I became a suddenly single mom. When I ended my marriage my son was only 11 months old. This ending was not planned, it was swift. It threw us into a tailspin that took years to recover from. In spite of all of our challenges I made an unconscious decision then, that today boggles my mind. I snapped pictures of Caleb constantly. Regardless to what was going on around us and to us, regardless of the overwhelming challenges of that moment, I snapped. Through all of my moving around and trying to find my footing, I did not have that one kitchen wall that I’d always dreamed of. That one wall where I’d measure the height and growth of my children. That place to see how far they’d come. However I had a phone that had a camera in it, and I constantly told him to smile through our pain. Sometimes on bus benches, sometimes sleeping on someone else’s couch. I gathered those moments as I’d sat in awe that I’d given birth to this little walking extension of my heart. This being that I thought I’d never have due to my health complications. He was here and I took notice. I would return to the same places again and again, and take pictures of him as he grew. Whatever weather, whatever grief, whatever limitations, I would return to those places. Looking back over the horizons of that dark time, I am amazed at how resilient the spirit is, how full the will to live is. How if you determine to focus on the good in any moment, you will find it. I am overwhelmingly blessed to look into my rearview and see that my darkest days are there and not here. I am awed by how the Lord kept my mind and heart. In great part that keeping was through this little being that I’d birthed, oh how life given returns as life multiplied. He is my reason, Caleb is my reason I continued and didn’t break. For I knew I could not because he needed me not to, and I needed him to need me not to. So I preservered. My life in seasons that center around his growth is now my new measuring stick, my new growth wall. The laboring of the carry, the infancy of the awakening, the stumble in the toddlerdom, and the standing tall with new height. It’s all reflected in him. Oh what joy fills my soul.
#ExposingMoment #TransparentMoment #TruthTelling #WellnessIsPriority #YouShallLiveYouShallNotDie #TheInvalidationDiaries #MyStoryWillBeTold #PredatorsAreNervous #OvercomersAreEncouraged
(What I’m about to share will be shock many, but I’m going to share it anyway. It took me a couple of weeks to publish this, but this needs to be told. I hope it touches someone. I hope it implants hope into those who have lost hope. I hope it reaches those who are under the pressure to keep their pain silent. Regardless of how taboo this subject is, you deserve the validation of your experiences. Be blessed today. Here’s an excerpt from my book…)
The holiday season is here. Christmas time, Thanksgiving is in recent memory. This is the time for family gatherings and waistbelt loosenings. I remember a time when this was my favorite time of the year. But I like so many others, struggle through the holidays. You understand that if you’ve lost a loved one, that one you use to spent Christmas with, that one you miss the most. You understand that struggle if you’ve experienced great loss. This is one of the times of the year that you are most reminded of the people and possessions that are no longer with you. You understand this struggle, and the struggle is real.
This time of the year is tough for me for a lot of reasons. My mother died in November of 2004. All those years later in November of 2014, I was under a heap of chaos in my life. I was a suddenly single mom after my divorce was final, as I attempted to figure out how to rear my son with no help from his father, I started to notice he was not developing normally. It took round and rounds of testing and evaluations on Caleb, but we found out that we were dealing with Autism. Having to come to terms with the fact that my only child had this diagnosis that seemed to be a death sentence for everything I’d ever dreamed of for him, it was truly devastating. But I was comforted by the generosity of others.
At that time I created a GoFundMe account to request help in getting my boy to his treatment. We were really struggling at the time, with no car, traveling hours on buses and trains, in the middle of a harsh winter. We traveled miles to his unending appointments. So many of my friends on social media gave to our fund. I was so moved by their love and care for us. I will always remember them. I wrote each and every name down and keep them in an archive to be able to one day return the favor of what they did for us then. However one thing that I have NEVER shared about that time, which has lead me to write this chapter, was how heartbroken I was over my own blood family’s response to what we were dealing with. We were really struggling at the time with no car and limited resources. This, 2014 was was truly the hardest and most painful year of my life and I almost didn’t live through it.
