Keeping Dreams Alive Charity Gala 2017

“Making dream catchers is fun!” is what I thought about this year’s charity gala for South Suburban Family Shelter’s Keeping Dreams Alive charity gala for 2017. At first, I wasn’t planning on going, but my schedule opened up.

I will admit the prospect of making dream catchers became another appeal of going this year! This was my first time making a dream catcher. Oh sure, there are books that detail how to make dream catchers, but we allowed ourselves to have a “creativity workshop” so to speak, before the event to let our imaginations soar!

We had yarn, ribbons, gold hoops, satin flowers and doilies all around us, in addition to banana bread, pizza and great company to further fuel our imagination. I made the Purple Heart dream catcher. It was not easy. I wanted for the yarn to be all over the dream catcher in a web like pattern with the only hollow part being the heart. Well, that didn’t work out.

As a matter of fact, it kept not working out for three whole hours! I had the choice to either give up or come up with a new, improved and simplified design. What can I say? I love making things, so I came up with a new design: Place yarn on the heart only. Then use purple ribbon on the bottom. No one but me knows how much I had to use the glue gun and two sided tape, like one layer after the other, to make that yarn stick to the heart and the entire hoop to hold together and not fall apart. There now! Problem solved! Actor Samuel J. Jackson said, “Sometimes we suffer for our craft.”

Don’t I know it. . .

The people who had an easier time had the crochet dollies to tie onto the gold hoops. They were done with those dream catchers in thirty minutes. They were smart. Now why didn’t I think of that?

Anyway, it was a fun time as usual. I volunteered for the event. The tables looked lovely with their dream catchers. There was a dream wall with requests of needed items for the shelter. The wall had clouds and stars. There were written descriptions of our “Wall of Dreams” on each table.

Within the current political climate and our resources dwindling, our dream came true to continue to keep going, even for a night.

Gena Chiodo Fundraising Event

I had no idea of what to expect on Saturday February 27th for the Gena Chiodo fundraising event. And normally, when I have an extensive work run, I usually go to work, come straight home and go to bed. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it, but I did.

I was still wearing my nursing scrubs and uniform. People actually walked up to me and said, “Thank you for all you do.” I will admit I’ve never had that happen before and it was very nice.

Gena Chiodo was a 44 year old hair dresser. Her family had moved to Florida. She stayed behind in Illinois. She and her friends were a very close knit community. She met and lived with a man named Donald Clark. After they became involved, she became more increasingly isolated. Eventually, her friends were unable to reach her for nearly two weeks during October 2011. The police were notified. Her body was found in the woods in Indiana. One of Donald Clark’s friends agreed to wear a wire to help the police. Donald Clark confessed to the murder. He is now in Cook County Jail.

I met Gena Chiodo’s friends through my volunteer work at South Suburban Family Shelter. I was touched by their tireless commitment to raise awareness and funding for domestic violence, so I tried to make the time.

There were large posters with pictures of Gena Chiodo when she was alive near the entrance. Local businesses put together raffle baskets for auction. A photo booth was set up and the proceeds went to South Suburban Family Shelter. Both women and men wore purple t shirts that said “Stop Domestic Violence.” Those same t shirts were sold for charity.

The food was made with homemade love and delicious: fried chicken, pasta with marinara sauce, green beans, rolls, salad, chocolate chip cookies, brownies and cup cakes.

Some people were teary, which is to be expected, but for the most part, it was a very festive atmosphere. There was a 60’s cover band named The Relics playing “Hey Baby, Won’t You Be My Girl” by Bruce Channel. I adore 1960’s music. That song was one of my very favorite songs from that era.

There were women walking around in princess crowns and brightly colored feathered boas. It seemed like the message was, “It only matters what you think of yourself. Never mind people who may not recognize your brilliance. Know your own worth.”

I agree.

 

 

Chiodo event 2016Gena Chiodo Event 2

25 Ways to Your Own Kind of Happy

There has been a lot written about the effects of trauma and loss, but not enough about how to put your life back together again afterwards. Believe it or not, it is possible to find joy again. While I have had my set of challenges, I am not an expert. Still, I wanted to share the following if it helps.

