In the Meantime…

It’s been one month since the COVID-19 crisis around the world suddenly and drastically altered the fabric of our everyday lives. Two months ago, I never would have thought something like this was on the horizon. I never could have imagined witnessing a pandemic wipe out hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. Who knew state-ordered stay at home restrictions could even exist?! This is the stuff of history books and those end-of-the-world movies that we love.

Wear a mask. Wear gloves. Wash your hands 732 times a day. Don’t touch your face. Don’t hug your loved ones. Don’t even go over for a visit…

I’ve found myself on numerous occasions speaking on how CRAZY life is right now, how ODD and STRANGE it all feels. It’s like we’re all unpaid extras in an apocalyptic movie, set in a dystopian world where all the toilet paper is gone and the phrases “social distancing,” “flatten the curve,” and “stay home” are repeated over a loudspeaker every five minutes until our ears begin to bleed.

I’ve also found myself crying, or on the brink of tears at any given moment. No, this is not a daily occurrence, but some days are tougher than others. The realization that I haven’t physically been to work, serving the children I LOVE to serve since March 12th, being laid off from the second job and dealing with the likelihood of not going back until fall, or even later, has been emotionally taxing. All the academic and behavioral progress will likely yield to regression. Bonds with students will be tested…

So, earlier today I was browsing through Pinterest and found this quote:

“I am a human Being, not a human Doing. Don’t equate your self-worth with how well you do things in life. You aren’t what you do. If you are what you do, then when you don’t…you aren’t.” -Wayne Dyer

Throughout this shutdown of schools, stores, salons, restaurants, etc., trying to figure out how to remotely serve a student with deafblindness, and worrying about my afterschool kids and how they are being cared for, I’m reminded of just how passionate I am about serving and teaching children. Not only children with exceptionalities, but all children. Children bring me joy and lift my spirits. Though it can be absolutely, positively exhausting and stressful at times, I find great satisfaction in what I do.

Lately, I’ve been wondering, “what now?” “What am I supposed to do in the meantime?”meantime

I’m realizing more every day that I am much more than my career; more than an educator and lover of children… We can’t dwell on what’s going “wrong” in our lives, how our life paths have been diverted seemingly out of the blue. It’s very easy to sit around continually grieving over ruined postponed plans, but that gets us nowhere, fast. Maybe we can’t do what we want right now, but we can do something beneficial and edifying in the meantime.

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“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” -Melody Beattie

It’s often when people, things or opportunities are stripped away, that we realize how much we took them for granted. I’ve never wanted to go to the movies so much in my life until the theater doors closed. I’ve never been so eager to dine inside a fast food joint until I was forced to wait in a once convenient drive-thru line that’s wrapped around the building.

So many have died in lonely hospital rooms around the world. Separated from family and friends. Last breaths gone–unheard.

Too often, we fail to appreciate all that someone is to us until they’re gone.

In the meantime, while the distractions of our daily lives have been minimized, while many families are at home together, let’s be grateful for what and who we have in our lives. Even those relationships strained by distance can be strengthened in this meantime. Always let people know you love them and what they mean to you.

Though the Lenten season has come to an end, let us continue to look inward and upward during this time of physical distancing, while remaining spiritually and socially connected. Examine yourself. Use this limbo experience as a time for introspection and refinement. In what ways can you better yourself? What healthy habits can you develop? What skills can you fine-tune? Better yet, learn something new! Use this time to pray, write, clean, organize, reach out to people, write to an incarcerated loved one, exercise, create. Remember all those things you wanted to do, but never had the time or energy? Well…

You are more than a hairstylist. You are more than an athlete. You are more than a waitress. What we do is not who we are. We are all ESSENTIAL.

Strengthen your relationships (with God, yourself and others).

Perfect your craft/hustle.

Learn something new.

Keep your mind, body and spirit active.

Feel your feelings. We are human Beings. It’s natural and normal to cry, be fearful, anxious and confused. Just don’t stay there.

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Eighteen and a Half

Well, hello there! Long time no…write?

It’s been a few years since I last blogged, and I’ve been away far too long. There are many reasons excuses I could rattle off for why I haven’t invested time in this craft. But, don’t worry, I won’t bore you with all of that.

I’m back!

