Adventures in Snowcalypse 2017

Let me set the stage by explaining that although I was born in New York, I celebrated my PR2first birthday in Puerto Rico and the following 28 as well. If you don’t know this, Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean, where snow is only seen on television. I did see snow before I moved to Atlanta. I think my most vivid memory of snow was when I was eight or nine. My brother lived in Maine by a lake. My mother and I went to ring the New Year with his family and there was snow, oh there was snow!

Anyway, fast forward to the present time, snow is a treat for me. In Georgia snows for a couple of hours and it quickly melts, but I get to see snow and even walk in it for a few minutes. Back in 2014, Atlanta had a “big” snowstorm. Now, you north snowbirds can stop laughing right now. It was big for us, so stop it! The city had a real meltdown. Cars were in the highways for days, people were stranded for hours, it was a total mess!

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve always been home when snow comes. I haven’t had to deal with traffic or other kinds of issues. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know how to drive in the snow, therefore I leave the deed to the professionals.

snow1Meteorology in Atlanta is a game of Russian roulette. They will tell you that it will rain, and you find yourself with a pretty sunny day. They tell you that it will be beautiful outside, and you get soaked. So, when I saw that the forecast was announcing snow mixed with rain, I figured I would see a few paper towel dust flurries, rain and move on. To my surprise it started snowing. I ran outside to take a video of it to make sure that I captured the few flurries that were to come.

An hour went by and it started snowing; really snowing. That’s when I realized this one was for real. (Again folks, stop laughing). I was working from home, so I opened all my windows wide and enjoyed the scenery while working.snow2

The first thing that should have clued me that this was not like other times, was that when my dog tried to go out for her morning bathroom break, she seemed to be ice skating on the deck. I told a friend that I was going to take my lunch break to go to the store and get a few things. He asked me if I was planning to walk to the store. (He’s a comedian) When I stopped laughing, he asked me if my car was a four-wheel drive, that was a no as well. He recommended that I stay home unless it was an emergency; and it wasn’t.  After work, because I’m a big girl, I got bundled up and decided that if I drove very slow I could make it to the store, get my wants (because there were no needs) and come back. I opened the garage door and proceeded to try to get the car out.

I must clarify that even my realtor and his lovely wife described my driveway as a launching pad because it’s a steep hill. I finally got the car out of the garage and it started sliding in the ice, not something I’m used to. I have very good news, the breaks on my car are perfectly fine. I, still stubborn, tried to get the car a little lower on the driveway. The car was still dancing in the snow3ice. This is where a little bit of anxiety kicked in, forget the store, will I be able to get the car back up? I opened the garage door that was now closed. Between the gas pedal and my very good breaks, I was able to get the car back up the hill. I closed the garage door and said to myself, “You know what? I really didn’t want hot cocoa after all, what I really want is some tea and I have plenty inside”

A few hours later, looking out my kitchen window, the neighbor’s kids were building a snowman. I smiled and contemplated the idea of making a snowman until I remembered that required getting dressed and being out in the cold. I decided that watching the kids do it was more enjoyable at this point.

Finally, I woke up this morning with snow still falling hard. It is beautiful to see all the white fresh fallen snow on my yard and the streets. I’m writing this from my bed, my dog is curled up in her bed snoring. This is how snow days should be spent.

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I still pray for those who lost power and those who’ve had no choice but to be out on the streets.

Ok, laugh now as much as you want! 🙂

Stay safe and warm

Naty

 

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Ending of the new beginning

NaNo-2017-Winner-Badge

Today is the last day for NaNoWriMo and I can count myself a winner. It’s a thrilling feeling, as I had paused my writing for longer than I expected. I’m also excited about feeling fulfilled like I do when I write a good story.

I have to admit that I’m not thrilled with “ Christmas in London”, my NaNo novel. I guess it will take a lot of rewrites. I know stories have lives of it’s own, but this one really went left from what I had planned.

Today I also started my writing course. It will take me about a year to complete. This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but never thought I could. In a leap of faith and a friend who found the course, I’m really excited to be able to improve the talents that God gave me.

My first class is on short stories, which is ironically how I started my public writing career. I published the short story “The Janitor” as part of an anthology. The story of a troubled man seeking answers, stops at a local church. There he meets the church’s janitor who has some very wise words for him.

My favorite short story, which I’ve only publish within a writer’s website it’s “ Waffles and Coffee”. This is the story of a Christian family that loses perspective of life and each other because they’re lost in their routines and ministry commitments. They learn that the simple things in life can mean more than grand gestures. They also learned that those small gestures are what keep relationships healthy.

