Writings of Saint Lucia, Ghana and life in general. A Peace Corps Volunteer in St. Lucia, visiting faculty in Ghana and grandma for life.
This is a look back at the details of my travels and a document for my grandchildren. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.
This blog does not express views of U.S. Peace Corps, Webster University, my family, dog or any institutions named or linked to these pages. It's life observation as I interpret it.
John and I
are sitting on the couch listening to music, talking and generally enjoying the
soft breeze through the screen door.It’s June 1971.I heard someone
knocking on the door and got up to find a woman with my cat, Rover, in her
arms.“Is this your cat?”
week before we were living in a duplex in Inglewood.It was a small one bedroom near Inglewood
Avenue and Lennox Boulevard.It was
directly under the LAX flight pattern.I
could almost see the people in the windows of the planes.I had enough.John left for work and I opened the Daily Breeze to find a place to live
far from the sounds of jet engines and the smell of fuel.That night he came home and witnessed me
packing. “What are you doing?”He looked
confused. We had only been married six months and he obviously misread what he saw.I announced we were moving to Torrance.“Torrance!Why there?”John was less than
happy but followed my lead, relieved that he was coming too.We moved into a small two bedroom house with
two houses, side by side in the backyard.We laughed about this years later and always said it was the best
decision we could have made.
introduced herself, “Hi, my name is Leslie.I live behind you in one of the houses.Your cat came over to my house.She’s really friendly”.That is
how I met Leslie forty-six years ago.A
few months later Judy moved into the other back house and now we were three.Judy died in 2008 (the link to that blog post can be found by clicking on "Judy".And we have been two since then.
married Dennis a short time later.The
marriage was volatile and lasted only five years.Judy was living with her boyfriend; a
situation that was crazy and short lived also.We were all broke and many nights scrapped up enough money to buy food
for a communal dinner, we picked vegetables from our common garden, and always
carried a tab at Bennies, our neighborhood market.On warm nights we brought Leslie’s television
out onto the porch and watched it while sitting on lawn chairs.
Leslie or I worked.Judy, always
employed, was the more responsible one.We spent many days playing cards, riding bikes and just hanging out in
the yard.It was a very happy and carefree
time in our lives.
many couples have the same happy memories of those first years together.I remember my mother reminiscing about the
days when she and my dad first married and their struggle while he was going
through college.They were broke, living
in a Quonset Hut in Tucson, but mom described it as their happiest days.
When I had
my first son, Jay, he was premature.I
brought him home at a couple months old.He was small and fragile.We
had to wake him every two hours to eat and it would take him an hour to finish the 2 ounces in his bottle.We were exhausted.We set the alarm and put it in the kitchen so
we had to get up.Many nights Leslie
would come in through the back door before the alarm would go off and feed him,
then reset the alarm for us.He was so
tiny there were no clothes in the stores for him.Leslie retrieved her crochet needles and made
sure he had clothes that fit him.
did a search through my emails to read her words.I read her funny stories which reminded me of
her crazy sense of humor.I read about
the pride she had in her daughter. I read about her love for her new son-in-law.
read through our plans to meet at my cabin and all the food she and her
husband, Ron, would be bringing. Could she bring her 160 pound Rottwieler? Yes of course Leslie. There
were many emails that started with “I just thought of you today when” and then
a situation was described.These email
threads demonstrated the commitment to a very old friendship.In 2015, I wrote a short email to her
complaining about how people were treating Muslims.I found it unfair and wondered how so many
people could be misguided.She was the
friend who had never lost her 60’s values, her sense of inclusion, and my connection.She wrote back, “What you envision you
create.Hold a better vision.That’s our job.To create a better place.“That short reply was exactly what I needed to
hear. True to this philosophy was her ability to take care of others in need. When a young girl needed a home, Jenny was adopted and is family.
Over the years there were camping trips, a trip to Washington to visit her brother and sister-in-law, Michael and Ann and stays at my cabin in the mountains.
returned from two years abroad in the Peace Corps, the world I left remained,
but I changed.During those years, I
reentered my roots and remembered what was important.I had two years to reflect on what I had
become.Working in a corporate
environment, taking care of my family, and masking my identity had taken a toll
on my soul.When I returned I felt I
didn’t fit into my old life anymore….but there was Leslie.My old friend, who got me, who understood
the values that we lived and are central to being.
I lived in far different worlds but managed to stay connected on a spiritual
level.I often didn’t understand her
world and she often didn’t understand mine.But what we did have was basic values that created a bonding philosophy
about life.That philosophy was formed
during the time Judy, Leslie and I lived in those three tiny houses on Border
As I write
this, Leslie is living her final hours.How can I describe losing a friend of forty five years?I can’t.And so, as I write this piece and reflect on our lifetime, I am acutely
aware that shortly, there will be one.I
love you my dear friend.
Making an exit is a process.I
am focused. I whisper to my granddaughters, “I’m leaving now”.Ava looks at me with an understanding gaze.
