When I was growing up, I loved the summer and played in the sun all day. My skin would tan, the color of mocha. On day, when I was around 5 years old, I overheard a relative say, “Afsaneh, just like her father, is as black as a cockroach.” That made me feel ugly and I believed that I was ugly. That year, my father traveled to the US and brought the larger doll back (the small one was from a later trip). When I saw it, I asked if it was for me. He said, “No it is not. This is a black doll and you said that black skin is not pretty.” I said, “but she is pretty.” Then my dad asked, “so are you pretty too?” I said, “yes” and he gave me the doll. She’s been with me for 60 years, reminding me of my father teaching me to value myself.
Almost two years ago, I was inspired to start a mini-movement in my hometown of Orlando, FL called #LoveForAll. My goal was to blanket my neighborhood with signs in windows of shops that welcomed people of all nationalities, ethnicities, religions, gender and sexual preference into these places of business. The mini-movement grew and grew and now tens of thousands of these signs are all over the country displayed in homes, classrooms, shops, restaurants and offices. Occasionally, I would be met with resistance by people who felt this was a political movement. It isn’t. It’s simply a movement of LOVE. And in this time of crisis when everyone on this planet is affected by this virus, love is needed more than ever. We’re all equal. We’re all one. The virus doesn’t discriminate. And neither should we. Now is the time for #LoveForAll to spread around this world. And if I can help in my own small way with a sign that makes everyone feel welcome wherever they go in this world, I am more than happy to oblige. For more information on how you can help or to request a sign, please visit InsistOnLoveForAll.com.
I was seven and a half months pregnant…I spent the night searching out the window, and finally crying myself to sleep. It was New Year’s Eve. And, my husband had stood me up. It was pretty much down from there. After our son was born, I begged him to do counseling with me, but he refused. Well…I refused to settle for anything less than the intimate partnership I so longed for- so believed in. I had left my first marriage with my childhood sweetheart when the reality turned out to be brutal, and now I realized with despair that my dreams would never be realized in this second marriage. And so I got divorced AGAIN. And, it was ROUGH- That New Year’s Eve found me in a shouting match with my soon to be ex-husband. This was so far from the happy marriage of my parents. Once prone on the bedroom floor I asked myself, well Janice are you going to kill yourself?…NO…then get up- do the first thing. And so I did. I moved forward, and the year passed with me as my son’s primary caregiver. I still yearned for romance. I was now thirty years old. And, it was New Year’s Eve again! This year, I was one of those people you hear about DETERMINED to have a good time on NY’s Eve. So, I went to not one, not two, but THREE NY’s Eve parties. And at the third one, as the song “Some Enchanted Evening” says, I saw a stranger (sing) across a crowded room. He was tall with long, sandy hair… a mustache. He had on a white-collar shirt and a black vest. And, like the song says, I flew to his side. Well, in this case, I joined ALL the women, lining up to give HIM a NY’s Eve kiss! When it was my turn I said, “Couldn’t I have one of those?” Well, turns out, he had noticed me too. He saw me talking earlier to a mutual male friend and thought I was with him. At the time, I had short salt and pepper hair. I was wearing a white pants suit with a navy blue turtleneck; everyone else was wearing jeans, including him. He happily obliged with a sweet kiss. Well, that was 31 years ago this New Year’s Eve. And, that was JERRY. And, we have been married for over 28 years. In that time, we have faced some of the biggest stressors people CAN face: We’ve raised two sons, with all the inherent ups and downs; we moved cross country without jobs, we’ve dealt with financial difficulties; drug addiction; death. But, we have a passionate, connected, intimate, fun relationship. Last year, Jerry converted to Judaism. In August, on our 28th anniversary, we had our Jewish wedding with a full ceremony, dinner dance, and even a family show. And on this New Year’s Eve, Jerry and I will celebrate again, not only the beginning of the New Year, but the anniversary of the beginning of our wonderful life together.
I met Paul fifty years ago at a party playing “Twister” with friends from high school. I was immediately attracted to his blonde hair, blue eyes, and boisterous laugh. It was pretty much love at first sight. We were together in high school, got married soon afterward, and eventually had our son Charlie. Our family of three lived in a safe, comfortable suburb of St. Louis, MO, and we continued to have a mostly harmonious relationship built on common interests, with family at the center. Our careers were also a pivotal part of our lives. Paul worked for 24 years as the Director of Maintenance for a local college and I was an early childhood teacher. We loved to travel to our lake house, visit the beaches of Florida, and spend time with loved ones.
Then our world changed. Paul was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease. This devastating news was NOT in our long-range plans! His disease rendered him impulsive, imbalanced and a fall risk, and he needed continuous surveillance. He was forced to take early retirement and I choose to take a permanent leave from the teaching job I loved to become a full-time caregiver. There are limited resources available for caregivers of persons with debilitating ongoing non-life threatening diseases; therefore they learn to live a life of isolation in a small world. Paul and I had been a very social couple, but now we were almost exclusively living a life of isolation.
In March of this year, Covid19 became a reality for everyone. Their worlds became smaller; more isolating. Ironically, however, my small world has gotten larger! People who are now living in my small world of isolation have become imaginative. Covid19 opened up a world of resources when other people, stuck in their homes began to reach out through technology. Since the Shelter-in-Place order, I have been asked to join in several sessions using Zoom, Google Hangout, and other types of communication. I was social again with family members, caregivers, work associates, and girlfriends.
I realize in the past I was often oblivious to the needs of others, but sometimes out of tragedy, a new realization comes to us. So while I have compassion for all of those suffering from all the ramifications of this terrible pandemic, I also feel it may bring a new understanding of the hardships that people have with the isolation of chronic illness and their caregivers. As we return to our normal routines and resume our lives I am hopeful people will have a greater understanding for the isolation Paul and I are experiencing, but more importantly act on the need to be there for their relatives, neighbors, and acquaintances who may welcome a phone call or message to break-up the day.