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As part of my course I’m reading “ Schaum’s Quick Guide to Writing Great Short Stories” by Margaret Lucke. The first few pages were things that I already knew, but as I keep reading I’m getting more intrigued about the content. It’s going to be a good ride.

Share with me what new journey  you are about to embark, even if you have not made any steps towards it. Remember, everything starts with an idea.  (Yes, I got that from the book !)

Before I go, Happy Anniversary to The Rising Muse. On and off we’ve been at this for 8 years and God willing many more ahead.

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Until next time,

Be blessed.

Naty

Perspective: Dallas Shooting

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I was on the phone with my mother, with the news on the background, when they started talking about the Dallas shooting. It was a confusing situation. During a protest by Black Lives Matter and other organizations, a shooting broke out. 12 people were shot, 5 of them died the rest wounded. 11 of them were police officers and 1 civilian.

This was a significant incident given that the protest was against police brutality and the target of this shootings was the police. At the beginning it was thought that there were multiple shooters, but at the end it was found that it was just one well trained one.

You can find bad apples in every bucket, that doesn’t mean that all the apples in the bucket are rotten. I can remember every interaction with the police that I’ve had. I don’t have a particular bad experience to recount. But I know that’s not everyone’s experience. I have been stopped for no reason to ask for my identification, but it has never developed into a situation. They take the information, they verify and I go my merry way.  So I can’t relate to those who have had bad experiences, but I do know that they happen and they are real.

However, the majority of police officers go into this line of work for one reason, and one reason only: to serve. Every day and night they risk their lives to ensure a safe society. Do they need better training? Yes. Do they need better pay? Yes. Are there some that shouldn’t be on the force? Yes. But just like we don’t want racial, socieconomical and gender generalizations, we shouldn’t do it for the brothers in blue.

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The story that really encompassed what happened that night was told by one of the protesters. He recounts that he was running when he heard the shots. A police officer pushed him out of the way to safety. At that same moment that cop was shot and was one of the casualties. John 15:13 tells us “
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” That’s exactly what this officer did and many do every day.

It’s ok to make callouts to justice. It’s not only proper, but a legal right. But we should hold accountable those bad apples instead of harming all the good apples that are working very hard for us.

Food for thought.

Perspective: Philando Castile

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I was listening to the news while watching my twitter feed. Someone posted the link to Diamond Reynolds live stream. She had ended the stream probably 30 minutes prior. This video is very raw and disturbing. Philando Castile, his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her 4-year-old were detained by police, and during that traffic stop Philando was shot by the police. Diamond starts live streaming the situation on Facebook. She’s asked to get out of the car, handcuffed and placed in the back of the police car. I watched this video holding my chest in disbelief until her daughter tells her “It’s OK mom, I’m here with you”. I totally lost it. I could not stop crying.

At that point I figured that Philando was on his way to the hospital, so I started praying for the Lord to be with him. I kept trying to find updates online to see if he had made it. It was a long night. At some point I fell asleep of exhaustion. A few hours later, I woke up looking for an update. Philando was dead. But there was a new concern, nobody knew where Diamond and her daughter were once taken into police custody.

The phone number for the Police Department was blasted all over social media. People from everywhere were calling inquiring about her. It was a moment of unity. I had several conversations with people on social media trying to create a line of communication updating each other on any new piece of information we could find. From the pictures on their twitter profiles, there were people from every background trying to make sure that Diamond and her daughter were OK. Total strangers for one moment united looking out for the well-being of one of us, another human being.  We need to extend those moments. At some point, in the morning, a friend of hers posted on Facebook that she had been found and we all breathed a little easier.

When I was a child, we used to place firecrackers on our neighbors fences. We would open the little string and take some of the powder off to act as a timer. The idea was that when the firecracker went off we would not be there, so we wouldn’t be found as the culprit. I think this firecracker had been lit for a while and this incident was the one that finally blew it.

I’ve tried to place myself in this woman’s shoes and I don’t know what my reaction would have been. I think that my reaction would have been to tender to him and that could have resulted in my own demise.  I don’t think I would have had the presence of mind to get my phone and start recording.

