“You’re never too old to start over”

In the African American culture, we are taught to get a good job. If you get that good job, you stick with it. We are taught to work hard. We use that saying ” God won’t put more on you than you can bear. Pray about it. He’ll give you strength. You are getting paid good money with good benefits. Even when hard things come, it’s ok. God blessed you with it. You better be thankful. You don’t quit because someone else would love to have that job.” For twenty two years, that’s exactly what I did.

Last bank selfie (July 14, 2022)

I was taught to give my best at whatever I did. I went to work and always gave it 100%. Was I perfect employee? No. I made mistakes, but I learned from mistakes. I didn’t repeat that mistake again. Prior to my current job, I worked at another financial institution for almost three years and the last one for a little over twenty-two years. I loved what I did and loved my customers. I loved working with customers and helping them repair credit. I enjoyed going to the classrooms and educating children about banking. I loved volunteering and being a part of the community. My last years of employment were no longer a pleasure going to work each day. I had people that began to lie. I would say pull the cameras or let’s have a joint discussion. Those request never happened. Things are different in corporate America. A lot of times, management will identify a strong African American woman that speaks up for herself as defiant. If a man does it, that man is a leader. My request were always ignored. Management said why would this person lie on you .People have been lying on people since the days of Jesus. Folks lie on innocent people every single day. Innocent people are in jail for someone lies because they didn’t want the blame to be on them. If a person wants to get to the truth, he/she can, but the truth has to want to be sought. I had a former manager that was worried about staff not liking him. I remember saying to him that people didn’t like Jesus. Everyone wasn’t going to like him. Who was I to think that they wouldn’t lie on me?

I continued to accept the behavior because of the things I’d been taught. It was a good job. I’d been there a long time. I was making good money. I had seniority when it came to taking vacations. I had great benefits. I put up with toxicity longer that what I should have for those reasons. The write ups were becoming more frequent, and the accusations became worse. There were plenty of chances and reason that I should have left, but I was complacent. Things would get good again. I’d forget about the bad things/lies being told until it happened again. I’d become accustomed to toxicity. I feel that God had to allow things to get extremely bad and to that point in order for Him to get my attention to want to leave. If things hadn’t gotten to that point, I would have continued to stay because I wanted to prove that I was no “quitter.”

My celebration photo shoot selfie

November 2021, I submitted an internal application. That was my first time applying for anything different because I truly loved what I did. I didn’t get the job. At the first of the year, I began to apply in the Southaven/Memphis area at other financial institutions. I applied for over twenty different positions. Some institutions had four rounds of interviews. I would make it to the last interview, but I wasn’t getting the jobs. I knew that with almost twenty five of years of banking experience I was qualified. I’d even make it to be the last two candidates. I got discouraged and stopped applying. I was tired of being told no. I prayed to God and asked for Him to give me peace.

Last day at the bank

He gave me peace, but it wasn’t the way I expected. Last year, I was having excruciating pain in my shoulder I’d been going to physical therapy for quite some time. I’d received three cortisone shots in my shoulder. My doctor said that I need to have a MRI. It wasn’t good that my shoulder wasn’t healing. The MRI revealed a tear. May 24, 2022, I had shoulder surgery and was off work. It was going to be at least six weeks. I dreaded having the surgery, but I needed a mental break. He gave me the peace that I’d asked for in prayer. When you pray, be specific. ☺️

June 5 (Nashville, Tennessee)

As it was getting closer time for me to return to work, I told God that I wanted Him to open a door for me. I needed a fresh start. I really wanted to move to another area to work. One day during prayer, God spoke to me clearly and said “teach.” It wasn’t shocking because I have family that are educators. I was totally at peace with it. Another reason was conversations that I’d had with my therapist and friends. In one of my therapy sessions, Sandy told me if you can’t change the world you’re in. You change your world. Some dear friends and my daughter told my that I should think about a career change. I said nawww. I like banking. A few days before God spoke to me, one of my long time friends changed careers. She made a Facebook post and said who’s to say that you can’t change careers after 40. When God spoke to me that day, I said God. You were trying to tell me then, but I wasn’t listening. I had to have this surgery for You to clear my mind and speak to me. Once I said yes to Him, He began opening doors and lining everything up in His will. I understood why I was getting those no’s on all those banking applications. Jeremiah 29:11 says I know the plans I have for you.” Those bank jobs weren’t the plans He had for me.

I knew I wanted to teach English. With my degree not being in education, I would have to do the alternate route. God begin to places names of people I knew in education. He, only, allowed me to speak about the transitioning to certain people. It wasn’t something that I wanted to get around the bank that I was job searching. He gave me the names of four individuals that I used for references that would keep everything confidential. I began applying for jobs (permanent substitute) in Tupelo Public School District. I even had an interview for it. One of my friends told me about Florida needing teachers and how the pay worked. I decided to apply.

The Facebook post from the school

I was supposed to return from FMLA the first week of July, but my return doctor’s follow up appointment was changed. I went to pick up my paperwork and inquired about when my appointment was with the nurse practitioner. I’d missed her phone calls due to physical therapy. I assumed they were courtesy calls. With me missing the calls, I had to get a later appointment. That day, I was in tears. I said God. I didn’t ask for my appointment to be changed. The bank is going to think I am faking. This is another entire three weeks before I go back to work. My short term disability hasn’t been approved. What am I going to do? I was frantic. I didn’t know what God had in store for me. Again, His will was not my will. Later, I realized why the changed occurred. With my appointment being changed, it allowed me to drive to Florida to get my drug test, finger printing done, and other paperwork for the school district.

Headed home. Taken at a Florida rest stop

I was offered the job. I had all kinds of emotions running through my mind. The first call I made was to my children. I got them on a four way call. I told them about the job offer. They told me to take it. They said I needed this for me. They were correct. I NEVER in my life thought I’d move. I love to travel, but I assumed that I’d live in Mississippi all my life. I’d encouraged my children to move when they graduated if that’s what they desired. I was hesitant to take the job because I’d never left home. I am forty five and never lived alone. I had my oldest daughter at eighteen. When I graduated from high school, I commuted back and forth to Oxford for two years. Then, my ex-husband, and I got married. We were married for almost twelve years. After we got divorced, I moved in with my parents. It was scary to think about relocating and leaving my mom, family, and friends behind. My children were right. I needed to do this for me. I accepted the job, and everything moved fast. I went to work on July 14th, and I quit later that day. It was an immediate weight lifted off my shoulders. If you have ever been mentally drained about anything, you know the feeling of exhilaration when you let it go. This only gave me about two and half weeks to get everything to leave. I found an apartment. It is in a great part of town. It’s only 8 miles away from the school. My dad agreed to drive my things to Florida in the Uhaul. This was all a blessing.

At the school district’s central office

When the school made it official, I made a post on my social media pages. One of my former coworkers shared the post. The ironic thing is that I used to be her after school camp leader when she was in elementary school. That day, God brought to my remembrance all the jobs that I’d held. My first jobs were babysitting for families. When I was a teenager, my first job was with the City of Tupelo as an after school counselor. As stated previously, I went to the schools and taught about financial literacy. I was a Sunday school teacher for years at church. I was a mentor at THS when they had their mentorship program (troubled youth and teenage pregnancy). I served as board member for AEE (Association for Educational Excellence) for several years. It awarded grants to teachers to do innovative things in their classroom. After my time was served, I continued to read the grants each year. God said you might have gone about teaching in a different way of getting here, but you are now walking in your purpose. This is what you were called to do. All I could do was cry and thank Him.

