“Find your village”

My children and I (July 2021)

Beyonce’ sings, “who runs the world? Girls?” Women, really, do run the world. Often times, we are overlooked, overworked, overwhelmed, unappreciated, and underpaid. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, cousins, grandmothers, bosses, entrepreneurs, and much more. Each of these roles have different meanings for every woman. March is recognized as Women’s History Month. This blog goes out to all the women of the world. 🌎

My mom, sisters, and I

There never seems to be enough time in the day to get it all done. It doesn’t matter how early we wake up; it is something that wasn’t done during the 24 hours. The demands and expectations of women are exhausting. Society expects us to be “Superwoman.” Some will say, she needs to cook breakfast for her children before she goes to work. Others say, if she is a mother that gives them the pop tart or something quick, she’s criticized for not providing her children with a hot meal. If she returns to work after having a newborn, some people in society make her feel bad for returning. If she stays at home, some in society “assume” that she is not doing anything because she is a stay at home mom. The criticism doesn’t end, and women are trying to live up to the expectations of people that don’t even matter in their lives.

If the children are involved in after school activities, the day doesn’t end. She has to pick up her child/children from school or after school location. Then, they are in route to the activity. After the activity, they arrive home. Sometimes, there is homework to still be done, baths to be given, and meal to still be prepared. Regardless, if she is a stay at home mother or in the work environment, what time has she spent for herself? To answer the question, it leaves very little time.

Men don’t mind playing golf, shooting basketball, going fishing, getting haircuts, playing flag football, or going to the cigar lounge with their friends and leaving their family at home. It is women that think that we have to do everything with our children (getting groceries, going shopping, going to the salon, etc). Why do we think that we can’t do the same as men? A lot of it is because of what society has taught us or the way we were raised (our culture and environment). We have a feeling of guilt when we have alone time, but women need to have alone time as well.

It is important to have alone time. Alone time can be getting a massage, a manicure, a pedicure, a facial, going to the movies, going to the library, going to see your therapist, reading a book, journaling, or whatever makes you happy. Alone time increases mental strength, creates happiness, and helps you get to know yourself better. https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2017/08/05/7-science-backed-reasons-you-should-spend-more-time-alone/?sh=69d8e06c1b7e . Leaving little time for yourself is the complete opposite. Having little time for oneself could lead to a feeling of being burnt out, anxiety, and depression.

Going to the movies is one of my favorite relaxation activities is going to the movies.

Women are walking around with anxiety/depression and don’t even know it. Some of the symptoms are sleep disturbances, sadness, changes in appetite, lack of energy, or mood swings. There are many more. Statistics show that women are twice as likely to experience anxiety or depression then men. Without help from a therapist/psychologist and even at times with help from a licensed individual, depression can last weeks, months, or years. Typically, the signs of depression are ignored because women feel that is an effect from the day to day living. In actuality, it is much more than cause and effect of daily living. https://www.psycom.net/depression/depression-in-women.

As women, we have to come to the realization that we can’t do it all. We look at our grandmothers and think that she did it with no problems. We look at our mothers and think she did it with no problems. We say to ourselves, ” if they did, I can too. I don’t have to have help. If I ask for help, I will be looked at as weak. Aren’t women supposed to be able to do it all?” What we may not know is that grandma and momma might have been exhausted and cried at night when she was alone to herself. This is why having a village is important. I don’t care if you are a single mom, married woman, married with children, divorced, or divorced with children. We all need a village.

My grandmother and I…. I miss her everyday. 🥹

For me, my village is my children, my parents, siblings, my therapist, some family and friends that I can’t imagine not having in my life. Some people aren’t blessed to have relationships with their children, parents, siblings, certain family members, or friends. Who is your village?

My parents, siblings, and I

Your village is people that you can depend on to take the kids to soccer practice. Your village is people that will take kids to gymnastics. Your village is people that you can depend on when you need a listening ear. Your village is people that will not judge when you say I am weak. Your village is people that will help you and take your kids to the movies when need a break. Your village is people that you can go to the Mexican restaurant, laugh all night, and have some margaritas to unwind. Your village is people that will pray with you when you can’t seem to pray for yourself. Your village is your support when you have distanced yourself because you are depressed but don’t know it. Your village is people that check on you when they notice you aren’t yourself lately. Your village is people that never give up on you even though you say you are ok. Your village is people that it is ok to ask for help.

