Indiana Parents Arrested For Encouraging Toddler To Put Gun In Mouth




A couple of days ago, I saw one of the most disturbing videos I have ever seen come across my Facebook newsfeed.  The video was of a one year old Toddler who was being instructed to put a gun in his mouth and say “pow”, by his 22-year old mother Toni Wilson and her 19-year old boyfriend Michael Barnes.  Authorities obtained the video after arresting Barnes in a separate incident in which he made arrangements via social media to sell a handgun to an undercover cop.

Shortly after reading about this epically terrible parenting move, I posted a comment about it on my Cappuccino Queen Facebook page.  I was immediately shocked by one of the early comments from a woman who believed that these two parents shouldn’t have been stripped of their “parental rights” after this incident.  While initially I thought maybe one of my readers was punking me, I soon realized that this chic was dead serious.  Her comment scared me possibly even more than the fact that something like this actually occurred in the first place.  What have we come to in this country where people like these two fools are being supported?  The fact that there are people who believe the rights of these criminals should come before the basic Civil Rights of this child is an appalling example of the poor state of affairs facing our nation.

While this woman’s comment was one of the most extreme, several other people said things that were also shocking.  Many folks were obsessing over whether or not the gun was loaded.  “What the hell??  Am I in some alternate reality,’ I thought, completely stunned as I read through the comments on my computer.  Other folks showed sympathy for the two idiot parents, hoping that they too find “security and love.”  Other (likely internet trolls) threw their two cents in by saying things like, “I don’t see a problem here.”  And of course, extreme gun supporters believed that these parents had a constitutional right to do whatever they wanted with their guns.

The reason I decided to write about this incident is not solely about the Internet trolls, but because I think its important to break down this situation for the folks who might not grasp exactly why what these parents did was truly bad enough for them to lose their parental rights and never get them back.

Physical Harm:  This category is perhaps the most obvious.  Most people’s first reaction was likely the danger in that toddler picking up the gun and one day actually blowing her brains out.  I guess this is the category of harm the folks who wondered whether or not it was loaded were stuck in.  I would argue that it doesn’t matter that much whether it was or not.  This toddler is being taught that it is funny to stick a gun in her mouth and pull the trigger.  She is also being taught that playing with guns is alright.  The level of danger inherent in this lesson makes it not so important (or different) if it had been a real gun or a toy gun (though it wasn’t a toy).  The physical harm aspect would be similar if some parents sat out on route 66 and encouraged their toddler to try and run across it, dodging cars, while they filmed it and laughed.

Psychological Harm:  Imagine being a little child again.  I know, its a stretch for many people to put themselves back in the shoes of a defenseless kid – but just humor me and try. So you are this baby, and you depend on your mom to protect you and take care of you.  You look up to her, and want to be just like her.  You want to do everything to please her because at that age – she is the center of your world.  (Note:  this is the same for fathers, but I am focused on the mom here because she is the bio parent to this kid.)  Anyway, now imagine your mom joking about you killing yourself with her boyfriend.  Imagine this pathetic shit bag of a father figure (the 19-year old punk pictured above) filming on his smartphone while joking about you sticking a weapon in your mouth and killing yourself – as the 1 month old biological kids of this shit bag couple watch.

Things Unseen:  Had this shit bag of a father figure not been doing something else criminal, these two fools might have gotten away with their abusive behavior.  Based on my intimate experience with this type of criminally abusive personality, I can guarantee you that this was not the first time they had done something abusive to that child.  This was simply just the first time they had been caught.  I can also guarantee you that they are not sitting in jail feeling guilty for abusing this child, they are probably too concerned with being angry about getting caught.  If the state fails to keep children away from these two, we will be reading about these children again – but next time there will be no second chances.  There is no rehab, no class, no seminar a child abuser could take to make them suddenly safe around children.


In situations like these, I urge everyone to keep their thoughts on the children.  These parents, while young, are adults; therefore, they are old enough to make choices for which they should be held responsible.  Their children did not choose to be born into this situation, much like my son didn’t choose to be born to someone who would eventually kill him in order to collect on a life insurance policy.  We should be focused on the children’s rights before ever giving a damn about the rights of their criminally negligent parents.  If teaching a child that it’s funny to kill themselves does not reach the threshold to lose parental rights, we are doomed to experience a society that will only become increasingly more violent.



Passing: A Bi-Racial Perspective On Racial Inequality In America

Cappuccino Queen circa 2005

Cappuccino Queen circa 2005


In the past few years, it seems like topic of race has gotten to a boiling point many times.  Particularly, it seems, as it relates to the American Justice System.  When Trayvon Martin was gunned down in February of 2012, I sat in horror as his killer walked free under the baffling and absurd “stand your ground” law in Florida.  While this case seemed outrageous to me, what seemed more troubling was how public opinion on this case seemed to split down racial lines.  In many cases, all reason flew out the window as people tried to justify George Zimmerman’s actions by agreeing that a black man wearing a hooded sweatshirt was “intimidating”.

Now, we fast forward a little over two years and another young black man is gunned down – Michael Brown.  This time, however, it wasn’t a hot headed neighborhood watch (police officer wannabe), it was an actual police officer. This time, however, the case never even made it to trial, witnesses were never cross examined, and violent protests broke out all across the country as a result.  Similar to the Martin case, though, I see logic fly out the window as people join opinion camps based largely on their racial affiliation.

These tragic cases force us to face painful realities about our country.  While we can all wear the badge of honor of having a black President, we must also come to terms with the fact that we have yet to reach the Utopia of racial equality that some of our countrymen like to claim we have.  For those of you who don’t know, I am multi-racial.  From a young age, however, I realized that it didn’t matter as much what I defined myself as because America had my label picked out before I was born.  Any bi-racial people in America (who is at all black) would likely agree that the “one drop rule” still exists.  Without getting into the history of the one drop rule, let me just give you this example:

Say a police officer pulls over a car full of people.  In that car, there are a few black people, a white person, and a bi-racial people.  If the officer says, “All the black folks need to get out of the car”…the bi-racial person will be getting out of the car.  I would say nine times out of ten, no matter how pale that bi-racial person is, he/she will get out.

