Reading and Writing

I joined social media in the Spring of 2020 as I needed to promote my self-published book, The Checkers Club. I joined a few writing groups, mostly to get tips on writing and publishing. Early on, I noticed posts saying things such as, “How many books did you read before you decided to write one yourself?” or “Do you need to be a reader in order to write?”

Usually I would just scroll by such posts, but on one early morning visit to one of the writing groups I joined, I could not let the frequent post go, “How many books did you read before you decided to write one yourself?” My comment was, “Why does this question keep getting asked? Asking if you should be a good reader in order to be a good writer is like wanting to get a drivers license without ever driving a car.”

I looked later and there was a slew of comments on my comment. Someone even reached out to me via email, which I never read. I was not trying to be nasty, just honest. I thought my comment was obvious, you cannot be a good writer without being a avid reader. They go hand in hand. How would one expect someone to read their writing if they themselves are not reading?

From an early age, I remember sitting on my mom’s lap as she read to me my favorites, Babar the Elephant and Little Golden Books. I started writing the alphabet when I was three, thanks to my twin siblings who attended kindergarten two years ahead of me. They would come home and teach me how to write my name, how to tie my shoes, and of course, they would read to me. I would look at the milk carton at breakfast and say, “Look, MILK has my name in it, KIM.”

In my youth, I took more to reading than writing but got better at writing in middle and high school. I had a very good English teacher in high school pull me aside and told me to please keep writing. By her suggestion, I joined the journalism team but never put my skills to writing professionally until 2018, when I started to write The Checkers Club.

As I write this, I have many books I want to read, be they on bookshelves, my nightstand, or my Kindle and Apple book libraries. I am starting to map out my outline for my second book, What Good Are You? And What Good Can You Do Today? But do not just take my word on reading and writing. The great author Steven King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

I can’t fix what I never had.

I called my mom on the anniversary of my dad’s death. It has been six years since he passed. My mom answered, “Your brother, Daniel, just called to say he remembered that it has been six years.” I paused, “I miss him, Mom.” She replied, “I know, I do too.”

We talked about her health, “No symptoms, right?” I asked. “No, I feel fine.” But a pause came over the phone. “Kim, I am worried about you. If you take another office job, you may not survive this.” I forget that even at 84 and me at 54, she is still a mom. I am still her youngest. She will always worry.

And she has reason to worry. I overheard her tell a friend when I was a teenager, “Kimmer, she has always been my sickest kid.” And she was not wrong about that. It stung hearing her say that to her friend over the phone, but I have not been blessed with a strong immune system.

My earliest memory of me having the flu was at Christmas, I was six years old. I heard the family in the rec room laughing and opening presents. My grandparents were down for a visit. Me, laid up in a bedroom, weary from fever, Mom peeping in to give me fluids. Fast forward to eight years old. My dad had an early morning shift at the Air Force Academy. My mom still at work. The nurse at South Elementary called, “Please come get Kim, she has a high fever.” My dad picked me up off the nurse’s cot and put on my flowered winter coat and I barley remember him putting me in the back of the car to get home. The doozie of illnesses came when I was twelve. Ophthalmic shingles took me for a loop when I was twelve the spring of 1978. I was barely five foot and ninety pounds. Six weeks later, I was blind in my left eye and lost fifteen pounds. At sixteen, I missed a Nuggets basketball game that my friend’s dad had tickets for us to go to. I stayed at home with the flu. At nineteen, my mom had to come and get me from my job at Current, Inc. because someone found me on the bathroom floor. I had an extremely high fever and passed out, again, the flu.

As an adult, I take a great deal of vitamins, I try to eat careful, and workout regularly. But every cold and flu season is a “white knuckle thrill ride” of me getting at least one bad cold, one or maybe even two sinus infections, and about every two to three years a case of the flu.  This season was the presumption of positive with Covid 19 in March, that scared my spouse of twenty-three years to call an ambulance due to my poor breathing.

I came to the realization the other day, “I can’t fix what I never had. I never had a good immune system.” So, I will wear a mask, even before it was mandated in Colorado, I have been wearing one whenever we venture outside. I will still take vitamins, maybe they help and maybe they do not. I will still eat careful and exercise. At forty-nine my eye doctor told me, “You know what happened to your left eye can happen to your right eye?” I did not know that. So, I had my primary care physician administer the then shingles shot. Last year, myself and my husband were administered the Shingrix shot, which has a higher prevention dosage than the first shingles shot we had five years ago.

