Day 16, 2019

Silence and Sound

Authors: Dr. Carol Marie Webster and Melissa Barber

Happy Sixteenth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today, we give thanks for Silence and Sound and their ability to introduce us to the world and to ourselves. Please enjoy this reflection by Dr. Carol Marie Webster. 

At some point early in my life, let’s say somewhere between ages 6 and 8, I became aware of the role of silence in my life, specifically its impact on my sense of self and well-being.  And, while I likely would not have articulated it in this manner in my early years, it is fair to say that this awareness led me to search out, find, and bask in various manifestations of silence.  Without getting too philosophical, I define silence as a space of balance that is audible; it can be heard and thus felt.  With this definition it is clear that sound and silence are in a dynamic relationship. 

Sound: I was born in the 20th century during a time that smacking a baby’s bottom was the common technique used to jumpstart a baby’s lungs for breathing.  In this scenario the introduction to sound (hearing the smack on one’s own bottom), pain, and breathing happen within such close succession (at points overlapping) that the experience meld as concurrent events. Although the technique of jumpstarting a baby’s lungs has changed, the common human experience is to enter the world in full sound, where voice (our yells and screams) announce health and wellness, and preparedness for the journey of living.  In the beginning was sound; silence portends disaster. 

Painting By, Carol Sorhaindo

Yet, human relationship with sound begins before birth. From conception, humans bathe in the sounds of the inner workings of the body of the birth mother (the pumping of the heart, the movement of blood through the body, the expanse and collapse of lungs breathing) and the rhythm of the world outside the birth mother’s body.  It is here that humans begin to learn to understand some of the nuances of life and living and our potential role in it.  In the birth mother’s womb, with limited yet powerful abilities – through movement and chemical changes – babies participate in the life of she who incubates our delicate development.  But it is in entering the world that we lay claim to it and take ownership of our role as a member of the community of the living.  

Silence:  It can be captured in the pause of wind or breeze, the halt of traffic on a generally busy road, the moment just after a live performance ends and the burst of applause begins, the space between the notes of a song.  Silence is also in a caregiver’s humming, the exquisite rhythms of African and Afro-Caribbean spiritual drumming, and the unbridled laughter of children.  Silence is not in the hesitations of life – often filled with anxiety, hungers, unease, and unrest, but in the balance of life.  Silence is the presence of present: in the hum of a chant or prayer, the suspension in deep meditative rituals and in ecstatic ritual dances.   In silence we rest, rejuvenate, allow our cells to exhale, and enter into conversation with our deepest selves and with that which is greater than and beyond ourselves.  

On this 16th day of Melissa Thanks, I invite readers to search, discover, find, make, and/or invite silence into their life journey.  With this I encourage giving to Third Root Community Health Center https://thirdroot.org

Love Ya,Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Melissa Barber

Day 14, 2019

Honestly (the helper, care-giver, help-mate etc) they don’t want to Burden anyone, they end up talking themselves out of the help they need! I’ll fix my mess after I help so and so because they REALLY need MY help!!! because I guess I Am blessed, because after all I Am not as bad as __ or MY situation isn’t the same as ___.

Life, Mental Health Wellness and the Happiness Movement  

Authors: Melissa Barber and Irene Watson

Happy Fourteenth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today we give thanks for the Happiness Movement which promotes and encourages life and mental health wellness. In the midst of life’s daily dosage of pain and suffering, some of us know just how real the struggle is to stay happy and keep our joy. Sometimes, it’s even a wonder that we have managed to keep our sanity and find time to laugh.  

I asked my friend Irene Watson, the Happiness Movement Guru, to share a day of thanks with us.  In my text to her I said, “who better to talk about thanks for ‘happiness’ than the happiness movement guru or thanks for ‘health’ or ‘life’ than someone who had such a close encounter with God and death. I think my writing about it at the moment would be so pale in comparison.” I share that excerpt because most people who know Irene, my BFF and accountabuddy, know that she has an incredible testimony and is a walking miracle. We know her as the Happiness Movement Guru because in our Bronx Parent’s Autism Support Circle, she encouraged every member all the time to do self-care.  It’s where all of us adopted the idea of walk-outs (we leave our autistic children and families with someone for the evening so we can walk out to have a mental break and a self-care moment.)  She reminded us to have conversations about ourselves and “our” happiness and to stop talking about our children and their needs for just a moment. She had planners and worksheets and daily devotions dedicated to creating her Happiness Movement to go viral around the world.  And if there was anyone who could start a movement, especially about happiness, in spite of the crazy going on around them, in our minds, it was (still is) Irene. 

In a few weeks, Irene will be celebrating her first anniversary of being reborn.  At the beginning of this year, she had two major strokes, one hemorrhagic and one ischemic, at the same time in two different locations of her brain.  If truth be told, she should have never made it off anybody’s surgical table. BUT THERE IS A GOD! AND HE IS STILL IN THE BUSINESS OF HEALING AND SAVING!  It was the sweetest sound to my ears, when I called her husband a few days after her surgeries and heard her talking about me. As I was calling him, she was on the other side of the phone telling him to call me and tell me to pray and to bring her a bible. It is something, when someone knows that you and your crew of prayer warriors can bombard heaven with prayer to get the needed answers, outcomes and results!  (And, Yes we got to work and saw God answer every prayer!) The real amazement was that this was days after her surgery and a near death experience and she was coherently talking, without slurred speech. There weren’t even creases, droops, or visible signs in her face to prove she had strokes. 

