Sixteen Months in my life…

 

I logged on and there I was.

A virtual classroom with attorneys and legal counsel from all around the world.

Here I was a housewife/mom/blogger/former podcast host gearing up to learn and take in as much information as I could possibly understand about the LAW!!

Who was I kidding?

This was going to prove to be one of the most challenging exercises of my life! There were courses that presented information that seemed way above my pay grade, and as the semesters progressed, the classes became a bit more intense.  There were several times I believed I was in way over my head, and quite frankly, I actually was!

I was determined to learn and keep up with those legal eagles that were my classmates who were better informed.  At times I believed the professors were just gracious, but as I committed to the work, it became clear to them that I was serious.

As the months moved along, and it became apparent that I was going to complete the program, the last semester proved to be the most difficult.  So much so, my advisor called me and asked if I was okay.  I told him I committed to the program and its completion, and I wanted to finish strong and he believed that I would, and I did.

Constitutional Law, dense and tedious.  Not as black or white as proposed.  You see, as I studied Law, there was nothing black or white.  It all began with, “it depends.”

That much I learned.

Then there it was.

The email confirming that I had, in fact, completed my Masters in the Studies of Law successfully, and I was being awarded my degree.  Actually two degrees – Certification in Entertainment Law!

I cried bitterly.  But these tears were different.  I actually recognize what tears of joy truly felt like.

I did it.  I took 16 months of my life and dedicated it to studying something that I thought I wasn’t smart enough to do.  It seemed like a dream. But I did it.

What have you put off that you think would take too much of your time?

What dream have you differed? Do it! Now is the time!!!

Lesson:

Sixteen months goes by fast…get it done!!

‘Til Tuesday

Brokenness walked into my house…

This summer, a few things occurred that stopped me dead in my tracks and forced me to face the reality that lives all around us.

Her name is Sarah*.

A phone call from our son asking if a friend could sleepover.  By sheer instinct, I knew the omission of the pronoun led me to the conclusion that his friend was a girl.  I met her the following morning.  As she walked down the stairs to leave quietly, my son introduced her.  I noticed her height but more importantly, how thin she was.  I asked her if she wanted something to eat, and she politely declined.  She thanked me for allowing her to spend the night, and she left.

I immediately pounced with a million questions, and to my heartbreak, the answers devastated me.  You see, Sarah was homeless.  She had been living out of her car for a few weeks and was bouncing from home to home of any friend that would let her sleepover, and when she exhausted her welcome, she would just sleep in her car.   I will spare you the devastating statistics on young adults that age out of foster care, but Sarah was just that.  A young adult that lived her entire life in the Foster Care system.

She spent three nights in our home.  We talked and she shared her life at that moment.  When she aged out, she moved in with her boyfriend; her boyfriend moved away, she moved in with a friend and her friend’s boyfriend, they broke up and there she was…homeless.  I asked Sarah if she had ever met her mom or dad.  She said no, she was placed into foster care as a newborn. She had never met her birth mom or any family and the foster family that she did live with for a bit moved away, leaving her behind.  Can you imagine that?  A 20-year-old all alone with absolutely no family to call her own.  I was devastated.  I immediately started contacting a few of the folks I knew who might be able to assist Sarah.  I suggested that she go back to DCF and ask for some kind of assistance and I am happy to write that she was able to be placed into transitional housing for youth that age out of the System.  She can live there until she turns 21.

Then once again she’s on her own.

Though Sarah was homeless, she has a job and is in school.  She’s doing what is required or expected of her to survive her life’s journey.  I was immediately challenged!  What am I doing to help!!  Yes, I offered her a place to sleep and eat, but that was not enough. How am I offering a hand-up to so many who need it not because they are lazy, but because they have been dealt a hard blow?

I started volunteering at our local Shelter.  I started showing up for those who needed a smile, a meal, a hello,  a simple word of encouragement.  Look around you, I am sure there is someone that needs a helping hand.  Don’t wait for brokenness to come walking into your door.  Go to the broken and help them put themselves back together.