My classroom rules

Even though this transition (new state, new career, and move) was scary, it was one of the best things I have done for myself in my life. For over half of my life, all I’ve known was banking. I had to redirect my thinking to learn something new. School began on August 4th. If you have seen my stories on social media, you will hear me say the students referring to me as “Ms Long.” That’s because on my birthday, in June, I did two things for me. One was changing my last name back to Long. I have had three different lawyers from the time of my divorce up to now. I didn’t know to ask the previous two, but I would have assumed that they would ask. It wasn’t as if I had ever been divorced before. I didn’t know to specifically ask for the request. With my last attorney, I made sure I asked him to place it in the working for me to go back to Carman T Long. It wasn’t finalized in my paperwork until November 2020. If you know me, I’m taking trips. I had one three different international trips. I couldn’t change my passport. I had my last one for this year in February. I wanted to do something special and memorable for me on my birthday this year.

My sun tattoo. I love having tattoos and not being judged by the type of job I have. A person with tattoos can still be professional!!!!!

The second thing for me for my birthday was getting a sun tattoo. The sun tattoo is symbolic to me. It represents my personality and starting over. I had no idea in June that my life would be starting a new chapter in life a month later. After you have been in a season of rain, you are happy for the sun to come out. The sun is strong and powerful. This morning, I got up before 5:00 am to see the sunrise on the beach in the great state of Florida. Sunrises are a beautiful thing. They represent a new day and a new beginning. Sometimes, we have to create our own sunsets. Don’t get complacent on that job or relationship. If you know you deserve better, you should go for it. Regardless of what happened the day before or in your past, I want you to remember this. You are never too old to start over.

Sunset (September 5, 2022

“My Gentle Giant”

Here is the video if you’d rather watch the interview.

Chasney was carrying the first born grandchild on both sides of the family. Everyone was excited about the baby that would be born. There was even more excitement when Chasney found out that she was carrying a boy. She knew that he would be involved in sports. Her ex-husband, Dewitt, said it would be basketball since his due date was March. March is college basketball finales known as March madness. On March 30, 1999, Tylan Andrew Rayford was born.

Tylan at one year old

I asked Chasney to describe Tylan as a baby. She begins to smile. With him being the first grandchild on both sides of his family, he was very spoiled. Whatever he wanted, he got. He was well loved all around. He made parenting easy because he didn’t require much. Even during her pregnancy, she had no issues with him. As a baby, he slept all during the night. He never gave her any problems. As he grew older, he was grateful and went with the flow.

Dewitt’s dream of Tylan playing basketball did come to pass. Around the age of eight, he started playing summer league basketball with a local church in Memphis. She recalls an incident that happened on the last game of the season. He went up for a dunk and broke his arm. Chasney can smile about it now, but it was not a laughing moment when it happened that day.

That same summer, Chasney and Dewitt got divorced. Chasney and Tylan moved from Memphis to Tupelo. Here, he joined a pee-wee football league at North Pontotoc around the age of eleven or twelve. Tylan fell in love with football. His basketball career was short lived. She thinks that it was because of the accident when he broke his arm and seeing all his cousins playing football. She and Dewitt were shocked that he remained committed to football instead of basketball. One of the reasons they were shocked was because of his height. Ty was 6’7″.

Sometimes, siblings do not along. There are even examples of this in the Bible, but that was not the case between Tylan and his sisters (Taylor and Jadeyn). Immediately after each girl was born, he took them under his wings. He was their protector. He was a role model. He took care of them and made sure they had everything they needed. Even tho the girls were younger, he was very hands on with his sisters. After the divorce, Chasney was a single mother. Ty did not mind stepping up to help his mom. After he got his car, he drove he and Taylor to school. Whatever they needed, he was always there.

Unfortunately, Ty’s football career did not last long either. July 31, 2017 began as a typical normal day. The kids went to school that morning, and Chasney went to work. That evening, everyone was doing their normal routine things. Tylan came in from football practice. He was his loving self. He came in the house and began playing with his sisters. He loved on Jadeyn and Taylor. After he played with his sisters, he went into his room and got on his phone; the things typical teenagers do. Chasney and Taylor were doing girl things. Jadeyn had her night bath, and the family was preparing for dinner. It was a regular evening. Later, the evening took a turn for the worse. Chasney called Ty’s name, but she didn’t get an answer. She walked in his room to see why he didn’t respond. There, she found her son in the bed. At that same moment, Charlotte, her cousin, was home. She was under her hair dryer and heard a scream. She ignored it and thought it was kids in the neighborhood were playing. She told herself that she would listen for it again. If she did, she said she’d investigate. Charlotte heard it again. This time, she decided to see what was going on. She went out the door and walked outside. The screaming was still happening. Charlotte describe it as a mother wailing. She recognized the voice as Chasney. She said with the scream she knew that it was something wrong with the kids, but she didn’t know which one. Shortly, Taylor walked outside with Jadeyn. That only left Tylan as to why Chasney would be screaming the way she was. Tylan’s heart had given out.

Charlotte recalls Chasney asking for help. Remember, Tylan was gentle giant. With her adrenaline going, Chasney was able to lift him out of the bed and began to perform CPR. Unfortunately, it was nothing that Chasney could do. Tylan died peacefully in his sleep.

The cause of Tylan’s death was cardiomyopathy, enlarged heart. It was hereditary. He and his father had the trait. It had never been detected. He received routine physicals playing football. Also, Tylan was following routine medical appointment and seeing physicians. It was not anything that anyone (parents or doctors) thought to specifically check because she nor her ex-husband have any indications of having heart problems. The doctors did say that his enlarged heart would have been an issue later on in life. With him playing sports, it brought the issue to surface.

Losing a child first goes against the circle of life. Children are supposed to bury parents. It is not supposed to be the other way around. One question I had for Chasney how was it to prepare for his funeral. Her response was “It is a tragedy within itself. It is something that you can’t fathom. You can’t prepare for. It’s something you can never prepare for. I was not ready then, and I’m not ready now. It is something I would never be ready for.” Chasney said this is a pain that she wouldn’t wish upon her own enemy. For her to process the funeral, she had to go into business mode. She set aside “parent role” and went into “business mode.” She knew there were things that had to be done. She made sure she was busy in order not to process what was going on. She had to make sure that everything he needed would be taken care of because she had his back no matter what happened in life.

Leading up to the day of the funeral is blurry in her mind. As that day drew near, she had support from her family and her ex-husband. Funeral homes will ask the family to come view the deceased body prior to the funeral. They want to make sure the body is presentable in the way the loved one wants it on the day of the funeral. Mentally, she was shutting down. This was not a task that Chasney was able to do. Charlotte and Dewitt were the ones that approved his body in the casket. The day of the funeral, she walked to the casket and viewed his body for the last time. Her seeing him laying in the casket took a toll on her mind. She had to process this is her son laying there. He is never coming back. It was an image and moment that she will never leave her mind. It is something “she will never forget. “

Through the tragedy, her faith was tested. She got to know God in a way that she hadn’t before his loss. Going through the divorce, it was a life changing event. She didn’t rely on God as much. After losing her oldest child, she and God have had a lot of conversations. She asked why her. She has already been through so much. Why put something else on me? Why take my child? Do You even love me? She got to know God in a closer way. There are days when she cries and wants to close off from everyone. She doesn’t want to go out of the house. She doesn’t want to go to work. There are times when she wants to give up, but God and Tylan give her strength to keep going. Those nights of crying, she expects to wake up with bags under her eyes. She laughs and says she will wake up and look ten years younger. Those days that she doesn’t want to get off that bathroom floor, God give her strength. She gets her girls ready for school and goes about her day at work. God took Tylan away, but He has made life easy. When she is having those moments, she isn’t expecting that push, but she knows it is her angel telling God that his momma needs it. He is telling to Give his momma extra help to make it through the day. The only way she is able to bounce back is with God.

