Roots & Wings 

Mother’s Day weekend marked my 23rd year being a mother. It’s not always been easy but it was worth it. The early years I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I remember the first night with my oldest I thought there was a cat in the house. I kept hearing a weird noise in a high pitched voice. It was my newborn. I couldn’t put my middle son down at night or he would wail and turn red. I held him all night and no daycare could watch him because he was spoiled. Raising my youngest I needed so much help my grandmother and uncle watched her for the first 6 months. She would come home and look at me like lady who are you?

In their elementary school years, I started to get it right and kept them grounded in church and the values I was taught as a child by my mom. They learned to share, recited scripture, and I started discipline methods. The girls didn’t have to be told to often to shape up but that boy tested me…often. I stressed how important education was by telling them by own story of struggle. I showed them how important their sibling hood was and they promised to always have each other’s back.

In the last five years they have gone off to college, my oldest has graduated college and began working as a teacher; they are all in different chapters of their lives. They don’t need me to do the day to day parenting anymore. I don’t have to make sure I come to their aid with every tear. I can’t hold them throughout the night. Many times they go to each other with their questions and concerns and I don’t hear about the issue until months later. I am content in knowing that they have each other for advice and encouragement just as I taught them.

My youngest is staying in Columbus for the summer and working an internship instead of coming home. As much as I want her here to snuggle at night and make her favorite meals; she needs to start getting into her field and making moves. My son is headed to Morocco a place I don’t know much about but I’m learning. I could tell him that I don’t want him to leave the country right now and to please stay in Cincy this fall but then he couldn’t use his language skills and prepare for the next phase of his life.

My oldest daughter is in Houston and has one of the hardest jobs in the world. I was frightened when she started teaching. I was worried, but she has been teaching all of her life. She is my oldest child. She has been helping me with her siblings and she has always said she wanted to teach. So she has her own beautiful place and is thriving.

As Mothers we want to have our children right there with us forever. We often want to soften the blows of life. I think we are here for two reasons, to give them roots and wings. I have done that, now I am reaping the benefits of watching them soar.

The Missing D.C. Girls, Fact, Fiction and Emotion.

I have spent the past few days researching this story so I could write about it with all of the factual information I could find. After 5 days I was able to speak with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and email them. I actually researched and watched local media. I was able to contact local news reporters and received responses and I hope I did my best in weeding out the fake from what is real. Although this story brought up many emotions I wanted to know the facts and what I could do to help.I didn’t want to rush and put up a blog without even having valid information. This blog will be longer than most of my posts. You’ve been warned.

These are the facts that I’ve uncovered. Last Thursday 3/25/17 NBC’s Washington Affiliate published on their Twitter page that a dozen teens ranging from age 14 to 18 were missing. The Washington D.C. Police Department tweeted that there were 10 girls missing who were considered critical cases. The latter was retweeted by a well known personality on Twitter who added the comment and I quote, “No one is saying anything about these girls that are missing.” That tweet went viral and the story began. 

I am sure we all know that when stories are carried they grow additions, people add their own pieces,  exgagerrations. So…let’s talk about facts. According to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children there were from 450-500 missing children in Washington D.C. This number has been consistent since 2014. 95% of those cases have been closed. Lets talk about the term “missing.”  There are children who are critically missing, children missing from care, family abduction, runaways, and long term missing.  Critically missing usually means there is an elevated risk of danger. A child missing from care is one who is missing or has been abducted from the foster care system. Family abductions are missing children who have been abducted or wrongfully retained or concealed by a parent or other family member. Runaway children are missing youth who have run away from a parent, guardian or state care facility  A long term missing child is a case that has remained unsolved for many years. 

As of 3/27/17 there are approximately 250- 300 children missing in The Nations Capitol. No one will verify how many are African American or Hispanic and I’ve asked that question many times. Nearly 2,000 children go missing every five years. If the police department and news media had not posted this story none of us would be discussing these girls. 

Washington D.C. is much like many metropolitan cities; the problems are the same.  Missing teen girls is a huge problem. D.C. police have tweeted 27 photos of missing teens since starting their Twitter page. Most of them have been found. One teen who was reported  missing on 3/21 was found on 3/26 and wouldn’t tell her mother where she was staying. Her name is Katherine Hunter and she has run away many times. There are issues at home. She says, “Many of her friends who run away just want out.”

