Posted in Career, Social Commentary, Writing Prompt

Good News and Bad News

Daily writing prompt
What jobs have you had?

🎶 I left a good job in the city...just kidding. I actually have a new job. Welcome to the blog of a newly appointed Operations Systems Manager! While it may seem like a lateral move from my previous position, the trajectory of my career has taken a completely different direction. It’s an organic opportunity that resulted from flexing my superpower of innovation. I’ve always had a talent for embracing new technology and making it do what it’s supposed to do. Office support has been my entire career. As organizations introduced PCs, the internet, email, Microsoft products, and countless other advancements, I always morphed into some form of an administrator. I’d be the one throwing up my hand to get the system up and running, set operational parameters, and ensure things continued to work as intended. The fact that I get to do this as my core job rather than my side gig is fantastic! I’m looking forward to this new phase of my career. Wish me luck!

RIP Tina Turner (November 26, 1939 – May 24, 2023) – She was the manifestation of what we all could make of the adversities of our lives if we just believe in ourselves and stay true to who we really are. She will always inspire me to keep going, even if I need to take a few minutes to water the dirt beneath my feet.

Posted in Social Commentary

A Transplant’s View of Stockton

Twenty-two years ago, I moved to Stockton, California, which is about 90 miles east of San Francisco. The husband I had at that time earned us an eviction from our Bay Area apartment causing all other rental opportunities to fall through. I was on the brink of becoming disheartened when I learned from a realtor that while landlords would be squeamish about renting to me, a bank would possibly be willing to if I tidied up the old credit report.

That launched a streak of good fortunes: My parents took in my five babies, a work friend generously offered me a room in her already cramped apartment, and my supervisor, whom I had confided in, gave me as much overtime as I needed.

Within three months, I had paid off the credit oversights and saved up the amount needed for a down payment. On July 1, 2000, I was handed the keys to my new four-bedroom, three-bathroom home and moved in without the spouse but with the anticipation of my sixth child, due to arrive on July 29th. This was all possible because Stockton was, and still is, one of the last bastions of affordable home ownership in California.

One day after I was reunited with my other five children in our new home, we were coming out of Walmart when an old farmer-looking man in overalls walked up to us with a bag of oranges. He greeted me and said “Your children are just precious. I’d like you to have these.” He handed me a bag of oranges from the bed of his truck that was brimming with bags. It was a simple gesture of kindness, but it made me feel good about making Stockton my home, and despite many contradicting opinions, I continue to hold on to that feeling.

Right now, October 2022, Stockton has had 43 homicides, surpassing last year’s total homicide count of 39 and there is a report of a possible serial killer running loose.1 Other violent crimes like rape, aggravated assault, and robbery are constants, as is the lack of inspiration, guidance, and career possibilities for many of our young people transitioning into adulthood.

Over the years, my children have seen many friends die from gun violence. They have seen schoolmates incarcerated for choosing to succumb to the lure of gangs and drugs. And they have seen what mental health struggles do to families that are ill-equipped to manage.

Two of my daughters were robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot of their apartment complex. One of those daughters and a niece were also held up at gunpoint while working at their fast food job. I could belabor the point by adding the number of killings that have happened within a one-mile radius of my home, but you understand.

There are serious crimes and many hard times in this city that I love; however, none of this is particularly unique to this city. So, I remain committed to my beloved Stockton because it is also full of a lot of great people, places, and things.

Penny Mims, of Mim’s Corner, is one of those great people. She and her husband Tony, along with many volunteers, spend two Sunday afternoons a month in their ministry passing out food, clothes, and other necessities to the homeless. They also coordinate family outreach programs during the holidays and throughout the year that feed low-income families and provide toys and other necessities for children.

This city is also full of progressive-minded people who, in 2016, voted in the youngest Mayor in the country, Michael Tubbs, whose life story of high achievements from humble beginnings is inspirational to many. His passion for community guided his innovative approach to closing the wealth gap and unapologetically serving those who lacked representation.

Stockton Activism. We Care!

Stockton’s farmer’s markets host beautiful, fresh produce, and provide a venue for Channel a highly driven Latina wife, mother, and owner of Freedom Rising Earrings to sell her beautiful handmade jewelry to supplement her family’s income as she journeys through law school. I can’t forget many of the other community and ethnic-centric events hosted at the San Joaquin Fair Grounds and the lovely downtown waterfront.

I’m a terrible videographer :-/
Quick View of Downtown.

The hidden gems of the city are its charming neighborhoods like the Victory Park area with its old craftsman-style homes and the lavish homes overlooking the San Joaquin Delta in the Brookside and West Lincoln Village areas.