So, at this point you might be wondering why I am boring you with these strange distinctions about race.  I say this to offer my perspective, as a multi-racial American on all the race drama that has occurred over the past few years.  When these news events arise, it is never simple for us.  We never get to just jump on a race side, and we are always reminded of both how we define ourselves and how society defines us.

My White Side:  While I largely identify myself as a black woman (see “one drop rule” above), I am often intrigued by how the Martin and Brown cases both raised the issue of white privilege.  It seemed as though so many white Americans didn’t want to see these cases as unjust because deep down this would force them to face white privilege.  In my eyes, white privilege doesn’t mean that white people don’t have to work hard, or that they don’t earn what they have in society.  What it means, to me, is that white people don’t have to overcome some of the simple obstacles that black people do.  For example, a white teenager walking in the dark, in an affluent Florida neighborhood, would likely be given the benefit of the doubt.  He wouldn’t be perceived as a thug simply because of the color of his skin.  This is a basic example of white privilege.  Does this mean that teen didn’t earn the good grades he got in school?  No.  It just means that he was given the privilege of not being hunted down the way Martin was in February 2012.

Now, I am not going to stand here on my bi-racial pedestal and not turn the mirror on myself.  To be blunt – I have benefited from white privilege, and I am not ashamed to admit that.  Some people might think I am insane saying this, as often times it is fairly obvious that I am not white.  Even when I am not passing, I am not naive to the fact that I have had advantages in life because my skin is light and my eyes are blue.  While nobody has come up to me and told me that I have gotten something based on this, it becomes fairly evident when I am in a crowd of people at work who don’t bat an eye when making a racist or homophobic joke in front of me.  I have even had some of my own friends say things like, “well, you aren’t like actually black.”  For the record, my response to this is, “Um…but actually I am.”   I then usually stare at them awkwardly in hopes that they will overcome some of this ignorance on their own so that I don’t have to continue to educate after such a ridiculous encounter.


My Black Side:  Growing up, I remember being aware of my brown skin from a fairly early age.  I grew up in a majority white community where I often felt like the black kid in the bunch.  That said, it wasn’t until I became an adult and experienced some of the worst racial discrimination that our nation has to offer when I truly saw the one drop rule play out first hand.  On October 12, 2011 I sat in front of a Prince William County Virginia Police Officer as he accused me of a crime I didn’t commit.  As he wrote up the paperwork in front of me and my attorney, I saw him stamp me with the “black” label right before my eyes.  He didn’t ask me which box he should check, he just picked one.  While I will never be able to prove that his judgement of me was racially charged, I will never forget how my ex (who was paler than me) would claim to be white when he convinced the officer to charge me.  I will also never forget about the day that same police department brought in a black officer (two years later), while they admitted to just a few of the terribly unjust things they did to me and my family.  I guess the random black officer was to show us that what they had done wasn’t racially motivated.


Passing:  The topic of passing is a tricky one.  I bring it up to explain how it feels to be “in between”.  As a bi-racial woman, I often feel as though I don’t really belong in any category.  While most of the time I think its obvious that I am bi-racial, I still often find myself in situations where I almost feel as though I have to announce myself so that people don’t put me in weird uncomfortable situations by forgetting that a minority is present.  Other situations that people might not think about are those times when someone finds out your aren’t white (or maybe that you aren’t black) when you thought it was obvious.  For example, the picture I used for this post was one that I put in my online dating profile when I was in my early 20′s.  On one date, I actually had a man tell me he was disappointed because he didn’t realize that I was black from my picture.  Just the other day, I had a friend tell me that this particular picture looked like I had bleached my skin.

As a bi-racial person, I often wonder if I have to have the race conversation more than most.  I can imagine that sometimes it is similar to someone who is Gay who would rather just announce it and get it out of the way, rather than find out later that the person they just met is homophobic.


As a parent, the boiling point on these race issues scare me.  I wonder what it will be like when my daughter is my age.  I know that by that time, there will likely be more people who feel pulled in many different directions when these situations occur.  Regardless of how she identifies, or how society identifies her, I pray that she will stand on the side of justice.  And for everyone reading this, no matter what racial category you fall into, I hope that you will think of how you can be a part of the change for the better.  I hope you will face your own demons on these issues.  We all owe it to our children to make sure that this conversation is evolved by the time they are grown enough to be having it for themselves.



Why Nobody Wins After Ferguson





I remember exactly where I was, and how I felt, on October 3, 1995.  I was a freshman in High School.  That afternoon, me and several of my classmates piled into the basement of my dormitory (I went to Board School) and anxiously awaited the verdict in the OJ Simpson murder trial.  This day was a pivotal moment for me because it was the first time I realized that our justice system was flawed.  I left that basement a slightly different version of myself then when I first sat down to hear the verdict.  Naive 15 year old Cappuccino Queen had begun that day thinking, ‘I don’t know why everyone is making such a big deal about this….surely he is going to be convicted of this.  Everyone knows he did that shit.’

After hearing that OJ Simpson would walk free after it seems obvious that he had killed two innocent people, I was rocked to the core.  This was the first time that I realized that the law doesn’t apply to everyone the same way.  Money is power, and that power allowed Simpson to get away with murdering two people.

Though I had learned this important lesson about power, there was still some innocence left and I still felt a sense of safety in our system.  Since 2011, however, I have learned that the Simpson trial was more of a rule than the exception that I had hoped it was.  As an adult, I continue to have emotions of sadness, anger, and fear when I hear stories where justice has clearly been failed.

You have to have been living under a rock if by now you haven’t heard the name Darren Wilson.  In the event that you have been living under a rock, I will briefly explain.  Darren Wilson is the police officer who shot an unarmed 18 year old man named Michael Brown.  Brown’s murder (yes, I still consider it murder even if the officer says he felt threatened) has caused a huge uproar in this country with many people splitting their opinion along racial lines.  In light of what I have learned since my own trust in our system was lost, I want to comment on what I think this incident means for our society.

