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5 Things to Do to For Depression During the Holidays

By Deanna Cauthen

Deanna Cauthen is as a contributing writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Decatur Dispatch and Tucker Times news magazines, publications of Hometown Newspapers.

depression

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I love everything about it–the music, (yes, even the old, corny songs about Rudolph and his red nose), attending holiday parties and eating delectable food, and the shopping, wrapping, and gifting of presents.

If you came to my home during the holidays, it would not be unusual to find me belting out my favorite Christmas song, eating a holiday cookie, while decorating the Christmas tree and wearing reindeer antlers. But this year, getting into the holiday spirit has been difficult.

Besides dealing with the physical and the emotional upheaval that comes with menopause, over the past 12 months, I’ve experienced a major blow up with the mother of our grandchildren which led to a severed relationship with her and the children, had serious communication issues with an adult child that resulted in a major conflict, and left a church fellowship where our family has faithfully served for more than 22 years.

And I assure you that I am not only one experiencing major losses. I have friends who’ve been recently diagnosed with debilitating and degenerative diseases, some who have recently had a loved one die, and others who are dealing with the isolation and loneliness that sometimes comes with getting old, being sick, and incapacitated.

There are people who are dealing with job loss and extreme financial distress and let’s not forget about the many families in Southern California whose homes have been consumed by wildfires. There are countless other situations where people are hurting deeply and in the depths of despair.

Contrary to the happy holiday commercials where everyone is sitting around the dining table, eating the turkey and enjoying the festivities, statistics show that depression and anxiety are at an all-time high during this season of the year. So the question is what to do you when the merry is gone from Christmas? Below are a few suggestions that are helping me cope with the holiday blues.

  1.  Acknowledge the sadness and continue to grieve the loss.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that despises weakness and everything associated with it. As a result, many of us feel it necessary to walk around wearing masks of fake happiness, but life is hard and sad things happen. It’s important to acknowledge the pain and not pretend that it doesn’t exist.

If you’ve had a significant loss as a result of losing a loved one to death, divorce, or you have experienced loss in some other way, it’s important to mourn that loss. How to do that will look different depending on the particulars of your situation.

One way that I process my pain is by writing in my journal. It’s a safe place to put my feelings because I don’t have to worry about anybody criticizing or judging me. The things that I write down in my journal are for my eyes and my eyes alone. I call it “cheap therapy”.

Talking with my husband and other trusted friends helps me to process pain is another thing that I do help process my sadness. Having another person that will listen and acknowledge my hurt is a healing balm for my spirit.

If you do not have a network of family and friends to go to, a support group can provide some much-needed help. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is a great resource for support. They have a plethora of information on their website and you can enter your zip code to see if there is a free support group in your area.

  1. Keep your holiday traditions as much as you can.

Although you may not feel like it initially, it helps if you can keep at least some of your holiday traditions.

Having my husband take down all of the Christmas bins from the attic, going through each of them, deciding what decorations I wanted to use this year, and then starting the process of decorating the house, helped me to “get in the mood”.

At first, it felt superficial, like I was just going through the motions, which was exactly what I was doing, but as time went on, I started to feel differently. Putting on the Santa hat, decorating the tree, and listening to Christmas music actually did help me feel better. Did it take away all of the sadness? No, but it helped.

Another one of our family traditions is hosting the Christmas Eve dinner for my side of the family. In addition to hosting, we usually go out and purchase a ton of gifts to give to family and friends, but this year I had neither the energy or the money and I seriously thought about canceling the whole thing.

But then I realized that it doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”. After talking it over with my husband and our youngest daughter, we decided that we would only give homemade treats or simple gifts, and we asked everybody to bring a food item to share. This takes the physical and financial pressure off of us and still allows us to celebrate the holidays with family and friends.

If funds are tight and you like to bake, consider giving cookies or other baked goods as gifts for the holidays. You can purchase cookie tins at your local thrift store for pennies (I purchased 20 tins for under $3). Allrecipes.com, as well as other websites, offer a ton of wonderful cookie recipes.

  1. Make the effort to reach out to others.

When you’re feeling depressed or sad, the last thing you probably feel like doing is going out, however, I’d like to encourage you to resist the urge to withdraw. This can be hard when you don’t have very much energy, but do it anyway.

It’s important to go to the holiday concert, the Christmas party, or the holiday luncheon. Even if you can only stay for a short while, going can make the difference between feeling completely isolated and having some human connection. You don’t need to try to talk to everyone. Just pick one or two people to connect with and start a conversation. I have found that when I reach out to people, many times they will return the favor.

The holidays are also a great time to talk to people you haven’t seen or spoken to in awhile. Use this time to pick up the phone or break out the Christmas cards and write warm messages to your friends and family members. If don’t feel like licking envelopes and purchasing stamps, try sending an electronic card via email. Crosscards.com allows you send holiday cards for free. Not only will this brighten their day, but doing the activity will brighten your spirit, as well.