From everyone who knew Philando, that has spoken, he was a great guy. He worked at a Montessori school in the cafeteria. They say that he was a role model to the kids and well loved. It sounds like his passing was a true loss to the community.

philando kids

My biggest heartache is that child. That baby could have been shot in the crossfire. That baby can’t unsee what she saw. We don’t know how this will affect her in the future. If this was an intense experience for people watching the video, can you imagine what this does to the young mind of a 4-year-old?

Different things have been brought up. The ones that have been confirmed are that he didn’t have a criminal record, but tons of traffic related violations. He did have a gun and a permit for it. There has been the speculation that he didn’t have a permit because none were found in his county of residence. Apparently he obtained it in a different county. At the end of the day none of this matters, he didn’t deserve to die.

As I said yesterday, aside from the child, the eagerness to find something to say negative about him has been appalling. The attempt to justify that his life somehow was not important. I think as human beings we need to recognize that those feelings don’t come from godly places.

This one is a complicated one, there’s so many things that went wrong in the heat of emotions. Listing them is not important, but creating consciousness of what matters now.

We need to stop devaluing life. We are our brother’s keeper. We need to keep reminding ourselves that our brother and sister is Every. Single. Person around us. We all get hungry. We all get sad. We all get sick. Our blood is red for all. And it was with blood that we were bought. Blood was the prize that Jesus paid for our redemption. When things like this happen we need to embrace each other.

peaceRemember that regardless of the circumstances, there are immediately two families destroyed that had NOTHING to do with the incident; the shooter’s family and the family of the one who was shot. Let cool heads prevail. Let’s pray for the families that are going through the worst time of their lives. Let’s embrace each other instead of fighting each other over the smallest detail. It’s time to mourn together as the human race, because we have lost plenty in the last few days.

Be blessed.

Perspective: Alton Sterling

As promised this is my first post on my perspective series. I’m trying not only to voice some of my feelings, but also some of my concerns with the current events in our country. I’m going to try to do this in the chronological order of the events.

The first incident (this time) was the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA. A homeless man called 911 stating that Mr.Sterling had threatened him with a gun. The police came to check the situation and he was shot to death during the exchange.

I became aware of this incident by the time the second video came out. That second video was the first one I saw.  Without more details I couldn’t understand why this man was shot. In the video that I saw, I saw him pinned to the ground by two police officers. One policeman had his legs, the other one was pointing a gun to his head and all of the sudden he received multiple shots to his chest. I know some people say that he was moving his hand, that his hand was moving towards the cop’s gun or could have been interpreted that he was going for the gun that he had in his possession. I don’t argue with what others saw. I didn’t’ see that. But that’s not for me to determined. The justice system is working on that and more details will come and provide more insight on this issue.

What hurts my heart about this incident has been the anger and reaction towards Mr. Sterling as a person. Comments like “he’s not an angel” and “he’s a sex offender” are thrown as if he deserved to die. From my perspective a lie and a murder are equal in the eyes of God. So any sin that I’ve committed in my life is not better or worse than any shortcomings that Mr. Sterling could have.  In moments like this we need to remember Romans 3:23

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I don’t know if the death penalty is legal in the state of Louisiana, but to my knowledge there are no sexual offenses that qualify for the death penalty legally speaking. Even, if so, as a society we have a process, a justice system that includes several steps to determine such things.

Mr. Sterling was a registered sex offender. He spent 4 years in jail for his offense. If you stop right here, you have already painted a picture of this man. But then you hear what the “victim” of his offense had to say; things are not so black and white. The mother of his son went on television to explain that she was in a relationship with Alton Sterling when she was 15 years old. Alton Sterling was 19-20 years old at the time. In the process of their relationship she became pregnant therefore he was accused of statutory rape and registered as a sex offender. I think in perspective the picture changes. The same lady stated that he was a good and present father for all his five kids and had a decent relationship with the mothers of his children.

Alton Sterling owed money for child support. If you stop right here, you can assume that he was irresponsible. Our reality as a society is that most convicts pay the consequences of their transgressions for a lifetime. Once they come out of jail, it is very hard for them to find a stable job due to their criminal record. So even when they have paid their debt to society, we continue to punish them beyond the term that the law saw fit for their punishment. Even with an education, it would have been very hard for him to find a well-paying job that could provide appropriately for his family. I’m not sure that he would qualify for a license to open his own business due to the same reasons.

The encounter with the police was not related to any of his past transgressions. When we say “but he did, but he was” we are providing a justification for his death. We are telling ourselves that it’s OK for him to not be alive because he wasn’t up to whatever standard we have placed on him and that’s not OK.