Not Every American Citizen Is Equal:  Police officers take an oath to “protect and serve”.  This oath, however, doesn’t also mean that you are able to “try, convict, and sentence.”  If a common citizen shot an unarmed man, there would be a trial to determine whether or not the shooter acted in self defense.  Wilson had months to work with his attorney to prepare his chain of events.  Though Brown laid in the street dead for four hours, nobody was able to take pictures of the scene or measure the distance between the officer’s car and Brown’s dead body.  There was, however, enough time (and a working camera) to snap a shot of the small bruise on Wilson’s cheek.

Darren Wilson was not treated as an equal citizen in this situation.  After reading through the testimony that the State chose to release from the Grand Jury (which by the way is not like the open trial a normal citizen would get), Wilson’s story didn’t make sense.  If Wilson had been forced to have a real trial (where the prosecutor was actually representing the victim), he would have been cross examined after making statements like, “When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding Hulk Hogan…that’s just how big he felt and how small I felt from grasping his arm.”  (Note:  Darren Wilson is 6’4″ tall and 210 pounds.  That is a big ass five year old.)

The day that the Grand Jury came to it’s decision, the State sat on the information for hours while they figured out how to best present this information to the public in a way that didn’t appear as an obvious insult to Justice.  They knew that in a normal trial, all the witnesses would have been able to testify.  Brown would have had character witnesses at a trial who could have testified as to whether he was the type of person to do the things Wilson was accusing him of.  Instead, the Grand Jury was given Wilson’s remorseless version of events.

I am not certain Wilson would have been convicted if he had gone through a trial.  Maybe a jury would still have believed that 6 bullets into an unarmed man wasn’t excessive force.  That said, we will never know because our system killed the opportunity for true justice.

Nobody Wins:  Yesterday I had a long conversation with a police officer that I respect.  While we have very different perspectives on this case, she said something that I think is extremely important when thinking about what this case means for us all.  She said, “it is much easier to put on a stamp, than to take it off.”  She talked about how hard it was for good officers to overcome the image of the bad ones.  Wilson’s decision to use this level of force colored the police force in a way that will negatively impact officers across the country for some time.  His decision killed his career, and it also put his fellow officer’s lives at risk.  It should be of no surprise to anyone when black men (in particular) behave with an extreme fear of police.  Riots have broken out in areas all over the country.  These riots seem to muffle the peaceful protests of those like myself who simply want answers.


On January 25, 2012, my ex was arrested for the murder of my son Prince.  If the police officer’s who arrived to arrest him had decided to shoot him that day, I would have been the first person to breath a sigh of relieve and pop the champagne.  That said, I am rational enough to understand that this wouldn’t have brought real justice to my son.  As law abiding citizens, we count on the police to behave with integrity.  We count on the police to respect their role in the process of justice.

Darren Wilson, I don’t believe you.  I don’t believe you didn’t have another option than to kill an unarmed man.  If you joined the police force as a patriot, then you should be ashamed.  You should have remorse for taking the life of a man you could have possibly saved.  Whether or not you believe Brown was a thug should be of no consequence.  If you one day go on to have children, I pray that in those precious moments that you are able to hold your child – that you also have the emotional capacity to think about the Brown’s child, whom you took from this earth.  In that moment, maybe you will finally be able to understand even a fraction of the pain you have caused.






Bill Cosby: When Justice Catches Up With A Celebrity


Beverly Hills Hotel 100th Anniversary Weekend - Bill Cosby Hosts Evening Of Comedy And Jazz


Indulge me while I bring you back to one average evening in the McLeod household circa 1985. Actually, I can say with relative confidence that it was February 6, 1985. I was four years old, and I had an epic meltdown that night. Many of you are probably shocked that I can remember the exact day I had this meltdown, but I was able to narrow into the date because it was the night former President Ronald Regan gave his State of the Union address that year.


Normally, four year olds have meltdowns about regular four year old things like not getting that piece of candy they wanted, not wanting to go to bed, etc. Four- year old Cappuccino Queen, however, was having a meltdown because the Cosby Show was being bumped from Primetime lineup because of this State of the Union Address. When I realized that no amount of crying and screaming could bring Bill Cosby back to my screen, I sat imagining that President Regan could see the terrible stink eye I was giving him.


I know this is a long- winded intro, but I can’t really begin to describe how much I loved the Cosby Show. To a four -year old brown girl, who lived in a neighborhood and went to a school where she was the only person of color, I loved watching a black family on television. I loved that Mr. Bill Cosby looked like my Dad (well, only in color really), and that Rudy was roughly my age. The Cosby show was the one show that everyone in my family seemed to enjoy, and we would all gather to watch it.


Fast- forward nearly 31 years, and these are the headlines that I am seeing come across my news feed:

 Audio of Bill Cosby Joking About Drugging Women Resurfaces

Bill Cosby’s Silence on Rape Allegations Makes Huge Noise

Internet Rage Pushes ‘America’s Dad’ Bill Cosby off His Pedestal

After reading these most recent allegations that Cosby sexually assaulted over 14 women, that rosy childhood image that I had of him wilted on the spot.  It felt similar to the time I was told that Santa Claus didn’t really exist, but much worse because it tarnished what was a positive image of the black family.  Sure, I know the character in the show wasn’t really the man in real life, but I still wanted to believe that this man who played such an important character for the times was also a good man in real life.

After reading through some of the stories and comments from Cosby’s victims, I felt continued disgust for our flawed legal system.  I also felt a connection with these women who have been fighting against a system that doesn’t want to believe that some men (especially financially powerful ones) are capable of rape.  One of the most high-profile accusers, Barbara Bowman, a married mother of two, claims Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her beginning in 1985 when she was a 17-year old aspiring actress.  She has continued to tell her story over and over for the last decade.  The Washington Post published an essay by Bowman with the explosive headline: “Bill Cosby raped me. Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my story?”

Bowman wrote that she was emboldened to tell her story after Constand went public with her accusations:

“When Constand brought her lawsuit, I found renewed confidence. I was determined to not be silent any more. In 2006, I was interviewed by Robert Huber for Philadelphia Magazine, and Alycia Lane for KYW-TV news in Philadelphia. A reporter wrote about my experience in the December 2006 issue of People Magazine. And last February, Katie Baker interviewed me for Newsweek. Bloggers and columnists wrote about that story for several months after it was published. Still, my complaint didn’t seem to take hold.