When I got to the hospital the next day, God through her was showing off! God was showing us just what He was capable of—God is the giver and sustainer of life.  But, He was also warning us. If we didn’t slow down to let go of the stress and craziness that He didn’t give us, if we didn’t take the time to move into his divine purpose for our lives, if we didn’t stop pretending like we could hold the weight of everyone else’s burdens and never say “NO” or put our feet down and say “Enough is Enough!”  We were headed to a place of darkness from which there may not be a recovery. Or simply, God, in His divine wisdom, would slow us down and get us back on track.  

When I got to Irene’s room with her bible, my anointing oil, and ready to pray, she spoke words to me that will be forever etched into my heart. In addition to her deceased mother telling her that she couldn’t come be with her yet, she said that during her surgery God told Irene that she wasn’t going to die yet because she had a flock that He was calling her to and that she needed to get busy with the purpose to which He called her.  (Reassurance that no matter how hard the enemy tries to attack us and take us out, we are not going anywhere unless God says so and until we have accomplished our purpose for which we were created.) There was no more playing around. This experience was to get Irene’s attention and recalibrate her settings back to God and divine purpose.

God has blessed me beyond measure by allowing me to witness every miracle he has done in Irene’s recovery and rehabilitation.  Videotaping her walking the longest distance she had ever walked and climbing steps during her rehab in preparation for her hospital release had my heart beating in overtime.   I knew she was getting better when she resumed her Facebook posting.  Her hair has grown significantly from her hated, surgical buzz cut. Although, her handwriting is also improving by the minute, she has to do voice activated emails and text (which as you may know is sometimes horrific to understand in grammatical and spelling context). Anyway here is my bff’s share. Please welcome Irene Watson to the stage. Her message is voice activated so excuse all of the typos and just give thanks for the progress of where she is.

What “lies” behind that Smile…?

Come on, tell the truth! when someone looks good you really don’t listen as much when They cry out in pain for our help. Most times it’s that underline of needing our help (we know that chuckle that we ignore, because really there’s no way MY helper needs help!) Honestly (the helper, care-giver, help-mate etc) they don’t want to Burden anyone, they end up talking themselves out of the help they need! I’ll fix my mess after I help so and so because they REALLY need MY help!!! because I guess I Am blessed, because after all I Am not as bad as __ or MY situation isn’t the same as ___. There’s no limit to pain! And no one (that matters) is keeping score that you too (no matter the situation-cause after all your pain ain’t the same as someone else’s and you should never try to compare) is needing help out of YOUR bind too! There’s no Such thing as trivial pain. Real talk, sometimes their just too vain, they just gonna pray about it! (Without work) they can be tired, at the point of giving up and giving in or I’ll just say it, they just have too much pride! It’s funny, when they tell you that their hurt we say things we’re taught to say and know by heart “Girl you can do it! Your a warrior! If anyone can do it Lord knows you can!”, “I’m counting on you to see me through” Or “girl just pray, God has your back! He ain’t gonna give u more than u can bare!!! We talk about that “storm that brews, but trouble don’t last always!” “Theirs always a silver-lining behind that cloud!” Or the new one “girl, put your big girl panties on!” Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying there’s no truth in them words…lol And what do we do? We believe it and conceive it! We keep on keeping on! We just keep on moving, mind you, with OUR problems (that now continues to grow inward) and now THEIRS…(real talk! We only have our OWN cross to bare truthfully). mind you we never “fixed” our situation we just carried on…wow do you know what happens when we just carry on…Even a workhorse will breakdown from over usage!!! Now imagine your mind!!! What we’ve learned to do is take a temporary solution, mask it and made it real pretty and turned it into a permanent fix!!! Now we’re working the mess out of what we now have forgotten was only suppose to be temporary (or borrowed time) and we’re now making it Do what it Do (cause CANT nobody else do it!) and made it permanent-but then we wonder why in the end when it just doesn’t go right or it doesn’t always stay Gold… It stopped working! Oh the self imposed infliction we place upon ourselves! What we need to learn is the power of “Just say no!” Better yet “Go and Tell”…yes we the care givers etc. and the community Nurturers need to go out and find someone to talk to. Believe it or not our shoulders get weak too and it’s a lot. (actually more then we are truthful enough to say or know) Just think of that un-load! Nope we don’t need to give names and put nobody’s business in them streets lol! We don’t even always have to pay top dollar for self-care. While we’re trying to always be laid on the outside, we have a lot of fixing to do on our insides! We need to stop masking and pretending and without guilt or shame get the help we need or get our talk on while we do a nice meal and get our eat on with our true confidants, because not everyone with an ear has your back!!! Or wants your true intentions to come first. (Watch who you confined in! lol) Sometimes our answers comes in someone who can just Be Still themselves, be that shoulder or ear and can just truthfully listen (and they have a confidant lol). very often by just talking it out with someone else we can answer our own questions. Real talk y’all sometimes we have to say “Not yet or Not now”, “when is it DUE by”, “I’ll See” or give a “soft no”, “I’m not sure yet” or better yet “NO”. Sometimes it doesn’t even need that long winded explanation behind it that we often come up with (lol even that takes time!) Yes we often take a lot for granted when we see these proud peacocks strutting their stuff around looking all great! Wow! I wish that was me, they sure have it ALL together! Their grass is green, we assume…they look well, they smell well, and they’re moving well…but what really “Lies” behind that smile? You know in truth we can use the same voice, tell the same story and even use the same energy but in the end of our story it’s really and truly up to only us to be the victim or to be victorious by its outcome! There’s always room for a lesson and a smile believe it or not lol often even a Tilted one – what’s your 3 What Went Wells for today? We forget that suit (their cross) was made JUST for them and we wouldn’t even stand a chance in it, it’s a well designed suit (their Cross). We need to, if anything, find out if it is a permanent fix or a temporary solution…the better question to ask THEM is “Are you truly FEELING well. I’m talking inside and out??? Why not ask them? You just might be surprised by their answer. 

