Friday, December 23, 2011


It seems apt that at this time of magic and miracles, of darkness and light, I should write about the presence of The Lord in my life. I know this sounds sacrilegious, as I am certainly not a practicing Christian of any sort. However, all the families I work with are either Catholic, Pentecostal or Baptist. I have worked with Jehovah's Witnesses, but that will require a separate piece.

The homes of the Catholics  have crucifixes on the walls, in the fireplaces, in the kitchens. Images of scenes from the Last Supper grace the walls. In the Latino homes there are statues or photos of the Virgin of Guadalupe with candles and flowers in front. These altars are all very beautiful, and are changed according to holidays or  family events. Alongside the images of the Virgin of Guadalupe are photos of their ancestors. rosaries, various symbols.

In one of the homes I go to, the daughter is very ill. She was born with a metabolic disease and has to be kept secluded in her home. Her mom is young and deeply religious.  I see her on Friday mornings. Often, during my visit a woman member of their church comes by and she and the mother say mass in the home while I sit with the little girl. I presume they are saying mass. They stand in front of a picture of Jesus and another of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the dining room table. A white candle is lit and they stand in front singing, and I hear Senor, sangre, padre, madre, espiritu santo, and so on. They kneel and stand a few times.

The young mother recently had surgery to remove several malignant growths in her neck. This of course shocked all of us who are involved with the family. After all, she is very young, and besides anything, her daughter needs her. We prayed before and after the removal of the tumors. Her mother came up from Mixoaca to help her for a couple of weeks. Her mother is also very religious.

I was there on Friday, after her surgery, and translated the doctor's summary for the family. While I was there the 'traveling minister' (as I refer to her in my head) came into the home. The three women stood around the table/altar and prayed and sang in unison.  This lasted about thirty minutes while I attempted to interest the little girl in a book of fairies (she is partial to fairies at this time.) Out of the corner of my eye I saw the women genuflecting, then the minister handed them what appeared to be white discs. I realized this must be communion. When the minister left the mother turned to me. Her face, pale and lopsided after the surgery, was glowing. Her eyes beamed, she appeared almost drunk.

"Nesta, " she purred, "un miraglo a pasar, un miraglo de Dios. Dios es aqui, en nuestra casa." God is here, God is present, God is with us. He wants to make himself known to you. Do you know what happened now?" she continued beaming lopsidedly, while her mother also stood there, glowing. "The minister brought two wafers, one for me and one for my mother, but there is an extra one, it is for you, it is a miracle, "Dios te quiere, Nesta, Dios te quiere. Nesta, you are blessed, Jesus wants you to know him, he is here with us and in our hearts, you are blessed, you are blessed."

I had no idea how to respond to these two beaming women! "Gracias," I said. It is time for me to go now.

I left to the usual "Dios te bendige" that most of the families wish me.

So, God bless you and a merry Xmas to one and all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Special Needs