A cliche’ statement is time heals all wounds, but this is not true. Life goes on, but it doesn’t heal the loss of a loved one. They have not adjusted to life without Tylan being around. They suppress their feelings in. There are times when she and Taylor have moments when they reflect on memories and process that Tylan is no longer here on earth. Jadeyn was younger when he passed away. She doesn’t have as many memories as Taylor does. Taylor had Tylan in her life for almost nine years. It wasn’t until after he passed that she told her mom Tylan would stop at the store and buy her breakfast before school. When those hard moments come, Chasney will wrap Taylor in her arms and let her know it is ok to have these moments. One thing that gives them all peace is that they know they have a personal angel looking down from heaven watching over them here on earth.

Losing a child is not normal. I asked Chasney what advice would she give to parents that has lost a child. These are her words. “It doesn’t get better. Time does not heal. It is a new normal. You have to take care of yourself. Your child is in God’s hands. So you have to take care of you and keep going. You can’t give up. Keep pushing through. Call on God.” Life is going to be tough. Grief will hit at different time. There will be times when you will reflect on memories. You’ll reflect more on birthdays, date of death, and other days, but you have to keep going and pushing through.

Chasney and Tylan experienced a lot of first moments together. He experienced her being a new mom, going through a divorce, relocating from Memphis to Tupelo, and more. When she looked at Tylan, he was her motivation. He gave her a push to keep going because she didn’t want to fail. She misses him fixing things around the house. She misses him looking out for his grandmother. She misses him telling Taylor “if you just do what momma says, you’ll get what you want. All you have to do is obey her.” He was loving and would asked her what was needed. I asked Chasney to name something she misses about Ty. Her response “everything.”

“He is.. He was..He will forever be my Rock.”

Here’s the video if you’d rather watch it.

Can you imagine being 24 weeks pregnant and not knowing? That was the last thing that Jackie expected. There was no way that she could be pregnant. She was still having regular cycles. If she was pregnant, that would be three children within the last three years at the age of twenty. She thought the symptoms were simply the flu. She decided to go to the doctor to see what was going on. There, the doctor gave her the news that it wasn’t the flu. Instead, she was carrying a baby. That baby would be known as Preston “Rock” Dozier, II. Even tho having a child was unexpected, Rock was a blessing to her life. Sadly, his life on earth was short lived.

Preston “Rock” Dozier II was born January 25, 1995. Jackie said he was not like his two older siblings, Laquarius and Teeana. He was a momma’s boy. He enjoyed being at home with his mom. There was a time that Cederia, his grandmother, had to tell him that she was his grandmother, and that it was ok to be with her. Rock was more of a loner. Jackie said he was never one to be with the crowd. He was quiet. He didn’t have to have anyone to be happy. All he needed was something to eat and a video game. He enjoyed himself.

Rock never gave Jackie any problems growing up. She didn’t have to worry about him getting into trouble. With a laugh, she said he was the typical teenager and a ladies man growing up. I asked how was he as a brother. She said that he and Laquarius would disagree and wrestle. Laquariaus was older, but Rock was always bigger. Rock’s body and feet grew like weeds. Even tho he might have been bigger in size, Laquaris wanted to remind know who was the oldest brother. 😊 With his bigger size, he was Teeana’s “big brother.”

Jackie and her four children (Jaquarius, Teeanna, Preston, and Zoey

As an adult, Jackie said that if you were ever to Rock’s home that it was a privilege. Remember, as a child, he didn’t mind being alone. As an adult, he still didn’t believe in crowds. He was not one to just have people over to simply have people over. If you were at his home, you were special. You were his friend or family. That meant, he really wanted you there.

Rock had two biological children of his own and two others that he raised as his own (Malaysia, Jayla, A’myah, Preston III). After his parent’s bitter divorce, his father wasn’t a presence in his life. Rock was determined to do fatherhood differently. If Rock wasn’t at work, he had his children with him. He made up in his mind that he would devote his time with his children. He took fatherhood seriously and was committed to being the best father he could be before the fatal accident took his life.

The dreadful day of February 3, 2020, Jackie’s life was never the same. Her world was turned upside down. She remembers it as if was yesterday. She was at work and had been in a meeting without her cell phone. After she got out of the meeting, she had numerous missed calls from her family and the hospital. She returned her husband’s, Donald, call to ask what was wrong. He informed her that Preston had been in a wreck. He thought it was bad because they asked him to come off the road (Donald drives 18 wheelers) and come to the hospital as well. She tried to return other calls to her family, but no one was answering. She grabbed her purse, told her boss that her son was in a wreck, and she had to go. She remembers praying to God and saying “God, I’m not going to be worried. I know You got this.”

When she pulled up at the hospital, the first person she saw was her sister, Valerie. Valerie was headed to Jackie’s job to come pick her up. Valerie already knew the news. All Valerie was doing was crying and couldn’t speak. Jackie went passed her to go inside to see what was happening. After she entered the room, the first person she was was the coroner. She knew something was wrong. The coroner began the routine questions. “Are you Mrs. Shumpert? Is Preston Dozier your son?” The next statement was “I’m sorry. There’s been a wreck.” At that moment, Jackie blacked out. When she returned to consciousness, she asked the coroner was she sure it was her son because Laquarius was known for allowing others to borrow his car if they had a need. She wasn’t wishing death upon another parent’s child, but she didn’t want it to be hers. The coroner handed Jackie Rock’s wallet. Then, Jackie knew it was her child that was no longer here on earth. Jackie didn’t go see his body until after her husband and family arrived at the hospital. She said it looked like he was sleeping because he slept with his eyes open. After closing his eyes for the last time, she walked out the room. When she walked out the room, she was surprised by the outpouring of people that came to surrounded her with love. Her sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, pastors, church members, and coworkers were there. The hallway was full. It was over the “certain” people that the hospital said could come. Jackie is thankful for the love and support she received that day. She knows that she could not have done it alone.

Jackie is a minister of the gospel. One of the questions I asked was how was her faith tested being a Christian and minister of Christ. The Saturday before Preston’s death, she had to preach at a women’s brunch. That week, she was preparing for a sermon and a topic, but her mind was blank. That morning, God gave her a title, “Don’t break before your breakthrough.” She assumed the sermon was for the ladies at the brunch, but the sermon was really for her. That following Monday, Rock was in the accident that took his life.

Preparing for the moments before hand and the funeral were some of the hardest things that she has ever done in her life. There was no way in the world that she thought she would be burying her child. She had to make phone calls to inform loved ones that Preston was dead and to prepare for his funeral. People told that once she began making arrangements and preparing for the funeral that it was might bring closure to her mind. For Jackie, that was the opposite. The finalization of things were the heartache. It made it reality because she was about to prepare a funeral for her child. She had to decide on which caskets, what clothes, and approve the body before the visitation and funeral. Life isn’t supposed to be that way. When she went to view his body, he had no scratches. Even tho he had the wreck and body was thrown around in the car, he died from internal bleeding. He appeared to be sleeping, but the touch said “he is really dead.”With the help of God, she has kept her sanity. Grief is real. It has no time period. A person can see something, hear something, smell something, and it can all remind you of the loved one that has gone on. She tells people that she is not a superwoman. She is weak. She breaks just like everyone else.

On the day of the funeral, Jackie had gotten everyone ready but herself. She’d bought everyone’s outfits. She wanted everyone to look the same. When she got them ready, she was going to send them off in the funeral and stay home. She thought that staying home would be a safe thing to do. She felt that people were acting a certain way. Would she be strong? Would be break down? She didn’t want to deal with people’s expectations. God spoke to her and said “there is purpose beyond your pain.” As a woman of faith, she told God. “I can believe everything you’ve told me, but I can’t believe this. What kinda pain is this losing me kid? My heart shattered that day?” Her uncle-in-love realized that Jackie wasn’t in the limo as everyone else. He inquired and asked was she getting ready. He let her know that he was not leaving until she was ready, but he was not going to rush her. That was the longest ride in her life.

