The Magic of Our Elders

spent the most time together where I was her companion after my father died in 1968. I can remember wonderful experiences including trips to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City where she would dress me up formally and teach me about the elegance of opera. At 8 years old, I felt really special. She loved history and exposed me to many historic places on the East Coast. As I grew into an adult, I chose my own paths which were not always what she wanted for me yet I broke through her heavy grip and created my own life. We had many disagreements but always came back with much respect and love for each other.

Now that my mom is entering early stages of dementia, there are times she is becoming the child and I the parent. I never get mad at her for asking the same questions. She can’t really tell that she has asked them over and over again because I answer them just as gently the first time as I do the 10th time. When she apologizes that she has to ask me something my answer is the same, “Ma, you had to remember a lot for the 5 of us throughout 91 years, now it’s our turn to remember for you.” She smiles and her eyes light up with reassurance that all is okay. Though her memory is decreasing, her voice is still as crisp as when she was 51.

When my grandmother was 90, her body was wearing out and her mind still sharp. Nanny could rarely leave the house so we all came to her. All 5 of us were working in stressful careers, raising families, 2 of us lived in Baltimore and 1 commuted in and out of New York every day. None of that mattered, we all visited Nanny on a regular basis. We all loved sitting with her, hearing old stories and she loved catching up with everything we were doing. When she began to forget things, we would tease her and her comeback was “I was just testing you to make sure YOU remembered!!” Those moments were precious. I distinctly remember looking deeply into my Nan’s eyes to see her pretty chocolate brown eye during one of those visits and I am so grateful because I always have that memory of her eyes smiling back at mine.

I do this now with my mom. She tells me stories of her youth and times with my father. Fortunately, with an iPhone, I use an app called Momento to dictate the story so I don’t forget our history!! She lets me cook meals for her now and that is such a joy because she would always want to cook. Each meal is lovingly devoured and always ending with a dish of ice cream or a sweet. We still love to have tea in the afternoon as we did when I was growing up. We sit together on the side of her bed and I scratch her back before I tuck her in for the night. It’s sweet.

Mom, laughs at herself now that her life has changed as well as I see her anger when she can’t do
things for herself that she did a year ago. What she loves most is having us all close by. Now that our 5 brothers and sisters has changed to 3, my brother, sister and I make it work to give my mom her wish to stay in her home until her last breath. We love giving to her, and getting her out for rides or a visit. My wish is that the younger generation makes time for her the way we did for Nanny. There are too many distractions out there that have people think there is not enough time but there is. Our elders are our history, and still give us wisdom. They want to be valued, they want to be heard and they want to be seen.
There are many seniors out there sitting in nursing homes or at home with no one to share conversation with or no one to hug. We know that will never be the case with our mom just as it was with Nanny. Conversations keep her mind sharp and the stimulation of visits energizes her soul. As I see her age and know her time with us is limited, I know that this is still the same person who shielded me from harm, made me do my homework, clapped for me at graduations and painted my townhouse after I left for work.
I am grateful for each moment with my Mom and blessed by the magic she gives to me every day.

Betsy Cerulo
CEO, AdNet/AccountNet, Inc.

Baltimore’s Real Marathon

In one week our city has changed and it will continue to change. It’s sad that it took such unrest for people to be heard and the beginning of justice to be served. Over the past week hundreds and thousands of people have jumped in to clean up after the riots and begin our rebuilding process. It has been incredible to see everyone contribute in the simplest ways from sweeping the debris, loading/unloading trucks of supplies for families in need to peacefully walking the streets in solidarity. The curfew has been lifted and for most parts of the city the regular routines have been restored.

Now we must keep a very important question in mind. Do we really want to “restore” Baltimore to the way it was pre-riots? This is our opportunity for change and putting the necessary checks and balance in place to protect each other and the police. Everyone could have acted differently…..everyone!!!! And what I wish is that true accountability comes out of the journey Baltimore is about to embark on via the legal and political system.

Soon the brooms, shovels and supply trucks will leave Baltimore and as long as it’s quiet, the media and the rest of the world will assume that everything has calmed down. Let’s hope the national media leave us all alone. I applaud our local media reporters who did a magnificent job with “real” coverage while displaying such vulnerability, courage and sensitivity. Get lost Geraldo Rivera…..you don’t need to come back to our City!!!