  1. Never forget your Higher Power (or at least the power of meditation).
  2. Commit to a healthy lifestyle. Don’t make a bad situation worse by engaging in unhealthy habits.
  3. Know your limits. Put down boundaries. Say no if you know you can’t do something.
  4. Join a support group of people who have the same issue you are having.
  5. AND/OR join a group of people who have likeminded interests.
  6. I know people who were going through a hard time that benefitted by reading The Diamond Cutter by Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally. Read any other self help books that are applicable to what you are going through.
  7. Pick up a new hobby. Working with the hands is an exercise in mindfulness and builds confidence.
  8. Discover the benefits of simple pleasures. Only you know what is best for you.
  9. Walk outside.
  10. Simplify. Declutter.
  11. Attend more cultural events like plays and concerts.
  12. Get a pet. They lower blood pressure and increase joy.
  13. Journal. The release of negative emotions on paper is powerful.
  14. Try dressing up a little more. There is no need to be a slave to fashion, but wearing something different from what you would normally reach for breaks monotony.
  15. Express your gratitude for people, places and things in your life that you love. Write it down. Read Make Miracles in Forty Days by Melodie Beattie which explains this further.
  16. Volunteer. Helping others can be wonderful.
  17. Obtain appropriate and effective therapy. Keep looking until you find the therapist and therapy that is most effective for you.
  18. Give yourself a new experience. You know trauma and loss, but do you know a new experience? Give yourself that.
  19. Do an inventory of positive memory associations from your life and see if you can build your current life around them. Read Crossing the Boundary by Melba Wilson which explains this further.
  20. Transform your limiting beliefs about the situation you have experienced. Read Loving What Is by Byron Katie which explains this further.
  21. Be patient. This isn’t easy, but if you are consistent, it can be done.
  22. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  23. Set small goals and attain them.
  24. Remember to breathe more often, especially when you feel panic.
  25. Never harshly judge yourself and/or a transition period. This too shall pass.

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

This is a fourth overdue conversation.  I have to share this information for people who need to hear it. These are the effects of domestic violence in children:

 

-sleeplessness

-nightmares

-headaches

-stomachaches

-agitation

-anxiety

-fear of losing parent

-difficulty concentrating

-academic problems

-fears of going to school

-clinging to caregivers

-fear of exploring

-feelings of not belonging

-low self esteem

-withdrawal from people, places, situations, activities

-depression

-feeling lonely and isolated

-emotional numbing

-feeling responsible for violence

-aggressive behavior

-substance abuse

-stealing

-talk of suicide

-fear around abusive person

-acting perfect, overachieving, acting like perfect adults (good student, makes the family look good, involved in lots of activities)

-bed-wetting

-temper tantrums

-eating problems

-medical problems, such as asthma, arthritis, ulcers

-avoidance reminders

-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), flashbacks

-Developmental delay

-sometimes labeled as the “problem child” or scapegoat

-tries not to bring attention to oneself

-“Class clown” and “acts out”

-behavior problems in school

 

Obtained from the book Children of Battered Women by Peter Jaffe David Wolfe

Red Flags: How to Recognize Abuse and Abusers

Here is another overdue conversation: Recognizing red flags within rapists, batterers and abusive relationships. There is not enough information out there about this topic, so I am presenting more right here.

 

Characteristics of Abuse and Abusers:

1.Objectifies victim by calling him/her names, animals, etc.

2.Tries to isolate the partner

3.Acts one way with the partner and another way when they are around other people

4.May have legal problems

5.Bad temper

6.Verbal abuse

7.Regularly threatened to leave or told the victim to leave

8.Punished or deprived children when he/she was angry

9.Threatened to kidnap the children or hurt the children if the victim left

10.Abused pets

11.Destroyed possessions and photographs

12.Told victim about his/her affairs

13.Manipulated victim with lies and contradictions

14.Comes from a family where violence was practiced (70% of abusers)

15.Denies severity of abuse

16.Drives the victim away, then does whatever they have to do to get the victim back again

17.The pattern is cyclical. There is no lasting change.

18.Low self esteem

19.Fosters dependence

20.May believe in traditional sex roles and gender types

21.95% are male, 5% are female

22.Abusers come from all socio-economic levels, educational and ethnic/racial backgrounds and types of lifestyles

23.Blames victim for perceived injuries to self.

24.Is unwilling to turn victim loose

25.Is obsessed with victim.

  1. Is hostile/angry/furious.

27.Appears to be distraught.

28.Is extremely jealous, blaming, victim for all types of promiscuous behavior.

29.Has perpetrated previous incidents of significant violence.

30.Has killed or injured pets.

31.Has made threats.

32.Is threatening suicide.

  1. Has threatened suicide in the past.

34.Has access to guns or other weapons.

35.Uses/is addicted to alcohol.

36.Uses/is addicted to/sells Amphetamines, speed, cocaine, crack, or other drugs.

  1. Has thought/desires of hurting partner.
  2. Has no desire to stop violence/controlling behavior
  3. Relationship is extremely tense. Volatile.
  4. wants to injure victim, even when she is pregnant and/or has just delivered a baby.

