My Hoosier Home 

It’s been twelve years since I lived in Indianapolis. In 2005 I moved to Columbus, OH and stayed for ten years. I’ve lived in The Dallas/Ft.Worth area for a little over a year. Last month I turned 40 and I’m not sure if it was the stress from moving and buying a home, growing pains between my husband and I or the kids moving and having an empty nest; but I needed to be at home. I needed familiar people, places and things.  
So there I was at baggage claim #4 and my luggage was the first to shoot down the hatch. Mom and her little blue Honda was right there. “You know where I wanna go, right?” WhiteCastle. We pulled up and I ran in and grabbed our sliders. Same old White Castle, same red pop, same slow service. When I got to Mom’s I realize how exhausted I was. Sometimes you are tired, other times you are completely exhausted. Over the past few months I had been anxious, up and down and walking on egg shells a lot at home. I didn’t feel comfortable or even like my home was home. 

Over the next three days I slept. I ate like maybe three times, but I mostly slept, and thought. I prayed and waited. Then after I was quiet for those three days I got up. It was Mom’s birthday so I took her to dinner and tried out a new Caribbean restaurant. The food was pretty good. I was starting to feel more like myself. I ventured out the next day and walked around the local college area. The weather had finally started to get better and spring was making some noise. I ended up jumping on a city bus, my absolute favorite pastime. 

The fares on the city bus had increased. There were no more transfers, only passes. Much like Dallas you can use your phone to navigate the site and to purchase tickets. I grabbed a pass and headed to The Circle Center Mall. It still had that mall smell even though many of the stores I remembered were gone and replaced by hipster spots. I went to the spa and had my brows done and ventured to find a place to eat. Since 1996 when the mall opened Johnny Rocket burger joint was my go to eatery. I loved it so much back in the day, I started working there in 1997 after my youngest was born. But it had closed and was left by an empty shell.  

I found a pizza spot on Illinois St and filled up on cherry coke and a Stromboli. The sun was blinding and made for a perfect backdrop of downtown Indy. I walked the circle and hung out on the war memorial until the spring break crowd came. I sat down on a bench and just thought. I thought about my life, my beginning, middle and end. I made a mental list of my struggles, my successes, things I could and couldn’t change. After a few hours I felt a peace come over me; I was content with being home. 

The next day I ventured back out by bus to the north side Glendale area. There actually used to be a mall there. So I head up the escalators in Macy’s looking for the way out onto the mall area. An employee looked at me and informed me that it was only the furniture department of Macy’s and that there was no mall. I laughed out loud, literally. I visited Target and sat in the window of Starbuck’s watching rain clouds roll in. I got back on the bus and watched the rain slide down the windows of the bus. This is home. This day reminds me of so many days coming home from work on when the kids were small and we would ride the bus home from school. I would listen to their day and plan what I was going to cook. On the ride home I thought again about change. Life changes; things can’t always go the way we want them to go. Yesterday my favorite restaurant was no longer there. The Glendale Mall is no longer a mall but two stores. The people of Indy have adapted. I need to learn to adapt. I need to learn how to deal with transition and not be negative to it and fight tooth and nail.  

That evening I met with my son and his girlfriend. Our birthdays are in the same week. We are Aries Bulls through and through. We are sensitive, multi-talented, headstrong, passionate and loyal to a fault. We also can be egotistical, vindictive and hold grudges while appearing to be over it. We had a ball eating pizza and talking about their live as 20 somethings and mine as a brand new 40 year old. I can always feel love oozing out whenever I’m around my Aries brethren.  

The next three days were a whirlwind of visits with family members. I spent time with my Aunt, Uncle and baby cousins. I was happy because my aunt was not feeling well so I cheered her up and had her laughing all afternoon. I got to see my brother and sister- in- love and my niece and nephews who are playing sports and getting so big and beautiful. I stayed the night with Nana which was my favorite part of the visit.( check out my Easter with Nana blog)  

The best part was my birthday dinner which all of my close girlfriends came out for. They came out on a Monday night and listened to my struggles with transitions. They gave their honest loving opinions. They entertained my new I’m 40 mantras. They made me feel loved, appreciated, and it was an honor to have them with me . As I flew back to Dallas Forth Worth I felt relaxed, refreshed, rejuvenated.  

I had some decisions to make and I was heading back to do so. Being in my childhood home was a good thing. I needed that time and those places. My mind is now clear and I am focused on the next steps of my life. I know what I have to do and I am prepared to start doing it. Often we have to reconnect with my  past in order to fully see my future. 