Until we achieve fairness, Baltimore will continue to hurt as well as every other city across the country faced with systematic discrimination and oppression. This will take a long time to heal and repair a much broken system. The marathon has truly begun!! As they say “slow and steady wins the race” and this will be our time to proudly declare to the country that Baltimore leads the way for change! We WILL have justice and I am certain that Marilyn Mosbey will do everything in her power to make sure that the correct facts are presented.

Outside the courthouse is where our real marathon will be run. We need to come together as a collective community to mentor the youth in Baltimore City, give them places to play/create/dream and show them that what they dream can accomplish. We must surround the small business community who lost businesses and guide them back to business. Let’s not allow them to board up the store and give up. This is when we will stand together with resolve and come back stronger. We must give, we must teach and we must NEVER GIVE UP!!!

PEACE BY PEACE - BALTIMORE

I was driving home from an appointment to find myself in the midst of traffic backups near Mondawmin Mall, the initial site of this week’s riots. As soon as I saw the police officers in their riot gear while traffic was being redirected, I knew this was serious. When I arrived home, I ran inside, turned on the news and saw my city being besieged with looting, fires and extreme violence. My heart broke and is deeply heavy today. I don’t want to be sitting here writing a blog, I want to be on the streets cleaning up the destruction left behind. I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with my peers and cry together as we try to make sense of these events. I want to join them to help restore their peace and security!

I want…I want……………

I really want for the Mayor to severely punish the police officers who caused the death of Freddie Gray. When I see social media postings say that “isn't this the type of person we want off the streets?” I shake my head with disgust and wonder how could any human being be okay that this man was treated like an animal!? He is someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s loved one.

We treated Bernie Maddoff with far more respect and dignity. That gluttonous predator destroyed so many hard working families. Some well-intentioned people trusted their meager savings with Maddof, while he pranced around the globe playing rich with all of our money. And that creep gets to live in a low security prison?? Maddoff is a murderer. He killed the dreams of people, and his hands are stained with the blood of his own son, who committed suicide because of humiliation and financial ruin. Freddie Gray was not a murderer yet he was treated as a low life piece of garbage.

I am …I am……………

I am angry and pissed off completely that Baltimore has become a city of extreme poverty and wealth where people are constantly being left behind. It has been a pressure cooker where people are screaming for help. Good hard working people scrape by on the disgusting and impalpable minimum wage while politicians turn a deaf ear to all of this. Someday you will be judged for your inflated egos, your greed and your narcissist need for power. You have taken away from our kids who need places to learn, to find mentors and to discover their dreams.

I say…I say……………I say, NO MORE!!

To channel my sadness and anger, I will give back, I will join together for prayer and clean-up and whatever else can be created to bring hope back to our city. PEACE BY PEACE we will rise above the ashes and resurrect stronger.

Digital Depression

Digital Depression

I am reading Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard. The author devotes a great deal of time towards our society’s fixation with being connected. His words are a gentle reminder to disconnect. Think about how we are behaving in the world now when it comes to everything digital:

We have our cell phones on 24/7
We are notified every time someone blows their nose on social media (at least that’s what it is almost reduced to)
We and our children are holding a Smartphone, tablet or have earphones connected to our heads where we can’t even hear when a loved one is speaking
We respond to emails at all hours and at all places
Are we crazy to think that the constant tap tap tap or “swiping/clicking” as Burchard writes does not cause a negative mental state? Many times when I look on Facebook I see very negative commentary or inappropriate rants. I have started to “un-friend” the folks who continuously post stuff that is toxic or pretentious. I don’t need to see it! I have logged out of Facebook on all of my devices because I don’t need one more nudge of something being posted. I’ll check it when I choose or if I choose.

