Thursday, October 7, 2010
BERKELEY — This speech is for Bill Sell who changed my life by teaching me that it's more fruitful to lean into my emotions than to retreat into my fear.
A call for 'moxie' and compassion marks CommencementGood afternoon. I'd like to begin by thanking Chancellor Birgeneau, the distinguished faculty, my fellow graduates, and their families I'd like to thank my friends at the Biology Scholars Program for helping me realize my dream of going to medical school. Thank you to the lab of Dr. Darlene Francis for teaching me how to do science. I'd like to give a special welcome to my friends and family. Mom, Dad….if it weren't for you I wouldn't be here today…so thank you for getting it on all those years ago. My good friends and community college colleagues Matt and Martha. My best friend Jeremy. My grandfather Tom Erhard who served this country in World War II and my grandmother Peg who serves the best almond butter crunch you've ever tasted. I'd like to thank my great Aunt Velma who will turn 101 on August 8th. You know when Velma heard that I might be speaking today she said she would explode. So if an old lady blows up in the next few minutes, I apologize, but I think she washes out. You don't stain do you Velma? And finally I'd like to thank my younger brother Justin who shows me everyday what it means to be diligent, honest, and full of integrity. Thank you.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that "the way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent." So I ask that you forgive me in advance if I hurl my words at you with too much desperation, but this is my last day on campus and I'm going to do my best to leave it all on this stage. I've spent a lot of my life hiding. I hope that this is not one of those times. But even if I fail, don't worry, the truth is that this speech isn't for you….it's to remind me of the person I want to be.
I enrolled at City College of San Francisco in the spring of 2005 and transferred to UC Berkeley in the fall of 2008. During that time, I volunteered at San Francisco General, studied drug-resistant cancer at UCSF, and was a medical assistant at the Glide Health Clinic. At Berkeley, I've been a member of the Biology Scholars Program, investigated how experience becomes biologically embedded, and spent two semesters as part of the Teach in Prison program at San Quentin. I'm starting UCSF medical school in the fall and now I've won the University Medal.
But I assure you it hasn't always been this good. It certainly wasn't like this at San Rafael High where I spent three years using all my energy to keep the world at arms length. It wasn't like this when I went to the University of Wisconsin thinking I could run away from my confusion, and then dropping out after only one semester. It wasn't like this when I came home and enrolled at the College of Marin only to find my old habits waiting for me. And it certainly wasn't like this when 9 years ago I enrolled in a therapeutic boarding program in Boulder, Colorado.
I spent a total of two years at AIM House. I learned that few things are ever solved, but that a commitment to working through my struggles allowed me to address entrenched, cyclical challenges like addiction and depression. As a mentor, I tried to help other young men bring meaning to their own hardships. I learned that recovery isn't easy, that failures are inevitable, but that understanding and healing come from being patient and gentle. In the end, I learned that compassion is perhaps the highest human virtue.
But look, if I really knew what I was doing I wouldn't be a 28 year-old undergrad. I wouldn't go to therapy every week to find out why I can't make a relationship last more than 8 months and I wouldn't break nearly as many promises as I do. I'm wrong more often than I'm right and I've got about a billion more questions than answers. I spend most of my time making my life harder than it needs to be and I forget to do a lot of important things. About the only thing I do know is that I don't know much. I'll tell you some of the things I think about before I go to sleep but most of the time I just make it up as I go along.
I know that the real University Medalists are the students who have to sleep on couches because they can't afford rent, or the ones taking a full course load while they raise their children and work a half or even full time job. I know that before I save the world I should probably learn the name of the man who drives my bus. I know that it's easy to love poor people in Africa, but I also know that there are poor people in my backyard who need help and that the hardest person to love is myself. I know that I'm not supposed to be afraid of my pain, that it's the clearest window I have into the experience of others, but most of the time I run away from that too. I know that the moments when I'm most sure of myself are the ones of which I should be most leery. I try to treat the self-doubt that greets me every morning as motivation to do better. I honor the homeless men and woman trapped in the dungeons of their addictions who explore the truly dark places of this world so I don't have to. I remind myself to think of this diploma not as a symbol of my accomplishment but as a reminder to return to the communities who don't have Berkeley graduates to fight on their behalf. I know that the things I used to be most ashamed of are the ones that have brought me the most insight, and I'm starting to understand that forgiveness means giving up all hope that the past could have been any better than it was. But the most important thing I know is this, just tell your story. Share yourself with those around you, the good parts and bad. I know it isn't easy, but it helps. I promise. And anyway, you're too beautiful to keep it to yourself.