Let me not forget the food! Don’t miss the two-dollar street tacos from El Grullito’s Taco truck in the parking lot on the Robinhood side of Sherwood Mall, or the amazing Wing’s and Pizza from Smitty’s Wing’s and Things, a family-owned restaurant with the best wings you will ever taste! And lastly, Prime Table Steak House with their 45-day aged burger that will change your life or my husband’s newfound favorite their beef bourginon.

For nature and scenic beauty, you can’t beat the San Joaquin Delta, the waterway that makes Stockton the Central Valley’s gateway to the world. Large shipping vessels from Japan, Russia, and other countries can be seen moving in and out of the channel. It is also the place you go to escape the heat of the summer and where many residents spend much time on various banks throughout the city casting lines into the water and retrieving bass, catfish, and even the elusive sturgeon.

Village West Marina, September 19, 2022
The view from a walk along the banks of the Delta.

As I am writing this article, I am sitting in my travel trailer at the Village West Marina looking out at the lush greenery along the Delta and listening to bird songs. Earlier in the day my husband (I upgraded) and I rented a couple of Kayaks from H20 Excursions, another family-owned business, and enjoyed some fun exercise out on the water. The Marina is ever-changing and growing. Its two restaurants, Garlic Brothers and Bob’s at the Marina are wonderful places to eat and gaze out at the water. There is the new Sunset Sweets where you can grab ice cream treats. I can’t list everything the Village West Marina has to offer so be sure to check out their website.
Kayaking on the Delta!

There is a desperate need to end the violence that plagues this city. Our elected officials swear they are trying; in the meantime, and while we lend our voices to discontent, we would do our hearts good by reflecting on the goodness that can be found here, as well as the possibilities that are represented by all the people and all the businesses I have come to love in this city. The city of Stockton. The city I call home.

Double Rainbow, captured on Hammer Lane September 19, 2022

1As of October 15th Police report that they have a suspect in custody. He was caught around 2am in my neighborhood park and lived in the Stone Brier apartments not too far away from me.

Posted in Social Commentary

Transcript of Episode 2 – Method for Gaining Empathy

Podcast Recording

Welcome to another edition of Gathering Wool.

I am your host Shonda Rene

The Mission of this podcast is to get people to:

think in more positive ways;

Interact with others in positive ways;

Look at unexamined beliefs and feelings in new ways as they relate to life and recent events; and
to encourage engaged reflections starting with the source of the issue at hand

It’s sort of like you all are on my personal journey of growth. I do this through random musings that I ruminate on throughout the week. It could be about absolutely anything that springs up through my day that stays on my mind and gets me on that road of self-examination that I mentioned a moment ago. 

For this episode we’re going to explore a thought that sprung up as I was watched Bobby Brown’s new reality show, Bobby Brown Every Little Step.  The show is a look into Bobby’s personal struggles and his family life. This was Season 1 Episode 5

The segment involved Alicia, Bobby’s wife of 10 years, she was preparing herself for Bobby’s tour with New Edition and how that could impact his sobriety. The last time he was on tour with them he did an excessive amount of drugs and alcohol and ended up having a heart attack that he walked away from with a stint as a souvenir.

In this segment, Alicia went to a Reiki Master who said something that got the wheels of thought turning. He listed a number of challenges she has faced and told her she’d beat the challenges and emotions of fear and anxiety brought on by anything headed her way. 

I wondered how she’d continue to rise to the challenge of overcoming the pain and suffering she’s experienced should the unfortunate happen. 

One word instantly came to mind. And that was acceptance. I had drawn the conclusion that acceptance was the only way to move beyond devastating events of life. Events that are beyond our control, or events that absolutely can’t be changed. 

As I thought about it I challenged myself to try to get into a mental space that would allow me to get close to how it would feel to get to that place of acceptance. To see how my body would respond and if I could actually just accept a devastating event like the loss of a child. I have friends and family members who have lost children so I have been close to that anguish. But being close to it isn’t living in it. 

Many years back I went through a very difficult divorce. One where I was actually reeling from behavior and actions that many men have gone through in terms of parental alienation syndrome. Ever since I got through that situation with the love and respect of my children intact, I’ve had the resounding thought that only the loss of one of my children could move me back into that place of utter despair. The reason I felt so strongly about that is that simply thinking about such a loss made my heart beat faster, my stomach became ill, and I had to rush the thought from my mind. 

Thankfully it was just a thought that I could push away and replace with a reflection of how I felt the moment I had acknowledged that I had overcome the extreme domestic mental abuse and on rare occasions the physical abuse I suffered for years. I felt unstoppable. The anxiety and fear that I’d lived with all of my life that made me ripe for such a relationship was no more. I felt light. I felt new. But at the same time, I realized that losing either one of my children was the absolute single thing that would break me. Right now at this moment, I am praying that these contemplations do not manifest such an event. Life can be tragically ironic that way. 