  1. Meditate on the positive.

One of the things that I have found to be vitally important when I’m in a slump is to manage my thought life. I struggle with anxiety and fear, so if I’m not careful, I can allow a plethora of anxious thoughts to plunge me into the depths of despair.

In order to avoid this, I have had to consciously and deliberately take control of the way I think. I do this by making time to meditate. This is easier said than done since there are so many distractions. Constant notifications from things like Facebook and other social media, the barrage of daily emails, text messaging, and any number of other things on the internet, are constantly demanding our attention.

But we can choose to fight back and take control of our soul. This means finding a quiet place and meditating on scripture or other inspirational passages. Some of my favorite scripture passages to meditate on are:

“I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.” (Psalm 23:4)

“Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart.” (Philippians 4:6)

“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

“…. My friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.” (Philippians 4:8)

  1. Take time out to exercise.

According to information from the Mayo Clinic, “regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.”(1)

Making and meeting regular exercise goals also gives you the opportunity to take your mind off of your worries and get out of the cycle of negative thinking that fuels depression and anxiety. I have personally noticed that on the days when I make the effort to get out and walk for 30 minutes or so, my mood is so much better.

Regular exercise also benefits you psychologically and emotionally too because it can help you to gain confidence, get more social interaction, and manage your depression or anxiety in a positive, healthy way. Additionally, getting outside and exposing yourself to more light can significantly improve depression.

I realize that none of these things by themselves is going to solve all of our problems or relieve all the sadness, but collectively they can help to cheer our spirits. I encourage you to try them and reclaim this time of the year.

  1. Mayo Clinic article “Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms”, September 27, 2017, http://www.mayoclinic.com.

 

Menopause and Divorce: Know the Facts!

Did you know that 60% of divorces are initiated by women in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s–women who are going through menopause?

Before you throw in the towel, join us at the 2nd Annual Celebrating ‘The Change’ National Menopause Awareness event. Come and listen to our panels of experts and to the testimonies of women who have made it to the other side and find out how to communicate and renegotiate the terms of your relationship with your spouse.

For more information, go to https://celebratethechange2017.eventbrite.com

And the Greatest of These is Love

By Deanna Johnson Cauthen

Deanna Cauthen is as a contributing writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Decatur Dispatch and Tucker Times news magazines, publications of Hometown Newspapers.

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Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you that I am not a person who sheds tears easily. I’m just not.  But when I saw the face of Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed in Charlottesville when a white supremacist ran over her and several others, the tears came and they kept coming. They flowed from a soul that is full of grief and sorrow.

If someone would have asked me 20 years ago whether racism in America was a significant issue, I would have said that, although I still believe that it exists, it’s the exception and not the rule. I was truly convinced that it was primarily a thing of the past. Sadly, I’ve changed my mind. The incident at Charlottesville, along with other racial events over the past few years, has opened my eyes to the realization that some of the things that I thought were true about America are not true at all. It’s been a rude awakening for me and my heart can barely stand it.

Racism is alive and well. In some cases, it’s not as obvious because it’s been repackaged and rebranded. In cases like the one we all saw in Charlottesville, it comes at you like a raging bull–mean and deadly. The most hurtful thing for me, though, is seeing and hearing it from people who are supposed to love me–people who call themselves Christians. The fact that so many of my white sisters and brothers have failed to denounce racism publicly and definitively, or even worse, defend these types of actions, cuts me to my core.

The scripture says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Heather Heyer, a white sister who I have never met, laid down her life in the pursuit to love others. Although her life was short, she fulfilled her calling to love her fellow man and while we may not be called to literally lay down our lives, we are each called to “love our neighbor as ourselves”. We can only do this when we acknowledge each other’s pain and  “share in each other’s sufferings”.

There are those in the Christian community who say that Heather and the others counter-protesters should not have gone to Charlottesville and confronted the neo-nazis. They say that they should have stayed away and been peacekeepers, but the scriptures say, ‘blessed are the peacemakers’, not blessed are the peacekeepers.

Peacekeepers are people who don’t want to rock the boat.  They want to keep the status quo at all costs. Peacemakers are people who work to create peace and reconcile things and people that are at odds with one another. Heather Heyer was a modern-day, civil rights, peacemaker and she gave her life for that cause.

If there is any good that can come from a tragedy such as this, it would be that incidents like these are a catalyst for change. Just like in the sixties during the Civil Rights movement when we saw the ugly images of dogs and water hoses being used against protesters, the recent images of white supremacists with their torches raised and chanting their hateful rhetoric, have sparked an awakening to the evils of racism for some of my white friends, and thankfully, some of them have begun to speak out.

To all my white sisters and brothers who have chosen to love people of color by bravely and emphatically taking a stand against the evils of racism, thank you. Thank you for not being silent. Thank you for not rationalizing the rioting and violence in Charlottesville by comparing it to the Black Lives Matter movement. Thank you for helping us to keep the faith by standing with us and letting us know we are not alone. Thank you for protecting us with your love.

