Posts By Gail Howarth

Broken – Introducing Julie

What happens to a person when day after day, there is no good news? What about when the bleakness of that news removes all hope. Or when each day begins and ends with countless uncontrollable fears? How long can a person remain whole?

In March of 2020, the people of the United States began to realize that a full-blown pandemic was underway. Life-changing measures were taken at work, school, and home. People began to work from home or were laid off, schools quickly went online, masks were donned, and groceries were washed. The news was terrible. People were dying in droves in large cities such as New York City and Detroit. No one completely understood how Covid-19 was transmitted or how to treat it.

Still, some people could not stay home to stay safe. Essential workers! We considered them heroes. They were working on the frontline every day, providing services that kept the rest of us fed, secure, and well. They risked much during uncertain times.

Julie was considered an essential worker. During the early part of the pandemic, she worked long hours with responsibilities that shifted daily, sometimes even hourly. She was doing well with the changes until she began having direct contact with persons infected with Covid-19.

Fear crept into her heart and mind, and as the days and weeks passed, it became difficult to think, work, or breathe. Julie was broken. She tried to shake it off, but the physical and mental became too much. With much trepidation, she requested and was granted medical leave from work.

When I met Julie, she had been off work for over a month. She had not left the house during that time, nor did she bother getting dressed in “normal” clothes. Leaving the house created too much anxiety, and getting dressed just felt too hard.

Julie and I spoke for four hours about her experience. Her fear and anxiety were palpable at the beginning of our visit. After that, though, as we talked, Julie began to relax. At one point, I asked her what she missed most. Julie, blessed with the voice of an angel, has always sung in choirs or for special events. She replied that she missed singing for people.

And, so, I asked her to sing. Really, she asked? Really, I said.

After composing herself, she began to sing. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me. Tears streamed from her eyes as she sang, and we both openly wept when she finished. However, the song and the act of singing relieved Julie’s angst at a deeper level, and we continued to talk deeply.

After a bit, Julie looked at me and said. I think I feel good enough to get dressed. Do you mind if I do that? But, of course, I did not care. Fifteen minutes later, Julie appeared wearing a dress, a small amount of makeup, and hair that had been brushed and straightened. She was stunning. The stress and worry that she had worn so profoundly when I arrived were gone. This new Julie was the Julie I have known all my life.

In a Hollywood movie, Julie would have been cured of her mental and physical un-ease at this point. Of course, Julie continued to struggle with her mental health issues for several more months. However, when she returned to work, it was with confidence that she could resume her duties fully.

The pandemic has affected each of us deeply. The consequences of isolation, illness, and fear will impact all the generations having experienced it. Some of us will be just fine, but others will wear the scars from wounds received from the Covid-19 pandemic for a lifetime.

Julie felt deep shame that she needed and required help to regain her mental health. Yet, somehow, she found the courage to ask for time off and counseling. Should you find yourself in a similar situation as Julie, I urge you to seek counsel. The world is full of helpers. Please let someone help you.


A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to complex topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community about the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Please Note: The purpose of A Time To Heal is to create a safe space to allow others to express their feelings and opinions. The opinions of those interviewed may not be the same as my own or the reader’s. If you choose to comment on a post, please do so respectfully.

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below.

Gail’s photography can be purchased from:

 Lakehousephoto.com

City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/

NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/

Or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2021© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. This material’s unauthorized use or duplication without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Introducing Shauna – Sanctuary

Safe.

What is the first thought or image that comes to mind when you think about the word safe?

Mine immediately travels back in time to a summer day in 1964. I was four years old, surrounded by many people I did not know, and I could not find my mother. The view in front and behind me was a sea of legs, below a vast assortment of unfamiliar shoes, and when I looked up, the faces of people I did not know.  Panic overwhelmed me, my body shook, and I sobbed uncontrollably. The crowd moved away a bit, and a large woman picked me up and held me in her arms. She told me everything would be ok and that we would find my mommy. I was not comforted and just screamed louder.

Of course, my mother was not far away and came immediately to rescue me. My mother was a practical woman and not prone to indulge or to tolerate theatrics. She wordlessly took me from the woman and put me down. Then she held my hand, and we walked together amongst the crowd for the longest time. I felt safe.

I was a lucky kid. I had two parents; one worked outside the home and the other inside. We had plenty to eat and needed nothing my folks could not provide. I walked freely from one friend’s house to another without concern for my wellbeing. Safety was seldom, if ever, a concern.

Maybe your childhood was similar. If so, imagine living in a home where there is not enough to eat, violence, or neglect due to drug or alcohol addiction, or because the parent(s) are at work trying to make enough money to survive. What if every time you stepped outside of your home, you had to be on the lookout for something terrible that might happen? Or that every day you had to pass by a place where someone committed a crime: A beating, a robbery, or even the murder of a friend? How would you feel; Scared, numb, hopeless, traumatized?

Take a moment to pause and think about the kids and families living under these conditions every day. Does it disturb you; If so, enough to do something about it?

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Safe is defined as to be protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.

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Part 1 – Pathfinders

Shauna Hunter has dedicated her life to doing “something about it.” She serves as the Executive Director of Pathfinders. Pathfinders is a violence prevention program provided for children and teens from Muskegon and Muskegon Heights. The organization is located within Temple United Methodist Church and primarily serves the African American community.

Recently Shauna and I had the opportunity to meet and talk about Pathfinders and how she sees the world as an African American woman. As I spoke to Shauna, it became apparent that she is a woman that walks her talk. She is a passionate advocate for those she represents. Her faith sustains her and gives her hope for healing and a brighter future for the community.

Shauna shared that the late ’90s were a particularly tumultuous time in parts of Muskegon and Muskegon Heights. Gun violence and drug trafficking increased significantly, and many young lives were lost to death or prison. Concerned community leaders held public meetings and learned that kids living within the troubled neighborhoods longed for a place where they could feel safe. As a result, Pathfinders was established.

As the organization grew, it became aware that the community’s problems and challenges extended beyond gun violence and drug abuse. Many live in poverty with only one parent or absent parents. Others experience violence in their homes and within their neighborhood. Some experience hunger daily. The kids are quite literally traumatized. For these kids, Pathfinders has become their extended family. The mission statement for Pathfinders is to Engage, Empower, and Motivate. They do so through a variety of programs, both in-house and through community outreach. The following are among the programs. Pathfinders offers.

  • Urban Storytelling – To improve literacy within the community, Pathfinders began Urban Storytelling. Books chosen have kids featured/illustrated that look like the kids listening. As a result, the participants can relate more to the characters, accept, remember, and embellish the story, and be prone to read something else on their own in the future.
  • Meals to reduce food scarcity issues – Meals are served in-house during the week and delivered on the weekends in connection with Hand To Hand / Temple United Methodist Church.
  • Counseling/Mental Health Services – Your Heart Matters is a non-verbal aid that allows kids to express their feelings. Each participant receives color-coded hearts that coincide with an emotion, such as, Sad, Depressed, or Urgent Need. Based upon the card, the staff can either assist the child or provide a referral for counseling at Healthwest. Additionally, the Summer Youth Counseling program is available through Hackley Community Care!
  • Life Skills – Cooking, Financial Literacy, and Mindfulness/Meditation are just a few Life Skills taught at Pathfinders.
  • Physical Activity – Basketball, Ping Pong, Indoor Soccer, Dodge Ball, Flag Football, Floor Hockey, and Pool are available to Pathfinders participants.
  • Games
  • Tutoring
  • Personal Hygiene Pantry (in connection with Temple United Methodist Church) – Hygiene items are costly and not affordable for folks living in poverty. The pantry provides a way for poor students to attend school with confidence.
  • Boots On The Ground – Local police departments and folks living in the neighborhood gather to get to know one another. Together they learn how to react to one another when they meet on the street. The ultimate goal is to reduce racial profiling and unnecessary violence between police officers and persons of interest.
  • A-MACK Program – Aniya Mack was a victim of domestic abuse and was subsequently murdered by her ex-boyfriend. The A-MACK program established in Aniya’s memory focuses on domestic violence awareness and prevention.
  • I Am The Village is a Pathfinders campaign that focuses on bringing the community together for one purpose, holding the community responsible for educating, empowering, and rehabilitating itself.

