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”.

8 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Fatherhood

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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As we celebrate Father’s Day, I wanted to find a way to honor the many African-American fathers who sacrifice and support their families each day. I felt particularly burdened to write a word of encouragement since many of us have been deeply hurt and discouraged by the unjust killings of several African-American men by the police.

Unfortunately, society’s perception of Black men and their role as fathers is a dismal one. So often, the only pictures we see of African-American men are the ones painted by the ugly images of the media. This, along with the prejudices that have been passed down from generation to generation about African-Americans in general and Black men in particular, has added to the misconception people have about them.

I’ve been fortunate, however, to witness some of the best of what Black fatherhood has to offer. Despite the odds, I have watched these men serve their families and contribute in countless ways to their communities and I’d like to share eight things with you that I’ve observed.

1. Most African-American fathers are very nurturing to their children.

A C.D.C. report issued in December 2013 found that Black fathers were the most involved with their children daily, on a number of measures than any other group of fathers — and in many cases, that was among fathers who didn’t live with their children, as well as those who did.

I remember how my heart melted the first time I saw Andrew look at our daughter, Adrianna, shortly after she was born.  I could clearly see that he was awestruck and he has been that way ever since. He regularly spends time talking with her, supports all of her interests, and even at age 15, he faithfully tucks her into bed at night.

But his love isn’t limited by biology. It’s been extended over and over again to his three stepchildren, the grandchildren that he’s helping to raise and the hundreds of youth he’s mentored during his 23+ years of youth ministry.

2. Black fathers carry a particularly heavy load and need support and encouragement from their community.

Woven into the very fabric of American thinking is a longstanding, pernicious attitude that African-American men are inherently bad and there’s been a long history of efforts to rob Black males of fidelity and honor. The prejudices are so pervasive that many African-Americans themselves have unconsciously internalized and accepted much of this poisonous mindset.

Battling these negative attitudes, along with the responsibility of caring for a family, can be a daunting task. These men need the support of a caring community.

You might be asking yourself, “Where are all these good Black men?” The answer is that they are all around you, but you need to open your eyes and see them. They’re the guys who pick up your trash, the dentist that cleans your teeth, the mechanic who fixes your brakes, the principal at the local high school, the coach who mentors your child’s sports team, and the co-worker at the next cubicle. The list goes on and on.

As a community, we can help bridge the gap and bring healing and restoration when we choose to cross racial boundaries and enter into the world of an African-American family. If you are of another race, I challenge you to invite a family of color to your house for a meal and get to know them better. It will go a long way to breaking down old stereotypes.

3. Good Black fathers are not an anomaly.

As amazing and wonderful as my husband, Andrew, is he is not an anomaly. I come from a long legacy of Black men who are wonderful fathers including my dad, brothers, uncles, father-in-law, and brother-in-laws. Furthermore, I’ve been fortunate to be in friendships with several wonderful Black men and their families.

Not only do these men tend to the needs of their immediate families and would move heaven and earth to provide and protect, but many of them help their extended families, volunteer in the community and regularly serve at their places of worship.

4. Black fathers want to be the leader for their family and desperately need their wives or significant other to support them.

In a report entitled “The Negro Family” written 50 years ago, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan states that “…the Negro community has been forced into a matriarchal structure which…seriously retards the progress of the group as a whole, and imposes a crushing burden on the Negro male and, in consequence, on a great many Negro women as well.”

Because of this breakdown of the African-American family, some women have come from homes where there was no male leadership. As a result, it can be very difficult for a woman to trust a man to lead a family, but we must allow our men to be restored to their rightful place.

As a divorcee who had to be head of household and primary provider, I know how hard it is to lead a family. It was a relief for me to be able to turn the reigns over to Andrew. He has a servant’s heart and his leadership, along with my wisdom, support, and prayers, has enabled our family to accomplish great things.

5. Contrary to popular belief, African-American fathers are not deserting their children.

Josh Levs, author of the book, “All In,” points out this fact in a chapter in the book titled “How Black Dads Are Doing Best of All (But There’s Still a Crisis).” One fact that Levs quickly establishes is that most Black fathers in America live with their children: “There are about 2.5 million Black fathers living with their children and about 1.7 million living apart from them.” Admittedly, not all of these fathers are married to the mothers of their children, but that is a far cry from abandonment.

6. Most African-American fathers, despite disadvantages, work and take care of their kids.

According to the Census Bureau 2013 American Community Survey, 67% of African-American males ages 16 to 64 are in the labor force. Although the participation rate for Black males is less than the ‘all male’ population rate of 80%, you must take into account that historically African-American males have lagged behind in education which significantly affects employment opportunities. My father was a prime example of this.

As a self-taught electrician with barely a high school education, my daddy struggled to make a living. Additionally, during the fifties and sixties, there was still a lot of discrimination and it was difficult for a Black man to get licensed and employed as a certified electrician.

