How I Do What I Do: A Brief but Rare Testimony

I lost my brother, no thanks to Multiple Sclerosis, on July 16th.  Two days later my youngest child was admitted to the hospital.  My son was discharged on the 21st and my brother was buried 2 days later.  I was at the hospital with my son (10 y/o and special needs) around-the clock so I didn’t see any of my family until the morning of my brother’s homegoing service.  To round out all the madness I  got divorced August 15th,  just 4 days after my 16th wedding anniversary, and went to work afterwards.  Oh yeah, before leaving work I went upstairs (I work at a hospital) to check on a patient, my mother.

How in the heck did I go through all of that turmoil and still come out with a smile on my face?  It was simple.

I have God in my life.  I don’t care what higher being you serve, if you are true to your faith then all things are possible.  I prayed for strength and I received that and much more.

Also, those who have known me since my childhood or teenage years know that I am an introvert.  I keep my personal life to myself.  And besides, just because I might be having a bad day doesn’t mean I want someone else to experience it.  I don’t believe in misery loves company.

I listen to several Gospel/Contemporary Christian/Christian Rock songs everyday.  The ones I play most often, in no particular order, are:

  • Still Have Joy – Colorado Mass Choir
  • Redeemed – Big Daddy Weave
  • Praise is What I Do – William Murphy
  • Total Praise – Richard Smallwood
  • He Reigns – Newsboys
  • In Jesus Name – Kutless
  • Jesus is Love – Commodores
  • Nobody Greater – Vashawn Mitchell
  • One of These Days – FFH

So for those that have been wondering how I do what I do, now you know.

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Really?

FlintTownship

WHAT?  REALLY?  That was all I could say as I drove past the above sign, located at an apartment complex in Flint Township, Michigan, a suburban area located just outside the city of Flint.  I am a resident of Flint Township and I found the sign to be of poor taste, as if the city is under quarantine.

The apartment complex is located near the high school and across the street from a prominent subdivision.  The sign is huge, an eyesore.  Flint Township is an area of demand, so there is no need for this type of gimmick.

But I blame the media for the Flint water crisis hype.  People are not understanding what is really going on.  Yes the city of Flint, Michigan stopped using Detroit’s water and switched to the Flint River.  But lead is not in the water.  It is in the infrastructure, and the city failed to properly filter the water from the river.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, every residence in the city does not have brown and foul-smelling water.  It depends on the age of the pipes.  I know of a home in the city whose water was tested for lead.  The levels fell within the normal threshold, 0.01 and 0.03.  The couple lives in a section of the city that has newer buildings.

Please stop giving into all the gimmicks and misrepresentation.

My Two Cents Worth on Flint’s Water Crisis

I had intended on keeping my blogs free of any mention of the current scandal in my hometown, Flint, Michigan.  But after spending countless hours reading and watching the news, and skimming over hundreds of comments and political cartoons, I decided to pull out my soapbox and give my two cents worth of input on the Flint Water Crisis.

Although I currently reside outside the city, I still knew that problems would arise with Flint’s water supply before the switch from Detroit to the Flint River took place.  That’s  because I am a Flintstone.

I was born and raised in the city of Flint, Michigan.  I grew up on Green St., Edgewood Ave., and Birchcrest Dr.  I attended M.L. King Elementary, Longfellow Middle, and Northern High schools.  Therefore I know what contaminants are in the Flint River.  I know what has been pulled out of it, and what’s probably still in there.  Improperly treated,  contaminated water flowing through aging pipes will of course produce elevated levels of more than just lead.

The Flint River flows behind my subdivision in Flint Township. It's pretty much in my backyard.
The Flint River flows behind my subdivision in Flint Township.

Donations are pouring into the city by the masses.  I don’t care whether you are a celebrity or lesser known group or individual, I am beyond grateful for your monetary and water donations, and for your prayers and support.

