I Have An Agenda, And I Am Not Ashamed Of It

I am going to say something that shouldn’t be a newsflash to anyone who has ever read my blog, heard me speak, or been anywhere near me in the past few years.  I HAVE AN AGENDA.  It is not hidden, and I refuse to make any apologies for it.  Want to know what my agenda is?  It’s simple really…I am passionate about children.  I truly believe that Prince chose me to be his mother.  I was chosen because he knew I would fight for him, and he knew I would speak out to protect his memory.  He knew I would fight for change – that I would fight to make it so that no other children would suffer the way he had to suffer.

Since my son was murdered, it seems like not a day has gone by where I haven’t heard about the brutal murder of another child.  This week, I heard about another shocking case that happened in Fredrick, MD.  A little girl named Anayah Williams was murdered by her father.  As her father was beating her to death, her mother watched.  As if the murder itself isn’t shocking enough, possibly the most disturbing element of this case is that when the girl was only two months old she had been removed from the home for having a fractured skull.  Instead of recognizing that these parents were dangerous, our sick and twisted system put the girl back into the house (for the sake of reunification with her birth parents).  She was murdered shortly after her return.

I would love to be able to say that I am shocked when I hear these stories.  Our system fails children.  Those who are tasked with the protection of children are more concerned about protecting the parental rights of abusive parents.  They are more concerned with clearing their case load then potentially saving a child’s life.

Recognizing abuse:  Most children who are abused don’t even know they are being abused.  If you ask a child who has been abused their entire life if their parent abuses them, you will most hear something like, “no, he/she was a good parent.”  If a child is used to being beaten with objects, having things thrown at them, and getting beaten to the point where physical marks are left, they might not see these things as abusive – this is their normal.  While children who live through abuse might not be able to determine that their situation is not the norm, there are certain tell tale signs.  For example, if a child is often seen with bruises that are beyond the occasional toddler bump, something might be wrong.  Another tell tale sign is when you see a child who is clearly afraid of their parent.  While it is normal for a child to respect their parent, a child should never be afraid that they are going to be physically harmed by their parent.

Doing something about it:  Another unfortunate reality that I have noticed since the death of my son, is that many people choose to ignore child abuse if it isn’t happening directly in their home.  When they hear of these child murders on television, they talk about how sad it is for five minutes, go hug their own child, and thank God it isn’t their reality.  What people fail to realize is that the child who is being beaten up next door will one day show up on your doorstep.  He will be dating your daughter, friends with your son, or maybe even a parent to your grandchild.  Child abuse is not someone else’s problem.  It is a society problem, and in order to end child abuse everyone must take responsibility.

A few months after I left Luc, I went back to his old neighborhood and spoke to some of the neighbors.  I asked a few of them if they had ever witnessed anything disturbing.  One man mentioned that he had witnessed Luc abusing a child in public, right outside this man’s house.  When I asked the man why he didn’t report it, he said, “it wasn’t any of my business, so I didn’t get involved.  I almost said something, but I didn’t want his anger to turn on me.”  The man then told me to keep my head down, and that it would all work out for the best.  Since Prince died, I often wonder what people like this man would think now.  Would he regret never reporting the abuse?  Would he look at my situation and think that things worked out for the best?

Recently, I was accused of having an agenda – as if this is a bad thing.  If you are as passionate about an important issue as I am, you should be proud that you have an agenda too.  I will never hide from my agenda.  I will continue to have this agenda until the day when I stop hearing about children dying from abuse.  I don’t want to just stop hearing about it because I stop listening.  I want to stop hearing about it because I want it to actually stop happening.

Please join me – please have an agenda too.

 

 

 

 

My First Post Baby Half – Marathon

 

Before I got pregnant with Prince, I was a runner.  I had run two marathons, two half marathons, an olympic triathlon, and countless smaller races (5k, 10k, etc).  I loved being an athlete.  Running was my way of relieving stress, and running was part of who I was.  I ran until I was eight months pregnant with Prince.  Then one day…I stopped running.

