In My Orbit…

3 12 2010

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday, I had the distinct privilege of attending The Biz Panel Preview Event hosted by The Entrepreneur Connection.  My good friend Susan M. Baker, The Escape Hatcher was one of the panelist, along with Rebecca Quinn of RebeccaQuinn.com, Alaia Williams of One Organized Business, and Lizzy Shaw of Lizzy Shaw Public Relations.  Another good friend, Erin Elizabeth Lanahan of the Erin Lanahan Method was the entrepreneur who served as a coaching example for the experts to apply their skills.

The focus was disseminating business building tips and networking, and the panel had some excellent information on targeting your audience, refining your product and/or service, and how to best monetize your existing capital or goods. I gained lots of good tools to move forward in my own entrepreneurial pursuits, and some encouragement to continue those small steps toward monetizing what I do.   Susan encouraged us to remember the fable about the Tortoise and the Hare–slow and steady wins the day.

But key to any networking event is the quality of the attendees.  I met lots of savvy and fascinating women and men who were looking for ways to jump start or increase their own businesses, and being among like-minded people was very uplifting and inspiring.

And now, we take a nose dive from inspiration to desperation: The unemployment numbers can be described as anemic at best and piss poor at the worst. I tend to go with the worst-case scenario, so I’ll let the lovely Bureau of Labor Statistics report speak for itself:

“The unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent in November, and nonfarm payroll employment was little changed (+39,000), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Temporary help services and health care continued to add jobs over the month, while employment fell in retail trade. Employment in most major industries changed little in November.”

The cogent phrases here: “edged up to 9.8 percent”, “employment fell in retail trade”, and “Employment in most major industries changed little”.  Not much going except whistling in the dark.  This is why networking events like the one mentioned above are growing by leaps and bounds.  With more bad news and a local and national administration clueless about how to create jobs,  more and more people are looking to make their own magic; which in turn, can become an income stream.  That’s my plan!

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In My Orbit…

3 11 2010

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Postmortem edition, which is generally sunny.  I’m even way more optimistic about California than my fellow conservatives.  Though the Executive House has remained entrenched with leftist retreads like Brown, Newsom and Boxer, The State House has gone surprisingly conservative/right.  A look at Politico‘s very detailed Election results map, shows California voting district by district. We know it will take a major act for Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and the Norther Coastal parts to turn red–but the rest of the California landscape?  bloody man, Bloody.   So will that get us further entrenchment with nothing getting done, or will it precipitate change?  Whether we lose more businesses and jobs and how quickly we slip into insolvency will be the deciding factors.

And CBS News points to the Ominous Signs For Obama in 2012.  Major theme: It’s the economy–pay attention to the economy.  No president has ever won re-election with unemployment above seven percent.  Hopefully our President is reading this and will refocus in the right direction.  Hopefully….

Of course, the national results had me doing a happy dance!  Already 247 Republican House seats confirmed and 11 or 12 yet to be decided.  And a conservative turnover in Blue entrenchments like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and God love us–Illinois?  For once, the dead didn’t vote!

Evan Bayh, retiring Democrat Senator from Indiana gives some advice to his party on how to recoup and regain in 2012.   Where Do Democrats Go Next? Best pull quote:

“It is clear that Democrats over-interpreted our mandate. Talk of a “political realignment” and a “new progressive era” proved wishful thinking. Exit polls in 2008 showed that 22 percent of voters identified themselves as liberals, 32 percent as conservatives and 44 percent as moderates. An electorate that is 76 percent moderate to conservative was not crying out for a move to the left.”

Prescient me predicted liberal overreach after Obama was elected, and I was not disappointed.  Now the Dems are, and I don’t quite understand why.  What’s that proverb?  Pride comes before a fall, and Pride and Arrogance has been their waistcoat since January 20, 2009.  When will they get it?

Exit question–will they listen to Bayh’s assessment, or continue to try to shove their progressive agenda down America’s throat?  Only time will tell….

What is most clear to me is that the people have spoken again; now let’s hope that both sides interpret this correctly. No mandate here–just listen to what we’re saying, okay?  Because we do desire to see our country succeed, and now, we organize and WE VOTE.  And by the way, stop calling us fearful and stupid–gets you nowhere fast.

I like my nation for the people, by the people, and every election cycle reinforces why the Founders wanted it that way.  Thomas Jefferson said it well: “I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.”