A few days ago I read an article about how Bill Ballenger, a Flint native and Michigan political analyst, has come under fire for his opinions.  It’s a shame that you are criticized for having your own say, instead of following the popular crowd or opinion.  Well you might as well put me in the same boat as Ballenger because I have my own opinions formed and some of them are in agreement with his.

I find it disturbing that Flint is being misrepresented.  I have read so many articles and comments, both containing stereotypes and satire, that it’s sickening.  I saw the following cartoon online a few days ago.

Flint Water

That image pissed me the fuck off.   I rarely use profanity, so you know I’m furious.

Take it from me, an African-American female born and raised in Flint, Michigan.  This water scandal is NOT a RACIAL attack.  The media are brainwashing you into thinking the city is nothing more than a poor, black community and that is bullshit.

The news only show the lower-income sections of the city, depicting it as a mini third world country.  And I noticed they’ve been focusing heavily on the African-Americans.  Well, there’s more than just black people living in the city with low incomes.  The east side of Flint is heavily populated with low-income white people.

Not all residents of Flint are poverty-stricken.  There are still middle-income residents and neighborhoods in the city, but the news won’t show you those parts of the city.  I have yet to see footage of the College Cultural neighborhood, or the Miller Road mansions.

Not everyone in the city has dangerous levels of lead in their water.  There are homes with levels that are within the normal threshold, especially if their pipes are updated.

Not everyone’s tap water is coming out brown and foul-smelling either.  My mother lives in the city and her water has never been brown or odorous.  She moved to the other side of the city at the end of 2014 and the water in her current home is okay as well.  It all depends on the age of the pipes.

The city of Flint, Michigan is home to several prominent structures such as:

  • Mott Community College
  • Baker College – Flint Campus
  • Kettering University
  • University of Michigan – Flint Campus
  • Flint Cultural Center including the Longway Planetarium.  It was renovated last year, and it is the largest planetarium in Michigan.  It’s new projection system is the first of its kind in the United States and it is breathtaking.
  • McLaren Regional Medical Center
  • Hurley Medical Center (I work in the ER), the region’s only Level 1 Trauma Center

As I step down from my soapbox, I would like to say that I hope this scandal serves as a wake-up call to all non-voters, no matter where you live.  I always stress how important it is to vote because you’re helping to put these jokers in office by NOT voting.

If you DON’T exercise your right to VOTE, then you DON’T have a right to COMPLAIN.

*Drops mic and walks off*

Brandon Carr Cares

Brandon Carr reads to students at Dye Elementary School.
Brandon Carr reads to students at Dye Elementary School in Flint, Michigan.

I recall my son rushing home from school last October to tell me that he met Brandon Carr, Dallas Cowboys cornerback and 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee.

My son, a third-grader at Dye Elementary School in Flint, Michigan, told me that Carr talked to students about the importance of reading, and was giving his school a reading center.  He also told me that students got a chance to meet and talk to Carr.  He even signed a football for my son’s best friend.

This tear-jerking moment was on the news. Brandon Carr became emotional during his talk to students.
This tear-jerking moment was shown on the news. Brandon Carr became emotional during his talk to students.

Carr Cares Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Brandon Carr.  In an effort to help promote reading literacy in youth, Carr and United Way of Genesee County has teamed up to provide reading centers to three elementary schools in the county.

Reading centers will be provided to:

  • Doyle Ryder – Flint Community Schools District – city of Flint
  • Durant-Tuuri-Mott – Flint Community Schools District – city of Flint
  • Dye Elementary – Carman-Ainsworth School District – Flint Township

The reading centers will contain the following:

  • Nearly 1,000 books for grades PK-3
  • Book cases
  • Listening library
  • Reading themed carpet
  • Colorful bean bag chairs
  • Stereo listening center with 4 headphones

Carr wasn’t able to make it to WinterFest, an annual event in our school district in December, so he sent a video of himself addressing the importance of reading.

