Tips for Summer Travel with Elderly Family

Photo by Dimitri Dim on Pexels.com

Summer is underway as well as revenge travel season. Now that some COVID19 restrictions are being lifted due to increased vaccinations, you may be planning to take that long awaited trip that may have been delayed. Here are some tips for traveling with elder family members or folks with disabilities.

Pack your patience. No matter how you try, things don’t go according to plan. Everything will take much longer than you think — from getting to and from the airport, getting around or receiving services. Your loved one may get frustrated as well. So take deep breaths and allow yourself plenty of time.

Be realistic. You may remember your loved one as younger and more vibrant. Mobility changes over time, which can be hard for both you and your loved one. They want to be able to do more but can’t; you may possibly have expected them to do more than they can. For instance, if you normally have short visits with your loved one, and they are fine walking around the house, that is a far cry from having to walk long distances at the airport dragging a rolling suitcase. Also, with the pandemic, folks have physically been less active — even us as younger people! So bring your patience, plan, and think through the best way to get from points A to B.

Direct flights can be better. If at all possible, try to get a direct flight to your destination. It allows your loved one to get settled once, and you don’t have to worry about a delay causing a logistical nightmare with missed connections. We’ve seen how some airlines have cancelled flights at the last minute. A direct flight can prevent that dreaded sprint in between terminals with someone who is not as mobile. There are the carts that drive through the airport, but multiple stops for other passengers may also slow down the process.

Get a wheelchair at booking. Every airline allows you to book wheelchair assistance when you purchase your flight. But I have to share a cautionary tale. On a recent trip with my elderly dad for a funeral, my husband and I booked a wheelchair through American Airlines. We arrived at Miami International Airport two hours before the flight, and went to the designated area run by Envoy who handles the wheelchairs there. The lady at the desk informed us that we would have to sit and wait for 45 minutes. This is even before going through TSA and the long trek to the departure gate. When I expressed my shock, she pointed to an older lady who was sitting with her head in her hands looking defeated “well, her flight boards in 5 minutes” with a shrug. Not wanting to take the chance, we ended up walking very slowly with my dad to the gate, which was very physically draining for him. We were blessed that although he had limited mobility, he could walk — but what about those for whom that is completely out of the question? The absolute reverse was true when we left Jamaica (a place that some disparage as a “3rd world country”). The level of care and attention we received was outstanding. So with this experience, I would suggest calling the airport to see what the wait times are for wheelchairs. Consider purchasing a lower cost wheelchair for travel if you are able, so that you can get your loved one to the destination with limited aggravation.

Pack very light or check luggage. Between dealing with wheelchairs, seating and other logistics, dragging a bag behind you is another drama that may end up being a lot. Use curbside check in if possible, or wear a backpack so that your hands remain free for whatever is needed.

Wear comfy shoes. This is not the time to be cute when you have to sprint ahead and head off random travel disasters. Trust me.

Empty your loved one’s pockets. The side eye you get for holding up the TSA line is never fun. Don’t be that group if at all possible. Even after asking your loved one “are your pockets empty?”, search all of their pockets. Inevitably, you will find change, a phone, eyeglasses or something. It took about three trips before I realized I must handle that aspect.

While there are logistical considerations, the benefit of travelling for family gatherings, vacations or just to spend time together far outweighs the irritations that can be involved. Plan ahead, use these tips, and have a great summer! If you have other tips, please share in the comments!

This story originally appeared in Medium – check it out and send some claps if you are a member!

Tips For When Mother’s Day Hurts…

Happy Mother’s Day to all who celebrate!!

For some folks (myself included), today can be tough. If you lost your mother, mother figure, spouse/partner or as a mom – lost your child, today can be very painful. I lost my mom to cancer nine years ago. The grief has a way of creeping up on you, especially as the barrage of commercials, ads and emails pop up everywhere in the days leading up to today. Here are a few tips to help you get through.