I hope to stay shingles free and Covid 19 free. But there are no guarantees. We all have to be our own guide to keep ourselves healthy and safe. Stay secure and be blessed.

Goodbye to Anthony

Anthony E. Stamper

Three months ago, yesterday, I got the call from my mom, our Anthony was gone. I sat in a dinning room chair in shock. We had just gathered 2 and a half weeks earlier for our birthdays. How can he be gone? He was our spouse, our brother, our brother in law, son in law, coworker, neighbor and friend.

Anthony had a passion for politics, movies and books, and I wonder if he is watching from above the Covid crisis, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the 2020 political circus.

We did not get to say goodbye in March due to Covid hitting hard the week he died. But if we could have met, and could have had his funeral then, we would have stopped all the clocks, and shut off our phones. We would have prevented his cats from eating juicy fish bones.

We would have silenced pianos, and with muffled drums, we would have brought out his coffin and let the mourners come.

But for now, let airplanes circle from overhead scribble in the in the sky that our Anthony is dead.

For our Daniel, he was your North, your South, your East and West. He was your  working week and your Sunday rest. He was your noon, your midnight, your talk, your song; You thought that love would last forever, you were wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one. Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun. Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; Our Anthony is gone and it is hard to feel any good.

Poem words from “Funeral Blues”, by W. H. Auden

Food Affirmations

Truvia is a brand of stevia-based sugar substitute.

I first noticed my food “talking” to me in 1993. I was living in Seattle, and I grabbed a bottle of Snapple while on my lunch hour. I twisted off the cap and looked down. A quaint affirmation, similar to below got my attention. I put the lid on my desk at work, just something to make my homesick-self feel a little bit better.

Fast forward to 2002, the good people at Snapple started their “Real Facts” campaign. Such sayings on lid tops are, “Dolphins are unable to smell.” Is that true? They don’t have nostrils so that makes sense.  “Bees are born fully grown.” I guess that might be some useful information. “Peaches are members of the almond family.” I am not too sure about that one. Also, the term “you’re such a peach” came from giving peaches to your loved ones as gifts. Again, is that real, or not, who has time to research if that is true or not?

The Atlantic actually did take the time to research Snapple’s Real Facts. We Fact-Checked Snapple’s ‘Real Facts’ With 30 seconds and a web connection, you can, too. By Adrienne LaFrance discussed the claims of the “Real Facts” and how just a quick look up on a search engine can debunk the bottle caps “facts”.

Dove Chocolates wraps their silky-smooth chocolates in a message foiled in hope with such sayings like “Someone is thinking of you right now”, or “Be the first to hit the dance floor”, and “Forget the rules and play by your heart.” Some of the promise messages are signed, love, Dove.

Pinterest is filled with images of Dove Chocolate Promises images Obviously, others also have taken note of their food and beverages talking to them, giving factoids or a daily jolt of happiness in hurried, hustle-bustled world.

I recently had a job interview at Amazon Web Services. I was nervous and studied things like AWS services, the OSI networking model, web sockets and technology stacks. My family must have anticipated my stress level and the “smile” below was on the counter.

I took a deep breath before the phone interview. I answered the questions to the best of my ability. My kids are both runners now. When I have gone to their cross country and track meets, I tell them before they do their event, “This is what you’ve trained for.” I have spent the past 10 months getting immersed in AWS technologies. I am not sure if I will end up at AWS and become an “Amazonian”. However, this training from the past year will hopefully lead up to a new position in what has already been a twenty-five-year career in technology.

And I plan on keeping the food message affirmations taped to my laptop, on my writing vision board, and in my ideas notebook for those times I need a little reminder for what I have been training for.

Five Lessons Learned

Last year this time I was celebrating my 23rd wedding anniversary during July 4th weekend. I had a nice dinner with my spouse despite the pandemic, however one day prior, I was laid off from the senior software engineer support role that I held for twelve and half years. It was a job that I was good at, a job that the customers liked me, and a job that I had friends at. I had to wait until I received a severance package but was able to file for unemployment in August 2020.

As many people have encountered the ups and downs over the past year, whether it was job losses, business closures, or the ultimate loss, a death of a loved one, we have all had to come to grips with some kind of “new normal”.

As I approached the one year lay off anniversary, I debated on even writing anything at all. However, I reflected on what has kept me sane this past year and the lessons I have learned.

