What about your friends: a girlfriend for every woman

Often times, I’ve encountered women who say they’d rather have male friends – implying that men are less apt to be biased in their judgments. In my opinion, men no matter their sexual preference, can not offer a good ol’ fashion girlfriend heart to heart and downright-fun-girlfriends-only shindig. There’s nothing better than having a woman on your side – someone who understands your chocolate cravings during that “time of the month,” can relate to your relationship ills or offer a listening ear when you’re having problems with your male supervisor.

I’ve lost a few friendships along the journey throughout my life, but as Tyler Perry’s Madea has so cleverly said in one of his plays, some folks are just leaves, passing in the wind. Currently, I have a very small circle of women friends; some of whom I’ve known for a very long time, some that I’ve reunited with since high school and others I met in recent years. Do we always agree? No. But that’s the beauty of friendships with girlfriends. You can argue today (assuming it wasn’t detrimental) and reconnect at a later time.


Although my circle is itty bitty, each of my friends offers a personable trait that helps us become better women, better friends and they always keep me on my toes kinda like the Golden Girls.

golden-girls
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You know you have a true girlfriend who’s worth keeping in the fold when she meets any of the following traits:

THE RIDE OF DIE FRIEND thelma-and-louise

She always has your back – she will don a ponytail and tennis shoes in a heartbeat as well as lather your face with Vaseline, in the event somebody or something “pops off.” Bail money is conveniently concealed underneath her mattress on the left side next to her loaded pistol.

madeaTRUTH HURTS FRIEND

She tells it like it is and doesn’t mind hurting your feelings, if it means getting you to focus on more important matters. She doesn’t hold punches but she’s hesitant to reach below the belt. She knows that telling you what you may not want to hear is probably what you need to hear.

oprah
jawbreaker.nyc

THE FORBES FRIEND

She’s successful and driven. You admire her and she motivates you to better manage your finances and your life. She’s probably the friend you call when you need bail money after an episode with your RIDE OR DIE FRIEND.

bridesmaids
Bridesmaids

HAPPY HOUR FRIEND

When you’re feeling low, she brings a ton of laughter followed by a number of good stiff drinks. And, she probably can drink you under the table. Both of you typically laugh your heads off while slurring your words. By the time you get home, you may not even remember the drama that led you to the bar in the first place.

last-holidayTHE WANDERLUST

This friend is an adventure-seeking individual. As a result of her love for new exploits, she pushes you to experience the fullness of life. You two travel together, swim under waterfalls and zipline across an expansive forest.

shirley-caesar“THE PLUG” FRIEND

She has the hookup on just about anything you need from weave bundles, concert tickets to designer purses. She knows somebody who knows somebody who can get you what you need.

With qualities like these, it’s nice to know that girlfriends can withstand the test of time and they come equipped with some pretty unique perks making it darn difficult for a male friend to compare. Getting rid of the idea of a female friend, #ibedamned.

If I missed a girlfriend-worthy attribute, please share it with me in the comments section.

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May Week: Bonding with the Sisterhood

Sisterhood: The Tie that Binds us

May Week has kicked off, and I feel like a better woman because of it. It was a humbling experience to have been the guest in a room full of successful, bright and ambitious women. I arrived a bit behind schedule but as I entered the dining room, they all turned to the door and as if on cue, they said,  “Heeeey.” It was as if they had waited just for me. And, I felt right at home; just to be among friendly faces. It was where I needed to be at the end of my long, tedious workday.

May Week is a national program of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. that was created in 1920. A week in May is set aside for programs highlighting academic and professional achievements and the events emphasize the importance of higher education in the community, especially for black women.(San Francisco-Peninsula Alumnae Chapter | Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated)

I walked down an aisle, situated between two rows of dining tables, blowing kisses to new and old familiar faces of my lovely sorors and hugged a few as I walked to the counter to place my order. I had never been a customer of the restaurant, but I could tell it was a homey spot. It was the kinda spot you would take your out-of-town friends who had a hankering for down-home cooking. I observed hot plates galore; homemade seafood and southern soul food meals all prepared by a chef who you could tell knew a thing or two about keeping a roomful of eager and hungry customers happy. The room was a bit steamy and the sizzling sounds from the back grill clashed with the multitude of conversations and laughter going on simultaneously around the room.