Because of that, he resorted to doing odd jobs here and there. Sometimes, we would go with him to a job site and wait in the car while he worked. My mother would read to us and we ate sandwiches and finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Daddy would return with a little money in his hand and we would all go home. He, along with the help of my mother, always made sure that we had a house, a car, clothes, and food.

Although my husband has a degree in English from Clemson University and has worked as a reporter for several years, Andrew had his challenges with employment, as well. Shortly after we married, the company he worked for downsized, and he ended up losing his job. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, he now had the responsibility of providing for me and the three children from my previous marriage, and we were expecting our first child together.

Although he vigorously applied for several jobs in his industry, nothing came through and he ended up having to work two part-time jobs in order to support us. He did that for several years until he was finally able to land a position as a reporter with a newspaper.  Andrew’s top priority was finding a job and earning a living for his family and he did whatever he had to do to make that happen.

7. More African-American fathers are getting a better education.

Nearly 62% of Black men earned their high school diploma in 2010, according to a 2013 Education Week report and, according to BlackDemographics.com, in 2013 about 48% of Black men 25 and older attended college, although only 17% of them earned a Bachelor’s degree.

8. Some African-American dads who have failed their families want to make amends, and need to be given the chance to do so.

Let’s face it. Some of our Black dads have screwed up royally. For one reason or another, they were absent from their children’s lives and this has caused untold amounts of pain and grief.

Of course, those early years of parenting can never be regained. However, as Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, do better.” I have personally seen some of these men doing that.

Understandably, because of the hurt that they’ve caused, sometimes their efforts are not well received by their children and former spouses or partners. As someone who has walked through this, I would like to offer a few words of advice.

To the dads out there who are trying to reconnect with their kids and repair damaged relationships, I encourage you to be patient. You cannot undo years of absenteeism and neglect in a few weeks or months. It takes time to build trust. Be honest about your mistakes and don’t make excuses.

To the children and former spouses or partners of these broken relationships, I ask you to consider the fact that most of these men were ill-prepared for the rigors of parenting. Many of them had poor or nonexistent male role models themselves. Choose to forgive, not for their sake, but for yours and let the healing process begin.

To all the African-American dads out there who get it right, thank you. We love and appreciate you. Today is your day. Celebrate!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Embracing the Gift of Singleness

By Deanna Johnson Cauthen

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Some of you may be wondering why a happily married woman of almost 16 years is writing an article about being single. Well, the truth of the matter is, I haven’t always been happily married.  

I will spare you the sorted details, but let’s just say that my first marriage of 10 years did not work out, and at age 30, I was facing divorce along with the daunting task of supporting three young children. I had gotten married at the tender age of 20 years old, so I basically had been in a relationship all of my adult life and the idea of being single was not only scary but repulsive.  After all, who wants to be single, right?

I spent the first several months of my separation dreading singleness and living in denial. I  hoped against hope that things would work out with my former husband. It didn’t. After two years of being separated, my divorce became final and slowly the reality of the situation began to set in.  I was, now, unmarried, and the question became how was I going to handle it?

Well, the good news is that I not only survived, but I thrived during my time of singleness. The very thing that I despised, ended up being one of my life’s greatest gifts because it challenged me to do several things that up to that point I had not been doing.

Below are seven things I learned during my time as a single person. I encourage you to take some time and consider each of them to see how you can incorporate them into your life.
 

  1. I embraced my community.

During the five years that I was single, I discovered that there were a wealth of people who wanted to be there for me. Not only did I have a biological family who cared about me, but I had a church family which loved and helped me in practical ways. I  also began to talk to and form close, meaningful relationships with my neighbors, most of whom were older, and they nurtured me and my children.

Singleness does not have to equate to a life sentence of loneliness and relegate you into the shadows of society. Community is all around you–it’s your family, your church, your neighbors, the lady at the grocery store, the kid walking down the street. And, remember, being in community is a two-way street. It’s not just about getting support. You need to be giving back, as well. Consider becoming a volunteer with an organization. Start reaching out to the people around you and they will reach back.

  1. I engaged my brain and helped myself.  

One of the first decisions I had to make as a single mom was where I and my kids were going to live. I had a little money in savings, and with the help of my parents, I was able to purchase my first house. As a new homeowner, I was faced with fixing and maintaining things on a regular basis. I learned how to paint walls, repair broken window panes and screens, patch holes in the sheetrock, plant a garden, and a host of other things. I also learned how to make a budget and manage the money for my household.

Although naturally independent, up until this point, I had not made many decisions on my own. Because I married so young, I basically went from my parent’s house to my husband’s house. Being unattached was empowering because it forced me to stand on my own two feet and think of ways to help myself. It allowed me to tap into my own strengths, make decisions, and value and trust my own thoughts, abilities, and ideas.

