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. 💛💛💛

#oneofakind

#youwillbemissed

#foreverinourhearts

“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.

https://youtu.be/Pt1GAzJONb4

Here is the full interview on my YouTube page.

“We only have one life to live. Make sure you live your best life.”

A few weeks ago, I was at work, and one of my regular customers entered the lobby. I left my office and went to speak to Mr. John Doe (name has been changed for privacy reasons). I gave Mr. Doe a hug and asked how he’s been because it had been a while since I’d seen him. Mr. Doe said that he’d been given the diagnosis of having terminal cancer. I gave my apologies. He said for me not to apologize because he’s lived a good life. He said he was at peace and ready to be with God whenever the last breath left his body.

I was shocked and told him that I had never in my forty-four years of living heard anyone say that. He told me his reason why. His why was a promise he’d made to God over fifty years ago. Mr. Doe was drafted for the Vietnam war. At the time, his wife was pregnant with their son and was expected to deliver any moment. He was granted permission to stay at home for three months with her and the baby. He said during those three months that some of the people he knew from his hometown were killed in the war. When the time came for him to leave, he said he didn’t want to leave his wife, his new baby, and was afraid of the possibility of him losing his life as well. Mr. Doe told me that he prayed before he left. He said that he asked God if He would allow him to go to war and return back safely that he’d serve Him to the day he died. He said that was a promise that he kept. That was why he was at peace with his soon to be death.

His story really did something to me. I began to reflect over my life. I haven’t been to war, but I’ve had things that been earth shattering to my soul, moments that made me feel as if the wind had been knocked out my chest, and days and nights I’ve cried nonstop. I’ve experienced hurt that I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel. I’ve been lied on. I’ve asked God why did I have to endure those things and wondered if the truth would ever be revealed. During some of these moments, I became stressed and depressed. I couldn’t understand the why. Recently in prayer, God let me know that we might not always understand why some people do the things they do. I needed to quit stressing over things such as trying to understand those types of people. God wouldn’t let me give up. He gave me strength to keep going, to hang on, and share my testimony with someone else that might be going through something similar. I want people to know that no matter how hard it gets to never give up.

I captured this beautiful sunrise on my way to the gym one morning. Sunsets and sunrises are one of the most beautiful things that God gives. I, personally, look at it as my time from God to never give up.

This June, I went to Jamaica for my birthday. A lot of people asked me was I afraid of going internationally alone. I wasn’t because I was at peace within my spirit. There were several eventful things that happened that I could have let ruin my trip. Before I even left Memphis, I almost left my paperwork in my truck that I would have needed to enter the country. I almost missed my first flight . I’d left my paperwork for the covid test in my room that I needed in order to get back into the US. One healthcare worker didn’t want to let me sit and wait. Another one of the healthcare workers allowed me to stay, and she squeezed me in between other travelers that were prepared. I’d hired someone to take my pictures on the beach, but the photographer didn’t show up. After waiting over an hour, I asked a random worker from the resort if he’d take them. Despite all the hiccups, God showed me favor the entire trip. I went into more detail in my July blog in case you missed it. I could have let those things ruin my trip if I’d dwelt on it negatively. Instead, I went with the flow. My goal is to shift my mindset whenever a situation arises. It could be this, BUT it can also be that. Think the quantum theory we were taught growing up in our science class. It says for every negative, there is a positive. That’s the outlook I’m trying to live in my life.

One of the pictures that I had one of the resort employees took when the photographer canceled.

