advocacy, black lives matter, Current events, Death, discrimination, Family, inequality, Life, Loss, Love, racism

I Write…

When I am hurting, or mad, or confused… I write.

When I have something important to say… I write.

When my heart is broken… I write. 

When I want to help, but I feel helpless… I write. 

I write. It is what I do. 

This time it is different. I have been sitting back and taking it all in, struggling to find the right words. I wanted to understand before I shared my words with the world, but I have realized that I will never fully understand. I have decided that I cannot just sit in the background being fearful that my words will not matter. So, it is time for me to do what I do… I write.

The driving force that has given me the courage to express my feelings, my fears, and my disappointment in my fellow human beings is my brother, Eric… my sister-in-law, Monica, and my nephew, Kobe. They are my family.

I have been blessed with a life in which the color of my skin does not cause others to assume I am lesser than, judge my actions or abilities, or bring a feeling of fear or danger… but I have witnessed it. I have witnessed my brother, who was bi-racial, struggle in a world that did not treat him fairly. From the moment I saw Eric at the adoption agency, I knew he was my brother. I did not see color. I saw a beautiful little human who gave me the title of big sister… a title I did not take lightly. Eric grew up under the same roof as me and our older brother. Eric had the same last name as me and our older brother. Eric was loved and cared for just as my brother and I were, but Eric was treated differently by the outside world simply because of the color of his skin. Many people were blinded by color and they were unwilling and unable to see the Eric I knew, that was tucked away under a hard exterior that he was forced to build for protection and self preservation.

    The Eric I knew, still at the age of 26, loved hugs from our Mom. The Eric I knew had the biggest heart. The Eric I knew was an amazing father. The Eric I knew was a hard worker. The Eric I knew hung his conference metal that he won in track over my hospital bed while I was in the ICU just so I would know he was with me. The Eric I knew loved family. The Eric I knew taught me about life, love, and acceptance. The Eric I knew would have given me the world if I needed him to. The Eric I knew made mistakes, but guess what… So have I! I feel sorry for everyone that did not get to know this Eric. 

I feel really sorry for those who had tunnel vision and all they saw of Eric was that his skin was a different color. You missed out on knowing a loving and strong human being. His life mattered to me, and his death feels like a missing piece of our family puzzle. I cannot help but to feel like I could have been better for him, or stood up for him more while he was here. So, this is why I have decided that I cannot hide back in a corner, behind my white skin, and be afraid of what others may think or feel after reading my words. I strive to do right for Eric… for Monica… for Kobe… for anyone who has to live in fear and go to battle every day because of the color of his or her skin, anyone who is unfairly misjudged, and anyone who has been directly affected by racism. I will NEVER say that I know how it feels, because I do not know. All I can do is stand in solidarity, I can listen, and I can offer my continual support in any possible way that I can.

Kobe, Eric, and Monica

I pray for George Floyd’s family, and all of the families who have gone through and are going through unexplainable losses. 

I pray for our police officers who wear their badges for the right reasons, and who are willing to give their lives for those who they do not know. 

I pray that human beings start seeing each other as human beings no matter skin color, culture, gender, or sexual orientation. 

I pray that my nephew can grow up in a world that gives him a fighting chance. 

I pray that Eric knows that I am so proud of him and that I wish I could have done so much more for him. 

I pray that people realize that nobody is going to fix this for us. It starts with each and every one of us and our responsibility to be there for one another. 

I pray that the peaceful protesters continue to be supported and that they are heard loud and clear.

Our country and our world is a mess right now.

Our country and our world has lost its morals.

I ask that you find what it is that you can do to start making a change.

I cannot fix the world, but I can try… I can write.