I saw his oldest son sobbing on television. It was a very sad thing. That son is 15 years. He and his siblings will not have a father to grow up with. Regardless of any past or current actions of Alton Sterling, he was a human being. He was a father, a son and a friend.

My prayer is that the community gathers around his family not only for support during this time of mourning, but for the kids in the future. My hope and prayer is that those around those kids step up to be inspirational figures so that they can become productive citizens.

Most of all, I want to make sure that we stop to think that a human being is dead and that a family is in mourning.

Blessings.

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I want to stress that my writings are my own. Those are my opinions, views and perspective and they do not reflect the views of my employers or any organization that I belong to. I also plan to not censor comments on these posts. I really never do, but I do require pre-authorization because I do not allow profanity, hate speech, or insults to me or other posters. Any comment with that content will be deleted. Disagreements in a civil way are more than welcome.

Perspective

For the last couple of months I’ve been silent. I know I’ve told most of my readers that I’m working on getting back to writing, but that I’ve been reading for a while, which is true. Something has changed in me. It’s not the desire to write, but somehow I can’t get butt in chair to get it going.  The events of the last few months have really troubled me and I’ve still been quiet, not out of not wanting to ruffle feathers or concerned with opinions. Those who know me know that I can speak my mind. I just couldn’t do it.

I think I’ve grown. When I started writing seriously back in 2008, I said that part of the reason I was starting this blog was to share my perspective on things. I wanted to share the truths that God had revealed in my life. The things I’ve learned.  I did so nonstop for several years. I also wrote some pieces of fiction that you have enjoyed and I did too. Ministry called me to work and my time to sit and write was not there, so I entered into a semi hiatus in which I reached out to check on all of you from time to time.  Once that season was over, I couldn’t get back in rhythm and I think it was because I was trying to force myself to go back to finish those fiction projects that I have not yet completed.

This morning I woke up with a heart full. I’m full from all the events of the last days. I want to write about it. I want to write about my pain and my heart for what’s going on. When I started writing fiction it was in part because there were certain events in my life that I wanted to share on an indirect level. Every author tends to do that. But I know that when I’m most passionate is when I speak from my heart. So to my novel lovers, they will come…but for a while I think I need to stick to my blog and some nonfiction ideas that are burning in my heart.

I’m going to start a series called Perspective: In this series I’m going to talk specific about : Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Dallas Police Shooting, Racial Bias, Election 2016, Social Media in Current Events  and other topics as they come along. Yes they are hot topics, but these are conversations that need to happen.

Expect the first one of these later today.

I want to stress that my writings are my own. Those are my opinions, views and perspective and they do not reflect the views of my employers or any organization that I belong to. I also plan to not censor comments on these posts. I really never do, but I do require pre-authorization because I do not allow profanity, hate speech, or insults to me or other posters. Any comment with that content will be deleted. Disagreements in a civil way are more than welcome.

 

Let’s get the conversation started.

Simplicity

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Last summer I had to move. My 9-5 was relocating, my lease was becoming not affordable and I just needed a change. Before I moved into that apartment, I use to live in a town house. I had to get rid of a lot of things coming from a town house to a 2-bedroom apartment. This time I decided to move into a 1-bedroom apartment. I made that decision purposely. Again, I had to get rid of a lot of stuff. Guess what? I still have a lot of stuff.

The reason for the downsize was that I wanted live a simple life. I still look at houses in real estate websites that are gorgeous. At the end I always asked myself, who’s going to clean all that?

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As time goes by, I’ve been trying to prioritize my life. What’s the point of having my closets filled with things that I never use? What’s the point of having all these things around to have more to clean? In return I can have more time for more important things. I can have more time to write, to read, to exercise, to pray and most important to rest.

Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

When our focus is in getting more stuff and not in our live purpose, we are practicing a way of idolatry.

I haven’t just worked on simplifying my surroundings. I’m working on simplifying every aspect of my life. My schedule, the things I eat, the company I keep. Life is complicated enough without us trying to do more than what we’re called to do.

Simplifying our life will help us have more time for more important thing, and probably more resources to accomplish our goals.

Thbd8f307411d23d6481031f5d786380c0e Lord has not asked us to hoard treasures on earth, but to store them in heaven. Now I’m sure that none of the treasures that he was talking about can be found at your preferred department store or at the mall. That scripture in Matthew also says that where our treasures are, so is our heart. It’s our heart in the things that the world craves or in the simple things the Lord has created for us.

Is out lifestyle living by: Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

 

Have a great week!