 

Physical Abuse (includes, but is not limited to):

-pushing/shoving

-Held to keep from leaving

-Slapped, kicked, chocked, bit, punched or hit

-Thrown objects

-Locked in the house/room

-Abandonded in dangerous places

-Refused help when sick, injured or pregnant

-Drove recklessly

-Forced off the road or kept from driving

-Rape

-Threatened with a weapon

-Hurt with a weapon

 

Sexual abuse (includes, but not limited to):

-Told anti-men/anti-women jokes or made demeaning remarks about men/women

-Treated men/women as sex objects

-Insisted on unwanted and uncomfortable touching

-Withheld sex and affection

-Forced him/her to perform some type of sex

-Forced him/her to watch pornography

 

Spiritual Abuse (very rarely recognized, but including and not limited to):

-use religion to justify abuse

-insults victim’s religion

 

Emotional Abuse (vary rarely recognized, but includes and not limited to):

-Ignored feelings

-Ignored the victim

-Intimidating victim by using looks, actions, loud voices, gestures, body positioning, smashing or destroying property, hurting pets

-Limits phone calls

-Limits social life and contact with the outside world

-Keeps victim from doing activities he/she likes

-Invades his/her privacy

-Limits his/her personal space

-Threatens to report victim to DCFS, immigration, etc.

-Putting victim down in front of family and friends

-Ridiculed or insulted men/women as a group

-Ridiculed or insulted most valued beliefs, religion, race, heritage, or class

-Withheld approval, appreciation, or affection for punishment

-Continually criticized called names, shouted at

-Insulted or drove away friends and family

 

Economic abuse (including, but not limited to):

-Keeping the victim from getting or keeping a job

-Giving the victim an allowance

-Making the victim ask for money

-Taking the victim’s money

-Controlling all the finances

-Spending money on himself/herself and withholding money for family needs

-Kept from working, controlled money, made all the decisions

-Took car keys or money away

 

This information is from Escape the Abuse: Leaving Smart by Intermedia, Seattle, Washington.

 

If you find yourself in any of these situations, get help and get out.

 

Resources:

-The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker

 

-The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond by Patricia Evans

 

-National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)

 

-RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE)

 

My Self Marriage Ceremony

“It is better to be by yourself than to be poorly accompanied.” –Judge Maria Lopez of The People’s Court

 

I married myself on Friday, July 4th, 2014, my 43rd birthday. It had been a long time coming. I married myself with one goal in mind: To expand upon and rethink, reconfigure, reevaluate, reinvent the concept of love and commitment. The first time I heard about the concept was reading the book, Succulent Wild Women by SARK. I loved the concept of it: Commit to yourself before committing to someone else. I first read about this concept when I was married, but it didn’t make complete sense to me until after I had gotten divorced.

I did an internet search about self marriage to obtain more information. I read article where the concept of self marriage is “narcissistic.” Again, I think the people who are writing these things have not had my life’s experiences. I personally found that as a direct result of my past experiences, self marriage was an act of radical self love, self care and self acceptance.

Within time, I had found I had achieved a state of pure unmitigated joy, but believe me when I tell you I wish I had known about the concept of self marriage sooner. No matter how challenging the past had been for me, I always knew that happiness was out there. I had to be patient and just keep looking until I found it. Instead of looking at what happened before, I have become more focused on the love I had in my life now: supportive family, friends, my artistry and a job that fulfills me.

This act of self marriage gave way to letting go of people, places and things that did not honor the very best of who I was. This was already happening, so it not an overnight process. But it is interesting to note the changes that took place after my self marriage ceremony: I left a job I held for five years and fell into the job I had been wanting for years. I participated in not one, but two art instillations within a year because part of my commitment to myself also included a reclaiming of my artistic life. Self marriage was one of the many building blocks of extreme self care I’d acquired within time. Eventually, though, what I realized was that my happiness, sadness, success or failure wasn’t dependent on any other human being. It meant that I could live the life I always wanted.

I am able to see other people who are married with children and I am sincerely happy for them and tell them so, but I am also happy for myself as well. My vows were actually the poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelo. I made a vision board the night of Thursday, July 3, 2014 and placed a small part of the poem on the board. I also chose pictures and sayings, like High Spirits, your special day your special way, Your story from this point forward will be legendary, The Life You Want.”

Although I was married, I never had a marriage ceremony in my life. So having one when I married myself was especially important for me. Not to be materialistic, but people seem to want to know everything I did on this day, from choosing a dress, a ring and anything else, so here it is.

It took time to find a dress on discount. It was a white halter dress with gold swirls on sale and I loved walking away with a deal. I also found white shoes on discount.