The whole texting concept still has me baffled. I can see getting to someone quickly or it’s a short communication once in a while but when texting replaces full blown conversations, I can’t get my head around the wisdom of the interaction. I was guilty of that but I have since stopped or told the other person to call me if they want to talk further. When I have opted to call the other person and get a voicemail when I know they just had the phone in their hand ½ a second ago, it confirms the craziness of texting or perhaps the “cowardness” of texting. The device started to get more attention than my wife and it keeps my head down. I want to keep my head up to enjoy life. People don’t talk anymore and I just don’t get it. Since I have changed my own relationship with my cell phone I am feeling much more energized and relaxed. Our eyes never get a rest from manufactured light and again it is such a waste of precious life.

I have also learned that I don’t have to respond to an email in the same second it was sent unless it’s an urgent need. It is normal to take time to prepare a response or even pick up the phone to engage in live conversation depending on the nature of the email. It is absolutely crazy when people continuously hide behind email rather than picking up the phone. When I hear that people break up over email or text, I shake my head in the craziness of it all.

We have to rethink our relationship with the digital world because it IS very valuable AND it has caused a lot of hardship when not used responsibly. Sometimes words in an email or text are taken out of context thus causing undesirable outcomes. Maybe a phone call would have produced an easier resolution. For whatever reason we have disconnected from humanity and connected to digital demons as a way of life. STOP IT!!!

I hear and read about more negative feelings about digital interactions which lead to sadness or anger and typically ends in a form of depression. I encourage the younger generation not to compare yourself with what you see over Social Media. You are far more beautiful than that both inside and out!! So what will it take for us to communicate in a simpler manner? Put the digital devices down for a while and set some boundaries for yourself. You may find that there is much more time freed up to enjoy life, to love, to play and just to be. Sounds blissful to me!!!

A Small Question Can Go a Long Way

When we spend most of our waking hours in a workplace, one would think that we would pay attention to every aspect around us. More often than not, if someone is quiet, introverted or keeps to themselves, they are not given much attention. We tend to pay attention to the extroverts, the ones who are the life of the party or even the bullies. We ignore or make assumptions that the quiet ones are different, weird or odd. Who are we to make those negative assumptions? Yet it happens all the time.

What about the funny folks who start to change behaviors, maybe start coming in late or don’t seem themselves? Do we engage or do we keep distant thinking that this will pass. Again, we assume something is wrong or that they are “screwed up”. Maybe if we took a few minutes to simply ask “how are you?” and be willing to stop long enough to really listen to what they have to say, it may be an opportunity for that person to reveal something that is heavy on their heart.

I know sometimes we don’t want to engage too deeply because “we don’t want to get involved”. Considering that this simple question might save someone’s life, wouldn't you ask it? I recall a story of a college graduate who was giving his valedictorian speech and acknowledged a friend for helping him on a particular Friday with a towering stack of books. The boy was planning to commit suicide over the weekend and didn't want his mom to experience the sadness of cleaning out his locker. On the way home, a classmate took the time to talk with him and carry his books home. That simple act of kindness had the depressed boy see his life differently in that moment. A life was saved, the friendship blossomed and an amazing young boy grew into a successful man.

When Robin Williams committed suicide, the world was shocked. I was shocked. How could this amazing comedian who appeared to have it all, take his own life? We grasped for answers, we mourned with his family and the issue of depression was getting closer to home. Last month a Germanwings pilot deliberately crashed his plane taking his and 150 innocent people’s lives because of his mental illness. Though doctors diagnosed him with forms of mental illness, the pilot was able to keep it from his employer. How can no one he worked with not see that he might have been struggling with something? Do we have to run through the halls screaming or have such over the top attention getting behaviors for others to know something may be wrong?

As an employer, I have had incidents over 25 years where changes in an employee’s behavior were cause for concern. I learned in the first year of opening the company to take nothing for granted and address any concern. At that time I was 28 and quickly learned how to probe in a professional manner where trust was built and I could either help the employee or refer them to a professional.

I don’t have an answer here, I just know that we have a human responsibility to help each other and if we are sharing a workplace, reach out and engage with co-workers. We can still keep healthy boundaries while being compassionate. A simple interaction can help to put someone back on the right track. Isn't another person’s happiness worth it, aren't we worth it to take care of each other and wouldn't we want others to care of us in times of pain? We are in this world together and whether or not you believe it, we are all connected. That connection could be someone’s life line.