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A lot has happened since we were together last, including a surprise trip to Charleston, SC for my mother’s 57th birthday! My younger sister planned the majority of the trip as I assisted in the execution…aka ALL OF THE DRIVING.

It was a great trip overall. Enjoy the photo slideshow above.

One of the highlights from the trip was a horse-drawn carriage tour; “From Slavery to IMG-5501Freedom.” I was forced to sit directly behind the horse as it whipped its tail back and forth and dropped massive mounds of poop in the bag strapped to him.

Every few hundred yards we’d come upon a urine marker where the horse would stop, and the levee would break. {Cue Bishop Paul Morton…”Open the floodgates…”}

The tour was led by a young white man with such a deep, rich drawl it sounded as if it’d make his tongue tired just to talk.

He was obviously well learned on the history of the Southern coast and its origins as a slave port; a time when the black and the brown outnumbered everyone else. Now gentrification has changed the face of Charleston, as it has many cities across the country.

Our guide led us along streets named after former slave owners, statesmen, and other prominent figures.

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Old Slave Mart Museum

Pinckney.

Calhoun.

Middleton.

Rutledge.

Drayton.

These names were also some of those inscribed on plantation records and receipts at the Old Slave Mart Museum we later found. The museum is built around the actual site where slaves were auctioned, sold and traded.

 

How many families were separated within this preserved space?

Did mothers cry for their babies?

Did husbands silently plead for the comfort of their wives?

There was little talking inside the museum walls; only the moaning and groaning of thick wood floors; deep brown. Chains, shackles, and torturous contraptions I’d never seen, let alone imagined even existed, neatly lined display cases.

“Do Not Touch”

An audio exhibit allowed visitors to pick up germ-ridden telephone receivers and listen to firsthand accounts of mistreatment and bigotry. One weathered voice told of ways in which slave owners tricked buyers into thinking their men and women were in better shape than they actually were. Enslaved workers were forced to run and jog for hours the night before an auction to make them appear toned and strong; though weary and worn.

The museum was full of heart-wrenching pictures, videos, audio clips, clothes and tools that tell the stories of what our people went through. White folks with tear-stained faces looked at us as if to say, “We’re so sorry…”


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“1/2” indicates slave quarters

On the walk back from the museum, I was reminded of something our carriage tour guide had told us. Slave quarters, often located near the homes of slave owners, had house numbers with the “1/2” notation. (In this case, the main house’s number would be 18)

Though we’d already been walking the same cobblestone streets our bound brothers and sisters once traversed, seeing that house number made me feel a way I couldn’t quite articulate. Though this small home resting in the shadows of its neighbors had been completely modernized, I thought of what stories lied within that old structure.

If those cracked brick walls could talk, what would they say? How many babies were birthed, lives were lost or dreams dried up like raisins in the sun?


This trip was a surprise birthday gift for Mama, but it was enriching for me.

I enjoyed learning about the first slave port in the US; visiting the famously haunted Charleston Jail (I love that stuff); enjoying the breeze at Waterfront Park and the beautifully painted houses on Rainbow Row. Though too expensive for me to purchase at the time, I found the intricate artistry of Gullah basket weaving to be a beautiful tradition.

While on the carriage tour, we briefly stopped by the oldest AME Church in the south, Mother Emanuel AME Church. This was the site of a hate crime that will forever change the lives and faith of many. Nine members of the church were senselessly murdered by a racist posing as a visiting worshiper. He had researched the church and sought to target this church due to its significance in African-American history. The beauty of the edifice masks the evil that occurred that horrific night in June.

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Mother Emanuel AME Church

There was so much to explore and too little time. I will definitely be taking another trip to Charleston, SC. It was an unforgettable experience that I look forward to exploring deeper. I would recommend the city to anyone.

Take time to survey the land. It’s okay to vacation and learn something at the same time.

You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

Peace in the Midst of Uncertainty

This morning I drove Grandma and Uncle Roy to Gaston Hematology & Oncology. As we pulled into the parking lot, a lady and who appeared to be her father were exiting the building. His tall, frail frame caught my attention. He reminded me of my Uncle “Knot” who courageously battled cancer before his death a couple years ago…


It wasn’t long before my uncle was called to the back for his tests. My grandmother sat in a sturdy arm chair in the waiting area. I took my place on a surprisingly comfortable sofa alongside a large window. Patient after patient came and went through the heavy wooden doors. Men, women and children filled out forms, flipped through magazines and watched the same pharmaceutical commercials loop on the small flat screen TV. One man in particular, who appeared to be in his mid to late forties, walked in and went to the front desk.