As women, we need to remove the stigma that we have to do it alone. Just because you ask for help, it doesn’t make you weak. In actuality, it makes you strong because you are taking care of yourself. It’s perfectly ok to have alone time to yourself and not feel bad about it. This is why it is important to identify your village.

Even though my children are grown, I can contact my village and have them to pray for my children. My village will pray for me. My village will text me when I am feeling sad and put that smile on my face. My village will FaceTime me and say I haven’t seen your face lately. My village will let me send them “book” text messages and read it in its entirety. My village will allow me to be vulnerable when I have worn a smile on my face all day long.

My children when they were small. 💛💛💛

To my village, thank you. I can’t do life without you! You are appreciated!!!!!

“New Year. New Location. New Me. New Life.”

With tears in my eyes, this was my last day living in MS.

Sometimes, we sing songs without them having a personal meaning. We sing it because we heard it on the radio, at home, or in the church. Young teenage me led a gospel song in my church’s young adult choir. It is called “New Life.” I led the song because I was told to lead it by my choir director, who happened to be my mom. ☺️ With my recent move, I was talking to one of my friends. She said “Carman, do you remember the song you sang growing up, Brand New Life?” I said yea. She said that’s what you’re living.” Later on that day and several moments since then, I have reflected on the words of the song. Now, “New Life” has a more personal meaning for the grown up me.

Verse one says “I moved from my old house. I moved from my old friends. I moved from my old way of strife. Thank God, I moved out to a brand new life.” Verse two says “He changed my old way with words. He changed my old leveled mind. He changed my heart and gave me new start. Thank God, I moved out to a brand new life.” Bridge.. “Can’t you see I’m a new man. Don’t you know I got a new name. And one day, I’ll live in a brand new land.” She ends it with saying. “I got a new walk. I got a new talk. I got a new look. I got a new name. I got a new heart. I got a new mind. I got a new home, and a new start is going my way. Yes, it is. Because I moved out to a brand new life.”

July 31, 2022, my first day in Florida

The lyrics are talking about how God changed the person’s heart from a sinner to now a believer in Christ. I thought about the words in a literal sense for what is going on in my life for the year of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. I can say that I truly appreciate the words to the song even more.

Often times when we reflect back in life, we ask ourselves the question if we saw ourselves doing a particular thing a year ago. I wouldn’t even have to go back a year. I can say if someone asked me these questions six months ago that my answers would not have been yes. If someone asked me, Carman, do you think you’d live in another state? I would have said no. If someone asked me if I was going to teaching English for over 125 middle school students, I would have quickly said heck no. Never in my life, I would not have seen myself doing either of them. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord.” I am trusting in His plan more and more each day.

This summer when I drove to do Florida to do my preliminary paperwork.

After being in banking for 25 years, it was harder learning something totally different. I had to shift my brain from bank customers to students. I had to learn new things.Banking has federal regulation that employees have to abide by each day. Teachers have state and federal regulations and laws too.

My last day at the bank. (Headed to work, last selfie, my goodbye) ✌🏾✌🏾

When I was reading or hearing a coworker speak of 504 plans, ESE, ESL, those things were like listening and learning a foreign language. All of them have certain things that the teachers must do in order to make sure the appropriate student is being treated fairly and ensuring the right accommodation/s are made in order for the student to be successful in the classroom. Initially, I was becoming frustrated because it was taking me longer to catch on. I prayed and gave myself a pep talk. I told myself that I deserved grace. I didn’t know banking the first day I began. It took time to learn those things. Why was I so hard on myself to learn benchmarks, IEP’s, and what a 504 accommodations in a week or even a month? As each day arrives, I learn a little more each day. As each day arrives, that light inside my brain clicks each day. As each day arrives, my understanding develops more and more.

First day of school, August 10, 2022

Even in the short time that I have been teaching, God has blessed me. The school district had a voluntary writing contest about Dr. Martin Luther King. I’d told all my students about it and encouraged them to write. If you have or know 7th grade children, they don’t want to do anything that’s not mandatory. A couple of days before the deadline, the principal asked all teachers (not just the English department) to ask our students again if they would consider participating in the contest. Our school had won in the past, but how could we win again if we didn’t have anything to submit in middle school division? I have two advanced classes and some strong writers in one of my regular class. I asked all my students again and pleaded with those three classes. Out of more than 125+ students, I had two that submitted essays.