I got back to work three weeks ago. Because of scheduling difficulties and because he is now in a day care,  I haven't yet gotten to see one of the boys I work with. Today I called his mother and asked how he is.
"Really good," she said. This weekend he ate a whole bowl of food by himself'. I heard the delight in her voice. "Did he use his fingers"? I asked her. "What did he eat?"
"He ate our food with us. I cut up some pasta and some fish and some vegetables and put it in a bowl. He ate all of it, using his fingers. He picked up the pieces and put them in the side of his mouth and chewed them up and swallowed them. He ate all of it!"
He is two years and three months old, and until now, he will only accept soft food. He doesn't put his fingers in the food or bring anything to his mouth. Any bit not acceptable to him he spits out. I was thrilled and delighted with her news. I will see him tomorrow.
No one who is not involved in the care of a child with special needs can imagine the joy, relief, and delight one feels when they do something that typically developing children just do automatically. Two weeks ago I watched in unmitigated joy as my little cousin of ten months sat in her high chair, grabbed the pears, the bread, the pieces of cheese, and everything, in fact, that was offered to her. She got the food to her mouth and chewed and swallowed and ate some more - a two-fisted little eater obviously enchanted with her food. After finishing every last morsel she was removed from her chair, and then showing good fine motor development she picked up the crumbs from the floor. An efficient little vacuum. Finally content with having done a thorough cleaning job she stood up, smiled, and sat down. She had our undivided attention so she performed this remarkable trick a few times .
How miraculous when everything works as it should, a superb intricate enmeshment of different systems working in unison in a little being.
I returned to the news that one of the boys with whom I had worked had died. He was two and a half years old. In his case, it was probably better for him, he suffered from microcephaly, he was blind, and deaf, and had to be fed through a g-tube. At the same time he responded to his parents' voices and presence, he interacted with his environment, touching objects with different textures. He loved music and responded to it by smiling. His parents and sister were devoted to his care. They are devastated. All I could do was tell his mother how very sorry I am, and what a good parent she was, and that she took wonderful care of him. She was so upset that maybe she had done something wrong to cause his death, by not giving him enough medication, or by giving him too much medication, or maybe she gave him water incorrectly, or kept his room too warm or too cold.
"No, no, no, you did nothing wrong at all." How can one console grieving parents? I would never say "it is for the best." All I can do is listen to them, and show I care.
It is not always easy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Catch Up

Phew. As ever much happening. Externally, internally. The internal things are harder to write about because they occur in a place beyond words, as brief flashes of insight or understanding during a yoga pose or while I am waiting at a red light, or getting onto BART. I did carry a notebook around with me but in the interests of lightening my load, so to speak, (my handbag) I threw things out, like a tin of peppermints, my notebook, some of my numerous chapsticks and lipsticks. Now I am reading Joan Didion who writes how she and her late husband always kept cards with them on which they would write Oh well, I am neither one of them nor do I write like them.
Since my return I have been catching up with friends, family, evaluations at work,  reading, buying items to pursue my crafts like beading and knitting, and so on.
A most delightful event was seeing William and Olga, my beloved former neighbours, who flew the coop and went to live in Salina, Kansas. I could write endlessly about them, and in fact, at some time I may. Suffice to say we spent a few wonderful hours together, over a really good meal and a hike at Albany Bulb. Then today my friend's son, whom I last saw in New Orleans, came to town for a couple of hours.
Tomorrow I drive down the Peninsula to visit someone very dear to me. She  has a really rare form of cancer and is on hospice now.  I wish she lived closer. Besides being from South Africa, and married to someone who is a member of the family, she worked in early intervention. We have always had a lot in common. She is a wife and a mother and is a warm, loving, nurturing being.  The world is a richer place for having her in it.
Yesterday I was at a get together for a daughter of my friend. She died of a brain tumor in December. These fleeting lives and passing of special people just serve to remind me how grateful we should be for each and every moment. I do try.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Very Long Time

Yes, yes, yes. I know it has been a long while. As one concerned friend told me a few weeks ago, "your last post was August."

So, for those of you who are/were concerned as to my wellbeing. I am, thank goodness, fine. I just haven't done any writing of any kind as I have been busy traveling.

Before I left for Israel I spent a weekend with friends in Santa Fe and Taos. I have a tremendous affinity for the desert, and their two homes are situated in the most spectacular spots with endless vistas of clouds, sky, earth, chapparal, scrub. Beauty all around.

I have said this before and I will say it again and again and again. I am blessed to have good friends, and am equally blessed to have good who live in the most beautiful homes, and whom are generous and hospitable.

I left for Israel just before Rosh Hashana. This visit the weather in Israel was wonderful. It is the first I remember at this time of the year - the season of change, as it is called in Hebrew. It even rained the first day I arrived and washed the dust off the trees the countryside looked fresh and sparkly.

I met with friends I haven't seen in almost 30 years, and it was such a joy to sit and reminisce and carry on as if three decades had been compressed into a couple of days. This is how it is with most of my friends there, we simply carry on our conversation,

After leaving Israel I attended the wedding of a friend's daughter. I met my friend 30 years ago on kibbutz! I will try and post the pictures of these reunions, and then I will carry on with my blog once in a while, as before.