Taking a stand against racism is scary and it’s hard work.  I’ve only been doing this for a few years and I’m already tired and I’ve been tempted to give up, but when a sister like Heather Heyer, is not afraid to speak out and take a stand, how can I quit? My prayer is that many eyes will be open to the realities of racism and that hearts will be changed. May this young woman’s death not be in vain.

6 Things to do to Protect Kids From Sex Traffickers

By Deanna Johnson Cauthen

Deanna Cauthen is as a contributing writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Decatur Dispatch and Tucker Times news magazines, publications of Hometown Newspapers.

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Recently, while shopping at our local supermarket, my daughter Adrianna was approached by a young, attractive, African-American woman wearing sunglasses, in the produce department,. I was several feet away when I looked over and noticed the uncomfortable expression on my daughter’s face, so I stopped what I was doing and walked over to her.

I told the woman that I was Adrianna’s mother and asked her what she needed. At that point, she immediately took off without giving me an answer. Surprised, I turned to my daughter and asked her what the woman wanted. She told me that the woman asked her age and said that she would like to get to know her better. She also asked her if she had a family and whether or not she live with them.

It took me a few minutes to process what had just happened, but when I did, my heart was gripped with fear because everything about the transaction pointed to sex trafficking. I was shocked and horrified.

Never in a million years could I have imagined that my daughter would come face to face with a sexual predator. Even more surprising was that the person who approached her was a woman. We proceeded to the front of the store and reported the incident to the manager and then to the police.

What exactly is sex trafficking? Sex trafficking occurs when someone uses threats, violence or other forms of coercion to convince children and even some adults to participate in sex acts against their will.

Sex trafficking is a big business and it thrives because there is a serious demand. It’s happening not only in the United States, but globally. According to numbers released by the National Human Research Trafficking Resource Center, human trafficking produced $150 billion in revenue worldwide.

With these facts in mind, it’s imperative that we as parents, and the community at large, educate ourselves on what things what can be done to combat this problem. Although this is by no means a conclusive list, here are six things we can do to protect our own children and the other children in the community.

  1.  Take time to connect with your children.

As parents, sometimes we get caught up with our own problems and become emotionally unavailable to our children, many times without meaning to do so.  We need to, however, take deliberate actions to connect with our children on a daily basis.

You’ve probably heard people say that quality time is more important than quantity, but that’s not true. Kids need both quantity and quality time. This means talking with them and asking open-ended questions and not just talking at them and barking out orders.

Sexual predators are looking for children who feel disconnected and who lack supportive families. It’s not enough to say ‘I love you’. Your kids need to feel and know that you are there for them.

  1. Set boundaries and model healthy behavior.

Your children are watching how you handle problems and interact with others. A few months ago, I was in a store with my daughter when a young man became agitated with me and started exhibiting threatening behavior. I immediately went and found a manager and told him about the situation. I asked him to walk me and my daughter to our car, which he did, and he stayed with us until we drove away.

The lesson my daughter learned that day was when you need help, ask for it. You don’t have to go it alone. She also learned that it was important to trust your gut and honor your own senses. They need to know that if they feel uncomfortable, they have the right to protect themselves, but they can only do that if they see that kind of behavior being modeled at home.

  1. Stay informed and alert.

When I posted the incident that happened in the store on Facebook, there were several of my friends who did not realize that sex trafficking was such a big problem. This tells me means that we, as a community, have some catching up to do when it comes to getting informed about this issue.

It’s worth mentioning again that the sexual predator that approached my daughter was not some big, scary man, but a charming, attractive, young woman.  According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, about four in 10 human traffickers throughout the globe are female, dispelling the general perception that sex trafficking is a male-dominated industry.

Becky McDonald, the founder of the Michigan-based nonprofit Women At Risk International, recently spoke to an audience at the World Affairs Council of Palm Beach about sex trafficking. “The face of trafficking, often the actual trafficker who is doing the sale of that person against their will, is a female”, said McDonald.

Sex trafficking can take place through online contact as well, so pay close attention to your children’s internet accessible devices. Do periodic, random cell phone and tablet checks and monitor other internet activities.

With the internet literally at our fingertips, we can arm ourselves with the information we need and become a part of the solution to this problem. Understanding the nature of sex trafficking and knowing what to look for, can not only help your child, but other children in the community, as well. The FAIR Girls Organization and the US Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign are two of many good online resources.

  1. Don’t assume that your child is immune from this type of activity.

As I mentioned previously, sex traffickers are looking for children who are lonely, isolated, depressed and who have a weak family structure, but don’t assume that because your child comes from “a good home” that they are not susceptible.  Depending on what’s going on in the home at the current time, along with other factors like school and friendships, your child’s emotional state may be more fragile than you think.

Although I was almost sure that my daughter would never have willingly gone with this woman, I used the situation as a time to take her emotional temperature. I asked her how she felt about the incident that had just happened and about other things going on in her life to make sure that I wasn’t missing anything.