When I stopped, I told myself it was because I was too pregnant, but it was more than that.  I had become depressed because my relationship with Luc was confusing and scary.  Earlier that year, I had signed up to run a marathon with my sister (it was going to be five months after Prince was born).  I ended up flaking.  Shortly after Prince was born, when I learned that I had been living with a murderer, I started the most intense and emotional fight of my life.  For the next 15 months, I fought to try and save my son’s life.

Those of you who have been following my blog know that I lost the battle to save my son.  After 15 months, Luc killed my son Prince.  When this happened, it was the worst part of what had been a painful two years.  I was devastated, and I knew that my life would never be the same again.  There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about how much I love my little boy, and how I wish he could be here with us.  Dealing with the reality of this loss left me feeling further away from the woman I once was.

My Revenge:

I have often heard that the best revenge you can have on someone (especially a psychopath) is to live well.  Since taking a bat to Luc’s private parts doesn’t appear to be an option, living well is what I must attempt to do.  Those of you who have been entangled with a psychopath know how easy it is to look in the mirror one day, and not even recognize yourself.  I had gotten to that point.  I was about 60 pounds overweight, my hair was horribly damaged (it actually had started to fall out due to stress), and I realized that I no longer did many of the things I used to love.

While my daughter is an incredible source of happiness, I realized that in order to truly have my revenge I needed to get my whole life back together.  I needed to get back to doing things that made me happy and relieved my stress.  So, I got myself a new pair of running shoes, strapped Stela in the BOB stroller (with the infant carseat insert, of course) and ran.

Painful Journey:

Similar to childbirth, getting back into running shape was painful.  Unlike some women, I never enjoyed pregnancy.  Getting fat, getting kicked in the ribs, and watching your extremities swell on the daily wasn’t ever my idea of enjoyment.  (Note:  I am not ashamed to admit this – it doesn’t make me love my children any less.)  While I love running, running as an out of shape post-pregnancy mom was not glamorous.

The first run was torture.  I felt every one of those 60 extra pounds I had gained between my pregnancies.  Luckily, Stela was along for the ride on most of my runs.  While pushing a heavy stroller is no picnic, her smiles helped me remember why I was enduring all the pain.  The extra stroller weight also made running without the stroller feel so much easier.

After a month of some short runs, I realized that in order to get that piece of me that I had lost back – I needed to sign up for a race.  I needed the experience of lacing up my shoes on race morning, hearing the starting gun, running through the crowds of equally as nutty folks, and crossing that finish line.  In a moment of confidence, I signed up to run the DC Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon.  The race was only 4.5 months after giving birth to Stela, but I figured, ‘I have some muscle memory – I will be alright.’

Race Day:

In the days leading up to the race, I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was a little terrified.  Ok, maybe I was a lot terrified.  It had been four years since I had run an endurance race (the last one being June 2010, DC Olympic Triathlon).  Since DC has experienced an unusual amount of snow this winter, I hadn’t even been able to train to the level that would have been close to enough.  All these factors aside, however, I wasn’t about to flake this time.  I needed this race.

On race morning, I got up before the sun and made my way to the starting line (Constitution and 14th street to be exact).  As I nearly froze standing in the Porta Potty line, I wondered if my boobs were going to explode before I would be able to pump or get to Stela in order to breastfeed.  In the end this seemed like a silly concern compared to the actual physical monster of a race I had before me.

After what felt like being stuck in a pack of hungry cattle, corral 28 was finally released to start the race.  Adrenaline got me through the first five miles.  Then, my entire body began to remind me that it hadn’t been long enough since I had given birth to a child.  ‘What am I going to do,’ I thought frantically.  I needed a plan.

Running Goddesses From Kentucky:

Just as I was losing hope that I would ever finish the God awful race, I spotted two women who looked as though they were having a blast.  They were both dressed in St. Patrick’s Day attire, but I was really drawn to the fact that they seemed as though they had a brilliant plan.  One of the women had a stop watch that beeped every minute reminding them to walk.