Here are a few more unfortunate truths. African American and Latino girls are at more at risk of becoming abducted, runaways, and to be critically missing. Just as African Americans and Hispanics are at risk in many other areas of life. Poverty, single parent homes, and abuse are all at the top of the list as to why. Also when a Caucasian child is missing there is more media attention, especially for little girls. When a black or brown child is missing she or he is usually deemed a runaway; a child who is bad. D.C. Councilman Trayon White says, “There was a 10 yr old African American girl missing a week ago and there was no Amber Alert inacted.” He feels if this was a white child or even a child from a better neighborhood this wouldn’t have happened. Most African American girls are labeled as runaways who left home freely. Then after leaving the home they often become victims of rape, sex trafficking, and prostitution.

Now on to the fiction, there were never 14 girls, or 10 or any double digit number of girls missing in a 24 hour period. One of the girls in a few online post has been missing since 2014, her name is Relisha Rudd. There is no spike in missing girls of any race in D.C. , social media is simply being used to shine a light on the issue. Much like the Internet opens the word to things that have happened for years but were hidden. The fact is most of these girls became missing over the past month or two. Which is still scary.

There is hope in the face of despair. Mayor Muriel Bowser says her office will implement 6 new initiatives to tackle the missing person problem. They include boosting the number of officers assigned to missing person cases and expanding the local missing person website. With all of the facts and fiction being uncovered it still doesn’t negate the pain I feel. I am sad that so many girls are running away from home. What are they running from?  All of these children are not just bad. Why run from heat,food, their iPhones? Some run from abuse; sexual, physical, and mental. Some parents don’t give a darn about their daughters. ” Let her go, get out of my house.” What if she runs into the arms of a manipulative pimp, some punk or the local police officer? 
Just a few more truths.  Two D.C. Police officers were accused of running a prostitution ring just last week. Officer Marc Washington is accused of setting up 16 year old girls with adult men for sex acts. One of the girls had been reported as missing. As many as 6 teenswere found at a SE Stanton Rd apartment.Washington was also accused of child pornography for placing the girls pictures on the website  backpage. He also had a mirror in the home with the names of young girls on it. The other officer’s name has not been released.

There are so many layers to this devastating issue. When you break this down whether you believe the facts or the social media sensation, black and Latino girls are endangered. Some are being hurt in the homes of their own families and they run away searching for something. Others are betrayed by officers who have sworn to uphold the law. They are accosted by people who prey on them with promises of money only to rip away their innocence. We as a community must protect our princesses, the first place is in the home. We can’t rely on mainstream media to report them missing. We must use all of our options; TV One, BET, Univision, Telemundo, Black Twitter our publications and our voices.  But we must be accurate and we must be collaborative. If you have any ideas of what we can do comment below or hit me on any of my platforms.

Sources
Youth & Family Division D.C.

NBC Washington D.C. Affiliate 

Washington D.C. Missing Persons

The Center For Missing & Exploited Children

Washington D.C. Police Department

The Washington Post

WJLA ABC7’s Yolanda Traylor 

   
   

Stamp out Stigma 

Stamp Out Stigma

Mental  illness effects 22 million Americans. Most people want to sweep the issue under a rug as if it doesn’t exist. Some mental health issues stem from abuse; in my case sexual abuse from, age 9-12. As result of the abuse, I suffered from depression, low self -worth, and bipolar disorder.

As I entered high school, thoughts of suicide began to take place as well as low self- esteem. This led to my getting pregnant at a young age and becoming a teen parent. As I went into young adulthood, the episodes of bipolar disorder began. I started to experience low lows and high highs. While depressed I would stay in bed, become angry, and isolate myself from others. My manic episodes felt wonderful. I had increased energy, felt on top of the world, and could do many things at once.

I struggled with not wanting to take medicine. My family didn’t understand what was wrong with me. My mother placed me into hospitals, had me talk to counselors, and started me on medications. I would feel better and stop taking the medicine and visiting my therapist. As I entered my twenties, I was married and was an unstable wife and mother. Things would be going fine and I would become severely depressed leaving my husband to care for the children. My ex- husband didn’t understand and we began to argue and physically fight. Our children became voyeurs to our dysfunction and this created a dangerous environment. After eight years, my husband left me.