For her, she wants to keep Rock’s memory alive. She will never let his memory die. Every other weekend, his children come over to stay. When Rock was younger, he had a speech impediment. He spoke really fast. For about a year, he was put into the special education program at school. They helped him overcome the issue. Now, his son speaks the same way. Each time she hears her grandson, she thinks of Rock at the same age.

I asked Jackie what advice would she give anyone that has lost a child. She said there is no manual or book that tells parents how to handle that loss. It is your child. Grief has no time period. For her, one way of coping with his loss is visiting his grave sight. Another thing is to realize that everyone’s relationship with their children are different. As loving parents, parents want to protect and save their children. It doesn’t matter what age the child is; no parent wants to see his/her child hurt. Jackie felt that she failed Preston because she was not able to save him that day from dying. That morning, Preston fell asleep on his way home from work. That’s how the wreck happened. He would always call his mom on the way home from work. She used to joke with him and tell him to call her instead. That morning, she realized that she didn’t receive either. She beat herself up. She thought she’d failed him. Without her faith, Jackie said that she would question it all. The devil wants to play with your mind. She has a grief counselor/therapist to help deal with grief. There were days that she had to force herself to get up, get dressed up, nor eat. She said to herself “if I’m breathing, I can do it.” There have been moments that she has had to scream it out. Her husband will just shut the door and let her do it. With help, she realizes that she never failed him. Preston knew that his mom loved him. His death was God’s will. God knows how long our days are numbered. We are the ones that don’t know. To the parents, there is no time period to grieve. She recommends people to have faith in God.

One thing she misses about Rock is that he loved family. If he wasn’t working, he would be there. She didn’t worry about food being leftover. He would either eat it up or take it home for himself. He would always have fun with the family and crack jokes on each one. The most important thing is his presence. With his death, there is a void in her life. Even tho Preston Dozier is no longer physically here with her on earth, he will always and forever be here “Rock.”

“Things that one year taught me.”

Here’s the YouTube video in case you’d rather view instead.

Me the night of my 44th birthday party 🥳

Here are some things that one year (44-45) taught me. Number one is I matured in life. Proverbs 18:21 says that death and life lie in the power of the tongue. The tongue is a powerful thing. You can speak positivity over your life and loved ones (as you should). You can also hurt people with it. I did both. I spoke life into situations, but I also hurt people with it. In retrospect, people hurt me. If it’s someone that’s insignificant in your life, what that person says or does is irrelevant! You care less and keep it moving. I learned that it’s the people you love that are the ones you hurt and the ones that hurt you. You have to be an adult about it. If you hurt someone you, you should take responsibility for it. You should definitely apologize for what you said. That’s exactly what I did. Now, it is up to that person to accept the apology. You can’t make a person accept your apology nor can you rush another person’s time to heal. Don’t beat yourself up after you apologize. We have to realize that sometimes when we hurt someone that person might not want you back in his/her life. You accept your mistake of you of what you said and move on. On the other hand… When someone hurts you, you might not get the apology from that person that you feel that you should get. Don’t wait for it. Life doesn’t stop for you, me, and anyone else. You have to keep living.

One of my prayers

I learned it’s ok to sometimes be alone and do things alone. I took my first international trip (to my favorite land, Jamaica 🇯🇲). I didn’t respond to any business calls, text or messages. That was my first time ever in my life that I didn’t feel the need to even give the response I’m on vacation. This time was truly for me. While I was there, I made my first vlog for my YouTube page. The trip was very therapeutic and peaceful. I heard God’s voice clearly and received clarity on things I’d been praying for in my life. I’m not saying everyone should travel out of the country alone, but you should definitely go somewhere alone.

I am a huge music lover. One of my favorite things to do is hear live music. When Covid came, it shut concerts down. I was very happy that Covid numbers were down some, and concerts were back in effect. For my first time, March 2022, I attended a concert by myself. The lineup was amazing. It was Joe, Anthony Hamilton, and Maxwell. I am a HUGE Anthony Hamilton fan. I didn’t know the people beside me, but we danced and sang the night away.

Concert selfie

I learned that life is short. I suffered more losses of loved ones that were hard to accept. One in particular was my Uncle Hazel. I’d lost my grandmother, my Uncle Tom, and my cousin Chris in 2020. Uncle Hazel’s death was the beginning of 2021 (January). There is not one mean thing that anyone could say about him. He was the most gentle and most kind soul. He was always willing to help someone in need. He helped me out sooooo many times. He never once complained. He wouldn’t allow you to pay him for his help. He spoke with soft voice, and he gave great advice. After my divorce in 2012, he was my next door neighbor. I miss him waving at me across the yard. I miss him calling me and telling me the dogs were at his house. I miss him. I will say that he left his helpfulness spirit behind. His granddaughter, Kamri, took on his mantle. She is always there whenever I call. She won’t let me repay her either. We all know that death will one day come knocking on our door, and it’s a part of life. It doesn’t make it easier when we lose loved ones. The pain is still there. I grieve my own way and take it one day at a time.

Some moments with Uncle Hazel, and that’s him with his granddaughter, Kamru

November 2021, I climbed a freaking mountain. My cousin, Keeisha, and I went to Aruba. While we were there, we met one of the sweetest people that I’d ever met in my life. His name is Maxromy Brown. During our trip, he took us to various places on the island. On our last day there, Max told us that he wanted us to climb a mountain. We got up around 4:00 am. He picked us up before sunrise. That was the purpose. We were to see the sun rise over the island. Oh my gosh. It was hard work. It took a lot, mentally and physically, to climb the mountain. It was the largest altitude in Aruba, and we accomplished walking miles up a mountain to see a sun rise. It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve seen in my life. Getting up early and walking for miles was worth it all.

When you travel internationally, you get to see a lot of things. Americans take a lot of things for granted. The U.S. is a great place to live, but I wish there were things that we had stricter rules. One example is gun control. The recent mass shootings of innocent people is mentally devastating. One of the most recent ones, elementary school in Texas, is traumatizing. My three children are now adults, but I could have been one of those parents that child that didn’t make it home that night. Two days ago,there was a shooting at a health facility. Again, innocent people lost their lives. I had shoulder surgery on May 24. I’ve been to the doctor numerous times before the surgery, after the surgery, and still more to go. That could have been me. I’m thankful for every morning I open my eyes.

My children and I (July 2021)

Lastly, I did something that I never in my life of living would have thought I’d do. All my life, I’ve loved photography and had some type of camera device. God spoke to me and said to do a photo exhibit of my work. It took me by surprise and pushed me out of my comfort zone.I took pictures from two of my trips to Jamaica. The theme was “One night in Jamaica.” It was a lot of work. It was a lot of preparation. You can read about my experience in a previous blog, but I’ll say this. There were days and nights that I wanted to quit, but God wouldn’t let me quit. I had friends and family praying for me. Those prayers and help from friends and family got me through it. I cried before and after it was over. Seeing my work around the wall was a feeling that I’d never had before. I did it. The night was absolutely amazing. That was only the first, but it won’t be the last.

Life is too short. Life is uncertain. We are here today and could be gone tomorrow. We shouldn’t live life worrying about what others say about you. Some people are simply miserable people. They’ll always have something to say. They’re not happy with themselves and not happy with life. Don’t let those people control how you live yours. With that being said….. Wear what you want. Drink what you want. Go where you want. Turn up the music and sing to the top of your lungs. Take time for yourself. Pamper yourself. Get a therapist or counselor to help you balance out life. Cause is sometimes to heavy to bare. Take a trip at least once a year to unwind and unplug from the real world. Most importantly… Be you and be great.

