Vickie Brennan and The Help and Hope Closet

vickie brennan

 

At the address of 78 Maryland Street, Battle Creek, Michigan does not just sit an ordinary home. Small and humble, this gray structure is as large in its reach as those who inhabit its walls. Upon parking out front you will see no signs informing you of the wonders inside. For it looks quite normal. Yet on this little piece of property, you will find the home of a cheerful, radiant woman of exceptional and extraordinary nature welcoming everyone with a warm heart, smile, and a hug. Vickie Brennan, the adoptive mother, and grandmother to all who cross her path saw a desperate need in a city plagued with blight and poverty and decided to open her home as a place of hope and comfort. Starting a Facebook page in 2015 called “The Help and Hope Closet” Vickie appealed to the masses stating she would take their donations of any unwanted and gently used items.

It did not take long before a few bags of donations showed up on her doorstep. At this point, thrilled at the prospect that she was actually doing something to help her community, she enlisted a few family and friends to help dump and sort the clothing right on her kitchen table. After disposing of the battered and stained unuseable items and washing the rest, Vickie then opened for business letting the community know they could come to her home and go through the items donated taking anything they had a need for.

Fast forward to present day 2018 and even Vickie will tell you she had no clue how quickly her little home-based organization would grow. Battle Creek, Michigan, known as “The Cereal City” is the third largest city in Michigan measured by square miles.

With the median income reaching only $38,216 it is not hard to understand why 20.8% of its population lives in poverty (United States Census Bureau, 2010-2017).

Surprisingly, in a city of this size, help for the less fortunate is very hard to come by. When you do find it, usually it is not of an adequate nature to provide a lasting effect. When I asked Vickie to describe to me what prompted her to start The Help and Hope Closet, she had this to say, “I got tired of seeing people turned away. Places were picking and choosing who they would help. That is not right, it’s just not right.”

As I sat and listened I could not help but feel as emotionally connected as she was to this topic. Having moved here to Battle Creek, Michigan only a few months ago myself and seeing the difference between the help offered in the area I came from, compared to what is offered here, I was astounded at the lack of viable options to seek out such help. If one is lucky enough to find help out here, those sources have very limited resources to give out. You are only allowed to go once per month and they are only open a handful of hours in the middle of one day per week. They apologize and give you a sheet of paper with the names of other places you could call such as 211 for a referral to other food banks. You will then have to obtain access to some sort of phone service so you can call 211 give them information and gain that referral. Next, you have to accomplish the task of securing transportation to an from the next location on the appointed date and time given to you. This entire process seems like it was developed in the dark ages in a time when it was not necessary or commonplace to help your local community grow, improve, and prosper.

While our community is desperate to see reform of a broken system, we find a glimmer of light in Vickie Brennan and The Help and Hope Closet. In her three years in operation, Vickie has watched the donations pour in taking over each room, basement, and garage of her tiny little non-assuming home. She has expanded to take donations of food, toiletries, baby items, diapers, formula, essential items, clothing, and medical supplies. All of which she personally stores, sorts, washes, and gives out.

Over the years, volunteers have come to help, some staying and some short-lived after their need has been met. Lacking a permanent building other than her private residence to set up shop, each day Vickie and her volunteers have to open up the garage and pull out tote after tote, table after table. They set everything up in her driveway so that the community has access to come and go through it. Some days she goes through this process alone.

No transportation to get to Vickie’s place? No worries, there are volunteers to come pick you up and transport you back and forth. They will even deliver items to you if you prefer.

Vickie is the perfect example of what it means when you hear that one person can make a difference to many. It is contagious and sparks an entire community that cares. One that takes matters into their own hands based out of human need and suffering then acts upon that need. I asked Vickie one final question as I was wrapping up my interview and tour of her home. I wanted to know if there was one thing she could tell the entire community, what would it be? Vickie smiled at me, nodded her head and replied, “That EVERYONE is welcome. I don’t care who you are where you’re from or what your need is, I am here to help anybody night and day.”

 

References

 

(United States Census Bureau, 2010-2017)

Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/battlecreekcitymichigan/PST040217

Daily Prompt – Encrusted

tornado

The wind howled and roared like a freight train forging ahead. Picking up speed as it barreled down on the little town in the distance. Warning sirens blared as people took flight to seek out shelter.  In a matter of minutes, the entire ground was encrusted with debris. The tornado takes no mercy!