Services Provided to homes during Pandemic.

  • Delivered books, puzzles, and introduced online games and activities to keep kids engaged. And additional groceries such as microwave meals that the kids could prepare for themselves.

At Pathfinders, all are welcome. The intention is that every person that enters is safe. One of Shauna’s goals is to expose the participants to diversity, open discussions, and bond through their shared history despite their differences. Shauna and Pathfinders welcome LGBTQ+ teens. She explains that the coming out process for Black LGBT-Q+ teens can be incredibly difficult and, in some cases, dangerous. Mild harassment, bullying, and even death can occur, especially among transgender teens. Shauna wants her kids to know that they are all someone important and that they are not reduced to limits but that the sky is the limit.

Literacy is an issue and often cited as the key to resolving other problems within the community. Shauna points out that it is difficult for kids to learn in school because they are too distracted, just trying to survive circumstances most people never experience. Shauna and Pathfinders are working diligently to help resolve the challenges that serve as roadblocks to learning, literacy, and success.

Funding for Pathfinders is provided through grants from the United Way, Community Foundations, and Alcoa. However, it is not enough to cover all the expenses the organization incurs. Can you help? Follow the link provided to learn more about or make a donation to Pathfinders. https://www.pathfindersofmuskegon.org/.

Part 2 – Candid Conversation with Shauna

The year 2020 brought race, racism, White privilege, and police brutality within the United States to our attention in unprecedented ways. The video of the murder of George Floyd served to open the eyes and hearts of many. A lot of people began to examine and acknowledge their cultural bias and White privilege sincerely. Many purchased books on racism, churches formed study groups, and conversations of awareness and healing began. More people tuned into Podcasts related to the subject than ever before. And, White people joined in Black Lives Matter protests that occurred around the nation.

I am among the group of White people described above. Thus, when Shauna graciously agreed to speak with me, I was thrilled and honored. Shauna spoke candidly about what it is like to be Black in the United States.

Shauna shared many experiences that disturbed me, but the words that echo in my mind the most are that being Black in America is exhausting. How can the color of one’s skin cause exhaustion? As Shauna and I spoke, the answer quickly became clear. I don’t wake up thinking I am White or even become concerned by my Whiteness. I don’t worry about what clothes I wear to the store, or if my purse is too big, or if I might be stopped by the police when I drive my car. I have never been followed in a store or accused of shoplifting. No one has ever wondered if my baggy clothes are a cover for all the goods I plan to steal. Nor have I have ever been treated like a criminal solely based on the color of my skin. But Black and Brown people wake up every day, knowing that they will face these challenges and more.

Another thing Shauna told me was that she chose a non-ethnic name for her daughter intentionally. She did not want to limit her daughter’s chance of receiving a job interview or college admission based upon her name. Though a non-ethnic name would not guarantee her daughter would obtain a job or college entrance, it would likely keep the application from being discarded prematurely.

We also spoke about the Black Lives Matter movement. Shauna believes that God loves everyone and quotes Jesus’s command given in 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love one another.” She explains that all lives matter, but until all lives are treated the same, we must remind others that Black Lives Matter.

I asked Shauna if racism in the United States could be fixed. She believes that it can, but that there is no overnight solution. In the past, White people have denied that racism exists. However, seeing it is believing. Images like those caught on video of the George Floyd murder make racism and police brutality real.

Frequent conversations regarding cultural bias and racism will be necessary to undo messages from the past. Shauna says that the “old ways” are not that long ago. Many Black people living in this country today have great grandparents that were slaves. The civil rights movement, the right to vote, desegregation, and the abolition of Jim Crow laws have only occurred in the past 70 years.  

In Shauna’s case, her grandparents were born in the United States but did not have birth certificates. They fled the South after crosses were burned in their yard. Her grandparents could have shared bitterness, anger, and hate with Shauna. Instead, they taught her that despite the cruel treatment they had endured, that there are good people in the world.

In her lifetime, Shauna has witnessed countless government programs intended to resolve issues of racism, poverty, education, and more fail over and over. She feels that the people in power are not asking the right questions or listening to those that the programs are meant to serve.  In other words, someone or entity is making decisions about what is best for a community that they do not belong to or fully understand.  

At this point, Shauna reminded me of the story in the Bible of Nehemiah. Jerusalem was in shambles after an invasion by the Babylonians. Warriors destroyed the temple and most of the city, burned the gates of the wall surrounding Jerusalem, and left other stone wall sections in piles of rubble. When Nehemiah, the cupbearer to the King, learned of his ancestral home’s state, his heart was burdened. The King noticed Nehemiah’s despair, and upon learning what was troubling him, granted him safe passage and supplies to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was wise and understood that the wall was not the only thing that was in disrepair. The people living in Jerusalem were also broken. They had witnessed their once vibrant community destroyed. Loved ones were killed during the invasion or sold into slavery, while others escaped and lived in exile for many years.

Upon his arrival in Jerusalem, Nehemiah surveyed the damage and petitioned the residents and religious leaders to reconstruct the wall. As a result, the people of Jerusalem worked together tirelessly to complete the 2-mile long wall repair in 52 days. During the nearly two month project, the community residents healed wounds from the past and became friends and neighbors.

Shauna believes, like Nehemiah, that community involvement is the key to healing and resolving issues. She states that we must meet as neighbors, get to know one another, and together, do the work that will make things better.

Shauna is the Executive Director of Pathfinders, but the job she is called to do is to be a Light. If you ever meet Shauna, you will immediately know that she does her job very well. Guided by her deep faith, Shauna spends her days planting the seeds of love, hope, and peace in the hearts of the people living within the community. She believes that with God’s help, the seeds she and others like her plant will take root in fertile ground, grow strong, and reach their greatest potential.

Thank you, Shauna, for what you do at Pathfinders, in the community, and in the world. You are indeed a bright and shining Light.

Suggested Video

Race and Racism – White Privilege and Privilege Explained By Justin Wilford

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GyXEMg03EI

Something Happened In Our Town By Donald Moses and Marianne Celano

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whR_JIzknpo

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A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to difficult topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community about the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Please Note: The purpose of the project, A Time To Heal, is to create a safe space to allow others to express their feelings and opinions. The opinions of those interviewed may not be the same as my own or the reader. If you choose to comment on a post, please do so respectfully.

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

An American Hero – Introducing Justin Bloyd

What are you called to do today? Will you accept the call? Or will you refuse?

There are a million excuses to turn away from the voice within.

  • It makes no logical sense.
  • It will be too hard, maybe even impossible.
  • Who am I to think that I might be able to do that!
  • It’s not the right time.
  • What if I fail?
  • What will my friends and family think?
  • It would change my life.

Conversely, the list of reasons to embrace the desires of your soul is much shorter yet far more compelling.

  • It is my fate.
  • It is my destiny.
  • It is what I am meant to do.

Sleepless in Mentor is the story of one man that was brave enough to take the call. Meet Justin Bloyd.

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It was March 2020, and the United States was shutting down in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Like so many others, Justin Bloyd of RB Sigma was at home, out of work, bored, and binge-watching Netflix. Justin hoped that the virus would quickly pass and that life would resume as normal.