I bring up Jamaica for this reason.. I, too, said a prayer to God. It was my last day there in Jamaica that I gave God complete control over some situations going on in my life that were becoming overwhelming. In life, there are going to be sadness, heartaches and disappointments. I was going to my therapist and praying to God to help me endure. While I was there, I told God that I could not fix these situations. I said I can not understand everything that I am going through, but I put all the situations in His hand. I know that if I put the situations in His hands. I would have to stop trying to fix it and know that He would take care of me and the situations. I gave it all to Him on that day. Just a much as the trip was pleasure, it was spiritual and therapeutic trip as well

My last day in Jamaica. I made my first vlog here with this gorgeous background. https://youtube.com/channel/UCOZDt9VdVUzcirkECrifXyw

I know we’ve all heard the saying that life is short. It really is. We can be here today and be gone tomorrow. Think about it. There are people that you talked to on the phone and a few days later that person was gone from here on earth. We were unable to prepare for that person’s death. We are left shocked and hurting because of the quick demise. Sometimes, we have a family member or friend that is diagnosed with an illness as Mr Doe. The person is only given a few months to live. What do we do with that time? Do we sit and wonder what about the things that we should have done or could have done? Do we reflect on life and think about all things we’ve accomplished? Do we think about relationships we have with our friends and loved ones? What we could have done to make it better or to improve it? Do we think about and ask ourselves did we live our life to the best of our ability?

My reasons why I am trying to be the best version of Carman. These are my children. I want them to have a mom that is whole.

Here’s something else. Sometimes, we get caught up on wondering what other people will say about us if we do a certain thing. I can’t lie. In this past, this was something that I struggled with on a regular basis. Thanks be to God, I no longer care. I wondered if I wore this would I be criticized. If I said a certain thing and voiced me opinion about a situation, what will society think of me? We cannot control what people say about us. We cannot control what people think about us, but we can control how we respond to those things. We have to learn to not give people power and control over our lives. People will always have something to say. If we’re happy, they’ll say that it’s no way that person can be that happy. They’re just pretending. If we’re sad, they’ll say why are they sad. What’s wrong with them? They need to move on and quit being sad. That’s why we can’t get caught up on the opinions of others.

Me being happy with life

Life is truly short. It doesn’t matter if you made a promise to God. It doesn’t matter if you could care less what people say or do about you. It doesn’t matter if you have someone spreading lies on you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been through a bitter divorce. It doesn’t matter if you have lost friends that you thought would always be there for you. It doesn’t matter if you lost the job that you thought you’d retire from one day. I’m not saying those things aren’t meaningful. Nor am I saying that those things won’t bother you. I’m saying that you can’t quit living life when those things happen. Don’t get caught on people. Don’t give them your peace that you have worked hard to get to that place. Time is something that we can not get back. How we spend our time is important. We don’t want to reflect back on our lives and think of the should, woulda, and coulda’s. We need to live our lives to the fullest. We need to live our life with no regrets. Do what’s best for you and no one else!!!!! I want to be just like Mr. Doe and be at peace within myself and my spirit when my time here on earth is coming to an end. At the end of the day, you only have one life to live. Make sure you’re making the best of it.

Me not caring what anyone says because I’m out here living my best life.

https://youtu.be/5te68Sz6AFw

My YouTube post

“My Independence Day”

Today is July 4th, and this is my vlog post for this month.

Several people have asked me why I don’t have a YouTube channel. Honestly, I was reluctant because of my lack of knowledge when it comes to technology. I even had trouble today with uploading. I had to do it from my phone. The quality isn’t the best.

While I was on vacation, I had a lot of people to send me messages asking if I traveled to Jamaica alone. Here’s my reason why. This was my first and ONLY take. I had to finish packing for the plane. I hope you enjoy.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel to make sure you don’t miss any videos.

“Preparing for the ultimate race, this thing called life”

A marathon is 26.2 miles. It’s not just for super athletes. There are people of all shapes and sizes, ages, and genre that will begin. One can’t simply wait until the day of the race to start preparing and expect to win. There is work behind this. Everyone will start, but not all will make it to the end. The good thing about life is that we can all be winners.

Typically, training takes 16-20 weeks to prepare for the marathon. This includes the runner running 3-5 times a week. Each week, he/she should increase the miles ran. There should also include strength training for your muscles to help endure (http://www.runnerworld.com).