“Only after a man, Hannibal Buress, called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest. The original video of Buress’s performance went viral. This week, Twitter turned against him, too, with a meme that emblazoned rape scenarios across pictures of his face.”

While Cosby maintains that he is innocent, and claims that he has never been in trouble with the law, these countless allegations seem to paint a different picture.  To me, one of the most disturbing parts of this story is the fact that this allegedly began over 30 years ago, yet Cosby remains a free man never having had to account for his behavior.  Only now, is he really receiving any amount of public shame.  I speak a lot about how our justice system has a way of failing its victims, but this is a very clear example of how when prosecutors turn their backs on these types of cases, it only emboldens criminals into continuing to commit vile acts.

If someone had listened to Bowman 30 years ago, how many women could have been sparred the emotional and physical scars?  It is high time that we (as Americans) start taking a stand against this type of behavior.  Women and men need to start taking this more seriously.  14 women shouldn’t have to come forward pointing their finger at a high profile celebrity before people start to believe that he could be a vile rapist.

Despite the realization that Cosby is not the man 4-year old Cappuccino Queen wanted him to be, I am still thankful for the producers who chose to show a black family during those times.  That said, I will no longer show my support for a man who is clearly not deserving of the pedestal that so many of us placed him on.

Mr. Bill Cosby, I am ashamed of you.  I hope and pray that you get exactly what you deserve, and that justice finally catches up with you.





Things My Children Have Taught Me



Just over a year ago, I gave birth to my daughter.  Those of you who follow my page regularly also know that just over two years ago, my son Prince was murdered.  While this blog is certainly not a Mommy blog, this week I would like to take some time to reflect on what being a parent has taught me.  In the three and a half years since I became a parent, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined.  Both of my children have taught me things that I couldn’t have learned had they not chosen me as their mother.  I hope this post helps you to reflect on what the children in your life have taught you – whether you are a parent, an older sibling, a grandparent, an aunt/uncle, or a friend.

Unconditional And Limitless Love:  From the moment I felt Prince kick me, I knew that my life would never be the same.  I fell in love with him before I even met him, and my love for him seemed to just grow as the days passed.  Before I got pregnant with my daughter, I wondered if I would be able to love that way again, especially after such a terrible loss.  My son taught me how a child can deepen how you love, and my daughter taught me there are no limits to how much you can love someone.

Tolerance For Nasty:  When I was a kid, I thought I would want to be a doctor.  This thought was rooted purely in my desire to help people, and I had not considered the nasty factor.  As I got older, I realized that other people vomiting in front of me would make me sick and blood freaked me out.  In my 20′s, after a coworker threw up in my car after a party, I realized that I was never meant to deal with that level of nasty.  Then, I had children.  Both of my children have gotten me over my fear of nasty by forcing me to handle snot, explosive poop, spit up, and vomit on a near regular basis.  When your child is sick, there is no time to freak out about them pooping on you.

The Power of Dance:  In the interest of full disclosure, I am a terrible dancer.  To make matter worse, I had to grow up as a half-black girl whom everyone assumed must be able to dance because I was brown.  I felt like an asian person who was bad at math.  Because I was never good at dancing, I stopped doing it for fear of the extreme judgement I would get when it was clear that I had not gotten the rhythm gene. Then, I had children.  Both of my kids love to dance.  Prince would break out into what I called his “monkey dance” any time he heard music, and sometimes even when the music was just playing in his own head.  His sister Stela is equally as infatuated with dancing.  The two of them has taught me that regardless of how ridiculous you look when you dance, dancing brings happiness.

Appreciation of The Little Things:  Before kids, I didn’t fully appreciate the value of a warm cup of coffee.  Sure, I loved coffee before kids; however, there is nothing like the feeling you get when you have the time to enjoy your coffee while it’s still warm.  I have also learned to appreciate moments of quiet, or the rare afternoon nap that I actually get to take with my daughter (usually this is the time when I am cleaning up after her or rushing to get other things done).  Not having as much time to yourself makes you truly appreciate things like enjoying a nice meal, or drinking coffee in peace.

You Don’t Need As Much Sleep As You Think:  When I was in college, I would frequently complain about sleep deprivation.  I didn’t realize, though, that what I felt back then was just the tip of the iceberg.  After pulling an all nighter for that chemistry exam, I could come back to my dorm and pass out for hours before I needed to be anywhere.  Now, after being kept awake all night with the baby, there is no opportunity to just sleep until my next exam.  You can’t skip class on your baby.

Life Is Full Of Magic:  Having children makes everything seem a bit more magical.  One of my favorite things about being a parent is watching my children experience something for the first time.  The joy they both got when they took their first steps, smelled a flower for the first time, or had a taste of a sour lemon.  Children live life to the fullest.  If people never lost the ability to do this, there would be so much more joy in the world.  Having children, has allowed me to experience that magic again.

Faith:  I saved this one for last because it is one of the most powerful lessons I have learned from my children.  I didn’t get a chance to see my son grow up.  He didn’t have as many firsts as he should have because he didn’t even live long enough to have a second birthday.  That said, that child showed me that everyone has a purpose.  I truly believe that he came on a mission, and he chose me as his mother.  After having my daughter, there are moments when I see her do things that make it seem as though she had long discussions with Prince in heaven before coming here.

I talk a lot on my blog about my vehement disgust for those who abuse children.  It is hard for me to understand why someone would treat someone who is able to bring so much joy – so poorly.  Being a parent is not easy.  Loving someone so deeply can be terrifying, and many people are put in a position (as I was) where they are not legally allowed to protect their children.  Though it hasn’t been easy, I wouldn’t change it for the world.  Knowing Prince for even 15 months made me a better person, and a better mother.  Getting the chance to raise his sister has made me the happiest version of myself I have ever known.

I have two children – one is my angel in heaven, and the other is my angel here on earth.