2014, we were just recovering from 5 months of homelessness when I received some devastating news about lies that were being told by those I once called family. I’d left an abusive marriage with my heart and head very bruised, but still in tact. The homelessness however took me just over the edge of a dark place, but by the grace of God, I pulled through that too. Caleb’s Autism diagnosis wasn’t enough to bury me either. But to find out that my own blood would maliciously go out of their way to start and spread rumors, that were fully based on lies, after dealing with all the trauma preceding, was just enough to tip me over an edge.
My own blood relatives were smearing my name in the ears of whoever would listen. Both my full blood sister Michelle, and my first cousin Daniel went out of their way to reach out to people to tell them that I was lying about Caleb’s challenges. They said that I was scamming people and that Caleb did not really have developmental delays, which of course has since been proven to be Autism. This and many other lies were told by them and a few other family members in attempt to discredit my name. I received several reports of their smear campaign by many different people, who do not know one another, across several states. When I got this news I hadn’t yet had a chance to heal from countless sharp words and actions of my grandmother Margaret.
In my turmoil I turned to her with my child on my hip, just after loosing my home and possessions in California, and ending a marriage gone wrong, and while staying in her home was under countless attack. One theme that will forever stay with me was her taunting me and my son about his inability to speak. She would tell me that I needed to do a better job as his mother. Telling me that if I had been a more suitable mother, that Caleb would be able to speak. He was only 18 months at the time, but now my 6 ½ year old Caleb is still non-verbal, due to Autism. On more than a few occasions she let me know ruthlessly that he did not muster up to the level of intellect shared by other children in the family. When I say that was heartbreaking, it’s only because I don’t have a stronger word than heartbreaking. Grave digging is a bit more accurate.
So there were stories told, one after another, one “family” member telling a lie about my son and me to another. Another one spreading that lie to the point that there was no warmth, affection or love from any. Only cold shoulders, nasty glares and silence. All of these relatives were members of my then church, who most claimed to love the Lord while slandering their own family with constant lies and malicious accusations.
Those attacks came against from all sides, but started with my ex-husband Dareck, who joined a few of his own family members in on the fun. He had been verbally and emotionally abusive on and off throughout our marriage, but he had become physically so at the end of the marriage. He did everything he could to make those around us believe that none of that abuse ever happened, spreading lies and rumors as a deflection to his own actions. Even going as far as to claim, among many fallacies he told, that I had been physically abusive to him. Even though I was divorcing him, I didnt really know he was capable of stooping that low. I remember feeling lightheaded, like I was close to passing out when I learned that he told this lie to my sister. This same young woman who I’d taken in and protected during her divorce chose to align herself with my ex-husband while supporting a lie. I feel nauseous right now reliving all of that. My ex-husband was skillfully mastered in manipulation and deceit, that was the day I found out about the level of his skill. But he had to create a deflection away from himself. He needed to protect the image he’d offered to people. He did not want it to be known that all in one day, in a fit of rage, that he’d pushed me into a wall puncturing my inner right ear, then flung Caleb at me at 11 months old, just before whispering into my baby’s ear, “your mama’s a bitch, and I’m gonna tell you that every day of your life.” He had to create a distraction for all the ugly that took place that day I removed him from our home. So he lied, but he would not be the last to do so.
There was this devised attack orchestrated by the enemy of my soul and he was using those that I loved the most, those that I have never nor would ever treat so callously. He was attacking my work and my home. He was attacking my new role as a mother, he was attacking my business, as I was deeply enthralled in the uplifting of Black women through my website and writings. I was too much of a threat to his kingdom, so he used anyone he could get his hands on to take me down.