Picture from Readers Digest

All submissions were to be printed and turned in to the central office on October 31 by 11:00 am. That morning, we experienced technical issues. My students were trying to email me their essays for me to print. They didn’t have me until 6th period. 6th period doesn’t begin until after 1:00 pm. We were trying to meet the deadline. They were going from teacher to teacher to get it to email with the attachment or have the teacher to go ahead and print it. Neither option was working. We were down to almost the last hour. Finally, it went through to one of the front desk secretaries. She printed it off for the students and gave them to Dr. Leatherwood (school principal). Dr. Leatherwood made sure there would be no technical issues with the students meeting the deadline. She had them driven to the central office.

Dr Leatherwood (school principal) and I at award banquet for Rising Star Teacher

One morning, during 3rd period, I was sitting at my desk and received an email. The subject line said “Congratulations.” I opened it to read. One of my students won the written essay contest in the entire school district for the middle school division. Polk County is the the 7th largest school district in Florida with over 150 schools. I screamed inside the class. My students said “Ms Long. What is it?” I told them that one of my students won the essay. Immediately, I called the principal and asked her to check her email. She made an announcement over the school’s intercom letting the student body and staff know of the accomplishment.

Part of the program

There was a banquet with all winners from K-12. The attendees were all the winners and family (1st-3rd place from every division), teacher (of the student with overall winner of the particular division ), and principals (from the perspective student) were invited to attend. There were employees from the school district, the sheriff of Polk County and some of his staff, and other local politicians that were attendance with us. The winners from each division read their essays to the entire crowd. My student and I were recognized on stage and had our picture taken for the school’s website. This week, one of the local newspapers came to the school and interviewed the two students from our school that won the essay, their teachers, and our principal. It will be printed this week. The Lord continues to bless.

Martin Luther King award banquet

A few weeks after the Martin Luther King award, I received another email. I was selected as “Rising Star” for my school, Citrus Ridge: A Civics Academy. The award is for first year teachers that are making a difference in their school. The award is given by a national women organization, Delta Kappa Gamma. I am not the only first year teacher at Citrus Ridge, but I am very humble and ecstatic about being selected. There was a banquet for it as well. After the ceremony, several came to me and said that my story was inspiring. I take no credit. I give all the glory to God.

Photos from the Rising Star banquet

As other schools in the US, Florida has state testing at the end of the year. During the school year, Florida has the students do practice testing for preparation. Teachers and administrators are able to see if students are digressing, staying the same, or progressing. For the majority of my students, they are improving. It makes me happy to see that they are trying their best. That’s what I encourage them to do on a daily basis. I have four classroom rules. The last one says “believe in yourself.” I do not allow them to tell me that they can’t do it or allow them to put themselves down. I will tell them quickly to read rule number four.

My classroom rules

One of my students came to me on Friday. At the beginning of the school year, I could not get him to read or participate during class. Friday morning, he said “hey Ms. I studied for my test.” I said you did. I’m proud of you. Then, he asked when we were going to the library again because he had been reading at home for 30 minutes a day as I asked them to do. He was finished reading his book and needed another one. I told him it would not be until next week, but I had some on my book shelf that he could pick out. He grabbed a book about football. When he left my class, I began to cry. I know it seems minute, but it is really huge. A lot of the students are below reading level. This is not just for my school. It is all over the United States. If you look at statistics, you will see that America has a problem with literacy. https://www.crossrivertherapy.com/research/reading-statistics The thing is, he could have gotten two books when we last went to the library, but he only got one. Now, he has an excitement to go to the library and to check out two books. Yes. I was in tears because my prayers are being answered.

Before I stepped foot in the school, my prayer to God was that my classroom be a safe place. I prayed that the students know that they are loved. I prayed that I instill values in them. I prayed that they develop a passion to read and write. I know that I will not be able to have all 125+ on board, but I want as many as I can. As long as I am in the classroom, I will always give my best to the students. It is a learning process for me as well. I know together that we can do it.

This is what I want my students to say about me. Not because I’m cool but because I changed their lives and made a good

Let’s keep living Carman. The only way to go is up. I’m thankful for the opportunity for a new job. A new home. A new location. A new me. A new life. .. #blessup

“Trying to be perfect almost got me killed”

The first minute is the same from part one but keep watching.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month might have ended in October, but it is an ongoing daily battle for women, men, and children. Statistics shows that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of physical abuse (examples beating, burning, strangulation). Also, statistics show that 1 out of 15 children will be exposed to domestic violence, and 90% of the children will actually witness the abuse. 20% death of intimate homicides weren’t the actual victims themselves, but the homicide victims were family, friends, law enforcement responders, bystanders, or neighbors that tried to intervene. https://ncadv.org/STATISTICS. Even though Tiffany wasn’t aware of the statistics, she was aware of what her family would do to her lover if they were aware of what was going on inside her home. For those reasons, she never told any of them what was happening inside her home for years and years. One day, her world would come tumbling down, and everything she tried to keep secret for the sake of being “perfect” would be exposed.