I am now in my early thirties. I have been through suicide attempts. I have been married, divorced, remarried, and I am the mother of three children. I have written a book regarding my struggles with mental illness, teen pregnancy, abuse, and how I deal with things today. The book talks about my spiritual deliverance; letting go of the past and releasing my mind to the will of God. I am now on medication that works for me. Just like a diabetic or an asthmatic, I have to make sure I stay on top of it. I see a therapist as does my immediate family. I pay attention to my body and my mind. I am not perfect and I still deal with depression, but every day I am on defense to fight this thing. I wish more people knew how important our mental health is, and how this can affect us.

For me the stigma kept me in secrecy. I even  lied to my second husband and kept secrets from my closest friends. I am now managing with meds, yoga, eating healthy, support groups and therapy. I am stamping the hell out of stigma. I spoke to legislators in Austin, TX and will continue my campaign in Wasghington D.C.

 

What’s My Name?

Rasha, Tasha, Ratasha, Russian, Soviet Union, these are all of the names that I have been called over the years. As a child I absolutely hated my name. I would often ask my mom why the heck she named me that and her response was always the same.”Your dad named you, I wanted to name you Ayanna.” I am glad she didn’t because my childhood bully was named Ayanna and that may have made it worse. Anywho that’s another blog for another day.

I was made fun of just as most kids were. I made it easy by walking around as Rhasha Halliburton. So I was Russian Hamburger and in my adult years I was ‘oh like the Texas rich money Halliburtons? ‘No like my daddy and momma are in social work and live in Indiana. As I left high school and started at a local community college kids started to tell me how cool my name was. There was a family friend who said the “S” like a “J” and made it sound really exotic and when I met my friend Mikel ( now husband) he told me how much he loved my name. He said he wanted to name his youngest daughter Rhasha but her mom didn’t like it.

My marriage and travels led me to Columbus, OH where everyone loved my name and always complimented me on it. Then I started getting the question about where my Dad found this name and what did it mean. I started to realize my name was dope as hell! Matter of fact I started realizing my name is just like me, different, uncommon, and my husband’s word exotic. I don’t think like most people. I am kind of weird and strange. My name fits me.

Whenever someone tells me that they love my name I text my dad and tell him thanks. It took me thirty years to appreciate the precious name he gave me as a baby. Now at almost forty my name has been said on the radio; once on a national show. My name is on a published book, and my last daughter was praised on a news show for her name, Ana Hoosier. Just like my dad I think her name fits her. I gave it to her because my Great Grandmothers name was Anabelle and she was so sweet and her skin was beautiful. Ana is not sweet at all but she is proud that her name means something.

It’s funny I always wanted to be named April, or Amber. I am sure there are MANY of those in the world, but so far I have only found two Rhasha’s with the same spelling as mine and I hope they are as proud of their name as I am, thanks Daddy.

Fly

It’s often said that as parents we raise our children and after raising them we are to let them fly. They don’t tell you that’s easier said than done. For some it’s losing control over their children. For others it’s the need to keep their children close to them. For me it’s very simple-fear. The fear of my daughter being hurt by those who don’t love her. The horror of some evil person trying to extinguish the great light that is inside of her. I even worried about her choosing her first post college apartment. And Oh Lord how will she pay for a house full of furniture? And what about her fifth roomate? Here we go again…

This weekend God showed me that as much as I love my sweet Brittany, he loves her more. I was able to spend the weekend with her. Brittany is living out not only his plan for her life, but her plan. She has said she would be a teacher since I can remember. So last week she began her journey as a 2nd grade teacher in her new city Houston, TX. She decorated her classroom and had her lesson plans all together. She found a very nice luxury apartment in a sprawling neighborhood with trails and beautiful trees. She has a couch, a dining room table, dishes, and all of her needs. We were so happy to purchase her a bed and a lamp to complete her list. Brit has her stuff together and I quickly learned this is no longer my college student. 

She has a reliable vehicle that she looks so cute driving. Her backseat is full of items for her classroom and a couple of Brittany spills. I guess driving while eating breakfast is harder than she thought. Brit is not a kid to miss any meals. She lives close to work and church. She is excited about joining a small group within her church community. I was able to visit her church on Sunday and enjoyed myself. 

My baby even has her own group of friends. Some of them are friends from Ball State where she attended school. Some are teachers who mentored her when she was student teaching. They have been like a small family. They have helped her along her path, helped her with home furnishings and showed her the ropes about what areas of town to stay away from. 