The ring was an aquamarine stone with a gold setting, again on discount. The bouquet and cake were from Whole Foods. When I told the women there what I was doing, they had never heard of the ceremony such as a self marriage, but they were greatly interested and actually more than kind when making suggestions to make the day special for me. I went with a berry cake with white frosting and red letters. They showed me pictures of their wedding bouquets, as well as had me tell them what kinds of flowers I liked. I let them know I loved sunflowers. “You have to love yourself and know who you are and what it is you want first,” the saleswoman told me behind the counter when she saw my cake and flowers.

I was able to find an appropriate crown at Party City. They have an amazing medieval section! I found a gold plated crown with fake jewels. I also talked with people close to me about my ceremony. One of my family members said, “I can see it. Frankly people need to do this preferably in the ninth grade. Get clear on who you are, what you want and what your expectations are in a relationship.”

My writer friend was invaluable on the day of the ceremony. She took pictures and did my makeup. Personally, I felt she’d done a better job that the makeup artists at M.A.C. She played jazz love songs in the background like “At Last” by Etta James and “Nightingale” by Nora Jones. After she was finished with my makeup, I felt beautiful. I am the primordial caregiver. This is my profession, but another aspect of self marriage for me is learning what is healthy dependence and learning how to receive.

She said, “Actually, I think people need to do this after they are finished with college. Like if you are going to have a bridal registry, then have one. When you get your own place, you need toasters, cookware, Tupperware and bed comforters when you move out of those college dormitories or out of your parent’s house. These are things people need on their own, like well before marriage.”

But the only problem with waiting until after college is you might meet the person you think you should marry in college. That is what happened to me. Later, I progressed to the idea of not being actualized in a relationship, but being actualized by yourself. What a concept! But no one tells you exactly how that happens. They didn’t have that in a textbook. Sometimes doing things the way other people have presented it to you is the way to go until you have taken the time to know how to do things that are best for you. It might be challenging along the way, but still, settling shouldn’t be an option.

Choosing a locale was a challenge. My writing group has a lot of interesting outings. One of them was Medieval Times. I knew when I first saw the place, I wanted to be there for my self marriage ceremony. Medieval Times was a place that I felt was conducive to the creative imagination. I have always loved anything and everything medieval. I wanted the ceremony to be playful. I had a picture with the king when I walked in. He told me, “You look smashing!” I said, “Thank you!” The food was phenomenal along with the jousting. We had the yellow knight, who unfortunately lost the tournament.

Afterwards, children walked up to me to ask, “Are you a fairy princess?” I smiled and said, “No.” Then they asked, “Were you in the play?” I smiled and said no. It is difficult to describe the concept of self marriage to children. I felt like Carrie Bradshaw’s character in Sex and the City who tried to explain to the little girl she was reading Cinderella to that these are fairy tales, but you know what? Everyone has to come to their own conclusions.

So, instead I said, “It’s my birthday.” And it really was my birthday. That they understood. They looked at each other excitedly and said, “Yay! Oh happy birthday!” Description solved! I was knighted at the end of the night. I took a picture with one of the knights.

Again, it is not that I am against relationships, but I am against unhealthy ones. I feel there are decent men out there. I also enjoy sewing for other people and their weddings. But I also feel that if you have a healthy relationship with yourself, actually being in relationship doesn’t matter as much. I have also noticed that life can and will respond to how you feel about your circumstance. If you walk out as if there is lack in the world, the world would respond in kind, but if you walk out as if there is abundance, the world would respond abundantly. If I felt terrible about being single, I would be met with people who affirmed my belief. Because I embraced this fact, instead, I found the opposite.

A lot of people have asked me how I felt after the ceremony. Actually, I felt great, deeply appreciating my own self reliance. This is who I am. This is the person I was meant to be. It feel good not looking at a person, a place or a thing to validate my worth as a human being.  I listened to Pharrell’s CD on my way home, watching the fireworks in the air, enjoying the celebration of my independence.

Self Marriage 1

Call For Hope (and Help)

It’s that time of year for decluttering and spring cleaning. I am hoping your spring cleaning is going well, but before you toss out your old used cell phones, please consider donating them to a worthy cause. Verizon has the HopeLine, a program designed to take used cell phones and donate them to the victims of domestic violence. Please read the link below to find out how you can help. Thank you!:

http://www.verizonwireless.com/mobile-living/network-and-plans/donate-cell-phones-domestic-violence-hopeline-mobile-app-android-iphone/

International Quilt Festival 2015

This year, the International Quilt Festival had a Rubies quilt exhibit. The International Quilt Festival is held each year in various locales throughout the country: Chicago, Houston, Long Beach and Cincinnati. Although the International Quilt Festival was a few months ago in Chicago, I feel writing about it in light of the patriotic holidays (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Veterans Day) is appropriate, hence all the red and white fabric from the main quilt exhibit. I love Americana fabric (fabric with a patriotic theme). I donated my proceeds from working the festival to Quilts of Valor, an organization that makes quilts for veterans.