I was in full pursuit to put my life back together again after I lost my beautiful home and marriage in Long Beach, California. I wanted to return to a warm soft place to heal, but that was not waiting for me in my hometown of Denver when I returned there. I had left a war and entered into a new one, however this was not a foreseeable enemy, this was my family, my blood family. I was shell shocked as I was on the tongues of those I loved, those who I’d encouraged, supported and cheerleaded for, who then suddenly had intent to harm me. I reached a very clear point in my journey with all that chaos and abandonment, with pain throbbing through every cell of my body, both pain of heartbreak and physical, all while taking care of a toddler son completely on my own, when the will to live began leaving me by leaps and bounds. I was coming to a cross road. My life was at risk and I was the only person who saw the head-on collision ahead.
As loss and chaos surrounded me I walked through 2012 wanting my life to end. I thought I’d rebounded a bit in 2013, but that year ended in a layoff with a high paying job.. ok let me stop, we’re telling the truth here. I was fired from that job because I could not put in a 55 hour work week as a single mom to a child who was beginning to show signs of developmental delay. Without family support, and paying $1000 in rent, a $400 car note, $700 in day care, and after an irresponsible and inconsiderate roommate moved out over Thanksgiving weekend, I ended 2013 on the brink of homelessness. It was like I would take two steps forward and be pushed back by five. I was that working homeless woman that the stats warn you that you are only 2 paychecks away from becoming. Especially when you dont have loving family to lean on. Even while still working, but not making close to what I was accustomed to, Caleb and I entered 2014 without a roof over our heads. Moving from shelter to shelter, basement to basement, couch to couch for a full five months. There is very little understanding of what homelessness is unless you’ve been there. There is this level of feeling lost that is not found in many more places than when you no longer have a refuge, a sanctuary, a warm place to lay your head. And to be there with a two year old on your hip, I really dont have words. I still sit amazed that I didn’t loose my very mind back then. We were there with other families, many working families in similar circumstances. I will never forget the story of the 40-something professional Caucasian man, who shared that he’d made 6 figures the year before, and yet he was there in a shelter with his wife and children just after his company collapsed. I hugged that man as he cried after telling his story, feeling every ounce of his pain, because I was living it myself. All through our homelessness I told very few people that we didn’t have a place to stay, no one knew in my family except my dad who lived in Florida. My local relatives had lied and conspired and told stories that weren’t true at all, what would they do with this now real and truthful information that I’d fallen so low again? I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction.
It was during these dark and dismal times that I would ask God if He could just let both Caleb and me go together so we could be with Him and my mother. I couldn’t contemplate leaving here and him being without me. I couldn’t leave him with no one. But I didn’t want to live either. It is because of Caleb that I didn’t take real action to end things then. He doesn’t know that he saved my life, but he did. So many times I hear that he’s blessed to have me as his mother, but truly I am blessed that he is my son. You wouldn’t have known it by looking at me back then, but I struggled everyday with the willingness to live. Many have taken their lives over a fraction of what I’ve been through. I remember being so ashamed standing at an altar during a service when the preacher said he felt a heavy spirit of suicide in the place. I knew he was talking to me along with many others in that place. I knew I was in full fight mode and I had to expose this thing that was trying to kill me, literally. So I walked up to that alter although some of the very relatives that were in those malicious gossip circles against me stood there watching me at that alter. Not one of them pick up a phone afterwards to ask how I was doing, but by that time, I expected them to stay in their apathy.
With the full heaviness of heart and the throb of abandonment in my ears, I had to seek a way out. Out of the pit. So I took steps to remove my son and myself from all of those environments, those places that were pretty on the outside but explosive and deadly on the inside. From among the family that appeared to have it all together. From among the judgments of those who were somehow connected to my family, who had never lived in the walls with them. From among the family members who possessed degrees and homes, yet did not posses compassion or empathy. I chose to move away entirely from them. I choose a homeless shelter over their couches of contempt. I could not stay connected to those who threw me in a pit right next to Joseph. I could no longer stay near those who could watch me loose my life and later act as if they were so moved by my passing at my funeral.