  • It’s Okay. How you are feeling is valid. You don’t need to “toughen up”, and you do not need to pretend.
  • Unplug. Today is a really good day to stay off social media. Scrolling past happy smiling faces of families having brunch may be a lot to handle emotionally and remind you of your loss. Set the phone to do not disturb, leave it in an inaccessible place for a while, and take a break.
  • Find a Positive Distraction. Try binging the show that you’ve been meaning to watch on the streaming service of your choice. Watch some old DVD’s. I suggest opting out of network television because many stations do Mother’s Day themed programming. Get outside for a while. Journal. Work on that project you’ve been procrastinating for so long. Do something positive to keep yourself distracted.
  • Don’t Self Medicate. I’m not judging anyone for this one. However, using drugs or alcohol can make the pain you are feeling worse – and you may do something you will really regret. Also, practically speaking, tomorrow is Monday. Starting the week with a hangover – even on Zoom – is not fun.
  • It’ll Be Over Soon. It’s 24 hours, part of which you’ll be sleeping. You’ve made it this far. Just a few more hours!

Grief is an ongoing process that does not resolve itself overnight. It’s a rollercoaster, with good days and bad days. See a therapist if it gets too hard to cope. Check with your insurance provider if you have one. If not, there are so many apps and therapists that provide virtual sessions. One list is here.

Kudos to companies like Etsy and The Lip Bar (TLB) who sent emails allowing customers to opt out of Mother’s Day email advertisements. Having that option was definitely kind and sensitive.

I hope this is helpful. Sending you all a big virtual hug!

Legal Divas of Color: Rep. Barbara Jordan

Hi RLD Family!

Every year for Black History Month, I highlight trailblazing female attorneys that made it possible for me to do what I do today! This year, my Legal Diva of Color is Representative Barbara Jordan, who made history on a number of levels throughout her career.

Rep. Barbara Jordan, photo credit: Associated Press

Barbara Charline Jordan was born February 21, 1936, in Houston, Texas. Her father was a Baptist minister and warehouse clerk; her mother was a maid, housewife and church teacher. Greatness was pre-ordained in her blood. Rep. Jordan’s great-grandfather, Edward Patton, was one of several Black representatives who served in the Texas legislature during Reconstruction — prior to disenfranchisement of Black Texans under Jim Crow.

Rep. Jordan attended the segregated Phillis Wheatley High School, where a career day speech by Edith Sampson, a Black lawyer, inspired her to become an attorney. Never underestimate the power of career day, and of role models to open the door to new career paths!

Her education continued as a member of the inaugural class at Texas Southern University, an HBCU (historically Black college/university) quickly created by the Texas legislature to avoid having to integrate the University of Texas. While at Texas Southern, Rep. Jordan was part of the debate team, helping them reach national acclaim. The team famously tied Harvard’s debaters when they came to Houston — a huge feat for a fledgling team, while simultaneously challenging the notion of white supremacy. She graduated magna cum laude in 1956, heading then to Boston University School of Law. Three years later, Jordan earned her law degree as one of only two African American women in her class. After passing the bars in Massachusetts and Texas, she decided to come back home to Houston, where she opened a law office.

Her pivot to public service began when Rep. Jordan volunteered for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1960. She was a masterful organizer — driving 80% voter turnout in Harris County (which is where Houston is located). In a classic case of “if at first you don’t succeed“, she ran twice for the Texas House. The first two times she lost, but she finally won in 1966 — where she became the senator for a newly formed district. As a state senator, she worked to pass a state minimum wage law that covered farmworkers. Ever the hard worker, she co-sponsored over 70 bills. 

After her success as a a state senator, Rep. Jordan ran for Congress as the Democratic nominee for Houston’s 18th District. She won, becoming the first African American woman from a Southern state to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. She enjoyed a mentor/mentee relationship with Lyndon B. Johnson, which enabled her to be appointed to key posts such as the House Judiciary Committee. Her breakout moment came on July 25, 1974, when Rep. Jordan gave the 15-minute opening statement of the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing for Richard Nixon. Her speech was a staunch defense of the U.S. Constitution and its checks and balances designed to prevent abuse of power. She said, “I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”

She further stated “I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision, I have finally been included in “we the people””

Rep. Barbara Jordan, 1974

The impeachment speech helped lead to Nixon’s resignation over the Watergate scandal and won Jordan national acclaim for her rhetoric, intellect and integrity. Her speech was so amazing that two years later, she was asked to deliver the keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention— a first for an African American woman! Rep. Jordan was even floated as a potential running mate for Jimmy Carter. She turned that down — but ironically, even though she was not a candidate, one delegate was so moved by her speech that they voted for her to be the Presidential nominee.