I am careful when picking up my keys from the crystal bowl on the
table.I ensure there is no noise.This is an art.Slowly I open the back door so no creeping
could be heard. Success!! My focused attention to all the
I successfully sneak out of the house without Barkley, my precious
toy poodle becoming aware that he must stay home this time. I hate looking at
his pathetic begging expression when he will be left behind.He has a way to multiply my guilt ten-fold.
As I drive away while opening my purse to ensure my drivers license is
at hand. I need to show it at the gate. Once I couldn’t find my
license.It isn’t a good idea to drive
onto a military base and tell the military police you have no driver’s license
to show.Take my word for it.It can get ugly.
Twenty minutes later, I am at the Air Force Base, presenting my
identification.I drive through the gate
and park my car. I arrive as usual;
about ten minutes before class starts. Ten minutes is plenty of time to talk to
the university staff, pick up materials and effortlessly facilitate tonight’s
subject “Bounded Awareness”. Bounded Awareness is the failure to see and
use information and resources that are readily available. We experience
this when becoming narrowly focused.Failure to take the complete environment into consideration can result
I reach in the back seat to grab my bag filled with books, notes and
video material for the night. I spent a few hours this week reviewing the
material and making sure I’m up to date on any changes that might have taken
place on this subject in the past year. I am totally prepared to deliver
this material and marvel at my creative ability to find the perfect video from
a National Geographic Series “The Brain Game”. It features a twenty minute piece on
Inattention Blindness, which effortlessly connects to Bounded Awareness.
To my horror I realize I left the bag at home!
I was so focused on making sure my dog didn’t see me leave that I forgot
all my materials.I am caught up in a self-imposed
drama of Bounded Awareness! I call my son to rescue me. I run into
the building and bolt up the stairs.I
quickly write a note on the white board indicating class will start 1/2 hour late.
I run out to the gate to wait for Brendan.
The military police are understanding allowing Brendan to drive onto the
base and drop me off at the door rather than have me walk the 10 minutes or so
to get to my classroom.As I walk into
the classroom, I realize there is a happy ending to this drama. I have a fresh
story to demonstrate the concept of Bounded Awareness.
Words in a James Taylor song ring
true at unexpected times my life …”Lord knows when the cold wind blows, it will
turn your head around”. Today was one of
those days. I woke to a cold
morning. An uncommon cold snap has
crossed the city. Laying on my king
sized bed and under the warmth of my down comforter I procrastinate, just
briefly, to start my day. This is a
morning easily given into. It would be
so simple to turn on the TV and just call it a “me” day.
“Come on Barkley, it’s time to get
up”, I gently coax my perfectly groomed toy poodle.He too is enjoying the warmth of the
comforter.He yawned, looked up and
then realized it was time for his pills and breakfast.I carefully wrap each of his morning pills in
roast beef I buy from the deli.I pay a
premium for his roast beef but it is only a fraction of the $150 per month his
medication costs, coupled with his grooming appointments, pet insurance, teeth brushing and routine checks at
the veterinarian, he is a well cared for friend.
Today is Monday, the day I
volunteer in my granddaughter Mia’s classroom.I rush to get ready, pound a cup of freshly brewed coffee and quickly
leave through the backdoor and into the garage.As I start the car opening the automatic garage door, it is a day like
any other.I am looking forward to
working with a room full of five-year-old children.Their new fresh lives energize me.I quickly turn on the heat and begin my
I turn onto Carson Boulevard where
small businesses line the streets in between fast-food restaurants and gas stations.Just down the road is a large county
hospital.This is the facility where
people go when they cannot afford insurance; the facility where alcohol and
drug overdoses are common; where victims of violence are treated and the
facility where people are forced to enter when they won’t take their
Red lights are flashing from the
lone police car at the side of the road.Two police officers and a handful
of bystanders are standing on the sidewalk looking down at the doorway to one
of the businesses.A whitesheet is covering a newly discovered
statistic.Homeless people sleep in
I wonder what is under the sheet .
. . a man, a woman?This was someone’s
child.It could have been someone’s
mother or father. What were her hopes and dreams?I wonder if a significant event
triggered this life or could it have been a chosen life or even a life destined
and driven by DNA.It appears to be a
torturous life to me – but was it to him?Did he talk to himself in a mean and chastised way or had she reconciled
to her self-imposed normal? Was it self-imposed? Was he cold as he lay
there dying?Did anyone pass without
I reflect on my previous night of comfort around those that I love and am loved by. I am instantly saddened by the unanswered questions that create an image under the sheet that lay inside the cold doorway.
I watch the bystanders and the
police officers standing around…waiting for the truck that will haul away the
remnants of what is left.Are they
hardened?Do they care?Is there judgment?Is this just a morning nuisance? Or, are they too saddened and reflective? Maybe I should have started this post with
John Lennon’s “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”. There are so many questions that come to mind as I watch this scene.
I arrive at Mia's classroom and watch the fresh new curious faces and can't help continuing the reflection of the morning scene.
is the life most don’t want to see…the life many deny but is ever-present in every
community. I know.