Here’s to another year. Bless up!!!

My therapist and I

“My dreams becoming a reality”

Here’s the vlog in case you aren’t a reader.

People get adrenaline rushes or excitement off of different things. Some people jump out of planes. Some gear up and play a game of basketball. Some people paint. For me, it’s taking pictures. Photography has always been my passion. Since I was a little girl, I have always loved taking photos. Even from the beginning, my parents supported me. They weren’t able to buy a “big girl” Nikon, Cannon, or etc, but they kept the disposable cameras in stock for me. I get such a rush taking pictures and later looking to see how they turn out. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. When I see that developed picture, it doesn’t matter how many years have lapsed, I can recall memories of what happened that day. That’s why I am always taking pictures because I love capturing moments and creating memories.

My shirt says “I may snap at any moment.”

Some people, only, see paintings as art. You enter the gallery, and you can decide how you feel about the painting. The artist might have painted the picture with an idea in mind, and you might have a totally different interpretation. That’s what art is about. That’s why paintings are not the only form of art for me. I can see art in everything. I can look at nature, a building, food, people, sand. etc. It doesn’t matter. I see something that I can photograph. Photography is art. You can look at a picture. I feel it should evoke a type of emotion in you; especially, if it’s one that you took. I have always loved going to different art shows. I never imagined in my life thought that I would be having my own.

March 2020, the entire world was turned upside down because of the pandemic. With all the company closures, the pandemic made people turn to their passions for income. I have been in banking for over 20+ years. I didn’t lose my job, but the pandemic showed me that no one or no job was safe. God spoke to me and pushed me to use my gifts that He’d given me. I purchased a new “big girl” Cannon camera and was ready to conquer the world.

My mom was my first subject with my new camera.

I went in full force and oblivious to what it took to be a professional photographer. I was ready to take on whatever opportunity presented. I was willing to do birthday parties, graduation photos, weddings, whatever. I had to learn that just because you love taking pictures that every event might not be your speciality. Another thing I had to learn was, living in Mississippi, the weather does not always cooperate with you. We can have all four season in one day. I would have a customer, and it would start raining, or the temperature would drop 30*. I don’t have a studio. Therefore, I lost a client. I was getting discouraged about becoming a professional photographer. Isaiah 55:8 says that “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways.” I was focusing on “trying to make additional money”. It’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but that’s not the direction that God was leaving me during this season.

I love to to travel. When I travel, I come back with thousands of pictures that I have taken in only 4 or 5 days. I’d been to Jamaica December 2020 and June 2021. Whenever I come back from a trip, I will post lots of pictures on my social media outlets. During both trips, there were some pictures that I didn’t post. My spirit did not allow me to post them. At the moment, I did not understand why. It wasn’t until about a week after the second trip that God spoke to me and said for me to do a photo exhibit with the pictures that I hadn’t posted. God and I went back and forth. It was me because I didn’t think I could do it, and God isn’t going to argue. Fear was inside of me. Eventually, I told God that I will obey. When I obeyed, everything lined up for me.

July 3, 2021 (I made my first vlog in Jamaica 🇯🇲

The first person that I told was my mother. I had no clue on where to even hold a photo exhibit. She suggested for me to inquire at the Gumtree Museum of Art or the Link Center. She referred me to a friend, Evie, that knew people at both facilities. The Gumtree had years for their waiting list, and I’d have to submit my work for approval. I wasn’t going to wait years. If I were to do this thing, I had to do it while I had the courage. I didn’t want “approval” from anyone on my work that I’d done. The Link Center was available. As long as my work wasn’t explicit, I could have it there.

My younger sister, Zierra, had a performance at the Link Center. She was the opening act for a jazz concert. After the concert, I informed Melanie that I was the one that was inquiring about having the photo exhibit there. She allowed me to see the room. The room was perfect. I began to cry because I envisioned my pictures on the wall. Later, we had a meeting to finalize all the details of the photo exhibit.

It was official. I had work to do and a lot of work it was. With me having thousands of pictures, I had to decide which ones I wanted to use. Then, I had to edit. Editing takes hours and hours. People see the final picture, but they don’t know the work that it took to have that final picture. After I edited the pictures, I had to decide what size I wanted to print the pictures in. I had to purchase frames and place the pictures in the frames.

This process took months. There were moments that I was discouraged. I’d edited the pictures, but I couldn’t get them to upload to a website to order the pictures. The files were too large. I bought a flash drive to maybe put them on there. It was still too large. I cried for several nights. I said God, You pushed me to do this. I need your help. He did. I airdropped them off my computer to my phone, saved in a favorite file, and ordered off a different website (Walgreen’s Photo). My photo exhibit was in January. Walgreen’s photo department was slammed. They’d run out of canvas material. I’d made several of those. My anxiety level went up again, but the ladies were awesome. They would notify me of what was happening. I was able to get all my pictures and canvases printed in time for my exhibit. I had to place the pictures inside of the frames. That was an ordeal itself. I had to choose which frame that I felt went great with each particular picture. My fingers got sore and tender from doing it day after day. Lastly, I didn’t have enough tables, stands, and easels for all the pictures I’d selected. I had to rent everything from Busylad.

These are some the pictures I had made into canvases.

The week of the exhibit……I was excited but fear, nervousness, and anxiety crept back in. The Sunday prior, my pastor, Eric Burton, preached about us trying to prepare ahead and God wants us to trust Him. We didn’t need to worry about the days ahead. We need to trust God in that moment. I was on the phone with my friend, Charlotte. I can’t even remember what I was crying about at that moment. She spoke to me almost the same words that my pastor preached about the day before. I said ok. God. I am going to trust in You. Friday isn’t even here yet. Everything will be ok.

The assistant director captured me jamming with the band.

I didn’t have a clue on how to hang up pictures and arrange them nicely. I called one of my bank customers. Yep. You guessed it. I was crying. They were booked, but God touched their hearts. A few hours laters, they stopped what they were doing and came to help me. Stephanie and Jennifer were God sent. I handed them pictures, and they did their thing. I let the professionals do what they do best. If I had a million dollars at that moment, I sure would have blessed them with it. 😊

Stephanie helping me hang pictures.

The actual day was January 14, 2022. The night was absolutely amazing. My entire outfit was perfect. I had the best glam squad for the night (Candace and Patrice). I hired my mentor, Necole Fears, as the photographer for an hour. I had live music. My sister and the crew made my want to dance the entire night away. My mom worked the door for me and had everyone to sign in. I had friends that drove near and far to support. My pastors (Eric and Kamala) came. He prayed over me, my future with photography, and took us to church. It was covid friendly, and no one caught covid because of my event.

The band

Even though I could not see it at the moment, God worked it out for me from the very beginning. Charlotte and her husband helped me picking up rentals, and she helped me framing pictures a few additional pictures. Stephanie and Jennifer helped me arrange the pictures on the walls and on the table. After the event was over, Gillie’s Girls (Allison, Claudia, and Kim) and Elnora’s ladies (Rhonda and Kechia) helped me take the pictures off the wall. If I was alone, it would have taken me hours or a couple of days to get everything down. The band took everything to my truck and loaded it up for me. God let me know that I was never alone.

Some of Gillie’s Girls and Elnora’s ladies

I followed through with something that I have always loved doing. Even when I wanted to quit and give up, I pressed forward. I am thankful for each person that prayed for me and encouraged me during this time. Whether you drove near or far, I am thankful for each person that was able to attend. I am thankful for the ones that wanted to attend, but things arose. It was the weekend of Dr. Marting Luther King. I picked it for a reason. He had a dream, and I did too. He was one that made history, and this was history making for me. January 14, 2022 will always be special to me. It was my first exhibit, but it won’t be my last. I am thankful for the dream that became a reality. My advice to anyone that’s reading or listening; Don’t ever stop dreaming.