My little premature baby girl who weighed 4 pounds 9 ounces and had to live in an incubator for weeks is now a 22 year old teacher. The kids call her Ms. Hoosier. This is my Britsy who had a rare cancer at age 6 and went through almost a year of chemo and radiation. She is now a working tax paying real job having adult. I respect her vision. I have always supported her goals. I have her back the same way my mom always has mine. So after the 4 hour drive from Houston to Dallas I rested and slept like a baby. God has her in his arms. I am gonna stand back for a second…until I find her a husband and have some grandbabies. But for now I am going to let this beautiful bird fly.  

  
   
  

Cranes in the Sky

I’ve had weeks to listen to Solange’s new album A Seat at the Table. Cranes in the Sky is one of my favorites. It puts into words and melody what it feels like to be depressed. You see I have dealt with depression since age 14 due to sexual abuse at age 9, and continue to deal with it as an adult due to low self worth, guilt, and shame. The lyrics to the song could be my soundtrack.

As the song states I try to drink it away. I started drinking at age 16 but didn’t start drinking on a regular basis as a way to medicate until I was around 23 and was going through a divorce. I would drink at night to sleep and go to the local BW3’s after work each night. I began smoking weed at around 15 and use it to calm down my anxiety. I never got into a full weedhead as a teen because I was pregnant from age 16 until 20; having 3 children. I started smoking again during my marriage when I would become depressed and also smoked off and on with my husband and his friends. No matter how calm the marijuana made me feel, I would always come back to the feeling of emptiness, hopelessness, loneliness.

On the weekends my girls and I would go shopping. Sometimes I would take the money that was meant for bills and I would spend it on dresses. We would go out and I would wear those dresses to the club. Even when I was married I would often get attention from other guys and take their affection, but it was never enough…There was always something missing.

At one point I was working two jobs, I worked during the day at a restaurant and at night I worked in a fast paced, high energy environment. I tried to stay busy working to keep my mind off of the lowered feelings I had for myself. I tried to create distractions from the empty darkness I felt daily. Then at that second job I meet a man named Robert.

I was still married to my children’s dad but was seeing Robert also. I would even spend the night at Robert’s and trample back home in the morning like nothing happened. Robert treated me like I was the most beautiful girl on earth. He always told me how sexy I was. But only when we were in the bed. When I saw him at work he treated me just like he treated all the other chicks. I found out later he was sleeping with at least two of my coworkers. That meant I was sleeping with them too.

On one of my most depressed days I came home and grabbed the utility scissors and cut off all of my hair. I looked like a boy named Billy. The cut was raggedy and didn’t have any form to it. It made me feel free and I was good for a minute, but pretty soon I was in the hospital and more broken than ever.

I moved so many times but realized that no matter where I lived; I was still taking ME with ME! Atlanta, Evansville, Columbus, Dallas, no matter where I move, here I am. Eventually the sun would go down, the rain would began and I would be sad all over again.

I did anything to not have to face the depression. Like Cranes in the Sky I don’t wanna feel those metal clouds. For years I ran from my reality. I tried to take my life; sleep my life away. But one day I found someone who saw how valuable I was. I also began to see how valuable I was to God, the father.

I started attending a Healing Church called Healing Streams Word & Worship Center. What a coincidence. I started taking care of my body. I began walking and working out. I started doing yoga and unlike Solange running and riding my bike actually helped me. I started working on my mind. I started by changing my thinking. That’s the first part of recovery. I began support groups and self care classes. The dizziness I felt and the high strung energy began to dissipate.

I was in an intensive outpatient group that taught me how to deal with depression. It showed me what happens within mind and body and how to control things. Spiritually I am learning how to replace the shame and guilt with love and purpose. It’s very hard. It’s hard to unlearn something you have lived with forever. I am learning God’s plan for my life. I am volunteering and helping others who had my same story. It’s still very hard. It hurts it does feel like metal cutting through you, it’s a dark hole that seems to have no end. But I won’t give up.

I’m sorry I didn’t edit this or anything. I just don’t have the clarity to proof it. The end.

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Feelin’s Ain’t Facts!

No feeling is final and feelings are not facts. Our feelings may not be able to be controlled but our thoughts, and impulses can be controlled. You may be feel hurt by someone but their intention wasn’t to hurt u at all. We can control our response to those hurts. We may FEEL that danger is present when that is not the case. Challenge your thoughts and feelings. Make sure they are rational. 
#mentalhealthawarenessweek