False Pretenses And The Dangers Of Online Dating


online dating

This past Monday, Luc was charged with another felony – False Pretenses.  While this charge was related to falsifying information on the life insurance application he took out on my son, I couldn’t help but think that Luc’s entire life has really been based on many False Pretenses.  In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I met Luc via  At the time, I was pushing 30 and ready to settle down.  I had just relocated to the DC area, and was interested in meeting people outside of my current circle.  While on some level I had heard negative reviews of online dating, I had decided that I was going to be all in and remain optimistic.  ‘I will know if someone is lying to me once I meet them,’ I thought confidently.  ‘It will be so obvious if something is wrong with them from the first date,’ I said to myself naively.

While Luc never wanted to admit we met via (possibly because he had used it in the past to target women), I have no shame in admitting that is how I met him.  In fact, I think online dating is one of the most dangerous ways to meet someone.  Sure, there are tons of normal people who have met their current partner via a dating site, but there are also all sorts of predators online.  The Internet is a scary place full of all sorts of smoke and clouds.  It is very easy for someone to completely reinvent themselves, and hide behind the virtual curtain long enough to be dangerous.

So this week, I wanted to lay out some reasons why I will never on-line date again.  For those of you who want to try it out, keep in mind the below when you are meeting people so that you can go into this arrangement with your eyes completely open.

1)  The Profile Trap:  On just about every dating site, the dater is encouraged to write something about themselves.  People will write what they want others to know about them, and dishonest people can use their profile to lay the groundwork for a complete sham.  After reading someones profile, you might get the false impression that you know that person, even before you meet.  Much of the information that people put on their profile cannot be vetted, nor is it common for people to vet information before the first date anyway.

2)  Connections Prior To Face To Face:  A lot of people feel more comfortable speaking to someone on the phone or talking to them online well before they meet them.  While in some ways, this might make sense.  This practice ended up being dangerous for me.  After speaking to Luc on the phone, and through emails, I felt as though I had already invested some emotions before I was able to see him in person.  I remember the moment I laid eyes on Luc.  As soon as I saw him, I got an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that made me want to run screaming.  He didn’t look anything like the picture he had given me, and something felt wrong.  That said, I had spent so much time talking to him, I felt invested enough to continue the date.  If I hadn’t felt this sort of investment, I wouldn’t have thought twice about just ditching out on the date and never contacting him again.

3)  Degrees of Separation:  One of the things that drew me to online dating was the fact that I wanted to meet people outside of my circle.  That said, it would have been much safer had I stayed in my circle.  Meeting people through friends gives you a natural vetting mechanism.  Luc, on the other hand, would never have run in my circles.  He would never have worked with anyone I knew (because he didn’t work), he never would have gone to school with anyone I knew (because he was a high school drop out from out of state), and he never would have met any of my friends through any hobbies (because he played video games all day).  Because we didn’t have anyone in common, I was completely reliant on “vetting” him through the people he presented to me (see number 4).

4)  Third Party Deceit:  I remember explaining to a friend how comfortable I was with online dating.  One of the things I was comfortable with was the idea that after meeting someone, I could always insist on meeting their family and friends.  Surely, if you meet family and friends (all of whom rave about how great the person is), that has to say something right?  WRONG.  Luc presented an entire fake family to me.  I went to their home, and they claimed to be his aunts, uncles, and cousins.  They told me stories that backed up what Luc said he did for a living.  After I left Luc, I came to learn that these people had no relation to Luc and currently don’t have any contact with him.  In addition to a fake family, Luc introduced me to several attorneys.  These attorneys claimed that they were his business attorneys.  This helped him uphold the story of being gainfully employed.  None of this was actually true.


Most dating sites don’t do anything to verify the information that someone puts in their profile.  While you can meet a psychopath anywhere, before you enter the online dating world you should understand the risks associated with this venue.  You should also know that many dangerous people use internet dating to troll for new victims.  If you meet someone in person who has clearly misrepresented themselves (i.e. put someone else’s picture online, etc), don’t feel bad just walking away.  And if you ever get the impression that their story doesn’t seem to match up, it is probably because they are not telling you the truth.

I understand my story is one of the more extreme stories.  The man I met online was a walking false pretense.  Before I met him, however, I was one of the people who believed I would never end up being that girl from that terrible lifetime movie.  Now, I realize the only difference between me and that girl is that my story hasn’t been on Lifetime yet.




I Blamed The Victim, Too – Until I Became One



“Mother Teresa would never marry Saddam Hussein.”

These words were spoken to a friend of mine in reference to me after the death of my 15-month-old son, Prince McLeod
Rams , during a panel discussion on family court. Four years ago, I would have believed the same thing. Since then,
I have learned that Mother Teresa is exactly the kind of person who ends up with Saddam Hussein.

Growing up with Christian morals, I believed that everyone was capable of good. I was taught not to judge a person by his
appearance. So when, in 2010, Joaquin Rams walked into my life, I was vulnerable to deception. Yes, he dressed like a thug,
looked much older than he claimed and was full of mystery. But he was also charming, intriguing and had such an intense look
in his eyes that he made me believe he was my soul mate. He told me he was a self-made businessman who was caring for his son
after the child’s mother died in an accident. In hindsight, his story appears to have been custom designed to appeal to me.
I wanted to believe what he said, and he knew it.

Abusers don’t start emotionally terrorizing someone on the first date. No one just comes out and tells you he is living off
the insurance proceeds and death benefits of women who have died violently around them. Psychopaths – as one forensic psychologist who testified on my behalf in court labeled Rams – are often charming and charismatic people who can talk their way through almost anything.

After I fought unsuccessfully for over a year to prevent Rams from having unsupervised access to Prince, my worst nightmare
came true: On Oct. 21, my son drowned during one such visit with his father. Three months later, Rams was arrested and charged
with Prince’s murder. Shortly after his arrest, it was reported that Rams had taken out over $560,000 in life insurance on
Prince. On insurance forms, court documents show, Rams claimed I had died in an “accident.”

(Note:  Rams has claimed that he is innocent of these charges, and is currently awaiting trial for Prince’s murder in Prince William County, VA)

This was all devastating enough, but as the details of the case seeped into the media, I got another shock: Many people blamed
me for allowing all this to happen. Most of this was behind my back, but some of the bolder ones came right out and asked
how I could have gotten into a relationship with such a person. Once, I was berated by a police captain for making “poor relationship choices.” I left the station in tears.