  1. Help them develop a plan of action to use if they’re confronted by a predator.

When we got home, my daughter, husband, and I talked about the experience at the store. First, we reassured her that she did nothing wrong and that what happened wasn’t her fault in any way. Secondly, we discussed a plan of action in case this situation or something similar were to happen again. Below are some specific courses of actions we advised her to take.

  • Walk away from the person. Remember, you don’t owe a stranger anything and you don’t have to be polite to a person who you think is dangerous.
  • If they persist, look them in the eye and firmly say, ‘I am not interested’ and continue to walk away and distance yourself from them. Don’t engage them in a conversation or give out any personal information.
  • If you are in a store or another place of business, get help. Ask for a manager or proceed to a security guard or police officer and notify them about the situation.
  • Stay with a responsible adult until help arrives.
  • Call or tell your parent or guardian about the incident so that they can make an official report with the local authorities.
  1. Provide support for at-risk kids in your neighborhood during the summer break. Unfortunately, summertime is a prime time when sexual predators are looking to recruit. They know that children are out of school which gives them more access. Additionally, there are many parents who cannot afford proper childcare and who leave children home alone with nothing to do and little supervision. These kids are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking.

If you don’t already do this, talk with your neighbors and get to know them. Form a network to help those parents who might not otherwise be able to afford childcare. If you can afford it, sponsor a child for a week or two of daycare or offer to take turns watching each other’s kids.

Look for the warning signs of child sex trafficking including new tattoos (pimps use this as a way to brand victims), is withdrawn, depressed, or distracted, and signs of physical abuse such as burn marks, bruises or cuts. You can visit the Shared Hope International website for a more comprehensive list of warning signs. As the ancient, African proverb says, “Remember, it takes a village to raise a child”.

What God’s Gonna Say When My Mama Gets to Heaven

 

One day, mama will enter through those the pearly gates of gold

Into heaven and all its splendor as the scriptures have foretold

The angels will see her coming and they’ll run to her and cheer

They’ll lead her to the Throne of Grace and say “Look, Joanna’s here.”

 

God will look up from his work, on his face they’ll be a smile

“Girl, come sit down next to me”, he’ll say. “Let’s talk a little while.”

Let’s take some time and review your life and all that you have done

Let’s recount all of the battles that I’ve fought for you and won.

 

I formed you in your mother’s womb and gave you your first breath

I  watched you grow and protected you from an untimely death

As a child, you and your twin sister had to struggle to survive

It was me who whispered in your ear, “Don’t worry, I’ll provide.

 

At school, you loved to do your work; you took it seriously

And I gifted you especially for math and Chemistry

You wanted to become a nurse, but instead became a wife

I blessed your union and over time you began to birth new life

 

Your duties as a wife and mom became your new career

And you served your family faithfully each and every year.

You trained your children and taught them to obey the “Golden Rule”

And every week you took them to church and Sunday School

 

When your family needed money, you helped and went to work

You used your skills and took a job as a library clerk

But then your husband, Richard, died and that was such a blow

You fell into a deep, dark place; your heart had sunk so low

 

But there’s no place where you can go where I am not there, too

The darkness is as light to me and I have perfect view

I was there, I saw your tears and heard your painful groans

It was me who whispered in your ear, “You are not alone.

 

I helped renew your courage and you again began to run,

the race that I ordained for you and that you had begun

You finished raising your young girls; got remarried to a chef

The two of you looked forward to the years that you had left

 

Your children, now, had children and you were blessed to see

Another generation and grow your family tree

Some grands you helped to raise and rear; helped others when in need,

But you shared your love with all of them and in their lives sowed seeds

 

Then, as time would have it, your sweet, twin sister died

You said goodbye to your best friend and once again you cried

But life continued to move on; you explored a new frontier

And at the age of 65, you started your school career

 

At school, you served the children and the teachers, too

And help them with their lessons and all they have to do

You loved the work you did each day, but I know that you got tired

And many days you wondered if you ever would retire

 

Again, you lost a husband. now, you were widowed twice.

The future seemed so lonely, you needed some advice.

You asked, “What lies ahead? What will my life now be?”

“Don’t worry about tomorrow,” I said.  “I’m your sufficiency.”

 

So you went about the business of completing final tasks

And faithfully you did them well, each thing that I had asked

And just like at the first, I was there for your last breath

It was me who whispered in your ear, “Don’t be afraid of death.

 

When God was finished with his talk, he took mama by the hand

And He gave her a personal tour around the Promise Land

They walked along an avenue, then down a tree-lined street

And came upon a mansion and there they made entry

 

Once inside the house they saw people everywhere

It was a huge celebration; a real upscale affair.

There was music, lots of food, that’s good, ‘cause mama loves to eat

God said, “Come here, Joanna. There’s some people you should meet.”

 

At first, she didn’t see them, she didn’t recognize

The outline of their faces, but then she saw their eyes

It was auntie and my grandma and then my father, too

They hugged and cried, and then they said, “We’ve been waiting here for you.”