Coping, disability, Family, growing up, Life, Loss, Love, Motivation

Figure 8

Now, I know everyone has his or her place they go to get away, to find some peace and quiet, and to have just a little time to be away from everyone and everything. It may be a big cozy chair in the corner of a room where the sun shines in with a good book in your hands, a park bench that is off the beaten path, a little coffee shop on the corner, in your car driving through the country with the top down, riding a bike through those beautiful tree tunnels that make you feel like there is a completely different world waiting for you at the other end, going to the batting cages until you have used every last available quarter you can find in a 20 mile radius, floating on kayak at dusk when the water is like glass, sitting in the sand letting all your senses take in everything that the ocean can give, or laying in a hammock while the breeze rocks you to sleep. These all were my getaways before the wheelchair. My spot now… my momentary timeout from life is rolling down the road in big figure 8 around this beautiful lake that I call home. On a day when I need a little extra time, when things are weighing on my mind, or I want to escape and listen to a few more songs and my charge on the chair is still on green, I buzz right by our driveway and go twice. Everyone around here knows this as my “roll,” and I have met so many people over the years just by waving and saying hello. As long as the sun is shining and the weather permits, it is a daily event for me. I make sure my seatbelt is secure, I hook my mirror up so I do not have any surprises sneaking up behind me, I put my chair up to rabbit speed, the headphones go on, and the music goes up. The sun, the wind, the water, and the music relax me and somehow ignite my creativity all at the same time. It is on my rolls where I come up with the best ideas for writing, and it is also my place where I try to let go of worries, cry over the loss of people I love, smile at random memories that my music brings back to life, vent my frustrations, talk to my little brother whose presence I feel every moment I am by that water, sing my heart out along with the music flowing in my ears, and cope with things that I do not like to speak of. I have had a few people ask me if I get bored of rolling and seeing the same sights every day, and the first time I responded to that I remember exactly what I said….. “It is so pretty here, and I see a different kind of pretty every day.” Every day I roll around the lakes, no matter what kind of day I have had, I can honestly say that I see at least one thing that makes me stop and just look. Today was no different, and it was a day where I had all sorts of thoughts bouncing off of each other while I navigated my figure 8. This is what my roll stirred up…

I once heard the saying, “If you are lucky enough to live on a lake, then you are lucky enough.” As I sit here on the dock and look out at the water as the sun is going down I really do know how lucky I am. For many of you that know me, you know that my permanent home is now on the lake, and a beautiful lake at that. Now, if I had to make this change five or so years ago, I know I would not have appreciated it as much as I do now. I would not have been ready to leave my friends, leave my home and everything that was familiar to me, leave the faster pace of life. Now that I’m in my “northern” 30s my mindset is completely different, and I have realized how much can change over just a few years. I know what has brought this change in me; it is a combination of things…

First is that I fell in love. A strong love. An honest love. I could feel my priorities in life completely shift when love showed up like it did… unexpected but at the perfect time. The lakes allowed me to be closer to that love, and that love washed away any doubts that were lingering about moving away from what was familiar to me. Love is a powerful thing and it made me feel safe. The second is pretty simple… I grew up. I have developed amazing friendships that have an unspoken mutual understanding that being an adult is not for sissies and life sometimes can keep us apart for a significant amount of time, but we truly cherish every moment that we now have together. Yes, I miss them every day, but at this age I have been blessed with such a solid foundation of true friends… friends that are constant no matter what life deals out. Third, I enjoy the slower pace of life here, and every single time I say it I shake my head and smile, because I hear my 70 year old neighbor say the same exact thing. I love the little bar on the corner where “everyone knows your name,” knowing that I can look up at night and see so many stars that are not faded by the lights of a busy city, having friends visit so they can relax, living near a one stop light town that still celebrates its settlement days with a beer tent and live music, cooking dessert over a campfire, and losing track of time with friends out on the water. The last significant piece to all of this is my little brother. He continues to teach me things about life, even after he passed away a little over two years ago. This lake is his final resting place, and the feeling of being close to him makes me feel more at home than anything else. It has brought a new calmness to this beautiful body of water that I wake up to every morning. It is a calm that I did not feel before, but it is real and I know Eric would want that for me… he would want that for all of us.

I have come to realize that it is the people, the love, your frame of mind, it is life, it is loss, and it is the experiences… however large or small that make a house your home, and each spot where we land is like a stepping stone through life. The stone I am on right now is a good one and the view is not too shabby. So, for right now I’m going to keep rolling my figure 8, and waving at people that I have yet to meet, and singing along with my music, and writing about my life… and always trying to find that “different kind of pretty” every single day.

Family, Life, Loss, Love, Motivation

Life Goes On….

When I was a little girl, I had my life all planned out. I was going to be a monkey trainer, married, two kids, and riding horses in the mountains with the gobs and gobs of free time I would have because my personal cook would have dinner ready every evening, and my responsible children would finish their homework every day without being asked, and they would have a weird obsession of picking up after every mess they made.

It did not work out that way… At all. What can I say? This flashback to my little girl dreams getting crushed, brings me to my next topic…. “Life goes on.”

