So I was thinking about my younger brother. People who know me, know the story. Let me share it with those of you who don't.
February 2, 2007. It was a Friday evening, around 6pm. I was at work and excited for the weekend. I had about 30 minutes left in my shift and I was on the phone with a customer. As I was finishing up with my customer, my cell phone began to vibrate. I glanced down at my hip and noticed my mother's number flashing across the screen. I remember thinking to myself, "Now why is she calling me? She knows I'm at work and I get off soon!" I decided I'd call her when I got off work, which at this point, was in less than 30 minutes. Another customer call came in and as I was completing that call, my cell phone started to vibrate again. My initial reaction was annoyance, but then I felt a pang of worry and decided to go out in the hall and call my mother back. My mother answered the phone sounding pretty normal. I asked her what was up. She said my name and my heart began to race. Though she hadn't said it yet, I KNEW something was wrong. Then, she said, "He gone, he gone. Cheryce, he gone." I began to panic and ask her who, "Mama who's gone??!" She proceeded to tell me that my little brother, Donvielle, had been killed in a car accident. Even as I type, it's difficult because all the feelings from that day, that moment, are coming back...It's a day, a time, a period in my life that will be impossible to forget and it changed my life forever.
I'll spare you the the details of my reaction and my parents', especially my mother's, overwhelming despair. You can probably imagine the void my baby brother felt after having his hero suddenly snatched away. I won't talk about how it felt to have memories of changing my brother's diapers and rocking him to sleep while picking out his casket and writing his obituary. 19 years old, on the way to get a haircut before work, and then. Just. Gone.
That night, that week, that month, I reflected on different things that occurred leading up to that day, attempting to make sense of it all. I wondered why it happened and questioned how God could let it. I thought about how, maybe a week or so before, Don had driven me to a friend's house. When we got there, he came in behind me and stood in the doorway, looking around. I recall asking him what he was doing and telling him that my friend's brother, who he was friends with, wasn't there. I don't remember his response, but I know I thought how strange it was for him to come in with me and then stand there like that. Even after I told him his friend wasn't there, he kept standing and looking, like it was his first time seeing it or like he knew it was the last time he would. On January 31st, Don gave my mother and me Valentine's day gifts. It was the first time he had ever done that. My mother and I were so surprised and grateful. I asked him why he had given us the gift so early and he said that he might not have any money when V-Day came around. I said, "We get paid again before Valentine's Day". I knew this because we got paid the same week, Don on Wednesday, while my payday was Friday. He just kind of shrugged it off. That would be the last day I'd see my brother alive. Thinking of those two instances made me think about whether or not he knew he was going to die. I wondered if he had some sort of premonition letting him know that something was about to happen.
The same night that Don gave us those gifts, I had a dream. In the dream, we were at the funeral of one our church members, the mother of one of Don's really good friends. Don wasn't there. Somebody asked where he was and voiced their surprise at him not being there. About a month after his death, the woman whose funeral I dreamed of, passed away. In my dream, Don wasn't there because he left us first...
I still don't understand the why. I had a couple theories. Maybe he would have gotten involved with the wrong crowd or been in the wrong place at the wrong time, resulting in his life wasting away behind bars. It's possible that he could have died by the hands of a cowardly police officer. Perhaps he would have been an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of rival gangs. Maybe God allowed Don to go the way he did to spare us the devastation of each of those scenarios. Or could it be that He just cared about my brother so much that He'd rather him be in heaven with Him, than endure any of those severely earth shattering events? I stopped trying to figure it out...well, maybe not completely. Sometimes I STILL wonder why... What I DO know is:
So I was thinking about a plethora of things. Where do I even begin?!
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way..." - A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
The last year or two of my life has been a perfect example of this quote. As a matter of fact, this has been the case in my life on more than one occasion. What's different this time around is my perspective and the way I'm handling the hand that life has dealt me. In times past, I would dwell on the worst. The bad would be magnified to the point of outweighing the good, regardless of how great the good was or how often good was present. I would allow the negatives in life to overshadow everything positive.
We're only 28 days into the new year and I already have had my share of really good and really bad experiences. The difference now, and what has been for at least the last year, is that I'm intentionally living my life with an attitude of gratitude, while also pondering the lessons I should be learning amidst any adversity. I'm thankful for everything that goes right, while also looking for the bright side in the things that go wrong. I'm believing that everything happens for a reason and that ALL things are working together for my good. I'm asking God what He is trying to show me and teach me. I'm even having conversations with myself to determine what I can do differently, what I can do better, what I can do more, what I can do less, what I can eliminate, and what I can add. I'm also understanding more and actually accepting that what I go through isn't just for me. My joy and good fortune should be shared with others as well as trials that are overcome and are testaments of faith, God's grace, hard work, perserverance, and consistency, so that people can relate, realize they aren't alone, and muster the strength to push through. It's awesome when good things happen without much effort, but some of the most beautiful things in nature occur after a storm or after extreme pressure has been applied. In life, going through the worst of times isn't easy, but in the end it's always worth it.
