Feeling at Home and Going Home!!

What a week it has been …. a true emotional roller coaster!

On Tuesday, Mom turned 91 and what an amazing celebration we had!! I found a beautiful cake for Mom, and added only two orange candles to represent Tim and how much he loved celebrating birthdays!! We not only had lots of cake and ice cream but there was plenty of dancing too!!! I danced with Mom and the caregivers danced with the other residents…I asked Mom if she was having a good time and her response was “I’m feeling right at home”! I don’t think Mom has ever said that before and she may never say it again…. BUT it sure made my heart happy!! She’s content and at peace and with this disease, and if there is anything better I don’t know what it is….

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On Wednesday I headed over the Bay Bridge to Easton, Maryland to give a presentation at Candle Light Cove, an assisted living and memory care facility. I walked for an hour before my presentation through the quaint town and was inspired and relaxed at the end of my walk. As soon as I walked into the facility, it was like being at home. People rushed to great me, made me coffee (they also had wine!!), filled me up with many chef delicacies and the group that listened to my presentation was simply awesome! I was really sad when it was time to return home!

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On Friday night, I had the pleasure of seeing the One-Woman Show by one of my newest friends Elizabeth McCain! The show is called “A Lesbian Belle Tells” and it was simply fabulous!! It was funny (as she gave us wonderful impressions of all of her relatives) and painful (being estranged from family members after coming out), and brutally honest (sharing her deepest feelings of love and pain). The evening was stunning, and as a speaker myself, I learned so much from Elizabeth… Throughout the show she virtually “took us home” to where she grew up in the deep south! One of the things I took away from that powerful night was that after a long journey of soul searching, spirituality and finding true love with her spouse Marie, Elizabeth is as “at home” in her own skin as anyone I’ve ever met. I’m in awe of her! I felt empowered and emotional at the end of the night, thrilled by everything I took away from her show.

It was Saturday that was the most emotional of the week. I was supposed to work a LEGO shift at the National Cathedral but got a substitute instead so I could be with my dear friend Wendi who has over the period of more than 20 years absolutely become part of my family. Her Mom Harriet passed on Valentine’s Day and I was heartbroken for her. I made the three hour trip at the crack of dawn to Courtland, VA, a place that I’d not been before, but felt I knew from all the stories Wendi had shared of it. The drive was beautiful and peaceful and because it has snowed the day before, the snow had stuck to the trees making them glisten! When I got to Harriet’s home, it was warm and inviting and of course filled with family members prior to the start of the funeral. The long line of cars that went from the house to the church was somber, but what struck me the most was the respect that all the other drivers showed to the procession. Even if they were on the other side of the road, they pulled to the side and waited for the procession to pass by. Some people got out of their cars and put their hands over their hearts, which brought me to tears. Bryant Baptist Church where the funeral was held was small but beautiful and filled to capacity with some folks even standing in the back. The eulogy was given by Harriet’s nephew and was entitled “You CAN go home again” and had us laughing and crying! Harriet had spent almost 40 years in DC throughout high school and a long Federal career, BUT had returned home to her beloved Courtland in 2007. I loved that she was so loved in DC and in her beloved Courtland! And I loved that she was able to go back home and that she actually died in her home as opposed to a hospital. To be able to go back home to the place you were born and raised and be so happy with that choice, and then to be called home to be with God filled me with sorrow for her family who will miss her dearly, but also with love and hope and the belief that you really CAN go home again. On the three hour drive back to DC, I thought about my Mom and the two homes in DC she lived in for the first 77 years of her life. My Mom won’t ever be able to go “home” again as Harriet did, BUT the fact that she’s found a home in her group home brings me much joy!

Today my goal was to spend the day filling my spirit. I went to the early service at church where there was both baptisms and confirmation and a visit from our Bishop. After church I attended a class I was so excited to take. It’s a five-week Sisterhood class, that most of the participants are looking forward to as a starting point for building deep relationships with other women who worship in the same place. For me, the older I get the more I feel the need for more meaningful relationships. After the very empowering and enlightening class, I had two hours to spend before the start of a Liturgical Dance Festival I was to attend. So I went to the Frederick Douglass home, one of my favorite places to go and reflect (even when it’s not African American History Month), not to mention the fact that it is the perfect vantage point from which to see almost all of DC. I walked around the gorgeous property for an hour in the beautiful sun, and looked out over the city reflecting on this past week.

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Attending the Liturgical Dance Festival was absolutely the BEST way to end this very emotional week. I had bought the ticket as part of my observance of African-American History Month and though it was the first time I’d ever attended the event, it surpassed my expectations!! I was stunned by the beauty and spirit of the event!! What an incredibly powerful and inspiring two hours and several of the dances brought me to tears!! The dancers were of all sizes and ages, which I LOVED – AND they all moved like they were on cloud nine!!!