Lesson:

Don’t ever judge a book by any cover…read some pages first.

‘Til Tuesday

-Annette Ortiz Mata

 

 

*Sarah – name change to respect her privacy

School Scandal? New…well?

These past few weeks, our news and twitter feeds have been inundated with the school scandal/entrance scam.  Parents going the “extra mile” to assure their child is guaranteed a seat in the most elite schools around the country.

This, my friend, is nothing NEW.

I think the most egregious detail is the “alleged fraud” that the parents engaged in to guarantee their child admittance into these elite schools.  Superimposing your child’s image on an athletic snapshot, or having someone else take their ACTs and SATs is just simply criminal!

Yet, this type of behavior has been going on for DECADES.

Our family experienced a very small taste of what power and privilege can guarantee you!  Our son was in third grade, and we wanted to switch him to another private elementary school that came highly recommended.  He tested, and we interviewed, but unfortunately, our family was denied admittance.  Our dear friend whose son attended this elementary school at the time asked how did we like the school, and we mentioned that our son was denied admission.  Well, less than 24 hours later, I get a call from the President of the school congratulating us and saying that a seat has been made available for our son!

I just about fell out.  

My husband and I decided that this was not the type of environment that we wanted our son to be a part of, and we declined the “seat.”

The hypocrisy behind this scandal is that we all have used some type of “influence” to get theatre tickets, dinner reservations, discounts of any kind.  

It’s all about who you know!

 It’s a conversation we must honestly address before we are quick to criticize the behavior of parents wanting their child to be given an unfair advantage.

We do it every day!!!  

We live seeking, desiring, and lusting after the “best” for our lives and our families.  We live coveting the “best” because we feel it validates our existence.  It gives us an identity of influence and importance. And honestly, we kinda enjoy it. We live thinking that if we have this education, drive this car, live in this certain neighborhood, wear these types of brands that we will BE better, we will be ACCEPTED!

The unfortunate part of this type of thinking is that our society rewards this type of behavior.  

THAT’S. THE. PROBLEM!

If we live this way, how do we expect our children to know any better?  When we begin to accept the beauty of who we are, where we are and start giving of ourselves and creating a space that is beneficial for everyone, THEN these type of “scandals” should truly upset us.

But until we learn to live in truth, with integrity, we can’t expect any more of our society.  It starts with us.

What do we place the most value on?

That is where your heart lives.

Lesson:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart (your wishes, your desires; that on which your life centers) will be also. – Matthew 6:21 (Amplified Version)

-Annette Ortiz Mata

Crazy Faith!

“Crazy Faith! Don’t just pray about it, ACT ON IT! Normal begets normal. Crazy begets crazy!” – Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle

So I decided to go back to school after 25 years!!! Yup, 25 years since I earned my Bachelor of Arts.

Not only did I choose to return to obtain a Masters Degree, but not any Masters. I chose a field of study that I have no expertise or experience- LAW!

So you see I have taken a CRAZY leap, that has required CRAZY FAITH.

The excitement that comes with doing something that takes you out of our comfort zone is exhilarating! Yet it comes with great risk. Fear of failing, fear of embarrassing myself and fear of not completing the degree!!!

Yet I have CRAZY FAITH to believe that I will not fail, I will not be embarrassed, I will complete the degree. 

What have are you facing that requires CRAZY faith? What are you teetering with? What are you walking away from that you should embrace? What have you said is an impossibility?

A relationship, money decisions, buying a home, changing your job, going back to school, reconciliation in a relationship, starting your own business. Saying yes to something that scares you to death. These all require Crazy Faith.

Embrace CRAZY Faith! Act on what you believe is set before you. Reach out, walk towards it, pick it up! Don’t expect others to do for you what only you can do!

I challenge you to live creatively, live generously, live joyously…

Lesson:

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” – Helen Keller

‘Til Tuesday

Summer of Simplicity…

Though the summer season is not over, in our home, it is.  School starts up along with the hustle and bustle of it’s routine.