As I was thinking about this month’s blog, I thought about another kind of racing-horses. Growing up, my father had three horses. On the weekends, we would go and ride. I have always had an admiration for horses (their strength, their beauty, and their endurance).

I’m not sure if you ever watched or heard of the Kentucky Derby. It is one of the elite social events of the year. Men and women are decked in their finest attire. Women’s heads are adorned with the largest and most unique hat they can find. While it a social event, the horses have trained and prepared for the race.

Training is typically in the mornings. Trainers focus on physiological as well as the physical. It is important for the horse not to have anxiety on the day of the race http://www.ofhorse.com. When you see the horses on tv or in person, you should know there is plenty of work and preparation behind it.

I’m sure you are wondering where I am going with this. For me, life is a simile of a race. The moment, we are born, our parents began to prepare us for life. They know what lies ahead.. They have already experienced where we are going. They watch us grow from infants into adulthood. They try to shield us from being hurt. They know that some challenges will be won, and there will be some failures. It is what life brings.

My mom and I

Even though life brings forth obstacles, we must not quit. Sometimes, just as soon as we jump over one hurdle, another one is there waiting on us. It doesn’t matter if we trample over it, leap high without touching it, or run right through it, we will not be disqualified. The importance of it is to never quit.

Other times, there is rain. The sun can be beaming down our faces, and the rain can come pouring down unexpectedly. This is the last thing that a runner or a jockey on the horse would want. Rain slows you down. If you aren’t prepared, you might want to give up. In life, we will have days where things are going great. Then, booom!!!! Here comes the rain. Will you dance in the rain like no one is watching, or will you let it ruin your day?

Family vacation in 2017. In New Orleans, and we got caught in the rain.

As I was gathering information for this month’s blog, there was one article about how to mentally prepare for a race. A couple of suggestions were to visualize yourself finishing yourself finishing and to run your own race http://www.runninforsweets.com. That was very profound to me. We must realize that life is not a competition, and that we must focus on ourselves. The race your friend or family member is on will never be the race you are on. There might be similarities, but no one deals with situations exactly the same. That is what makes us unique.

Today is my 44th birthday. I’ve had journeys. I’ve had hills. I’ve had mountains. I’ve had bumps and bruises. I’ve had heartaches. I’ve felt faint. BUTTTTT I’ve had sunny days. I had love. I’ve had rainbows. I’ve had days filled with glitter and days where I made lemonade out of lemons. Even though life might get hard at times, I shall never quit. Whether it is a Boston Marathon or the Kentucky Derby, there can only be one winner. In life, we can all win. It is the perspective we choose.

The summarization of Ecclesiastes 9:11 is the race is not given to the swift nor to the strong but he that endures to the end. It is one of my favorite scriptures. It helps keeps me focused. Another quote I use often is a sermon that my father once preached. It says, “a good start is important, but the key is to finish.” With that being said-Let’s go running y’all. We have a race to finish!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Even superheroes get weak”

We all have that friend or family member we can depend on no matter what. That person is dependable and reliable. That person encourages and uplifts. Basically, that person is there whenever we need him/her. He/she is a confidant. He/she is trusting and a pleasure to be around. That person is our rock. If you ever had the pleasure of meeting, knowing, or spending time with Shay Ashford, you know she embodies all of these traits and characteristics.

What happens when the person we depend on and lean on so much gets weak? What happens when our rock is suffering in pain and in silence that he/she is willing to end it all? Because of a chronic illness, Crohn’s disease, Shay has suffered and dealt with pain day in and day out, and only a very few knew the extent of pain she was in. One day, Shay had enough. She asked her father, Chip Ashford, to take his gun and shoot her because of the pain she was in. We all depend on our rock. There are times, even our rock, our superheroes get weak.