“The greatest Christmas gift there is—loving yourself”

Recently, I was traveling home after spending the weekend and enjoying time with my cousins. I was cruising along the highway with the radio blasting. One of my favorite artist, Mary J Blige, new song came on. I began to focus on the lyrics. “All the times that I hated myself. All the times that I wanted to be someone else. All the times that I should have been gentle with with me. All the times that I should’ve been careful with me. Why did I hate myself so intensely? Lord help me…I wake up every morning and tell myself good morning gorgeous.”

Gillie’s Girls (missing Toya and Keeisha)

This song is a song full of great affirmations. Even before affirmations were cool and became an “it” thing, my Aunt Yogie had my cousins and I doing it. We loved the summer because we would be able to spend the night at her house. She allowed us to freely express ourselves. We would vocalize things that we liked or disliked about ourselves. She would have us take a look in the mirror and tell ourselves that we were beautiful. She continued and said, “Even though we might not like certain things about ourselves, we were made in God’s image. We were beautifully and wonderfully made.”

My aunt Yogie and my cousins (missing Allison) Blood doesn’t have to make you family.

Back to the trip driving home….I began to think about how I used to hate a certain thing about my body and how it was/is my insecurity. I’ve never been insecure about my size. Even at my largest size, I still felt fly. I have a family history of diabetes, breast cancer, high blood pressure, and I suffer from hypothyroidism. The reason that I am staying focused on weight loss now is to prevent the potential future health complications in my body.

My thing, my insecurity, my weakness, my kryptonite is facial hair. Even though I have come a long way in self care and self love, every now and then, things/feelings sneak up on you. Sometimes, these old feelings makes me doubt myself and makes me feel insecure all over again. As I listened to the song, I said this needs to be my daily affirmation, and I should say this to myself each morning.

Insecurities can develop over time and for different reasons. Mine developed because my mustache became a running joke in junior high. Kids, in school, can be cruel. I’ve always been more of a hairier person and had facial hair. I remember being picked on at school. Other classmates would say in front of other classmates. “You have a mustache”. Other classmates would laugh at the “joke.” I would retaliate back with an insult to deflect the laughs. Deep inside, all I wanted to do was yell or cry. I never cried in front of anyone, but, occasionally, I would when I got home.

A picture of me in high school

As I became an adult, it didn’t get any easier. Instead of classmates, it came from young children. The child might ask his/her why does she have a mustache. Most times, the parent would reprimand the child. I’d say it’s ok because I know children are innocent and inquisitive. They didn’t know. Even though I said it’s ok, I was hurting inside.

I didn’t do any type of self care growing up or as a young adult. It wasn’t until after my divorce that I began to do things for myself. I began to get massages, manicures, pedicures, and even laser treatments. The esthetician informed me that it can be hereditary. My fraternal grandmother had facial hair. It was definitely hereditary for me. As an African American, it will take more laser sessions in order to completely remove. https://www.glamour.com/story/laser-hair-removal-for-dark-skin/amp.

Doing laser treatments is a catch 22. You have to grow hair in order for the esthetician to be able to have enough to remove and treat. Laser treatment on the face is a painful procedure. Yes. I have tattoos, but laser treatment is a different type of pain. The face/lip have more sensitive nerve sensation. It is not fun having to do multiple sessions. I started using Nair or doing derma-facials to rid the facial hair in order to avoid the pain.

Before and after picture after receiving dermafacial treatment from Santana Roberson

I realize that everything is a process. If I want it completely gone, I have to trust and endure the process. Thank You Lord for the reminder that I am made in Your image. Just as the song says, I am beautiful (even with my facial hair). Therefore the greatest Christmas gift of all is loving yourself. My goals is to always love Carman (mind, heart, body, and soul) because girl. You are gorgeous. 💛💛💛

Part of the song *** I do not own the rights to this song***


The YouTube link above if you want to see me read it.

What 98 years of living taught me.

Today, I paid my respects to one of the sweetest people on earth. 🤍🤍🤍

Mrs Louise Kisor passed away last Friday. She lived to be 98 years old. I took this pic 10/10/2017. She was never one that liked having her picture taken. I was honored that she allowed me to take it that day. It made me feel special. I couldn’t post it, but I could take it lol
Phyllis and I laughed. We said that she can’t fuss at me for posting her gorgeous picture tonight. She might be fussing in heaven lol.

Here’s what Mrs Louise’s 98 years of living taught me.

  1. Always wear a smile. There was NEVER a time that I saw her, and she didn’t have a smile on her face. What a gorgeous smile it was. 😊
  2. Always look your best. There was never a time that I saw her that she wasn’t fashionable.
  3. Keep your hair done. I never saw Mrs Louise with a bad hair day.
  4. Love has no color. When Mrs Louise had her birthday parties, sometimes, I would be the only African American in the room. It made no difference to her. She loved me still.
  5. Treat people the way you want to be treated. It goes with number 4. If you show respect, you will be given respect.
  6. Honor your mother and your father. Your days will be long. This is a commandment in the Bible. Obviously, she got that right. She lived 98 years on earth.
  7. Travel. She had a daughter that lives in New York. She didn’t mind going to visit, but she was coming home. I love to travel.
  8. It’s ok to be independent. Mrs Louise did not mind doing things on her own. She didn’t look for a handout. If she could do it, she did it herself.
  9. To thine own self be true. It didn’t matter what others might have thought about her independence, she was a strong woman. She did what she felt was best for her.
  10. Love God. Mrs Louise was a God loving woman. She was active at her church home and loved her church family.

I could go on and on about her and the things she taught me. You’d be reading all night. 🙃

Mrs Louise, you will surely be missed. May you forever live in our hearts. 💛💛💛




“My past does not define me. I am a man.”

The man himself

“I am a man” are words that Jason takes pride in saying. For Jason, the meaning of being a man is being able to provide for his family; not only their needs but, also, their wants. Therefore, the words “I am a man” are not words that Jason takes lightly. There was a time period when Jason was unable to provide. He was sentenced to 40 years for possession of cocaine and intent to distribute cocaine. Some of his years were suspended. Jason served 5 years, but his past does not define the man that he is today. Statistics show that up to 63-75% of people that have been incarcerated will go back to jail within five years. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/76-released-inmates-arrested-again-within-5-years-report-n86826. Jason Westmoreland would not become one of these statistics.

The baby of the family

Jason said that his mother always made sure that he and his siblings needs were always met. Jason’s appetite of “wanting more” led him to a different lifestyle. Jason saw finer and fancier things, and he desired them for himself. Instead of working for those things, Jason took the path of selling drugs. “Selling drugs was was the only way that I thought I could I make sufficient amount of money to suppress my appetite,” but it didn’t last long. After 5-6 year of living the lifestyle he desired, Jason was arrested for possession of cocaine, intent to sell, and distribution of cocaine. Jason served 5 years.

A picture of Jason while he was incarcerated

After serving his time, Jason tried working working 9-5 jobs. He even tried work factory jobs, but none of those jobs were for him. He still had a taste for finer things in life, but he wanted to do it a legal way. With limited education, his choices were few that would allow him to make close to the money he had gotten accustomed to making.He was familiar with trucking because his grandfather, uncles, and some cousins were drivers. Jason decided he wanted to make a career in transportation. He said rain, sleet, or snow, you’ll find him behind the wheel of an 18 wheeler. Each time he is behind that wheel, Amber, his wife, is praying for his safety.