 

They talked and laughed for quite some time, but then got up to leave

“Where are you going,”? Mama said. “Take me with you, please.”

Then God said, This house is yours. These people are just guests.

Come, relax, and sit down and enjoy your well-earned rest.

 

Remember how on Earth you said that you wanted a retreat–

How you were sick and tired of having to work all week.?

Well, this is it. Here you are. You have finally arrived.

And I’m giving you a chauffeur, cause I know you hate to drive.

 

Well done, my good and faithful servant. Today, new life begins.

No more struggles. You’re home at last. Now, come and enter in.

 

Cosmic Energy Fitness Studio Provides Support for a Stroke Survivor

doreen-ware-picBy Deanna Cauthen

Strokes kill more than 130,000 people a year, according to facts obtained from the Center for Disease Control. A stroke, which is also called a brain attack, occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. 

Recovery after a stroke can sometimes be a long, arduous process and many survivors don’t feel emotionally or physically ready to put on their running shoes and go jogging. However, exercise can be just what the doctor ordered and is very important for preventing a recurring stroke.

 

Such was the case with Doreen Ware who had a stroke in 2013 which rendered the left side of her body immobile. In 2014, after my stroke, I started walking at Northlake Mall,” said Ware. She explained that it was not too long after that when, Cosmic Energy Fitness Studio owner and personal trainer, Patrice Peters, started reaching out to her. 

It’s always wonderful when you see people investing in their lives no matter what form of exercise they choose,” said Peters.

 

Ware shared about how she made the transition from walking in the mall to working out with Peters. “One day, Patrice said, ‘Come on in’, said Ware. I told her, ‘I can’t do what they can do’ and she said, ‘Don’t do what they can do, do what you can do’. She even let me come for free, one day, just to try it out,” said Ware.

 

Ware stated that she began working out at Cosmic Energy Fitness Studio about three months ago and that she and Peters concentrate mainly on exercises that will increase her strength and endurance.

 

“Patrice will modify the exercises and will even get up underneath my left arm to lift it. She’s shorter than me so she, sometimes, has to stand on a chair to help me execute certain exercises. She is very encouraging,” said Ware.

“We set goals and work together to accomplish them. I’ve received her records from her physical therapist and have incorporated some of those exercises into her workout,” said Peters.

According to information received from EverydayHealth.com, exercising and staying physically active will not only help stroke survivors recover quicker, but it can help prevent a second one, because it:

  • Controls cholesterol levels. Keeping your cholesterol level low is very important if you want to prevent another stroke. Exercise increases “good” cholesterol.

  • Fights high blood pressure. By keeping your blood vessels working well, you can fight high blood pressure.

  • Controls weight. Many stroke survivors need to lose weight to reduce their risk of another stroke. Even if you’re already at a healthy weight, exercise will help with weight management.

  • Fights depression. Depression is common after a stroke and can make it hard for you to find the motivation to do anything, let alone get moving. But being physically active fights stress and depression, which in turn reduces your additional heart disease and stroke risk.

 

Ware said that she knows first-hand how difficult things can be after a stroke, but she emphasized that stroke survivors must be willing to play an active role in their own recovery. “You have to get up and try,” said Ware.

The Real ‘Women of the Year’: A Rebuttal

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By now, you’ve probably heard the stories surrounding Bruce Jenner’s sex change and the process he’s gone through to transform himself into “Caitlyn”.  When the story first broke, I made up my mind to ignore it and I was doing a pretty good job of it until I heard the news that “Caitlyn” had been awarded “Woman of the Year” by the popular magazine, Glamour.  

Initially, I was annoyed by the fact that Glamour had chosen to exploit the situation and use it as a cheap stunt to sell more magazines, but over the last several weeks, my annoyance has given way to anger and outrage.

I’m outraged not just for myself, but for all of my friends who are mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters and who selflessly and tirelessly serve in their calling as women each day. Yes, to be a woman is a divine calling and to applaud what Jenner has become, is to desecrate and degrade the authenticity of womanhood and make a mockery of the real struggles that so many of us face on a daily basis.

At age 50, I am in the throngs of menopause and struggle with my weight and other issues, as do many of my women friends. For me, it’s a challenge to balance all of my many duties with basic things like getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet and doing regular exercise.

As the mother of three daughters, I have the additional responsibility of trying to stress to my girls that their worth is not based on how they look. We, as women, are regularly bombarded with the messages from the media that want us to compare ourselves with the airbrushed bodies of mannequin-like models. We have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and so we’re constantly struggling with our self-worth.

And isn’t it just like Enemy to use an imposter like Jenner to highjack the female agenda, catapult the transgender mandate into the headlines, and give them accolades and rewards for being “brave”.

History is full of women who were really brave–women, who despite their “weaker vessel” status, endured harsh and sometimes horrific circumstances to save not only themselves, but others.