Shay is a person that never complains. You would never know what she battling internally. I have been guilty of calling in for a headache. I’m sure I’m not alone for calling in and might could have gone ahead to work. Yet each day, she presses on in spite of how she is feeling and goes to work without complaining. A few weeks ago, I began a series on Shay and how Crohn’s affected her life. When she was diagnosed in 2007, there was not a lot of information about Crohn’s. During her interviews, I asked Shay how the flare ups made her feel, the number of surgeries she’s had, and some moments that stuck out to her as she deals with Crohn’s on a daily basis. In her words, “Crohn’s ruined my life.” Shay went from being the social butterfly and a star athlete to a person who was bedridden for days or weeks at a time and having to give up the sport she loved. Her body had now become her enemy. Since that time, she has had over four surgeries and over twenty hospitalizations. Ask yourself this question. Would you still be able to press on?

Prior to Crohn’s, Shay lived a carefree life. She was able to hang out with friends with no worries. After her diagnosis, she had to worry about how many times she would have to use the bathroom. She had to know how long the ride would be because of the possibility of having to use the bathroom. She had to know where she would be dining whenever she ate with friends or family. She would have to look up the menu prior to going to see if it was something she would be able to eat. After Crohn’s, Shay was no longer able to eat lettuce, popcorn, anything spicy, or crab legs (one of her favorite dishes). There would be no more overnight stays with friends. If she did agree to go, she had to make sure there would be multiple bathrooms. Shay’s main concern was that she did not want to take away the fun from others. She did not want to be a burden to anyone.

During our conversation, I asked Shay during one of her 20 hospitalization, was there any moments that stood out? There is one hospitalization that sticks out vividly in her mind. She was teaching for New Albany Public Schools. That morning, she had one of her flare up symptoms (thrush in her mouth). She said everything tasted like wood. Later that day, she began to feel worse. Her ears began to burn. For her, that is a tale-tale sign that bleeding has began in her body. Therefore, she knew that her symptoms and flare up was about to be worst. Prior to that day, Shay had already been to the ER 4-5 times because of her flare ups. Because of her symptoms and knowing and body, she knew she needed to get to the hospital fast. She calls for someone to cover her class and the nurse because she knew she had to get to the ER and quickly. The nurse would not let her drive herself to Tupelo. She met her father, Chip Ashford, halfway to Tupelo.

When she got to the room, she tells Chip that she has to use the bathroom. When she goes, the toilet is full of blood. She is weak and barely makes it back to the bed. Only a few minutes later, she has the urge to use the bathroom again. She tells Chip that she feels her body weakening and knows she is at the point of passing out. She told him she needed him to come with her because if she did pass out she would need someone to get her. Just as she suspected, she passes out in the restroom and has a dream.

Her dream is of flying pigs. They tell her “follow me Shay. Follow me into the light.” She begins to follow them. The sun was happy and shiny. She starts gravitating towards the light. After following them for a little while, she tells the pigs she can’t go the light. She tries to turn backwards, but she is unable to move. She attempts to turn again. This time, she awakens. When she does, she is on a gurney, and Chip is standing over her and asking her to wake up. She begins to vomit on the floor and in her hair. If you know Shay, you know she’s a germaphobe. She said she wasn’t worried about her body. She was worried if the vomit got in her hair. ☺️ On this visit, she has to be admitted for 3 days. Only few family members know that she is even there. They bring her one of her favorite stuffed animals, lady bug. The lady bug is symbolic for good luck. In that moment, good luck and positive vibes is what she needed.

Shay has endured four surgeries because of the Crohn’s. The most horrible surgery was in 2016. The reason for the surgery was because her bowel was not moving through her rectum as it should. She had anal fissure (tear in anal lining) and anal fistulas (infection in anus). Having the surgery was important because her body was identifying the stool as a foreign object. Her body was going into shock because of the pain. The pain she experienced prior to the surgery was nothing compared to the pain she felt after surgery. The only thing that helped eased the pain was bathing in warm water. Her mother, Carolyn, helped her into the tub. Even the warm baths weren’t helping. At that moment, Shay could not take anymore. She asked her dad to shoot her. That was the only way she felt that she could escape the pain. They all sat in the bathroom and cried as Shay suffered in pain. It would take months for her body to completely heal and for her to regain her strength. Still to this day, Shay said the pain she felt was the worst she ever felt in her life.