Medical Office Assistant: “Hello sir, how are you?”

Patient: “Well…I’m actually pretty nervous.”

It’s unusual to hear any response besides the usual “fine, how are you.” But, he was being honest and transparent. Sitting in a facility where people are diagnosed with cancer other life-altering ailments, and receive chemotherapy and other treatments, I could only imagine what was going through their minds.

But, in a room full of worried faces and nervous hearts, a soothing sound seeped through the quietness. It was the tranquil, welcoming melody of four little birds chirping in a big, beautiful display nearby. The colorful birds fluttered around singing happily, nibbling on tiny seeds. I imagine the addition of the beautiful birds was just a part of the design plan, and they chose birds over fish perhaps. However, I see them as peace in the midst of uncertainty. If only for a few minutes, someone’s weary mind can be distracted by the beautiful, playful beings.

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I believe that if we’re intentional about what we allow in our mental space, we can find a glimmer of hope in despair, a ray of light in the darkness and serenity in the storm. It could be something as simple as the sound of rain on a tin roof, the soft cuddles of a newborn, a babbling brook or the innocent laughter of a child.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

Peace.

Tranquility.

There is still love. There is still life. There is still hope.

God can calm any storm in our lives, no matter how rough the waves or how strong the winds may blow. May we always see beauty in the battle.

Feel It, to Heal It

“…he/she must attend directly to the wound, dig in it, open it up, clean out the dirt, perhaps the pus and infection, dead skin, etc.  So likewise, it’s the same emotionally. We can’t deny, avoid or neglect our hurt. Instead of running away from it, we have to go to the source of our pain and attend to the wound, then we will begin the process of healing. ” Uncle J

I love my Uncle J. Though time and circumstance keeps us physically apart, our bond keeps us near at heart. He’s my best friend.

I’m thankful for our correspondence and how he keeps it real with me. Growing up without my father, I will never have that all-important connection that I longed for, but I’m grateful for the ever-growing relationship I have with my uncle.


It can be easy to notice when someone else is carrying a heavy load or burden. They may seem tired, angry or anxious. But often times, it takes someone else to come forward and express concern about grief that YOU have been carrying.

I hadn’t realized that I’ve been grieving all these years. Grief is an emotional and sometimes physical response to loss. But, how can I miss something/someone I never had? It’s just that. I constantly grieve the absence of my Daddy, wasted time, and familial relationships whose seeds should have been planted years ago.

I have a bad habit of dwelling on lost/wasted time. My Uncle J reminds me that we can’t go back, but we can make the best of the time we have left.

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Dear Me…

Uncle J encouraged me to do something I had never thought of, though I’ve always found writing to be very therapeutic.

“Little Courtney is still hurting…that precious little girl with the chubby cheeks. You know better than anyone else what she needs. Give it to her.”

My uncle told me about visual imagery and how it could help to heal my emotional wounds. He encouraged me to close my eyes, mentally go to a special place that I liked to play or pick muscadines, notice the sounds, sights and smells. Pick little Courtney up and talk to her.

I would tell her all the things I wished someone had told me growing up.

Uncle J also encouraged me to write a letter to my younger self. In his words, “she needs to hear what you have to say.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I haven’t sat down to do this exercise yet, but I will. Soon. I have no doubt in my mind that it will be tremendously beneficial to my emotional healing.

Open up. Let it all out.

 

 

A Living Canvas: God’s Artwork

1446145690103There’s something about autumn that soothes the soul. Something magical in the reds, yellows, oranges, and browns, as the leaves shake and dance in the chilly air, before floating to the ground.

Autumn has always been my favorite season of the year. It’s not only the season in which I was born (September 27), when the most horror movies are on TV, or the time that we gather together and express our thankfulness…but, it’s just the feeling of fall itself. I look forward to the crisp, clear mornings when dew gently blankets the earth.