Considering my father is a Vietnam veteran, the Quilts of Valor organization was of interest to me. Also, because Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), a very breakthrough trauma treatment I personally had for PTSD due to rape trauma and domestic violence, actually originated in the veterans hospitals. I felt my donation was a way of giving back for some of the help I received, thanks to the veterans and their advocacy for appropriate trauma treatment.

Other than that, the International Quilt Festival is one of the most wonderful times of the year for me. Other people live for the holidays. As a healthcare worker, I usually work the holidays. So, I live for the International Quilt Festival.

I adore being a part of the quilting process, whether it is making them myself, packing them up at the festival, unpacking them and/or displaying them. It is all pure joy for me. Quilters from around the world send their quilts to be exhibited within these conferences. There are a lot of traditional designs as well as art quilts that are featured. I meet all kinds of different people and it is a lot of fun. I appreciate being around other people who know what goes into an endeavor like making a quilt. I also appreciate the fact that they understand the psychological benefits of creating something by hand and I do not have to explain it to them.

International Quilt Festival 2015

Here Comes The Bride!

Wedding 1 Wedding 2 Wedding 3 Wedding 4 Wedding 5 Wedding 6 Wedding 8 Wedding 9 Wedding 10 Weddings 6No, no silly! Not me! However, that doesn’t mean I do not know someone who is getting married at some point. Actually, this has taken place during the vast majority of my life. There has been media coverage about African Americans not getting married. There is even a book out there called Is Marriage For White People? By Ralph Richard Banks. However, I usually think, “Whoever these people are, they have not been to my house and they have not gone wedding fabric shopping with me.”

If they did, they would find me usually making things for other people to get married. My mother and I have done this for years: veils, purses, etc. People know they can go to David’s Bridal and House of Brides for their special day, but for some reason, people love having something hand made for their special day. We have sewn for a couple who celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. They renewed their vows. The husband was 87. The wife was 84. I felt their union was a blessing. We have also sewn for young, up and coming couples.

Sewing for a wedding usually means a pilgrimage to Vogue Fabrics in Evanston. We have to get the good stuff for a sewing endeavor like this. Most people who work with textiles know this. There are people here from all over. This fabric store has a long history with my family. I still own the quilts my great grandmother pieced together using their remnants. The remnants department is also a good place to find fabric for those wedding quilts, like charm quilts and double wedding ring quilts to give as presents.

Much like any endeavor in life, especially marriage, the process of sewing for a wedding is an exploration into the unknown. What will we find on sale? What will it look like once it is done? Will they like it? Ever since I was a little girl, I always felt the prettiest part of Vogue’s Fabric Store was in the wedding section: rhinestone notions, tiaras, veils, satin, lace, pearl embellishments.

Romances are some of my favorite novels, but books about manifestation have taken over my precious bookshelf space. Although I have used these books to manifest other things in my life, two of my favorite books on manifestation are actually for manifesting a mate: Calling in the One by Kathryn Woodward Thomas and From Your Vision Board to Your Bedroom: Using The Law of Attraction to Find True Love by Sue Vittner.

For me, manifestation and sewing for a wedding are creative processes like any other. And I love creativity. It helped that love songs like “Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey and “Let’s Stay Together” by Tina Turner played in the background as we shopped.  Playing love songs during the process of sewing can inspire as well. Beverages like Zhena’s Gypsy Love Tea, eating chocolate, incense, candles and watching romantic comedies are other wonderful ways of getting into the spirit of things. Needless to say, one of my favorite romantic comedies is The Wedding Planner with Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez.

Yes, I am a feminist for obvious reasons and a humanist overall. I am divorced. I volunteer at my local domestic violence shelter. I have not dated in nearly 10 years. Still, there is an erroneous assumption that because of this, I might be against the institution of marriage, men and hate life in general. Not so. I believe in love and marriage. I am happy for people who find love and feel that love strongly enough to marry and share in life’s rewards and challenges. I believe that everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and/or religion deserves happily ever after. I also believe that there are decent men out there. But moreover, I also know that divine timing for this type of milestone is everything. In the meantime, though, making my life as whole as it can be is the best gift I can give myself and others. After that, I completely get into sewing for weddings. I love the idea of a big party, a white dress, and flowers.