eight years old and we are both getting acquainted with her; her mother is gracious enough to allow us to participate in the raising her. I thoroughly enjoy my weekend mommy role: the brushing of hair, the watching of cartoons, the pillow fights, the tucking in at night, the gentle admonishments, the shopping for clothes, reading bedtime stories!

To her mother’s credit my step-daughter is a well behaved, good mannered, smart, fun and pleasant child to be around. She is my husband’s complexion, (he and I are the same shade) with thick long hair reminiscent of my childhood days; her two front middle teeth slightly protrude from the rest of her jaw line, her forehead is accented by a thick eyebrow thus adding to the whole she resembles me too argument. Yes in my vanity I admit to passing her off as my very own to those that don’t know any better.

To those that do know the story behind the truth. My boyfriend cheated on me, got a woman pregnant, denied it , took a paternity test only to act as if the child had never been born!

I was angry and hurt…………but not enough to leave.

I did find some sweet solace in his being committed to a maximum security facility with very limited privileges & hardened criminals for four years; he could have gotten probation, it was his first offense! Instead fate had it that he would do his time with death row inmates and lifers. I reveled in his suffering and enjoyed myself while I waited for him to “pay his debt” to society. More than that, I grew. I grew spiritually. Someone once told me that God allows us to endure suffering and pain to bring us closer to Him. I matured; I shed my evil resentful “bitch” skin and replaced it with a much more pleasant, secure, knowledgeable, loving and mature woman.

I’ve learned there is honor in humility and I am enjoying the benefits of forgiveness. My good friends constantly encourage me to continue to walk this path and compliment what they call my growth and courage. They tell me they are proud!

I’m finally recognizing my strength and finding my voice. Although I no longer gravitate towards drama I know unpleasantness will arise in life; I’ve elected to give up the fear of rejection, embarrassment, ridicule and misunderstandings. My days of rescuing and being rescued are over! I don’t need a hero……..I’ve taken center stage and I’m my own hero, as I should be; I’m telling the story!

 

Authors note:

Inevitably I am sure that someone will read this and misinterpret my intended message. For those too shallow or not versed enough in reading comprehension; the above paragraphs simply say….I acknowledge the abundance of grace that God has bestowed upon my life, I recognize that I am blessed, highly favored and anointed to do exactly this. “Big ups to my Haters” few that they may be, you’ve help to make me strong—while providing interesting and funny scenarios that will allow me to continue my pursuit of writing!

God Bless You All