Category Archives: Life
Two years ago I joined Planet Fitness, determined to get out of my funk of being overweight and exhausted. I had a goal of getting my body back to where it was in my twenties. Now being in my 40s, I realize that was quite a lofty goal, nonetheless I worked hard at it. Because of certain health issues that I have, including COPD and asthma, it does make it hard to keep up with workouts the way healthier people would. I was actually proud of myself because I was going to the gym 5 days a week without fail and continuously upping my workouts to beat my personal bests. I did end up losing about 20 lbs, gaining a lot of strength but not a lot of tone. I still had quite a few inches of fat to lose.
Then the pandemic hit. In March and April, all of our gyms started closing down. Membership fees were frozen until an unknown reopening date. I went ahead and canceled mine because I didn’t want to be surprised with a membership fee when they decided to reopen. During that time of being stuck at home, no longer able to go to the gym which was directly between home and my office, which had also shut down, my motivation went to shit. Now I was waking up to walk 20 steps to my desk where I sat for 10 to 11 hours everyday only to walk 20 steps back to bed at the end of my shift. Working at home redefined a sedentary lifestyle. The pounds came back quickly. The energy left quickly.
Now that the gyms are open again, I have been trying to get back on the path albeit slowly. My lack of energy makes it difficult, as does no longer passing by the gym on the way to the office and back home. Now instead of ending my shift at 8:00 p.m. and going to bed, it means actually getting dressed for the gym, driving down there, wearing myself out, and driving back home. When you haven’t really left the house for 8 months, that’s a heck of a chore. I know that one option would be to wake up a couple hours early and go work out before I start my shift but I’m always leery of doing that because anything could happen to make me late for work. I am no stranger to flat tires and dead batteries. I’m also no stranger to back injuries which lay me up for a few days at a time. One wrong move and my scoliosis reminds me it’s there.
I desperately want to get back to my 5-day a week workout routine. The trouble is finding the energy and motivation to do so. I suppose I do have the motivation in being sick and tired of looking the way I do. I know that the more weight I lose the more energy I will have. So what’s my problem? I think once I got into the gym habit it was easy to go. It was my personal time, my alone time, and I looked forward to it. The lockdown broke that habit however and now it is extremely difficult trying to get back into it.
For those of you who continue to go to the gym, I would love to hear what inspires you to keep at it. Let me know in the comment section below what motivates you to be your best self.
As the stress of existing in 2020 continues to build, it is now more important than ever to remember that stress itself has a wide fallout of other symptoms. Headaches, high blood pressure, anxiety… These are just a few signs of the brain and body experiencing increased stress. Taking just a few minutes out of everyday to sit still, breathe, and meditate can do wonders. While our minds are busy trying to process information about everything we are going through right now, both individually and as a nation, it is imperative that we reset often and let all of it go for a little bit.
It doesn’t take any kind of special knowledge to simply meditate. With practice however you will certainly find the effects become more tangible and you start feeling healthier mentally as well as physically. Once that stress leaves your body there is a noticeable difference. Of course it will return because these are the times we live in. That’s when it’s time to meditate again. And again. Make self-care a habit that you cannot break.
There is always time and a place to meditate.
I live in a house with three other people, my extended family. We are four people in a two bedroom house and understandably it gets a little crowded at times. I work 10-hour shifts and have some small semblance of a social life. Even so, I still find and defend my personal space and time whenever necessary.
As someone who already suffers from anxiety and hypertension, quieting my mind and achieving that peace is necessary to my daily health routine. Though I rarely have any true privacy, there are still places I can go. I have no problem locking myself in the bathroom for 10 minutes. Nor do I mind sitting in the cab of my truck with the windows closed and absolute silence. Sometimes I will drive out to the river during off peak hours and sit alone just listening to the water. Sometimes sitting on the front porch and focusing on a specific bird song, or even the conversations between the mockingbirds and the scrub jays brings me back into myself.
10 breaths is all it takes. A slow breath in, holding it for as long as I can, and slowly letting it go. As I exhale, the picture all the stress leaving my body. Financial troubles, drama at work, the stress that seeps off others… I push it all out with every exhale. Sometimes I will do this between calls at work, usually on every break. After a full day on the phone, it becomes necessary to close my eyes, cover my ears, and just stop everything for a while. Via my smartwatch, I can literally watch my pulse go down from around 120 to 78 or so within the course of a few minutes simply by physically blocking all external stimulus and consciously breathing.
