Where have you been?

I received numerous e-mail from my readers over the years wondering where did I go?  I must say life has truly taken a toll on myself and my family causing me to take hiatus off of blogging. It wasn’t until a recent posting on facebook came that I made the decision to take a 30 day blogging challenge.  This will be difficult for me because my postings are usually motivated by something, it’s like I go almost into a trance and my fingers take the lead. There is a lot that I want to share in these 30 days and it is my hope that I will not take a hiatus again for so long.  I missed you all and I’m here to inspire you, and your comments, e-mails, stories have not gone unnoticed. So with that I’m baaaaaaack!!!!!

Let Fear and Doubt Depart from here…

I got into work this morning and I started my normal morning routine of checking e-mails and listening to inspirational music to set the foundation of my day.  The Fred Hammond channel on Pandora always puts me in the immediate attitude gratitude, and that is what centers me for the day.  As I was checking my e-mails I hear these words; “Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”  I immediately checked to see what song was on (Marvin Sapp “Lord Send Your Anointing”) all while my attitude of gratitude immediately shifted to an attitude of praise.   You haven’t seen me on here in a while because my family has really been faced with a lot of “tests” but one thing I know for sure is that our faith in God has never faltered.  We are often faced with tests that push you farther than you could ever imagine.   We question the pain, the challenges, the hurt, and even our faith.  My Daddy was diagnosed with sinus cancer and our foundation was shook.  We celebrated my mother being cancer free and recovering greatly from her triple bypass and here we are again dealing with yet another cancer diagnosis.  I remember hearing him tell me that he would go through chemotherapy and radiation to aggressively and prayerfully kill the cancer.  My heart sank… why is this happening to my parents?  My parents are not perfect but they are the best parents I could ever ask for and they’re always there for me no matter what.  Again why is this happening… again?   I was shocked for a while and decided to call my brother and try to calm down and make sense of what’s going on and why.  My brother simply said “pray and stay positive because that’s all we can do in times like this, we’ve been through this before and we’ll get through it again”.

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”

Fast forward a few months and we find out my dad is in the hospital and although he’s not looking good my mother is by his side with a Bible in hand and reading to him.  That’s all my dad requested is for people not to visit him looking sad and to read the Bible.  He told my mom “It looks like it’s your turn to take care of me now”.  I came home to check on him weeks later and dealt with the initial shock of his weight loss but kept a smile on my face because in times where he thought about quitting, I wanted to be a reminder of what he’s fighting for.  I remember going with him for his radiation and watched him lay on base of the machine, put his feet up and watch the doctor put a block under the bends of his knees, then given ropes that he held and wrapped around his wrists a few times to hold his shoulders down, finally they put a mask over his face that forced his chin to stay up and in the perfect position to receive the treatment.  The mask was the hardest thing to see.  They clamped the mask down and I could literally see his skin and hair go through the holes because it was so tight and his breath became shallow.  I stepped out with the doctor and watched him go through the radiation from a monitor and talked to the doctor about the position my father was in.  He said “Being in an uncomfortable position for a few minutes is by far worth it if  it keeps him here with us longer…”

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”

Daddy’s not eating; the side effects from radiation and chemo have caused him to lose his hair, sense of smell, sense of taste, and saliva.  Nothing tastes the same and if he tried to eat something, he would always have to keep a bottle of water with him in order to be able to swallow the food.  It’s hard for us to imagine this mainly because when we eat we never notice that we need the saliva to get the food down.  The doctors decide to put Daddy on a feeding tube to offset the rapid weight loss.  Although daddy didn’t lose all his hair at the time, he wanted to shave it off.  I called my brother Larry who is a Master barber/Owner of Larry’s Barber College/Musician, but to me he’s like a brother.  I remember growing up and getting so happy when Larry came over to see my brother because he was always so kind and giving.  He’s the same today; he went to my parents’ house and gave my Daddy a haircut to where you couldn’t tell where his patches were.   Larry sent me a picture and all I could do was cry, in the midst of Daddy’s rough patch Larry did something for him that meant more to him than any of us will ever know.

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”

I get a call that my brother has a huge tumor in the back of his neck and they are going to have a series of surgeries to remove it and test to see if it’s cancerous.