Abuse affects children as well. Tiffany recalls a time when Camden informed one of his elementary teachers about what was happening at their home. The principal had her to come to the school to talk about it. Tiffany denied the allegations because she wanted to protect the image of her boyfriend. Studies show that children living in an abusive home grow up as adults with certain issues (depression, alcoholism, obesity, tobacco use, unwanted pregnancies, and more). https://assets.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/children_and_dv.pdf. Tiffany had been in an abusive relationship with him for almost 8 years. Her children were about to enter high school. Their first day of school would be August 4th. Tiffany prayed to God for a way out. She told Him that she didn’t want to still be in the toxic relationship anymore.

On July 29th, Tiffany confronted her lover about a cash app card that came to their house. The name on the card said “my king.” During the length of their relationship, her lover had numerous affairs. This was the final straw for her. It meant her lover had brought the woman to their home. For Tiffany, it was the ultimate sign of disrespect. She decided to confront him about the card that arrived at the house. When he arrived home, he was angry. He was upset that she’d opened his mail. He began to choke her. On other occasions, Tiffany fought back. This time, it was no fight left in her. She made up in her mind that enough was enough. That day would be the day she would call the police. This was something she’d never done before. After he was done choking her, she hugged him. It was her final goodbye.

A few months after she left

When he went outside, she called 911. When the police arrived, he ran away. The police were not able to find him. Tiffany’s mother lived next door. Tiffany had to let her know why the police were at her home. For years, Tiffany keep the secret that she was being abused from her family and close friends. Even though Tiffany never mentioned anything to anyone about what was going on, her mom suspected something was happening because of the bruises on her arm. She never went around when she had busted lips. With her makeup skills, she was able to hide her blacked eyes. When her mom would ask her what happened, Tiffany made excuses, but her mom didn’t believe her. In order to protect her and her lover, Tiffany made a decision. Tiffany wanted to keep the appearance of “perfection.” In order to keep that look, she made the decision to keep herself and her children away. She and the children stopped going around her family. She knew that if the kids went alone that they might have been questioned by her family. As children, they would have told what was happening inside the home. She isolated them from their family. Tiffany knew that if her family knew what was going on that her lover would be in danger. Someone she loved might have been one of the homicide statistics. After making the call to 911, Tiffany was no longer able to hide anything from them.

As in many larger families, once you tell one person, the information keeps going down the line. ☺️ A few days later, Tiffany decided to inform her oldest brother what was going on. She wanted him to hear it from her. As she was on the phone with her brother, her lover came from behind the house. She was not expecting to see him. 60.8% of females and 43.5% of men have been stalked by current or former lovers. https://ncadv.org/STATISTICS. When she saw him, she screamed. Her lover grabbed the phone out of her hand and hung up the call. Her brother, that lives in New Jersey, began to freak out. It was nothing he could do to help being that far away. The only thing he could do was call their mom and tell what happened. Her brother didn’t know if her lover had taken her away or what. As Tiffany recalls the incident, tears form in her eyes. Her children heard her screaming, but they were afraid to open the door. They didn’t know what was going to happen if they’d opened the door. The police arrived, but he ran off again. What Tiffany suspected about her siblings was right. When she told her siblings what occurred, they wanted to retaliate and do bodily harm to him. She didn’t want them to do that because they had families on their own. Therefore, she told them not to do anything.

Tiffany and Chloe and Camden

I asked her why did she stay in the relationship for the eight years and endure all that she had. It was because of the love she had for him. If she had him to leave or made him leave, “she would have let him come back.” Tiffany said that God had to harden her heart because “when it was over, it was over.” That was the end of their relationship. Tiffany did not take him back.