Wedding, Queens

New York

Saturday, August 13, 2011


My day began  in an apartment building situated in Richmond's Iron Triangle. It was another grey and foggy morning, and in mid-summer I wore a hoodie and had a scarf wrapped out around my neck. I have to call mom, who has to walk down several flights of steps to come down and let me in. As I walked to the front gate, phone in hand,  I saw a man open it with a key which all the tenants had. His baggy pants were falling down. he carried a bag of laundry over his shoulder. I hurried up and asked him to keep it open for me, which he did. It slammed shut behind us and he disappeared up a flight of steps. I went up a different flight through the parking garage. We met on the second floor, and surprised, grinned at each other.  He entered the apartment next to the one I was going to.

In the apartment the mom, or rather the guardian, whom I wrote about previously, bellowed out excitedly, "he's walking." She didn't even realise I came in without calling her. Indeed the little boy I began working with in the beginning of the year tottered about in a drunken fashion, lurching from my legs to his favorite spot next to the window where he plays with the slats of the blinds and looks out at the buildings outside. He lurched and tottered, but he walked. This is my last visit as he will begin our program next week. He has really come a very long way, and it is very exciting that he is doing so much better.

I spent the next hour playing hide and seek with him, trying to get him to catch a ball and release it, and bringing him back from the kitchen where he loves to stand in front of a cupboard opening and closing the door. Mom and I spoke about his progress, or rather she spoke in her normal fashion, which is in a very loud voice non-stop. Her pauses, if there are any, are only to catch a breath, or touch me on my shoulder. She told me about her family reunion in Atlanta. They had just returned. "It was so hot," she said, "all I wanted to do was stay inside," but Ayana (her daughter) dragged her to see Martin Luther King's grave, and the campus of Emory University. He (the little boy) was so good on the plane they game him wings. She spoke to an auntie and find out that the women in her family suffered from fibroids, she herself began bleeding after not bleeding for years. I interjected to say she must go to the doctor. She told me she had been, the doctor did a biopsy and she was going today to get the results. (Mental note to call tomorrow to check with her)

I got ready to leave and the little boy walked up to me, held me by my legs and screamed.

I drove to the office to use the restroom and check on my messages. I told the office coordinator that I would be away for a couple of hours. I had one little fellow to see, then was going to open another patient. I received the referral in June, called the mom who asked me to call back after July. I did call, several times. Every time the phone was answered by a long rap song (two minutes, because I timed it.) At the end of which there was no voice message prompting the caller to leave a message, and although there was a beep, who knew if anyone listened. However, after a couple of calls I did leave a message, with my office and cell number. I never heard back and I told the case manager I wasn't going to try anymore. "Three strikes and you are out. This is not a compulsory service."

Now, in mid August the physical therapist (PT) seeing the family told me mother is expecting me. (with a bit of coercion on her part, I am sure.)  I agreed to meet the therapist there today. I knew this was not going to be a pleasant affair.  But first I went to another little fellow I see. He is cute, but throws up the whole time, and smells of vomit. He has a disgusting habit of throwing up, then putting his hands in the mess to make it splash. I gag and look around for something, and grab a sheet of paper towels. This is how I spend my time with him. He wriggles away from being sat down to focus on an activity, like stacking rings, which is enthralling. He crawls away, throws up, smiles, and crawls. His two-year old brother is wracked by jealousy, and he grabs whatever toy I bring and plays with it. It doesn't matter that he has a room full of nice toys. This time, when I got there the outside of the house was being painted and the father was laying down paving. He took me on a tour showing me everything he had done. Inside a wall of the kitchen was cut out and pictures had been taken down so that the walls could be painted. The bricks around the fireplace were covered with a primer. A very large wooden crucifix lay on the sofa taking up all the room. It didn't seem right to move a bloody Jesus to the floor, so I sat wedged between his crown of thorns and an armrest.

