A weekly blog, by author Leslie K. Howard, filled with spiritual, uplifting thoughts to help you get through your week

Posts tagged ‘Love’

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Surviving The Storm

SandyFive years ago the east coast of the United States was attacked by Super Storm Sandy. Millions of people were without power for over a week.  Thousands had to evacuate and many lost their homes to the storm surge. According to the CDC (Center of Disease Control) there were 117 death associated with Sandy.  Parts of the New Jersey coast were devastated and some have yet to fully recover.

The Howard household had its share of damage; A very tall Pine tree fell and pulled up most of our back patio while simultaneously destroying our fence.  We suffered roof damage too but all in all, it was minimal and could have been costly had we not good insurance.

So here we are March 14, 2017 on the precipice of another storm.  This time we are getting a blizzard with snow expected to reach up to 2 feet with high winds and bone chilling cold.  And again the Howard’s have to get ready. So I thought this would be a good time to share with you how we got through Hurricane Sandy and how we plan to get through this monster snow storm.

Preparation:  In the book of Matthew the bible tells the Parable of The Ten Virgins who were waiting for the Bride Groom to arrive. Five were ready and five were not.  While the first five prepared themselves by filling their oil lamps, the other five, didn’t. The ones who had oil told those who didn’t to go and purchase some from the market.  While they went shopping the Bride Groom arrived and took the prepared virgins into the banquet. The unprepared virgins were not allowed in. Moral of the parable….  Always be prepared.

Before you send me letters, I know the story is about preparing for the second coming of Jesus and not for a storm.  However, we can apply the story to our everyday lives.  With that in mind, let me share with you how my husband and I prepared for Sandy.

I used to run the food pantry at our church.  I’d shop and stock our shelves with food  for people in need.  I tried to get items that were easy to prepare and would hold them over for a few days.  So as I went to the market to get provisions for our home, I shopped for many of the same items.  Because of the intensity of the storm we wanted to be prepared for a week without power. Later I’ll share my recipes with you. Here’s what we purchased.

  • Cash (we didn’t purchase cash. LOL)
  • Locate nearest shelter
  • 7 Gallons of Water (drink 1 gallon per day)
  • Instant oatmeal (individual packages)
  • Canned chili with no beans
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Tomato sauce
  • Instant Rice (The boil in bag kind)
  • Chunky Beef Soup
  • Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Progresso Chicken and Rice Soup
  • Canned vegetables (Green Beans, Carrots, Corn)
  • Canned beans
  • Canned tuna
  • Canned Corned Beef Hash
  • Canned Chicken
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • Crackers
  • Tea
  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Canned peaches
  • Rasins
  • 24 Sternos
  • Sterno Chafing Racks
  • Aluminum Pans
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Paper Plates
  • Plastic Utensils
  • Disposable Cups
  • Toilet Paper
  • Napkins
  • Garbage Bags
  • Refill any prescribed medicine
  • Tylenol (or OTC pain medicine of your choice)
  • Cold or Allergy Meds
  • Toothpaste
  • Sanitary napkins
  • Baby Wipes ( Do Not Flush Down Toilet)
  • Blankets
  • Comforters
  • Battery Operated Radio
  • Flash lights
  • Old Brooklyn Lantern
  • Candles
  • Lighter/Matches
  • Batteries
  • Manual powered Can Opener
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Fill Bathtub with water (have an additional bucket or two filled with water)
  • 1 Brick

Hurricaine Sandy hit New Jersey October 29th  around 8pm.  Our power went out during the night but we were able to sleep in our bedroom for two nights. Our children were grown and living with their mates so it was just Hubby and me.  After the second night we could no longer sleep upstairs so we moved our living quarters downstairs.

We bundled and snuggled together laughing, talking and enjoying  our candle light.  We put our sterno racks on the dining room table filled the aluminum trays with water and lit the sternos.  This was our source of cooking and heat.  When we finished cooking we poured the hot water into the bathroom sink so we could wash our bodies. We refilled the trays with water for heat and hot beverages.

