Marching for Our Futures

Million Man March. Women’s March on Washington. March for Our Lives.

Chances are, unless you have been living under a self-constructed underground bunker for the past 60 years, you have heard of each of these marches. While these marches each serve different purposes, they touch all of us in one way or another. You may not be African-American, a woman, or a child, but you likely at some point in your life worked with someone who doesn’t look like you, you were born from a mother, and you were once a child. If neither of those apply to you, then I will assume that what I have to say doesn’t pertain to you. I’m going to assume that it does.

When did it become necessary for Americans to feel that they have to march to our Nation’s capital in order to make their needs and concerns feel heard? I am all for peaceful protests and people standing up for their God-given rights, but why is it necessary? The last time I looked we are THE most free country in the entire world, made possible by our mothers and fathers and grandfathers and grandmothers long before us. But somehow we still have human beings who feel they have been left behind by our communities, our fellow Americans, our government. How did we let this happen? More importantly, what are YOU going to do about it?

I check all three of the boxes for the mentioned marches, the groups of people who feel most slighted by the laws and standards set in this country. I am a bi-racial daughter, mother of a 10-year old son. I would like to think that even if I wasn’t, I would still be sitting here writing this plea, serving as a voice for those around me who feel like their voice is too weak to make anyone listen, or that their screaming cries have fallen on deaf ears. But where have others lost their way? Those people who choose to be right in their own minds, instead of doing what is right for everyone, where did we go wrong? Is it fear? Is it arrogance? Is it pure, unrelenting ignorance and pride that make them feel they deserve to be right, that their freedom is more deserved than yours and mine?

I don’t have an answer right now, I just have a lot of questions. Questions that I’m not sure will ever be solved, but not for lack of trying. I am trying to answer frustrating questions that have been asked for as long as I have been alive and I’m sure will be asked by my son as he navigates this confusing, self-serving world. But if we stop asking questions, if we stop marching, if we stop making our voices heard, not everyone will experience the same beautiful, amazing feeling of freedom that we were promised by our ancestors. And that’s not such a great feeling.

Tell Me How You Really Feel

When is it that we learn to keep our mouths closed, to suffer in silence when we feel like we aren’t enough? Do we learn it from our surroundings we grow up in, no matter what our circumstances or upbringing may be? Do we pick it up at school when we are made fun of and called a cry-baby because we get upset with a bad grade on a test or a fight we had with our best friend under the monkey bars at recess? Whatever it is, wherever it comes from, it needs to stop. Now.

Mental health (yes, I said it, and I’ll say it many times before the end of this post) is as much of a swear word as the F word in our society. You can’t talk about mental health, that’s personal. If you talk about it, you give it legs to stand on, you give it life and then you have to do something about it. If I don’t say it or complain about it, I don’t have to be accountable for changing anything about it. Well, I’m gonna say and I’m gonna do something about it, starting right here, right now. You can stop reading now if your virgin eyes have already seen too much.

I have a son, a very strong-willed son, who is also extremely emotional. He has feelings inside him that he doesn’t even know how to emote. Why doesn’t he know? I wish I could answer that question, because it would sure help me help him when he just doesn’t know how to talk about what he is feeling. The one way that he has found to tell me about the things that go through his mind is that his brain is fighting his heart and his brain is winning. On several occasions he says that his brain is punching his heart and telling it to shut up. The first time he ever said that, I had no idea how to react. I thought maybe he was making it up to keep from getting in trouble for a bad day at school. But you know what, sometimes, some days, I feel like my brain and my heart are in a head to heart death match and there really is no winner. So, while I never could have explained it in that way, I think he’s a pretty amazing little boy to astutely make that statement. He has said this many more times and I do the unthinkable with him when he does. We talk about it. Yep, we sure do. We have an actual conversation about his feelings and what he could have done differently to avoid the blow up that happened over the course of the interaction between his brain and his heart. I even let him cry about it. I know, my kid is doomed to a life of being a sissy and a pussy (good lord I hate that word), but as long as he knows he is allowed to talk about what is bothering him, call him what you want. I call him brave. I call him smart. I call him compassionate. And if he can treat others with that same compassion because he knows what it’s like to have emotions building up inside you that you just can’t get rid of, he just might change the world some day. And I’m ok with that. I would rather my kid become part of a good statistic.