   
   

Easter Weekend with Nana

My uncles were out of town for Easter weekend so I had the pleasure of staying with my Nana. Not since the early 2000s have I be able to spend the night with Nana. I use to come over often when I lived in Indianapolis. If I didn’t come to her house she would come to mine. We would spend the weekend eating, watching TV, and of course talking. Nana has always been a talker. She taught me how to form an argument at a young age. She also had a love for reading which we share. To make it plain Nana is my girl, always has been. I called to let her know I was on my way and asked if she needed anything. Sometimes she likes me to bring her ice cream, sometimes a sandwich from Steak N Shake with no slop on it( mayo, mustard, ketchup). This time it was fries. I am glad to do anything for her because I don’t get to see her often like I used to. It brings me joy to take care of her the way she always took care of me.

I got over there and called and she came to the door after a few minutes. As soon as I walked in she started laughing. I had a huge suitcase full of every thing I needed. I had another plastic bag full of all the foods she liked and her fries of course. I settled in my uncle’s room and made myself comfy on Nana’s couch. This is the same couch I slept on many nights throughout my childhood.

Usually when I call we have our marathon conversations on the phone for hours. I grabbed a drink and a burger and we started our in person marathon. We talked about our marriages; both of us were married twice. We talked about raising children; her experience and mine. We talked about the mistakes we made although we tried to do our best. We talked about the current president and current state of politics. We talked racism, celebrities, music, Indianapolis, and everything in between. What I’m saying is we talked about everything.

We planned to watch some movies but that never happened. Nana went to bed and I came and kissed her cheek and told her how much I loved her and goodnight. I slept in my youngest Uncle’s room in the house that held so many memories. In this room I would lay in the floor on the phone for hours. I would hang up clothes for Nana when she used the room to store clothes and things she didn’t wear that often. Nana always changed things due to seasonal changes. In the summer she got out her T-shirts and long shorts and thin sheets; in winter she pulled out sweaters, coats and flannel sheets and heavy blankets.

I remember her teaching me how to cook for a big family. My great grandmother had 12 or 13 kids. My husband and I have blended 9 total children between two marriages and two relationships. At any given time we could have a houseful of 6 all at once; my husband cares for any children who he influenced blood or not. Nana taught me how to make beans and stews, rice and roasts. She also taught me how to bake cakes, pies and cookies but I was never good at it.

She also taught me the small things like washing out the tuna and salmon cans so they don’t stink up your kitchen, and tearing up pizza boxes and food boxes into smaller pieces before throwing them in the trash. At some point after reminiscing I fell asleep.

Nana wakes up at the real crack of dawn. I heard her stirring around at around 5am. Nothing has changed; I still start moving around at 9am and I asked her what she wanted for breakfast. She had a full fridge with all the meats and eggs. She just wanted scrambled eggs and her coffee. Many mornings Nana made me pancakes, eggs, and cream of wheat always. Cream of wheat and toast was my favorite. Now I was privileged to make her coffee.

We got right back into our conversation. We talked about Dallas where I live and the differences between Indy and The Metroplex. I asked her if there was anything she needed me to do for her. I wanted to see if she needed help washing her hair, “ Nope I got it.” I remember she used to paint her nails all of the time and had polishes in every room. “ Girl no. I don’t worry about that stuff anymore.” I laughed cause even though she is the same Nana, she is now turning 88. Matter of fact as I write this blog she is literally turning 88. Today is her birthday. Today is the day my favorite person in the world was born.

Listen I know we all love our grandmothers but this is a story about MY Nana. The strongest, most intelligent woman I know. Nana remembers everything. She remembers the name of a dog that was in the family over 20 years ago. She can tell stories of when she was younger and never has a moment when she forgets a name or event. You could never play her. You know those people who victimize elderly people to steal their social security numbers and information? It will never happen to Nana. NEVER. She doesn’t give folks her personal information. She is smart as a whip. You will not play Nana. And don’t you lie cause Nana remembers what you told her the last time, don’t get caught.

Later that evening I called my cousin B to see if he wanted to come over to and see Nana. Mom came over and my oldest uncle came home. I ordered Easter dinner from my friend a business owner who delivers food. She brought ribs, chicken, mac n cheese, corn , greens and sweet potatoes. We spent the rest of the evening talking and eating. Nana let us know her thoughts on the food and they were respected seeing as she cooked for years.

I thanked my Uncles for allowing me to come over and stay with her. It was my pleasure to spend some time with her. Being around Nana is like doing research or reading a book that schools you on various topics and gives you real talk. The best advice Nana ever gave me was; that when you marry or look for a mate, find someone who will be your friend. People will say I love you and mean it, but it’s better that you like someone. A friend is someone you will spend time with no matter what. You love to be around them. It’s a mutual relationship and even if you fuss and fight you still end up being friends. In my first marriage I didn’t listen but now in my second marriage I may have it right.

Growing up I didn’t have a sibling as a first best friend. I am the only child my mom had. My first best friend was my Grandmother; Nana. I choose to give her the love and admiration while she is here and 88 years strong. I love you Nana but more importantly you are my friend.