So I was thinking about how easy it can be at times to point out another person's faults, while completely ignoring our own. Why is that? How is it even possible to notice a speck in someone else's eye, when we have an entire freaking beam in our own? Is it narcissism that makes us comfortable in pointing a finger and not noticing the other fingers pointing right back at us? Does pride make us delusional and unable to recoginze our own flaws and missteps?? Or is it just plain selfishness, self-centeredness, and immaturity that makes us not accept responsibility for our own issues, makes us not look at the proverbial man in the mirror, but has us always peering at the man across the room?
I take the The 5 Love Languages quiz at least once a year (click here to find out more and/or to take the quiz). When I went to the site the other day, I saw something new called "apology languages". Like the 5 languages that are used to properly express love, Gary Chapman along with Jennifer Thomas have also identified 5 apology langauges to properly express regret. Also like the love languages, there is a quiz that determines what type of apology is most important to you or that you're most receptive to. My apology language is Accept Responsibility and this is the part of the descripion that stuck out to me: "...as adults, we must all admit that we make and will make mistakes. We are going to make poor decisions that hurt our mates (it says mates, but this also applies to children, friends, parents, etc), and we are going to have to admit that we were wrong. We have to accept responsibility for our own failures." I can't emphasize enough how important this is, not just when it's time to issue an apology, but in life period! We can be so quick to condemn and belittle others when they err, whether in general or against us, that it seems we are struck with temporary amnesia. When someone messes up in a different way than us, we tend to forget our evils and/or find ways to justify them! Let's all do better by,
So I was thinking about what today is and what/who this holiday represents. I can't help but wonder what Dr. King would think about the state of our country and what role he would play in the continued fight for justice and equality. Would he still be active in the struggle? How many more comparable leaders would he have groomed and mentored to follow his footsteps and continue his legacy?
Although we've made great strides forward as a nation, we've simultaneously taken tremendous leaps back. The phrase, "The more things change, the more they stay the same", rings true. Many of the problems faced during the civil rights movement and addressed in the famed, I Have a Dream speech, are still obstacles we have yet to overcome today.
This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy...Now is the time to lift the nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all God's children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment...There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality...No, no we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have a Dream Speech at the March on Washington, August 1963
In the new millennium, we're still battling excessive police brutality and the wrongful murders of black men (and women). The leader of the free world is one who endorses hatred, misogyny, and divisiveness. He has made it more comfortable for people to display their true colors of racism and bigotry. We're in the middle of the longest government shutdown in the history of the country, where hundreds of thousands of government workers are not getting paid, some still reporting to work with no paycheck at the end of their 80 hours. Various government assistance programs are being adversely effected, all for a ridiculous wall that is being deemed as necesssary under the guise of concern for border control. Black men still account for the largest percentage of the prison population. These are just some of the hardships we face today. Even though circumstances seem bleak and we may experience feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, I continue to hold on to my faith in God, but also in Dr. King's dream, "I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream." We've come a long way, but we haven't quite reached the mountaintop. Let's keep striving and do whatever is in our power (vote, educate, be active in our communities, mentor, etc) to get us closer to seeing his dream come to fruition.
So I was thinking about my son and the complexities of parenting as a single, divorced mom. I was thinking about how there is no concrete formula for being a successful parent, how the decisions we make as parents impact our children, and how difficult it is to raise children. Mama nem never told me there would be days like some of the ones I've encountered in the last 16.5 years.
I really wish that someone had talked to me and given me the TRUE inside scoop on what it is to have children. I remember hearing the ideas of marriage and children being emphasized and applauded, but I don't recall anybody telling me the real deal about those life events, especially about having kids! Nobody mentioned to me that even if I followed the "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Cheryce with the baby carriage" ideology, I could still end up with a faded love, dissolved marriage, and just one person pushing that carriage. People talked about teething, potty training, and the terrible twos but they failed to mention the agonizing adolescence and tumultuous teens! All these things are extremely difficult when faced alone. Let me clarify, my son's father is 100% in his life, however, with us being in separate households, although we "co-parent", it's kinda like his father does his thing over there and I do my thing over here, while still trying to be on the same page. It's such a weird place to be in. If I'm being honest, many times I've wished that his father and I would have just stayed married and worked out some type of living arrangement. I understand more and more why people make the decision to "stay for the kids". Of course, it isn't good for children to witness unhealthy relationships. However, I also don't think that it was meant for children to be raised in single family households. It's like choosing the lesser of two evils. Either situation can be navigated with some level of success, but which one will have the greatest negative affect on the child (children)? Which has the potential to be most beneficial in the long run?