 





In My Orbit…

2 03 2010

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s the expression?  Never talk about politics and religion?  Well, I’m playing with fire on both counts.  As  a person of faith, I feel we don’t talk about it enough–at least with any real degree of meaning.  If we did, we wouldn’t have half the problems we have today.  But I digress…

We’ll kick it off with religion and… entertainment, of all things.  Seems everyone is getting in on the award show action, including Beliefnet, which lists its favorites for “spiritual and inspirational themes”.  The Blind Side, Up, and Precious get high marks:  Beliefnet Film Awards.

USA Today’s Faith and Reason blog also covers Beliefnet’s awards, but more interestingly, focuses on Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill in Seattle, blasting the movie Avatar.  A pull quote from Mark’s sermon:

“[…A]nd if you don’t believe me, go see Avatar, the most demonic, satanic film I’ve ever seen. That any Christian could watch that without seeing the overt demonism is beyond me.”

I haven’t seen the film because I think James Cameron, while I wouldn’t classify him as a demon, is an egomaniacal blowhard who doesn’t deserve my money–but once again, I digress….  Read it in Mark’s own words, if you’re interested:  Mars Hill Sermon.

And now we mix religion and politics!  Former President George W. Bush spoke at a banquet hosted by Fort Worth Christian School in Fort Worth, Texas.  He spoke to over 1,000 attendees, and part of his talk included how faith and prayer helped him through the eight years of his presidency:

“I don’t see how I could be president without prayer. The prayers of the people … sustained me, comforted me and strengthened me in a way I could have never predicted before becoming president, and for that I am extremely grateful.”

President Bush is writing his memoirs about his years as president, so that people can draw their own conclusions. I have come to the conclusion that George W. Bush has done more good for this country and the world than he is given credit, and I look forward to history rectifying the deliberate character assassination done during his administration.

George Bush says faith helped in tough times as president.





Sister Glue

28 02 2010

Black Heritage is my heritage–embodied in the history of my family.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Sisters“, posted with vodpod

I could never love anyone as I love my sisters!
Jo March, Little Women 1994

My relationship with my sisters has been as individual as we are.  Often complicated, sometimes overly dramatic, but no less enriching and essential to my life.  The glue of faith, prayer, and family honor has held us together, when at times I felt we were irreparably parted.

These excepts are from different chapters of Fried Chicken and Sympathy.

Chapter 7:  Sister Interrupted.

During my young adult years, my contact with Barbara waxed and waned throughout the years as I sought to find myself and my life.  But I will never forget her constant love and worship of God, her childlike trusting faith, and her adherence to truth.

When I was a child, if you had told me I could get close to God if I stood on my head three times a day, I would have broken my neck trying.  During my time in Catholic school, I learned different forms of prayer, to saints and to Mary, that I used to say along with the other forms of praying I had learned at New Hope.  Barbara was walking past my room one day, and she heard me praying the Hail Mary.  She barreled into the room, in her blustery fashion, and demanded I stop.

Startled, I looked up at her.  “But I’m only praying,” I excused.

“You don’t have to pray to anyone but Jesus!  He is the only true God.”

That made an impression.  As loopy as other’s deemed her, and as convoluted as her thoughts sometimes could be, she was secure in who the Source was.  Despite the faulty teachings, and false hopes, she never lost faith in God that she would be healed, and she never got angry with God because it never manifested in this life.  She didn’t understand the whys, but it never stopped her from continuing to seek answers, ask questions, and trust God’s will and heart toward her.  I model much of my relationship with God from her example:  Unyielding faith, eternal trust, yet never afraid to be fully human.

Even when I thought I had stopped following her life, she was still committed to following mine.  Like Gerry, she loved her family, and was loyal to a fault.  When I would phone the Ferdinand house to speak with Bay, I would hear her excited voice in the background,

“Jennifer!  Oh yes—let me speak to my sister!”  Bay would surrender the phone, and she would ramble on about Lil Mike, Joshuah, Aimee, her job, or about nothing in particular; she just enjoyed the process of connecting with me.

I made a conscientious effort to be the “auntie” to my nephews and niece, particularly at Christmastime.  I made sure that Lil’ Mike, Joshuah and Aimee (who had the misfortune of being born on December 24) had something, even if it was only coloring books.  Barbara would exclaim, and ooh and ahh over the little gifts, as if I had given them college scholarships.  She was grateful for kindness, especially toward her children.

I didn’t understand the depths of her love for me until after she died.  At Barbara’s repast, a very thin and agitated young girl walked into the church hall where it was being held.  Joan greeted her, then brought her over to where I was sitting.  The woman was a coworker of Barbara’s, and she had traveled two hours by bus to pay her respects.  She was very apologetic, because she had gotten lost and missed the wake.  When Joan introduced her to me, her face lit up with recognition.