I appreciate this award. I really do. I'm honored to be the first community college transfer to be awarded the University Medal and I take that responsibility seriously. I want to accept this award on behalf of the late bloomers and the second-chancers. I want to champion the nontraditional path and represent the wisdom of following one's own internal directives no matter how foolish they initially appear. And if my winning helps inspire other young people who struggle to bring meaning to their lives not to be embarrassed by their confusion then I'm happy. But for me, the true reward is being able to share space with my parents without precipitating a fight, to know that when I smile it's genuine, and to be comfortable with where I've been, confident in who I am, and excited about the doctor I'm going to be. I get more love and support than one person deserves and it feels good to finally be able to accept it.
I'm going to end with the only piece of advice I'd like to give my fellow graduates. It's something I wrote for my friends at Glide after a man told me to stop being an observer and start being a participant. Magnolia, Angela, Charles, and Greg, this poem is for you.
Because words are the foundation of family
Because words are the foundation of family
Because you never speak only for yourself
For the watchers, the doers, the dreamers, the hurt, the addicted, the ignorant, the fighters, the angry, the meek, and the chained
Because there is more value in one true statement spoken from the heart than there is in all the wealth Wall Street can lose
Because every word you speak plants a seed of bravery in the belly of a person trying to decide if their time has come to stand up
Because abuse is never earned
Because justice for all is more important than the peace of a few
Because we learn as children that you can't fit a square peg in a round hole, and then think as adults that we can somehow put a round soul in a square cage
Because poverty is a systemic failure, not an individual fault
Because the education of our children is more important that the taxes on our property
Because you don't have to suffer alone
Because heterosexuals do not have a monopoly on love
Because there are more important things in this world than your fear
For love over loneliness, the strength to know when it's time to leave one for the other and the wisdom to recognize when we found the one we need
Because we sing as individuals but we make music as community
Like the fate of the world depends on what you say because it does
So that the wisdom of your struggle is not lost to the graveyard of silence
So that the youth can use your story like a blueprint to stay out of trouble
And share the symphony of yourself with a room full of tone-deaf friends who don't care much what you sound like and who value the effort over the achievement
Photo by Steve McConnell/NewsCenter
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
"Mommy," he asked the other night, "will you carry me?"
"Oh honey," I say, "yes, quick, quick, my back hurts."
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The first five (5) people who give me their opinion on my blog will get one FREE hour of marketing coaching. We can talk about social media, print, online, electronic or whatever kind of marketing you want to discuss. I really appreciate your input.
You can post here or email me directly at llflowers at yahoo dot com.
Thanks again for stopping by!
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
1974 Diary entry: August 20th - Dear Dairy, Yesterday the denist took the thing out of my mouth. I was glad. I don't know what to do.
Note from present day self: Oh, dear girl. I remember that horrible thing. It was called a palate splitter. Every time it was "turned" to expand gave you headaches. It ended up actually changing the shape of your face, I believe.
I've attached a photo of a palate splitter in some other child's poor mouth. I hope it doesn't re-traumatize you too much. (Or perhaps provide TMI to our readers!)
Thursday, August 19, 2010
It is very reasonably priced. And in 2011, the event will be held in San Diego.
Go to http://www.blogher.com/blogher-11 to check it out!
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
When I was a child I read all the time. I read during church. I read in the car. I read during class. I even read during spelling tests as I waited for the other students to write down their words.
I LOVE to read, which is why I LOVE this image brought to us by jonathan_moreau at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.
With books, come dreams. What books did you read as a child?
Monday, August 16, 2010
1974 Diary entry: August 16th - Dear Dairy, Monday we're going home to Mama and Heather. I'm glad we are.
Note from present day self: Well you always were a little homebody. But you really enjoyed those summers in the country.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Note from present day self: Dear Lisa, One of many losses so young. Life does go on. But it is always good remember.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Here are four things I learned at that event that will stay with me:
1. Social media is just ONE part of a marketing plan.
2. Big brands (companies) want to hear what little ol' me has to say.
3. People can blog about the most inane and insane things and people will read it.
4. I have a voice. Use it.
What has stuck with you from a recent event you attended?
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
For the rest of the conference, I'm going to ask everyone I meet what they do when life gets in their way.
Meantime, I'm going to go through my registration bag and see what goodies are hidden there! (For some reason I can't upload the photo.) There's tons of stuff in the bag and I haven't even hit the exhibit hall yet!