  1. Address the disappointment, but then get moving.

I wrote in the third month of my unemployment stint, , the first few days and weeks was a blur. I set up job search accounts, attended online classes, and made the required job inquires. But before any of that was done, I had to come to terms that I was laid off. I planned on retiring from my previous job. I was a good employee. I never was reprimanded. I made my numbers, which consisted of complying with service level agreements, providing good customer service, and keeping up with technical certifications.

I did not rest on my laurels. After I sent back my corporate laptop to my previous employer, I dusted off my laptop, opened a Connecting Colorado account, which is required for Colorado Unemployment, and started attending training courses and applying for new positions. This is standard fare for me. When approached with the unthinkable, I put off my feelings, and focus on the task at hand. But it would also would have been a good idea for me to reach out to a counselor to address the loss and the feelings I was suppressing.

As I look back now, it took me months to mourn. I woke up one morning, almost six months into my job loss, very sad. I was not just sad over the loss of the job I was good at, but for the friends I made there. I jumped into job searching mode as soon as I got approved for unemployment. However, I wish now, that I would have addressed the loss sooner.

2. Ask for help.

Aside from reaching out for counseling, asking for help from family and friends was crucial to me getting through this year. In October 2019, I had a palmaris longus tendon graft surgery to aid with osteoarthritis in my left thumb. Unfortunately, by December 2020 the graft failed. I was referred to Action Potential Physical Therapy for six weeks of occupational therapy and rehabilitation. However, the determination was the graft had shifted and was going to need another option to deal with the osteoarthritis in my carpometacarpal (CMC) joint.

I was advised by Dr. Ky Kobayashi of Colorado Center of Orthopedic Excellence (CCOE) of a procedure called The SpeedSpiral CMC System, which utilizes a pre-shaped, dense, strong and flexible allograft implant to treat thumb CMC joint pain and/or instability caused by osteoarthritis. He also performed my palmaris longus tendon graft surgery in 2019. I knew of the risk of failure with that surgery and was willing to give the SpreedSpiral a shot.

On April 2, 2021, I was fitted with a sterile, decellularized and freeze-dried, human harvested cadaver bone. Prior to the surgery, I asked for help. My daughter became a driver last summer. She agreed to pick up our curbside groceries. I asked my husband to take off a week of work, but then asked for him to take off a second week as I needed help getting to doctor appointments. My son took up more cooking responsibilities and upped his cleaning duties as well. My husband helped input my unemployment hours. It is difficult for me to ask for and receive help, but this was exactly what I needed to do to make me understand that my body needed time to heal. I am so glad I went back to CCOE to get advice on the surgery. Dr. Kobayashi was right, he said, “By July 4th you will feel so much better.” He was absolutely correct in that matter.

Finally, I also asked and received much wanted assistance from the Arapahoe/Douglas County Workforce (ADWorks) Center. I attended a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) training class in March. I did not even think I could qualify for ADWorks, because I live in El Paso County. However, I had meeting with a WIOA coordinator in April and was awarded a training grant in June. I am using that grant to pursue coursework in Amazon Web Services SysOps Administrator – Associate through the Community College of Aurora. I plan on finishing up that course in late August and sitting for the certification exam in late September all due to the fact I asked for help on retraining.

3. Stay focused.

A recent report discussed Android users were tracked with a special tool that counted the study participants’ every mobile-device-related action for 24 hours a day for five days. Actions like typing, tapping, and swiping the phone’s screen counted as a “touch.” The research found that average users spent 145 minutes on their phones and engaged in 76 phone sessions per day.

As for iPhone users, Apple recently confirmed that its device users unlock their phones 80 times every day. That’s about as much as six to seven times every hour. So, no matter your smartphone preference, the facts make a clear point: We are addicted to our mobile devices.

So how do you stay focused in a world where devices are at our fingertips? In our household, we have two online students. What we have found works for them is to have them shut their phones off during school hours, unless they need to reach one of their teachers. I started this practice recently. I study for my AWS certifications in the office and leave my phone in the charging cradle on my nightstand in a different room. And more recently, I found what keeps me focused is to totally shut down my phone from the hours between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

We became iPhone users in the fall of 2016. The first thing I did was I shut down all the notifications. No news notifications, no retail notifications, no game notifications. I found the notifications were just mere distractions and made me not focus my full attention on work.