But I wanted to share this because it’s the way I try to process things. I try to mentally step into whatever situation I am struggling to understand in an honest way that would provoke true feelings and reactions and I question them and try to answer as honestly as I possibly can. 

Why do I feel this way? 

Why do I think this or that? 

Is that thought even true? And 

are these feelings or these thoughts rooted in love or fear?  

This is my method for developing empathy or simply viewing things from another perspective that could be just as true as my own. 

This has helped me to embrace or to give grace to more people, I did not say everyone of course. And that is not because it’s without effort. It’s because there are doors that simply don’t open. Or at least they do not open to me and I accept that. 

I want to also say that it’s a slow process that our fast-moving world doesn’t always allow for. 

It’s a pause that has to be deliberately taken and the necessary time spent to feel that the best effort was made while leaving room for the possibility that one can do more. 

It’s also not to say I always express a cum-ba-ya kinda personality. I have my moments, and I cuss like a sailor and always have since elementary school. It’s a very bad habit that I’ve always chastised myself for but dammit, sometimes those words are all ya got. 

While I’m thinking about this another thought sprung to mind. How much I appreciate access to celebrity shows like Bobby Brown Every Little Step and while the Red Table Talk has suffered some challenges as of late, the similarity of both shows inviting viewers into some level of transparency into celebrity lives with the hope of helping their audience improve their own lives in some way is why I am pulling in the Red Table Talk. 

As a side note, I have a sincere disdain for celebrity worship and am working on fine-tuning my language when someone asks if I like this or that celebrity to be specific and speak to the work they produce rather than the individual. The work is true and is what stays constant, while the person can be a chameleon and is prone for change in any direction. 

I feel that shows like those, that show black celebrities, in particular, extending themselves in ways that allow us to explore experiences and unexamined beliefs from as open a space as might be possible is admirable. 

While they are reality shows and go only so far into reality, what they do bring up are real struggles and situations that we all can take in and use as yardsticks against the value of love that should be the foundation of everyone’s existence. Self-examination from that foundation is key to changing the world for the better. Seeing vulnerability in action is important. Vulnerability is naked truth and a sacred gift from one person to another. 

Keep in mind that not all reality shows are created equal. Some are foolishness for the sake of foolishness. But I think these two shows strive to do some good for people

So I am going to just leave it right there. 

If you enjoyed this episode please be sure you subscribe and follow or whatever the method is for the platform you use to stay in touch with what’s going on with Gather Wool.

Until next time, always choose love. 

Posted in Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt for September 25, 2021

Prompt: Suddenly the mysterious light disappeared around the bend.

It was a warm evening in the summer of 1978. We had moved into a second floor apartment in Oakland, California six months earlier. I was 9, my sister was 8, and my brother was 7. We made fast friends with the other children in the complex.

Two siblings who lived two doors down came over that evening to play on our patio. The patio was off of the kitchen and faced the parking lot of a church. The sun was going down so we were keeping an eye out for the Goodyear Blimp that would often cruise the sunset sky. The blimp thrilled us because as it floated by, it would sometimes have a cartoon flickering on the side. We could never get enough of cartoons no matter the quality or form.

While we kept a look out for the blimp, we spent time teasing the Doberman Pinchers that lived in the backyard directly below us. We teased those lean brutes so much that they’d leap up the wall in an attempt to get us.

I envisioned the terror I’d feel if I ever fell down below, and the mess the pair would make of me if I was unfortunate enough to meet the fate of a fall. I decided to put a stop to the teasing, when we saw a round disk-like object in the sky with multi-colored lights flashing and rotating around the sphere.

The object didn’t move very fast but it kept getting closer. We realized that it wasn’t a blimp but didn’t quite know what it was. It began to pick up speed as it got closer to the church. Suddenly, it was moving so fast that we didn’t think it was going to stop. I tore open the patio door and we ran back into the kitchen. We hid behind the curtains and braced for impact but things were very quiet. I waited a moment before I pulled the curtain back enough to survey things and suddenly the mysterious lights disappeared around the bend.

It is now the summer of 2021 and 60 Minutes has just validated the claim of UFOs.

Photo by willbot studios from Pexels

Posted in Poetry, Social Commentary

Be Kind

The contentious tango between older generations and the young has been going on since the birth of Cain and Abel (parable characters used purely for symbolic reference). The only difference is the technology that is used to facilitate the discourse.