Today I’d like to highlight the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (https://adaa.org/) that is dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders through education, practice, and research.  They have a host of information for the public and professionals and have a ton of resources to get help if you (or anyone you know) are experiencing any bouts with any mental conditions. Please donate to this organization. Additionally, be the giver of life today through a smile, a kind gesture or even asking someone if they are feeling and doing okay. (And make sure that you wait around for their response!)Love Ya,Have  great Day of Thanks!

Day 13, 2019

In the military there is an acronym we used at times, K.I.S.S. – keep it simple stupid. It sound simple but not always. What’s the straightest line between A – Z?

Simplicity

Authors: Joe Olivet and Melissa Barber

Happy Thirteenth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today we give thanks for simplicity and its ability to make us innately aware of the small, yet beautiful things in life. Enjoy this sharing of thanks from Joe Olivet.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, simplicity is defined as the “state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded.”

I aim to live my life like this. I aim to guide my children to live their lives much the same way.I aim to value the simple things in life – a quiet moment, an open field, fresh snow, the time after it stops raining, the time in my car driving home, an episode of Seinfeld, etc.

In the military there is an acronym we used at times, K.I.S.S. – keep it simple stupid. It sound simple but not always. What’s the straightest line between A – Z?

I stress simplicity to my students, their parents, co-workers, etc. Again, it sounds simple but not always.

I have always told my oldest child to keep it simple – drink your water, keep your circle small, mind your business, and work hard – keep it simple. Now that he’s 20, he is seeing the light – keeping it simple.

My second oldest child is an observer, just like me – she keeps it simple and follows her routine. At 17 she has learned to keep her circle small. However, she likes things so simple, she has become too rigid at times. We’re slowly working on going with the flow because we can only control what’s within arm’s reach. We’re making progress.

My youngest is five – we call her the destroyer (out of love). I’m aiming to find the middle ground with her. She appears to be very bright and things come easy to her (we attribute this to her older siblings). We stress to her to slow down and enjoy what’s around her. She’s a work in progress – we get a lot of “side eye” from her.

In our busiest days – remember to take a moment and look around – the simple bird flying by, the swaying of a tree in the wind, leaves blowing by you on a sidewalk. 

Remember… SIMPLICITY!

J. Olivet

As we give thanks for simplicity, we highlight the organization A Free Bird (https://afreebird.org/), which is a Brooklyn based non-profit that allows children from the ages of 6-18 who are patients or survivors of juvenile cancer and other chronic diseases to explore their artistic passions and do creative expression through the arts.  Please consider donating your time and resources to this wonderful organization. 

Love Ya, 

Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Melissa Barber

Day 12, 2019

He took time to play with them; he had three of the children constantly hanging off parts of his body from his neck to his legs. He took time to arm wrestle his oldest son of seven years old, who lost the arm wrestling battle because he was getting tickled at the same time.

Great Fathers 

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Twelfth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today, we give thanks to the amazing fathers and father figures who hold down their children and provide the much needed covering and guidance to make them great world citizens.

Lilah and I recently went to Orlando, Florida to visit my sister and her clan. During our visit, I got to see my nephew and his small tribe of four children, my grandnephews and grandniece. They are the most adorable, intelligent, and wholesome children in the world (and I’m not just saying that because their mine.) They really are!

One of the greatest things about my visit was seeing how much of a wonderful father my nephew is to all of his children, in spite of him not having his biological father present for him while growing up.  My nephew not only ensured that each of his children were provided with the necessities (food, water, shelter, clothes, and education), he made sure that each of them knew that he is and will always be very present in their lives, giving them individual and collective attention.  He took time to play with them; he had three of the children constantly hanging off parts of his body from his neck to his legs. He took time to arm wrestle his oldest son of seven years old, who lost the arm wrestling battle because he was getting tickled at the same time. (It was such a joy to hear his burst of laughter; I had to get it on video!) When that was all done, my nephew made sure that each of them had their country music and hip-hop dance break.  Each child got to display their fancy foot work and show how they mastered the latest moves. (OMG! Talk about my heart just melting watching how cute they were!)  