I set aside one hour in the morning to address email. I have two email accounts, one that is mainly a junk account the other is for family, friends, and what I use to have potential employers reach out to me. I have filters for junk mail and the first thing I do every morning is blow away the junk folder. Then I move on to pressing and important emails. And then I do not look at email again until the next day. I also shut off email notifications in Microsoft Outlook as I do not want to be distracted ever time a new email comes in.

Finally, I limit my interaction with the news. I recently took advice from a good friend. She gives herself 30 minutes a day, usually in the morning, for news. That includes looking at her phone, watching it online, or turning on the television. I started practicing that in February and am less stressed and less distracted, at least as far as news is concerned.  

4. Keep a schedule.

Even before I was laid off last summer, I was a 100 percent remote worker. I was able to prepare lunches for my kids (when they were still in brick and mortar schools), get dinner ready, work out, get ready, and then start working from our home office. My lunch hour was carpool pick up time (my previous employer was generous and allowed me to have a late lunch hour to accommodate school pick up).

Last year, remote work became the norm for millions of workers and online school became common place for students. What that meant was many workers who used to go out for a coffee on their way to work, no longer did that. Going to the gym after work went by the wayside as many gyms were forced to shut down during Covid.

I pretty much kept the same schedule even with the job loss. My kids are now older and do not require me to make their lunches. I still prep dinner in the morning. For years we have built on to our basement home gym. I usually do a run on the treadmill if it is cold, or a hike on a nearby trail or partake in a quick walk in the neighborhood. My goal is to be done with my “me time” by 10:00 AM and then tackle studying and job searching.

5. Be grateful.

As stated earlier, I was not expecting a job loss last year, especially a job I was good at and planned on retiring from. But I am so grateful my husband has stayed employed during the pandemic. He had to pick up the family health insurance that I lost when I became unemployed last summer.

We lost three family members last year. None of them to Covid. We were unable to grieve in the normal ways. But when we were able to come together, we treasured those times more as a family. All of my family and most of my extended family is vaccinated, so that allows us more opportunities to gather as a family.

It seems like I value my friends and family more now, then I did before my job loss. Partly because of Covid, partly because I have time to reflect on those relationships. But I am grateful I have had this year to reflect on where I want my career and my life to go into the future.

Enough Already

We know this feeling all too well in Colorado. We felt this pain when 10 students and their teacher were gunned down on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Centennial, Colorado. The students were killed in the library by two fellow students who attended the same high school. My sister Theresa worked at a video store at that time. Her boss’s son attended that high school. He was a sophomore at the time. I was chilled to the bone when my sister told me he had to walk over dead bodies to get out of the library.

We felt that ache again during the Aurora Theater shooting in July of 2012. A gunman dressed in tactical clothing walked into a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in the Century 16 Theater. He proceeded to kill twelve people and injured 70 others. At the time, that shooting event had the largest number of shooting victims in modern U.S. history. Unfortunately, it would not be the largest for long.

We felt anguish again during the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting in November of 2015. A police officer and two civilians were killed. Four civilians and five police officers sustained injuries in a standoff that lasted five hours. Police SWAT teams had to crash armored vehicles into the lobby of the building in order to get the attacker to surrender.

We felt horrible when we heard about the Thornton Walmart shooting in 2017. The shooter casually walked into a Walmart Supercenter on November 1, 2017 and randomly started shooting shoppers at 6:10 PM. I called my sister Diana as she lives close to this store. She and her girls were safe. They visited the store frequently. Three people were killed, two died at the scene, one died on the way to the hospital.

We felt the horror again when we heard about the STEM School Shooting in Highlands Ranch, Colorado in May 2019. One student was killed, and eight others were injured. My daughter became an on-line high school student that year. My cousin texted me, “I bet you are so happy you chose to home school.”

And we feel the pain again today, for the Boulder Kings Soopers Shooting in March 2021. A twenty-one-year-old man is in police custody. Ten people are dead, including a Boulder police officer. Officer Eric Talley, 51, recently told his father he was applying for less stressful jobs in the Boulder Police Department. For years, Talley had a stable job in information technology that provided for his children and his wife, who educated their seven children in their Colorado home.

But in 2010, after one of his closest friends died in a DUI crash, he quit, left behind his master’s degree, and enrolled in the police academy at age 40, according to his friends and family. When a gunman opened fire inside the King Soopers grocery store on Monday, Talley, was among the first responders to run into the store.

The victims of this horrible massacre range in ages from twenty to sixty-five years old. Police on Tuesday have released the names of those killed: Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Boulder police Officer Eric Talley, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; Jody Waters, 65.