"get it" and "get me".
Admittedly, it is a little overwhelming. I'm already planning how I will approach next year's event.
In the past, I've almost always been working events. As an attendee, it's really nice to relax and learn and just listen.
Unfortunately, my hotel's Internet access has not been working. So, this is the first time I've had a chance to get online.
I'm go home with plenty of ideas to share.
Friday, July 30, 2010
I hadn't told my family about my decision to leave Louisiana and move across the country to start all over again. And I certainly had not told them I was leaving my "perfect" husband. So, I went to work like everything was fine.
I had a relatively new boss at the time. His name was Jack Ferko. Nice enough, I just hadn't really had any time to get to know him yet. And now I was in the position of having to give him two weeks notice.
Having typed my resignation letter I asked to meet with him. He shut the door to his office and said, "You look serious. Is everything okay?"
I said, "Well, it's going to be. I'm giving my two weeks notice. But I can stay a little longer if you need me to."
"Why are you leaving?" he asked. "I haven't had time to get to know everyone here yet."
"I'm moving to DC," I said.
Jack replied, "You know, you don't seem like the impulsive type. You seem to be a planner. You know, the type that always seems to plan everything out."
"I am. Usually."
"Can I talk you into staying?"
"No, I don't think so. I really need to leave the area, you know, get a new start."
"Oh, I see. Sounds like you're going alone."
I really wasn't prepared to tell this stranger, my boss of all people, what my plans were.
But I did.
And I started crying. And couldn't stop. Soon, I could even catch my breath.
Handing me tissue, Jack started talking about other things, his recent move to Louisiana to take this job, his family, his wife. He turned and picked up a photo of his wife.
"I was where you are now," he said. "I had to leave everything I knew. I had to get away, to get back to myself."
He told me about a day during his first marriage, he knew, he just knew, that he couldn't live that way anymore. That it was all a lie. That it wasn't a perfect marriage. That he wasn't happy. And that he couldn't even catch his breath enough to leave.
Or so he thought.
Someone had helped him at that turning point. Not really a friend, just someone he knew. An acquaintence.
That gesture was enough to help him catch his breath and leave.
That conversation with Jack helped me catch my breath. And I did leave.
Now, when I see someone, even a stranger, trying to catch their breath. I stop. And listen. And sometimes share a bit of me.
For in some small ways, I'm still catching my breath.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
I have a friend named Brenda. She is one of those kinds of friends that somehow knows when you need a little sunshine blown up your skirt. Somehow she knows when you are just a little lacking in confidence and walks your way to check on you.
She thinks about you alot, this friend of mine named Brenda. If she sees an interesting article or hears of a fantastic place to shop, she'll stop what's she's doing and call you and tell you about. She'll talk to you like she doesn't have all those other five million things waiting for her to finish.
This friend of mine can empathize, sympathize, listen, advise or just smile.
I'm a lucky girl, I am. And tomorrow I'm wearing my skirt!
Monday, July 19, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Note from present day self: Sweet, sweet Lisa, my little homebody. As much as you love traveling as an adult, you sure did miss home as a kid.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Tonight Alejandro asked me, "Mama, when am I gonna be the lion?", pointing to the top of the growth chart in his room.
"Oh baby," I said, "way too soon for Mama. Then I'll be really old."
"Aw man!," he says.
"Alejandro what is old?" I ask.
"I dunno," he says.
..."What is young?" I ask.
"FUN!" he exclaims.
Ain't that the truth I think to myself.
I am about to start all over again. I'm already exhausted and haven't even begun. I'm tired of starting over. This is my second round at this and I still haven't learned my lesson.
When I was a kid, I collected money. You could say I was a hoarder. Every nickel, dime and penny was coveted and saved for the future. I would stay at home rather than go to an event with the family if it meant saving my money. I would count my money every night. And then recount it and dream of my future.
Somewhere along the way I started giving my money to other people. It felt so good to help people and see the smiles on their faces. They needed it more than me or so it seemed. Sometimes I gave it away even when they didn't want it, like buying a friend lunch or sending money to a troubled relative.
Only now, I don't have any pennies.
Awhile back, my young son heard me talking about not have any pennies and needing to pay bills. He walked up to me, his tiny little fist holding a handful of pennies. "This is for you Mommy," he said, "I'll help you. This is yours."
Even though I'm starting over again, I covet other things now. The health of my family, the love of family and friends and my sweet, sweet boy.