Cheynoea and the Poopy Day

To say yesterday was a very bad day would be an incorrect phrase. Instead, I will say that yesterday was a very MOODY day. I woke up in a right fine mood laughing and joking with my daughter and my roommate’s son as I drove them to school. However, at some point on the drive home after safely delivering them to their destination mother nature took hold with her temperamental attitude. 

She often does this in this here state of Michigan. Where in the span of a day we can have near blizzard conditions closing down all the roads and businesses, to thunderstorms and ending one day with sunshine at the beach all snow having already melted away.  Yup, my mood changes yesterday definitely mimicked my home state’s weather patterns.

By midday, I was easily flustered with a short fuse and quite snappy. I took out this fluctuation of mood patterns on a very dear friend who had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with me. Pleasure? hmm… not exactly the correct term. More like misfortune. Thank goodness this was an online occurrence and not an in-person one. Not that this experience was any less traumatizing for the poor man. I am so very sorry Neil for my incompatible nature yesterday. You truly did not deserve my wrath.

Luckily, this morning Neil was more than willing to not only verbally accept my apologies, but also spend several hours with me talking about ME. Yup, our only subject this morning was me in all my imperfect glory. This man spent several hours listening to my apology, my excuse, my totally non-sensical ramblings about life and my blog. Imparting his wisdom and knowledge into the mix we ended our conversation on quite good terms today. I am thankful, blessed and humbled by his friendship which helps me grow as a fellow human.

Back to yesterday. I know the reason my mood patterns were so erratic yesterday. I am detoxing off of anti-depressants. Not by choice, but because of our lovely medical insurance system. You see, I had Medicare and Medicaid both. Whatever one did not cover, the other one would pick up. This allowed me the luxury of not worrying about a co-pay at an office visit or on my prescriptions. But for some reason, after the first of the year, Medicaid stopped coving anything. They won’t pick up co-pays at doctor’s visits nor on my prescriptions. As far as I know, I have not been canceled or removed from the program. My insurance is still there. It is straight Medicaid and I have no spindown amount. So there is absolutely no reason for them not to pick up these co-pays or stop paying. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about it.

So I sit here having to cancel all further doctor’s appointments and no longer being able to afford my prescriptions. Not a good thing at this moment as I am still dealing with my TBI and suppose to be going to the doctor’s 4x per week still. This set me off yesterday and I was in a right fine mood let me tell you. On top of that, my roommate came to me and revealed she had been fired from her job, therefore, is now unsure how she will be able to pay her portion of the rent. Lovely! Perfect! Awesome! Wonderful! Yup, I am smiling and I am good now.

I allowed myself my moments yesterday to just live in whatever emotion I felt at the time. But where I went wrong was in taking my frustration out on others. I do, however, forgive myself. I realize that every human on this earth has their good days and bad days and that I need to be my own stabilizer. My own advocate. My own inspiration. I have the controls. I have the knowledge. I have the correct mindset. Therefore, I will succeed in changing the outcome of my emotions.

Because of these tools I have at my disposal, I am in a much better place today. I accept my actions and own the responsibility and subsequent outcomes. I can be who I allow myself to be. The situations I find myself in now will not control the mood I put forth or the type of energy I amass into the world.

A funny analogy about my mood swings yesterday that you might or might not enjoy is something that had me laughing while talking to Neil this morning to rectify our friendship.

He called it getting rid of the POOP in our lives. I laughed and elaborated saying yesterday was a runny mess of a day where I felt like I had diarrhea. I let it all flow naturally as it came and did not fight the urges to go. Today I am regulated. Back to normal and everything is coming out as it should.

If you think about this analogy logically, it makes perfect sense. Maybe even more so than the weather analogy. There are days where we will feel like we have an emotional diarrhea of sorts. We won’t be able to control these days and everything will be a flowing runny mess. It is in these times the support of friends and family are most desired. Just as if we were physically sick and needing to be taken care of. If we have no support system in place, no one to hold our hand through these times, it is natural for us to become discombobulated and distraught.