As fate would have it, Justin’s life was about to change in ways he had never imagined.  Justin began receiving calls from people he had worked with within the health care industry. All shared the same concern. Their regular suppliers could not provide enough PPE’s to keep their staff safe. Could Justin help locate supplies? Yes, of course, Justin replied, having no idea how that singular yes would lead to the formation of a medical supply company that employs over 70 people, manufactures masks, and purchases and distributes PPE’s worldwide.

Justin is a consultant that teaches the proven business principles of Lean and Six Sigma to manufacturing companies, health care organizations, and even teachers and students in the Ohio Public Schools. Both systems promote service excellence, efficiency, effective communication, safety, risk management, and much more. The learning process is hands-on and requires all participants to participate in data collection and analysis and implement new approaches based on the findings.

Justin had solid relationships with both the State of Ohio and several healthcare organizations before the pandemic. Additionally, they were aware that Justin had worked with many companies, from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, to market new products. Justin’s understanding of supply chain sourcing was a critical factor in creating successful results for the companies he represented. Both the State of Ohio and the healthcare organizations within were betting on Justin’s past success to help them through their current crisis.

Initially, Justin was asked only to help locate products.  Shortly after that, however, it became clear that someone would also need to warehouse and distribute the supplies. Justin believed the task would be much more challenging to pull off but agreed to take on the role in light of the urgency of the situation. Purchase orders from the State of Ohio and other organizations began to pour in, giving Justin the working capital he needed to get his new business started.

Justin admits that the endeavor was incredibly stressful. Once people became aware of Justin’s new venture, the phone never quit ringing. Others were in desperate need of supplies as well. Justin was committed to helping everyone he could.

There was much to be done quickly. Justin worked around the clock, only stopping to rest on the floor under his desk briefly from time to time. Justin needed more sleep but was often too tired to drive home. The solution was to park his camper behind the building that is now RB Sigma’s home office.

Justin was able to locate and procure over three million PPE’s from China. That was the easy part. Merchandise was transported by truck or train from all corners of the nation to an airport in the Northeast. The timing of the receipt of goods was critical. Customs required that all the items be present within seven days of the arrival of the aircraft. Additionally, the Chinese government required a landing permit that was difficult to obtain. Once, in China, there was only a short window of time to load inventory and depart.

If one could go from point A to point B without hiccups, importing goods from China would be easy. But, the current political climate between the United States and China is tense. As a result, the government of China changes policies daily. Justin recalls that there were roadblocks and setbacks every step of the way. Occasionally Justin thought the task was too hard and felt like giving up. But, he had committed, and he would see it through.

Procuring PPE was just one of Justin’s tasks during the early part of the operation. He needed to locate a building, work with twenty contractors to gut and retrofit it for mask manufacturing, purchase mask-making equipment made in Michigan, find a warehouse to store merchandise and supplies, and hire 38 employees. Additionally, Justin met nearly daily with his attorney to set up his business and work with a web design firm to completely rework his website.

Almost one month after Justin agreed to help, the second-largest cargo plane in the world filled with PPE’s landed in Cleveland. Since then, RB Sigma has grown significantly. RB Sigma has over 70 employees, maintains an online and walk-in store, manufactures various masks, and supplies PPE’s to over 290 med centers and prison systems across the United States. They have also shipped health kits to employees returning to work in over thirty countries.

Justin ended reliance upon products made in China as quickly as possible. Justin has since purchased or manufactured all the PPE’s needed from companies within the United States, except for gloves. Gloves are currently only manufactured in China and South Korea.

Justin credits his team for making the venture successful. Justin hired people he could trust with proven track records within manufacturing, warehousing, management, marketing, and more. Team members include family members, a few long-time friends, and many business associates he has worked with throughout his career.

Justin is both motivated and inspired by family. He honors his grandfather, Robert Bloyd, by using his initials as depicted on the family cattle brand as the company logo. Justin’s grandfather served in WWII. Robert Bloyd’s job was to bring ammunition to the troops on the frontline in Iwo Jima and the Guadalcanal. Justin likens his role now to that of his grandfather’s. Though it is a different kind of war, Justin believes he is doing his part by bringing PPE’s to front line workers.

There are many words I could use to describe Justin Bloyd. Humble, generous, kind, a hard worker, a man of vision, a family man, a good friend, driven, and committed, are just a few. Justin’s word for himself, though, is lucky. Because of that, Justin believes it is essential to share his good fortune with others in need. Justin donated the workforce and transportation needed to deliver over 70,000 PPE’s to the Minneapolis Police and Fire Departments after their buildings were burned down by rioters reacting to the death of George Floyd. Additionally, he donated 400,000 masks to ensure every poll worker’s safety in the state of Ohio.

Justin Bloyd is an American hero. He was called to action during an unprecedented time in our history. He accepted the call and, as a result, delivered more than was asked or expected. No doubt, Justin’s contributions have saved countless people from contracting or dying from Covid-19.  Most people will never meet or know the man behind their mask, but if they did, I believe that, like me, they would not be able to find the words to express the depth of their gratitude. Thank you, Justin.

****

What are you called to do today?

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A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to difficult topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community about the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Please Note: The purpose of the project, A Time To Heal, is to create a safe space to allow others to express their feelings and opinions. The opinions of those interviewed may not be the same as my own or the reader. If you choose to comment on a post, please do so respectfully.

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Forsaken – Introducing Dody

Death & Dying During COVID

Hold my hand, she said, her eyes pleading with mine. Please, she repeated, hold my hand when I go. I do not want to die alone.

Nearly ten years ago, I kept my promise and held my mother’s hand tightly as she passed from this world into the next. Five hours later, I did the same for my father. Witnesses were present. A hospice nurse and a few friends and family showered my folks with love and compassion during their last hours. They were not alone.

Afterward, more friends and family arrived. They brought food, embraced me, and helped me to get to the next step. There was a funeral, and more people came. Ken, a childhood neighbor, led the service, weaving in humorous and heartfelt tales about my parents. There was a lot of laughter, some tears, and immeasurable love in the room. I was not alone.

Alone.

The word echoes in my mind as I write. I pause and feel its gravity. When my parents died, they and I were surrounded, enfolded, and lifted in love. And still, I felt alone.

Imagine the countless number of people who died alone in hospitals and long term care facilities this year due to safety precautions related to COVID-19. While healthcare workers have done their best to fill the gap, it is not the same. How many people were denied the ability to keep their promise to hold their beloveds’ hands as they left this world?

Consider the unbearable grief of the forsaken. They waited from a distance as their loved ones passed. And, afterward, they were unable to gather to support one another or attend funerals or memorials. Those left behind have suffered in isolation. They are, indeed, alone.

Dody, a hospice bereavement counselor, volunteered to share her thoughts and experience related to death, dying, and serving those left behind during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dody first speaks about the five steps of grief, as defined by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Each stage of grief must be experienced for closure to occur. The steps are not static and can be experienced multiple times before acceptance occurs.

Dody points out that during the COVID-19, pandemic grief has been further complicated as both the dying and survivor experience feelings of abandonment. In Florida, where Dody resides, visitation to patients in hospitals and nursing homes has been severely restricted or disallowed since March.

Funerals, memorial services, and celebrations of life are the first step toward healing. Dody explains these events are severely delayed or not happening. There are several reasons. Government restrictions currently disallow funeral homes from conducting services, and crematoriums have a large backlog. Additionally, family and friends’ are often unable to gather due to travel restrictions and quarantine protocols.

As a result, the survivor’s grief is greater than anything Dody has seen in all her years as a bereavement counselor. Never have the bereaved felt so isolated.

Dody believes her role as a bereavement counselor is to be a supportive presence for her clients. She helps the bereaved accept the reality of loss with tools designed to assess clients’ most urgent needs. Each client is encouraged to keep a journal. Additionally, Dody listens. Most of Dody’s counseling sessions are currently held online via Zoom.