Tiffany with her brothers

Tiffany said that being in an abusive relationship is a generational thing. Her grandmother went through it. Her mother went through it. She went through it. Studies have shown that children that witness abuse in some fashion are likely to repeat the same pattern. They are either victims or the abusers. https://assets.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/children_and_dv.pdf. Tiffany wants to break the cycle in order for her children. She does not want them to endure an abusive relationship. She asks them all the time “are they mad at her for staying so long.”They said “no momma. We’re not mad at you. You did what you had to do.” Tiffany said even though she went through a lot that “they went through a lot too.”

Tiffany and her siblings

I asked her what things she was doing in order to make sure they don’t repeat the cycle. Did they have counseling or etc? They haven’t been to counseling, but Tiffany has open and candid conversations with her children. Tiffany said she was raised not to talk about her feelings. Her family is well known around the community. Therefore, it was forbidden to discuss anything that goes on in your home. It was important to keep up the “facade as being perfect Christian people.” Tiffany said life is not perfect. She said that (keeping secrets) is not the way she and her generation are raising their children. They made a choice not to be like the older generations of their family. If something is bothering them, they will talk about it. Tiffany said she has told her children that “she has nothing to hide. There is nothing that anyone can come to you about me that I haven’t already told you. I am an open book. God seems who I am. I’m not perfect.” She is vocal to her children about what happened to her and apologized to them for putting them through it. This is the first time that she is she vocal to the world about her experience. She wants to help someone that might be going through the same thing to not endure it any longer. She wants she/he to get help.

Tiffany and siblings

Regardless of the topic, I always ask the person I’m interviewing what advice would you give someone that is dealing with what the same situation. Tiffany says, “to anyone (male or female), you have to love yourself. If you don’t love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to love you? Love is not supposed to hurt. It’s not someone putting their hands on your physically. Mentally abusing you. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it. If you are going through it, prayer will work, but talk to someone. Don’t hide it. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Get out. Get out now!”

Two of Tiffany’s sisters

As Tiffany reflects on having gone through this traumatic experience, it helped her realize that she does not have to “be perfect.” In her mind, she has struggled with thinking that she has to look a certain way to be accepted by family, friends, and lovers. She began wearing a full face of makeup at 16. That’s why she was good at hiding the black eyes that her ex placed on her. She is able to put on makeup with perfection.

All her life, Tiffany said she was more of a bigger girl. She was considered “fat.” She was told by family members that she needed to lose weight. When she left the house, Tiffany would wear three girdles in order to have the “perfect shape.” Even though she didn’t want to do these things (wear a full face of makeup or wear girdles), she did it for approval. Tiffany knows that seeking love and approval from her ex is another reason that she endured the relationship as long as she did with him. It wasn’t until last year that she felt comfortable in her body and to love her shape. If that man can not accept her body for what it, he can get the deuces.

She is still a work in progress. She is still working on not having a full face of makeup each time that she goes out. One day, Tiffany said she is going to be all natural. It will take all her courage to walk out of her front door without any makeup, without a wig, or without lashes. Now, Chloe is 16. She has told Chloe that is ok not to have a desire to wear makeup. All Chloe wants to wear is eyeliner, and Tiffany loves the fact that her daughter is comfortable in her natural beauty. She loves the fact that she knows that she doesn’t have to look “perfect” for the approval of people because being “perfect” almost got her killed.

“I learned to be careful what I asked God for in prayer.”

Part 1 of Tiffany’s testimony

I want you to think for a moment. I want you to reflect on the last time you were in a room with at least 20 or more people. For every minute, at least 20 people are physically abused. Keep reflecting. Out of that 20, 1 out of the 3 are women have experienced physical violence from their partner. 72% of murder-suicide are by people in relationships. Sadly, 94% of those murder victims are women. Even if it were a man, it would still be sad. https://ncadv.org/STATISTICS These heart breaking statistics go on and on.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, dial 211 for help.

I had the honor and privilege of interviewing someone I love, Tiffany Shaw, for the month of October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month). She thought that her prayers would changed her lover. Would it change him, or would she be the one changed? Here is Tiffany’s story.

Tiffany’s occupation is a caregiver. She loves helping people. Her words were “it is a blessing and a cursing”. She and her lover were childhood sweethearts. After reuniting on Facebook, they started back dating. In the beginning, things were good, but “things quickly changed.” Tiffany said there were signs in the beginning, but she ignored them. I asked her what were some of the signs he displayed. Initially, it was anger. She felt that she could pray the bad behavior away. If she prayed, she thought it would turn him to become a better man.