At first, I was stunned by this reaction, but as time went on I was able to think more critically about my situation. The
truth is, before meeting Rams, I could have made the same sort of victim-blaming statements. I, too, judged the victims of
domestic violence. I, too, believed that I could never be a victim. I was too intelligent, too educated and too savvy for

I believed this until the day I looked in the mirror and realized that I had become a victim myself.

It shouldn’t be necessary for the tables to turn so horribly for someone to see this common attitude for what it is. This
misplaced blame undoubtedly hurts the victims, but it also helps offenders. They count on society blaming the victims, because
it focuses the attention away from their disturbing behavior.

When Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who imprisoned three young women in his home for years, made his notoriously self-justifying statement in court, his attempt to deflect guilt did not surprise me. He was simply repeating, albeit in an exaggerated way, sentiments that pervade our culture.

The day my son died was the worst day of my life. In the days following his death, I wanted to jump in the casket with him
and die, too. I blame myself every day for not disobeying court orders to protect Prince, for trusting Rams, for naïvely believing
I could never be a victim. This blame, however, is not going to bring Prince back. And it isn’t going to get him justice.

As I stood over Prince’s casket, I read him Dr. Seuss’s “Oh Baby, Go Baby,” one of his favorite books. I read about how he
would someday move mountains. Then, as the harsh truth set, my tears fell onto his body. I placed the book in the casket with
him, and made him this promise: “Mama will make sure you still move mountains. I will fight for justice so that your story
saves others.”

The promise I made to Prince will not be easy to fulfill. To prevent this sort of tragedy from happening to other children,
the tendency in our society to blame the victim must change. Addressing the attitudes of some family court judges is a good
place to start, but the problem goes much deeper – it lurks in the decisions of mental health professionals, law enforcement
officials and social workers alike, dangerously clouding their judgment and creating life-threatening situations outside of
the courtroom.

It is not comfortable to face these judgments while trying to change the system. But for as long as I live, I will continue
to tell my son’s story and continue to fight for children’s rights. I will do it for my son and the children who will come
after him.












Honoring Another Survival Date

prince   Two years ago, on October 21st 2012, I held my son in my arms as his heart stopped beating.  Just a few days ago, I sat in a Prince William County Courthouse and saw my son’s killer for the first time in nearly two years.  Many people expected that I would get some sort of sick pleasure out of seeing my son’s killer look like a demented serial killer out of a 1980′s cheaply made horror film; however, seeing him in that state only made my skin crawl more.  Possibly worse, however, was having to sit in front of Washington Post reporter Tom Jackman as he exclaimed how “juicy” he believed the story was on my son’s murder. His crass behavior was, in part, a sure attempt to get under my skin; however, in the two years since my son’s murder, I have often cringed at how callous many people connected to the case have been. Today, on this anniversary of his death, many people have wished me and my daughter well.  I appreciate all the love and support that my friends, family, and readers have shown me throughout the years.  I am reminded, though, on days like today just how many other people have been forced to live through terrible tragedies.  I am reminded of the choice I made two years ago – to live so that a piece of my son could keep living inside of me.  For those of you who were not following my blog a year ago, I want to share with you my post from this time period last year.  I hope this will help people understand how I view this day.  And I hope that my choice to spin a negative day into a positive one will entire others to do the same.