With several weeks left into our summer season, I often wonder how many of us really did the following – relax, unplug, slow down, meditate, smile, have fun, enjoy life, breathe and take it easy?

Folks often think that going away on vacation is “the vacation.”  Yet, many of my friends, myself included, took some wonderful “staycations.”  No need to buy expensive airline tickets, or wonder how to plan and pay for hotels.

Sometimes staying still in the space you live in is the greatest rest.  

If we could learn how to slow down and relax in our own homes, we can start looking at how we live and where we live a little differently.  We discover things that we often overlook because we are in such a rush.

Taking long walks in your neighborhood.  Driving to your nearest beach and enjoying the sound of the ocean.  Discovering your local restaurants, bookstores, go for a hike, movie theaters, coffee shops.  Going to your local park and having a picnic. Inviting friends over for dessert, dinner and enjoying board games. Enjoying your local museums.

With the day to day schedules and our hectic lives, we don’t get to do these activities.

Slow down and breathe.

If you haven’t had time to do any of these activities or you haven’t been able to “afford” a vacation – simplify what vacation means to you and unplug.  Don’t torture yourself with what others are doing and just create the best experience for yourself.  I’m sure someone else wouldn’t mind joining you.

What are some of the things you can do to create a beautiful moment and memorable experience that won’t cost you anything?

Lesson:

Create a life you don’t need a vacation from and just breathe.

‘Til Tuesday

He’s not broken…

This week I struggled…

You see the senseless tragedy of Wednesday, February 14, 2018, known as Valentine’s Day and the celebration of Ash Wednesday for Catholics and Christians around the world, is now a date where countless of families will remember the loss of their child, their loved one.

The irony of both, Valentine’s Day, a holiday of love, appreciation, and endearment and Ash Wednesday, a day of peace and repentance, has now been overshadowed by the hurt and brokenness of one young man. He was broken and unnoticed. He was broken and in pain.

He was broken and somehow no one cared.

We as a society only want to deal and relate and socialize with what’s whole, beautiful and loveable.  We don’t look around and see all the broken souls that are unloved, uncared for and are driven to kill.

We don’t want to engage that broken child, it’s too much trouble.

When was the last time we stop to ask someone “are you okay?”, “how are you today?”, “do you need anything?”

I have not stopped thinking about the great loss of humanity.  The families whose new normal is a painful, unbearable, grief-stricken reality.  These families will never be the same, they will never be able to imagine, dream, hope, hug, kiss, laugh with the child they lost.

I’m tired of the rhetoric. I’m tired of the conversations. I tired of the TV commentators, the TV specials, the Town Hall meetings.  We must stop talking and take action.  Yes, these killers are undeniably mentally ill, but their weapon of choice is never a knife, but a gun.  We must stop pretending as if guns are not the problem.  We must stop pretending that we are not killing our children, hundreds upon hundreds of children where it’s  supposed to be their safe environment.

I have come to accept that I have stopped being a responsible parent. You see, each time I send my son off to school I have no guarantee that he will return.  I have no guarantee for his safety.  I’ve come to accept I am putting him in harm’s way and that makes me an irresponsible parent.

Their new normal alongside the fire drill, the earthquake drill, is the active shooter drill.

Those students went to school with hopes and dream, they were unbroken.  They were full of aspirations and confident in knowing they are loved.  Yet, it took one broken soul to change the trajectory of their families.

It took a broken life, to break the unbroken.

I learned very early in my life to pray before I set foot out the front door.  It’s a tradition I still hold today with my grown sons.  I guess my mom knew something back then that has manifested itself today.  That each moment is not promised. That each day is a gift.  That we will encounter many broken people in our lives, but we must choose not to be broken.

Take a look around, someone is waiting for you to ask them “are you okay? How are you today? Do you need anything?”

Lesson:

Our world is broken, our children are broken, our system is broken.

We must do better!

We MUST begin to care!  

Til Tuesday