An older half sister and a friend of hers were all dressed up. Mom, who normally works, came out of a bedroom, looked at me in a surprised manner and said "Oh, I'm so sorry, it's my my daughter's birthday and we are all going out. I took the day off and we totally forgot about you."

We exchanged pleasantries, I tried to get the little fellow to take a few steps, but he just plopped down in his vomit and didn't move. He was tired.

I left. In the car I poured sanitizer into my hands and went off to the other child.

I parked my car outside an apartment building and suddenly heard the physical therapist yelling at me from a balcony. Come on up here, there are stairs to the side of the building. The door was open, and coming down the passageway toward me was an extremely large, very black woman dressed in a T-shirt that came down over her thighs. Her hair was combed up in an untidy sort of pony tail."Hi," she said, sorry, I wasn't trying to avoid you." I walked in to the living room which was flanked by two sagging sofas against either wall, a TV set which was on. The physical therapist was on the floor with a little boy with a creamy skin, an afro and large blue green eyes. He seemed to be smashing a truck. Two women sat on either sofa, both of them appeared to be sleeping. The one opened her eyes when I walked in and smiled a toothless grin, the other woman did not wake. Mom sat opposite me and I told her we need to fill in paperwork, as I had explained in my first message.

"Why? not now. Is there a lot? What is it for?"

The PT explained that she is concerned she may have to pay for something. We both assured mother she wouldn't have to pay for anything. I said I would fill in the paperwork and she could just sign it. In came two older children, an older girl and boy who had just returned from somewhere. They said something to mom about another child who did something in class, and mom said "don't be so ghetto."

I just know this is going to be fun, and the child is not yet two. I see him until he is three.

Back to the office, ate half a burrito, answered messages, made some calls, rewrote my schedule, and talked to the program supervisor. That is always a relief. I can tell her my impressions and we can commiserate. It is very depressing to return from a place like I  had just been to, and think about the little boy and what kind of an environment he is in, and wonder what the future holds for him. We discuss resilient children.

I then called to check that a family of a girl I had worked with were at home, and went to visit them. I worked with the little girl for a year or so, then she came to our program. I absolutely loved her, her grandparents and her auntie. Her own mother was found dead on the streets when the little girl was just a few months old. The grandparents were informed of their daughter's death and then told she had a little girl who was born prematurely and is in a foster home. They went and brought her home. They also raise her older brother. They had a home in North Richmond, and had to leave it in the very first wave of foreclosures. The grandparents both work, but lost their home and found a tenement apartment in a really bad area. The place was filled with mould, no matter how much they cleaned. Worse than that were the shootings right outside their apartment, and the drug dealing, and the prostitutes.  And that is where I saw the little girl who had cerebral palsy and some brain damage. She also had, and has, the most amazing spirit. She is a fighter who insists on standing and walking. She has learned to move about in her wheelchair and uses a walker. I absolutely fell in love with her, and the whole family. Since she turned three I have only seen her once although we talk on the phone. I speak to the grandmother regularly. They moved again, to a nicer home. It is cleaner and quieter. So far there have only been two shootings in this area since they moved a few months ago. Just this week grandpa was laid off his job where he had worked for 20 years.

 I wasn't sure whether the girl would remember me, but she screamed "Nesta" when I walked in. "Nesta, come and sit here." She gave me a great big hug. We chatted, she showed me her leapfrog pad, we looked at photos. She answered questions. When I finished she couldn't yet talk, now she talks so nicely. She has a slight slur, a result of her CP, but I understand her perfectly. She still laughs and appears really well. She can get herself to the bathroom and insists on doing everything independently, and just needs a bit of help at the end. They have a great big TV and were watching something called Fright Night, about vampires. I would not encourage her watching this, but she was transfixed, although she did say it doesn't scare her.

We hugged goodbye and she said "Nesta, I love you." A warm and fuzzy end to my day.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Maxie is no more. He expired in his quiet, graceful manner on July 28, 2011.