Typically, a person does not have colonoscopies until the age of 50 (http://www.cancer.org). Due to the in inflammation of the bowels, people that are diagnosed with Crohn’s are more likely to develop colon cancer (http://www.webmd.com). Due to Crohn’s, Shay has a colonoscopy every two years. In 2019, during one of Shay’s routine colonoscopies, the doctors were unable to complete it. The doctors were not able to see inside the colon with the scope because of two blockage, and there was a possibility of colon cancer. She was referred to a specialist. The doctors said that she would have to have surgery to go in to see what was going on. They gave her three scenarios because they didn’t know what it would look like when they went inside. Option A. The large intestines would be taken out and reconnect the small intestines. They would make a clean passage. The small intestines would do what the large intestines used to do. Option B. Everything did not go as smooth, and she would have to wear a colostomy bag for six weeks. She would go back after six weeks and reconnect the small intestines to the rectum. That is if it was a little irritation. The colostomy bag is a plastic bag that collects feces from the digestive tract with and opening from the abdominal wall (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com) Option C. If they go in, try to connect it, and it won’t connect, she would have to wear the colostomy bag permanently for the rest of her life. The doctors felt that because of her being young that option a is what they were hoping for, but she had to be prepared for option C. She didn’t want to have surgery. She did pray about the options, but she was afraid. Shay felt that she PTSD from the surgery of 2016. She didn’t want to have the surgery because of what previously happened. She was afraid of the healing process and wondered what would the pain level be this time around. She researched YouTube, talked to her doctors, and called her friends to get insight on what would happen. None of it helped, but she decided to go ahead and go through the surgery. In order to prevent the risk of colon cancer, Shay’s entire right colon and appendix was removed on December 17, 2019. The hospitalization was four days.

She said it was the best decision ever in her life. She wish she’d done it earlier. It didn’t take away her having Chron’s, but she no longer suffers in pain each day. She is able to eat things that she previously had to let go. She no longer lives her life in fear. Before the total right colon removal, Shay was afraid of trying new things and living her full potential because of her illness. Now, the fear is gone. She is able to live a care free life. She is able to bet he social butterfly that she once was. I am glad and thankful that Chip did not honor her request.

Remember, just because you see someone smiling, it does not mean there isn’t pain behind it. There are people that push through the pain regardless of what is going on with their bodies. They get up, get dressed for work, encourage you, pray for you, and still have a smile on their face. BUT!!!!!! If you don’t remember anything else, remember this!!!!!! There are times, even our superheroes get weak.

“There are superheroes living amongst us each day “

Many of us wake up each day with no pain. We get up and go about our morning/daily routine (showering, breakfast, leave for school or work). Have you ever stopped and thought that waking up with no pain is actually a blessing? For the person that suffers with Crohn’s disease or any type of chronic illness, the person may not have the luxury of waking up with no pain.

March is recognized as colon cancer awareness month. I did a three part series on my friends, Gary and Mary Pat Hancock. When I was discussing my topic for the month of March with one my close friends, Shay Ashford, she reminded me about having her total right colon removed in order to prevent the possibility of her getting colon cancer as a Crohn’s patient. Statistics show that every 1 out of 20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. People with Crohn’s have an even higher risk of obtaining it. http://www.everdayhealth.com. Initially, I thought she would be the week four blog post in the month of March to conclude the series, but there was so much to her story that needed to be shared as well. It would be impossible to tell it all in one week.