“Life goes on…..” You know, it was a phrase that I never really liked. Yes, it is the truth, but it seems so insincere, so blunt, and so lacking of any emotion or empathy. Now, at the ripe age of 35, I am sitting here in my wheelchair, at the end of the dock, writing down my thoughts, looking across a gorgeous lake, and watching “life go on.” I have come to accept that phrase.

I am not heartbroken about those dreams I had as a little girl not working out. There have been many points throughout my life where I thought I had it all planned out, but the forces that be shook their heads and thought otherwise. Every single time my plans completely got thrown into the blender in regards to how I thought my life was supposed to be, there was always one thing that was guaranteed… Life goes on.

There are so many things that can turn your world upside down. Whether it is the death of someone you love, a traumatic event, a broken heart… Life does not stop and wait for you to catch your breath. The sun still rises and sets, deadlines do not disappear, bills arrive just on schedule, traffic still piles up at rush hour, and you come in contact with strangers who are completely unaware of the pain you carry inside. At times it does not seem fair that the world keeps going with complete disregard to your own feelings of loss and defeat, but maybe that is what helps us heal. Think about it, if life stopped every single time you faced a detour, it would be kind of like trying to watch a YouTube video with really slow Internet. We all know how annoying that is… Nobody likes “buffering.”

Maybe you just need to coast on that detour, just for a little bit. I have learned to look at the detours of life from the perspective of relating them to real “detours.” Yes, some detours absolutely throw you for a loop, and get you so lost that you have to use every lifeline necessary to find your way. Sometimes though, there are detours that may in fact make it a longer ride to reach that final destination, but if you truly open your eyes, that ride is more beautiful, and it would have been something that you never would have experienced otherwise. It may be a blessing in disguise, it may scare the crap out of you, it may open doors to amazing opportunities, it may shut doors that you never thought would close, you may meet the love of your life, you may lose the love of your life, but it is life, and it is yours, and it is unpredictable.

I by no means claim that I have it all figured out. So, until it is my turn to see the ones I have lost throughout this journey of life again, I will put my seatbelt on every morning and keep rolling with life as it “goes on,” doing my best to embrace the detours and wherever they lead me to, and holding on to the belief that hearts that are meant to be together will always find their way.

Also, monkey training is never out of the picture…

Current events, Entrepreneur, Family, Life, Literacy, Reading

Making A Difference 

           Ever since high school I have made it a habit to watch the news. I have always wanted to keep up on my current events, but let’s face it.. the news is depressing. It always seems to be focused on the negative of any situation. I believe it is nearly impossible to watch the news without having to hear stories of death, hatred, and war. It is the world that we live in, and there is no denying that. Every once in a while though, there is a bright spot in the news that gives us all hope that there is still good in this world. Those are the stories I love to watch, those are the stories I love to share, and those are the stories that make us reflect on ourselves and hopefully make us strive to do better and be better. I saw one of those stories the other day when I turned on the nightly news, which I do every day after work. I would like to share that story with you in hopes of brightening your day.

         Monday evening, I was watching the NBC nightly news and doing my usual routine of decompressing after work. I am a fan of the nightly news on NBC because they always end their news program with an uplifting story. That night was no different, and I found myself smiling as I was watching a story about an 11-year-old entrepreneur named Sydney Keys III. It caught my interest right away, because I remember thinking…. “I don’t think I could even spell entrepreneur when I was 11 years old!” Sydney has a love for reading, but unfortunately he realized that boys in his age group, especially African-American boys statistically stop reading. In order to fight this stereotype, Sydney created a club called Books n Bros in order to make reading more fun for boys around the ages of 8-12-years-old. “Books n Bros is not only encouraging literacy within the Black Culture and African-American literature, but also Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy, and Endless Possibilities!”


        

        Sydney has been featured on numerous news programs and outlets. On his website you can browse through featured collections of books that all have strong African American characters and stories of African American leaders and history. So, take a break from all of the negative news, and visit Books n Bros to see how Sydney is making a difference by simply doing something that he loves. I have always held strong to the belief that we can learn so much from kids, and this is a prime example of that. Here is a shoutout to Sydney for seeing that changes needed to be made, and for taking the initiative to be that change!  

You can follow and learn more about Books n Bros at www.booksnbros.com or on Instagram at http://instagram.com/booksnbrosllc.