After a day or so our home was getting too cold.  Before the storm hit, we sat down and discussed our survival plans. We made our grocery list, went shopping for anything we didn’t have in the house.  We located our local shelter just in case we had to evacuate.  It was then that I suggested to my husband that we block off one room for our living space.  As the child of a single mother, (with little money) there were a few times when we had no power because the electric bill wasn’t paid. We had to huddle in one room using heavy comforters to cover the doorway, and lit the gas oven for heat.  My husband wasn’t seeing it my way and our discussion got, should I say, “rather heated”.  For some reason he just didn’t agree.  His main concern was if we didn’t allow the heat to move through the house that the pipes might burst.  I understood that but I also knew we had to stay warm.  It’s at times like that a girl has to really pray… Hard!

Well, all I can say is by day two, Girlfriend was much too cold;  and so I got the ladder, hammer and nails and proceeded to secure the comforters over the stairway leading upstairs and the area separating the living room from the dining room.  (after a few heated words, Hubby began to help)  We moved our heating source to the coffee table and we got comfortable and cozy on our living room sofa.  To ease his concerns about the pipes, we allowed the basement and the upstairs bathroom faucets to drip.  Problem solved.

Going to the bathroom was an ad-ven-ture.  Boy was it cold….  I own two pairs of adult footie pajamas and how I wish they had those old-fashioned “Trapped Doors” on the backside.  Needless to say our bathroom activities were as brief as possible.

We filled the tub (and a few extra buckets) with water, just in case our water stopped running. We’d need water to flush the toilet.  We had extra garbage bags just in case we ran out of water and we had to use them for … Ahem… body waste.  Thank God it didn’t come to that.

In the mornings we had instant oatmeal, fruit and tea or corned beef hash.  For lunch we had soup or tuna and crackers. We snacked on peanut butter, crackers, raisins or fruit. And dinner was a gourmet delight.  I prepared spaghetti dinners using Ramen Noodles and the Chili mixed with tomato sauce.  Add a can of string beans and you’ve got a meal.

Another favorite was the Chunky Beef Stew over Instant Rice with Canned Carrots on the side.  Yum!  As a rule, we stay away from canned food and instant noodles but these were desperate times.  We did not use the flavor pack, just the noodles.  When preparing canned veggies, pour off the pre-packaged water and rinse with clean water.  That will eliminate much of the salt.  We drank plenty of water to keep our bodies flushed.  But that meant more trips to bathroom… Brrrrr….

We lived like this for seven whole days.  We’d take turns sleeping so one of us was awake to keep an eye on the fire. Safety First!  When not cooking and not having to be concerned about heat we could relax, read, play cards, sing and act silly. We reminisced about our family when our children were small.  We imagined what our grandchildren would grow up to be. We talked about our future and thanked God for our present.

Everyday my husband would suggest I go to the shelter while he’d stay in the house just in case there was a problem with the pipes. I refused.  I just couldn’t leave him.  I did go to the shelter twice to charge my phone and computer but came back home.  I saw a few neighbors there.  It was very crowded but the community volunteers did a great job keeping the people comfortable.  They had a generator so they could cook meals, show movies and of course allow all us tech hounds recharge our devices.  I really appreciate my community.

Cash came in handy.  Because of the power outage, the ATMs were not working.  Everything was on a cash bases.  At one point the car needed gasoline.  Because the refineries could not process the oil into gasoline New Jersey instituted a gas ration.  Cars with license plates in odd or even numbers could only get fuel on certain days. People not only needed gas for cars but also for generators. As you can guess, the gas lines were long.

On the seventh evening we decided if the power wasn’t restored by the next day, we’d go to the shelter.  Praise God for day eight…. “Then There Was Light”!  We survived!  By the His grace, we survived!  I think Frank and I grew closer as a couple.  Our love was tested but we worked together and with faith in Jesus, we survived the storm.

So now, as I type this blog, the snow has begun fall.  We are expecting another storm. This time up to 2 feet of snow with blizzard conditions are predicted.  We are well prepared with food water and the Word.  My husband is slouched on the other end of sofa, asleep.  I couldn’t help but laugh when I stepped out on to the sun porch to check the weather, and he growled “Close The Door.  It’s Cold!”…. And so, it’s begun.

I hope my little story helped.  Next time a storm comes and your power goes out use some of my tips.  Let me know how you do.