What was even more impressive to me was that, although the oldest two and youngest two children had different mothers, my nephew and my sister made sure that all of the children were raised together as an inseparable clan.  As it should be, there was no distinction in love or treatment between the four children (well except for the fact that my niece is the only princess and will probably be overbearingly guarded and protected by all the men in her life).  Every day after school, all the children were picked up by my sister and brought to her house until my nephew got off from work. During that time, they all spent several hours of quality time together and ate dinner together until they went home with my nephew or were picked up by their respective mothers. 

Despite the great lengths that my nephew has gone through to be an amazing dad and financial provider to all of his children, it pained me to hear that my nephew (without a lawyer) had to recently sit in a court crying as the oldest children’s mother actively ripped custody of his children away from him, out of greed and spite. (She doesn’t know that with that act she just brought fire to her doorstep! And because the devil is a liar and my nephew has in his corner a mother and an aunt who are some fierce prayer warriors, I’m guaranteeing that my nephew will regain co- or full custody of his children real soon!) As of this month, the court mandated that my nephew can only have his oldest two children once or twice a month when they are accustomed to being with him every day. (Pray for my grandnephews as they go through this short, traumatic experience!)  

I’m so glad that as we reunited as a family, celebrating and giving all thanks and praise on Thanksgiving Day, my grandnephews and grandniece got to experience the beautiful Christmas tree they begged for, great food, and one more awesome day of extreme love and fun with their awesome dad.

Today as we give thanks for great dads, I want to highlight the organization the Good+ Foundation (https://goodplusfoundation.org) which works to dismantle multi-generational poverty by pairing tangible goods with innovative services for fathers and low income families.  Once they discovered that   our culture, policy and social service providers were treating fathers as secondary, nonessential actors in children’s well-being, they expanded programming to intentionally include fathers. They believe that stronger fathers build stronger, more resilient families, which are the backbone of thriving communities. The more we invest in fathers, the greater impact we see on children and families as a whole. 

Love Ya,

Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Day 11, 2019

She taught Lilah a level of independence and security and got her hooked on everything girl scouts. I didn’t realize how good I had things with Irene in my corner and as part of my support system, until everything came crumbling down.

Great Babysitters/Caregivers

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Eleventh Day of Thanks Everyone!

I bless God and give thanks every day for the wonderful, amazing, life-giving caregivers/babysitters that He has brought to my and Lilah’s life.  I would not have near a mind nor a job (nor a living child for that matter) if I didn’t have them. I’m so appreciative of the great ones because I’ve known what it’s like to have quadruple the amount of horrible, ill-prepared and ill-trained ones. 

Carmen West came into our lives when Lilah was about five or six years old and she was nothing short of a Hispanic version of Mary Poppins. I marveled at her style and her desire to be a great caregiver to my daughter.  After running through about thirty aides, some of which didn’t stay after the first hour of learning Delilah had autism, she was the thirty first. She showed up to my house with games, puzzles, musical instruments and an assortment of other things and kindly told me to mind my business and get out of her way as she learned my daughter. I could tell, instantly, that she was the answer to my many nights of crying and prayer. Lilah, like most children, has a keen sense of genuine people, and took to her quickly.  

Carmen loved on and nurtured my baby so much that she began to declare that Delilah was our baby and God’s answered prayer for the girl that she had always wanted.  Like me, she spoke Spanish to Lilah to make sure she’d be bilingual; she complemented me in making sure that Lilah completed her educational tasks, ate all her food, was well groomed and well-mannered. Carmen vowed to be as helpful to me as possible and even flexible enough to work with my schedule as long as she could bring her son Brian with her to the job. She, too, was a single parent with a minimal support system who needed to manage all parental/familial duties, while financially supporting her family. 

I understood her situation very well and told her to bring Brian with her as much as she needed.  Brian became Lilah’s big brother. Carmen’s family accepted Lilah as the niece, cousin and granddaughter and spoiled her rotten.  They requested Lilah at family barbecues and eventually she did over nights play dates with the other girl cousins. We even attended “grandma’s” funeral and sat with family.  Carmen worked with me for years until her home health agency was removed from Lilah’s case. But, she is family forever and until this day, she calls to check on her niñita. There wasn’t another caregiver that I was willing to trust with my baby for a long time, if it wasn’t the same quality of care that Carmen gave. 

Eventually, Lilah went to an afterschool, Services for the Underserved, for seven years where some of the staff took care of my baby like she was their own (partly because they knew I would kill anyone who didn’t bring my child home the way I sent her out into the world but also because they were really wonderful people.)  Nikki was like my daughter’s second mom. With every seizure, she took care of Lilah (to the extent that Lilah would allow her) just as I would.  Alton loved my baby so much and thought Delilah was his daughter that he would argue me down about anything concerning her. (I had to often remind him that I was her real parent.) He would even volunteer to be the driver who took the children home in Delilah’s program because he wanted to makes sure she got home safely every night. My daughter was his little princess (and she still is!) As I reflect on the many wonderful people that came into our lives and minimized my worry or concern for Delilah when she wasn’t with me, I know that I am so blessed.