Albeit I enjoyed the night and the first of several activities scheduled for May Week, I am disheartened to admit that it’s rare to be around such positive people at one time. It seems that lately I have been thrown one curve ball of negative intention one after the other. Whether it be person or situation, the past few days were not as enjoyable as tonight. But, rather than dwelling on the past, I am pushing forward. I believe this day was the precursor of fun and positive memories to be had. And, I am more than ready to tackle the upcoming week chocked full of more socializing and networking. The agenda includes a signing of a proclamation by a city mayor, donating a small contribution to an area school and conducting phone calls to fellow sorority members that may be ill or disabled.

If you’re a soror, how will you spend May Week? If you’re not a soror, how will you spend the rest of your week?

Pictured with Mayor Rodney Grogan of Patterson, LA

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What’s in a name: 10 successful people with unusual names

I grew up in a family of three siblings and strongly disliked my name. It was obviously non-traditional than most, and I thought it was stranger than the much simpler names chosen for my brother and sister. Later, I learned that my dad wanted to give me a unique name. But, little did he realize or he failed to remember that I had an older cousin whose name rhymed with mine. Her name is Lenika. Hint Hint: Can you guess my name? I vowed that I would never give my child a name that was unfamiliar and non-traditional.

However, during a conversation with my co-worker, I had a slight change of heart. We had a discussion about birth names, and their seemingly magical powers. Think about it. Some of the most successful and talented people in the world have odd names. I compiled a list of top names in music, sports and business. I think there’s some validity in the claim that your birth name can have power. #ibedamned

madonna
Madonna
Madonna: a musical icon, American singer, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman. Often referred to as the “Queen of Pop,  she achieved gross popularity by pushing the boundaries of lyrical content in her songs and music videos.
beyonce
Beyonce
Beyonce: She rose to fame in the late 1990s as lead singer of the all-girl group, Destiny’s Child.  The group became one of the world’s best-selling girl groups of all time with over 60 million records sold. Throughout her career, she has sold over 100 million records as a solo artist making her one of the top selling music artists of all time.

And her sister,

solange-knowles
Solange Knowles
Solange: Solange started in the music industry with several temporary stints with Destiny’s Child, before going solo. She released her first album at age 16 in 2002. Her latest album won a Grammy for Best R&B Performancec and in December 2016, she was ranked as the 100th most successful dance artist of all time.
Wolfgang Puck
Wolfgang Puck: Celebrity chef and restaurateur. He owns restaurants, catering services, cookbooks and a cooking product line.
lebron-james
LeBron James
LeBron James: Professional NBA player for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s also the all-time leading scorer for the Cavaliers. LeBron has won three NBA championships, four MVP awards and two Olympic gold medals.
Ima Hogg
Ima Hogg: She was known as “The First Lady of Texas”, an American philanthropist, patron and collector of the arts, and renowned in Texas during the 20th century. She successfully ran for a seat on the Houston School Board in 1943, where she worked to remove gender and race as criteria for determining pay and established art education programs for black students.
omarosa
Omarosa Manigault
Omarosa:  She is the Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison on President Trump’s administration. Omarosa gained fame as a contestant on the Trump’s first season of The Apprentice. She later returned for the series sequel, Celebrity Apprentice.
vivica-fox
Vivica A. Fox
Vivica: Actress, producer and television host. She began her career with roles on the daytime television soap operas, Days of Our Lives and Generations. She later moved to prime time starring opposite of Pattie LaBelle in Out All Night. She went to the big screen in two box office hits, Independence Day and Set It Off.
Learned Hand
Judge Learned Hand: A judge and judicial philosopher. Hand served on the US District Court for the Southern District of New York and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He has been reportedly quoted more often by legal scholars and by the US Supreme Court than any other lower court judge.
Peerless Price
Peerless Price: A former NFL wide receiver who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the second round of the draft in 1999. Price also played for the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys.

Share your birth name and its meaning. My name is Danika - it means "morning star" in Denmark. The pronunciation is different but I'll take every bit of its magical
powers, all the same
. 🙂

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You know you live in a small town when…

Living in a small town can have its advantages and boy, it can surely have its disadvantages. I moved from a sprawling metropolis of about 1 million people to a slower-paced, semi-rural small bedroom community. It was as if I’d moved into my very own Cheers sitcom; where everybody knows your name…literally. If you’ve never lived in a small town or maybe you grew up in one, here are few ways to recognize what sets small towns apart from the big cities.