Oh before I go, aren’t you curious about the brick?  Well, let me share.  One night I got sick of sleeping on the sofa and was determined to sleep in my own bed.  I went to the backyard over by the garage and picked up a nice red brick.  I washed off the mud, wrapped it in foil and let it sit in the sterno heated hot water.  I let that brick get good and hot.  I then wrapped it in a few towels and placed it in my bed.  While I washed up and brushed my teeth my bed was getting toasty warm.  When I got under the covers I felt like Goldie Locks.  Ahhhh… Just Right.  I put the brick at the bottom of the bed to keep my feet warm and I was toasty all night long.

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Reaching Through Forgiveness & Finding Love

HugAs I sit listening to the rhythmic sounds of the respirator, there appears to be a musical timing to the machine that is keeping my father alive. Dad has severe health issues.  The first to come was Alzheimer’s disease.  Then four years ago he had a series of strokes that have left him totally bedridden.  His body is now constricted and weak.  No longer able to swallow, he is being fed through a tube implanted in his stomach.  During a recent surgery he went into cardiac arrest which is why he is now on the respirator.

I can’t help but shed tears for the frail man, a former likeness of himself, lying in the hospital bed.  I remember him young, strong, and robust.  Dad was a snappy dresser, with his own sense of style. He was a smart, educated man who had an extended knowledge of jazz.  Ask him anything about the old masters:  Duke, Lionel, Miles, and of course, Lady Day.  They were like old friends to him.  They were part of his rhythm, his heart beat.  To him they were like family.

All my life we’ve had this on again off again relationship. After five years of marriage, three children and one on the way (me), my parents figured out that they did not belong together. I did not see him much. Visits with him were far and few in between. I was lucky if I saw him during the holidays. I never saw him on birthdays, school plays or sporting events. He just simply was not there. And, if by chance on a rare occasion we were together, the amount of time he spent with me was shallow and brief.

I was about five and my brother had just turned seven, mom told us that dad was coming for a visit.  Dressed in our best clothes, we were so excited that our father was coming to take us out.  Mom instructed us to sit on the sofa and watch TV while we waited for him to arrive. She did not want us to play for fear that we’d get messy.  After two hours had passed, mom told us to change into our play clothes. Just then there was a knock on the door. It was Daddy! Of course we tried to tackle him in our excitement, but he was much bigger and stronger than we were.  He grabbed both of us in each arm and we kissed him on both cheeks. I remember how special it felt walking up the street with Dad. I’m sure my brother felt the same way.  None of our friends had ever seen our father.  I guess he was an urban legend come to life. As we walked hand in hand, we vied for dad’s attention chattering on about this and that.  When we arrived at the corner store dad told us that we could have what ever we wanted. My brother asked for a bag of potato chips and a grape soda.  As usual I asked for the same. What ever my brother did I tried to do too.

We left the store and continued our journey on foot.  Before we knew it, we were back at home.  Dad said that he had to go. Mom told us to go into the kitchen to eat our snack. Although the door was closed, we could hear them arguing. Mom did most of the yelling. She was upset that dad’s idea of taking us out was a walk to the corner store. The entire trip took about a half hour. Over the years when mom would talk about her marriage to dad, she would often refer to that incident. When she spoke of it I could still hear hurt and anger in her voice.

After our outing, I can’t say that I remember when I saw dad again. You see, my dad was a prodigal father.  Just like the parable, he wasted his youth on drugs, women and song.  He totally neglected his family and lived the life of a bachelor.  Instead of spending those precious years with his children, he practically ignored us.  He left behind a broken, bruised family and an angry unforgiving wife who transferred her feelings of sadness, anger and bitterness onto her children.  We grew up pursuing his love and attention.  We wanted to bask in him. We wanted to feast on him and all we received was a table of crumbs.  As a consequence of his neglect – without a father’s guidance my brothers made terrible choices.  They too fell into a life of addictions and crime.  I, on the other hand, sought his attention and approval.  However, without the protection of a father, I was sexually abused by my mother’s boyfriend.  After, I became promiscuous and soon found myself a teenage parent and a high school dropout.