Bye Maxie, you were a good little companion.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Maxie Musings

Maxie has never fully recovered despite my ministrations. On the other hand, Maxie continues with his existence. Mostly he remains still, propped between the heater and an artificial plant. He continues to attack his wee little pellets at feeding time, admittedly not with the same fierceness as previously, but nevertheless, he continues to feed. It seems to me that Maxie leads an existence which is totally based in the now. He has led a singularly uneventful life, free of any dangers he would face in the wild. Maxie doesn't seem perturbed by his waning glory. His existence is punctuated by feeding time, but I don't think Maxie has any sense of time.  There is light and there is dark. There is existence, then there isn't, and until such time as there isn't, he exists, free of memories, free of past and future, free of worldly attachments and desires.

And now, an idea and an appeal to my faithful followers. I think I should name the blog something other than Tree Barking, because it is not entirely about my work. Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Ever since beginning this blog it was my intent to blog far more often than I do. So much happens every day at work, with the children, with their families, with the ever changing rules and regulations, with the budget, with life in West Contra Costa County, and my intent was, and is, to keep up with this.

My intent, when I agreed to blog for the Albany Patch, was to blog a couple of times a month, nothing grandiose or overly ambitious. And so far, I have posted one, ONE, measly little entry.

My intent is to write on a daily basis so that I can submit a manuscript  while I am still alive.

All these, are my intent.

I read about other writers' work habits, and I am in awe. Somehow they finish a chapter  a day even though they are raising six children, living on farms, growing their own organic produce from seeds, and tending to their livestock. How on earth do they do this?  One thing I know about myself is that I will never be an early riser. My brain does not function early in the morning, and so I won't be one of those writers who is up before dawn to get in a few hours of writing before the demands of the day.

When I first began working in the healthcare 'industry' I fantasized about being free to write in the evenings. Little did I know that I would be writing all day long, At the end of every session I write a summary of what I did for the parents. Then every six months I have to complete a comprehensive evaluation for every child. My days are spent driving from home to home, crawling on the floor, 'playing' with the children. Listening to their parents, communicating with other workers. I come home from work and usually the most energy I can muster is to turn on the TV, lie on the sofa, and breathe.

Now it is July and at last we are enjoying a few days without rain, cold, and fog, I come home from work and sit outside and enjoy the evening breeze and watch the colors change overhead. These long evenings of summer are a blessed event and it is pity to come back inside to write

Monday, May 30, 2011


It is Memorial Day weekend and I came up to Mendocino on Saturday. It is here that I blogged my very first entry. Something about sitting in this cabin looking out at redwood trees, pine trees, manzanita trees and evergreens, and enjoying all the shades of green inspires me. The air outside is clean and it lightly scented, as if a master perfumier came by to add intoxicating aromas - hints of pennyroyal and bergamot, something else elusive - a spicy scent, as well as wafts of sweet geranium. Outside the window the fairies float by on drafts of air. This morning a female deer came elegantly into the garden and nibbled the grass. Later I opened a back door and startled the deer and her new little one. They turned around and leaped into the woods, vanishing instantly.  Last night a blue heron swooped into the pond.

Today is still and calm, yesterday the wind whipped through causing the trees to sway alarmingly over the cabins, creaking and groaning. It rained so abundantly this year that the wildflowers are still out and shades of purple, yellow, orange, cloak the hills and appear out of the grass. In fact, on the drive up it began raining after Cloverdale, all along W 128, as it winds and curves and ascends and descends. It rained steadily through the Anderson Valley and Boonville. When the road entered the sacred redwood groves I turned off the book I was listening to, opened my windows to let in the heady air, and accompanied by the steady swish of the windshield wipers and the steady patter of rain I drove.

This is a much needed break from the exhausting stresses of work. It seems like all the workers are running on nerves and adrenaline. This is not a good recipe for allowing the creative muse in. Here is my chance to exhale and allow nature to do her healing work.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Recipe

It seems like everyone and their mother are bringing out recipe books. Actors, singers, dancers, all seem to think everyone wants to entertain guests like they do, and feed their children healthy organic meals from vegetables raised in their gardens.