Courtesy: jaybarrymore.com
  • “Where do you live?”

Small towns and cities often don’t have defined subdivisions and neighborhoods. So, when I moved into my new place, I knew that if anyone asked where I lived, then I could easily tell them the general vicinity. If only it was that easy. If anyone ever asks where do you live in a small town, what they’re really asking is for the satellite coordinates AKA the exact address. Imagine my perplexed look. No one would ever ask that in the big city.

[Improve the look of your home’s address]

  • The rumor mill

Before Facebook, rumors passed around by way of person to person or by phone. News travels fast but now that Internet technology is growing at such a swift pace, it’s no wonder fights, arguments and breakups occur so frequently. New social media platforms are springing up almost daily and you can find out more juicy gossip than you bargained for.

  • Six degrees of separation

Six degrees of separation is the idea that each person is connected or related to one another by six or less steps. I swear everybody in small towns is related one way or another. A friend of mine was a native to the area, but it seemed that everywhere we went, he ran into a new relative; third-generation-first-removed-distant-cousin-to-a sister’s-brother-uncle-who-moved-away-about 20 years ago. Whew! Dating must be challenging. I’m more than sure meeting the family is a doozy.

  • Love Connection

And, speaking of dating. That pool is pretty slim. Finding available bachelors and bachelorettes is challenging. The married couples are the “lucky” ones, because they likely met during junior high school and just never parted. As for the rest of the single folks, it’s a case of musical chairs. Who’s left standing? Either he/she is your relative, has left a trail of broken hearts, dated your best friend or comes with too much baggage.

e-vites by phone

  • You’re invited

I remember getting my first invitation to a wedding. No, not on pretty stationery or by a professional, online e-vite. It was a group text from a friend. I didn’t even know the couple, but according to the rumor mill, it was to be the wedding of the century and everybody was invited. If you were a friend of a friend who knew the bride or groom, then you were more than welcome to attend. I didn’t feel right, but I went anyway. And, to ease my conscience, I even bought a gift for the beautiful, unknown couple.

[Invite your wedding guests in style]

weekenders

  • Weekend watering hole

If you’re a homebody, then wrapped up in a blanket on a couch watching your favorite Netflix movie is probably what you look forward to every Saturday night. But, unlike many others who like a little adventure on the weekend, you might find the rest of the crowd at one or all of the few bars open in town. Want to do a bar crawl? Well, I can guarantee that it’ll take less than an hour to travel to all the bars in a ten-mile radius.

  • Rivalries

Schools are plentiful and rivals run deep. And, these rivals can break up families and can cause political conflicts among candidates. Pitting your allegiance to one school over another is cause for an influx in bumper stickers, yard signs and a barrage of bragging rights within the booster club population. Tread lightly when cheering for your favorite school. It’s like gang wars; southside soccer moms, west end sideline football dads and uptown band nerd parents. As the teens say, “they go hard in the paint.”

 

Although residing in a small community comes with a number of quirks, it also offer a uniqueness all its own and it has made my experience a memorable one. I can never get enough of the family-friendly environment a small town community offers, I still enjoy the friendly waves from passersby, my neighbors are more like family than strangers, knowing my area’s public officials by first name is a plus and where else can you shop, pay bills, drop-off kids, get pampered, go to work and pick up mail all in five miles or less. #ibedamned

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THOT Revolution: The war on morals and clothing

Welcome to the Thot Revolution, where the only requisites include wearing little clothing and having even less morals. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, then let me help you. Urban Dictionary defines THOT as an acronym; That Hoe Over There. While I’m for self-expression, I’m a self-proclaimed Anti-Thot. I despise the crass, lewd and disrespect. There’s a thin line between class and trash. And, our young ladies are discarding their images along with their integrity. It just so happens that March is National Women’s History Month. What would the notable women in history think about the perverse concept of “THOTS?”

thot-blog1

If you will, take a mental trip with me to one of the original cities that never sleeps; New Orleans, the Big Easy. Bourbon Street is the one of the top tourist areas of the country. And, on the weekend of the NBA All Star games, there were more than just balls and baskets being passed around, if you know what I mean. I saw more lingerie tops and panty bottoms that I thought I was at a Frederick’s of Hollywood fashion show. But, this particular show I’d rather NOT buy a ticket. Nonetheless, I had a front row seat to a real live catwalk down the city’s historic cobbled streets.