When I got married I wasn’t sure he’d show up for the ceremony.  I was overjoyed when he did.  The photos are lovely but we were far from having a real relationship.  Through the years I’d phone dad to invite him to family outings, he’d either evade the subject or promise to come but never show.  During one of our phone conversations I told dad that he had missed all of my growing up.  I told him that he had two wonderful grandchildren who love him.  I asked him, “Don’t you want to be a part of their lives?”  His answer hurt me more than anything I had ever experienced up to that point.  His answer was total silence.  If only he had lied to me and promised to be part of the family for the sake of the grandchildren.  Knowing it was a lie, I would have accepted it.  But his total silence – I just could not take.  I said a tearful goodbye and rushed to the comfort of my husband’s arms.  Completely shattered, I finally knew.  I told my husband, “One day my father is going to need me and I will be there for him.”  How could I have known the depth of such a promise?  I had no idea that my father’s health would deteriorate.  I did not know that I would be the one he would have to depend on to care for him.

 From that day on, I began to ask God to change my heart from an angry,

needy one to a completely joyful heart. “Let all bitterness and wrath and

anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you,

with all malice: And be ye kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving

one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

God began to minister to me and just like a loving father He comforted me.  He began to heal me.  He started teaching me to love unconditionally.  After all, didn’t He do the same for me? While I was yet in the bondage of sin, our loving Father forgave me.  How awesome!  If He did it for me, then He expects me to do the same for others.

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your father

forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

 He showed me how to look past the faults of my father.  He showed me how to maximize even the smallest amount of time we spent together.  The few occasions that dad spent with our children became pleasant experiences.  I learned not to expect more from my father than he was capable of giving.  I learned not to hold his past up in his face.  All that mattered was the present.  In return God gave me a sweet relief.  He took away the sorrow.  My children did not inherit bitterness and disdain. They simply learned to enjoy Grandpa.  What I learned was to forgive him of his wrongs and love him.  I think that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it so well:  “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive.  He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love….”

Update:  Dad went on to Glory January 20, 2007, shortly after this article was submitted.

 This article was first printed in Extreme Woman Magazine June 1997.  It was reprinted in Connections Newsletter, January 2010. It was a catalyst for my book Sisters With SASS, available at Amazon.com or on Kindle.  Click book to follow link.SASS Book

Riding With Ms. Rosie

Blue CarI Don’t Drive.  I admit it.  I don’t drive, don’t judge me.  I am born, bred and  raised  in Newark NJ.  I am a city girl.  I take the 25 and 70 busses.  I ride the city subway (okay that makes it sound bigger than it is.  It’s really The Lite Rail.) I enjoy it.  I like to people watch. I like talking to folks. It’s my thing and I love it. But this day a stranger just wouldn’t do.  I didn’t realize that what I needed was a friendly face and as God would have it, He provided just the right one for me.  Let me explain.

I was called to duty. Jury duty that is.  YaY!  Don’t get me wrong I’m one of those people who really doesn’t mind serving Jury Duty…. if I have to.  Just not right now.  I thought I could do it.  I had all intentions of doing it, but once I got into the courtroom I found I just couldn’t handle it.

My first cousin was in a domestic violent relationship and two years ago around Valentine’s Day, she was murdered.  I’m not at liberty to share details nor am I ready to do so right now.  I along with her brother am representing the family.  We are at the very beginning of court proceedings, and lately I’ve been to that court house more than I care to say.  After being excused from jury duty, I headed home.  I decided to go to Newark Penn Station to grab a slice of pizza (I know, I know. Don’t tell me how fattening it is.  If you felt the way I did you’d have had pizza and a whole lot more.)  So here I am in Penn and who do I run into but the effervescent Ms. Rosie.  It was 2:30 pm….

I met Ms. Rosie some 14 years ago through a mutual friend.  We aren’t real close but I consider her very, very special. She’s one of those people who knows everybody.  She is extremely knowledgeable but not a know it all.  Ever willing to lend a helping hand, if she can’t assist you she certainly knows someone who can.  As always she was a wealth of information about the good things happening in the community.  We talked about health and hot flashes.  (By the time we finished that part I felt real guilty about my pizza- jones.)   After connecting me with a sister who teaches health and wellness, she offered to take me home. I accepted and that’s where our adventure began.