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”

My brothers surgeries goes well and we find out that the tumor is not cancerous.  He immediately heads back on tour and I have my sister Ozzy lay eyes on him when he stops in NY so I know he’s okay and recovering.  She sends me a pic and I can’t help but smile. I come home for Thanksgiving with feelings of happiness to see my family, fear to see my daddy, and a little hurt to cook food that he may not be able to have.  Daddy’s even smaller than I saw him last and his color is a little off but I learn that he is now able to smell a little and some taste buds are coming back.  He can try food but it has to be soft.  I cook for the family and make him a special plate.  The look on his face when he realized that what used to taste like cardboard now has flavor was nothing short of a blessing.

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”

My Brother and I make plans to come home for Christmas and he plans to stay for a month to be with Mom and Dad.  I get a call from my Daddy letting me know that he went to the Oncologist and they said there are no signs of cancer and he had to tell me!  He swore me to secrecy and I held off from talking to my brother for next two days since he would be home and Daddy wanted to tell him face to face.   We enjoyed being home and had the best time ever with family and friends and the celebration of hearing the words again, this time for my Daddy; “Cancer Free”.  The road to rehabilitation begins.

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”

My cousin has been battling cancer for years and they put her in hospice care. I call to check in daily to see if I can talk to her but she’s weak, and tired.  I later find out that she won’t be able to talk again.  I call my brother to calm down and pray…

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”

On my morning commute I get a phone call to learn that my other little cousin has fought the good fight and he passed away. Overwhelmed with the information I go into my sorority sisters office sobbing.  She literally spoke calm to my spirit and prayed my trembling hands still.  Tiffany your words still resonate with me to this day.  Thank You.

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”

My cousin is removed from hospice care and is at home. Wheelchair bound but here.   I learn that she can talk and noticed that she’s on Facebook (she hasn’t been on for almost a year) and send a chat message to see if it’s her. I tell her I love her and I’m going to call her as soon as I get off of work.  I call and on the other end I hear “Hello”.   Let me tell you she is a true testimony of God having the final say! She’s been written off so many times but she’s still here fighting and keeping God at the head of this battle.  It is hard for the human mind to conceptualize what she’s endured the past few years and yet she’s still here.  Her testimony is truly one for the books.

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”

My body overheats and sends warning signals for water and food.  Next thing I know everything goes black, I’m alert but can’t physically see I began to freak out with the thought that I live alone and if I pass out it would be days before I was found.  I push through the fear and crawl to the fridge and grab what turns out to be apple sauce. I literally eat it with my fingers, my vision is now blurred and I’m dizzy but I make out the silhouette of a water bottle and drink.  My vision is better I call my Line Sister for help and I make it to the couch balled up with excruciating stomach cramps.

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace here within place…”

My Line Sister alerts the Sorors and they take shifts checking on me. The Sorors with medical backgrounds check my vitals, ask questions, and bring food and more water.  I later go to the Doctor to find out that I had a bad reaction to Birth Control.  This sets me out for weeks on pain pills, painful cramps greeted by the wrath of “Aunt Flo”, sleeping due to the medicine, and a series of weekly tests .  Thank you to my Beautiful Leavenworth Alumnae Chapter Sorors for enduring my stubbornness to eat because of the pain, and checking on me while I recovered. I attempt to come back to work after going a day feeling almost back to normal and end up back at home.  Although I felt like I was better, I freaked out my co-workers and students who notice my skin color is grayish and dull, and I don’t look like the vibrant LaShaundra they’ve come to know.  Wearing the mask of a smile doesn’t always work. I head back home for three more days.

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”

I get better and stronger by the day; my family is also doing well on their own roads to recovery.  They removed my daddy’s feeding tube and although he had a setback that got him down to a size 30 in the waist, he’s finally starting to gain some weight.  I went home a few weeks ago and he was literally skin and bones, I could feel his hip bone and ribs.  Although it was hard to recognize him at first his smile was something that was constant.  My mom and dad go to the gym daily getting stronger, and they still look at each other like they were teenagers.  They have date nights, go on trips, and joke around.  Their love has been constant and I love that it never gets old and they still have a sparkle in their eye when they see or talk about each other.  Gotta love their love!

So how does this happen?  How is it that my family can deal with so much?  How can I go to work each day and suppress the pain with the mask of a smile?  How can I push through my Doctoral program and suppress the feelings to quit and go home?