There I was since the carrying of my son, with my life constantly at risk. I’d just experienced a life threatening pregnancy for both my son and me, when we could have lost our lives. I then left an abusive marriage where both me and my son could have lost our lives. To then be among people who should have been the most supportive at that terrible time of my life, who not only saw me suffer and then looked the other way, but they were a part of a full lynching. Only those who’ve experienced this will understand the depths of despair one reaches when your own blood parades you with scrutiny and lies. When the mob after you carries your DNA, that is enough to do you in. Then homelessness, then the abuse that comes with homelessness, then Autism. And dont get me started on the toll that all of this trauma, stress and pain has put on my health and body. Fighting through physical pain and illness while grasping for reasons to contend against everything standing against you. I was like gees, Lord you must think I’m some kind of superhero if you dont put more on me than I can bare. I have said that more than a few times to the Lord. Death was all around me. The real death had entered the room, that was the death of hope and value, and the oozing leak of the death of my faith, all had arrived for the finish.
It was from that dark place that I was given the grace to pick myself up and mold my life back together again. Just after one of my grandmother’s many verbal attacks, after which I was left feeling that she was somehow the victim, I told her that I could no longer be in relationship with her. I told her that when I was, it made me not want to live. I’m proud of myself that I could state that from such a fragile place. I’m proud of myself for drawing those healthy boundaries. I’m proud that I stopped going to every family function, every event thrown by those who were once family.
I can look back now and see I was an easy target for them because I’ve never been one to sugar coat things. You are an odd ball, a black sheep when you go against a grain, a standard, a culture. My family doesn’t discuss things, like ever, and there I was trying to talk through things and have family meetings, kinda hilarious to me now. I was never vicious, that’s not in my spirit, but I was always truthful, attempting to explain my pain, wanting to understand someone else’s. But truth telling can be viewed as a terrorist attack when people are not willing to look at themselves, those bombs dropped by so many of them as they perceived me as the threat. This is how people can justify killing you when you never were a threat to them to begin with. This is how smear campaigns are orchestrated by the very people you once championed. They can look themselves in the mirror because they’re deceived by their own reflection looking back at them. If they looked closer, they’d have to confront their own demons, and that’s too scary, so they project their stuff on you. But if you have a good heart, those folks can be deadly. You cant be an outlet for their fear and insecurities. Wow, thank God for discernment and for the Holy Spirit who gives revelation. These are the messages He continually dropped on me while I was in my dark place. He would also remind me that vengeance was His. There’s nothing that has ever happened to you that He will not repay you for, and there’s not enough hiding that those who have harmed you can do to hid from God… so yeah there’s that.
The reality is that some folks aren’t ready for higher living. They haven’t sat under the teachings of Bishop Jakes, and Myles Monroe, and Stephen Covey, and Susan L Taylor, and Oprah, and Iyanla, as I have for years. And they do not even remotely appreciate your coming in here stirring up all of their ashes that they have been passing off as beauty.
I almost lost my life in the turmoil of their attacks, when their attacks were never ever about me. I was their target, their misdirection of their own wounds. But I would not be any more. I had too much life to live. It’s funny how indignation can make you want to live. I got this audacity to live, like my fave president said, this audacity to hope, thanks Barack. I have this newfound plight against falsehoods and reasons that people suffer in silence. I have a ushering need to be a voice to the voiceless. So I’m thankful for my trials, I’m thankful for the hurt. I dont want to live it again, but I am leaving 2017 with new thankfulness. Like Paul I’m thankful for my hardship, while I thought it would kill me, it has actually giving me reason and purpose to live.
On this Christmas eve I look back at how far I’ve come. I didnt allow myself to become bitter and vengeful towards them, and I didnt die in that place. Throughout these last few years the holidays have been rough being spent with strangers when I had relatives on the other side of town. But I had to do it, to draw my healthy boundaries, my survival depended on it. I remember how lonely I use to be, and I’m amazed at how far I’ve come through creating new family traditions for myself, Caleb and for those we now hold dear. I’m amazed how much in my rearview loneliness has become. I, even though it sounds cheesy and cliche, have become my own best friend. I actually enjoy my own company. I think I’m pretty bomb! I have a lot to offer the world, to offer friends and family, and mostly to offer my son. It took a lot of folk telling me that I was nothing to realize how something I am!