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I can’t think of a recent week where I cried so much, both from Joy and Sadness – YET I’ve come away feeling like I’ve grown a mile, and that makes me feel right at home!! I hope you all have a Blessed Week and are in a space where you feel “at home” wherever you are!


Making Loving and Historical Memories!

I always learn a lot in February because it’s Black History Month, but this year I’ve been especially focused on it and have been rewarded in a myriad of ways.

Last weekend we started a new family tradition with Kendal going to her first performance of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I’m thrilled to restart this tradition after more than 25 years of attending with my Mom and other family members. We all enjoyed the performances, especially the dance Revelations, but it was the free performance and demonstration after the show that was the most emotional for me. We all danced and learned as the retired Ailey dancers took the hundreds in attendance through the various dance moves in Revelations. Watching Kim and Kendal alongside each other and even up on the stage, and then me dancing side by side with Kim brought tears to my eyes.  I took quite a few video clips that I shared with Mom this week. She smiled and said “good” though I’m sure she can’t process what she was watching, but the fact is we are making historical memories that I hope will last a lifetime.


The only part of February that I dread is Valentine’s Day. I’m used to being by myself now, but I still get that ache in my heart as the day approaches. So this year I made plans to spend the afternoon with Mom, and then to pick up Kendal after school to put together a LEGO set. I was stunned when I arrived at the group home and all of the residents and caregivers were dressed in red, looking gorgeous! I had made some Valentine’s Day coloring sheets for me and Mom to do, but she wasn’t talking at all or very aware so I just sat with her. Like I always say, I have no expectations with this disease so I wasn’t upset at all that we didn’t color. After a couple of hours with Mom I took a few pics and then headed to pick up Kendal. The surprise of the day was when Kendal got in the car. I told her that I’d spent time with Mom and she quickly said she wanted to see her too. So back to Mom’s I went. Mom was totally different when I returned. She barely acknowledged me, but when she saw Kendal, she smiled from ear to ear and said “HI!!”. She hasn’t smiled like that in a long time! The card I brought for Mom had gold colored lettering and it was hard for her to see. So all she could read was her name and mine that I’d printed. As she struggled reading the card, Kendal said “I’ll read it to you Grandma”. Oh Lordy!!! Mom and I listened intently as Kendal read and tears came to my eyes.  What an amazing kid she is. We had a great time building the LEGO set at my house too, it was simply the perfect day! I forgot all about being alone, and I know Tim was with us and smiling!


Yesterday I had already set aside time to attend a Black History lecture on Josiah Henson (on whom the book Uncle Tom’s cabin was loosely based). The lecture was held at Surratt House (where Johns Wilkes Booth ran to after assassinating President Lincoln) which is literally down the street from my house. Most important of the many things that I learned from the lecture was how Josiah and his wife and four children walked through dangerous territory for 6 weeks from Kentucky to Canada so they could be free!!

Today was “historical movie” day for me! I watched the Netflix series on “Who Killed Malcolm X”,  and “Barry” (a young Barack Obama) and documentaries on Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones, and Allen Iverson. It was a day full of pride and tremendous learning for me and I wish Mom could have enjoyed some of it with me! I hope we can continue to share our history with Kendal and I will continue to review history with Mom just as she used to do with me. Role reversal is such a humbling experience but I try to continue to rise to the occasion and pray I’m doing all the right things. Next up is Mom’s birthday on Tuesday and the folks at the group home are really looking forward to our celebration! Love you Mom can’t wait to have cake with you!

The Lessons I Continue to Learn…

The last two weeks of January can only be described as incredible Teachable Moments! Situations that could have turned out badly were both memorable and joyful!

On the 19th I headed down to Harrisonburg, VA excited to give an all-day workshop on Emotional Intelligence at Generations Crossing, one of my fav places on earth. In proactive fashion I had gotten my 65,000 mile service on my car the day before so I’d be ready for my trip. About 40 miles from my hotel in Harrisonburg another driver pulled up alongside me pointing to the drivers side of my car, alerting me that something was hanging from underneath my car. I pulled off to discover that the shield that protects the engine was hanging down. I quickly grabbed some duct tape from the gas station I’d pulled into, got under the car and taped it up. But I was clearly worried about going the 130 miles back home with the entire front of my car held together by duct tape. I looked up the closest Ford dealer and saw there was one just a few miles from the location where I’d be speaking. On the morning of Martin Luther King’s Holiday I pulled into the Ford dealer to see if they could fix my car before I got back on the road later in the afternoon, but the service manager took one look at me as I walked in and said “before you ask we are booked solid all day”….. I paused and then said “Good Morning, I’m Loretta and I’m in town to give a presentation before driving back home to DC this afternoon and I’m truly worried about going that far with this duct tape holding my car together. Is there any way you can help me?” He looked up at my sad face and then down at his computer. “Can you be here at 4?”…. I guaranteed that I’d be there and I was. Turns out the Ford dealership in MD had neglected to put 5 screws back in the shield that covers the engine and it had started dragging the ground causing sparks…. I was so grateful to the Harrisonburg Ford folks for helping me. The manager who waited on me in the afternoon said the manager who waited on me in the morning told him that I was the “happiest person he’d every met” and he had to help me though they were booked. Lessons Learned – Duct tape can be your friend, it pays to be nice to people even when they aren’t particularly nice to you AND I can do anything I need to do in a pinch!