When I was in New Orleans a while ago, I stood in the long line of people waiting to buy their beignets from Cafe Du Monde. The weather was pleasant, the line was long, and people were friendly. The woman in front of me spoke to her daughter, Deja, and son Jovan, who took off every now and then to chase each other up and down a wall, and into the crowds around Jackson Square. When they disappeared she watched out for them, visibly relieved when they returned to check back with her in the line. She told them not to go too far, and asked them whether they remembered the movie they had seen the night before, in which a slasher kidnapped kids. "There's crazy people out there" she said to them, as she reasoned with them to remain close enough that she could keep her eye on them.

I told her daughter that I had worked with a girl called Deja. She told me she is 10 - soon to be 11, in July. Her brother Jovan, told me he'd be eight in July. Funny, I said, I also have a birthday in July. Jovan told me his is on July 7th, then Deja told me her's is July 22nd, same as mine. Mom said she is waiting to see the price of an order of beignets now. When she was little her parents brought her here and it was only one dollar. She is from New Orleans, but they don't come around here that often. She knows prices must have gone up a lot.

"When we was little," she told me, "we made beignets ourselves. I tell you how to make them," she said to me, "it's easy."

"Go to a store and get yourself a packet of biscuit mix. (That is what I think she said.) Then buy a packet of sugar - that white fine sugar. Roll the mix into balls. Take a coke bottle and put it into the middle of the balls, to make holes in them. Throw some handfuls of lard or grease into a pan. It should get nice and hot, then fry them up. When they be nice and crisp put them in a brown paper bag with that white sugar, and shake 'em up real good. There, you got yourself beignets."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Another Update

I was away again - this time in Seattle. "Freezing in Seattle" can sum up my time. Despite the weather, it was fun. Ran around in the rain and cold seeing sights, going to museums, to the theatre, here, there and everywhere. I returned to a vastly improved Max. He is back to his normal active self, and attacks his food like he did before.

I hit the ground running on my return. Many new referrals at work - in fact, I cannot handle them all. So, deep breath, and do what I can.Also, I have many evaluations to complete. Somehow the energy has revved up all around, I am sure everyone feels this. I think our practice is to remain open and grounded in the midst of all of this.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Today I went to the Tropical Fish Store where I bought Maxie. I told a young lady about Maxie's conditions, and described his behavior and appearance. She questioned me for a quite a long while - an interview on my care of Maxie.

Is the water heated? How often do I change it? What do I clean the bowl with? How much water do I leave in the bowl? Do I have gravel in the bowl? Do I check the acid content? I answered, as they say, to the best of my knowledge, but with each question I began feeling more and more guilty of neglect, mishandling, abuse.She also asked about Max's age so I told her two years, and, trying to make her feel a bit guilty also, informed her that I bought Maxie from their store, but he hadn't come with a birth certificate, so his real age is unknown. She shrugged that off and said two years is a good age. Betta fish, she informed me, are inbred and so suffer from genetic mutations! Without seeing Max she can't say exactly what he has.

Eventually I left the store having spent $24.11 for mineral salts, some kind of drops which apparently may help, and a thermometer. I had a heater I had never used for fear of boiling Max. I promised I would heat his little home. She said he may improve within three days - on the other hand,he may not. Whatever, I should return in three days to report on his condition.

I have scrupulously followed her instructions, and will let her and you all know in three days how little Max is faring.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I returned from a glorious time friendwise, weatherwise, and otherwise in New Orleans very very late Monday night. As soon as I entered I greeted Max, my little Piscean companion, who normally greets me by coming to the side of the bowl,undulating happily (or so I imagine - the happy part, that is.) This time I had to look for him amongst the artificial fronds and leaves. He seemed to be resting amongst the plants. I tapped the bowl, called his name, but there was no response. Of course I was alarmed. I did notice slight movement in his fins, so I knew the worst had not happened. After quite a while I observed him trying to come to the surface, then sinking down. He attempted to come to the surface several times, then eventually I saw him inhale some air and then, shockingly, he sank down, belly up! He remained like this, not moving at all. I tried praying, still no life. Then I wondered how to dispose of him, in a dignified fashion. I even said Kaddish for him. I was exhausted after a long day of airport 'hopping' and flight delays. I thought he could remain in the water until the following morning, besides, I couldn't deal with removing him.