Before I hear any politician say, as they offer up thoughts and prayers, that it is too soon to talk about gun control – for the ten people gunned down in Boulder while they shopped, it is too LATE to talk about gun control.


Six Words

This week marks the one-year anniversary that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that Covid 19 was a pandemic. This same time last year we were worried about our oldest child, Alena. She was sick for over a week. We struggled to get her Covid tested.

I called my niece Tara, who was still in California. She, her husband, son, and newborn daughter were going into lock-down in San Francisco. A few days after that, we got the phone call, our brother-in-law Anthony, died of a heart attack at age 59.

This year has been marred with ups and downs, good mixed with bad. I released a young adult novel, The Checkers Club, using the book called 90 Days to Your Novel: A Day-by-Day Plan for Outlining & Writing Your Book.  I have a very linear thinking brain. I do things in order, so this book helped set up an outline, helped develop characters, and work through dialog.

In December, we got the phone call that my mom’s best friend, Emma was killed while walking her dog, just two weeks shy of her 78th birthday. A few days after that, we got the call that our nephew Jeremy Daniel (J.D.) took his own life. He was my parent’s second born grandchild. My sister Roxanne’s first-born son.

We were not close to J.D., but I do remember the few times we gathered. My sister stayed with us when she was pregnant. My sister, Diana, was junior in high school and a new driver. She was the one who she took Roxanne to Ft. Carson Army Hospital when she went into labor.

When J.D. was six, and his brother Scotty, was five, he was so excited to have me read to him Charlotte’s Web. The last time we saw J.D. was for our sister-in-law Susan’s funeral, back in 2004. I was amazed at how handsome he was.

The past three years, I have been dabbling in writing and trying to get better daily. Lately, I have been thinking about the late writer Ernest Hemingway. Before he died, he was in a bar in Florida and was given a challenge, write a story in six words or less. He wrote on a napkin, “For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.” Why were the shoes not worn? Did the baby die? Did the baby outgrow them before even getting a chance to wear them out? Others in the bar wrote their own six-word stories. A man wrote, “Ring for sale. Never worn.” A woman wrote, “I should have never said yes.” Yes to what? Who knows? I have my own six words for J.D. “Wanted to be a better Aunt.”

What six words, if you can sum up in such a short story, would be your epitaph? Could have been a better friend? Wanted to spend more time relaxing? Wish I could have stopped hating. The challenge after marking such a bizarre and tumultuous year, is to allow others to write six nice words about us when we leave this world. Or, maybe we can change the trajectory we are on now as to not to have to wonder what things we left undone or unsaid.  

The needs of the many….

My favorite Star Trek movie is Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan. I am by no means a Star Trek or Star Wars fan. But while I was still in high school, this movie was playing on HBO one night at a friend of mines house who was lucky enough to have cable. We did not have cable, but that is another story.

The plot finds the crew of the starship USS Enterprise facing off against the genetically engineered tyrant Khan Noonien Singh (played by Ricardo Montalbán), a character who first appeared in the 1967 Star Trek television episode “Space Seed”. When Khan escapes from a 15-year exile to exact revenge on Kirk, the crew of the Enterprise must stop him from acquiring a powerful terraforming device named Genesis.

The Wrath of Khan film is the beginning of a three-film story arc that continues with the film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and concludes with the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). OK, I am rambling on about not being a “Trekie”, but just had to give a little back story of why I liked Wrath of Khan so much. It wasn’t the actors or the action of the movie, but rather a line in the movie that gives  me pause after all these years.

Captain Kirk has been promoted to Admiral Kirk. He receives word that the Enterprises has received a garbled communication for help and Star Fleet Command is requesting they look into a distress symbol. Spock is now the Captain. However, Jim desperately wants his command of the Enterprise back but is also very careful not to disrespect or undermine Spock in any way.

Yet Spock wants Jim to realize that what he is doing, however well-intentioned, is pointless because he is wasting his talents not commanding and tells him in an equally kind and gentle way that he should give in to his instincts regarding taking back leadership of the Enterprise.  Spock then proceeds to tell Jim that, “If in any case, were I to invoke logic, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few.” In which Jim chides back, “Or the one.”

Fast forward to 2021. How are the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few, or the one? We just marked the one-year anniversary of Covid 19 coming to the US shores. In the beginning, ads of “We’re All in This Together” blanketed the air waves. We were in shock to hear of stars Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson testing positive. Then came Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz positive test. Basketball was cancelled. Events like South by Southwest postponed.  