Q: So, what did I see?

A:  Let’s just say the people of Walmart would blush.

  • Saggy titties with nipples playing tag with their belly buttons
  • Shot-injected asses on tiny stilt legs
  • One woman was wearing a gold-sequined outfit resembling a dance  battle or majorette costume
  • Jean shorts that double as underwear
  • See-through shirts, no bras

Some might say, in defense, that I’m “jealous” or “hatin’.” But, I’m neither; in fact, content. And, I’m also working out to get the right body for me. Overall, I keep it lady-like. I can definitely admire a beautiful, classy woman, but what I can’t do is admire someone who’s appearance is vulgar and loose.

thot-blog-2

Stop chasing these ballers and start chasing your own dollars. It’s pretty shameful to see and hear that women spend the majority of their lives changing their bodies for the sake of keeping or stealing a man. All the while, we’ve learned time and time again, that SOME men are never satisfied and will chase the next hot THANG that comes his way.

Surely, it’s easy to blame the thot-isms (a new word created for the purpose of this blog) on mainstream media. But, we must hold ourselves accountable for the poor decisions we make. Everywhere you turn, there’s a reality show, commercial  or magazine spread where women are objectified. “Thot” is not an endearment as the the world might have you think.

thotlandia

Let’s be real. Half the female population is burning bras in protest while the other half  is letting their tatas fly free for the purpose of getting attention. Our young girls need to see examples of women who value their minds and bodies equally. The fact that it’s National Women’s Month, there should be a plethora of positive images readily available and on display. Don’t be a thots-be-like, be a woman is…strong, empowered and smart.

I’m sure to get flack regarding my opinion, but that’s ok. Let’s hear it.

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What do the lonely do…on Valentine’s Day?

“What do the lonely do…” are lyrics taken from a Christmas song by the Emotions. The same can be said about Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is that time of year when single people regularly gag at the sight of loving couples. Or, maybe that was just me. But, I’ve been redeemed, reformed, renewed…you get it; I’m no longer an insensitive asshole.  I’ve learned that I, too, can enjoy Valentine’s Day without feeling guilty of being a sap sucker. So, instead of doing nothing at all while the rest of the world is enjoying the day in bliss, I’m going to “find me” and be at peace. So, ladies, I hope these ideas spark action in your life or just pass them on to your single girlfriends .

  • Organize a Girls Night Out

girls-night-out

Obviously, this would make sense organizing an event with your single girlfriends. Coordinate a slumber party (a throwback to your younger years) at a swanky hotel, play games and top off the night by attending a social event or club. Whatever you do, make it a night to remember. No one should be home alone on this day. Who knows, it could be the night you find your special someone.

  • Love yourself, dammit.

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That’s right. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little bump and grind. Go to an adult novelty shop with your friends or by yourself. Purchase sexy lingerie or add to your secret stash (you know the one). Just because you’re by yourself,  doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun.

  • Visit a senior citizen residency center.

old-valentine

Maybe your Valentine won’t be in your age group, but there are plenty of Valentines of the seasoned kind. Some residents who rarely see visitors would surely appreciate the company or would love a heartfelt meaningful card. As a result of your kind act, you might find a friend. Older individuals are generally full of wisdom, history and wit.

  • Pamper thyself.

pamper

Do you! Indulge in a day at the spa. Get your nails and hair DID. Top that off with a killer outfit and feel good about your status. You’re amazing. What man can resist a new coif, cute toes and a beautiful woman.

  • Shop the sale rack.       

cheap-candy

Forget the candy aisle in your pharmacy retail store on Valentine’s Day. Let the lovers have their day. But, oh you wait. February 15th will have ALL the deals and discounts on candy. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then you’re in for a treat. I have gone straight bat shit crazy the day after Valentine’s Day and bought enough candy to hibernate until Halloween.