This past weekend (October 20th and 21st to be exact) marked the one year anniversary of the worst two days of my entire life.  While I am still relatively young, I am willing to bet that October 20-21, 2012 would have been considered astronomically bad by anyone’s standards – and even that seems like an understatement.  For those of you who don’t know, October 20th last year was the day that I found out my son had been murdered by his father.  It was the day I learned that I would never again see my little boy open his eyes, give me a hug, or say “Mama”.  All of my hopes and dreams for him shattered in that single moment.  A year later, I write this post reflecting over the past year.  I received more messages this past weekend from people telling me they were thinking about me than I received on what would have been Prince’s second birthday (which to me was a more difficult milestone).  My response to everyone who sent that message went something like this: “Thank you for your kind words.  Today is not a bad day though.  I will not be spending it thinking about the worst day of my life.  I don’t care to celebrate or commemorate this day.  I refuse to allow a date that a demonic man chose to terrorize me for the rest of my life.  This day was not a good day for my son and it was not a good day for me.  I do, however, see it as a day that marks strength.” Many people seemed confused with my response.  Maybe they were expecting me to curl up into a corner, and spend the two days crying as I forced myself to relive the nightmare that occurred just one year ago.  While I could have chosen that path, and I would not judge someone else who did, I continue to choose survival.  So instead of curling up into that ball and crying, I thought about all the things and people who have gotten me to this place of strength.  I will never say that the path I have taken in the last year should be followed by everyone who has endured tragedy, but it was my path and if my words can help someone then it is worth sharing. 1)  Find your people:  I put this one at the top of my list because without my friends and family I know I wouldn’t have survived this past year.  When my son died, everyone who knew him was devastated.  It rocked my family in a way that a family should never be rocked.  That said, many of my family members were able to rally around each other and we gave each other the strength to keep living.  In addition to my family, I learned who my true friends were.  As soon as I sent out the text message that my son was dying, several of them dropped everything and drove to the hospital just to be there with me.  One of my oldest friends got on the next plane from Louisiana to visit.  She listened to me, sat with me while I cried, made me laugh when I didn’t think I would again, and cooked when nobody seemed to have the strength to even think about food.  When chaos and tragedy strikes, find your people. 2)  Clean house on the toxic folks:  Throughout life its never a good idea to allow toxic people to hang around.  This is especially important during the hard times.  I found that there are some people who enjoy chaos.  They will gravitate around you during these times and make you feel worse.  If you find that someone is making you more sad or appears to be feeding off of your bad situation, drop them like a bad habit and move on.  In the past year, I have made no apologies about getting rid of bad people.  For example, two weeks after my son died, someone who I thought was a friend told me that I needed to “just get over it and stop talking about how angry and upset I was about what happened.”  After that conversation, I promptly told this person to lose my number and I truly believe I am better off because of it. 3)  Grieve your way:  In the past year, I can’t even count the amount of times people have tried to tell me how to grieve for my son or passed judgement on me for decisions I have made.  Many of these people have never lost a child and seem to project how they think they would feel if in my situation.  Recently, one of my coworkers lost his son tragically to a brain aneurism.  The child was six years old and he was devastated.  He asked me what he should be doing.  I told him that he needed to do whatever he felt he needed to do and that he shouldn’t let anyone tell him that what he chose to do was the wrong path.  That said, I would advise someone against doing something that was hurtful to themselves or others. 4)  Don’t be afraid to go to therapy:  Admitting that you need to see a therapist shouldn’t be seen as a weakness.  If a person broke their arm and just decided that surgery or casting it wasn’t for them, they would end up with a jacked up arm for the rest of their life.  If you find yourself in an emotionally unstable place, sometimes you just need to seek medical help and talk to a therapist.  I am not ashamed to say that after Prince died (and while I was in the throws of the custody war), I have seen a therapist regularly. 5)  Take back your happy:  Ever since I met Luc in February 2010, my life has been in some level of chaos.  He has tried to control and torment me.  While I believe he killed my son primarily for money, his secondary motivation was likely to destroy me.  He chose the first time he saw Prince after my birthday as the day he would drown him.  He intended for that day to make me sad for the rest of my life.  I will always miss my son.  I will always hold a certain sadness about the fact that he will never grow up and do the things he should have been allowed to do.  I will not, however, allow the man who killed him to destroy me.  I chose to take back my happy.  I chose to do this for myself and for my daughter. Finally, I leave you with one of the wisest things I heard after my son’s death.  I was speaking to the priest at my church.  I asked him why so many Christian people were telling me that in order to have peace I needed to forgive the man who killed my son and all of the people who allowed my son to be killed.  I asked him if I needed to forgive these people before finding peace.   Father John looked at me and said, “Hera, hold onto your anger.  It is that anger that will help get your son Justice.”  Father John went on to explain that forgiveness should be reserved people who can understand forgiveness.  It was clear that Luc had no soul.  Forgiveness would simply allow him to feel absolved for what he did, and possibly even allow him to continue to torment me.  So I will not be forgiving Luc.  It is a waste of my energy –  energy that should be used on happiness.  While I don’t forgive him, I also don’t dwell on him either.  I stayed angry for as long as I needed to in order to get the wheels of justice to turn. I would never tell someone else NOT to forgive someone who has hurt them.  I simply offer you an alternative.  If forgiving the person who has hurt you allows you to heal, then do it.  Just don’t allow that forgiveness to let them continue to hurt you.  For me, what was more important was learning to forgive myself.  This remains the hardest part of my journey.  While I know how hard I fought and how much I loved my son, there is still a level of survivors guilt and victim guilt that I will likely face for a long time to come.  As I continue on this journey, however, I will focus my efforts on life - on the legacy of my son through telling his story and helping to try and protect other children.  Soon, I will also focus on raising my daughter.  I am starting a new chapter of my life and Luc is not a part of that chapter. So next year, when my daughter is about a year old and the anniversary of Prince’s death approaches, I will think of strength and survival.  I will have survived one more year, and I will be thankful for all the wonderful things life has given me.  This is my survival date.

Next week my daughter turns one year old.  Looking at her sleeping next to me, I am still amazed at how fast this year has gone by.  Me and Stela didn’t spend the day today being sad.  We spent the evening playing, dancing, laughing, and reading some of Prince’s favorite books.  Today is my survival date.

How To Stay Sane In Family Court


In a perfect world, two people who have a child together would stay together forever living happily ever after with their children.  In a next to perfect world, couples who divorced would both me mentally healthy people, who were both great parents, and they could work out a perfect schedule where the children would have access to both parents without having to uproot their lives every few days.  Sadly, there are many families out there for whom these utopia type worlds don’t exist.  There are many families where one, or both, parents are not mentally well – and the children are caught in a war that is fueled by a corrupt and broken justice system.

Every so often, I get an email from a parent in despair – a parent who is caught in a vicious cycle of legal abuse.  Our current Family Court System is designed in such a way that abusers are able to run rampant over their victims like spoiled children throwing colossal temper tantrums.  The children caught in the middle of these legal wars suffer for years, many never establishing an emotionally healthy situation.  For the parent who is being stomped all over by the tantrum throwing co-parents (who most likely has a personality disorder of some sort), the trauma can become overwhelming.  In the best cases, these parents become numb to the continued abuse.  In the worst cases, parents are driven to the point of even taking their own life out of complete despair.

Given that so many parents seem to be stuck in this endless cycle of abuse, I thought I would take some time this week to share some of the things I tell people when they reach out to me asking for advice.  I am not a lawyer, or a psychologist – I am just a mother who knows what it is like to live through legal abuse at the hands of a psychopath.

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD):  When I was in the middle of my Custody War, I felt like I was losing my mind.  I felt trapped in a hell that I can’t even begin to describe in writing.  I remember laughing out loud when my therapist told me that I was suffering from PTSD.  “What,” I asking laughing. “I don’t think you heard me correctly.  I am in a legal battle.  I am not a veteran of war.”  My therapist explained, however, that while I didn’t suffer from what is often reported in the media as causing PTSD, I was suffering from a form of repeated trauma.  One of the first things I tell parents in this situation is that they need to identify that they are under extreme stress, and they need to get help for that.  One of the worst things you can do in a situation like this is assume that you can handle this alone.  Not seeking therapy for PTSD is like deciding not to put a caste on a broken leg and then wondering why you can never seem to walk right again.

Find A Good Lawyer:  Now, in my book, what you look for in a Family Attorney needs to be different from any other types of attorneys.  For example, your business attorney doesn’t need to understand emotions or have experience with children.  While your Family Attorney is not your therapist, your attorney needs to understand how to deal with this highly emotional situation.  He/she needs to be the type of person who can deal with drama without adding their own layer of drama.  If your case has an element of Domestic Violence, reach out to local advocacy groups and get referrals for attorneys who have handled these types of cases before.  Never ever waste your money with a lawyer who doesn’t specialize in Family Law.  I made the huge mistake of dumping butt loads of money into an attorney who had no business handling Family Court cases.  By the time I realized he was a fraud, I had spent thousands of dollars and had to hire new attorneys to pick up the pieces.  Finally, lawyers will waste your money if you let them.  You need to be in the driver seat in this relationship, and don’t be afraid to assert yourself – you are the client after all.