Amber, the queen of the house

Just because there is money in the industry, Jason and Amber have made sacrifices for their family for the betterment for their family. Initially, when Jason began to drive trucks, he had to do extremely long hauls on the road. He would be gone for a month or more and would only have two days off. He knew it was a sacrifice that he had to make to gain experience. After a period of time, Jason tried the short haul. He was coming home each day. Of course with the shorter distance, the money wasn’t the same. He and Amber had a discussion. In order for him to provide the lifestyle he desired and what he wanted to be able to give his wife and children{ (Jqwon(16), Gavin(12), and Jaceion (5)} all their needs and their wants, they decided for Jason to go back to long haul. Amber said that she would much rather have Jason on the road and absent during the week versus being prison walls.

The Westmoreland family

I asked Jason what was the hardest thing being on the road. His response was not being there to help his wife. He feels that he puts a burden on her by being on the road. She has to take the kids to their football games, karate, work, and do household chores alone. Jason said on the other aspect if he wasn’t on the road that he’d be at the house looking at them, and what good would that do them? He and Amber understand that sacrifices have to be made with him being in transportation, but it is a sacrifice that they are willing to make together. With the love, communication, and commitment, the Westmorelands are making it work.

My next question to him was what keeps you motivated to drive. One of the benefits is seeing the world for free. Jason said that he is paid to travel the US. He gets to see beautiful sceneries, mountains, and things he might not have ever seen before had he not been a truck driver.

One of the greatest benefits of driving is that Jason loves the fact that he can provide for his family. “It is a blessing not living paycheck to paycheck. I don’t have any worries when it comes to financial stabilities. I wish I’d started driving 20 years ago. I could have been a millionaire and retired by now.” By being in transportation, it has provided him the opportunity to purchase a new home for his family. Amber was desiring a new vehicle. A few Saturdays ago, he left the home with intentions of going to grab a sausage and biscuit. Instead, he came home with two new vehicles for their family. When his kids say “daddy I want this”, Jason said he has to stop himself from buying everything at that moment. Some of the reasoning for going ahead and purchasing what the kids wants is because it is his way of making sure that his sons do not go down the path that he was once on. He encourages and pushes education to them. If they decide on a trade, Jason will encourage them to do that as well. He knows that the 9-5 jobs aren’t for everyone. His oldest son told me that he might become a truck driver whenever he graduates. As we all know, truck drivers make the world go round.

The Westmoreland family

I asked Jason what advice would he give to anyone that is considering driving trucks. He would let anyone know that their are other options besides selling drugs. He said that a career can be made in driving trucks. “You have to leave home freely. If you don’t, you will leave home forcefully, be in a situation that you regret. It is great money, but sacrifices have to be made.” We discussed sacrifices earlier, but one of his sacrifices he made was that he moved away from home. The Westmorelands lived in Nashville for approximately 6 months. It didn’t last long. Jason said “I am a momma’s boy.” The family moved back to Mississippi. He doesn’t criticize the next person because he was once there. That way for him was simply turned into another direction (positive).

Jason now drives for Milan Supply Chain Solutions

If you are looking for Jason Westmoreland, you won’t find him behind a prison wall. Instead, you can look out your window on the highway, you might see him in passing on the highway in his 18 wheeler.

It won’t matter if it’s rain, sleet, or snow, you can count on Jason to be behind the wheel of his 18 wheeler being the man for his family. Be safe driver. You are appreciated.

This is Jason’s truck. He’d gotten stuck in the yard the night before. He was waiting on a tow truck to come pull him out. We got a laugh out of it.

**Here’s the link if you want to see the full interview. https://youtu.be/2_87O94_5Jk

“Like father. Like son”

In the month of November, the US celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday. People take the time to say what they are thankful for in their lives. Typically, people say friends, family, good health, and a job that provides income. I, too, am thankful for those same things, but I wanted to express gratitude to men/women that make the world go round. You might wonder who are these men/women? These men/women are those that get behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler each day to bring every single thing we have( rent or own) into our lives.

This month, I decided to show words of appreciation, gratitutde, and recognize the men/women that make the daily sacrifices for us. I wanted to thank them for all that they do. Part 1 of this month’s blog is dedicated to a father and his sons.

I think every man wants to hear these words. Dad, I want to be like you when I grow up. That’s what happened for Johnny Wooten. Mr. Wooten’s two sons, Robert and John, followed in the footsteps of their father and became a part of the transportation industry.

Lance and Mr. Wooten

Transportation industry was not Mr. Wooten’s first job. He and his wife of 57 years, Sammie, farmed. I asked what made him decide to enter into the career path of transportation. He stated that it wasn’t many options in those days to provide for a family. He has been driving 18 wheelers for the last 47-48 years. He has enjoyed the benefits it brings. His hard work and dedication influenced both of his son to become truck drivers as well. His son, Robert, made it to almost 33 years, and John has been driving for the last 3 years. It took John a little longer to follow in the path of his father and brother.

John (“Snout”)

John was in the restaurant business since the age of 15. He started off as a car hopper at Johnnie’s Drive In. Later, John would open his own restaurant in Saltillo by the name of John’s Place. He ended up closing it. Several years later, he went back into business for himself and opened Double Barrell. He had a location in Shannon and one in Tupelo. Due to the high cost of food and trying to keep doors open, he decided the restaurant business was no longer for him. He made a call to his brother, Robert, one night. He never looked back.

John and Mr Wooten

That Saturday night, John called Robert and told him that he wanted to talk to him. John wanted to ride with him on his next delivery. John knew that Robert was on his way to Clarksdale the next morning. On the trip, John informed Robert that he wanted to get out of the restaurant business and into trucking. Robert agreed to show him the ropes, but he told John that he wouldn’t last. He said John was only a “blowed up fry cook and a steering wheel holder.” Robert told John he wouldn’t last. John was determined to be successful in the business and make it last.

Lance holding a picture of his late uncle and grandfather

John recalls one trip. Robert, John, and their friend, Gary Kisner, had to take loads to Virginia. John said all the way there Robert gave him a hard time. It didn’t matter what he was doing. He was on his back and calling out every mistake. Finally, John had enough. He asked Robert to get off him. Gary asked Robert to leave John alone. On the way back to Tupelo to park their 18 wheelers, Robert called John on his c.b. He asked him how long he’d been driving. After John replied, Robert logged on Facebook and made a post. He told John how proud of him he was. John said he’ll never forget it.

This is the post Robert made on Facebook about how proud of John he was.

I mentioned “cb” name. It’s the name that truckers call drivers on their radio. Mr Wooten said that he is called Pops or Night Owl (former night driver). Robert’s was Pig Tail. It had nothing to do with a pig. It was because of one incident when Robert tore his pig tail wiring loose on his trailer. His co-workers used it accident as a joke. John’s cb name is Snout. It is a play on names because of Robert’s mistake.

Where John’s hand is pointing is what the “pig tail” wires are

March 15, 2021, Robert went on to be with the Lord. They’d come off the road the night before and went to hang out at Sharp Shooters. John recalls seeing him walk out of the building and smiling back at him. That would be the last time he’d see his brother alive. Robert made a career in transportation. This year would have made 33 years that he drove an 18 wheeler. His career began at Stone Container. He drove for Fed Ex for 8 years, GBC, and Ashley Furniture. Williams Logistics is where made his home and was who he drove for prior to his death. John said that Robert never stopped picking at him, but it was brotherly love. John said Mr. Wooten was the patient teacher, and Robert was the tough one. John said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Robert (“Pig Tail”)

I mentioned that Mr. Wooten has been driving for over 40 years. One day, John thought he was going to have more loads than his dad. He said he’d gotten up early one morning. He had done several trips. He was very excited entering in the office of William Logistics to turn in his bills. He thought he was going to rub it in with his dad’s face of how many he’d done. The business office informed John that Mr. Wooten had already been in hours before he had and had a head start on John. Mr. Wooten was tickled as John was telling the story. He said that even with bad knees he could still run circles around his sons. John said “he’s like an old gear that won’t stop.”