  • Watch a movie.

hallmark-movies

I’m not a movie buff, but I enjoy the occasional action film. And, what better way to feel good about your single self than to watch Kill Bill, Volume 1 and 2. Or, just binge watch the latest and greatest on Netflix. If you’re a hopeless romantic, then check out the Hallmark channel. Hallmark has filmed just about every relationship scenario known to man and they seemingly have the power to pull every emotion out of you in 90 minutes or less.  Add popcorn and you’re ready for a good night.

  • Order take out.

take-out

Everybody else is lying on Facebook. Why can’t you? Order take out and post the pics on your social media page. Enjoy a gourmet meal made by the hands of your favorite, local restaurant chef.

  • Go to a bar.

valentines-day

What do you think other singles are doing? They’re getting their DRANK on and enjoying the company of other singles. You don’t have to take the person home, but you can attempt fate and hopefully engage in great conversation with a perfect stranger. Get the digits or leave ’em just how you met…alone in a bar.

Just because Valentine’s Day is widely known as a day for lovers, it’s also remembered as a day when seven male members of an Irish gang were gruesomely murdered back in the 1920s. Who recalls that bit of information from high school social studies class? Anyway, what I’m saying is that Valentine’s Day is what you make it. Make it a day filled with love and appreciation for ya damn self. #ibedamned

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Ten ways single women can successfully navigate 2017

If anyone has ever told you that New Year’s Day was just another day, don’t believe them. The new year is symbolic of a renewal; like refurbishing an old cell phone. Same phone, new look and functions more proficiently. It’s out with the old and in with the new.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t quite ready. Before I knew it, reality had hit and the Times Square ball was about to drop. But, you still have time to get your ducks in your row. As a single, professional woman, life doesn’t stop. But, take a moment for yourself. Here are 10 ways to easily and successfully navigate the new year:

vision-board

  • Write the vision and make it plain.

Create a vision board or a vision journal. Envision your life the way you desire it. One way to fulfill your vision board/journal is to grab a few magazines and cut out phrases or photos that encompass the life and lifestyle you want and paste the images to a poster. It should be strategically placed in an area of your home and serve as a constant motivation.

friends-break-up

  • Sever bad relationships/friendships.

One of the best ways to be a success is to remove people that offer negative influence in your life. Just like old jeans, you can grow out of relationships that no longer offer room for growth. Surround yourself with other successful people. As they say, birds of a feather flock together. That motto remains true.

memory-jar

  • Create a memory jar.

This is a relatively new idea that surfaced on social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest. It’s a great way to chronicle your accomplishments throughout the year. Anytime you attain a goal or create a special memory, write it down, put it in a bottle and by December 31st or January 1st, collect all the messages and revisit all your highs from the year.

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  • Commit to an exercise regimen.

Typically, the first resolution most people make is to lose weight in the new year. It’s relatively easy to say, but it’s even harder to commit to the routine. With technology like exercise videos, weight loss and music apps, one could stay on track without missing a beat.

apologize

  • Make amends with someone.

I didn’t make the first move on this one, but I was relieved, impressed and grateful when a friend approached me to make amends because our friendship had gone sour. We expressed our feelings and apologized for our individual roles in nixing the friendship and managed to rekindle it. We didn’t skip a beat and picked up where we’d left off in our relationship.

smoking

  • Give up a bad habit.

Whether it be smoking or gambling, make a conscious effort to quit that bad habit, whatever it may be. There are multiple ways to quit; do your research. Some may involve therapy, hypnosis, medical treatment, practice or go cold turkey.

group

  • Network/join a women’s group.

Life isn’t all work and no play. It’s about working to improve your community or to improve self. By joining a group, you can network, make new friends and bond with a host of like-minded associates.

vacation

  • Enjoy quiet time or plunge into an adventure.

Take a vacation and unplug. Or, indulge in a staycation (stay home). The object is to disconnect from your everyday life and allow your body and brain to relax and de-stress.

save money.gif

  • Save, save, save.

It’s not as painful as you think. Save a little bit here and there or save big. Open a savings account,  join a Christmas club or invest your money. Put aside your extra change or invest your tax refund and forego purchasing unnecessary items.

bye.gif

  • Lose the number to your ex.