When she was not making history, Rep. Jordan was hard at work on legislation promoting women’s rights, supported the Equal Rights Amendment and cosponsored a bill that would have granted housewives Social Security benefits based on their domestic labor. She co-sponsored close to 300 bills, many of which are still law today. 

After more than a decade of service, Rep. Jordan retired from Congress in 1979 to become a professor at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. It was a nice full circle moment, being able to teach at the university that she could not attend due to segregation, as well as in the school named after her mentor. She became an active public speaker and advocate, receiving 25 honorary doctorates. Her vehement opposition helped derail George Bush’s nomination of Robert Bork (who had opposed many civil rights cases) to the U.S. Supreme Court. She gave a second Democratic Convention keynote address in 1992. In 1994 then President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.

Rep. Jordan died of leukemia-related pneumonia on January 17, 1996 at age 59. Breaking barriers even in death, she became the first African American to be buried among the governors, senators and congressmen in the Texas State Cemetery. Her legacy includes the main terminal of the Austin International Airport bearing her name, along with a statute of her likeness. In 2000, the Jordan/Rustin Coalition (JRC) was created, honoring Rep. Jordan and Bayard Rustin, a leader in the civil rights movement and close confidante of Martin Luther King Jr. The organization’s goal was to mobilize LGBT+ African Americans to aid in the passage of marriage equality in California. Rep. Jordan had a long term companion named Nancy Earl, who was with her until the end of her life. No public statement has ever been made about their relationship, but it is believed they were life partners. 

Thank you Rep. Barbara Jordan for being a trailblazer, and a Legal Diva of Color!

Photo credit: Associated Press

Stepping into 2021!

Well, it’s finally here.

We’ve waited, we’ve prayed, we fought, we cried…and now, 2020 is in the history books, replaced by the blank slate of the new year.

It’s a strange feeling in some ways. For me, 2020 was very much a mixed bag. There are some parts that I couldn’t wait to have behind me – watching friends suffer with their health as a result of COVID19; lockdowns; and toxicity brought on by the political climate. At the same token, it was a year of breaking boundaries as well as new beginnings.

On the positive side, I’m thankful more than ever for my health. It’s something we should never take for granted. I was able to work remotely, which is a privilege many people did not have, placing them and their families at risk. Thank you to everyone that went out to work because they were essential; I stand in solidarity with those who were forced due to corporate greed.

George Floyd protest in Miami

2020 was definitely a year of pushing boundaries and taking on new challenges. The biggest challenge for me was running for the office of Miami Dade State Attorney. In the best of times, running for office is intense, back breaking work. I knew it was going to be hard, but there was no real way to know how hard until I was in it. You spend hours on the phone asking for donations; then more time is spent trying to maximize what you have raised in order to get your message out effectively. It became clear to me why many of those in government either come from wealth, or are beholden to special interests who financed their campaigns. It’s simply very difficult to do without financial support. Add on the layer of a global pandemic, where there is uncertainty around people’s financial future as well as the loss of the ability to connect in person at local events or door to door — now it’s uncharted waters.

With all of the hurdles, we managed to leverage social media to elevate the discussion of key issues confronting Miami and America at large in the criminal justice system. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and others encouraged national activism; but it also made people look in their own backyards to see what injustices may be occurring. The racial reckoning- painful as it was for me personally to watch people that look like me die for no reason – was a turning point in highlighting why change is needed locally and nationally.

With fellow activists at Women’s March Miami rally

Even though my bid was not successful- the jury is out as to whether I will do it again – it was such an honor to connect with people I never would have met otherwise. It also allowed me to thin out my contact list. Not everyone who says they are there for you really mean it. The lesson is one that is repeated often, but it is welcome in that it clears the path for new relationships to be forged. I am so grateful to everyone who donated, volunteered or assisted in some way. So many folks showed up and showed out – it was really appreciated!!! Special shout out to my beloved husband the Cowboy. His unconditional love and support made this possible.

Me and my Cowboy! Photo credit: LocShotz

Continuing on the topic of elections, I cannot wait to attend the swearing in ceremonies of Harold Pryor in Broward County (first African American man to be elected State Attorney in Florida), and Monique Worrell who will continue the legacy of Aramis Ayala as State Attorney in Orange/Osceola County. On a national level, the first African American female will be inaugurated as Vice President. The new presidential administration under Joe Biden will be not only a breath of fresh air, but very needed oxygen for us to rebuild as a country.