Take for instance, Queen Esther, who risked her life and courageously spoke out to save the Jewish people from being annihilated. Fast forward some and let’s talk about Sacagawea, the Native American guide who accompanied Lewis and Clark and helped them open up the American frontier, Harriet Tubman and all the people she lead to freedom via the Underground Railroad, Florence Nightingale who was a pioneer in modern nursing, Marie Curie, the famous chemist and physicist who won the Nobel Peace Prize and made many advances for science, Helen Keller who was blind and deaf from the age of two, but who overcame her handicaps and became a champion for the rights of others with handicaps, Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator, Mother Theresa, who was literally, saint and Oprah Winfrey, who despite discrimination due to race and gender, rose through the ranks to become one of the most successful people in television broadcasting.

I could go on and on because there are literally thousands of women who deserve to be mentioned. And yet we dare to call Caitlyn Jenner “brave” because she now has to learn how to put on a dress and high-heeled shoes? The whole thing is nothing short of offensive and it makes my blood boil. To accept and affirm Caitlyn Jenner’s actions is to deny and degrade the organic essence of real womanhood.

Being a woman involves a whole lot more than dressing up, getting our hair and fingernails done, or putting on makeup. As 1 Peter 3:3 says, it’s more than “the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.”  Ask any scientist and they will tell you that being a female is, literally, in our DNA, but beyond that, it’s a God-given calling that can’t be acquired or abolished by reconstructive surgery. Our bodies and minds are uniquely created and designed to perform certain tasks specific to our gender. We are an original design made by the Master and we cannot to be copied or manufactured by human hands.

And so, for all the women around the world who suffer with menstrual cramps each month and who deal with the severe anemia that comes as a result of the heavy bleeding, who have carried babies and bared down in labor to bring them into this world or who have died in childbirth trying, who have lost babies due to miscarriage, who agonize because of the pain of infertility, who have sat up nursing their infants in the middle of the night, who bear the battle scars of mastectomies or who lost their lives due to breast cancer, who struggle with hormonal imbalances and all of the changes that come with menopause, who have dealt with uterine fibroids, endometriosis, urinary tract infections, cervical, ovarian and uterine cancer, who struggled and conquered eating disorders, I salute and hereby declare you ‘Women of the Year”.

A Very Personal “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” Encounter

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Many of you know that my husband, Andrew, is the managing editor of The Champion Newspaper, a weekly publication in the metro-Atlanta area. You should also remember that Tuesday, November 3, was Election Day which means that the media has the job of reporting the final results of election races around the area.

Election Day ended up being a very long work day for him since the returns don’t start to come in until after the polls close at 7:00pm, but since he works so close to home, he was able to come home for supper, rest for a little while and then head over to the Board of Elections office around 7:30pm.  As he was leaving, I asked him when he thought he’d be finished and he told me that he should be done around 9:30 or so.

When the clock in the kitchen showed 9:30 pm and he had not arrived home, I wasn’t very concerned because Andrew has covered Election Day for the past several years and getting the final results can sometimes take a little longer than expected. So I went into the bedroom and laid down. I fell asleep, but woke up when he called to tell me that he was going to have to go back to the office. The lady who does the graphic design was having trouble uploading things remotely and would need him to physically go in and upload the graphics. Again, this was not unusual.

He finally arrived home around 12:00 am and it was then that he shared the scary encounter he had just with the police.

It seems that when he went to his office, the alarm panel was having some problems and he accidentally set it off. He quickly keyed in the code unarming the system and since he hadn’t received a phone call from the alarm company, he assumed everything was okay. He proceeded to his office, turned on the computer, called the graphic design employee, and went about the business of putting the final details of the election results onto the pages of the newspaper.

As he talked on the phone in the office, he could hear noises coming from the hallway and so he told the employee to hold on and walked over to the door to see if he could hear more. At that point, he heard a voice yell, “This is the police. Come out with your hands up!”.

Stunned, he yelled back and said, “I’m coming out with my hands up.” and he slowly opened the door and entered the hallway. The three officers, one of which had his gun drawn, were at the other end of the long hallway. They instructed him to walk toward them. He walked toward them with his hands in the air (his phone was still in his hand and graphic design artist was still on the phone). When he got about halfway down the corridor, they then instructed him to put his phone on the floor, turn around, put his hands behind his head and walk backwards to them.

When he reached them, he was told to turn around again and they proceeded to ask him a series of questions–”Why was he in the building? What was he doing there?  Did he have a key to the building?” He told them that he was the managing editor of The Champion Newspaper, that it was Election Night and that he was working on the newspaper.

At that point, they asked him for identification which he promptly showed them. They asked to see his key to the building and told him to use it to unlock the door which he did. One of the officers asked if he would mind if they searched him and he gave them permission to search his body. They asked him if he had work identification and he told them that it was on his desk back in his office, so they walked him back to his office where he showed them his work identification. They ended the interrogation by asking him to give them specific details about the election. The police officers told him that there had been recent burglaries in the building, gave him their business card and finally left.