If you haven’t guessed it, number 10 is my favorite. It’s the one thing that’s been constant year to year and hasn’t failed me yet. Want to make a serious mark this year? Then, follow your heart, mind and these 10 easy steps. Each item offers its share of challenges, but #ibedamned it’s worth the effort in order to achieve a successful 2017.

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Dear 80s baby: a letter to my younger self

Born on the heels of the Baby Boomers, the 80s baby was introduced to society around the time of the drug boom, during the birth of the neon fashion craze and big, wild hair. We were the rockers, the hip hoppers, the techies. Oh, how I wish I had a crystal ball, a genie in a bottle or superpowers so that I could freeze time or take a walkabout into the future. If I could talk to my younger self, I’d give the greatest pep talk of the 20th century.

Dear 80s baby,

Enjoy life…period. Make more memories during elementary school recess, snap up more polaroids with the family and knock on just one more neighbor’s door, run like hell so you can laugh about it later. 80s baby, you may not understand it now but relish in the creature comforts of blissful youth because what’s in store for you later will make you cringe at humankind.

You think curfews are bad now? Just wait until the two-thousand-teens when you’re afraid to venture outdoors.

Imagine police in riot gear in your neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon, reckless and rebellious youth, mother nature wreaking havoc on far reaches of the globe, gunmen shooting down innocent bystanders, our country’s wayward justice system, historic and unprecedented elections and men dying helplessly in the street while their suspects go free. I’m merely touching the surface. This is your life, 80s baby.

Mama will never tell you that there would be days like this. She will; however, tell you that history repeats itself but you are the captain of your destiny. YOU are at the helm of your life.

You’ll experience tragedies – lose family and friends and become overwhelmed by personal struggles. But, you’ll also observe many triumphs. It may be that you have to work twice as hard or that you may be passed up for some advancements, but not to count you out, in the end, you will make it and celebrate in your victories.

You’ll be in the class of firsts, you’ll witness history in technology, social media will be the bridge to reuniting families and friends and developments in medicines will allow many patients to live longer.

80s baby, we still have a long way to go; you were born to be resilient. Your grandparents fought the race, your parents carried the baton and now it’s up to you to finish it. You’re just getting started. You see, there are decades to follow, and you’ll have lots of time to put your stamp on it. And, by the time you peer into the 20-teens, you’ll know that 30 years earlier, wasn’t just a walk in the park, it was training day. #ibedamned.

Sincerely,

Your future self

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A Blessing in Sisco’s Scars

Around the Thanksgiving holiday, many of us are scrambling to grocery stores gathering our goods for a holiday meal or packing our bags to hit the highway for a family getaway. For me, both options were up for grabs and I was more than ready for my one-day hiatus from work. But, before the festivities could occur, I was to volunteer and donate a free Thanksgiving meal to a deserving family. The mission: ask online subscribers to submit a story of a family in need; a family who could use an extra hand financially this holiday season. The submissions poured in and the recipient was subsequently chosen. Easy enough and worth every minute. But, the lesson wasn’t in the gift giving. The lesson was in what I would learn from the family that so graciously shared their heartwarming story. Break out the tissues because this one is a tearjerker.

sierra8
Courtesy: Facebook

Meet Francisco, affectionately known as Sisco. I had heard about Francisco as I was one of many news reporters who had followed his story which later had gone viral. He was a promising high school student-athlete who was injured in a near-fatal crash. And, he was clinging to life after the vehicle he was an occupant in was t-boned on the passenger side. He was a straight ‘A’ student, a football player and a role model to his two brothers as well as to his peers.

sierra12

As a result of the crash, his skull was fractured, his spleen broken, his brain swollen and his lungs were filled with blood. From the pictures, it was a miracle that anyone walked away alive. His family was informed that he would have a long road to recovery. That was April 8th, 2016.

Eight months later, November 21st, 2016, on a surprise visit to share our Thanksgiving bundle, my friends and I walked into the home Sisco shared with his grandparents. We distributed a free turkey, ham, sides, pies and all the fixings befitting of a glorious meal.

wp-1479927578041.jpg
Hoodstock Founder, Courtney ‘Schola’ Long pictured with Sisco

And in walked Francisco with bright eyes and a smile – a remarkable transformation from the images I had seen months earlier. He walked into the living room with a natural pace accompanied with a slight limp wearing a shirt adorned with Superman’s emblem.