Dody feels that it is an essential part of the healing process to maintain a bond with the deceased. She encourages anyone who has lost a loved one to continue to celebrate holiday traditions, make a dish or meal that your loved one enjoyed preparing, or anything else that might sustain the bond.

Dody’s beloved father died three years ago this month. Among Dody’s most cherished memories of her father is that he was always singing and dancing. Music is healing for Dody. Dancing in the Sky, by Dani and Lizzy, is a song that brings her comfort and keeps her father alive in her heart.

Thank you, Dody, for participating in A Time to Heal!

For your work with hospice, I applaud you. It cannot be easy, and I suspect there are days that the emotional burden becomes unbearable. Yet, you continue. The gift you give to those in your care is immeasurable. In this blog post, you have given voice to those grieving in isolation. I hope and pray that in some small way, they feel heard and lifted.

Follow the link to Listen to Dancing In Heaven By Dani and Lizzie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UR4T0av0o40

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A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to difficult topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community about the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Please Note: The purpose of the A Time To Heal is to create a safe space to allow others to express their feelings and opinions. The opinions of those interviewed may not be the same as my own or the reader. If you choose to comment on a post, please do so respectfully.

A Time To Heal, the Exhibit will be on display at City Center Arts in Muskegon, beginning September 3, 2020, to October 10, 2020. Please check the website before attending to verify hours of operation. http://citycenterarts.com/

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Love One Another – Introducing Father Robert

Follow Father Robert on Facebook, and you will find a man that desperately wants the world to be a kinder, gentler, and more just place. His desire to lift others and let all people know that God loves them is evidenced by his posts on Facebook. Here are two examples.  

  • “We all make errors in our theology; you and me both. So my recommendation is to err on the side of love. Why? Because … God is not doctrine. God is not denomination. God is not war. God is not law. God is not hate. God is not hell… God is Love.” (Brian Zahnd) 
  • “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” St. Catherine of Siena 

Father Robert is an Apostolic Catholic priest and a passionate supporter of the LGBTQ-IA community. He first became aware of the mistreatment of the gay community in 1969 during the Stonewall riots. He would not think much about it again until the late 70’s when he worked as a high school social worker. A distraught young man entered his office, closed the door, and began to cry.  

Father Robert asked, “What is your problem?”  

The student responded, “I am gay.”  

Father Robert was confused and asked again, “No, really, what is your problem?”  

And the student replied, “I just told you, I am gay.”  

Father Robert told the student, “That’s not a problem! It’s ok.” 

Afterward, Father Robert contemplated what the student shared with him. He thought to himself, we are not going to do this. We are not going to treat people this way. This is not what Jesus had envisioned or taught. 

Father Robert felt called to action and created support groups to listen and encourage this student and others like him.   

In the late ’80s, during the AIDS epidemic, Father Robert became further involved with the gay community. Nursing homes and care facilities would not accept residents with AIDS or HIV. The disease was new, and very little was known about how it was contracted or treated. Fear and lack of knowledge prevented many from receiving the care they needed.   

The director of Muskegon Community Mental Health asked Father Robert if he would open a foster care home for some of the men with HIV/AIDS. He did, and as soon as the doors were open, three men arrived. Shortly after, the house was filled to capacity and remained that way for about two years. There was little that could be done medically for the men that resided at the foster home. Instead, love, compassion, comfort, and support were given in abundance as each man traveled to the end of his life. For most, the final journey lasted only one to five months. 

Compassionate care at the end of life is not too much to ask. Is it? Homosexuality, AIDS/HIV were controversial enough in the 80’s that only two foster care homes for men with AIDS/HIV existed in the state of Michigan. People were outraged that Father Robert’s foster care home existed. The media frequently dropped in for impromptu and uninvited interviews exposing the location of the house. The garage was firebombed, cars parked outside the house were damaged, and rocks were thrown through the windows. To keep the residents safe, Father Robert moved the residents to a different place. 

Father Robert continued holding support groups for the LGBT community after the foster care home closed. But, in 2014, Father Robert read about the suicide of a transgender woman named Leelah Alcorn, and his commitment once again deepened. He was utterly devastated. He thought, this poor child. My God, now we have people killing themselves because they are not allowed to be who they are. Jesus would not want this.  

Leelah was born male, but from the age of four felt that she was a female. She longed to find a way to transition to the body that matched how she felt. However, this would never happen. Leelah’s family held conservative Christian beliefs, and being gay or transgender was not seen as acceptable. Leelah was sent to conversion therapy in an attempt to help her overcome her gender identity.  

 Leelah grew more depressed after conversion therapy. Her hopelessness led her to write a suicide note on her Tumblr account and schedule it to post a few hours after her death. She walked several miles from her parents’ home and then walked in front of a semi traveling on I-71.  

Since Leelah’s death, conversion therapy has been severely scrutinized. Many believe that the treatment does not work and only leaves the participant with feelings of more profound shame, lack of self-worth, and causes depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Conversion therapy has since been banned in many states and communities.  

Father Robert was determined to open a center where everyone would be welcome and feel safe. It took him over a year to find a location that he could rent. He viewed eleven available properties in Muskegon and Muskegon Heights to be told that they were no longer available when the landlord found out what Father Robert intended to do with the property.   

Finally, Father Robert found the perfect space in Muskegon Heights. The center offered various support groups for the LGBTQ-IA community and their families and anti-bullying and suicide prevention courses, AA and NA. The center experienced some success, but the location was an issue for many people. Muskegon Heights is a mostly black community, and many white people feared going there. And, many of the black participants feared being seen entering the building.  

Father Robert was back to the drawing board. He found a new location in North Muskegon, and all was going well. However, once the community learned what was being done in the building, the landlord ended the three-year lease at 11 months, stating, we don’t have those problems. 

Another location was found in Muskegon. It was opened with a broader concept and included a used clothing store where people could get used clothes for free. The center hosted Halloween and Christmas parties for the community. Everything was going great until the churches got involved. Once again, Father Robert found his dream of offering a safe place for the LGBTQ-IA community and other at-risk persons smashed. 

Father Robert has not given up. He has moved to a rural community north of Muskegon and will start a community center in Shelby. His plans are on hold right now over social distancing concerns and his own recovery from COVID-19. Father Robert was diagnosed with the illness on June 1st. While he has recovered, he continues to have fatigue, breathing problems, and internal damage that will never heal.  

Father Robert shared many thoughts about the LGBTQ-IA community, organized religion, Christianity, COVID-19. 

Father Robert believes the following related specifically to LGBTQ-IA. 

  • That biology creates the body and that God creates the soul. He advises you to always follow your soul.  
  • Transgender persons have a more challenging time being accepted and understood than any other LGBTQ-IA community member.  
  • There are consequences when a person is expected to hide, keep secret, or deny a part of themselves, such as drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, and suicides. 

Father Robert shares the following related to Christianity. 

  • Christianity is not an easy thing to do. Love people that hate you. That’s not easy. Turn the other cheek. That’s not easy. Forgive people. That’s not easy either.  
  • If we could ever get to a point when people who consider themselves Christian to actually become Christlike, we would not be dealing with all these issues. The problems would be resolved. Poverty, hatred, and so much more! It would all be gone. People have missed the boat.  
  • If you are a member of the LGBTQ=IA community and the church you attend will not let you to take communion, marry you, or support you to adopt children, find another church.  
  • Tolerance is not love. Acceptance is love. 
  • But it is written in John 15:12 This I command you, that you love one another. 

Father Robert’s concerns about COVID-19

  • Wear A Mask. It could save a life.  

Thank you, Father Robert, for sharing your passion and deep care for the LGBTQ-IA community. Your commitment to choose love and compassion over fear and judgment is evident in all you do. I will end this post with the final thought you shared. If there were only one verse in the Bible, this would be a good one to live by. 