When I heard the beep, and realized that they had a plan, I jogged over to ask them about it.  Likely seeing that I was struggling, they asked me to join them.  I owe miles 6-11 to these amazing running Goddess’.  They told jokes and stories – and they fed me pretzels.  Sadly, around mile 11, I hit the runner’s wall.  For anyone who doesn’t know what this means, let me explain briefly:  Have you ever been punched so hard that your entire body feels it?  If the answer is yes, you have experienced something similar to what it feels like to hit “the wall”. It is possible to run through this feeling, but it takes a ton of mental strength and distraction.  Needless to say, when I hit the wall I had to wave the two running goddess’ on so that I didn’t slow them down.

The Finish:

Those last two miles were the hardest miles I have fought for in all of my years of racing.  With every step, however, I realized that living through the trauma of the past few years has made me mentally stronger than I ever was before.  I was running this race to prove to myself that I hadn’t lost myself during the battle, but what I learned on the run (during the most difficult time) was that I am now a better version of myself.

Most everyone can look at something in their life and have pity on themselves for it.  For me, it seems so easy sometimes to sit and cry about all the terrible things that have happened in the past four years since I met Luc.  What isn’t easy, however, is finding ways to move on.  I wasn’t physically ready for this race.  I drank too much water, ended up depleting my electrolytes to a dangerous level, and almost bought myself a trip to the emergency room.

The last 30 seconds of the race, however, were amazing.  I felt the last four years flash before my eyes, and it seemed like a moment of incredible closure.  I realized that I will never be the woman I once was, but I am hopeful that I will look in the mirror one day and realize that the woman staring back at me is better than the woman she once was.  She is better for having survived the storm.  She is better for having run through the pain, and made it to the other side.

 

 

 

 

Daddy Doin’ Work: Empowering mothers to evolve fatherhood

If I had a dollar for every time I have seen a mother carrying a baby on her chest, pushing toddler in a stroller, and carrying several bags at the grocery store at the same time, I would be a wealthy woman.  This is a common scene amongst mothers, but if I had a dollar for every time I have seen a man in this same situation – well, then I would be on food stamps.  When you do see a man in this situation, however, people act like it’s epic.  A man carrying his baby on his chest elicits the sort of ogling that you’d expect only from teenage girls on a  school yard when the hot dude walks by.

Why is this?  Why is it normal and expected for women to parent their children, but considered Godly when a man does the same?  Why  do we find changing tables in the women’s restroom, but the same tables are noticeably absent from men’s restrooms?  Is society trying to tell us that a guy can’t change a diaper?

Those of you who know my story know that calling my ex simply a “deadbeat” Dad would be like calling Mother Teresa just a nice lady.  If there were a term for something much worse than a deadbeat – my ex would likely fall more closely into that category.  I mention all of the above to say that part of the reason men are the way they are today, part of the reason that many fathers have not evolved beyond cavemen times, is because of the low expectations we as women have for them.

My good friend Doyin, aka Daddy Doin’ Work, is on a mission to change the face of Fatherhood as we know it.  You might have heard of books that talk about how to be a good parent (like how to change a diaper).  The market is loaded with those types of books.  This, however, is the sort of book I wish had been available when I met Lucifer (this is what I call the D bag who killed my son).  What is refreshing about what Doyin has to say is a no nonsense kind of guy.  He is the first dude to praise the Dads who are doing great things, but he is also the sort of guy who isn’t going to make excuses for the guys who do things that all men should be ashamed of.

I recently wrote a blog about how racism isn’t just a black issue – it’s an everybody issue.  I feel the same way about the evolution of fatherhood.  This is a conversation that everyone should be having regardless of gender.  As a woman, however, I love the idea that Doyin is tackling this issue by speaking to women.

Doyin, congratulations on your book my friend.  I applaud you for attempting to raise the bar on fatherhood – the role model you are for your daughters – and your attempts to empower women.