“You’re Jennifer!”  she exclaimed.

“Yes,” I replied, extremely puzzled at her highly familiar exclamation.

“Barbara talked about you all the time—how smart you were, and your clothes—and she used to tell me you wore these wild earrings!”  We all laughed, then she continued to go on and on about how Barbara talked about me.  I sat there and listened, and cried over this precious gift from a total stranger: a part of my sister that I never knew existed, and unfortunately, realized too late.  I mattered much to her, and was thought of, even in my chosen 3,000 mile exile.

Chapter 16:  The Law of Reflection.

Everyone has people who are mirrors in their lives; some render true reflections, others do not.  June’s mirror is a solid plane that has rendered an accurate reflection, allowing me to view myself and my world with some degree of normalcy.  I have never felt reduced in her presence, and I have never been made to feel as if I were “less than” in her eyes.  I know that I would not have had the courage to believe in myself, pursue my dreams, or move away from our family dysfunction had June not been in my life.  The mere fact of her acting as that solid plane has caused the direction of my “light” to change for the better.

Yet, while we share similar values, beliefs, and preferences, we are definitely opposites.  I’m more of a social butterfly, and she’s a homebody, preferring to sit in her place and read, or play her beloved computer games, than be in a roomful of people.  I’m extremely creative and innovative, enjoying projects that have a defined beginning and then moving on to the next task.  June is more analytical—she enjoys maintenance, and the mundane details and redundant tasks involved in it, where this type of work drives me insane.  She will often listen to my view on something, and she’ll say, “You know what, you’re a strange kid!”  But she means this with no malice, and it’s usually expressed with her dry wit.  The mirror defines our kinship.  Her positive reflection of me when I was younger helped me navigate what, for the most part, was a troubling and confusing childhood.  And now that I’m an adult, she still reflects a clear image, confirming who I have become and affirming who I can continue to be.  There are a handful of people who I know will love me no matter what I do, and she is at the top of the list.  She adores me and is among my true fans—always encouraging me to be true to who I am, to write, to not give up on my creativity.  Always reminding me that the dreams that I dream can, and will, come true.  She’s a great source of inspiration, an emotional support, and the epitome of what family means.

Chapter 15:  Enigma.

The intervening years had seen their share of divisiveness and rancor, and they has taken their toll on all of us as sisters.  June was always faithful to pray and hang on to hope of a restoration, when I had simply resigned myself to the fact that I lived on a different planet than the balance of my siblings, and had no expectation of any common ground for continued peaceable relations.

Two weeks before June died, Adrienne and Joan flew in from Chicago and took care for her.  This, as well as their concern for mine and Gabi’s welfare, reflected a stark contrast to the disregard and battling that had occurred in the past.  June was able to see us agree on ways to best care for her, and to see them reach out and sacrifice to ensure her health and well-being.  That was her prayer answered, and a promise fulfilled.

It was in 2006, that I began sensing the first thaw to the cold front that existed between me, Adrienne and Joan.

I received an email from Joan, inviting me to participate in this online movie site where you rate movies and chat with other people who have similar cinematic tastes.  I saw this as a hand through the door that I have left open, so I extended back and responded.  She’s shared snippets of her life (new cat, new job), then fully opened the dam, releasing a floodgate.  Sister is back in full swing, and we have chatted for hours on over instant messenger and on the phone, catching up on each others’ lives.  After June’s death, we have committed to spend at least one Holiday together each year, and so far that has gone well.

This recent development is as bittersweet as all the others—who knows when or if division may rear its ugly head.  But, I continue to hope that maybe this time, we are ready to actually be Sisters and that this will remain; no matter where we disagree, or what goes on with us.

With Adrienne, it began after a serious illness where she almost died.  June phoned me to let me know that she was in the hospital, so I tracked down the phone number and immediately called.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Adrienne, it’s Jennifer.”

“Well, hello!  How come you haven’t given me your new address?  I wanted to send you a birthday card!  It’s your 40th, right?

“Wow!  What a good memory you have,” I said.

“I have everyone’s birthday written down in my Bible, but I always remember yours.  Maybe because you were the last.”

“Well, thanks for remembering.”

“I have a pen and paper, so go ahead.”

I gave her my information, and we chatted for about twenty minutes about what happened at the Foxx Family Reunion, her condition, and what was going on in my life.

“Joan said she saw your writings on the Internet.”  I was initially shocked, then realized between my blogspot and my writing coach’s website, I could now be Googled.

“She must have happened on my writing coach’s website.  I’m finishing up my novel.”