Tiffany was confused by the change in his behavior because he’d never acted that way. He began to question her about her past relationships. Whenever she answered him, he became upset. She felt if was from his insecurities and jealousy. It did not take long before the behavior escalated to physical abuse. Tiffany remembers the first time he put his hands on her. Just as before, he asked her about one of her previous relationships. He got upset and started choking her. He apologized, and she accepted it. She said it would be the “first of many times that it happened.”

The manipulation and toxic love continued. He called her ugly, whore, dumb, slow, and told her she acted like an old woman. He used the words “if you love me, you wouldn’t leave me. If you leave, you are doing the same as others.” For Tiffany, she had a point to prove. She wanted to prove to him and herself that she was better than the other women that had been in his life. She was in it, committed to the relationship, and committed to him. He used the words “you made me do this.” Tiffany began to believe all the words he spoke to her. She thought, maybe, she shouldn’t have confronted him about his cheating. She said he was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Tiffany said if a person were to see him in person the person wouldn’t believe the things he did to her behind closed doors.

Even with the toxic love, she accepted his behavior. She accepted his cheating. Because of the death of her father at an early age, Tiffany desired and longed for the love of a man. He did certain things for her children. Tiffany has a set of twins from a previous relationship (Chloe and Camden). She was convinced this man was the one. She felt this was the love from a man that she was missing in her life.

Tiffany as an infant

I asked Tiffany to recall one of the worst incidents. She had no problem recalling that horrible day. They’d gone to the convenience store. Tiffany didn’t want to go inside, but he had her to go in to buy the items he wanted. To keep down confusion or a possible argument, she went inside. As she was in line to check out, there was a man in the line behind her. He told her she had something on her back. Politely, the man took it off for her shirt. When she got back to the car, her ex asked her why the man touched her butt. She told him the man did no such thing. Immediately, he punched her in the mouth. Tiffany was shocked because he’d never physically abused her in public before. At home, she’d already been choked. She’d already been punched in the eye. Now, his anger was escalating.

Her lip was swollen very badly. She had no choice but to go to the emergency room to get it seen about. As most domestic violence victims, she took up for him and denied what happened to cause her to have a swollen lip. She told the hospital that she and her son were trying to catch the dog. He jumped, and his head hit her lip. She was embarrassed and didn’t want to go home. She would have to face her children. He’d hit her before. Usually, it was places that couldn’t be seen. Once, he hit her in the eye. She was able to cover up all the other bruises with makeup. There was no makeup to cover a busted lip.

When she arrived home from the emergency room, 11 year old Camden was outside waiting on her. The lies continued. Tiffany told them she had an accident. Her children had never seen him actually hit her, but they heard the arguments. They did not believe what she said. They knew what she said wasn’t true.

Camden at a younger age

The thing is that he would never hit her while her children were around. One day, he didn’t know they were home. Earlier that day, Tiffany checked the mailed. Inside, there was a cash app card. The name on the card said “my king.” Tiffany was furious. She said it meant that the other woman knew where they lived, and it was a sign of total disrespect.Tiffany called him and confronted him. When he arrived home, he was furious for being confronted. He began to yell and attack her. When she asked him was he going to continue to do this with the kids being upstairs, he immediately stopped. She went upstairs to check on her children. Instead, the twins asked her how she was. She put on a pretend face and said she was ok. Her son told her that her behavior scared him. He’d heard them arguing. Yet, she walked upstairs and acted like nothing happened. He said he was scared that his mom would do something to her lover. She knew her son was right. She knew that she had to get out of it. She didn’t want to be killed, and she didn’t want to kill him.

At this point, Tiffany had begun to fight him back. When she fought him back, the licks were worse. Months passed, and the fighting continued, Tiffany didn’t want her children to continue to be exposed to this behavior.In order to protect them, Tiffany had the twins to move in with her mom next door.

Chloe at a younger age

When Camden spoke those words to her, it was an eye opening moment. She had been with this man from the time they were in second grade. When that particular incident happened, they were in eight grade. Tiffany said that she didn’t want her children to go to high school and her still being in that situation. This is when her prayers began to change. Her prayer went from her asking God to help her change this man. Instead, her new prayers to God was that she needed him gone by August 4 (when school started).