He appeared to have a glowing silhouette that brightened the already well-lit room. He hugged each of us thus melting our hearts. It was our hope that we would bring cheer to the family (which I believe we accomplished), but we were on the receiving end overwhelmed with an abundance of joy and still in awe-struck by a person we believed was still bedridden from life-threatening injuries.

I think it’s safe to say that we all fought back tears as he told us that he held no malice for the driver responsible, he talked about his desire to seek employment or enroll in college and even joked about his scars.

 

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Courtesy: Shea Drake

Sisco hugged us once more and thanked us for our generosity. Before meeting him, my only concern was picking up last-minute groceries, sifting through my closet for my Thanksgiving outfit and reminding myself of how delicious Thanksgiving meal was going to taste. But, as I headed out of Francisco’s home, I was reminded of the truest spirit of Thanksgiving. Not even the donations could make me feel better than knowing that despite his previous health condition; he had lain in a coma and unable to walk, Sisco was truly a shining example of a higher power at work. He remained humble, uplifted and thankful. We were the financial donors, but #ibedamned, what he gave us, money can’t buy.

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I started a bucket list and landed on stage

Do you have a bucket list? I have one. I even started a Facebook group, 30 by 30 – the account is closed now. It started as a group page opened primarily to people in my inner circle. Members were privy to post their to-do lists before they’re next big birthday arrived or before they “kicked the bucket” or whatever came first. It was created as a motivational tool to inspire us to achieve whatever our hearts desired. Whether it was to write a book, join a Zumba class or zipline, the objective was to put it on the list and do it.

I was fast approaching my 30s, and as a result, I had fallen into a slump.  In response, I had decided that I would accomplish 30 feats (no matter how big or small) before my 30th birthday. Fast forward a few more years and I’m at the midpoint in my 30s. Currently, my bucket list looks more like a what-I-want-for-Christmas list.

One item stood out among the pack; goal number 31: be an actress. That’s right. I wanted to try my hand at acting. But, the closest thing to getting on stage was volunteering with the Board of Directors for a local community theatre group. At the time, I just wanted to be an advocate for continued education of the arts.

Pictured with my DST line sisters after my stage debut alongside two acting veterans (all white attire). #Keen18

And, then…an audition opened welcoming new talent for an independent stage play. At first, I was fearful and nervous. But, I nailed it! I landed the role of Katherine, a good friend and support system to the church’s first lady and someone who despises messy people. Was I playing a character or was that my life? The director pointed out to each of my cast mates and I that we were “to eat, sleep and breathe” our new roles. I was determined to be the best Katherine this community would ever witness.

Just to be clear, acting isn’t all lights, camera, action, especially in the small theatre world. There are no production assistants, the crew and cast come with a set of multiple personalities (in addition to the characters’ personalities)  as well as a host of stage cues to memorize in addition to your lines. But it wasn’t all bad; there were perks too: a horde of laughs, snapshots and selfies to remember our experience with one another, snacks and surprise dinners for those late nights.

After two months of rehearsals, it was showtime. Time to break a leg! I stepped onto the stage under those piercing, bright lights in the company of hundreds of people eager to identify the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s). The bulk of my performance was in a salon AKA gossip central. We were the supportive cast and offered loads of ad lib attributing to our comic relief. The plot revolved around lust, love, who-done-it and drama taking place in a church. Sound familiar? I mean, sound interesting?

By the end of the show, we were a hit with the crowd. Just as soon as the curtains closed, social media was buzzing with compliments, photos and videos. My acting debut, my bucket list item number 31, was fulfilled and it was satisfying. Who would have thought it? Me. An actor.

But, the part of the story that makes this extra special for me is that throughout the rehearsal dates, memorizing lines and getting to know my cast mates, I was undergoing a personal battle; a financial struggle. During this time, I was running my own one-man show;  renovating my home, making a major home appliance purchase, paying credit card and home bills and dishing out exorbitant payments on vehicle repairs. It was a struggle balancing work and rehearsal. But, it was by way of my faith, love and support of family and friends and my personal determination that carried me through this hardship. Bucket list number 31…#ibedamned

So, what’s next? I don’t know. Maybe a hot air balloon ride.

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