When you feel overwhelmed, never be ashamed to hold up your hand and tell someone that you need a moment. Go off on your own, close your eyes, breathe. It is far better to take a few moments to yourself than to let the stress build. Eventually it has to come out somewhere.
I’m not entirely sure what’s happening but every year when I look at my earnings over the years, I find myself making less than I did a decade ago, even as a teenager. Doing relatively the same work, I earned more in my 20s then I do in my 40s. This mystery drives even deeper when I do the math and realize that at my current wage, there is no way to afford my own place whereas before 2012, I’d lived on my own since I was 17. I also was reminded of this when I heard from a friend who let me know that she would be staying with one of our other friends until she could find a place to live.
We are both mature adults with a long career history. I have a grown child, she has grandchildren. What has happened that neither of us, nor many others we know, are unable to afford basic shelter on our own? Where has the income gone? The LIVABLE income that we used to make? Rents have tripled in the past 10 years but pay rates have gone down. The company we work for does not give annual merit pay increases. Some folks have been at the company 10+ years and are still at their starting pay, stuck because of the lack of work available elsewhere in the area. Middle class is now low income. Here we are, with college degrees and solid work histories, with children and grandchildren, and we are living off food pantries and friends’ couches. Something is very wrong here.
In the recent election, florida voters went all in to approve a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. It will happen gradually over the next few years. In 2025 myself and many others will be back to making what we did 20 years ago. But now what is that going to do to rent prices and other necessities like food and utilities? If the cost of living increases even slightly, we’ll be right back where we are now, struggling, savings depleted just to cover a few months of hardship. Something’s got to give.
As you walk on by…. (Sing it with me now!)
Will you call my name? Will you remember me at all? Will I have done anything in my life that will have had an impact on anyone near to me (or far)? What will I be remembered for?
I never imagined there would be very many people at my funeral, if there was one. I’d always just hoped someone would be in my life who would be willing to dump my ashes off the side of a plane over the Everglades. On the other hand, of course it would be nice to have a finely inscribed headstone commemorating some important aspect of my life. If anything, I’d want to be remembered for the sacrifices I have made in my life to ensure that my child has more opportunities than I did (and they have been incredibly painful sacrifices). I want to go down as a Saint for work with the less fortunate – even while the majority of my life has seen me as one of those less fortunate. I want to be remembered as humble, generous, hard working, intelligent and wise, as a mother, a Christian, and hopefully one day as a beloved wife. I want my writings – poetry, lyrics, fiction and non – to be read by my family and descendants so that they may have a deeper understanding of the person I was. I’m quite forgettable in reality, but I guess in the end, I just want to be remembered with love.
We Are Okay! That is first and foremost the most important thing going through my mind each day. Despite not being able to go out much, despite having to get creative for some meals at home, and despite being cooped up in a house with three other people, things are actually okay. The not going out part, heck I was made for this. I’m a painfully un-social introvert and having been raised an only child, it’s easy to entertain myself. I’m rarely bored. If I am, it’s usually only because I’m too hot and antsy (we have no AC).
I read a lot of blogs and other social media posts where people battling cabin fever try to find ways, some of them pretty outlandish, to stay sane during our nationwide lockdown. I wonder if I’m the odd one out for actually enjoying this quiet time, this alone time. It’s as if I’m sitting back watching the world burn and I will emerge from my mental cave when it all blows over. Certainly there are some things I miss. Kava Kat, a tea bar I started to enjoy going to with friends, of course had to shutter its doors during the crisis. Being a relatively new business to the area, I’m happy they survived the worst of it (so far) and were able to reopen. Some places I loved, like Uncle Carlo’s, sadly have not reopened. This city is a new landscape, sort of a bare bones one, but it will survive as a community. It’s beautiful how people have pulled together to support each other in every way possible.
It’s shocking how much can happen over the course of two weeks. These last two weeks in my life have been highly stressful and emotional, and it all went down with a single phone call.
The Phone Call
On Monday, June 26, 2017, I began receiving numerous phone calls and text messages from someone asking if I knew a Brenda Gibson. Not recognizing the number, I was hesitant to answer but the person kept persisting. Finally that evening, I texted the number back asking, “Who are you and what do you want?” I received an immediate reply of, “This is Zohar. Do you know Brenda Gibson?” My first thought: What the fuck is a Zohar? I replied, “That is my estranged mother.” After a pause, the phone rang, the caller ID the same number.