Coping, Death, Family

I Love You Little Brother

Summer is quickly approaching… and I, like many others, am ready for sun, shorts, and flip flops! Along with the coming of summer is also the one year anniversary of the loss of my younger brother. We lost Eric on May 9, 2016, when he was only 26 years old. It was the hardest and most devastating thing that I have ever experienced. Death is a part of life, but when death happens unexpectedly to someone so close to you and so young, it makes such a deeper impact… it takes a piece of you. Throughout Eric’s 26 short years, he had taught me so much about life… the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even though he is no longer here, he is still teaching me and I can honestly say that I can feel him smiling down. I would like to share some of the things I have learned and experienced about coping with the devastating loss of my little brother.

1. Gone but never forgotten…

Not a day goes by that I do not think of Eric. Just like it states in one of my favorite poems by E.E. Cummings, “ I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart. I am never without it.” Those words have so much more meaning to me since the loss of my little brother. He will always be a permanent part of me.

2. Everyone has his or her own way of coping.

Everyone has their own way of coping with anything traumatic that has happened, and I have mine. This right here… writing down my thoughts… it is extremely therapeutic, and it allows me to express my feelings and struggles in ways that may not only help me, but it may also help anyone that happens to read this.

3. It’s ok to cry…. And also to laugh…

There are days that I think about him and tears come to my eyes, but there are some days that I think of him and I smile. Most of the times these feelings come rushing in completely unexpectedly, and I am still learning how to take a deep breath and accept all these emotions. I understand now that the emotions that I feel will never change, but the way I handled them will. It will take practice and time, just like so many other things in life.

  4. It is important to keep his memory alive. 

Eric’s pictures are up in the house, we speak of him often, and we share memories and stories about him. His son, Kobe, speaks so highly of his dad, but I know over time that his memories may fade because Kobe was so young when Eric passed away. Eric’s poster of him playing basketball in high school hangs above Kobe’s bed, and I will never stop answering Kobe’s questions about his father and sharing how much Eric loved him.

5. Maybe it’s a penny… a butterfly… a mustang passing me on the highway…

I do believe he is up there watching over all of us, and I do believe that there is truth behind signs that he somehow is present. My brother loved playing jokes and he had such a good sense of humor… and last summer when I was rolling around the lake and a butterfly smashed right into my forehead, I truly felt like it was Eric. I closed my eyes, and I swear I could hear him laughing. Maybe it’s coincidence… maybe it is not…

6. Eric was “too unique” for this world.

Eric’s other half and mother of his child, Monica, stated it better than anyone ever could. She said, “Eric was an extremely unique person, and this world just could not handle him.” That has stuck with me, and I could not agree with her more. The tattoo on his arm stated the word “untamed,” and that is exactly how he lived his life. The big sister in me always worried about him, but I also highly respected his ability to not waiver from what he believed in even if it was not the popular and accepted approach.

7. Sometimes I forget he is gone, and that will never go away.

There are so many times that I see a picture of Eric, and hits me all over again that he is gone. Sometimes I feel like he has just been on a long vacation, or busy… I feel like I should just be able to call him up or shoot him a text. I’m sure this will take time, and just like an open wound, I have to give myself time to heal.

8. Always say “I love you,” and always be present.

It is as simple as that. The last words Eric and I said to each other were, “I love you.” The night before Eric passed away, the whole family was together celebrating Mother’s Day. There is no other word to describe that day besides, “perfect.” It was the first time in almost a year that the entire family was able to get together, and I am so incredibly thankful that we had that day together. It was a perfect ending for Eric… he truly loved family.

9. He is happy… He is free…

It is hard too describe the feeling that swept over me as we scattered Eric’s ashes at the lake. The best way to describe it was that I felt at peace. I knew he was finally laid to rest at his absolute favorite place. I feel close to him when I sit at the edge of the dock and look out over the water, and when I miss him that is where I want to be… that is where I feel him the most.

10. I am a big sister, and I will always be a big sister because of Eric.

I am many things…. A daughter, an aunt, a granddaughter… but I loved being a big sister. From the day I walked into the nursery at the adoption agency and I met my little brother for the first time, I was so proud. I remember beaming from ear to ear when Mom brought him in to my second grade classroom because I wanted him to be my “show and tell” for that week. I will always have those memories, and I will be forever grateful for the 26 years I had with him.

Rest in peace little brother… I love you…. 💚