Please, please, please. Cry when you need to. Scream when you don’t know what else to do. Pick up the phone and call someone you trust that will listen and let you let it out. We have been so conditioned with guilt, embarrassment, and shame for sharing our true feelings and it is literally killing us. From those taking their own lives to victims (yes, we are all victims of our circumstances) taking the lives of others because of an illness that was never diagnosed or treated, or simply a situation that was never addressed, there are people you come into contact with everyday who are fighting demons you could never comprehend. How do I know? Because I’m a depression survivor who has lived to tell my story, I’m one of the lucky ones.

I will make it my purpose to bring awareness to mental health issues and helping others find the support that they need, no matter what society says about them. We all have something that we are fighting and some of our opponents are larger than others. Remember, it takes just one traumatic event to change your entire life and send you down a path that you aren’t ready for. Talk about it. Read about it. Do something about it. Now.

My first book, Forty Years of Practice, outlines some of the darkest days of my life and how those events made me stronger. If you need a motivational story to get you out of your current dark place, follow this link: Forty Years of Practice


7 years…

Tuesday, January 16th will be 7 years since I lost my father to cancer. 7 years since the last time I spoke to him, told him I loved him, and that it was time for him to rest. As with most of us, I thought my mom and dad would live forever. I never imagined the day that I would have to live without one of them, but here am I writing my thoughts about his death, his life, and how things have changed since he left. I know he is still with me and he is reading what I’m writing right now and that gives me a sense of peace that I haven’t felt for a very long time.

As my book is now getting ready for official launch in just a few weeks, I will share a portion of my book written about the last few days of my dad’s life and what we were all going through as we waited for God to call him home. Please enjoy and say a prayer for our family on Tuesday as we remember the man they called “The Rev”, a husband, father, and papaw who is missed very, very much.

Chapter 9 – Eight Hours to Heaven (From Forty Years of Practice)

“I don’t think my dad was ready to die, but he wasn’t afraid of it, either. I do think he was ready to be pain-free, mentally and physically. He had suffered so many different ailments and setbacks throughout the entire 6-year battle, I still don’t know how he did it. My parent’s kitchen looked like a pharmacy or a drug dealer’s cook house, because of all the prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Nothing they tried would take his pain away for more than a quick, momentary release and then it was back, sometimes stronger than it was before. He couldn’t sleep, I think my mom told me at some point he didn’t sleep for several days. The pain was unbearable and I know how hard it is for me to turn off my brain when I go to bed, I’m sure he had plenty of crazy thoughts in his confused, suffering, frail mind. One night he told my mom that he thinks the reason he hadn’t died yet was because he was baptized by that Buddha in Japan and he didn’t think God would recognize that. He needed to make it right with the Lord before he thought he would start to feel some relief, some closure, and some peace.

On January 8, 2011, the day before my 35th birthday, we were baptized as a family; myself, my mother, my father, and Tyson, by the hospice chaplain. While I had been to church many times with my grandmother and my great aunt Thelma, I had never given my life to Christ. And to be honest, I was only doing it this time because my mom and dad asked me to and I was going to do anything they asked of me. It was a very quick and quiet occasion held right in my parent’s living room. We were all pretty emotional as we said the prayers and I really could almost see a huge weight lifted from my father’s shoulders. Although his physical condition never changed, perhaps it had even continued to get worse, he did seem to have released some of his worries and anxiety that had consumed him over the previous few months. 

Now, if you are reading this book hoping to hear a miraculous story about how my dad was saved from the vise grip of the grim reaper at the very last second and we lived happily ever after, well, I will apologize now. That just isn’t going to happen. Sure, he is living happily ever after in heaven riding his Harley Davidson, drinking Bud Light, and catching up with friends and family. But the miracle we had hoped for wasn’t meant to be. Notice I didn’t say there was no miracle, just not the one we wanted.”