The CDC advised the Trump Administration in order to stop the spread, a nationwide shut down for 15 days would be best. It was then extended to 30 days.  Schools, restaurants, churches, gyms, and businesses one by one shut down. This was not only to just protect the needs of the many, but to keep the many alive.  

What we have seen from the beginning of Covid 19, is that this crisis has been anything but equitable. If you were famous or rich enough, you got tested. Despite a president telling us whoever wanted a test could get a test, it was not just extremely difficult but was downright impossible for me to get my daughter tested in the early days of Covid.

As spring turned to summer, mask wearing became a political statement, mainly driven by people who deemed the virus a hoax. Case numbers skyrocketed after each holiday. First, Memorial Day, followed by July 4th, then Labor Day saw Covid case numbers climb into hundreds of thousands testing positive daily. By Halloween and then Thanksgiving and into Christmas, the deaths also became mind-blowing. Over 3,000 people a day were dying. Why were so many needs of the many being overlooked by the needs of the few, or the one?

December finally gave hope. Vaccines became available. Moderna and Pfizer were first to get shots into arms. Again, that has turned into another haphazard display of inequality. Word of people going to other states to get ahead of the line to get a shot. People from Canada and Argentina were flying to Florida to take advantage of the state’s loose rules of who could get the Covid vaccine.

As this one-year anniversary turns into a second year of Covid 19, I cannot escape my own needs. I was one of millions of Americans who lost a job last year. Sales were down at my former company, and customers were having difficulty paying support contracts. Myself and five other of my team mates numbers were up. We were line items on a spreadsheet.  The needs of many shareholders outweighed the needs of employees, the few.

And now, after a year of being at home, our children are displaying stress with online school as opposed to being taught in person. According to a new study, in recent months alarming spikes in depression and anxiety among children and their parents has taken hold. Multiple studies have found that students — especially those with disabilities and from low-income families — are learning less than they should. As a parent with two remote learners, I have tried to protect my few, but wonder if I am causing them many harms?

Finally, February marked the seventeenth birthday of Facebook. I am not a fan of social media. I tried it in 2009 and lasted only 6 months and deleted my Twitter and Facebook accounts. In 2018 I decided to write a young adult novel. My husband recommended to me The Mountain of Authors conference. The keynote speaker stated we are not going to reach our readers, especially young adults, without a social media presence.

I launched my book in April 2020 and rejoined Facebook and Twitter. I also opened an Instagram account. I spent all summer posting pictures of family moments, joining writers groups, and catching up with family and friends. It was fine for me at first. Covid was keeping me from family and friends. But by the time the holidays approached, I noticed the longer I was on Facebook the more depressed I got.

Since the birth of my second child, I have had numerous bouts with depression. For people who are already prone to depression, even mild depression, spending time on social media can have serious consequences. I wished family and friends Happy New Year and then deleted Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from my devices. I did not close my accounts, just took them off my phone and iPad. Since January 7, I have looked at Twitter on my laptop a handful of times and have not posted or even looked at Facebook or Instagram in over a month.

I am not trying to bash social media. But one thing I think can be harmful is false sense of friends and followers that makes one feel good or bad about themselves. If I have ten friends, I need to get ten more. I have one thousand followers, I need ten thousand more. This feeds a constant loop of “engagement” which is built into social media applications. If nobody likes your post, not even bothering to push a like button, let alone leave a comment, is it no wonder that it can lead to depression or anger? The needs of the many, the advertisers, are also competing for your engagement, which crowds out the posts that you might have otherwise seen from the few, your family and friends. I have spent the first few weeks of 2021 reinventing myself to compete in the ultra-competitive field of Amazon Web Services (AWS). I hope by this summer to be back to work in a technology field.  I have a distractive personality, so setting a goal and sticking to it usually works to get me unstuck. I want to use the few hours in the day to pursue my many passions, reading, writing, blogging, and cooking. And maybe I can get really good at the one passion – writing.

Even Though…

Even though you were born on Christmas, you left us a few weeks before. You were a wife of 55 years, a mother for 52, a grandmother and even a great-grandmother. But 2020 said you were now due.

Even though you were my mom’s best friend, a business owner, a former substitute teacher, you are now singing in Heaven with Dave and your brothers Fermín and Pepé.

Even though heart disease has taken several of your family members, you were healthy. No high blood pressure, no diabetes, no high cholesterol.