Then there will be days where we are constipated, stuffed up and emotionally unconnected to the outside world. On these days we seemingly have no emotions to anything at all. Things just roll right off and we are able to maintain, if not miserably, some semblance of a normal structure to our life. We just simply put… are there. Things are not being taken care of on these days as we just don’t care. We allow stresses to build up forming a blockage. We bottle these blockages up deep inside not wanting them to come out letting them grow into huge masses. For we are aware when they do come out, it is going to be one hot mess of a moment. Our bums are going to regret having been constipated and will become sore and irritated. Oh, the hemorrhoids!!! Again, having the family and friends to support, nurture and love us is desired. However, it is not as detrimental to our well-being on our constipated days.

Finally, we have our regulated days. Our ‘normal’ days. The days where we are perfectly imperfect in our own special way. We have everything flowing and rolling nicely and all just falls into place as it should. We enjoy these days to the fullest and all wish to be in these types of days all the time. Life is good and we know it, we accept it. The good, the bad, the indifferent. It is all humbling on these days and we are at our best putting one foot in front of the other moving in a forward motion at all times. We relish these days and happily share them with family and friends.

Mindfulness! That is the key word on any given day. MINDFULNESS! Is the art of being aware of ourselves, our moods, our emotions, our actions and our reactions. We can successfully navigate our poopy situations if we are mindfully aware of them. If we live with intention. My challenge to myself and all of you is to be more mindful of what kind of POOP day are you having? What caused your day to be such? Is there anything you personally can do to bring about the type of poopful day you desire? Just food for thought.

 

 

Arranger of Words

Several months ago I had the following comment left on one of my posts. In today’s article, I would like to try and respond and apologize to the commenter for my absence and taking so very long.

I see that you are an arranger of words orchestrating thought music too, what: educate? arouse? entertain? challenge? or what as to the minds of the hungry masses? This i wonder. 🙂

 

I delight in the merriment of poetry, bask in the knowledge of education, glow under the imagination of fiction, and wonder at the amusement of entertaining. To arrange words in such a way to arouse curiosity and challenge the mind, one has to have a special bond with pen and paper. Or in this case, keyboard and computer. An imagination, a wanderlust of the mind, and strong desire to provoke emotions of others is key to success as an orchestrator of words. If these words then insight the merriment of music, I have succeeded in achieving my goal. 

Therefore, to answer your well thought out question, I minor in dabbling at all and master at none. 

A heartfelt thank you for the beautiful question. 

Transparency – What it means to me

Yesterday I read a post in which was listed 22 things the person did not understand about the world. I commented on this post promising to write an article regarding one of the items the person did not understand. I agreed with 99% of the items on this list, as I myself have often wondered at such ideas. There was just one subject in which I felt I could try to shed some light on for this fellow blogger.

  • people who are too open – maybe that’s my introversy talking, but I really don’t understand how some people can be so blatantly open. It baffles me

You see, I am one of these people that are “too open.” I bare it all and wear my heart on my sleeve to boot. I am not ashamed of telling my life story, past history, events that have occurred, experiences I have had whether good, bad, happy, sad, embarrassing, or indifferent. I let it all out. I do not think I even have the ability to hold it in. Talking about my life is just one of those things that come as natural to me as breathing air.

I do often times run into people, my very own family included, that are bothered by my willingness to share. As I state in my about me section, I grew up in a family and an era where sharing was taboo. You just did not do it. You kept things in, you hid things. You did not slander the family name or make your family look bad in front of others. This can be summed up with the phrases:

  • Behind closed doors
  • sweep it under the rug
  • skeletons in the closet

As I grew up and matured and became my own person, keeping things in just did not make very much moral sense to me when I was also being taught never to lie, that you get farther with the truth than you do with a lie, that lying is a sin and I would be punished for it. These values I was supposed to hold dear and stick too were in stark contradiction to keeping things hidden or holding them in. To me, it was basically lying!

I started to pay attention to not only other’s actions but their words as well. The key here is that I observed so much perversion and little white lies out of everyone I met that it boggled my mind and warped my sense of morals and values. I became distraught, withdrawn and very confused as I myself tried to figure out who I was or better said, who I wanted to be in this life. Did I want to be like everyone else and follow the walking, talking contradiction? Did I want to follow the morals and values that had been drilled into my head as a child? Was there a middle ground somewhere that would allow me to do and be both?