I got through it. I got through death, abuse, divorce, abandonment, betrayal, loss, illness, homelessness and my child’s disability. I got through it. And you can too.
I got through those dark days by reading the accounts in the Bible of those who lost everything, those who suffered overwhelming rejection, those who had suffered what appeared to be insurmountable loss. My boy Joseph was my best friend, Job became my confidant.
I got through those days by listening to messages over and over and over again from teachers and preachers who were not afraid to talk about loss, tragedy and trauma suffered by those who consider themselves Christian. (BTW, those topics are so taboo in the church, which is the very place they should be taught the most. JS) I will be eternally grateful to Bishop Jake’s voice as he spoke to my trauma countless times, pulling me out of my despair and reminding me that the Lord was there all along.
I got through those days by surrounding myself with what I call overcomers music. Sometimes that was Bebe Winans telling me “love said not so, even with the odds against me,” sometimes it was India Arie, telling me to “celebrate the woman I’d become”, or it was Hezekiah Walker making me feel less alone with he said “they lied, cheated, conspired against me, but God favored me.” Surround yourself with messages that push you forward out of your pit, the easiest way to do that is through message music.
I got through it sometimes by saying nothing more than Jesus! Those moments when I was too numb to cry and too scattered for words, the only thing I could muster was Help! He would always show Himself in grand and small ways, always.
I got through it most urgently by removing myself from all the foolishness. As I mentioned again and again above, it is crucial for your survival to remove yourself from environments that are killing you in great and subtle ways. Subtle abuses build mountains of devaluing, when big things happen then life can appear to collapse. It’s in the collapse that we can make rash decisions. Dont stay in mess, even if it means you have to walk alone… because you’re actually never alone.
If today and throughout this season you are feeling hopeless, remember that there is something ahead still waiting for you. You will never reach it if you end things now. What you have been through is enough to take you from here, I acknowledge that, your pain is real. But you can overcome it, and better yet, you can use it as a catapult to live. The very pain that feels like it’s breaking you, can be the very thing to build you and open up doors that you cant even imagine. You matter, Jesus heals and that’s real. There’s life ahead, be here to live it.
We live in a digital world. We store photos in our devices and then forget about them. We say we will go back and review them, those countless moments passed, but we rarely do. I have always loved pictures, taking them, being in them. I love to look back and remember times passed. I have been called the paparazzi at more than one social event. I love capturing sunsets and candid moments. However for the last several years I have felt less of the desire to capture life’s moments because those moments were filled with so much loss. Yet I cannot allow the loss of my past to arrest me from enjoying my present.
Those moments are far too precious, my only child’s first moments, first days, first years. I have captured many of them in spite of pain that filled those days, oftentimes taking them through tears. So for the first time in my son’s young life, I put those pictures on a wall. That’s a big deal! It is a direct and bold declaration to celebrate life and not be buried by it. It is the choosing to dedicate time and energy to something not dire to today’s survival, yet essential to the survival of esteem and well being. Those lasting moments of self reflection and overcoming, those reminders on how far we’ve come while remaining unbroken. After the loss of our home and possessions, after a nasty divorce, after sickness, after homelessness, after the abandonment, lies and character assassination of those I once called family, and even after coming to terms with my son’s Autism diagnosis, life is still worthy of celebration.
So this weekend, a year after I purchased their frames, I created a small monument to what we’ve overcome. Those moments when we laughed and smiled in spite of the circumstances around us. Those moments of growth, of reaching, of becoming new. Caleb will grow up with a monument to his life, to his mother’s life, to his late grandmother’s life. He will have what I did not growing up, an account of his worth hung high. We frame what we want to celebrate, what we want to remember, and sometimes we decorate those moments with fairy lights.
#FairyLights #Pictures #Photos #FrameWorthy #LifesMoments #MomentsCaputred #Worthiness #Perspective #Thankfulness #Loss #Autism #Divorce #Newness #Hope #PlantedNotBuried