Driving trucks is not for the weak. There are some that come home each night and others do long haul. Those long haul drivers could be gone for days or weeks at a time. The longest Mr. Wooten was away was 5 days, and it was 4 days for John. Even though the pay is good on the long haul trips, Mr. Wooten enjoys coming home each night. He said at his age he is ok with working four days a week.

I asked them both what was something that made them want to keep driving. One thing that keeps Mr. Wooten motivated is the pay. He said he loves seeing that nice check each pay period. Also, he feels when he has delivered his goods and helped the economy out. The bad side of driving is when a delivery is not delivered on time. It is not always the driver’s fault. At times, traffic is bad, the weather is bad, or there is an accident on the road. They said that it isn’t an every day occurrence of these things happening, but it happens. Other times, people are on their cellphones and not paying attention to the road. People should be more aware because it is impossible to stop an 18 wheeler immediately.

At the end of each interview, I ask what advice would you like to give the next person. Mr. Wooten said that he advises anyone that is seeking employment in the transportation business to find someone to work with you. Do your best. Make yourself a good employee. Listen to someone who will help you.

Just as John had great examples in life to influence him, his son, Lance, does too. Lance is 15 and has decided that he wants to make truck driving his career as well. He said his has his grandfather, his dad, and his uncle that are an example to him. I’m not sure who will be the patient one to teach him, or who will be the strict one when it’s his time to get his lessons behind the wheel. One thing I do know is that he’ll make them all proud.

The title of this blog is “like father. like son”. One day, it will be three generations of truck drivers in the Wooten family. Thank you Wootens for all you do. You are appreciated.

If you would like to watch the full interview, here’s the link on my YouTube page. https://youtu.be/c3Q0oiqZOuU

“I am strong. I am an overcomer. I am a survivor.”

Just as the Phoenix bird, Claudia rose after the fire.

“I had the gun in my hand ready to take my life. My son walked in the room. He didn’t understand what was happening because he was younger. He gave me a look. The look, he gave, would be one of the defining moments that I realized I had to leave and get out of this situation. Not many people know, but I was ready to take my life in order to get out of it. My son walking in saved my life.”

Corwin, her son, as a toddler

Many are familiar with October being breast cancer awareness month, but did you know it is, also, domestic violence awareness month? Statistics show that 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 4 men will experience either rape, physical violence, or stalking. Almost 50% of women and men experience psychological aggression. These are by intimate partners. People that have been victimized of digital abuse are twice as likely to be physical abused. http://www.thehotline.org/stakeholders/domestic-violence-statistics/. Studies, also, show that an average of 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. 1 out of 15 children will be exposed to domestic violence. 21-60% of victims of partner violence will lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from abuse. http://www.ncado.org/statistic. The numbers of people that experience domestic violence were shocking to read. These are only a few of the statistics. As I was reading, I reflected on the numbers. More than likely, someone, you or I know or could be one of the people that are included in the numbers. My subconscious reminded me it was someone that I knew and someone very close to me.

Gillie’s Girls (We named it after our maternal grandmother and Claudia’s father’s mother)

For several years, my cousins and I get together bi-monthly and have quality girl time. Whenever we are together, we have intimate conversations. We are transparent about things happening in our lives. We encourage, support, and praise each other. During one of the conversations, Claudia shared with the group that she was a survivor of domestic violence. Here is her story.

Claudia was involved in abusive relationship for over 11 years. She knows that is a blessing to be a survivor and share her story. She does not take her being alive lightly because not all women/men are able to get away.72% of murder suicides involve an intimate partner. http://www.ncado.org/statistics.

The relationship did not start as physical. It began verbal, but it was disguised. It didn’t appear as what a person would think of as abuse. It was always questions about what she was doing? Where are you going? Who are you going with? Who was she talking to on the phone? If she didn’t answer any of these questions, it would be an argument. She could not change the location of where she told him she was going. If she did, it would be another argument. I asked her about one of the arguments that she remembered. She recalled a time when one of her maternal cousin’s mother passed away. Claudia told her ex-husband that she was going to her cousin’s house to spend time with her. While she was there, he was, constantly, calling her, but Claudia did not answer. She was focusing and utilizing her time on cousin as she was grieving. When she got home, he was very upset and an argument arose from her not answering.

When I captured this image, I imagined Claudia thinking of what all she has been through in life.

I asked her why did she decide to go ahead and get married if those things were happening prior to marriage. At the time, Claudia processed it as a way of him showing concern or his way of loving her. The reason he wanted to know where she was because he wanted to make sure she was safe. It made him her knight in shining armor. After marriage, the verbal abuse got worse. It progressed to him telling her she was fat, lazy, or stupid. He played on her emotions and mental state of being. He made her feel that she wasn’t beautiful and that no one else would want her. He played on her insecurities.

Claudia and Corwin in 2011

After marriage, the physical abuse began. The locations of where she was hit were hidden and disguised. They were strategically placed. The hits, bumps, and bruises were under her shirt or in the head. The bruises were never anywhere that anyone else could see. There would be words of love and endearment followed by words of hate and physical pain. It reminded me of the saying “oil and water can’t mix.” A person can’t promise you love and exemplify love while causing pain. That isn’t the way love operates. There were always promises of stopping. There were promises of changing and doing better. Please understand that a person can not change another person. The person has to want to change for himself/herself.

Claudia and Corwin (October 2021) 90’s theme party

I asked Claudia to tell me about the time when she knew enough was enough. Her ex-husband wanted to do a family day. Grudgingly, Claudia agreed. Before they left the house, Claudia received a call from a bill collector asking when they were going to pay the bill. After she hung up, she told her ex that family night was canceled because of the call. He wanted her to borrow the money from someone else for them to still go out. She felt paying the bill was more important and refused to ask a friend or family member for the money. His words to her. “I don’t know why I stayed married to your stupid ass. You get on my mother fucking nerves. I can’t wait til the day that I don’t have to be with you anymore. It won’t be much longer.” Claudia asked him to repeat what she said. The light switch went off in her head. Claudia did not want her son growing up thinking that it was ok for a man to talk to a woman nor treat a woman in this behavior. She’d prayed for a sign from God to show her when it was time to leave, and his words were that time. At the moment, they were living with her parents. She had nothing to lose. She told him to pack his things, to leave, and get out. Claudia states her son gave her the courage, and God gave her the strength to leave.

Claudia and her parents (Edwin and Virginia Jones). My uncle is deceased.

Claudia knows getting out of the relationship has made her a better person, as a sister, and a “damn good mom.” She has accomplished things in life and traveled locations that she would not have been able to do had she stayed. She is thankful for God bringing her through.

December 2018, Claudia completed her nursing assistant degree. Since then, she has continued her education and is a LPN.

Each time I interview someone, I, always, ask what advice would you give a person. Claudia’s advice is this. There are various resources and outlets that provide help to women and men that are in domestic violence relationship. Every person should be happy and feel loved because love doesn’t hurt. Love is kind and unwavering. Anytime your significant other says or does things that hurt, belittle, or make you feel less than what you are, you should get out. Don’t worry about being ashamed or embarrassed because life is more important than temporary embarrassment.

Claudia, the survivor

At this very moment, you might not have the strength to get out. I pray for each person that might be in a domestic violence relationship as you read. I pray that God orders your steps and gives you strength to get out of the potential life threatening situation. In my prayer, I will add the the prayer that Claudia prayed. “Lord, lay my path in front of me as clear as a stepping stone.” May God guide you to safety, freedom, and a better/safer life.

Claudia enjoying life and every moment it brings.


Here is the full interview on my YouTube page.