Even though you spoke to Corky just a few days before, and reminisced about how you met, the trips you took together, the time you traveled to Las Vegas and crossed the desert at 30 miles per hour, unfortunately, days later a shocking phone call came, Domingo said you were gone. You were walking your dog, possibly a distracted driver? An investigation will be performed.

Even though it is Christmas, which was your birthday, it feels so hollow. So empty. But you are not forgotten. Corky put out the Nativity set you gave her years ago. An Our Lady of Guadalupe candle is burning in the Olemeda’s living room to light your journey home.

Even though you did not suffer long, you have slipped the bonds of this earth. You are dancing with angles. You are no longer here with us. But we will always have you in our thoughts and in our hearts. Good Bye, Emma.

The Substitutes

In the early days of the pandemic of 2020, we started experimenting with curbside grocery delivery. The first attempt was Walmart. I wanted to replenish some vitamins and eye drops. Within twenty minutes I was sent an email that my order was canceled. Why? I looked at the app on my phone. I had the button “No Substitutions” marked. A quick slide of the button to “Allow Substitutions” got my order back on track.

Over the spring, summer and now into the fall, we have got into the hang of ordering our Walgreens items through an app called Postmates. We have become seasoned “pros” on curbside pick-up through our local King Soopers. We have used Safeway and Walmart curbside as well.

We have become used to the substitutions that grocery workers use to fulfill our grocery orders. For example, one order I requested bananas and got avocados instead. My daughter used the avocados to make a great guacamole. We once asked for raspberries and were surprised to get strawberries. We don’t usually buy strawberries as our son is allergic. My daughter and I used those in our cereal and smoothies, careful not to expose our son. Recently, I wanted to make chicken wings as a nice treat for dinner and when we were putting away the groceries, noticed we got Italian meatballs instead. So, we had to change plans and make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.

Yes, this may sound trivial. Why do I just not go to the store myself and get what I am looking for? Well, I am high risk according to the CDC. I had a cornea transplant in my left eye when I was 20 years old. The CDC considers people who have had transplants in the high-risk category for contracting Covid 19. Also, my husband has severe allergies. He usually suffers from one or two sinus infections per year due to his allergies.  We try to keep our home environment as hypoallergenic as possible.

This year has been a year of substitutions. As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, we will do as the CDC guidelines suggest, and only have dinner for our immediate household.  My 84-year-old mom will only have dinner with my sister. Friends I have reached out to are doing the same as well, keeping their footprint smaller than usual.

It is not ideal but let us hope that the sacrifices we make today, will protect ourselves and our vulnerable friends, family, and neighbors. Hopefully, by this time next year we can gather more, have more in-person gatherings, instead of substitution Zoom and FaceTime meetings.


Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on

Recently I took our 16-year-old Alena to Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get her driver’s license. She passed her driver’s test at a local driving school here in Monument back on September 1. However, we had to make the in-person visit several weeks out due to Covid 19 restrictions. The big day finally came and me with my organized self, had a big folder in hand. Filled with her Social Security Card, her Birth Certificate, and 150 hours of driving logs (she was only required to do 50 hours), we stepped up to the window. Immediately we were foiled, as I was not the parent who took her to get her permit, we had to wait 45 minutes for my husband to come down to sign for her license. Needless to say, I was livid, but that is another ball of wax. As we waited, Alena said, “Mom, I thought it was over exaggerated in movies and cartoons how bad the DMV is. They aren’t kidding, it really is bad.”

As we waited for my husband Cedrick, we noticed a stream of individuals getting their license. One gentleman in particular was a Hispanic Millennial. He informed the DMV clerk that he recently left the Army and moved back here to Colorado. He was polite when he was asked questions, “Yes, Ma’am. No Ma’am. Where do I sign Ma’am?”

Eventually, he was asked the question, “Would you like to register to vote?” He paused and replied to the clerk. “I had this conversation with my father this morning. I feel I am not informed enough to vote. So no, I am not going to register to vote.”

The irony of his statement was not lost on me. He had a smart phone in his back pocket. Basically, a minicomputer at his fingertips. He can look up song lyrics, sports scores, who was the first man on the moon, all on that phone. With that phone, he has a plethora of information squarely in his hand. But voting information, is something he cannot look up?

Two more individuals came to the clerk’s window while we were waiting for Cedrick. This time two black men. Both men were under the age of 30, both declined to register to vote. My heart sank. Why did these young men all decline to register to vote? Do they not see the turmoil this country is in? We lose almost one thousand people per day to Covid 19. We have some of the most violent racial protests in fifty years. We have a climate that is trying hard daily to get our attention. Is there not one thing that these three men felt compelling enough to get them to vote?

