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It Wasn't Only Money

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The money was in a zip lock sandwich bag when I first saw it. It wasn't neatly folded, but crumpled and puffy. He opened the bag and carefully tried to straighten out the green, wrinkled bills. When he had them somewhat flattened, he counted them several times, just to be sure, and he put them on the corner of the table where he was sitting.  There was $68.00 in all.

The little girl that had given him the bag wanted him to take it and with the money she wanted him to build her mother a locket. For a thirteen year old, $68.00 is a lot of money, and when she gave him all she possessed, she was thinking only of her mom's upcoming birthday and how much her mother meant to her. It wasn't a plastic bag filled with wadded bills, it was her heart she was entrusting him with.

I sat near him as he and the girl texted and talked, deciding on just the perfect gift. She chose a silver glass locket with a delicate silver chain, and she picked out several charms to put inside. I watched as he carefully searched through the charms, with a long pair of tweezers, looking for the perfect pieces.

He found the charms she wanted, a birthday cake, a red heart with the word "Mom" on it, a silver medical symbol, a silver flower and a gold heart covered with tiny crystals. He carefully opened the locket and, with the hands of a surgeon, placed each charm inside. He knew he was making something very special for someone and he used a delicate touch as he completed the locket. He gently closed it, wiped the glass clean from any trace of fingerprints, and put it on a cloth as he decided on the packaging she might like.

"I think she said her mom likes purple. I'll put in the purple fortune cookie."

The lockets come with packaging that's shaped like fortune cookies. They're covered with colorful fabric from silk kimonos, and make for cute, unusual holders for the lockets.

He opened the purple silk fortune cookie and slid the necklace, hand made with love, inside. He then grabbed one of the small, blue boxes, fashioned after a Chinese take-out box, and placed the fortune cookie in it. He furrowed his brow as he carefully closed the tabs on the box.

Then the business man in him came out. He slipped one of our business cards into the side of the box, grabbed a catalogue that shows the full line of lockets, charms, chains and more, and put them lovingly in his backpack along with her baggy containing her change, a five dollar bill.

After he made sure the girl's gift was secure, he grabbed a stack of business cards, a dozen catalogues, and with a grin said, "I'm handing these out to my teachers tomorrow."

I couldn't help but smile thinking that the child, that has been traumatized time after time, might have found a reason to smile once again. He has a goal, he's saving for medical school. His mind might change regarding his profession, but he has a goal, and, hopefully, something to take his mind off of the past.

If you'd like to see what he's up to, check out the website. If you like something, he just may be able to hook you up.  You can find us at, he was too young to sign up alone, so I signed up with him,

If you want to encourage him, you can email him at

And here's our Facebook page, If you're up to it, encourage him with a "like."




Fuel The Fire

Sunday, February 24, 2013

It's one thing to have a mere suspicion regarding the spreading of the flames of gossip, and who you believed struck the match, but it's something else to have an actual hearer of the ill wisher's spoken words confirm the very suspicions you hoped weren't true.

To intentionally breathe whispers of gossip into itching ears, poison dripping from your tongue, with the sole purpose of isolating those you spoke ill of from others in their lives, is reprehensible. It loudly proclaims your character to those that have experienced people like you before, and to those with their eyes and hearts open.  

You chose your words of malice carefully, and seductively  uttered them to those you knew would ignite your smoldering accusations into a full fledged firestorm that, as you had hoped, would cause the destruction of relationships and leave the lives of the ones you spoke ill of in ashes.

You did, however, make a mistake. You didn't count on some of the hearers of your actual words of venom to have more discernment than you had initially believed.  They were fully aware of your words, spoken with seemingly innocent eyes and a "concerned" appearance, and they realized exactly what your intent was. They saw through your attempts to destroy, and now look upon you with pity. They see you as someone so insecure that you had to maliciously try to tear down fellow humans, to make yourself feel superior. I'm sure you justified your actions, for your own sake, and made others think you simply had concern on your heart. After all, you had to be believed as you sat on your pedestal of piety.

Yes, you succeeded with the ones that drooled as they anxiously awaited for ribbons of gossip to waft through the air. You succeeded with the ones that had little discernment, and only had the desire to take any words, ill-will spoken by others, embellish them, inflame them, and proceed to broadcast them to others that were happily waiting to follow suit.

What you failed to acknowledge is that you, undoubtedly, have made many mistakes in your lifetime. We all have, and will continue to do so. Yet you judge as if you haven't once dipped your toes into the pool of sin, as each, and everyone of us has done at one time or another, some of more than others and some less.

You put on the facade that you've never held your head in disgrace, or that you've never disappointed another person. Instead of reflecting on your own past and present misjudgements, you chose to focus on those of others and did your best to appear as the perfect human, one that has done no wrong, one that has no closet of skeletons, and one that will make no future mistakes, all while willfully attempting to malign others. 