Upon speaking with this Zohar, he informed me that he was a real estate broker and had seen a listing of a house up for auction. The address he gave me was the house I grew up in down in Fort Lauderdale. He informed me that he was trying to locate my mother and grandmother, whose name was listed as the owner, because the house had been foreclosed and was going to auction the next morning at 10 a.m. He also said he’d interviewed the neighbors who said they hadn’t seen either of them in at least a year.
As I was trying to process all this information, he also informed me that neither party could be located and told me I had 16 hours to locate both my mother, the owner, and my mother, her power of attorney. Not only that, I had to be in Fort Lauderdale at 10 a.m. to appear in court and stop the sale so that he could buy the home, refurbish it, and re-sell it, allegedly to split the profits with my mother and grandmother. This guy immediately threw my red flags up as being an underhanded real estate shark looking to prey on the elderly.
I told him first of all, I do not live in the area so there is no way I am jeopardizing my job to take off, go out of town, and go to court on the word of someone I have never even heard of. I asked him to provide me any proof of what he was claiming and he did not provide any, only further pushing me to do the impossible within just a few hours time. This utterly pissed me off and I hung up on him, beginning my own research.
The first thing I did was to look up this person who called. All I had was a first name and a phone number, which turned up a real estate sales license to a Zohar Gazit with a home office in Hallandale, FL. The license was only issued at the end of May this year, so that was another red flag. His phone number also came back as a Google Voice number. Red flag #3. He’s also associated with a relatively new LLC called Florida State Trust LLC, Premier Mortgage Lending (as a sales person, which is where the Google Voice number answers), as well as President of Nahar Investment Corp. There are eight company associations altogether, the most recent being formed only 5 months ago.
Putting this agency/broker to the side, I then called on a friend in my grandmother’s area to help me do some research. We turned up the auction listing and other documents, including an affidavit from the foreclosing bank’s attorney in which they hired a process server to locate and serve my grandmother the foreclosure papers however the statement from December 2016 showed she could not be located and her death could not be verified. So there was one mystery. The second mystery is that my mother was afraid to leave the house and did not go out, so where could she be? I knew she was diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, so the first place I started checking was area hospitals, none of which would confirm her presence. Next, I tried assisted living facilities, psychiatric facilities, and hospices for both women, and still came up with nothing.
After the area facilities were exhausted, I moved on to the Broward Sheriff’s Office. I received a response e-mail from them advising me to reach out to one of two contacts, which I called the next morning. To my utter shock, the Lieutenant told me he couldn’t file a missing person’s report because it had “been too long” since they were last seen. Since when does that matter? I told him these were two seniors, both mentally and physically disabled, and were MISSING since their home got foreclosed a year ago. He said all he could do was run their names through a database but he wouldn’t file a missing person’s report. I still can’t believe how uncaring he was but for my own protection, I will not give his name here.
On to some better resources I hoped, I also reached out to the Sun Sentinel and Channel 7 News, neither of which ever responded to me. I then reached out to numerous elder-centered organizations in the area and left voice mail after voice mail, as I was trying to do all this research outside my working hours, which left me very limited in actually reaching offices that were open after I got off work.
I was not getting anywhere. The time for the auction had come and gone and the house was sold to the highest bidder. Along with the house, everything in it, including 60 years of family history, now belonged to a corporation who purchased it to flip it and make some quick money. I thought my dealings with Zohar were over at that point, but this was only the beginning.
Zohar placed several calls to me that day with a new plan: Find my grandmother, get a lawyer, declare the sale invalid because there was now an heir, let him buy the house, flip it, and split the profits with me. He said he was going to send me a contract of our “partnership” that I should sign and overnight to him. More deadlines, he needed this done right away. Needless to say, no contract ever showed up.
When questioned about this alleged contract, he changed his story again, saying he was going to have his associate “Richard” draw up a contract, drive it up to me, have me sign it and get it notarized, and drive it back down to him. We’re talking a 4 hour round trip and I work during the day. I thought: Who in their right mind does business like that? I told them both on the phone if you’re sending me anything, just send a PDF that can be signed electronically. Why would they go through all that trouble when e-mail is instant and secure? Another red flag. Zohar then wanted a copy of my ID to “verify my identity.” Hah – NO. Sorry, but NO. Another red flag.