We picked up her vehicle from the parking lot and headed up Market Street. “I’ve got to drop off some mail.” She said.  Parking at the Springfield Avenue Post Office she said “I’ll be right back” I waited in the car wondering what was taking her so long. I had seen the envelope and it was ready to mail. My thought was broken when I saw her walk out the door.  Although she went in the post office alone she returned  with another passenger.  Ms. Rosie ran into another weary traveler and decided to give him a ride home.  It just so happens he lives in a senior building where her mom used to live on Irving Turner Boulevard.  “Come on” she said, waiving me toward the building entrance. She took me on a tour of the beautiful lobby and the deck where the seniors like to barbecue during the summer months.   The building was clean and very welcoming.

Back in the car, we continued our drive and wound up on West Kenny and Howard Streets.  I hadn’t been in that area of the city in some time and it had improved greatly.  Once laden with projects, pimps and prostitutes, this part of the city has experienced some true revitalization.   We stopped at Vonda’s Kitchen located at 183 West Kenny Street on the first floor of a building complex.  Vonda’s Kitchen is a delight in the city. It is a Soul Food lover’s dream with traditionaResturantl dishes such as fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and greens.  She serves up delicious seafood dishes, baked and barbecued chicken, fresh vegetables, salads, traditional burgers as well as a selection of vegetarian burgers. But Vonda’ s Kitchen is not a neighborhood greasy spoon. The pristine brightly colored decor is only out shined by her friendly staff.  Vonda has nothing to hide either.  I just love the window where the customer can look directly into the kitchen to watch the chef and staff at work.    I’ll have more to say about Vonda’s kitchen in the near future.

Back in the car again: Ms. Rosie chatted on about how blessed she and her husband were by ministering at a local nursing home. She bubbled with delight as shared stories of her weekly visits; how she truly enjoys sharing the word of God with them.  We talked about vision, goals and her desire to open up a business that would really serve the needs of Senior Citizens and their families.  She shared her newest passion, coin collecting and selling them on Ebay.  All I can say to you is this, by the time we arrived at my house, my whole mood had changed. Earlier In the day I was on the brink of tears now I was filed with laughter and joy. I realized I had been coddled and comforted by a very special angel.  By the way it was close to 5:30 when I got home.  So a 15 minute ride turned into two hours.  Thanks for the ride Ms. Rosie.  It was a trip well spent.

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I Remember Momma

As a very young child I wanted for nothing. Everything was provided by my mother. When mom was pregnant with me, my parents separated  and dad had  little to no dealings with the family. So, mom raised  us as a single mother. She cooked, cleaned, cared for us and held down a job so we wouldn’t be hungry or homeless.  She was indeed an incredible woman.

I remember her voice, her touch, even her smell.  A gifted story-teller, I loved to listen to her.  She had a way with voice inflection that was simply unmatched.  It’s a wonder I’m not a “Goth” seeing she introduced me to Edgar Allen Poe when I was just about four years old.  I remember many nights after her reading to me either from a book or a scary story from her own  imagination, being afraid to go to bed.  She’d let me crawl into bed with her.  I’d snuggle real close. Sleeping with her made me feel so safe.

I remember her straightening my hair on Easter Sunday so I could get all dressed up and go to grandma’s house.  She’d put hair-grease on the back of her hand with a cigarette dangling from her mouth she’d meticulously get every hair on the edge of my head. ( You know in my “Kitchen.” Smile) I’d hold my ears down so as not to get burned by the hot comb.  It was to no avail, because she’d slap my hands away and tell me,”I’m not gonna burn you child.” 

I remember learning to cook under her tutelage. I’m not even half the cook she was. Oh the joy I’d get watching her beat cake batter by hand and laughing as  her hips moved in rhythm.  How I find myself today mimicking those moments as  I whip cake batter or stir up cornbread mix.  

Dancing at my wedding, holding my children for the first time, praying with me, and even on occasion crying with me; all of these memories and many more will have to sustain me until I see her again.  I look at my daughter and granddaughter, and once in a while I’ll see my own reflection in the mirror and I remember Momma.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Visit my website www.Lesliehowardministries.com

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