Obviously, this was an incident that could have went very badly as we have seen with other situations in recent months and years. So I wanted to use this as an opportunity to share a few important insights.

First and foremost, as a believer, this incident confirmed for me the importance of praying for my husband. Whenever he leaves the house, I walk him to the door, kiss him goodbye and I stand in the doorway and wave as he pulls out of the driveway and drives down the street.  In those moments, I pray for the Lord to bless, keep him and to protect him from hurt, harm and danger.  I’ve prayed those prayers too many times to count, and to be perfectly honest, sometimes I’ve wondered if they even work. Well, they do. So, wives, pray for your husbands because we never know what they will face each day.

Another important factor in this situation is possessing a spirit of humility and self-control.

Those of you who know Andrew know that he is a gentleman and I mean that in the truest sense of the word–he is a gentle man. He’s naturally reserved and pleasant. He doesn’t have a “thug” bone in his body. He’s well-learned, well spoken and well-mannered, and well dressed and these character traits have served him well.

Keep in mind, though, that it was very late and it had been a long day. He was tired and ready to go home. The last thing he expected to have to deal with was three police officers with guns drawn yelling at him to come out of his office with his hands up. He could have copped an attitude (pun intended) and said a lot of things in those moments, but he didn’t. He remained calm, collected his thoughts and cooperated and did what the police asked him to do. He knew that he hadn’t done anything wrong and he believed that he would have a chance to explain why he was there.

Now, some of you might be drawing the conclusion that the situation ended well because my husband is a good, black man and did as he was told, but that would be an inaccurate oversimplification. If we are to move forward as a nation and achieve racial reconciliation, it is vitally important to acknowledge the fact that insidious, pernicious racism still exists, that law enforcement, for the most part, has preconceived, negative ideas about black men, and that there are many times when innocent men of color who are doing nothing wrong (as in the case of the former professional tennis player, James Blake, who was tackled by a NYC police officer as he stood waiting outside of his hotel), still get treated badly. This brings me to my final point.

In order to have the best and most favorable outcome in these types of situations, respect cannot be one-sided. It must be shown by both parties. It is unreasonable to think that a police officer or a citizen can treat the other with disdain and disrespect and there not be some kind of negative repercussions.

The officers in this case came to the premises based on a legitimate call from the security company. They had reason to believe that an unauthorized person was in the building. Add to that the fact that there was an unlocked door (which my husband knew nothing about since he had locked the door he entered when he came into the building) which made things look even more suspicious.

I appreciate that the police officers took the time to listen to my husband as he explained what he was doing in the building that night. I also think that they exhibited a degree of civility when they “asked” him if they could frisk him for weapons and I’m grateful that they did not manhandle him.

Still, the idea of a police officer searching my law-abiding husband’s body like a common criminal after he showed his identification and explained why he was there is highly offensive to me and my feelings are tempered only by the fact that “all’s well, that ends well”. I wonder if they would have taken those same measures if my husband’s boss, who happens to be a white man, had been the one to step out of the office and into the hallway. Somehow, I don’t think they would have, but I don’t know. All I know is that my husband is home, safe and sound, and for that I am grateful.

 

I Am Rich

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Sometimes I’ve wondered what it would be like to be rich– I mean, really rich, as in never-have-to- worry-about-money-again rich. There have been occasions, while exiting the highway at Memorial Drive, I’ve glanced up at the ginormous lottery sign announcing the mega payoff and I’ve thought, “What would I do with all that money? Would my life be better? Would I be happier?”  I probably will never know because I don’t plan on playing, but after thinking about it some more, I have determined something; I’m already rich.

I am rich because I am the daughter of two parents who loved and cherished me.  The time, energy and resources they poured into me helped me to know that I was important to them and that I mattered. One of my earliest memories is snuggling up with mother on the sofa, at the corner closest to the lamp, and listening to her read stories to me in the evenings. She encouraged my creativity and curiosity and answered my many questions, at least most of the time, and this set the stage for things to come. She helped me believe that I was destined for great things.  Even after my father died, my mother was faithful to finish what was started, and it was her tenacity and strength that carried me safely to the shores of adulthood.

I am rich because of the legacy of love given to me by others who are no longer with us– people like Auntie (That’s what we called our Aunt Dianna, my mother’s twin sister. We had other aunts, but there was only one Auntie.) She was the family historian and since she had no children of her own, she was always there to fill in the gap for me and my siblings while we were growing up. Now I’m the family historian and I am proud to be her namesake.

I am rich because I’m blessed to be married to a left brained-right brained kind of guy–you know the type, well learned, intelligent and creative, but practical and hands-on. I smile sometimes when I look at him standing at the podium on Sunday mornings delivering a word to the congregation, or I catch a glimpse of him on television interviewing an important politician because I know that the same man who prays those beautiful prayers and writes and edits the newspaper stories, is the same man who will come home and wash and fold a load of laundry. My point is, he’s not just talker, but a doer. He has a servant’s heart and he lives it out each day in our home and I am deeply satisfied because I know that, this time, I chose well.