Once again, no paperwork arrived. I still couldn’t get any information out of Zohar, including any attorney information or Richard’s last name or phone number. So for the third or fourth time, Zohar’s story changes and now he tells me that this Richard associate of his has secured an attorney who specializes in foreclosures and probate and that this attorney would work the case on contingency, requiring zero funds from me and that Zohar would pay for everything needed to have the house put in my name as heir and that we would not split the proceeds of the flip between Zohar, myself, and the attorney. Um…. it doesn’t work that way. Again, I was waiting for an e-mail from the attorney and again, no documents ever arrived. Are we surprised?
At this point, I’m done with Zohar and I just want to find my grandmother. I accept that the house is gone. It’s not the first time I’ve lost everything and my mother and grandmother had no way to upkeep the house anyway, as it needed too many major repairs, including electrical, plumbing, and roofing. My mother and I have never had a relationship and in her last letter to me, she blatantly told me never to contact her again (this is all over my being close to my father and their own personal issues that she cannot separate me from). So, all that remained was finding my grandmother.
The break came the next Friday morning, July 7. I received a call from the Aging and Disabled Resource Center. They were more than willing to help me and within just a few minutes, they were able to provide me with both my mother’s and my grandmother’s forwarding addresses and contact numbers. Their last known addresses showed that my mother was in assisted living in Lauderhill and my grandmother was in a nursing home in Tamarac. This is odd because it’s the first time in their lives that they’ve been separated. My friend called both places while I was at work (silently freaking out), and let me know on my next break that she was able to verify both of them at the locations given. She even provided some additional information.
I immediately called both places and asked to be put on their emergency contact lists. I then was able to speak with my grandmother by phone who, even at 89 years old and after several years, still remembered me and my daughter and wanted to see us. Heartbreakingly, she informed me she had lung cancer and had been in the nursing facility for a year. The good news is her mind is still sharp as a tack and she only has little lapses of short term memory loss now and then. Otherwise, she’s mentally good.
She also told me that people were there in her room to talk to her about the house. Now this was a real red flag. Regrettably, I’d given both their forwarding addresses to Zohar under the stretch of an idea that he actually was going to do something to reverse the sale. He knew however that my mother was my grandmother’s power of attorney and that my grandmother could not deal with any of this on her own. Within two hours of having the address, people were there in person harassing and confusing my grandmother before I’d have a chance to get down there. I sent Zohar a text and a voice mail and got no response.
Saturday morning, July 8, my daughter and I along with my sister in law began the two hour drive to my grandmother’s nursing home. Once we got there, she recognized us instantly and we spend 3 hours talking with her. She caught us up on what was happening with my mother, who was not there at the time, but she was unable to tell me who was in her room yesterday about the house. I hope she didn’t sign anything – she doesn’t remember.
This all goes back to Zohar because he is the ONLY other person who had her address. Currently, I am drafting a formal request to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Real Estate with a full account of the situation, his associates, his associated companies, and his license number to be investigated and prosecuted in the attempt to defraud my elderly grandmother by bypassing her power of attorney and her heirs regarding the foreclosed home that she owned since circa 1960. I also have my own legal support system involved, so this will be done right. To date, he still has not returned any phone call, text, or e-mail but I am following this matter very closely. I vow to protect my grandmother against underhanded dealings by any means necessary.
What a whirl of a week this has been. Summer is in full swing and with it, the heat and the storms that I so love about Florida. Even living a stone’s throw from the beach, I still haven’t had the opportunity to get out much. When I can, I enjoy every second of the scent of the salt water, the wind, and the sounds that make Vitamin-Sea such a vital part of a healthy spirit.
Photo on Hutchinson Island, Florida, credit: Heather Noel (LifeInPawPrints).
Summer plans have gotten off to a slow start, mainly due to finances and unstable hours at work. It’s the slow season so where I was hoping for overtime, there hasn’t been any and there’s always a chance of being volunteered to go home early, so that make it hard to plan some things, not knowing how much a paycheck will be when it’s all said and done. BUT… I’m working on other financial fixes, they’re just being stalled by a very slow legal process which is driving me mad. I always found it ironic that it costs SO MUCH to fix money problems. Perfect example: Bankruptcy. Hundreds of dollars to file, yet if you’re truly bankrupt, you don’t have hundreds of dollars to file, or you wouldn’t be bankrupt. The legal system is twisted and distorted to work against the people, not for the people, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant altogether.