Find What Makes You Happy:  Find activities that make you feel happy and calm.  There may come a time when you have to turn your child over to the other parent, and you do not want to be sitting at home crying the entire day.  If your situation is even half as scary as mine was, you are going to need to do some things to distract yourself so that you can be as calm as possible when the child comes home.  During the first unsupervised visit that my son had with his eventual killer, some of my friends took me for a spa day.  While I was still a bag of stress, I really appreciated that I was actively trying to relax with friends instead of sitting at home watching the clock.  Use this time to do things that you can’t do with your children.

Don’t Stress About Things You Cannot Control:  This was the hardest point for me to follow when I was going through the custody war.  I would worry about everything from what my son would be eating to whether he would have regular diaper changes, etc.  I would also spend hours worrying about what the judge would do.  One of the toughest things about Family Court is that there are so many things do don’t have control over.  Spending time stressing about those things, is time wasted.  Instead, try to focus on things you can change – like your mental health, your own finances, etc.

Focus On The Most Important Thing – Your Child:  I don’t have many regrets about what I did in my son’s life, because I know that I was the best Mom that I could be given the circumstances that I was dealt.  That said, I do have one really big regret that continues to haunt me.  For the majority of the 15 months my son lived, I was actively trying to save his life by making sure his father was never alone with him.  The fact that I couldn’t stop unsupervised access haunts me, but more importantly, I am pained by the quality time I missed with my son while I was on the phone with lawyers or stressing about the case.  While I am not sure there is anything I could have done differently, as I couldn’t have ever imagined it would end the way it did, I will never ever get back those moments.  When I would come home from work, my son would routinely hide my phone in one of his trucks.  He wanted me to pay attention to him, instead of spending my evening screaming on the phone trying to get someone to help us.  Spend quality time with your children.  Try to make the time when you have your children all about them.  Don’t wake up when they are 18 and realize that you spent their entire childhood fixated on the custody war.

In closing, know that you are not alone.  Millions of parents around the world are forced to parent in tremendously terrible situations.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a deep breath, step back, and count your blessings.  Even after suffering the worst case scenario with the death of my son, I often have to step back and realize that I have a lot to be thankful for.  In the midst of the worst abuse of my life, I had the chance to be the mother to a beautiful little angel.  I will forever be thankful for every single second I had with him.  Hang in there Mamas and Papas.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.





Choose Love Over Hate



“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; The fruit of the womb is a reward.”  - Psalm 127:3


Almost a year ago, my daughter was born.  I fell in love with her from the moment I knew she existed.  Every time I saw her on the sonogram (usually in the middle of her trying to suck on her hand or foot), feel her swift kicks to my ribs, or even just think about her – I felt as if this small family of ours was meant to be.  If you have read my story, you also know that nearly two years ago my son Prince was murdered.  Though I have lived through one of the worst tragedies I can imagine, part of honoring my son is knowing that I must also continue to choose love and happiness.  My decision to have my daughter was one of the first steps I took on my personal journey, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.  Many reading this have also been through tragic experiences of all types – ranging from domestic violence, child abuse, and the terrors of Family Court.  Tragedy should make us stronger, but it shouldn’t define us or take away our ability to choose love despite the hate.

Sharing the news of my baby girl was a positive experience, and I have received overwhelming support from my readers.  Many readers reached out with private messages thanking me for telling my news, and wished my daughter and me the best.  One reader in particular mentioned that she, too, had thought about being a single mother by choice.  She worried, however, about the judgments she would receive from negative and bigoted people – some of who were in her own family.  Before responding to her, I thought a lot about what she said and how I felt about mine and my daughter’s own future given the society we live in.

I made the decision to have my daughter knowing that not everyone would accept our alternative family.  For me, the most important part of my decision was making sure that my daughter would come into this world with a lot of love and support.  After thinking this reality over for a significant amount of time, I realized that I had grown up the child of an “alternative” family.  My parents got married in the late 1970s.  Since my parents are not of the same race, their marriage wasn’t even legal in all 50 states.  And many times, even though it was legal didn’t mean it was socially accepted.  I distinctly remember classmates of mine who asked me why I hadn’t come out with spots since my mother was white and my father was black.

I will never forget the day when I first realized my family was different.  The girl next door and I were good friends.  We were both five years old and attended the same school.  She was having a birthday party where everyone had planned to bring their own cabbage patch doll.  We were both excited about this party and had talked about it for months.  On the day of the party, I ran out of the house with my doll and proudly marched up to her garage with the rest of the children.  As I went to walk through the door, my friend stopped me and said, “My mom said you cannot come to the party because you are black and black people steal things.  You are not allowed in my house.”  While the rest of the kids went inside, I stood on the sidewalk alone with my doll.

After that incident, I ran home and told my parents about what had happened.  “But I am brown Mommy!  My skin isn’t even black,” I explained with clear confusion.  I remember seeing the anger and pain in my parent’s eyes as they attempted to explain racism and bigotry to their innocent five -year old daughter.  I am pretty sure the reality still didn’t sink in that day; however, over the years my parents did a wonderful job explaining to me that being different wasn’t a bad thing.  I learned to embrace my unique background and the reality that I would often be forced to be an ambassador for my race and my unique experience.

My daughter was born into a family that is different, and not everyone will always accept the path that I have chosen.  She will likely encounter many bigoted people throughout her life. It is my job as her mother to teach her that her unique story is a blessing, and an opportunity to change the world for the better.   For the reader who was contemplating having another child, and for the many others who believe that an alternative family (be it two moms, two dads, one mom, one dad, etc) is the best choice for their family, my advice is as follows:

Children are a blessing.  They deserve to be showered with love from a strong community of people – regardless of gender, race, or whatever particular label you happen to be using at the moment.  Don’t ever let narrow mindedness, bigotry, or hate factor into your decision to have a child.

And for those of you who are trying to rebuild your lives after tragedy (even if you are still in the tragedy of Family Court), choose to live with happiness and don’t let this tragedy rob you or your children of your lives, happiness, and future.