The next morning I saw he had moved, and was no longer belly up. He had almost propped himself on one of the plant leaves. I gave him his food, but he ignored it. I called my neighbour who cared for Max in my absence. She immediately said that he hadn't eaten the whole weekend, and said that he does not look well. This pattern has continued until today. I thought that either he is too cold and is hibernating, so to speak, or that he is getting old. He has been with me for two years, and I don't know how old he was when I bought him. One of my patient's moms gave me two books on bettas today when I told her of my concerns. I looked at The Guide to Owning Siamese Fighting Fish, subheading, care, breeding, combat raising, varieties, diseases - that is what I needed, diseases. After careful observation of Maxie he appears to still have good coloring, and there are no signs of fungal infections, fin rotting, swelling, or popped eyes. All signs point to Maxie as having swim-bladder trouble, and there is no cure! Infrequently, apparently, a fish can come out of this condition spontaneously, so I am praying for Maxie's recovery, and ask all of you to keep little Maxie in your thoughts.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Without hesitation I would say that my friendships are the most important aspect of my life.

I grew up with a group of girls (The Great Girls Gang). Our friendship began for some of us, in kindergarten. We were carpooled to Temple Shalom. The others from the Gang we met in Grade 1. We remained friends from then on. There was a core group of us - we would meet at school, and play in each others' homes after school and on weekends. We formed the Great Girls Gang and we met in the shed in Sandy's garden. We painted the shed and made curtains, and gave each other exotic names like Njanga. We took minutes of our meetings. What exactly we met about I forget now. We remained together throughout our school years. When we began having boyfriends we always had a cardinal rule - never to go out with another's boyfriend after a break up. Our friendship was always paramount, and so we remained friends ... forever.

After Matric we went our separate ways, to University, traveling. We married, had children, went to live in far away countries, but always kept in touch. The moment I heard my husband was killed my friends were there for me, they reached over continents sending telegrams, and phoning. They were always my backbone, my support. We meet over the years, and as soon as we are together the years we have been apart slip away and immediately we carry on just like we did all our lives.

And of course over the years and the countries, new friendships and bonds were formed, but the old ties are forever there. We meet ... in South Africa, in London, in Israel, and now ... on Skype.

Why this entry? Because this weekend I am going to meet one of these friends, and her husband and son, in New Orleans. And I am so excited. She is a professor of English literature at Wits University in Johannesburg and will be presenting at a conference in New Orleans. Her husband survived a horrendous accident in South Africa last year, and he will accompany her. Their son lives in LA and he will be meeting us all. The last time I saw them was five years ago, in South Africa.

So ---- here is to friends, and to reunions, to love that abides and sustains.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Day

A day, and what a day.

My first 'wee one' of the day lives in Point Richmond. They are a Hispanic family. Mom is at home with their son, dad works in construction. When he is not out working he works on their home, which they rent. He has built a deck, painted the home and converted the rickety wooden staircase into an elegant, solid, tiled staircase. They share the home with his brother and his family who also have a young child.

Their son was an 'extreme premie' - born just on the edge of viability, at 23 weeks. His development is quite remarkable considering his fragile and vulnerable beginnings. Mom is very attentive, and has listened to the advice of the therapists and medical professionals. He had pneumonia recently - he is now on antibiotics. Mom and Dad got sick also, but they don't have health insurance, so they didn't go to see anyone. Mom has a nasty cough.

When I arrived, dad and his brother were leaving for work. Mom told me they haven't had any work for the last three weeks because of the weather. No work, no money, and now dad, uncle, and aunt, are all struggling to make their rent payment which is due tomorrow.