John 15:12, “This I command you, that you love one another. 

__________________________________________

A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to difficult topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community about the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Please Note: The purpose of the A Time To Heal is to create a safe space to allow others to express their feelings and opinions. The opinions of those interviewed may not be the same as my own or the reader. If you choose to comment on a post, please do so respectfully.

A Time To Heal, the Exhibit will be on display at City Center Arts in Muskegon, beginning September 2, 2020, to October 10, 2020. Please check the website before attending to verify hours of operation. http://citycenterarts.com/

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Doctor My Eyes – Introducing Dr Susan

I met Susan (then Suzy) at YMCA Camp Pinewood in the summer of 1978. She was 16, and I was 17. We were both camp counselors, but she was far better at it than me. That’s because her love for and understanding of children was then and remains far superior to mine. It was not surprising, then, that Suzy chose to become a pediatrician.

When I started the project A Time To Heal, I wanted to talk with essential workers in the medical field to hear and share their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though Susan and I had not seen each other or even spoken on the phone in forty years, she agreed without hesitation to contribute. The following is her story.

Susan had been following the news stories about a new virus in China and had heard the warnings of Chinese physician Dr. Li Wenliang early in 2020. Naturally, she was concerned and wondered if and when the new virus would impact the United States. However, Susan did not have to wait long.

The United States experienced its first death to Covid-19 by the end of February. By mid-March, New York City and Detroit were experiencing overflowing hospitals and many deaths. The virus was spreading across the nation quickly, and states were beginning to issue stay-at-home orders. Chaos erupted as businesses, schools, and families attempted to maneuver the new reality of the pandemic.

Susan’s medical practice was no exception.  Susan, her partners, and the staff worked quickly and well together to process new information as it became available, address supply issues, and figure out how to safely provide patient care. The early days at work were long and exhausting.

The fatigue Susan experienced at work did not end when she went home in the evenings. Once there, she worried about her family. How could Susan keep them safe? What if a family member became ill, what if she became ill, or what if she brought the virus home? What about her parents? What would happen if she had to quarantine and miss work? And how on Earth would that stay safe and connected as a family?

Worry was a constant at the beginning of the pandemic. The medical community knew little about how the virus was contracted and even less about treating it. The fear of getting the virus, dying from the virus, or losing a loved one to it was all-consuming.

At work, the staff trained diligently on updated protocols for scheduling in-person and online appointments and sanitation. Online patient visits were new to Susan’s office. Though awkward at first, online appointments worked well most of the time, adding the benefit of seeing the patient’s home life. The inside look did not change the diagnosis or treatment of ongoing patient issues, but it gave the providers a greater understanding of why treatment plans failed to be implemented.

PPE’s (Personal Protective Equipment) such as masks and gowns were in short supply, and it wasn’t easy to locate enough to protect staff. Additionally, the cost of the supplies tripled overnight. Susan’s team invested in washable PPE versus disposable. Since they were seeing patients outside through open windows in cars, they purchased all the Tyvek suits, plastic raincoats, and goggles they could attain from local hardware stores. The items could be washed and reused and kept the employees warm and dry during the cold and rainy season.

Susan admits that she grieves seeing patients “the old way.” Then, kids often gave her hugs, crawled up on her lap to have a chat, or even reached up to twirl or touch her curly hair. She also misses the unmasked faces of her patients. Not only because she wants to see their smiles, but because she relies upon facial expressions for cues related to how the patient is feeling.

I asked Susan a few questions at the end of our meeting. They are as follows.

  • Are the kids going to be ok? Will there be an ongoing impact upon the children due to the isolation created by social distancing, the need to wear masks, or the pandemic in general?
    • Some kids will bounce back with no problem. Others will struggle for quite some time. Right now, there is no school, so there are no school social workers. That leaves it up to us (the pediatricians) to try to help and or find help for those struggling.
    • Another concern is that many families depend upon the food programs that the schools administer. Currently, the school bus drivers are delivering meals during the week. However, other programs may be limited or not available. One example is the backpack program. Each week a child brings a backpack provided by the program and fills it with pantry items. Many families are dependent upon the program and will experience hardship if they do not receive supplemental food.
  • How long is this pandemic going to last?
    • The pandemic in 1918 lasted three years. That was with a country that was far less mobile than we are today. People today are far more mobile, and it makes it far more complicated to predict. We have also not received a clear directive from leadership in this country, so it caused a great deal of confusion. I hate to say it, but I believe it will be at least two years. First, we will need to develop a vaccine that works, but that takes time. There has never been a vaccine for a novel coronavirus, and who knows how long it will take to develop one, if ever. Even flu vaccines that roll out every year take nine months to create and deliver.
  • How do we get through this?
    • We will have to learn how to move through it together safely. That includes social distancing and properly wearing masks.
  • Have there been any positives to the pandemic?
    • At least for me, it brought our group practice closer than we have ever been. And, it has brought my family, including my folks, closer together.

More than a year has passed since the interview with Susan. Unfortunately, the pandemic continues despite the development and rollout of a vaccination program. Though we know how people contract the virus and how to treat it, it persists. Additionally, the skepticism, distrust, misinformation, and conflicting scientific opinions that began during the early part of the pandemic have not subsided. Let us hope that Susan is correct and that we will start to see relief from the pandemic in the coming year.

Thank you, Susan, for taking the time to share your journey. I am forever grateful.


Note: Dr. Li Wenliang, mentioned earlier in this piece, alerted the world to the possibility of a global pandemic. The Chinese government was not pleased with his warning and forced him to recant his statement. Soon after, Dr. Wenliang contracted the disease and died.


A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to complex topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community about the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Please Note: The purpose of A Time To Heal is to create a safe space to allow others to express their feelings and opinions. The opinions of those interviewed may not be the same as my own or the reader’s. If you choose to comment on a post, please do so respectfully.

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below.

Gail’s photography can be purchased from:

 Lakehousephoto.com

City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/

NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/

Or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2021© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. This material’s unauthorized use or duplication without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Free To Be Me – Introducing JT

JT arrives at school early to plan for the day that lies ahead. Soon his classroom will fill with the chatter, laughter, and mischief accompanying any group of 3rd graders. In the quiet before the storm, JT takes a moment to ponder and reflect. JT loves teaching, his students, the camaraderie he shares with his fellow teachers, and being a part of the community. JT’s heart is full! He is at home.

But for most of JT’s career, he has known that one rumor or complaint could lead to his prompt dismissal.  That is, until the summer of 2020. On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Supreme Court released JT and all members of the LGBTQ+ community from a prison of silence, fear, and secrecy.

JT always knew he was different. But how? He wasn’t sure, but he began suppressing “it” when he was a very young boy. During 5th grade, JT began to understand what “it” was when he noticed boys in a new way. He was shaken and a bit confused. Though he could not wholly define “it,” he knew that it was not acceptable.  He vowed to himself to work hard to quash the feelings as they surfaced.

JT, fueled by denial, successfully avoided his sexuality for most of his life. When JT was in high school, and unwanted thoughts would enter his mind, he would tell himself, “that can’t be me; I am an athlete.” JT was not just an athlete but accomplished enough to be offered scholarships to several well-known colleges. JT turned down all of the offers and entered Spring Arbor University, a private evangelical Christian college. Looking back, he understands that he did so to avoid his sexuality.

 Ironically, it was when JT was in college that he had his first experience with another man. Both were surprised and confused by the experience and made many excuses to explain away the incident.

Soon after college, JT met and married his wife of five years. JT states that he did feel love for her and that he thought marrying his wife was the right thing to do. JT believes that marriage’s commitment is not to be taken lightly, and he put all of his efforts into making it successful. But the couple faced many challenges.