She was impressed by this, and said she looked forward to when it was finished.  We talked a bit more, and then I decided to end the call.

“Do call me any time,” I said.  Again, she may never bother, but I still refuse to slam the door.

From the Epilogue: The Destination is There.

During their visit to care for June, I talked with Adrienne about things that we never shared in the past: challenges at their church, marriage, being a spouse and running a household.  In writing my memoir, I had collected many of the old photos of the Foxx and Oliver families, and Adrienne wanted a disc. Looking at the pictures together, we both noticed how our Aunts Allene and Everette had aged, then calculated how old our mother would be if she had lived.  It was 2008, so she would have been 77.  Adrienne marveled at this, then said, “Sometimes, I wish she were still here.”

I was quiet, as I had no immediate response.  In reflecting on this later, I realized what I did miss—the possibility of what might have been.  Surely the restoration and alteration of relationship would have extended to us as mother and daughter.  But that will never be in this life, though I am sure it will be in the next.





Angel Fall: The Update

16 02 2010

"Angel Fall" cover art by Jeff Gifford

I reviewed Angel Fall and interviewed Coleman Luck for my Examiner page last year.  Apparently things have taken a bizarre turn with the book; read about it on Coleman’s blog: If you own a copy of Angel Fall you own the Collector’s Edition.

I suggest you visit the Girl Recommends… to buy that Collector’s edition while you can!  You can also order directly from Coleman’s site.  Coleman Luck-Angel Fall.





Reflecting on the close of another year…

9 12 2009

Here we are again, at the last month of the year.  Can you believe how quickly time has passed?

Perspective is an interesting concept.  If I look at our finances, my (still) limited/lack of employment, and our housing struggles, I could say that this year has been the pits, and that I’m more than happy to see it come to a close, with the hope that 2010 brings better things–please….

But I have chosen to adjust the lens, and apply a particular filter: to focus on what God has done this year, and not on what hasn’t happened.  We are still in our loving home, and I am thankful for having a roof over our heads, and delight in each day we wake up and enjoy being there.  This home is a dream come true, and in the two short years, it has seen a lot of life, death and rebirth.  It gave safe haven to June so that she could freely pass from this life to the next;  it gave Gabi a launch point to move on to her destiny.  For the first time in our marriage, Lynn and I are alone in the house, and enjoying the newness of simply being a couple and having it all to ourselves.  We just celebrated two years in August, and marriage still feels shiny and new!

I hope that wonder never goes away.

My writing for Examiner.com is going quite well. The discipline of writing two to three articles a week for publication has improved my craft, and it is exciting to see my readership and site hits build.  I get paid per hits on the web page, so more increase would be nice; but, I am doing what I have always wanted to do: using my talent to write about eternal matters, and aspects of faith and community that pique my interest.  I have met some wonderful pastors and leaders who have shared their stories of faith and ministry, and have been able to highlight some worthy community programs.  There’s a link on this blog to the articles, so go check them out!  You can also comment on these articles, and you know me; I always like a good dialogue.

Facilitating the Tuesdays with Transitioners job seekers group has been a tremendous blessing.  Helping others in their job search, sharing resources, and offering support is a reward in and of itself.  The most difficult part of encountering hardship is that you tend to feel isolated and alone; so having a place where others are experiencing the same plight that you are acts as an emotional anchor, and helps you to manage your perspective.  Some of the attendees have gained new employment, so I consider that a success!  It has also given me an opportunity to do some public speaking, so I am expanding my presentation skills, and growing in areas I never thought possible.

And thanks again to everyone who contributed to my AVON Walk for Breast Cancer this past September.  Not only did I achieve the entire 39 miles, but I met some great people, including Tana, the lady I trained with.  The two-mile Leukemia/Lymphoma Society fundraiser called “Light the Night” was more personal.  June’s cancer was a T-Cell Lymphoma, and while I didn’t raise a great deal of money for it, it felt good to participate in memory of her life.

It has been a year of celebrating friend’s lives, and mourning with them in the death of their loved ones.  I accomplished some goals, while others still remain just out of reach.  I reacquainted with old friends, and made some new ones.  I spread my wings to travel, while maintaining and maximizing our sweet nest.

So it has been a year of bitter and sweet, of difficulty and daring, of lament and celebration.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I am glad to see it close.  The wonderful thing about a new year, is the word “New.”

From my household to yours–Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!





June Elizabeth Long, 1958-2008

14 03 2009

“I answer the heroic question ‘Death, where is they sting?’ with ‘It is here in my heart and mind and memories.'”
Maya Angelou

The Life of June

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”
Richard Bach








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