She asked him about ANOTHER woman. He got upset and went outside to leave the house. When he went outside, his tire was on flat. He came back in. He said to her. “You know what. I’m so sick of you. I hate you. Everyday that I’m with you, I get weaker and weaker. You don’t think of nobody but you and your dumb ass kids. I hate I even came down here.” (After they reconnected, he’d moved from Memphis to live with her.) Tiffany didn’t even argue back with him. He was upset that she didn’t. He got up and started choking her. This time, she had no fight left in her. She felt “nothing.” In her mind, she knew she was going to call 911. This was something she’d never done before. Tiffany knew that she had to be smart about it to make sure she was safe. She apologized and said she was sorry. She hugged him, and that solidified her goodbye. When he left, she did call 911. Would he ask for forgiveness? Would she forgive him as she had done previously in the past? Would he change? Would she take him back?

“Are you surviving your storm?”

When my father and I crossed the Florida state line

July 31rst, I left Mississippi and moved to Florida. The nickname for the state of Florida is the Sunshine State, but it’s not always sunshine. Typically, it rains about 4 times a week, and the weather is always unpredictable. It can be sunny one minute. The next minute, it is raining. Unfortunately, Florida is also known for hurricanes. This week, I survived my first one, Hurricane Ian.

My sentiments exactly

Friday morning, I was in the airport headed to North Carolina, and I received an automated call from our school district. It said that the school was preparing for the incoming hurricane, and they would keep us posted on school closing. I was oblivious to the fact that it was one was brewing in the ocean. Truthfully, at that moment, I didn’t care. My only concern was getting to my grandson and meeting him for the first time.

After being in the airport from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, I was all smiles. It was only one airline that had a flight going to North Carolina.

On the way back home Monday, I received a text from my principal and friends. My principal wanted to see where I was. I told her I was about to board the plane in a few minutes. She informed me that school was being canceled the next two days due to Hurricane Ian. On the way there, my flight was canceled without any notice. I had to find another airline to get to NC. With what transpired on Friday morning, I was worried about the returning flight being delayed or canceled due to the impending weather. Thankfully, it wasn’t. I made it home safely, and the first stop was to Wal-Mart. I purchased some nonperishable food items in case the power went out. I said if it doesn’t go out that I can always take what I bought to school for lunch. I tried to purchase a flashlight and batteries, but they were sold out. I went back Tuesday morning to see if the flashlights were restocked, but they were still out. On my way out the door, I saw one of the battery powered fans. I bought one of those in case the power went out. I didn’t get what I anticipated, but I still got something else to prepare for the storm.

The late arrival was worth it all. I was able to spoil my first grandchild.

Tuesday night, the weather forecast was saying that it would hit central Florida, but Tuesday wasn’t bad. It was rain and wind. As I said earlier, it rains all the time. It wasn’t much different. Wednesday came, but this time was a different rain and wind. I was watching a tv episode on my laptop when the lights went out. I was a little after 4:30. I said it’s beginning. I reached out to my brother and father because they live in Florida as well. Their power was still on. In my mind, I said theirs will probably go out later. I was on the phone with Juan telling him about my power outage. It was weird. In the living room, the light about the stove was working, but everything else in the living room/kitchen area did not work. I went in the bedroom and bathroom. The bathroom light was on, but the sockets didn’t work. Juan suggest that I flip the breaker. I did. When I did that, all power in the living room and kitchen was gone. Yet, the light remained on the bathroom, but my sockets in the bedroom now worked. I decided to charge my phone and laptop because I didn’t know how long the power would be out. Even though it was weird, I didn’t question it. I said thank You God for allowing what is working to work.

My battery powered fan. I didn’t go to Walmart for it, but God put it in my path. He knew I’d need it.

During the night, things got really bad. I am not sure how fast the wind was blowing, but it was very loud. The rain was pouring hard. Occasionally, I would wake up because of the sound of debris hitting my window. I said I know it is going to look bad in the morning. I would say a prayer and go back to sleep.

One of my moments when I woke up during the middle of the night because of debris hitting the window

Thursday morning, the heavy rain and strong winds continued. Juan and my dad still had power. They laughed at me. They said that I was wishing them bad luck. Juan said he’d prayed about the storm. Well, I had too, but I didn’t have any power. I said my dad is closer to the coast, where you’d assume that he’d be hit by the hurricane. Nope. Hurricane Ian ran its path in Central Florida. It came to me.

This is how the wind was blowing the tree limbs.

With me having no power, I had to be strategic on being on my phone. I didn’t want my battery to run down quickly. I wasn’t going outside in the rain to only get soaked to charge it in truck. I did the best that I could have done for my soul. That was talk to Jesus in prayer.