If you were like me, you might not even know what Crohn’s disease is. I had not heard of it until Shay told me about her diagnosis and how having Crohn’s has affected her life. Before I share part one her story of her with her battle of how having Crohn’s diseased changed her life, I need to explain what Crohn’s is and how it affects people.

Crohn’s disease is an chronic illness. It is inflammation of the bowel. Some of the symptoms are excruciating stomach pains, fatigue, severe diarrhea, malnutrition, and fatigue. Sometimes, the complications of Crohn’s can lead to death. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease. People that live with it have to learn how to live with it and attempt to do certain things to reduce pain and flare ups. http://www.mayoclinic.org

The symptoms can be mild or severe. They can develop or a period of time, or it can hit a person at all once. This is called the active time period. During this active period, the list of possibilities of symptoms goes on. Sadly, a person can experience several of these symptoms at once. Other symptoms besides the ones from above are blood in stool, mouth sores, reduced appetite, pain or drainage in the anus, inflammation in several areas (skin, eyes, joints, liver, or bile ducts), iron deficiency and kidney stones. If you have some of those symptoms, it does not mean you have Crohn’s. The time to see the doctor is when you are experiencing blood in stool, days of diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, unexplained fever, or abdominal pain http://www.mayoclinic.org. There are even times when nothing is going on. This period is called remission.With symptoms as these, I would personally call it moments of gratitude because I wouldn’t be in pain.

Since November 2003, this was not the case for Shay. It would be the moment that her life would forever change, and things would never be the same. Shay remembers it as if it were yesterday. She was in her college dorm room watching an episode of The Golden Girls when she would have experience her first symptoms; what we now know as her experiencing her first flare up. She felt sick to her stomach and had to go to bathroom. She was vomiting and experiencing diarrhea. Shay assumed it was something she’d eaten and didn’t put much thought into it. Around day 5 of the same thing going on, Shay was extremely weak that her basketball coach had to come feed her like an infant. The smell of food would not allow her to keep anything down. This went on for 7-8 days. After lasting that long, Shay knew it was more than a stomach bug or a bad case of diarrhea. She just didn’t know what it was.

The next severe flare up did not happen until the summer of 2004. Shay was on the track field with her basketball team. Her vision became blurry, and her ears began to hurt. The coach blew the whistle for the team to begin. Shay could not move because of not being able to see and the pain in her ear. She began to black out. Her coach yelled at her because she was not running with her teammates. He asked her was she scared to work out. He even gave her an option. He told her she could either start working out or pack her bags and go home. If you know Shay, she is an athlete. She has been involved in sports all her life. She was not a quitter. She gathered up some strength and began walking as fast as she could around the track. Every 10 steps, she was vomiting on the track. She only made 1 lap around the track, and she collapsed. She doesn’t remember how she got back to her dorm room.

This flare up lasted almost 2 weeks. She was experiencing constant diarrehea, rapid weight loss, no desire to eat, and thrush in the mouth. Shay was going from doctor to doctor to see what was going on with her body. Doctors were saying it was bacteria in her blood, the flu, or a stomach virus. She was having a side effects from the medications on the same time having a flare up, but she didn’t know it was a flare up. She was having to use the bathroom approximately 4 times in each hour. The diagnosis the doctors were giving her symptoms were absurd. She knew it wasn’t the flu. She knew it wasn’t a stomach virus. She lost 40 pounds in 3 days. Her teammates would be shocked when they saw her. Shay was in her room crying and praying for an answer. Due to her being in pain and not being able to practice, Chip, her father, came and withdrew her from school. Shay enrolled at ICC on a basketball scholarship. The head coach gasped when Shay arrived on campus. Shay was not the athlete she’d watch play in high school. Shay told her she was overcoming a sickness. She assured the coach that she would be able to practice if she would bare with her during this time.