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”

There is no greater test than life itself. The one thing I know for sure is that when you’re rooted in your purpose and your foundation is strong you can withstand any trial that comes your way. My mom is currently dealing with something that like everything else we will face head on with a smile on our face, armored with the word of God, and declaring victory.  This can only be done by saying:

“Let fear and doubt depart from here. Send peace; send grace within this place…”

Let em’ Shine…

“Ordinary people can be a hero; don’t dim out their Light… Let em’ Shine…” John Legend

What I know for sure is that in this life, I was born to shine. A few years ago I remember writing a note to myself while I was home on winter break.  It read, “I know I was placed on this Earth to do great things but what happens when fear comes into play and dims your light?”  I thought nothing of it, left the house and did my usual routine of hanging out with friends, family, and doing all things Chicago.  Later on that night when I came home I saw that someone wrote on my note.  I became annoyed until I began to read it: “Nothing in this world will come easy and fear is just a roadblock set out to keep your from greatness.  Don’t give up pumpkin, remember great success cannot be achieved without Risk or Courage. –Dad”   Now if you know me, then you know my immediate response was tears.  How amazing it is to have family that supports you to be the best self you can be!  To this date I still have that note and keep it with me as a reminder whenever I feel my light going dim at my hands or the hands of others.  I’ve been challenged, belittled, targeted, etc. but what I know for sure is that every experience I’ve gone through is preparing me for something amazing.  It was at that point that I wrote myself another note: “I’m un-fearing of my capabilities, unforgiving of my drive, and unwilling to let anyone stand in my way…”   That quote is a constant reminder to me to keep my head up, overcome adversity, and continue on this path called life.  For my readers, I want you all to know that in this life you are meant to extraordinary things.  There will be people who will do everything in their power to dim out your light.  No matter what, YOU continue to Shine. Resiliency is defined as being “capable of withstanding shock without breaking” and I challenge you to be just that… So go ahead, SHINE!

You all know that music is my pulse and I tend to write after listening to a song.  Here’s “Shine” by John Legend for your listening pleasure.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnLUCry0DqY

The Promise…

“I Promise…”   

Those were the last words I told my Uncle as his lifeless body lay on the hospital bed.   It was New Years Eve and I came home from New York to celebrate with my parents.   In what became the best night, quickly became the worst when we received a call that my Uncle was rushed to the hospital.  On the ride to the hospital I said a silent prayer for God’s will to be done.  I never thought in a million years that God’s will would be to take my Uncle away from us.  My parents let me out the car and I went into the hospital and asked for his room; but this time was different.   They sent me into a room where my Aunt, Uncle’s girlfriend, and Pastor were in the room.  Without saying a word I knew he was gone.  The sequence of events that followed felt like a dream to me.   One by one family members came to find out that my Uncle didn’t make it.   While they all went to the room where my Uncle’s body was, I stayed with his girlfriend.   I couldn’t bear seeing my Uncle like that.  How could this be happening?  Things got even more tough when my  Grandparents came into the room.  No one was there to (or could) tell them what happened which left me facing the hardest conversation of my life.  “He didn’t make it…” is the only thing I could get out.   The way they looked at me shook me to the core.   It was if my words took a piece of their heart out.  I literally saw their heart  breaking right in front of me and that was painful.  While the family when in the room with my Uncle I still stayed outside of the room still confused and scared to see him.  Finally I went in there and we all just stood around him, some crying, some praying, and there I was quiet and staring at him praying this was a dream.  Finally my Grandmother looked at me and said “Life is like a vapor…”  and looked back down at him rubbing his hand.  While people began to leave I still couldn’t move.  I asked the members of the family who were still in the room to give me a minuet with him alone.  When they stepped out, I stepped closer to him with so many thoughts going through my head.  I touched his hand and he was still warm which sent me into state of denial and all I could say is “Move… Please Move… Please… Please Uncle Arnold… Move… Please…”  Tears streaming down my face I realize that he would not move.  It was at that point I thought about coming home from my first year back in school, after getting kicked out.  I saw my Uncle during Christmas break and he asked me “How are your grades this semester?”    I replied “I got a 3.6 GPA!”   He gave me this look of such pride and shook his fist and nodded his head.   That reaction spoke volumes to me and is a constant motivator for me.   As I stood by the hospital bed and looked at his lifeless body I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “I Promise You, I will set the bar for our family, I Promise I will get the highest degree attainable and make you proud… I Promise You… I Love You… I Promise…”   That was 3 years ago, and so far I have kept part of my promise.   I’ve attained my Masters degree and I’m proud to say that recently I got accepted into the Doctoral Program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  In 3 years God willing, I can keep the promise that I made with him.  I ask all of my loved ones, and anyone who reads this blog to keep me in prayer as I begin a new chapter of my life in the Fall.  Finally I ask all my readers to make of the most of your life while you’re here after all; life is like a vapor…

James 4:14

14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.