It's my prayer that people will start to take more time to think about how serious it is to become a parent. It's more than cute, cuddly babies and matching mother/daughter outfits. From the time of conception, every decision made has a direct or indirect affect on that child. We have the potential to make or break our children with every choice we make.
So I was thinking about how it's been a while since I've written! Hey y'all, Happy New Year! I am looking forward to a year of more consistency, exciting new opportunities, and moving forward with my dreams, even in the midst of fear and uncertainty. I turn 40 this year and I'm ecstatic about all the possiblities this new decade of life will bring.
Ok, so enough of the greetings and salutations. Let's get down to the nitty gritty. I've been noticing various success stories about the relationship of blended families. There are several celebrity famillies that have been in the spotlight, showcasing what appears to be the ideal blended family set-up. Even the situations that were initially presented to the public by the media as rocky, have evolved into seemingly magical fairy tales of parents, children, step-children, and step-parents deeply in love and living happily ever after. Well, I wish I may, I wish I might have the spell or the potion that would make my blended family live in harmony and be just right!
I mean seriously. What is it? One of my favorite scriptures in the bible is Eccelesiastes 10:19. The Message Bible translation says, "Laughter and bread go together, And wine gives sparkle to life—But it's money that makes the world go around." Is that it? Is it the lack of financial stress that makes it easier to deal? Do the unlimited resources and extra commas make major life changes more tolerable?? Whatever it is, I need the secret.
My son's father and I have not been together for almost 15 years. We separated in September of 2004 and were officially divorced in September of 2005. You would think that by now we would have perfected the concept of co-parenting and blended families, but um...no. My ex has been married twice since me, which means I have been (am) in the role of ex-wife/ baby mama twice, which can be a difficult role to have, especially when you do not establish some type of working relationship with the new bonus parent. And I believe therein lies (at least some of) the problem. When a parent is embarking on a new, long term relationship, it is their responsibility to make sure that the ex is introduced to the bonus parent. It's important that they meet the person, see who their child will be around, and have the chance to develop a respectful understanding in regard to the raising of the child. Otherwise, the door is left open for the ex and step-parent to come to conclusions about each other based on what they've heard or what they THINK they know of each other, which can lead to the overstepping of boundaries. For instance, my ex-husband's second wife was just somebody that my baby ended up coming home talking about a lot. Once I realized that this was somebody that his father was dating and serious about, I mentioned meeting her and tried to get something together, but it never happened. After they were married, we had minimal interaction with each other during pick-ups/drop-offs and things, but no official meeting. I formed an opinion about her based on what I heard from my son and other people who knew/met her. In turn, she formed an opinion about me based on what she heard from my ex and other people she met who knew me. She ended up making up a rule where I was supposed to only call HER when I had something to discuss about my son. I don't know what somebody told her or what she thought, but I politely told her that I had been there, done that, had the mug and t-shirt and didn't want to go back, so whenever I needed to talk about MY son with HIS father, I would do just that because I have NO obligation to her. So, when that relationship didn't work out and he was going to marry his third wife, I emphasized the importance of meeting and establishing some sort of rapport with his new wife because I didn't want the things that happened before to occur this time around. He assured me that this time would be different. Without going into too much detail, I can say that there have only been slight changes. The bottom line is, when a relationship has severed and people have moved on with children involved, the focus should be on the adults working together to ensure that the child doesn't miss a beat. Everyone should work in tandem, with the child's best interests at heart. Bonus parents should also keep in mind that as long as both parents are active in the child's life, there is no need to try to take the place of the child's mother or father. As long as there is respect for everybody's role and a proper focus on the child(children), we should all be able to live happily ever after in Blended Family Land like the Pinkett Smiths, Harts, and Swizzbeats nem! LOL
So I was thinking about how sad I get during this season. Holidays have been awful for my family since my little brother died unexpectedly in a car crash almost 12 years ago. That, in conjunction with being single and the emphasis placed on relationships and family during the holidays, made me dread this time every year! I decided that this year would be different. I refuse to be sad! Yes, I miss my brother something terrible and yes, I’m still as single as the day is long, but I will not wallow in either of those. Being sad is exhausting. I’m tired of giving in to that misery year after year. This year I decided to redirect my energy. Sadness did rear its ugly head, and though that emotion is legitimate, I’ve chosen to shift my focus. I’m not dwelling on my brother not being here, but I’m thinking about the wonderful times we had together when he was and working on continuing to make lasting memories with my loved ones who surround me now. I’m making it my business to cherish every possible moment! And though I have no significant other, I am still showered with enormous amounts of love. I’m finding joy in so much. I’ve been buying gifts and almost giddy with excitement at the thought of people’s reaction when they get the gifts! I’m extra in love with the corny and predictable, yet heartwarming holiday movies and the joyous, festive music...