For years I walked around jumping this fence back and forth to one side or the other. The grass was always greener on the other side. I started to lose a part of myself that I actually liked, admired and wanted to be. The more I strayed from being open and hid away from the world and the people in it, the more I hated who I was and began to have self-doubt. I allowed this self-destructive behavior to rule over me and began to allow abusive people into my life. Like a good little minion, I hid my abuse from others. I kept it quiet, I lied about it. I had forgotten all about the morals and values, had no compass and just accepted that this is how life was supposed to be. I began to believe that I deserved this abuse because of my lies. It was a CATCH 22, A CIRCLE WITH NO END.

It became a way of life so deeply ingrained I could not see a way out of it until a series of events happened to me (those are for a different day), that quite literally woke me up. What I will say about these events without taking up too much of your time today and straying off subject is that, in the span of one year (YES, that is right all of this in ONE YEAR), I had lost my husband, found out I was pregnant again, lost the baby, had a mental breakdown and checked myself into a mental hospital, lost my house and all our worldly possessions, lost my grandmother, sent my son to live with his father, and ended up in a very abusive relationship where I was manipulated and physically and verbally abused to the point the man came at me with a saw in front of my daughter to try and kill me lied to the police about it and said I had hit him, and I was arrested for calling them thinking they would protect me or help me. FYI: The charges were thrown out of court and dropped but I did get booked and spent a night in jail instead of a hospital where I should have been. How is that for being too open?

If this was not enough to wake me up and lead me back to my morals and values, man I tell you …. NOTHING would. 

Here’s what I now believe and hold very dear to my heart. I follow this as my ultimate guide to life and how I should live it on a day to day basis.

In order to have skeletons in the closet, you must have secrets. Having secrets means you must hide something and omit it from reality or lie about it to cover it up. One little white lie leads to another, and another, and another until the truth is so twisted even you yourself do not remember it. Which then in your brain becomes truth as you know it or reality as you know it.

Ask any politician and they will tell you that EVERYTHING comes out in the wash sooner or later. You cannot hide from, run from, cover up or omit the truth. Somehow, someday, at some point in time, especially in this digital age where everything is online for anyone to get ahold of, the truth will come out. So why hide anything? Why try to hold secrets? Why does anyone lie? It makes no sense at all.

A true story for you, I am a gamer. I have a PS4 and like to chat online with the people I play my games with. These people sometimes become friends. You share certain tidbits of information with them and guess what happens? Some of them start searching for your online presence even going as far as to not just google you but to use truth finders and such. Yes, this happened to me just two days ago. It does not and did not bother me. Wait, yes, it did bother me that this person I call a friend did this but only because I am an open person. If that person who had done this had just asked, I would have told them all they wanted to know without hesitation. Yes, they told me they did this after the fact, and yes, they openly shared information about me including my real full name in a chat with others. My point here is not what they did, but that if people want to know the truth, they will obtain that information via any means necessary with or without your permission.

So again, I state, WHY NOT BE AN OPEN PERSON? If you tell all and don’t mind putting it all out there, then there is nothing in this world that will come back to hurt you or harm you at any point in life. It’s all out there and you are open and honest about it. You own up to the good the bad and the ugly. You face it head on and remain dignified, confident in yourself and gain respect from others while you are at it.

Another reason to share your story is to remove yourself from the victim mindset that so many fall prey too. When you are open and honest about things that happen to you, a remarkable thing called HEALING begins inside of you. You become a survivor. You no longer seek pity, remorse, empathy, or understanding from others. Instead, you take back control of the situation. Your life becomes more than it was. Instead of some horrible event that happened to you pulling you down and causing deep-seeded trauma, You OWN the situation. You are then allowed the freedom within yourself to let go of it, toss it out, cast it aside, burn it up and move on from it. What a wonderful thing to have happen after a negative event.

But the most important reason to be open and share all without hiding anything is to help others. If even just one person sees, reads, or hears even one event that has happened to you or one part of your story and is moved by it, inspired by it or touched by it … then it is well worth it. Being open means helping others know they are not alone in this world. It means sharing emotions and connections with others. It builds trust in relationships of any nature. It builds lifelong bonds and friendships. Most of all it starts a chain of healing that is unparalleled to any other. Even more so than the pay it forward kindness chain we all know and love.