And those pennies.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
This book offers great insight for parent-child relationships. It is a great read for helping establish boundaries, realistic expectations, etc.
If you're interested in getting a copy the ISBN is 978-0-7627-5859-3.
Monday, June 7, 2010
But, here I am so no more putting things off. How do you get going?
Monday, May 3, 2010
I was so lucky to have known Chris. Besides heading our organization, he was a prankster, a father, a husband and a friend. He was one of the most decent people I know. He always saw the good in people. He would go out of his way to help people.
This photo shows Chris pushing one of our staff on a dolly. He was helping us move into our new offices which he worked so hard to get for our organization.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
When we were kissing, I remember thinking, "Boy! This is REALLY wet and sloppy! Are we doing this the right way?"
Kevin was very nice but I broke up with him of course. Years later, he said the breakup broke his heart. I said I don't even remember why I broke up with him. But we had both gone on with our lives.
Yesterday Kevin's twelve year-old son, Justin, was found strangled by a known sex offender. Justin was lured outside of a friend's home around 3:00am to meet who he thought was a young girl he met on myspace.com. It is unsure how long they had been texting and planning to meet.
Justin will never have his first kiss. Talk to your children about keeping safe. Dig into their lives. Insist they get the opportunity for that first kiss.
Friday, March 5, 2010
My three and a half year old son, Alejandro, and I pass by a construction site every morning on our way to his school. A large area of land is being cleared to put up a shopping center.
Alejandro loves construction trucks and always looks for them, especially if they are actually moving around working.
This morning, he exclaimed, "Momma, oh my goodness! Look! The trees are sad!"
"What do you mean, honey?" I asked.
"The trees are sad because they have been broken," he said.
The entire area had been cleared of all the trees. They lay uprooted and broken. Very sad indeed.
What precious insight my son has to notice these small things and feel a sense of attachment - and sadness - at their disappearance.
What goes unnoticed in your life until they disappear?
Friday, February 19, 2010
Over the last two weeks, I have spent three days snowed in at my house and four days snowed in with my ex-husband and cranky toddler in a very small room. All the while waiting on my flight to Louisiana to be rescheduled for the umpteenth time.
My week long trip to see family ended up being only three days. Plus I had tons of school work I could have been doing had I had Internet access. I had a lot of stuff I needed to do! I was extremely frustrated with my situation. But I decided to remain calm and kind.
What else could I have done? Nothing. It was what it was. So there was no need to get upset about something out of my control.
This sudden stop, this slamming on the brakes, really helped me refocus and re-prioritize things. If you were recently snowed in with a huge list of urgent "to-dos" how did you handle things?
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
I just had a great meeting with some folks from Wilmington University. Going to school at WU has been a great experience. And I must say meeting their University Relations staff was everything I thought it would be. A great experience just like my school experience. I am hoping to go back!
Friday, January 29, 2010
I've got to get back into marketing and public relations.
I attended a presentation by Peter Shankman on Social Media this week. Carol Arnott's group, Wine4Women, put this event on up in Wilmington.
Talk about a hyper guy who talks ninety miles a minute! And has tons of really good stuff to say about being online, being offline, being where your customers are, etc. The excitement I felt with all the ideas running through my head just confirmed, I've got to get back. I've got to get back to marketing and PR, my passion.
Everytime I speak with someone, even in passing, about marketing a business or stuff like that, I really get going with ideas. I start spitting out all those ideas running through my head and tell whomever it is I'm talking to - "Write this down. Hurry. There's more coming!" And they do. Write it down that is. And they listen. And then they ask why I'm not doing any marketing right now....why I'm not working with something that gets me so energized....and how my face lights up, how I'm smiling, how I'm talking ninety miles a minute...
What is your passion? Find a way to get back to it.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I told her I waded through my own issues by finding the courage to look at myself and be honest with myself. And then had the balls to show that to someone else.
However, this morning as I was looking at myself, I broke my mirror! So, where does that leave me? :-)
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Happy new year!
One of my goals for 2010 was to continue with my education.
Tomorrow night I start one of my first classes in 2010. I am going back to school fulltime while working fulltime while being a fulltime, single mom.
Okay, yeah, alot of people do this everyday. But not everyone has such a special little boy like mine. :-) But I've gotten over my guilt of not being able to spend every waking moment with Alejandro.
It's for our future. And it's about time. And my son will be just fine spending a bit more time with Abuela, his cousin or Daddy. Plus, he likes the idea of mommy going to school since he goes to school.
Wish me luck!