I’m posting this poem, Be Kind, by Charles Bukowski, for my beautiful millennial children because it is an exact replica of many of our conversations about the way millennials engage older people and their view of the world. It begins with my refrain and transitions to their honest, brave and resolute responses. This generation does not go along just to get along, which is what previous generations did and I truly admire that. I’m actually cheering them on even though the end goal is not completely clear. I just hope that their englightened rebelliousness leads to a kinder world where values are shifted to people rather than things so that we can correct the course we’re on which, for all intents and purposes, is continuing old and creating new unnecessary suffering and loss.

This poem exemplifies why I–love–poetry! The genre is a fully focused magnifier of absolutely everything.

Be Kind

By Charles Bukowski

we are always asked
to understand the other person’s
no matter how
foolish or
one is asked
to view
their total error
their life-waste
especially if they are
but age is the total of
our doing.
they have aged
because they have
out of focus,
they have refused to
not their fault?
whose fault?
I am asked to hide
my viewpoint
from them
for fear of their
age is no crime
but the shame
of a deliberately
among so many

Bukowksi Image by Ulf Andersen / Getty

Millennials, Save Us All Please!

Posted in Career, Work Related

Reclaiming My Time

I’ve been away from my blog for several months now in dedication to succeeding in a job role that has been very challenging since the very start. It has taken a significant portion of my time and I must now take a queue from Maxine Waters and reclaim my time!

The role is a leadership position on a larger scale than I’ve been in before. I took it on knowing that I was a bit scared since it involved areas of management that I’d never been involved in, middle management decisions which required the right combination of higher management approval to move forward, and supervising people with a hierarchal perspective and some with no genuine appreciation for a manager embarking on a job with a learning curve.

The thing is, I am not one to turn away from an opportunity simply out of fear. When I self reflect and realize that I’m just scared, my spirit says “Sheeeeiiiiit! Go on and do this girl!” and I do. Then, soon enough it starts to feel like I’m flailing in the middle of a turbulent ocean. Anxiety unpacks and settles in for a good stay, inner voices, egged on by imposter syndrome, scream at every perceived mistake.

In reality it took a few years of being in this role for the experience to culminate to a point where my physical well-being along with my mental well-being was noticeably impacted which led to taking two weeks off to just let go of it all. It took two weeks of stilling myself in order to come to terms with why I needed a change and how I intended to manage where I was until another opportunity presented itself.

I was brought into this position because of a merger. Mergers are wrought with emotional people who are no longer sure of their future. So being an empathetic soul with the patience of ten Jobs, I was a good person for the job. I’m able to listen, restate what I’ve heard, and provide sound guidance, all because I’ve been there. So for the first year, that’s what I did. Some felt confident enough to stay on while others decided to understandably move on. Also, during the first year, both teams were in different buildings. Which helped to further the divide. Those who remained needed to build relationships with their colleagues so we engaged in team building activities which helped us to get to know each other and set the course for developing a good team.

Three months into being under one roof, COVID hit, which created a situation for remote work which the rural office had to adjust to. They value face-to-face interaction. Now that offices are reopening and the team is stronger, I can transition someone else into the role who has risen to the occasion of being the in-office go-to person and transition myself into a position that’s suitable to my passion. It just so happens that the need for developing technological solutions and guiding my other team, one that I built, is a truly organic need at this time.

With all of that said, this transition also allows me to reclaim a bit of my time. This is what I’ve been holding myself to task for since coming back from my two-week time off. So far, the reclamation has been very good. I’ve successfully produced two poems that I’m most proud of. In addition to my free-verse I’ve decided to focus on developing my ability to write Shakespearean Sonnets. I published two new poems yesterday. That’s a record for me!

I’m hopeful that this new outlook and new commitment to reclaiming my time will stick. It kind of has to because I feel a bigger change coming my way that has to do with really honing my writing skills and pursuing publication on a larger scale at some point. If you’ve taken the time to get to the end of this reflection, send kind thoughts my way. 🙂

Posted in Poetry

Sonnet 1


Some days we refuse to be thankful cause
it won’t hold up its end of the bargain.
The granted objects shrink themselves too small
The hunger for what’s not grows and demands
to be pursued. A Goliath of need.
If only seemingly, it strikes the same.
We set off into a reality
filled with bitter dried fruit and sugar cane.
The occasional dandelion begs
to be wished upon. Pray, a miracle
brings us back from the unforgiving edge.
Into the ignored and humble, ten-fold,
where there is plenty of plain and simple,
but only in veil. We return thankful.

©Shonda Taliaferro 2021

Posted in Poetry

Free Verse


be guarded with your mind, a precious thing.
Jumpstarted by connections constructed of nature and nurture.
Ill-fitting garb for most. We make the best of it by looking away,
by thrashing about, by cutting, dismembering, and reshaping,
just for the honor of saying–this is me.

©Shonda Taliaferro 2021