JT and his wife desperately wanted a baby but could not conceive. After years of trying, they agreed to adopt. During the adoption process, it became clear that they had grown apart and that the marriage was not viable. The couple divorced, and JT was awarded full custody of his beloved daughter Natalie.

Though his marriage was over, JT had a new lease on life. JT was a dad! His love for Natalie made him take a long hard look in the mirror. Who was he, and what did he have to offer his child. JT realized that if he wanted Natalie to live in a world where she could express her truth, it was time to embrace his own.  JT, at 29, finally fully accepted his sexuality. He had hidden, denied, and suppressed who he was all of his life, and he was tired. JT could no longer keep up the façade.

JT began to live his life as an openly gay man in his community. He knew that in doing so that there would be a risk that he could lose his job should an angry parent complain. None-the-less, JT determined that there was no turning back and continued to teach in the same manner he had in the past: Professionally and with no discussion of his sexuality.

JT’s commitment to live his truth was tested in the fall of 2019. One of his students came to him and shared that there was a rumor going around about JT being gay. JT kept a calm demeanor and told the student that rumors are what they are and that it was his job not to spread them. JT was shaken. He could lose his career and the ability to provide for his daughter.

JT quickly made an appointment to speak to the principal of the school. During the meeting, JT shared that a rumor was going around that he was gay, that it was true, and that he feared losing his job. The principal was kind. She reminded him that she was the one that had asked him to apply at the school. She had suspected that he was gay when she hired him but that she had hired him based on his merit and the difference he makes in the classroom. She further explained that she had not hired a gay or straight man. She had hired a male third-grade teacher with a stellar work record and had no plans to get rid of him.

JT was relieved to have the principal’s support but knew that it was not a guarantee that his job would always be secure. JT’s concerns were short-lived when the Supreme Court unexpectedly decided that Title VII provided employment protections for the LGBTQ+ community.

When JT recalled the day the Supreme Court’s made its ruling, he was overcome with emotion. Tears sprang from his eyes, and he was unable to speak. After a moment, JT collected himself, swept away his tears, and triumphantly declared: “I am finally free to be me. As a teacher, I am always on the frontline. Everywhere I go, someone recognizes me. There are no words to describe the sense of relief that I feel. Now even if a person disagrees with my lifestyle, they cannot do anything about it. I am safe.”

JT is just one voice within the LGBTQ+ community. Over nine million people living in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Imagine the collective sigh of relief that nine million people experienced on June 15, 2020. Consider the gravity of this monumental decision. In a single day, nine million people let go of their fear of discrimination in the workplace.  And, nine million people, like JT, realized that they too were free to be themselves.

Thank you, JT, for sharing your story. You make a difference! Your love and light shine brightly in the classroom, as a father, a friend, and in your family. And, now, for me and those that have read this post.

I am grateful.

————————————————-

Authors Note:

Despite the Supreme Court Ruling related to employment discrimination, it is still legal in 25 states for landlords to refuse to rent to members of the LBGTQ+ community. Additionally, in 35 states, a banker can legally deny a loan based upon the applicant’s sexual orientation.


A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to difficult topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community about the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Please Note: The purpose of A Time To Heal is to create a safe space to allow others to express their feelings and opinions. The opinions of those interviewed may not be the same as my own or the reader. If you choose to comment on a post, please do so respectfully.

A Time To Heal, the Exhibit was on display at City Center Arts in Muskegon, during September and October 2020.  http://citycenterarts.com/

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2021© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Emergency – Introducing Cindy

Cindy slowly walked down the short path from her car to a shaded picnic table in the park where we agreed to meet. Though I had never met her, immediately I knew that she was my interviewee. Everything about Cindy’s gait suggested that she was tired. Understandably so! Cindy was recovering from Covid-19.

Cindy is a respiratory therapist that works at St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia, Michigan. The 302-bed hospital was one of the hardest hit in the Detroit area at the beginning of the pandemic. Patients having Covid -19 began to trickle into the hospital in early March.

By Mid-March, there was a deluge of new patients daily. Cindy says that nothing could have prepared them for what was to come. The patient population doubled overnight, and the hospital, now running in crisis mode, considered closing its maternity ward to add more beds for people that required respirators.

Initially, the result of Covid-19 tests could take up to two weeks to return. As a result, Emergency doctors began to assume that each new patient had the virus, though each presented very different symptoms. Complicating matters was that no one fully understood how to treat Covid patients. However, they began to notice that the patients that did respond well to treatment had one or more co-morbidities. Co-morbidities include obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, or having any other immuno-compromised illness.

Patients that required respirators exceeded what St. Mary Mercy Hospital had on hand. Unfortunately, new respirators were not available for purchase, but emergency service providers donated theirs to help the hospital through its crisis period. To put the increased need into context, Cindy stated that there would be a need for 5 respirators at one time on a typical day. A heavy day could require 10. But a Covid day, at the worst, required  25 respirators was in constant use.

Many patients went into renal failure and required CRT (continuous renal replacement therapy). Ideally, treatment is given 24/7  until symptoms dissipate. Unfortunately, however, the hospital had far more patients that required CRT than it could provide. Unfortunately, though, with only two dialysis machines, it was impossible to keep up with demand. Nevertheless, the hospital did the best it could to provide treatment. For example, instead of treating two patients 24 hours each, four patients were given treatment, 12-hours on and 12-hours off. Daily, doctors made gut-wrenching decisions regarding which patients would receive available therapies based upon their likelihood to survive.  

PPE’s were in short supply. The hospital quickly ran out of disposable gowns and began using reusable ones. In addition, masks, typically changed after each patient, were occasionally reused. Despite this, Cindy never felt unsafe.

Cindy said that the onslaught of patients, not knowing how to treat patients, and the sheer number of deaths were stressful. Everyone picked up extra hours and did what they could to provide patient care. Death is a part of Cindy’s job, and in some ways, she has grown comfortable knowing that it is the end time for a person. However, the reality of death hit Cindy hard as they lost 13 Sisters from the Convent House next door to the hospital. The sisters were ever-present as volunteers. Cindy saw the nuns in the cafeteria every morning as they drank coffee and watched the news or a baseball game. The loss of the Sisters broke her heart.

Cindy, herself contracted Covid-19. Not as she administered patient care, but when she took a break. She and four other employees crowded into a cramped breakroom. She doesn’t have a reason why, but they let their guard down. Perhaps from fatigue or denial, but each person in the room pulled their mask down. They chatted for less than fifteen minutes and returned to work. The next day it was learned that one of the staff members that had been in the break room had not been feeling 100% that day but came to work anyway. The following day she tested positive for Covid-19. As it turns out, everyone in the room ended up with the virus.

Cindy considers her case of Covid-19 mild compared to others. Unfortunately, though, during the second week, she experienced extreme shortness of breath and fatigue. Cindy became ill on May 8th and returned to work three weeks later. Two months later, Cindy reported that she still experienced shortness of breath and fatigue at our interview.

I asked Cindy how we would get through the pandemic. Cindy is a realist that softens her opinions with humor. She said first that we need to continue to social distance and wear masks. Then, Cindy predicted that a vaccine would be created, that it would be done too quickly, rolled out poorly, and that a large percentage of the population would not be willing to be vaccinated. She even predicted that the vaccine would likely fail and that its failure would create more angst amongst people already skeptical about all things Covid-19.

Thank you, Cindy, for your participation in A Time To Heal

A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to complex topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community about the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Please Note: The purpose of A Time To Heal is to create a safe space to allow others to express their feelings and opinions. The opinions of those interviewed may not be the same as my own or the reader’s. If you choose to comment on a post, please do so respectfully.

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below.