He also wanted every child to go home with a book that day, so a table was stacked high with books donated by the Carr Cares Foundation.

One of the books my kids received at Winterfest, donated by Carr Cares Foundation.
One of the books my kids received at Winterfest, donated by Carr Cares Foundation.

Brandon Carr grew up in Flint, Michigan and is a former Dye Elementary student.

To learn more about Carr Cares Foundation, go to http://www.carrcares.org

My Son’s Train Obsession Became His Best Christmas Gift Ever

Two weeks before Christmas my 9 year-old son told me that all he wanted for Christmas from me was for the two of us to ride the Amtrak.

I told him that we could ride the Amtrak for his Christmas present, but that I still wanted him to open something on Christmas morning.  He actually wanted to ride the train on Christmas Day but knowing that nearly everything would be closed, he said I could buy him three books to open.

A train ride and three books was all my son wanted for Christmas.

Tavares, 9, anxiously waits at the Flint, MI Amtrak station wearing a Jr. Conductor hat
Tavares, 9, anxiously waits at the Flint, MI Amtrak station wearing his Jr. Conductor hat

Tavares is the youngest of my two children.  He is a special needs child that was diagnosed with a rare disease called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex before he was two years of age. I came out of denial and blogged about it last year.

My son has a multitude of medical conditions including:

  • Tuberous Sclerosis Complex
  • Autism
  • Several brain tumors
  • Seizure history
  • Developmental delay
  • Renal (kidney) cysts
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) requiring daily medication
  • Right leg swollen since Memorial Day of last year
  • Behavior challenges (can have aggressive meltdowns)
  • Peanut and tree nut allergy.  Severely allergic to peanuts, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios

With an early childhood education, and ongoing learning and support at school and home, my son has come a long way including:

  • All A’s and one B on current report card (3rd grade)
  • Excellent with numbers, dates, geography, meteorology
  • Vast knowledge of trains
  • Elected to student council last month.  He tied with another student so a tie-breaker vote was held.  Another tie so they both got in!

With all of the above mentioned, how could I not put my child on that train?

When I say that Tavares is obsessed with trains, I mean just that.  I am not talking about just watching trains, he knows the different types and how they operate.  He knows the parts of a train and terminology.  His interest in trains began around two years ago, and he is determined to attend college to study and become a train engineer.

After looking at routes to other cities in Michigan, we decided to leave the state and spend Christmas Eve in Chicago, IL.

Getting ready to board the train at Chicago's Union Station to return home
Getting ready to board the train at Chicago’s Union Station to return home

By the way, did I mention that my son downloaded the Amtrak app on his iPhone last summer?  And that he knows Amtrak can travel up to 150 mph, but that it wouldn’t travel that fast on our trip?  He also knew that our train would start traveling 110 mph once we got to Kalamazoo, MI.  Don’t ask me how he knew that because I have no clue.

The five-hour and some minutes train ride from Flint, MI to Chicago, IL was wonderful.  Tavares wanted to go to the museum in Chicago so we took a taxi to the Field Museum.  The dinosaur exhibit was awesome, and I had a great time at the Ancient Egypt exhibit.  The tomb and mummies were amazing.

Tavares enjoying himself at the Field Museum in Chicago, IL on Christmas Eve
Tavares enjoying himself at the Field Museum in Chicago, IL on Christmas Eve

We Ubered back to Union Station a few minutes earlier than I originally planned because Tavares knew there was an Amtrak merchandise store located inside of Union Station.  In case you’re wondering, yes he bought something.

While I was driving home that night, my son said, “Mom this was the best Christmas present ever.  And do you know what the best part is?  I got to spend time with you.”

Tears rolled down my face just as they are now.

My son is aware of his health issues and he lets nothing stand in his way while pursuing his goals in life.

I am not going to let anything stand in his way either.

image
After we played a couple rounds of Uno, Tavares fell asleep shortly after departing Chicago’s Union Station on our return trip home