On the way to the next family I listened to "This Is Your Call" with Rose Aguilar. The program was on teenage homelessness in California. A young man who was homeless for many years and now works as an outreach coordinator for homeless teenagers spoke, as well as a young woman who works in an agency dealing with the homeless.I can never listen to the entire hour, because I have to go to my next family, and usually 'come in' a little late, and 'leave' halfway through the program. The young people were really articulate and spoke about the shame and fear of being homeless, of trying to keep up a front if they did go to school. Many don't attend school and so drop out of the system.

I reached my next family. I work with their daughter who has Down Syndrome. Dad is there when I go. The parents work at the same factory, mom leaves very early for the morning shift. Dad is with the twin girls, then mom comes home and dad goes to work until late at night. They work very hard indeed.

Two weeks ago dad was very upset when I arrived. A disgruntled worker at the factory had informed immigration services that the factory hires undocumented workers. "La Migra" came to investigate. The owners were fined $50,000 and dad and others lost their jobs. Mom, whose parents brought her here 20 years ago, has been in the lengthy process of applying for papers, so she is still working. Today dad told me that they have been to see an attorney and he has begun the process of gathering all the papers so that he can apply for residency. They bought a home in Richmond in 2005. In 2007 it was appraised at $350,000. He showed me the appraisal forms. The house is now worth $50,000. "Underwater."

Back at the office a director was speaking to a meeting of families of 'consumers' about the upcoming budget cuts. As yet there are no specifics of what will be cut, but she was strongly encouraging the families to 'speak up' - their voices need to be heard.

The future seems dim indeed.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Life is Strange

Happy New Year!!!! Life, as usual, continues its hurley gurley.

Some interesting updates from work.

Today I had a very good talk with Carmela, the woman I wrote about in my very first blog, "I have a Problem." Her son, who attended our program (and did very well,) turned three today. When I got back from my home visits I went to see him, to wish him happy birthday, and to say goodbye, and good luck. I had just missed them. They came in for the celebration in his honor, then she took him home. I called her and we had a really heartwarming talk. She thanked me for helping so much when he was a baby. Then she invited me to their new home. They moved from North Richmond to an apartment in San Pablo which she says has more room for the family. She has a car again and is in school. She is working three days a week, and she says her life is really good now. Her two daughters are doing very well, as is her son. They are a happy family unit. I told her how much I admire her and what a brave, strong woman, and a good mother she is.

Yesterday I received three new referrals. As usual, I read the paperwork, the names and addresses, evaluations and medical information on the children. The first name of a guardian of a little boy was familiar to me, but the surname wasn't. I called and told the woman who I am and what I do,then I asked whether I knew her.She said "You sure do, you used to work with my little boy who was stabbed to death."

Of course I knew her. This tragic and horrendous event had happened just over six years ago. It had deeply affected everyone involved.

"YOu came to our house, and he loved you so much. You remember when he began the program how he cried and sat on your lap for three hours Then he started doing so well. You know the father, the one who did it, they said he was mentally ill and they sent him to Napa Hospital. Apparently he died there a while ago, he had kidney problems."

"Yes," I replied, my heart pounding, "I remember everything. I remember you were really sick at the time. How are your older son and daughter, I remember them too?

"God has blessed me. I am fine. The cancer is gone. My older son, you remember he was in the home when it happened. He is an alcoholic, and before all that happened he never drank. My daughter is really good, she does still go to therapy, but she is in college now, and working."

I sat there, the phone glued to my ear, my mouth wide open, occasionally exclaiming.

I met a wonderful man, and we got married. We bought a home and I did what I always wanted to, I had a day care in our home. Then Nesta, you will never guess what happened."

I didn't want to guess, I couldn't imagine.

"He had a heart attack and died, in our bedroom. I couldn't help but laugh, it seems like everyone dies in my home. I quit the daycare. But I am strong and God is good. I got a call from my cousin who lives in the midwest. She said her daughter is pregnant and cannot be a mother. She has seizures and takes medication and that will affect the baby, but do you want the baby? I flew there and was there when he was born, and brought him back with me.

Do you remember the other one, how stiff he was? This one is the same, and his leg even turns in like the other one. But he is the sweetest little boy, and now the Lord has sent you back in to our lives. God is good."