Gail’s photography can be purchased from:

 Lakehousephoto.com

City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/

NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/

Or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2021© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. This material’s unauthorized use or duplication without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Justice For All – Introducing Milinda

And Justice For All – Introducing Milinda Ysasi

Politician! What thoughts come to mind when the word is mentioned? In today’s divisive world, it can be difficult to conjure a positive image of a person that holds a public office. In fact, we often think of them as crooked, immoral, and instigators of dissension. How could we not! The media reports every conflict or perceived misconduct, true or not, a millisecond after an offense has occurred.

So, are there good politicians? Absolutely!

Milinda Ysasi, Grand Rapids City Commissioner, works for the people of the community with integrity and courage.  “Justice For All” is not a time-worn pledge for Milinda but an integral part of who she is and what drives her.  Milinda is a politician with a servant’s heart.

Milinda is a lifelong resident of Grand Rapids.  She is a Mexican American raised by parents that worked for the Grand Rapids public schools. She feels that she was able to experience the city in the very best way. Milinda had access to opportunities including employment, education, and the ability to buy her first home. However, she became aware early that not all people, past or present, had access to the same opportunities. Inequality bore a burden upon her heart and helped shape her desire to create a more just community.

After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in business from Grand Valley State University, Milinda began working for Cascade Engineering in the Human Resources Department. It was at Cascade Engineering that Milinda became keenly aware of the disparities that exist in Grand Rapids and that an employer can become a part of the solution.  

The management team at Cascade Engineering believes that it can be a force for good. As a part of their mission, the corporation recognizes that disparities exist and that they have the opportunity and duty to help remove the barriers that keep people from accepting employment.  Working closely with potential employees, the folks at Cascade Engineering identify and remove obstacles. Child care, transportation, criminal backgrounds, lack of skills, or even meeting wardrobe requirements are common hurdles employees face. The company considers employment a form of justice.

Milinda’s experience at Cascade Engineering set the tone for her career. Not only did it increase her awareness of the inequity that exists in Grand Rapids, but gave her tools for identifying issues and finding corrective solutions by working side by side with the people closest to the pain. She learned to ask tough questions boldly and then seek resolutions.

Milinda has had a strong presence in the community.  Her track record includes numerous non-profits, community organizations, and countless awards for her service. She is the co-founder of the Latina Network of West Michigan, lead The Source a non-profit organization barriers to employment, and is currently the CEO of GROW, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women.  

Milinda’s decision to run for City Commissioner, a non-partisan position, felt natural. Buoyed by the knowledge that the Mayor of Grand Rapids and other community leaders were involved in a racial equity journey, she decided the time was right to run for office. Milinda’s campaign focused on economic development, that the resultant growth from jobs and prosperity reach all the neighbors within the community, to reduce housing, education, and food disparities, and to reduce gun violence.

Milinda completed her Executive MBA from Michigan State University late in 2019 and began her new venture as City Commissioner on January 1, 2020. Milinda looked forward to working collaboratively with others to help make Grand Rapids a better place to work and live. However, the events of 2020 quickly changed the scope of what the community needed from her.

The Covid-19 Pandemic began, and instead of bringing new opportunities, businesses closed, people lost their jobs, and Grand Rapids, as well as the rest of the nation, entered an economic recession. Schools closed their doors, and online learning began, causing many parents to choose between their job or their child’s education.

Then, the murder of George Floyd occurred, bringing the disease of systemic racism to the forefront. In response, Black Lives Matter Rallies and other social justice protests formed across the nation. Most of the events were peaceful, but in some instances, violence erupted. Grand Rapids incurred only one night of rioting, though the impact upon the community was devastating.

The George Floyd murder also exposed how people experience the police. While many say the police make me feel safe, another segment of the population, especially our Black and Brown brothers and sisters, say the police do not make me feel safe. Never has the divide been clearer. Milinda is focused on the work of violence prevention in our community. She wants to look at the systemic reasons violence occurs. 

There are other ongoing critical matters for the leaders of the City of Grand Rapids to address. Milinda explained that Grand Rapids is two things. Prosperous, and yet some people do not know where they will lay their heads at night. Over the next five years, 9000 housing units, owner-occupied and rental, are needed to reach housing stability. In the meantime, the stark reality is that 1 in 8 Black families in Kent County experience homelessness, while only 1 in 168 White families experience homelessness. Additionally, more Black and Latino families are overburdened by their housing costs, meaning a higher percentage of their income goes into rent than their White counterparts. The statistics demonstrate that racialized outcomes exist within Grand Rapids.

Another disturbing statistic is that Black and Brown people have a higher incidence of traffic stops, citations, and arrests for misdemeanors than White community members. When we understand that majority of the population in Grand Rapids is White, this should cause us concern. Milinda does not place the blame solely upon police officers. She believes there is much work to be done within the police department, community, and public schools. She suggests that education, awareness, and non-violence programs as a part of the solution.

In 2020 there 38 homicides occurred in Grand Rapids, most with guns. The majority of the cases were related to Domestic violence, gang rivalries, and drug-related activities. Milinda considers gun violence a public health issue that has not been effectively addressed. She applauds organizations such as The Safe Taskforce of Grand Rapids for taking an active role in prevention measures. The group targets residents ages 15 to 24 and address gun violence, pro-social opportunities, and mental health issues.

Milinda has a big job and less than three years to create effective change. Yet, she chooses to focus on one issue at a time, one day at a time. Milinda is an inspiration. Her passion for creating a more just Grand Rapids began long before becoming a City Commissioner and will last long beyond the end of her term. Working for social justice is not what she does but who she is.

At the end of my interview with Milinda, I asked; How would you like to be remembered? She responded by sharing the Maya Angelou quote: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” And, then she said, I want to be known as the person that did the best she could, and when she knew better, she did better. No doubt, Milinda will only get better.

Thank you, Milinda, for your service to all the people of Grand Rapids.


A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to difficult topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community about the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Please Note: The purpose of the project, A Time To Heal, is to create a safe space to allow others to express their feelings and opinions. The opinions of those interviewed may not be the same as my own or the reader. If you choose to comment on a post, please do so respectfully.

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2021© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

One Voice – Introducing Christina

Part 1                                                    

Christina and I met in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on one of the hottest days in July. There was no relief from breeze or shade and our brows quickly populated with beads of sweat. Looking back, it seems appropriate that the weather was extreme when I met this extraordinary woman.   

Who is Christina? That is not an easy question to answer. The best reply I can give succinctly is that she is a complex, brilliant, beautiful black woman with a heart to teach and express her one voice through music, dance, and words. She uses her gifts to speak to people about faith, family, racism, oppression, PKD (polycystic kidney disease), and much more. She is witty, wise, and courageous. 

Christina’s beloved mother and grandmother molded her into the woman she is today. Faith, integrity, and being proud of who she is as a strong black woman are virtues her elders demonstrated and expected in return. Christina and her family lived in a modest home in Grand Rapids, where black and white people lived as neighbors. 

On Sundays, the family went to a Baptist Church where Christina went to Sunday school and sang in the choir. Christina’s faith began early, and it has given her the strength and courage to overcome many difficult challenges. Hymns from her youth continue to bring her comfort and joy. 

Church was the only place where Christina was in the company of all black people. Though she was active in the church, she often struggled to fit in. Her light-skin too light to be black and too black to be white. 

Christina attended Grand Rapids Public School. She had a group of good friends throughout elementary school, but none of them were black. Faith was the shared bond between friends. After 6th grade, the friends attended different middle schools and lost contact.  

Christina attended City High School in Grand Rapids. The school attracts mostly white high achieving students interested in receiving an international baccalaureate degree. While at City High, Christina struggled to find her identity. She could not understand why she did not have black friends. The other black students were cordial but not close. Christina admits that she often felt uncomfortable with other black kids. 