One more thing you're forgetting is that Karma will bite you in the back, but that's something I think you're familiar with.


You Can't Take That Away From Me

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

He was a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I have flashes of memories of being at the tiny, west Texas farmhouse my great grand parents had built, and that my grandmother still lived in. He's in many of those memories.

I really don't know exactly how old I was when he entered my life, or when he officially became a part of the craziness of the Baker family by marrying my mother's baby sister. To me, he was just always there, he was always my uncle.

My grandmother had three girls that she raised on her own. She divorced my grandfather because, if I'm remembering the stories correctly, he was a philandering drunk. Just imagine the drama there must have been in a household of four females. I know some of the stories, but I think my two aunts would fly up here and shoot me between the eyes if I dare tell what I know.

I guess what I was getting at is that my aunts are blood, they are, well, they are my aunts, my mother's sisters, my grandmother's daughters. My uncles, however, married into the family when I was just a tiny thing, but they mean the same to me as my aunts. They were always in my life and I've always loved them.

Then came the day I heard of the divorce. I never told anyone, but even though I was an adult, I was devastated. I couldn't imagine my life without one of my uncles in it. All kinds of things went through my mind. Was I supposed to choose sides? Was I expected to choose sides? There was no way I could, I loved them both equally.

My aunt was great, she never even dropped a hint of wanting us, me at least, to choose her over my uncle. I love her for that, because that was something I simply couldn't do. My memories of him are intertwined with my growing up, with my life. He made me animal shaped pancakes, he sometimes took me with him when he had labs while he was in dental school, he x-rayed my broken toe at his dental office on Cape Cod, and I loved him, I still love him. I haven't been able to see him in years. He re-married and moved to Maine, I moved to Oregon, and life, as it has a way of doing, went on. 

I recently got a message from his wife, the family is giving him his 70th birthday party in Austin, Texas this April. I knew I had to be there! The whole family, except for my parents and grandmother, will be together again. Thank goodness for airline miles. I was able to get tickets and I shall be at the party. I will see my uncle again, and for a small flash of time I will be transported back to my childhood and I will be in the presence of the man who never left my heart.

Blood means nothing, relationships mean everything, and real relationships, well, they never fade.




Sunday, February 10, 2013

If not for his gait, I wouldn't have recognized him. He's always walked with a bit of a bounce, on his tip toes and with a stiffened upper body. As he neared me I saw that he was unshaven and he looked thinner.

On his head was a black and white checked driving cap, from which his uncut curls were trying to escape. He was carrying his guitar, and a backpack that I'd never seen. When he reached the table I where I was sitting, I could tell he hadn't showered for a while.

"Hi Mom."

"Hey Joshua. How are you?"

He pulled a chair from beneath the table and placed his only belongings on the ground. He sat down and looked at me. I could tell he wasn't sure what to say, where to begin.

"What's going on son? You look troubled."

"I was attacked by three guys a couple of days ago. They tried to mug me but I fought them off. I threw the first one to the ground and they ran away. I sprained my thumb, but I'm ok."

I glanced down and his hand and thumb were wrapped in an ace bandage. Under his fingernails was dirt, on his face there were cuts.

"I threw them off and got my stuff back. Last week my other back pack was stolen. It had my phone, my papers and the laptop I bought in it. A few days ago my bike was stolen."

"Joshua, where did you get a computer? You can use the ones at the center and at the library for free."

He came up with some reasoning, known only to him, that he bought it so he could find a job. I knew better than to tell him what he already knew, that there are plenty of computers freely available for use in downtown Portland, that he shouldn't have purchased one, that he should have saved his money.

I couldn't help but look at my son and notice he looked beaten down, frustrated and alone. I think the appeal of life on his own, with no rules to follow, on the streets of downtown Portland was wearing thin and that he had come face to face with the big, bad world. He didn't ask to come home, but I sensed it was on his mind, as it was on mine.

I had to remind myself of the potential danger he posed to the rest of the family, especially with him refusing to take his medication. It was more than difficult to look at the child we raised and protected that was now sleeping in shelters downtown and carrying his belongings around in a back pack.

He said he was enrolled at the community college, was looking for a job and was working with his case manager. I knew he believed what he told me, but I also knew that it probably wasn't reality.

Reality is that I have a son that can't come home due to his rage and refusal to work with the family. I have a son that isn't processing his situation rationally. I have a son that needs help, but isn't willing accept it. The reality is that we, as a family, are in a situation we never thought we'd be in and we have no idea what to do. Now that our son is an "adult," no one will talk to me, no one will let me help. The reality is that we have a son and there is no way for us to reach him, and the reality is that there may never be.

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