In January 2005, there was a little relief. Shay went to a gastroenterologist and was diagnosed with Crohn’s. Even though she had the diagnosis, it didn’t help much. There was little information out about Crohn’s. The doctors didn’t know how to control it or how to reduce the symptoms. The doctors were changing her medications to see what happened. In the first 2 years, she changed about 6 times. The doctors told her to keep up with what foods made her sick and what didn’t. Her weight and health was in such bad condition. Typical body fat for athletes ranges from between 14-20% http://www.healthline.com. During this time, Shay’s body fat was reduced to 10%.

In August 2006, Shay transferred to the University of Alabama. The first year wasn’t bad. She would have min-flare ups that lasted 1-2 weeks instead of the 2-4 weeks before diagnosis. The college got a new basketball coach in June 2007. Shay was excited. Her stamina was coming back. She was looking forward to a new season. July 2007, Shay woke up that morning feeling dizzy. She went to the bathroom, and everything was coming out on both ends. When she flushed the toilet, all she saw was blood. Within 20 minutes, it was still going on, and Shay used the bathroom 4 more times. She freaked out. She called the coach, but he didn’t answer. She called the trainer. The trainer asked if she was able to drive to the school’s infirmary. Somehow, she was able to make it. It was nothing but the grace of God that allowed her to get there safely. During the drive, her head was spinning, ears were burning, and her vision was blurred. Once she was inside of the clinic, she passed out. She remembers the nurse slapping her in the face telling her to wake up and not to die on the floor. The nurse was kind and helped Shay clean herself up before the paramedics came to take her to the ER. When the paramedics came and rolled her out, Shay remembers seeing her teammates and coaches outside watching. All she could think about at that moment was being embarrassed because they’d seen her in that condition.

For 2 days, Shay remained in the hospital with no answers. Chip came and drove her to NMMC. The doctors discovered she had ulcers in her intestines. She had to receive blood at the hospital and another form of medication at the cancer center. After about 15 minutes of her second treatment, Shay had an allergic reaction to the Remicade and couldn’t breathe. The nurse inserted Benadryl into the treatment. They tried one more time doing the blood treatments at the cancer center, and the same thing occurred. That had to be stopped. It was trial and error with her body and her medications. Her medications had been changed many times. She had taken prednisone, flagly, Remicade, and some other pills. Now, her flare ups included everything she was already experiencing with bloody stools, receiving blood, and hospitalization that lasted for days. Would this ever stop? Would Shay ever get any relief?

I asked her how did the flare ups make her feel and how often was she having them. From 2004-2009, she was having flareups 4-5 times a year. 2010-2015, she was having them 2-4 times those years. 2016-2017, there were 6 flare ups. 2016 was a very bad year for her. Later, you’ll read why. Her answer to how the flare ups made her feel was the she had no control over her body. She was afraid of going places in fear of the possibility of having to go to the bathroom. There was no word to describe the pain that she was feeling. She felt that she had lost her true identity of Shay because of Crohn’s. She didn’t want to be a burden to a potential spouse because of her illness. She felt bad because of her parents or grandmother having to take off work to take care of her. She felt useless as a person.

The first time her grandmother, Lula, saw her. She began to cry. She said my baby is dying. That was a moment that Shay will never forget. In actuality, Mrs. Lula did not realize how true of a statement she made. I recalled one weekend going to the movies. I’d seen the movie, A fault in our stars. The movie was about a two teenagers with terminally and chronically ill patients that fell in love. Their parents did not want them to be together because they knew the end results for their lives. At the end, they die. After it was over, Shay and I were on the phone. I was in tears about the movie. I will never forget Shay telling me that is how she feels. There is not a day that her body is not in pain. She was smiling on the outside and going through her day, but she was in severe pain internally. There was a point that Shay should have died, she could have died, and Shay wanted to die because of the pain, how her life completely changed, and how things were no longer the same. In 2016 (during one of her flare ups), Shay was in excruciating pain and was unbearable. To escape the pain and misery, she asked her father to take his gun and shoot her…….