  1. I took the time to address unfinished emotional business.

Singleness gave me the time that I needed to work through some of my own underlying emotional issues. There was a reason that my first marriage failed, and although my former husband had serious issues, I married him, which meant I had issues, too. I had entered the marriage prematurely trying to escape the pain of my past, but the marriage didn’t solve any of my original problems. At best, it served as a temporary distraction.

Being alone can feel scary, but resist the temptation to jump into the next relationship before you’re ready. I know people who have done this and it has resulted in a string of failed unions. Do the hard work required to get healthy. If it means getting professional therapy or joining a 12-step support group, do it. You’ll be glad you did.

  1. I stopped looking for people to complete me.

Here’s a news flash: No one can complete you. Only God can do that and there are no substitutes. Does God put people in our lives who can share life’s journey with us? Of course, he does, but that’s very different from the codependent, dysfunctional relationships that are played out in the media.

A friend of mine, who is also a math teacher, told me something a long time ago and I’ve never forgotten it. She said, A half times another half does not equal a whole, but a quarter.” When broken people get together, it just creates more brokenness.

  1. I found an accountability partner.

Like any good pilot, sometimes you need help navigating the journey of your life. This is where a good friend can be a priceless tool. My accountability partner was the person I went to when I was about to make an important life decision and I needed help applying the practical truths of scripture to the situation. Having this component in place was the single most important element for growth in my life.

The trick is finding someone in your life who is strong enough to tell you the truth when you need to hear it, but gentle enough to provide a crying shoulder, as well.  It needs to be someone who is spiritually mature and someone who has proven themselves trustworthy. Ask God to send them to you. He will.

Let me offer a word of caution, though. Because of the advisory role this person will be playing in your life, there may be a temptation to become overly dependent on them or to put them on a spiritual pedestal. Remember that they are just an instrument of grace in the hands of the Master and that God is the ultimate source for meeting your needs.

  1. I was willing to try new things.

During the five years that I was a single woman, I tried and learned more new things than at any of time in my adult life. In some ways, it was better than a college education.

It was during this time that I purchased and learned how to drive a stick-shift car, change a flat tire, ski down a mountain, and own and operate an office cleaning business. In the end, I discovered that I was stronger and more capable than I ever realized and that I had gifts and talents that I didn’t even know that I had.

I once heard it said, “That nothing beats a failure, but a try.” For those of you who’ve been shrinking back from doing the next thing, stop saying, ‘I can’t’ and get out there and try.

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.

Confessions of a Half-Hearted Recycler

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I remember when we first got our recycling paraphernalia from the county sanitation department. Actually, we were supposed to get it five years before, but we didn’t want to pay the materials fee. However, when the county decided to waive the charge, we no longer had an excuse, so we dutifully placed our order and they promptly delivered the items to our front door.

At first, I was excited about recycling (I’m always excited when I get free things)–all those pretty, blue plastic bags and a nice, new bin with wheels and a pull cord, no less. Right then and there, I pledged, to my family and my God, that I would be the best recycler on Pinehill Drive. After all, I am the block captain.

We went straight away to our neighborhood Walmart and purchased two additional kitchen garbage cans, came home and immediately labeled them, “Plastics” and “Paper”. I even led the way and ceremoniously threw the first recycling items into the bins, officially christening them.

I felt a real sense of pride and self-righteousness that first Thursday morning as I hauled our recycling items to the curb. I carefully positioned the bag and the bin at the road and made a point of waving to the neighbors across the way as they left for work.  

Having the recycling bins was a status symbol, of sorts. Hardly anyone else on the street was doing it and I wanted them to see that I, their fearless leader, had taken the first step to making the world a better place to live.

Things were good for a couple of weeks or so, but it didn’t take long for my zeal for recycling to wear off. I quickly realized that recycling was not fun. It was work. I was being forced to think about my garbage. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like that at all.

Before the bags and the bins came, I could walk over to the garbage can, throw my trash away and leave without a thought. Now, I was faced with the task of designating pieces of rubbish to their rightful container. This was an emotional burden I was not prepared to bear.

There have been times when I defiantly threw my trash into the wrong bin, only to return hours later because of guilt, rummage through the cans, remove the misplaced pieces, and deposit them into their appropriate pail. The struggle is real, folks.

Recycling has even changed the way I view my vacations. It used to be that I looked forward to going on our annual family vacations to enjoy the majestic view of the mountains or to hear the soothing sounds of the waves crashing against the shores of the beach. These days, my main motivation for going on vacation is to get away from the recycling bins. It’s the one week out of the year when I’m free to throw my trash in whatever receptacle that I please.

The more that I think about it, the more I recognize that recycling does not fit in with my worldview. By nature, I am a fatalist. Do I really care about saving the earth? Not so much. We’re all going to die anyway. My body will decompose and return to the dust from which it came. That’s a form of recycling, isn’t it? I figure, I’ll just do all of mine on the back end.