My Sister’s Keeper 

I have always been a woman’s woman. Wait well not always, I’ve had my share of girl fights, drama and mess. What I mean is since I’ve matured I have always been dedicated to helping women. It could be working with teen mothers, helping them gain financial freedom, or talking to battered women and telling my story. In my day to day experience I encourage women from small compliments to bold statements of YOU CAN DO IT! YOU MATTER! With all of this love and commitment I have to and for the sistas. I lacked a relationship with my own sister.

Our childhoods were not the best but certainly not the worst. My sister and I share the same dad and different mothers. I am the second child and first girl. I had an older brother name David who passed in 2012. My sister, Janelle was the third child and came right after me. Then we have 3 brothers under us. The relationship with Dad and Janelle’s mother was not all that great. I remember being able to see her on the weekends when Dad would pick us all up but then at some point she stopped coming over.

When I asked about her, Dad would say her mother was trippin’.As a kid I had no idea what that meant. I just knew it wasn’t good. I remember thinking if she’s tripping are her legs broken? When she fell did Janelle fall too? Why can’t you just go and get Janelle since her mother tripped and fell. All through my teens I never saw or heard from my sister. I would see my buddies with their sisters. My friend Keisha and her sister Crystal were so close. DeAnna and Donielle were close even thought they got on each other last nerve. I wanted a sister living with me to get on my nerves. But in my home it was just me and mom. I loved Momma but I wanted a sister I could go to and talk with about “ sister stuff.”

Mom knew where Janelle’s mom worked because it was her doctors office, but mom was not the confronting type. She said, “Rhasha your dad and her mom need to handle that. My concern is you and taking care of you.” I never told her I felt taking care of me was me being raised along with my sister. Years went by. I graduated high school, had three children and was getting married at 21. I looked up and saw the most exquisite cheekbones, full lips, and slanted eyes. She smiled really wide when she saw me. I wished I could run over to her but I was walking down the aisle with my asshole first husband. The wedding ended, the reception was over, and just that quickly she was out of my life again.

Facebook was all the rage in 2009 but it took me a while to want to join. I didn’t want to see any friends from back in the day. I didn’t want to be asked all the bullshit questions. But reluctantly I joined the site and started adding friends. By now I was divorced, remarried, moved to Ohio and had just written a book with two of my closest friends. A friend request popped up; Janelle Halliburton. My heart skipped a beat and I dropped my laptop on the floor.

We quickly started sending message back and forth. We exchanged numbers and the next time I went to Indianapolis for the Holidays we met up at Starbucks for coffee. We texted often and kept up with each other. As time went on she became a first time mother, then a second time mother. I moved to Dallas and all of my children went off to college. We stayed in touch through social media and the phone.

Whenever I come home to visit she comes out even at the last minute. We meet up for dinner and live music. She came to see me with the new babies at the bowling alley during my father-in -laws memorial bowling tournament. This year I celebrated by 40 birthday and who was first to arrive to dinner, my sister. When I planned a birthday event here in Dallas she was there.

This past weekend she came down and we hung out. As I watched her with that same beautiful face; exquisite cheekbones, full lips that people pay for and naturally curly hair I kept thinking man I never had a chance to kiss those cheeks when she was sad. I never burnt her with a curling iron while flat ironing her hair, I never protected her in a fight. Even though she is taller than me and stronger. I was never my sister’s keeper in the real sense.

I have watched my daughters all have each others backs but I was robbed of that chance. But as we talked I realized we are not children anymore;or teens. We are grown women who have been through divorces. We are mothers who are parenting small and adult children. We have been through relationships ups and downs. There are things I can help her with regarding her children. She can provide me with information as I navigate the social work field where she holds a Masters Degree. As adults we can be there for each other and provide support.

Although we didn’t fully have each other then, now we are fully committed to sustaining our relationship no matter the distance. We are sisters. We have a bond, we are each other’s keeper.

Next up Sister Vegas trip 2018.

  

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.

 

Spring 2017

Spring has always been my favorite season. Not only were five of my favorite people born in April and May but my birthday is April 10th. I love how the air smells in spring.  I enjoy watching the trees bloom beautiful pinks and reds. I especially love telling winter deuces, goodbye, Ciao. The rain can be a bit much at times but I know that rain feeds the grass, trees, and flowers. In Texas no matter what, the sun comes out everyday. It can rain for hours but right before evening the sun will show its face.

This spring is very special to me. I will turn 40 this spring. I plan to enjoy this year like no other. I plan to fly a kite, roll down a hill, dance in the rain instead of fretting about it. I am even starting a garden this spring. I want to plant tomatoes and peppers to start with. I have a whole list of what I am going to do in 2017 but that’s a whole ‘nother blog. Today is March 20th and from today until June 19 I will embrace  this vernal equinox with happiness, joy, and compassion for the season  and for mankind. Gotta run time for a bike ride.