Fast forward several years later, my daughter met her best friend’s mom (and my best friend)Ms. ReRe. We love all things Ms. ReRe!  She is one of the only persons I know who does more crafts than I do and is the best home schooler on the face of this planet. Irene saved my life more than a few times and has shown me how to reach toward making Delilah a more socially independent person (not that she is not independent enough in so many other areas of her life already!). She would babysit Lilah on all the many federal and miscellaneous holidays that I still had to work or when she suddenly had an unexplained day off from school.  She is one of the only people that exactly stuck to Lilah’s keto diet and kept my baby in ketosis for me. At the last minute, when some level of craziness took place and an expected babysitter didn’t show, she took the reins and let me know she had my back.  She taught Lilah a level of independence and security and got her hooked on everything girl scouts.  I didn’t realize how good I had things with Irene in my corner and as part of my support system, until everything came crumbling down. At the beginning of this year, Irene had two strokes at the same time (one hemorrhagic in the frontal lobe and the other ischemic in the occipital lobe).  Not only is she a walking miracle (because there is no way she should have gotten up from that surgical table), but her rehabilitation and recovery have been so awe-inspiring to witness.  Nonetheless, while she is recuperating, I have realized more how important it is to have a support system and reliable caregivers who love and will care for Delilah just as much as I do.  Outside of my super awesome cousin, I have the hardest time finding a caregiver that can take her place. 

My cousin, who is awesome with Lilah, usually stays with her for me too, when I have to travel outside of the state or country, work late or have evening meetings. But, since she works in retail, there are several times throughout the year that she is absolutely not available to me (esp. during the thanksgiving/Christmas through New Year holiday season.) Recently, when my cousin was not available, I asked someone else, who I thought was capable to babysit Delilah. It turned out to be disastrous.  I came home to a broken laptop that was destroyed as the person was physically fighting with my autistic child. I found out that while the caregiver and Delilah were fighting, she was verbally abusive and bordering on being physically abusive to her too.  (I was so livid and everything about my demeanor screamed that I was in rage mode until this person got out of my house!) I knew this incident was going to take me back to being the dynamic duo (of Melissa and Delilah) no matter where I had to go or what I had to do.  I spent several hours, upon my return that day, setting up a nurturing and loving environment for Delilah to undue any damage that may have been done with that negative experience.  (As my friend once told me, I may have to prepare a cookie jar of savings for therapy later as she has done for her son.)

I long for a decent caregiver/babysitter and I know that I am not alone. 

Today, I’m highlighting the National Center on Caregiving (National Center on Caregiving | Family Caregiver Alliance), which is a branch of the Family Caregiver Alliance and works to develop high-quality, cost-effective policies and programs for caregivers in every state.   They have a free tool called the Family Care Navigator which provides an online guide to help families locate caregiver support programs and resources for older or disabled adults living at home or in a residential facility. It also includes information on government health and disability programs, legal resources, living arrangements and more.  Please share this resource with all the many families you know who need this service and information.  Don’t forget to donate to them to help spread the depth of their programming.
National Center on Caregiving | Family Caregiver Alliance

Love Ya,

Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Day 10, 2019

From the very beginning of our years at the foundation, the staff treated Delilah, in spite of her autism, as they did every other gymnast and had a high level of expectation of her that made her want to excel in learning how to be a gymnast.

Athleticism 

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Tenth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today I give thanks for athleticism and sportsmanship and for all the ways it teaches us diligence, how to work in a team, and the importance of being fit. 

Many of you know my diva-licious daughter, Delilah Christina.  From the time she was about five or six years old, I knew that she could be the next Olympic runner, had teased her about being the first black woman Olympian swimmer and knew I had to get her into some type of high endurance, physically active sport, considering all the running and jumping around she did on a regular basis.  At one of her music lessons, one of the parents suggested that I look into an amazing gymnastics foundation in Harlem that gave opportunities to children, especially those of color, to participate in the sport.  I did my research and discovered that the gymnastics foundation also gave scholarships to families so that children can attend.  

Although, this gymnastic foundation seemed like the place I wanted my diva to be, I still had to do more investigation. Were they accepting and affirming of children with special needs? How much of a scholarship could Lilah receive to participate? (a sister was po’!)  How much were uniforms and materials? When were their classes?  Since Delilah was autistic, could I participate in classes with her to make sure that she was learning the routines inside and outside of classes? I would get all of those questions answered in an orientation session that they gave before the start of each gymnastic calendar year. It was in the orientation that I was completely sold about Lilah being there.  When I asked if the foundation was an affirming environment for special needs children, one of the first things that the founder said was, “there will be children here with different capacities and/or disabilities, which is a reality in the real world, and every participant and their families will have to deal with it.” (Period! Drop the Mic!)

The gymnastic foundation is the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation and is an absolutely amazing place for children to learn the sport of gymnastics.  I am a lucky and proud parent of a former Wendy Hilliard gymnast and proud supporter for life because of their mission to support urban youth in their quest to learn the sport of gymnastics. For the many years that my daughter participated in gymnastics, I saw firsthand how the gymnasts were taught sportsmanship, engaged in a level of physical activity, and drilled with the foundational principles and techniques of gymnastics.    The staff was not only made of wonderful people who taught my baby to do cartwheels and gymnastics routines but, they all became part of my and Lilah’s family (for life).  The coaches had a work ethic and a level of professionalism that was par excellent. From the very beginning of our years at the foundation, the staff treated Delilah, in spite of her autism, as they did every other gymnast and had a high level of expectation of her that made her want to excel in learning how to be a gymnast. 