My new beginning came in September when I joined Florida International University as the Director of Policy and Programs for the Center for the Administration of Justice. My father always had a saying – “watch how you conduct yourself in the street because you never know who is watching”. The associate director of the Center had been watching my campaign and how I addressed the issues. He texted me on Election night when the results became final, and I began work a month later (after a much needed vacation!). It’s been great to work with prosecutors’ offices to show them how using data and alternative ways to measure success can bring more equity to our communities as well as our system. We are bringing on new offices this year, and will be expanding the work internationally. My greatest goal is to create several test sites as models of real community engagement between prosecutors and the people they serve.

So what is on deck for 2021?

There will be a lot more writing this year (yay!). I published a book on prosecutorial discretion last year; I’ll be continuing to promote it as part of the bigger dialogue as to what is next for the criminal justice system. I’m excited to be able to travel again internationally – for pleasure and for work – once the vaccine is widely available. There will be more work on a grassroots level around criminal justice – raising awareness and empowering people with the information they need to fight for change while holding those in power accountable. Make sure to tune in to Mondays With Melba every Monday at 6pm on Facebook Live. It is also posted later in the week on my Resident Legal Diva Instagram page.

Thank you for being a part of the RLD family. I wish each of you a healthy and prosperous New Year. Please let me know any topics you’d like for me to explore on the blog or via Facebook Live. Let’s make it a great year together!!

Image of Melba Pearson embracing joy on the waterfront
Happy New Year! Photo credit: LocShotz

Dear White Women: Black Women Are Taking Our Moment

Vice President Elect Kamala Harris and her niece.

It took T minus one day. 

I was scrolling through the myriads of Facebook groups when I saw a post of Vice President elect Kamala Harris speaking to her little grand niece, telling her she can be President. The person who posted it, who was a Black woman, stated “all little Black girls now know anything is possible”. In the comments a white woman said “it should be ALL girls”. 

And here we are again in the debate of “all” vs. Black. 

The comment ignored the reality that representation matters. While women have come far in this country, white women have done better. Racism prevented Black women from getting the same head start. White women received the right to vote before Black women – with some white suffragettes fighting to prevent our forefathers from voting before them. There have been four white women on the Supreme Court; there has yet to be a Black woman. White women are paid more at work and are less likely to die in childbirth. There are nine white female governors in this country; we have yet to have a Black female governor. The closest in recent history, Stacy Abrams was robbed of her win via voter suppression in GA. Despite this painful loss, she still tirelessly organized voters to lead Georgia to resoundingly swing for Biden/Harris.  Meanwhile, 55% of white women still voted for the person who would like nothing more than to make this country a version of the Handmaid’s Tale. 

It’s a different feeling when you have been left (or pushed) out of the conversation for centuries, and you finally see yourself in a position of power. The same way white women celebrated when Hillary Clinton became the Dem pres nominee is the same way Black women are feeling today with seeing a Black Woman as VP. 

Think of it this way. A television station in Ireland ended its broadcast by talking about how Joe Biden is a proud Irish American, with his reading of a poem by Seamus Heaney. He is only the second person of Irish descent to be in the White House (the first being John F. Kennedy). I fully expect celebrations and pride by our Irish friends on both sides of the Atlantic – and rightfully so. I would never state to an Irish person who expressed pride over this accomplishment “this is for ALL of us, not just you”. While true, it’s insulting. I’m pretty sure the Facebook poster and others who feel like she does didn’t post similar comments on an Irish person’s page. There is nothing wrong with celebrating accomplishments of people who you identify with through culture, ethnicity, gender alma mater or otherwise – as long as you are not treating other people badly. 

The “all” narrative has been a battle as we discuss criminal justice reform and Black Lives Matter. To put it simply – it’s like showing up to a breast cancer fundraiser and saying “but all cancers matter”. Yes they do – but the discussion right now is about breast cancer. So have a seat. 

This is part of that casual racism that ignores history. Comments like these are a daily reminder of how much work there is to do in this country. Racism exists in both parties, and addressing it is way overdue. 

All is great when all people are actually included intentionally as well as consistently. 

Until that happens, Black women are taking our moment.

See it on the 94 Percent here.