Thank you, 2017

Every year I sit down and think about the prior 365 days and usually I bid a fond “good riddance” to the past. If you know what I’ve been through the last 12 months you would probably assume that this year would bring two big middle fingers followed by a cheerful kiss my butt. You know what they say about assuming…

This year was a list of firsts, forgiveness, faith, and new beginnings. I never thought I would be where I am today, in so many ways, but I am accepting and thanking God for the lessons and blessings I have received, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

Thank you, 2017, for helping me realize that I am more than enough, even if I lost a big part of my life.

Thank you, 2017, for allowing me to act on a dream I have had for so many years, not filing it in the back of my mind like other dreams and aspirations I let fall to the back of the line.

Thank you, 2017, for showing me the strength that I have is not my own. I had to learn to let go and let someone else take control, something I have never been good at. I have gotten through the trials and tribulations of the past year by nothing but grace and mercy. I never knew what those words truly meant until my life depended on it. I wouldn’t be here without it.

2018 is shaping up to be pretty special. God willing, my book will be ready for distribution  in January, I will begin my speaking and coaching career, and I will celebrate helping another woman pursue and win a position in the Ohio Statehouse.

I might not be entering the year exactly how I had planned, with exactly who I thought would be by my side, but things are looking up and I refuse to look down.

What I’m Reading

This summer I was fortunate to attend the She Speaks 2017 writers and speakers conference hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries. I had the pleasure of hearing Lynn Cowell speak in one of my scheduled breakout sessions and what struck me about her was her realness, her ability to be very knowledgeable about the topic she was speaking on, but without coming off as a know-it-all. Lynn’s new book, Make Your Move, launched today and I highly recommend it to any woman who is questioning or has ever questioned their confidence. We come up against mountains and valleys each and every day and our reaction to one can be completely different to our reaction to another. Lynn dives into lesser known female figures in the bible to demonstrate different exhibitions of faith and confidence, ones we may very well relate to. I am including the link to the book on Amazon for you to try yourself. If you pick it up, let me know, I’d love to talk about it!


Make Your Move – Lynn Cowell

My Grief is Your Grief

Me and Karen

My friend, Karen, on the right, lost her husband to pancreatic cancer earlier this summer. Although I know where my husband is, he is no longer mine.

In October 2016, we both received “diagnoses” that would alter our marriages in ways we never planned for. Karen’s husband Tracy, the type of man that you meet for 5 minutes and immediately want to hang out with every day, was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Anyone who has experience with that type of cancer knows that it is one of the biggest bitches you can come across and has no sympathy for anyone involved, not the patient or caregiver or friends and family. Tracy and Karen approached their diagnosis with the most poise and strength and love that I can’t even describe. To them, they had already won the battle with cancer, even if it would eventually take Tracy from us. He knew he was selected to carry the burden of cancer for a reason and he took that job very seriously, right until his dying day.

Most of you know that I lost my father to kidney cancer in 2011, after his own 6-year battle, and I just assumed that I found Karen because I was supposed to support her through her cancer journey with Tracy. Little did I know how much we would hold each other up over the last year. Karen had also experienced divorce in her life and even while taking care of her beloved, she always wanted to know how I was doing, how I was coping. I know how much she was hurting inside and that most days were not easy for her, but I also think that checking in on me was also a way for her to step away from the hell that she was in, even if just for a quick 5 word text – ‘how are you doing today?’

Last night, we finally had the chance to have a dinner that was very much long overdue. We talked about Tracy. We talked about Pat. We talked about our sons, Tyson and Matthew. For those 2 hours, I remembered that as much as we both are hurting, neither of us are alone. As much as I sometimes to try to hide in my house, hide behind my computer and my upcoming book, I can’t do this alone.

Karen would do anything to see Tracy again, and while I get the opportunity to interact with Pat almost everyday, as we co-parent Tyson, I would do anything to see “my husband” again. We are both grieving, but we don’t have to do it alone. We can’t do it alone and we won’t do it alone. Thank you, Karen, for being a new light in my life, you mean more to me than you will ever know.