Three of their staff members (Ms. Joan, Patrice and Sean) were single-handedly responsible for teaching Lilah many of the gymnastics techniques that she learned in the beginning.  Later, the entire staff, collectively, volunteered their time to teach Lilah other techniques, recorded routines so that I could teach them to Lilah at home and showed me how to better improve Lilah’s ability to be flexible, build her upper body strength and attempt backbends, bridges as well as do cartwheels. (I was getting a workout every Saturday evening! And those backbends still kick our butts!) They demonstrated a patience to nurture and love my baby and all the gymnasts, while being firm enough to maximize their potentials and see them grow and learn increasingly difficult techniques. I am so proud of who Lilah has become and the knowledge base she has gained from the Wendy Hilliard Foundation. It is very evident that none of the children who participate would be who and where they are without the help of the wonderful staff at this foundation. 

I so wish my support system was better. In the latter years, it became increasingly difficult for me to bring her to practices because of work and my other commitments. Additionally, because they no longer had classes in the evening for older students but in the morning when she had her other programs, I made the painful decision to pull her from gymnastics.  However, we will always love and support the foundation and the rich legacy that it has, as much as we can.  They are forever changing the lives of young Black and Brown people by making a once elite sport readily accessible and available to them. 

Of course, as we give thanks for sportsmanship and athleticism, we highlight the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation (https://www.wendyhilliard.org/). Please donate your money to this wonderful organization so that they can provide more scholarships to families who can’t afford to send their children to gymnastics, sponsor students who are going to championship competition or the gymnastic camp. 

Love Ya, Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Day 9, 2019

I was livid and couldn’t believe that the pediatricians who were assigned to my grandnephew as a child had no idea that the whole time they were “observing and examining” his growth and development, they had missed that he couldn’t hear at all. (What the hell is that about? SMH!)

Godly Encounters with Worship

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Ninth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today I give thanks for worship and the ability to witness the deep things of God.

Two weeks before leaving for Orlando, Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday, a YouTube video appeared on my phone screen. In the video, the host was interviewing Pastor William McDowell about the many proven/substantiated miracles that have happened in his church and the form of exhortation his congregation gives unto the Lord through song. As I watched the video, I heard the voice of God clearly say “tell Jay to bring Jio to his [Pastor McDowell] church; Jio’s healing will happen there.”  I immediately texted my nephew (Jay), my sister, and niece and told them what I heard, not knowing what was happening or had happened to my grandnephew (Jio) or if he was even sick.  Afterwards, I googled the name and address of Pastor McDowell’s church so that I could visit during my stay in Orlando. (As mama bear, I wanted to scope out his church to see if it was a supportive and loving community where real worship was taking place and the healing and miracles announced were actually real. I also wanted to know if my nephew and his family would thrive there. OMG! It is!) 

While in Orlando, I was speaking to my sister and asked her if she received my text about Jay taking Jio to the church. I asked if she knew whether Jay was able to take Jio and the rest of the clan to the church. Jay had not taken Jio (which made me want to look at them side eyed!) As I said before, I still had no idea what was happening or had happened to Jio but I know that I heard clearly what should be done. A few hours later, when I was speaking to my nephew, I discovered that Jio was hearing impaired and that tubes were placed in his ears to help him hear.  (I thought it was odd when I heard the voice say what it did. But, I now knew why Jio needed healing.) I was livid and couldn’t believe that the pediatricians who were assigned to my grandnephew as a child had no idea that the whole time they were “observing and examining” his growth and development, they had missed that he couldn’t hear at all. (What the hell is that about? SMH!) 

I had no idea how I was going to get to this church because it was about 40 minutes from my sister’s house and she was taking her car to go to work on Sunday. The day before the church service, I talked to one of my great friends who moved to Orlando a few years prior and she said that she would come to pick me up, take me to the church, and spend time with me before I left Orlando.  I went to the church full of expectation and anticipation that I would have a God encounter, while standing in proxy for my nephew and grandnephew who were not there. “Healing is the children’s bread” and I was determined to get my grandnephew’s bread for him.   We got to the church early and were greeted by the friendliest people (this was definitely a change from what I was previously used to.)  As I entered the sanctuary, I felt the presence of God so strong. There are no words to even describe what it felt like but the room felt charged and electrified.When the church service started, we bombarded the heavenly courts with praise and thanksgiving for what seemed like only a moment in eternity. And, suddenly, a level of worship went forth in the corporate Body of Christ that was like nothing I had ever experienced before.  I remembered the scripture: “But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth…” And worship we did. And the Spirit was released both upon and within the people such that everyone’s eyes, ears, and hearts were open to the divine, invisible, real world, which was beyond our limited seeing, hearing, feeling and discerning.


The definition of worship is to honor or show reverence for a divine being or supernatural person.  To put the definition into even simpler terms, worship is acknowledging the worthiness or worth ship of something/someone. In that moment, there was a thirsting and desperation for God to show up in his many facets—as healer, provider, counselor, deliverer, etc.–so that we (the people of God) could show our acknowledgement of His/Her worth to us. In the midst of that worship, the invisible kingdom became the visible kingdom and not only did I sense an open heaven, I felt a tingling in my ears and a gush of open air flowing throw my ears. There was a clarity in my hearing and I began to declare healing in my nephew’s ears. While in that moment, I declared healing in Lilah’s mind too. I also prayed for the destruction of the nasty (negative) generational patterns over the lives of my family members. I broke wicked pacts and covenants of the past that yielded physical manifestations of dis-ease in my mind and body as well as everyone in my sphere of influence. (Yes, you all were covered in those prayers too!) 