This is what I spoke to God. 🙌🏾

Mentally, I had no clue on how to prepare for the hurricane. It was my first one. On Monday night, questions were running through my mind. How bad will it be? What is going to happen? Will I lose power? They didn’t tell us to evacuate, but I didn’t take it lightly. Hurricanes are a serious matter. They come in and wreak havoc in our lives. There is flooding. There is damage to homes. Power outages can last for days and weeks. Sadly, people have lost lives. The same way as the hurricane, spiritual storms storms come in our lives. The devil wants to wreak havoc and have us to lose faith in God.

Water coming in from outside.

Back to Thursday morning, I laughed and said God I’ve only been here barely two months. I’m experiencing my first hurricane. Truthfully, I was feeling some kind of way having no power. God began to speak to me. He had me to look out the window. He said you see the storm outside. I said I do God. Look at it. From where you are sitting, it looks disastrous. The wind is very strong and blowing things all around. The rain is pouring heavy. It doesn’t look safe. Limbs are down. Lights are out. Devastation is all around. Now, I want you to look at you. You are sitting inside your apartment. You are focusing on what is going on outside instead of what you have going on in here. You might not have power, but you have a place to lay your head tonight. It might be raining outside, but are you wet? You might not be able to cook on your stove, but you have food. You might have some water coming in under the door and your air conditioner, but have you lost any of your belongings? You might not be able to be on your phone as much as you want, but you can. There is a huge tree that has fallen in the apartment complex, but did anything happen to your vehicle? You are home sitting in the dark, but are you losing pay? Carman, things might not always be what you want them to be, but I have never left your side. I haven’t left you alone. I am the Lord, Your Father, Your God. All I could do was cry.

When the power was restored

Situations are going to happen in life, and we don’t know the exact moment they are coming. The Bible tells us that they are coming. We just don’t know when. John 16:33 says “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” As I’d gone to Walmart to prepare for Hurricane Ian, it is imperative for us to stay in the word of God to prepare for the next spiritual storm that will happen in our lives.

I can’t speak for anyone else. I can only speak for myself. Often times, when I have gone through these storms, I am crying and asking God why. Why do I have to go through this? I’m looking at others and saying why isn’t it happening to them (one example was wondering why my brother and dad weren’t experiencing what I was experiencing). Why does my truck engine have to go out on me? Why did I have to have a bitter divorce? Why did I have to go through lies on my job? Why did I have to have surgery on my shoulder? Why did the loan go bad on the one I co-signed, and I did it with a good heart? I’m constantly pleading and asking God for direction and answers. I can say that EVERY spiritual storm that has happened in my life that God has given me strength to endure. It was dark in my city for almost 30 hours. I had no clue when the power would be restored. Those spiritual storms were dark moments in my life too. I wondered how long will this particular storm last. Oh but God. He never left me. Sometimes, He will send a ram in the bush. Thursday afternoon, my food began to thaw in my freezer. I called a friend. She told me to bring it to her. Here I was freaking out because I didn’t want to have to repurchase food. I didn’t lose a thing. If I had lost the food, I know that He would have provided. Everything that I thought I lost during the spiritual storms, God restored. When He restores, it is always better than what it was before.

Linemen from different states coming to rescue us in Florida

School was dismissed from Tuesday through Friday. I received calls and text from friends, family, and loved ones from all around checking to make sure I was ok. They were greatly appreciated. Initially, when asked how I was, I would complain and say that I have no power. After the revelation on Thursday morning, I changed my words and said I am blessed. I wasn’t expecting to experience a hurricane this quick moving to Florida, but it was a great learning experience. This morning, I opened my door to sunshine. If you were visiting the city, you would not have known what was going on only a few hours beforehand.

First selfie after the storm ⛈ 🌀🌀

During this week, God and I have had some deep conversations. I am thankful for this time alone with Him. He continues to restore my faith. There was no way in the world that one light and one only socket works (in two separate rooms) when everything else in the apartment didn’t. That was God looking out for me. He showed me to quit focusing on what is going on around me. It might look dark, but greater is He that in me than he that is in the world. I will have more trials and tribulations. When I do, I need to stay in His face. As quickly as Hurricane Ian came and left, that’s the same way the storms will leave in our lives. Storms will not last forever. We just have to make sure we survive and stay focused on the One that will keep us in the midst of our storms.

My first self care Saturday in Florida 💛💛💛 🌞🌞☀️

“You’re never too old to start over”

Here is the YouTube video if you don’t want to read the blog.

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.