My daughter had wanted to get a job this summer at Publix but even after applying and following up, she was not not called back. They will hire at 14 but she may have a better chance when she turns 15 in a couple weeks. She’s already worked there unofficially, bagging for her grandmother who worked as a cashier, so one store’s staff already knows her. That’s always a plus. But until something comes through for her on employment, she is enjoying the first weeks of summer with me and my partner, his mother and sister. We keep her busy with the art studio, the gym, DIY projects… there’s always something to do. Plus, she gets to sleep in to her heart’s content 🙂
Projects for me include getting some flowers planted (though I’m a couple months late in doing so!) and building a container garden that won’t fall apart like the last attempt. Aside from the seaside, gardening is good medicine for my often bitter spirit. It takes me out of the world and back into the basics of life. I like sowing, I like producing, and I like the idea of making something useful out of nothing. Growing things does that for me. Trouble is finding a place to grow where all the animals won’t destroy my work. Chickens and raccoons are great at getting onto and into places they shouldn’t be!
Suppose that’s it for now. This heat is making me grouchy. Normally I love this house (basically an open-air wood cabin type historic house – no AC – central or window shakers) but summers are a real bitch. There’s no escaping the heat. Even the shade is brutal.
Hi kids! Today we take a moment to remember that quiet, alone time can be a GOOD thing! It means not having to wake and work around 4 other schedules, being able to watch TV (specifically a documentary on minimalism) until 2 a.m. because I wasn’t tired yet. It means sleeping in til 9 a.m. and having the cats forgive me the moment I gave them milk with their breakfast. It means being able to listen to Ani DiFranco on iHeartRadio while I take my time going through the morning news.
Sits in his 37th floor suite
And swivels to gaze down
At the city he made me in
He allows me to stand and
Solicit graffiti until
He needs the land I stand on
In my darkened threshold
Am pawing through my pockets
The receipts, the bus schedules
The matchbook phone numbers
The urgent napkin poems
All of which laundering has rendered
Pulpy and strange
Loose change and a key
Go ahead, ask me if I care
I got the answer here
I wrote it down somewhere
I just gotta find it
I just gotta find it
Somebody came on too heavy
Now look at me made ugly
By the drooling letters
I was better off alone
Ain’t that the way it is
They don’t know the first thing
But you don’t know that
Until they take the first swing
My fingers are red and swollen from the cold
I’m getting bold in my old age
So go ahead, try the door
It doesn’t matter anymore
I know the weak hearted are strong willed
And we are being kept alive
Until we’re killed
He’s up there the ice
Is clinking in his glass
He sends me little pieces of paper
I don’t ask
I just empty my pockets and wait
It’s not fate
It’s just circumstance
I don’t fool myself with romance
I just live
Phone number to phone number
Dusting them against my thighs
In the warmth of my pockets
Which whisper history incessantly
Where were you
Wishing I could cry more
And care less,
Yes it’s true,
I was trying to love someone again,
I was caught caring,
This country is too large
And whoever’s in charge up there
Had better take the elevator down
And put more than change in our cup
Or else we
Recently (meaning a couple months ago), NPR did a report featuring workers who go to work sick. For the majority, it was mainly older employees who tended to stay home while the younger workers were more apt to push through their illness to not miss work.
The major difference between these two groups were the ones who tended to stay home were those who had tenure and got paid sick time off or would otherwise not be punished for taking time off. This was the older set. Of those interviewed in the younger set, they told the reporter they almost always went to work sick because they did not have paid (or even unpaid) sick time that they were allowed to use. Illnesses ranged from painful migraines to colds, flu, and other contagious illnesses that involved vomiting and diarrhea at work. Those who went to work sick said they did so because they could not afford to lose the pay or their jobs.
I was reminded of this radio spot as I forced myself to go to work sick today out of the same fear. I’d called out the past two days with severe bronchitis but could not afford a write-up for missing any more time, so I stuck it out. I ended up getting worse throughout the day because I wasn’t able to rest or take the medications that I have been at work – they put me to sleep. Upon returning to work today, I also heard from several others that they’d had to call out sick this week too for the same thing and I know where it came from. One person who came in sick 2 weeks ago coughing up a storm and even bragging about having the flu and still working.
The question is: where does someone who lives paycheck to paycheck draw the line between going in sick and staying home for their own health and others? Is it worth losing money or even your job to keep others safe? How do you handle it? Comments are welcome.