I was a little disappointed that my other family members were not there to see and experience everything that I had witnessed. But, I knew that with some prayer (don’t mess with a praying women!) each of them would also be drawn in and not too long from now (in a twinkling of an eye), they ALL will be in that same sanctuary regularly worshiping God and experiencing/witnessing the same supernatural Godly encounters. 

Today, as we give thanks for worship (and Godly encounters), I am highlighting St. Jude’s Hospital (www.Stjude.org) for the wonderful work they are doing to provide health and healing to children with cancer (and their families).  Their patients enjoy a fun and loving community and are given new life; they experience God encounters of smiles, love, laughter, and healing every day through their staff.  Please donate your time and resources to this lovely non-profit.


Love Ya, 
Have A Great Day of Thanks!

Day 8, 2019

You will be anything, everything, and sometimes all things to hold up the arms of your sister and give her strength.

My Sarong Sisters and The Sacred Sarong Sisterhood 

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Eighth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today, I give thanks for my “sarong” sisters and friends around the globe who do the wonderful work of saving the lives of women and babies. 

 If you were part of last year’s journey, you’d remember that on Day 25, I told you about my kick behind sisterhood of women (and men) from the Birthing Project USA, who is building our national and international underground railroad for new life, saving women and their babies. (If you missed it, don’t worry! You can buy the book, which is in the publisher’s hands as I write and will be released soon enough, to catch up.) What I didn’t tell you is that, during our annual conferences our sisterhood has a secret, special ceremony.  (I won’t tell you the details of our ceremony-nosey!- because then it wouldn’t be a secret anymore.)

Close your eye. (Of course, after you read this paragraph.)  Just trust me! Imagine walking into a room that is decorated with a huge circle of chairs. Each chair is filled with one sarong with the most beautiful color patterns that you have ever seen. You are bound to find one with your favorite color or colors in it which perfectly match with an outfit or coat of yours. The sarongs are made of a thin layer of the most fluid cotton material that waves with the ocean breeze. Some of them even have an added finishing touch of frills.  Within the circle of chairs, you see at least two or a maximum of three sarongs that match each other.  You have no idea what to expect because you have no idea what the details of the ceremony are but you just feel a nostalgia of excitement in anticipation of what’s next, hoping that what’s next is that you get to choose which chair (with your favorite sarong) you can sit in.  

 What you don’t know is that you have to choose your chair (and sarong) wisely. When you choose to sit in a seat with a particular sarong, that sarong is choosing your soul SisterFriend for life. Your soul SisterFriend is the soldier with whom you will walk out life. Not only will you save other women and babies together, but you will grow together, pray for each other, and do ministry together. You will give each other advice, wise counsel, and even help raise family together. You will be anything, everything, and sometimes all things to hold up the arms of your sister and give her strength.  The Sarong Sisterhood is a sacred sisterhood whose mission is binding. (So choose wisely!)

I met my first sarong sister (I think over seven years now) and we are exactly like what I have described to each other.  We live in two different time zones and have a great physical distance from each other, but in the business of our lives we make sure that we do life together.  I’m pretty sure we’ll keep doing life together until one of us takes our last breath.  She is superwoman! She holds down full time ministry, her full-time job, her earring making side hustle (she loves big earrings like me!), and her husband and five children, two of which just got sent off to college. She manages to empower women and girls every day while still looking like she is not a day older than twenty five. (She is my inspiration.)  

Every annual conference that I have gone to, without her there, she makes sure (basically, threatens) that I don’t bring our sarong to gift to another SisterFriend (sorry Mama that sarong is on lock!)  During last year’s ceremony, I was so proud of myself. I was able to let go (you all know my issues with letting go already from Day 9 of last year’s journey.  If not, you gotta get the book!) and gift my second favorite sarong to a new international soul SisterFriend. When I explained to her the importance and sacredness of our sarong sisterhood and what that sarong meant to me, she pledged to take good care of our sarong and continue to do the bad-ass work she is doing with her sister, Ms. Zubaida Bai, at the company AYZH. They provide thousands of Safety Birth Kits to women in the most remote places in the world so that they can give birth to healthy babies in non-sterile conditions. A SafeBirth kit is a small pocketbook that contains all the essential medical supplies (a plastic mat, gloves, soap, razor, and clamp) which allow for a clean, safe, childbirth when there may be no hospitals around for miles.(Remember this work is important because every two minutes, 60 women die in childbirth due to unsanitary conditions and infections.)  I know that my new international sarong sister (soul Sisterfriend) is upholding and uplifting the sacredness of our Sarong Sisterhood tradition of loving and saving women and children’s lives wherever she is in the world.  And I’m proud to be her Sarong Sister. Today as I give thanks for my sarong sisters and pay homage to our sacred sarong sisterhood, I’m sure you have already guessed that I am highlighting the Birthing Project USA: The Underground Railroad for Life (Birthing Project USA)
Birthing Project USAWe envision a world in which we have the freedom to define ourselves, birth our babies, and live our healthiest …

I am asking that each of you sponsors at least one SafeBirth Kit for $5 (a cup of coffee) so that a baby somewhere in the world can enjoy a safe, healthy entry into his/her life.