 

 

Rare Honesty On YouTube

In a world full of FAKE…I find an honest soul.

In today’s world where virtual reality seemingly means more than actual human to human contact, it is rare to find a truthful, brutally honest soul that lays their life out there for all to see so humbly. YouTube is full of channels and channels of people scripting every line, putting whatever foot forward that will give them the most views and make them the most money and most of all FAKE characters.

These characters, and I call them that because they are just that… people playing a role other than their true selves in order to make money. All jump on the latest trend bandwagon. They put up questionable content as soon as they start losing views in an effort to gain traction again. They pretend so well they even fool themselves at times. And the public eats it up as if it was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We laugh thinking they are hilarious, we get angry and bash them as if what we just viewed seriously harmed us in some way, we enjoy the content and take an emotional ride with whatever we are watching making most of this lame content go viral.

It is with this in mind that I wish to bring awareness to one of the true heroes of YouTube, Granny Goose. Not the old lady who reads children’s books online. But the war vet’s wife who is so truthful and honest with her content that you feel like you have known her and her family for years. You can truly relate to her and her stories. You take a different kind of emotional ride with her that allows you to know you ARE indeed connecting with another human being on some level by watching her videos.

Now I am not saying the other people on YouTube are not human beings. So do not mix up my words here. All I am saying is that Granny Goose is genuine. She is not here just to entertain you. She is here because she actually cares about others. She has a desire to inspire others by sharing her life in a way very few care to do. She is not afraid of putting herself out there and wearing her heart on her sleeve.

Because Granny Goose has touched me on such a deep level, I would like to share with you one of her latest YouTube videos titled, Nigel and the Concrete Gannet. I won’t go into detail about this video as I would like you to watch it for yourselves. But I will say that I am sure we can all relate to Granny’s feelings.

Granny, to you personally, I want to share a little story with you about your husband that just may brighten YOUR day.  The other day while chatting with him the moment I told him how much of an inspiration your videos were to my daughter and myself, he had to stop playing his game, take his headphones off and run to tell you what I had said. He could not even wait for me to finish telling him my thoughts, he was that excited to talk to you about it. He may not be able to show emotion the way others do, yet on some level, he is trying to break free of that Concrete. Granny, I give you a huge thank you for making your videos. For putting yourself and your life out there. For wearing your heart on your sleeve and allowing us to be a part of your world. You are truly an inspiration to all. Please don’t ever stop being you. We love and support you.

Please do not forget to like Granny’s video, leave her a comment and subscribe for more honest and truthful content.

Shining a Special Light

20171007_183127

A few weeks ago I shared a story with all of you about my daughter and what a boy did to her. I have also shared in other articles that she has been bullied pretty much all of her life. To this day she feels like an outcast while being surrounded by hundreds of peers in her high school.

Tonight I want to shine a special light on what a talented beautiful young woman she is. You see, she can sing! No, really… I mean she can SING!!!!!! From the time she was able to talk, she would sing. She sang almost all of her sentences. If she wanted milk, she would sing to ask for it, if she was playing, she would sing to her toys, if she was repeating what we said, she would sing it. Singing has dominated her life for good reason. She was born to sing.

One year while at a parent-teacher conference to find out about her progress, her teacher told me a story of how she would sing all of her math problems while working on math and anything she was reading she would sing out loud. So he surprised the class one day and while telling them to get out their math books, he said they were going to have a Cib style math class. He then proceeded to have everyone in the class sing their problems, including him. He said that chapter ended up being some of the highest test scores the class had gotten.

Fast forward to tonight, my daughter was asked to be a special guest singer at the Celebration of Success 2017 Awards Ceremony for our county. It was a casual event and she was the only entertainment. It was a great honor and she had a lot of fun. I am so proud of the young woman she is becoming.

Without further ado, I will share with you the video of tonight’s performance and let you decide. I swear I am not just a fan because I am her mother. Just click on the red highlight words that say ‘tonight’s performance’ to be taken to the video. Be sure to leave her a comment letting her know what you think and show her your support.

 

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