I have had a few days to think of that visit to the DMV. Maybe we do not have enough information, but what if we have too much? In November 2016, I and my spouse got our first iPhones. One of the first things I did was turn off news notifications. I did not need to be reminded of the tumultuous election we just lived through. I took a six-month news break after the election. I took Hillary Clinton’s loss like loosing a friend, a loved one. I got my news from my husband or family members and the comedian Bill Maher. I started watching the news again when President Trump fired James Comey in May 2017.

We have all experienced burn out in media at some point in time. Each generation has their favorite way to consume media. For my generation, GenX, and Boomers, our preference is television, radio, on-line sites, magazines, and newspapers (yes, we still read newspapers). Millennial and GenZ’s are more prone to get news from social media. You may have read articles that say the longer people are on social media, the more their anxiety levels increase. I am not writing this to say social media is bad nor is it good. It just is what it is. I use it sparingly, like spice on a rack. I do not want it to overpower the recipe that is my life. I like to stay in touch with family and friends but look at more at reputable websites for my news.

If we did not have Covid 19 restrictions in Colorado right now, I would have gone up to those men. I would have told them that had until October 26 to register online; and they have right up to election day, Nov 3 to register in-person.

Information is power, and with information, you can control your own destiny, career, and money. Information gives you the power of decision making because of the knowledge you gain that will help in the decisions you can make.

Managing Change

As I approach my third month of unemployment, I looked down at my calendar for the week. I have kept myself busy with training classes offered by various Work Force Centers around Colorado. As part of me receiving unemployment, I have to look for at least five jobs per week. However, since Covid 19 has decimated the job market, Colorado Unemployment counts training as job searching.

In the beginning of August, I took the necessary classes: How to Write a Resume, How to Interview, How to Write a Cover Letter. I have not had to look for a job in over twenty years, so I brushed up on the new ways to tackle my resume, writing cover letters, setting up a LinkedIn account. I have now spent most of September brushing up on different areas such as How to Manage Change, Setting Goals, Working Within Your Budget and Self Care.

In the Manage Change class, the instructor told my Zoom Class, “What you are experiencing with your job loss is just that, it’s loss. You are going through the five stages of grief. You are experiencing denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually you will reach acceptance.” It took all of me to keep from crying in that meeting, but as I type these words, tears are rolling down my face.

The day I was laid off, July 1 was weird. My then boss read a script to me over the phone. He had to read that script five more times to other team members, some more senior then myself. On that day, six of us were let go due to lack of sales and support contracts being down over seventy percent. I told my family, “It makes sense, if companies can’t pay rent, they sure as hell can’t pay a support contract.” The next day, July 2, was my 23rd Anniversary. My spouse and I took the kids to my mom’s and ordered curbside Mexican food. That weekend was July 4th, so I had a good time with my family at my mom’s for a bar-b-que.

The next week, I went into clean-up mode. I was given a two-week notice. Even though I no longer had to help customers, I was paid until July 15. I used that time to clean out twelve years of email and back up my corporate issued laptop. I was still in denial mode that I was unemployed. Even packing up my laptop and Fedxing it back to my employer, it still was not “real” that I was unemployed at 54 years old. The anger hit when I was taking my daughter to a cross county practice. It was the end of July and I heard the U.S. weekly jobless claims number on the radio. For twenty weeks in a row, that number was still at 1 million jobless claims. I was now part of that statistic.

It is now the middle of September. I have had one “interview” with a consulting firm’s headhunter. What seemed like a good idea to “friend” her on LinkedIn turned into an hour-long call of her telling me about herself, why she left real estate to become a recruiter, etc. Long story short, I was not what their client was looking for and the headhunter used me for free therapy time. I am now accepting that my job search is going to take a while.

This year, 2020, started out with so much promise for a lot of us, has turned into a constant gut punch of wrenching heartaches, sorrows, blockages, betrayals and frustrations leaving us fearful, depressed and traumatized. I learned in my twenties that sometimes we are the change agents in our lives. We choose to quit a horrible job, we choose to leave a bad relationship, we choose to move to a new city. Other times change is thrust upon us, such as getting laid off, loosing a spouse, or having a baby. What I am learning now is that change sometimes appears like a roadblock. And it is going to take a different way of thinking and acting for me to get around it.