I am rich every time I hold my granddaughter and her little brothers in my arms and they cover me with hugs and kisses and tell me that they love me. And when sweet, little Bryce prays his prayers at night, thanking God that we have chosen to be his grandma and grandpa too, my heart is full and my cup runneth over.

I am rich because I have finally reached a point where I am comfortable in my own skin and although I would prefer to be a size four instead of a fourteen I am happy, healthy and whole and grateful to be the me I am today.

I am rich because I’ve been blessed with the gift of children.  The love and the life lessons that I’ve learned as a result of motherhood far outweighed the duties and sacrifices.  Choosing to be a mother and to care for four other human beings has challenged me to give of myself in ways I never would have had I not chosen to become a parent, but the paradox is, that in giving, I received.  They helped me to grow up and I am a better person because of them.

I am rich because of the beautiful friendships I enjoy with the many women God has placed in my life over the years.  Some are older, some are younger and there are those who I’ve known longer, but I share a camaraderie them all.  I feel emotionally and spiritually nourished when I can talk with trusted women friends about the issues that matter most to me. Yes, there are those times when a little gossip is involved, but most of the time we’re exchanging words of encouragement and practical advice and I’m glad to be a part of such a wonderful sisterhood.

I am rich because I am a sibling and auntie to a host of brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, both biologically and by-law. Although we only see each other a few times a year, coming together to celebrate birthdays and holidays and other special occasions is a wonderful reminder that I am in relationships with people with whom I share common history. This helps me to feel rooted and grounded.

I am rich because I have been able to tap into my God-given gifts and I operate with a sense of purpose. Whether it’s writing stories for the paper, singing a solo for church service, using my marketing/PR skills to organize an event, homeschooling my daughter, or cooking a good meal for my family, I know that what I do makes a difference and that gives me fulfillment.

I am rich because I belong to a church family who loves and cares about me. When I first came to this Grace 20 years ago, I was on the brink of divorce and about to be a single mom with three children. I was hurting and I was scared, but they immediately embraced me and began to help me in practical ways. They invited me to eat in their homes, talk at their kitchen tables, and on occasion even sleep in their beds. Over time I began to realize that I was connected to large, diverse spiritual family. Because of their consistent love, I was able to grow and develop in my Christian walk and now I’m a part of the leadership of this church and I am able to give back and help others in the same way they helped me. The best part is, that when it’s all said and done, we’re going spend eternity together.

A Healed Heart: A Father’s Day Tribute

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By Deanna Cauthen

I lost my father to pancreatic cancer when I was 13 years old.  It was all very sudden–him getting very sick, the excruciating pain, my mother taking him to the hospital in the middle of the night, and then six weeks later, dying. Just like that, he was gone.

If you’ve never experienced it, the death of a parent, at such an early age, is one of the hardest things a child can endure.  It leaves a hole in your heart–an empty, lonely feeling like nothing else. At least, that was the way it felt for me.  Add to that the pain of not understanding why God would allow such a thing to happen and you can imagine the despair.

That was 37 years ago. Now, fast forward several years to January 13, 2001, the day I married Andrew Louis Cauthen, III. Like most people who enter into a marriage, I was in love and believed that Andrew would probably be a good husband and father, but in actuality, who really knows about these things. Only time would tell….

Well, time has told. We’ve been married, now, for almost 15 years and what did God do? He gave me a man with a great, big daddy’s heart.  I find it rather perplexing, but altogether wonderful that a God who would allow my father to exit my life at such an early age would, in turn, give me a husband who would play a part in healing the wounds of the past. But, then who can understand God?

I remember how my heart melted the first time I saw him look at Adrianna shortly after she was born.  I could clearly see that he was awestruck and he’s been that way ever since. Even at 13 years of age, he faithfully tucks her into bed at night and it blesses my heart as I watch him from the doorway of her bedroom.

But his love isn’t limited by biology. It’s been extended over and over again to his three stepchildren, the non-biological grandchildren that he’s helping to raise and to the hundreds of youths he’s mentored during his 23+ years of youth ministry. The devotion he has for them and the unwavering commitment to their well being is nothing short of God’s grace in action.

My biological dad has been gone for more than three decades, but the Lord has used the father’s love of my husband to heal my heart again and again. I am incredibly blessed to be married to a man who takes the ministry of fatherhood so seriously. God bless you, Andrew Cauthen!

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Deanna Cauthen, works as a contributing writer for the Decatur Dispatch and Tucker Times news magazines, publications of Hometown News Inc. and she has also been a staff writer for the Stone Mountain-Lithonia Patch, an online media outlet of AOL.com. As a freelance writer, she has written numerous articles for local and national publications including Christianity Today and Home Education magazines.  She is also the owner/operator of The ProWriter’s Studio, a public relations agency.