On Jan 23rd, I finally got the injection in my infected eye that I’d been putting off. I’d been told that it wouldn’t hurt, and maybe that was true, but it was the most uncomfortable 21 seconds I’d spent in a long time. I’d tried to be proactive and had arranged a ride and backup ride to my appointment but both had fallen through at the last minute so I drove myself. That was a mistake! I was literally shaking after the injection and had to sit in the office waiting room until I was strong enough to head home. I made it home safely but it wasn’t a smart decision. Lesson Learned – don’t hesitate to call on others for help even at the last minute.

On January 28th I was supposed to fly to Westchester County, NY to give a presentation in Pearl River. The flight was delayed so I decided to drive. I had time to chill by the fire in the hotel lobby before my presentation and I was relaxed and ready to go! The Artis Senior Living staff was welcoming and loving as they always are and we had a blast together!

But I noticed right away that some of the folks attending were clearly not aware that the speaker was going to be African-American. A woman who was seated in the front of the room as the full dinner buffet was being set up in the back of the room came up to me and said “what’s on the menu for tonight so I can tell you what I want on my plate?”….. “ummmm”, I paused. “I don’t know what’s on the menu” was the best I could come up with. “Why not?” she shot back. “Because I don’t work here.” She simply said “oh” and brushed by me clearly aggravated and headed to make her own plate. As the presentation was about to start she realized I was the speaker. She turned her chair around away from the screen and with her back to me. “Oh Lordy” I thought. But I started my presentation with my usual humor and joy and within two minutes my friend in the front turned her chair around to face me. For the rest of the presentation she took notes, laughed and cheered and a couple of times wiped tears from her eyes. Artis had purchased books for every attendee which I had signed in advance but I offered to add their names to my signature if they wanted that. My “friend” in the front of the room grabbed her book and jumped up to be first in line. She came up to me, grabbed me by the shoulders, looked right into my eyes and said “you are a beautiful soul” and hugged me tighter than I’d been held in a while. I hugged her back for what seemed like forever! It wasn’t an apology for her earlier treatment of me, it was even better than an apology. Before I started my presentation I had decided I wasn’t going to let this woman or anyone else ruin that great evening that I’d driven 4 hours to get to. Lesson Learned – Be open and forgiving and give folks a second chance to make a first impression.

On the 29th after work I gave a presentation at Olney Assisted Living. A Facebook friend accepted my last minute invitation and joined me. There were just a few people in attendance but I’m a true believer that size doesn’t matter at all and we had the best time ever!! My friend Nancy Piness and I possibly had met many years ago and we have so many connections from work, church and the Veney family that we could actually feel as if we are related. What a gem she is and it was such a pleasure to have her there!! We will be friends forever! Lesson Learned – invite people to hear you speak even at the last minute!!

Last night I ended the month of January in the best possible way! I went Contra Dancing with my friend Katherine…it’s kinda like line dancing and square dancing mashed together (see YouTube) and you dance with almost everyone as the night goes on.

I swear the people who were there were the nicest people ever!! New people like me wear blue buttons so everyone knows it’s your first time. Anyone can ask anyone else to dance regardless of gender or orientation. It was amazing learning the steps and the turns but it didn’t matter if you messed up!! People just laughed and kept going! There were different ethnicities, young folks and old folks and men in skirts and kilts so it would twirl when they turned, and everyone was so comfortable in their own skin and welcomed each other unconditionally! I honestly have to say I’ve never attended another event quite like it!! Katherine and I danced for more than 3 hours and I didn’t get home until after midnight but felt exhilarated! I laid in bed remembering the names of the people I’d danced with, the steps, the smiles and most of all the fun! Lessons Learned – be open to trying new things and meeting new people, it may end up being an experience you’ll never forget!!

Hello February!!! If you’re anything like January you’re going to be a great month and I’m ready!!