In the end, Christina determined that she was not at ease with her blackness. She asked herself often, Am I black enough? Or, how can I be black enough? To be high achieving, smart, and articulate is considered a white thing. Additionally, her interests were not the same as the other black students. While they were hanging out, dating, and participating in typical teenage activities, Christina was reading, writing, and volunteering at church. 

The puzzle pieces of Christina’s identity began to fit together when she attended Grand Valley State University. In addition to attending classes, Christina joined the choir. The choir was natural a choice as she had been singing all of her life. Less likely, was dance. At the insistence of her best friend, she hesitantly joined a Tap Dance class. She fell in love. 

Dance helped Christina define herself in many ways. Movement unlocked hidden emotions and allowed her to express them non-verbally. Dance made her realize that she could do more than sing, read, and write. It also broke down the barriers of color. She began to look past color and see people more broadly. She gained an understanding that what truly binds us together in relationship to one another are our shared or common interests. 

Christina graduated from Grand Valley State University and began teaching 2nd grade at Muskegon Public Schools. After two years of commuting from Grand Rapids, Christina moved to Muskegon. While she loved teaching the kids and meeting other black professionals, something was not right. The shift in the environment felt extreme. She felt isolated and missed her friends, her mom, and Grandmother. She would not realize the depth of her unhappiness until she moved back to Grand Rapids 4 years later.  

While in Muskegon, the puzzle of Christina’s identity unfolded more deeply. She describes the experience as a wakeup call. Having been raised in a professional middle-class black family, she never wanted for anything. Issues that many black people face became more transparent. Christina’s heart broke when she realized the extent of poverty, child abuse, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness that permeates the black community. 

Christina is currently an Associate Professor of English at Grand Rapids Community College. She teaches remedial reading and African American Literature. 

Part 2

Christina and I spoke frankly about racism and the current social climate in the United States. The following speaks to Christina’s experience of discrimination and oppression, her desire for change, her hope for the future, and more.

Experience

Christina’s first experience of racism was when she was in 3rd or 4th grade. She was in line at a fair when a white man standing in front of her dropped a pen. Christina picked it up and tried to give it back to him, but the man refused to take it. He said I’m not touching that, put it back on the ground. She did as he asked, and then he picked up his pen. She asked her mother later why the man refused to take the pen from her. Her mom did not sugar coat the incident. She simply stated to her daughter that she couldn’t prove it, but it was likely because his skin color was different than hers.  

Later, Christina had a wonderful experience as a student-teacher for East Grand Rapids Public Schools. The love and appreciation she experienced from students and staff led her to apply to become a full-time teacher. Though Christina received glowing recommendations, one of her school advisors from East Grand Rapids Public Schools suggested that she not get her hopes up. The advisor shared that though Christina was an excellent teacher, the school system would not likely hire a black teacher. 

Christina felt hurt by the experience. The hurt grew deeper and deeper until she became angry. Her anger was not toward a person but with an unjust system. 

Recently a white co-worker said she thought Christina received her job at Grand Rapids Community College because she was black. Though, now she recognizes that Christina is a great teacher. Christina was stunned by her co-worker’s statement and thought, this isn’t something that happens to other people. This is happening to me.

Christina does not feel she led a sheltered life, but she did not experience racism often. Christina, who questioned most of her life if she were black enough, suddenly realized that she was black enough. The experience was eye-opening and made Christina infinitely more aware of the issues that black people face daily. 

Desire and Hope for Change

Today, Christina struggles to reconcile the horrible things that people say and the actions taken against African Americans. Social media has given everyone a voice, and it is impossible to deny the reality of racism. Daily news feeds contain hurtful and ignorant comments that range from innate cultural bias to blatant hatred. The stream of constant and insufferable dialog makes it difficult for Christina to remain hopeful for change.

Still, Christina is unwilling to accept that this is just how it is. She has become a fierce advocate for justice. She is creating awareness of racism and oppression through her blog, tap dance, and educating people like me. Christina is unafraid and stands up for the rights of others. She states, though, that all voices must be heard to create real change.  

Christina has had little hope for change. However, since the murder of George Floyd, she has felt a shift of consciousness. The black community has grown more unified, and many white people have become allies. She also thinks that the movement is not a fad and that it is not going away. There is a glimmer of hope. But, Christina, a realist, knows it will happen slowly. 

The following links are to songs that Christina chose for tap dance recitals that acknowledge the existence of oppression.

Glory, By Common and John Legend from the Motion Picture, Selma https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUZOKvYcx_o

A Change Is Gonna Come, By Aretha Franklin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6YCxXQ6Scw

Christina wrote the following blog, Black Ink. It speaks to the excessive number of black lives that are lost unnecessarily. I encourage you to read it and feel the depth of her words and the gravity of the world in which we live. https://tickledpink1.weebly.com/blog/archives/05-2020

In Her Own Words

I asked Christina if she felt she had to work harder than a white person to prove herself. Her response is as follows:

I think that I have to work 100 times harder to prove myself, especially as a professional. I struggle with being labeled “the angry black woman.” While I know that speaking up for injustice is the right thing to do, too often, when black women speak their minds, they get this label. We are constantly evaluating our speech, our behavior, our attire, etc. I don’t feel like I can have off days – I have to be on all the time.

And lastly, I wondered how Christina reconciles or carries her burdens? Here is her response.

When I think about the things that I do to live with the unrest, I have to say that I struggle. A lot! I am continually reminding myself that there is only so much that I can do as one individual. I think about the impact that I make as an educator and in my spheres of influence. I think about the hard conversations that I have with friends. I do all of this to remind myself that all hope is not lost and that change will come – slowly – but it will come. I also dance. There are so many times that I tell myself, “just let it all out on the dance floor.” I think one of the most significant ways that I reconcile everything is through my faith. I remind myself that God is in control.

And More

Christina’s battle is not only related to racism and oppression. She also fights a physical war with her own body. Christina has Polycystic Kidney Disease. This plays a huge role in who she as a person. It helped her in her journey of advocacy. She is involved with the PKD Foundation and became a staunch advocate for kidney health – specifically in the black community. The experience of having kidney disease completely changed Christina as a person. It softened her and helped her think about what other invisible illnesses or circumstances people may be going through. She became more compassionate and a spokesperson for self-care. Having a condition with no cure changes your perspective immensely. 

Thank you, Christina, for participating in A Time To Heal. I value you and your contribution. When I began this project, I hoped that it would open eyes, provoke thought, and heal hearts. However, my expectation changed significantly within the first few weeks. Almost immediately, people I love began to question whether I should speak about race, racism, and oppression. I was heartbroken.

I could have quit. I could have changed the focus. But, I made a commitment, and I still believe that the only way to bridge the divide that exists in our country is to open peaceful conversations with people unlike ourselves. Christina, you gave me the courage to continue. I asked you, “What if the only heart changed by this project is my own?” Your response was, “Well, then it was all worth it.”

Christina, your one wise voice has changed my heart. I am forever grateful.


For more information on PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease), go to https://pkdcure.org/

——————————————-

A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to difficult topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community about the recent supreme court ruling, and more. 

Please Note: The purpose of the A Time To Heal is to create a safe space to allow others to express their feelings and opinions. The opinions of those interviewed may not be the same as my own or the reader. If you choose to comment on a post, please do so respectfully.

A Time To Heal, the Exhibit will be on display at City Center Arts in Muskegon, beginning September 2, 2020, to October 10, 2020. Please check the website before attending to verify hours of operation. http://citycenterarts.com/

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, purchase Gail’s photography at Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artsplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Christina once asked herself, Am I Black Enough? Later in life, the answer became self-evident. Christina has experienced racism in many forms. She is an educator, and passionately speaks of the inequalities that exist in our country today. Christina uses her one voice to seek justice. She expresses her concerns, her anger, and her wisdom by blogging and through dance.

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