It’s refreshing to inhale the autumn air, free of summer’s suffocating humidity. Friday night football, hot chocolate, s’mores, pumpkins, ghosts, goblins, turkeys, sweet potato pie….autumn! 1446925817025All of God’s marvelous creation is beautiful, but it seems He took a little extra time on the autumn’s canvas. A few more layers of color, a couple extra strokes of the brush. It’s hard not to stand in awe of its loveliness. People travel for miles to sit in traffic and view the scenic artistry of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I haven’t had the opportunity to witness the sights, but it is definitely at the top of my list!


1111151451It’s important to take the time to just…be. Take a break, look around and soak up nature’s splendor. Take pictures, have a picnic, go to the lake. Make it a priority to get away and just enjoy God’s masterpiece! It shouldn’t take the rain coming and “ruining” our plans, just to notice the weather and what’s going on outside of our homes or jobs. We must take advantage of the sunshine, cool breeze and God’s palette of perfection.

The Courage to Feel

12193725_10153109446782539_7191528142289883211_nMy mind tells me I didn’t know him long enough to be sad, but my heart knows better. Of my grandfather’s 91 years, I knew him only 8. But, I am grateful for the moments we shared.


I think it was 2007 when I first met Papa John, right before I started college. There he stood, all 6 feet something of him; towering in stature and strong in personality. Though his eyesight was steadily fading, he’d always rise to greet me, grab hold to my hands or pat me on my back. He knew who I was and that’s all that mattered.

Papa John told me stories about how he used to work with my mother. He called her his “girlfriend.” 🙂 Putting a roof on every building in Hickory was his claim to fame. If anyone could do that, I know John Henry King could. Much like my father, I never knew much about my grandfather, and didn’t have the opportunity to grow up with him and my paternal family over the years. I have a handful of captured memories and exchanged conversations that I cling to. 1030151744-1

As I slept in his old bedroom the past few days, I wondered if there were any keepsakes in there to remember him by. I somewhat longed to feel his presence in the room.


When it came time for the homegoing service, I wanted sunglasses to hide the tears. I don’t think anyone likes feeling/being vulnerable, especially during the sickness/loss of a loved one. There is an inevitable feeling of sympathy from others. Everyone wants to know how you feel, how you’re doing and how you’re holding up. “I’m good.” “I’m doing okay.” “As well as can be expected.” At some point, the very mention or thought of that loved one’s name chokes you up. On the brink of tears I still mutter, “I’m fine.”

FB_IMG_1446342721250Texting my mother before the funeral, she told me I “didn’t have to hide.” Having to sit right next to the casket with the flower girls, I was forced to feel. In that tiny church, I had a front row seat to sadness. As sister, daughter, son, grandchild, niece, nephew and friend filed in the sanctuary and laid eyes, hands and lips on Papa John for the last time, the grief overcame me. Ugly faced, whimpering and all, couldn’t be contained as the funeral director closed the casket. I cried. In a church full of people, mourners all around…I cried. I felt.

I thought of how my mother must have felt in that very church back in 1990, staring at my father’s closed casket; burned body inside.

I know Papa John is resting with Daddy, Grandma Marie and countless others who had gone on before him. He’s at peace. Body healed. Eyesight restored.

I may not know as much about him as everyone else, but I know that he loved. In few words, but in many actions…he loved. And he will always be loved. Forever and always.

I love you, Papa John. Rest in Paradise. 1031151522a-1

iAmSomebody: It’s a Movement!

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“Losing my brother a little over five months ago has really had me doing some thinking about my life and others that may suffer with different issues in silence. I’ve spent time praying, crying, and wondering how I can help others, who battle with issues daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. For almost a week every time I’ve prayed it’s like God has been saying ENCOURAGE OTHERS…” Brittany Too-Fly Staley (Facebook-July 14, 2015)

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Brittany and Jaheir

Countless lives were forever changed on February 8, 2015. At the young age of 22, Mr. Jaheir Ford ended his own life.  Like so many today, Jaheir suffered from something that is widely overlooked, often until it is too late. Mental illness. The daily struggle is one that most can’t imagine. Though symptoms can be physical, depression is often hard to detect in friends and family around us. Those silenced by the weight of mental illness may find it hard to express what they often don’t understand themselves. Sometimes it is those who seem the happiest and most loved who struggle the most, leaving those left behind to wonder… Why?