 

Racism – An Everybody Issue

Before my son was born, while I was pregnant with him, someone asked me what I wished for.  I said, “I wish that before my son is born, we could live in a place where racism no longer existed.”  (Note:  This was before I realized that I had more immediate concerns – i.e. that his father was a psychopathic serial killer)

None the less, I wanted my children to be born into a world where they would not be judged but he color of their skin.  Recently, I have been encouraged by the amount of interracial couples I see on a regular basis, and the popularity of the cheerios commercial featuring that cute little biracial actress.  While I was born in 1980, well after the Civil Rights Movement, our country was still the type of place where I became painfully aware of racism at a very early age.  I have lived long enough, however, to see things change a lot.  People no longer stare at my family when we are out in public, because seeing interracial families has become normal.

So much progress has been made since my parents were children, that I had been able to live 33 years without being terrified in a situation due to the color of my skin.  This fact, however, changed this past week.  The following encounter made me realize that for as much progress that we have made, many of us still find ourselves wondering when race will no longer make you the target of violence.

The day of my eye opening experience began relatively unremarkable, like many other weekend days.  I am training for a half marathon in a couple of weeks so I dragged myself out of bed, bundled up Stela, and hit the trail for a run.  While I had planned to run at least 4 miles, Stela had other plans.  After about 2.5 miles, the diva came out and Stela started to scream at the top of her lungs.  After stopping for a mid run breastfeeding session (Note:  I don’t recommend this.  It was awkward.  I should have packed a bottle.), Stela decided that she wanted to hold my hand to go back to sleep.  I spent the last .5 miles running while holding her hand.

By the time I finished my run, I was exhausted, sweaty, and a bit cranky (given that I had planned to run further).  As I was walking back to my car, on a very narrow sidewalk, my eye caught a strange looking man walking in my direction.  Normally, I would have crossed the street, but construction forced me to continue on the narrow sidewalk.  The man, who was carrying several bags and walking aggressively, ran up to me and screamed, “There are too many Niggers around here!  You all are cock sucking Niggers!”  He was no further than a few inches from my face when he said this.  While many people might think to yell back at him, my first reaction was to put the entire force of my bodyweight behind the stroller and book it up the hill and back to my car.  I was terrified because this man didn’t appear mentally stable, and I was sure that if I hadn’t gotten out of there he would have turned the verbal assault into a physical one.

As I sat in my car, after this encounter, I held Stela trying to calm her down (she had been crying hysterically).  I realized that I was also trying to calm myself down.  Why had this encounter scared me so much?  In the past nearly three years since my son was born, two black teenagers have been murdered – one for “looking” like a criminal (Trayvon Martin) while carrying a back of skittles and and some iced tea – the other (Jordan Davis) killed because his music was too loud.  Possibly more disturbing than the fact that these two innocent teens were murdered is the fact that our court system was unable to see that justice was served.  Trayvon’s killer was set free, and the jury in Jordan’s case just couldn’t seem to find his killer guilty of murder.

It’s nearly impossible to have escaped media about both of the cases I have explained above.  While I am multiracial, I am here to tell you that the moment I came face to face with a crazy racist man while innocently pushing my little girl in her stroller – I felt very black.  I became extremely conscious of the color of my skin, and knowing the environment of my country right now, I was terrified.

Next time I go for a run, I will be carrying mace.  I don’t tell this story just to tell an interesting story.  I tell this story to prompt conversation.  I encourage everyone, regardless of your skin color, to think about how you can be a part of the change.  What needs to happen in our country so that racism is no longer acceptable.  What needs to happen so that a company like cheerios can make a commercial featuring an interracial family and NOT be subjected to negative racist comments?  What needs to happen to end these violent racially motivated murders?  What needs to happen to hold these murdering racists accountable?

We are all a part of this society – we all share this burden.  This is not a black issue, not a white issue, but an all of us issue.