So I was thinking about how I started this post the other day and then how I feel in this moment. I was thinking about how it seems whenever I talk about choosing happiness or how often times, when I promote positivity, I'm met with an obstacle meant to destroy my joy and annihilate any shred of hope that's present. But then I started thinking about how yesterday, I saw this one particular video about 192 times. First, it was sent to me in a group message, then I started seeing EVERYBODY post it! The video was of this 13 year old powerhouse singing an oldie but goodie gospel tune called For the Good of Them. I was seeing it so much, I became BEYOND annoyed, but now I know why it was being constantly brought to my attention. God knew the trial that I would face yesterday evening. He knew that tears would come, that my core would be shaken. He was already aware that my smile would start to fade and that my peace would begin to wane. God, in all his omniscience, had the inside scoop on the blow to my confidence that I would experience and the wavering of my faith. The confusion, frustration, pain, anger, and defeat that was felt was no surprise to Him, so I was being encouraged in advance with these words:
No matter what the problem,
You can't solve them. They will come, but don't you worry.
It will work out, for the good of them who love the Lord!
So, because of this fact, regardless of how things look, I will continue to be positive and choose happiness. Trials are inevitable and I can healthily process whatever emotions they may bring, but there is no need to drown in those emotions, ESPECIALLY since I still have so much to be thankful for. I can do the best with whatever is in my power and leave the rest up to God, because I know He has my back. No matter what comes my way, it's all working out for my good and I don't even need to worry!
"If you tap into your true story, and share that, it resonates." -Michelle Obama, Oprah Interview
So I was thinking about how I was going to give my take on the whole John Gray interview debacle, but I decided against it. I came to the conclusion that I have already given that too much energy. I've got my own big fish to fry over here. The other day I told a couple of my co-workers that I didn't want to be a parent anymore. It may all be in my head, but I felt like they looked at me the same way I’m imagining you’re looking at your screen; with ultimate dismay and judgment. But hey, I said what I said and that's exactly what I meant at the time.
Allow me to explain, if you will. Throughout the years, every time I've felt like I had a grasp on this whole being a mother and co-parenting thing, something happens that knocks the wind out of me and bursts my super mom bubble. And, that has become more of the norm over the last few years. I'm just tired y'all. Now, don't get me wrong. I love my son, unconditionally and with my whole being, more than any other human in this world. I've watched my parents, and others, deal with the loss of a child/children and I cannot FATHOM being in that position. But, I also find myself googling the age limit for leaving a child at the fire station. So, if you hear of me taking a random trip to *Nebraska, you know that I have reached my wit's end. But seriously, this parenting journey has challenged me beyond any other life experience I've encountered. There are a few key components that I've decided to focus on, so that I won't go forward with sending the powers that be my mother resignation letter. Check them out.
As I work on these things, it doesn’t mean that I won’t have the moments when I long to lay down my mother hat and ride off into the sunset, but I’ll keep on pushing and stay encouraged in knowing that one day my son will appreciate his mother and become a man greater than I could have ever imagined.
*In 2008, under the Safe Haven Law, Nebraska allowed parents to submit their children to custody up to the age of 18. The law was quickly revised because there was an influx of parents dropping off their older children.
So I was thinking about how I’ve had a severe case of writer’s block lately. I just haven’t been able to come up with subject matters that I deem worth writing about. And, when I HAVE thought of something, it has been a daunting task trying to put the right words together to form a complete and coherent thought. Then, there have been other times where, in addition to the aforementioned factors, I’ve also thought that I shouldn’t write about trivial things, due to the seriousness of events that have taken place in the world as of late regarding politics, wildfires, shootings, and other turmoil.
Going forward, I’m going to push my way through. I can’t let the circumstances of life stifle me. I need to use my voice and be a light in these dark times. I want to spread love, laughter, and hope. That’s what we need!
So I was thinking about my church’s women’s ministry event I attended Saturday. It was a great time of food, fellowship, learning, and reflection. My good friend, Amber, who is the First Lady and leader of the women’s ministry, spoke to us about forgiveness. It was such a good teaching and one I didn’t realize I needed to hear. I’m going to share a few of the points and hopefully some of these gems will help you like they did me!
We learned what forgiveness is and is not. Amber pointed out that many times we mistake reconciliation and trust for forgiveness and that isn’t what it is. She gave us this definition: forgiveness is letting go of the anger, bitterness, resentment, and the desire for vengeance or retaliation toward the person who offended you.
Next, we learned five reasons why we need to forgive.
If you are in the Chicagoland area, check out New Creation Church. Services are held on Sundays at 9am at The Revival in Hyde Park. Click here to find out more.