It’s easy for us to sweep issues under the rug, especially if it doesn’t affect us directly. That is, until we are forced to stare it right in the face. Brittany Staley wanted to make sure something positive came from her brother’s death. On July 14th, Brittany started the iAmSomebody Movement. This growing campaign seeks to raise awareness about mental illness and in turn, aid in the prevention of suicide. This movement is a voice for those who suffer in silence. It offers encouragement, love and an opportunity to give back to others through an uplifting word, a shoulder to cry on or simply a listening ear. Love, support and knowledge of this very real issue is essential in the daily fight for joy, peace and understanding!

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Tamara and Jaheir

Since its birth, the iAmSomebody Movement has reached many and continues to grow. Brittany posts encouraging messages, pictures and videos on her personal Facebook page, along with the movement’s page, iAmSomebody Movement. We never know who is reading our posts, or who counts on us for a much needed laugh or smile.


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Suicide Prevention Walk/Remembrance

On September 13th, the 1st Annual Suicide Prevention Walk/Remembrance was held to honor and remember those who have ended their suffering, to recognize the survivors and support those who continue in the struggle. Meetings are held at a SC high school where students are encouraged to speak openly about what is going on in their lives, including problems at home, bullying at school, low self-esteem…anything and everything. Sometimes all it takes is to know someone cares.

Depression, anxiety and all forms of mental illness are VERY REAL. Signs and symptoms should never be dismissed as “just one of those days.” Don’t be afraid to talk to someone.

Let’s all make a conscious effort to smile at a stranger today. Hold the door open for someone (male or female). Make every day count. Jaheir and many others will live on through the iAmSomebody Movement. Even if only one person has been uplifted or saved by Brittany’s movement, it matters. This movement matters!

If you would like more information, or are interested in purchasing a t-shirt or bracelet, contact Brittany Staley via the Facebook page, iAmSomebody Movement. BE the difference!

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Jaheir Ford

There is HOPE.

YOU matter.

YOU are important.

YOU are loved.

YOU are somebody.

iAmSomebody!

Daddy-less Daughter: 25 Years

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Wedding Day – Mama and Daddy

You would have been 53 years old today, Daddy. Happy Birthday! I’ve often imagined how we would celebrate if you were here with me. Maybe a scary movie and some pizza would suffice. If I like it, you’d love it, right? 🙂 I’ve always thought you would.


12042800_10153069572942539_3718012372768199909_nGrowing up without a father has undoubtedly had an affect on me and my life. I’m not like the women who claim nonchalance to the absence of a daddy or father figure. I needed him. I need him. I’ve never felt a real, genuine, consistently strong bond with any man in my life. Yes, I had a stepfather. Yes, I loved riding go carts and bikes, making mud pies and eating muscadines with my boy cousins. But, it wasn’t the same. It’s a void that may never be filled.

You took your last breath in that fiery car crash, when I was just 3 months old. I’m told you were on your way to see me, your one and only baby girl. I have no memories of you. No Polaroids of me with my chubby cheeks, arms and legs cradled in your arms. No snapshot of you struggling to change a poopy diaper. I am left with old photos of your high school days on the fields and courts of Alexander Central. I cherish the photos of you with my aunts and uncles.


I know very little about you, but I know you were well loved. As for me, I’m 26 now. It’s been 25 years without you. To say I don’t have any “daddy issues” would be a lie. I’m not out there begging for the attention of men twice my age, or clinging to any morsel of affection I can get. It’s quite the opposite. There’s both intrigue and discomfort. It’s hard for me to let people in. I avoid eye contact with men and always assume they’d never be interested in me or find me attractive. Wall upon wall surrounds my heart. No one has been brave enough, or close enough to break them down.

It is said that a girl’s first love is her father. That is the missing link. That impactful, necessary, poignant relationship never was, and never will be.

Thank you for loving my mother and big sister. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for life.

I love you, Daddy.

I hope you’re proud of me! I’m not where I want to be in life, but I’m gonna get there. I promise. Fathers, tell your daughters you love them. Tell them they’re beautiful. Hold their hands and keep them close. They need it.

Happy Birthday, Daddy. Rest in Paradise.

Love, your babygirl. ♥
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