 Love Ya, 

Have  A Great Day of Thanks!

Day 7, 2019

I had no idea about the “gift” of isolation that awaited me there or the test that my character would undergo (to bring me forth as gold) nor the sweet surrender that I would do after being wrestled all day and night for days.

Isolation, (Mental) Retreats, Quiet Time and Peace of Mind

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Seventh Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today, I give thanks for isolation, (mental) retreats,  quiet time, and peace of mind, all of which allow me to reflect and wrestle myself into loving myself, transforming myself and surrendering to God’s greater purposes for my life.

Last Sunday, I went to my best friend’s church and heard a sermon preached called “It is Worth Fighting for.” The reverend used the text in the book of Genesis, chapter thirty two, verses twenty four through twenty six.  Those particular scriptures talk about a protagonist Jacob who is left alone in the wilderness and begins to wrestle with a “man” all night long. When day break comes, the man who is wrestling with Jacob demands that Jacob let him go. However, Jacob refuses and tells the man that he will not let go until he is blessed. The man then asks Jacob his name.

As she expounded on her sermon, the reverend mentioned a few things that resounded in my core. First, she said, “every now and then, there is something valuable enough to you that you will fight for it.  Then she said, “when something is worth fighting for, we have to thank/bless God for isolation.  Next she said, “Sometimes God will show up as a wrestler in your life because He has to fight you for you because you wont release yourself to Him.” Finally, she said “Since the teacher has provided you with everything you need to pass the test, the discretion of the teacher is that he can test you at any time, expecting that you are only done with the test when you give the teacher back what he gave you. Hearing these sentences separately, may not mean or sound like much but in the context of my life, they are so significant.

Last May or June, hearing about and witnessing all of the stress in my life, my mama invited me to a sisterhood retreat in California. I had absolutely no money to go (There is barely enough to pay for all the necessities in my life let alone for a retreat!) but knew that I needed the new perspective, rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation that would come with this retreat.  Since my peace of mind has become one of my most valuable possessions and worth fighting for, I set my heart on getting to this retreat.  Essentially, I was trying to figure out how to rob peter to pay paul and get the money (without having to dance on a pole, which I am too heavy to work anymore, or sell body parts! LOL!). When I exhausted all my possibilities, I told my mama that I wanted to go but had financial limitations that made this trip nearly impossible. She told me that if I could pay the cost of my flight to LA, my organization would sponsor the cost of the retreat.  I can’t even explain how I got the money for that flight and childcare (But God!) in the nick of time.

 I had no idea about the “gift” of isolation that awaited me there or the test that my character would undergo (to bring me forth as gold) nor the sweet surrender that I would do after being wrestled all day and night for days.  The beginning portion of this retreat experience was one big mirror screaming, “This is your life! It is completely out of balance and out of control!” The second portion of the retreat gently took my hand, with motherly and sisterly love, and led me to the work saying, “here is the work you need to do and the decisions you need to make to love yourself and find the medicine in the poison of your life.” Once I did the work and became intentional about making some absolutely necessary decisions, the all day/all night wrestling in my heart and mind with The Divine Spirit (and myself) until I received a release subsided.

The final stage of the retreat released the new blessing—new life tools, new purpose, new identity, new perspective, new strength, and new sisterhood. There was a surrender in my heart that I knew was timely (not just a chronos but a kairos timely moment).  I also knew that I had ended an era of cycles.  I knew that the giants in that phase of my life had been conquered and had fallen and that I would see them no more. [Often, we wonder why we go in circles and we see the same pattern of cycles in ourselves, several members of our family and even in generations. It’s because when the test is presented, we don’t pass. The Divine teacher can/will never let us move to the next level if we haven’t passed and mastered the level we are on.] This test I passed, with flying colors.

The new me gave myself permission and the strength to choose me. I was now a beautiful butterfly who was ready to spread my wings and show the world my beauty. And I, too, was worth fighting for. 

 Today, as we give thanks for retreats, isolation, quiet time, and peace of mind, I’d like to highlight the organization This Is My Brave (https://thisismybrave.org/).  Their mission is to end mental health stigma by empowering people to tell their stories of living with mental illness through creative work like storytelling, poetry or music. Please donate your resources to this organization or grab tickets to a live show of storytelling when they come to your town as they travel throughout the country. 

Love Ya, 

Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Day 6, 2019

I always look for the corners in silent places to drop my load and cry my eyes out as I tune my ears and eyes to hear the whispers of divine guidance giving me an action plan to make my next move.

Day 6: Muses

Happy Sixth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today we give thanks for muses and the creativity they inspire to be undone and find wholeness in secret and sacred spaces of stillness. 

Many of you know that I love the gift of song and its ability to speak to the core of one’s soul.  What you may not know is that one of my all time favorite R&B (Neo Soul) artists is India.Arie. During the twenty years of her career, she has managed to write down my thoughts, feelings, and emotions as if she was living my life. Then, she had the nerve to expose all my vulnerabilities by singing the pages of my life, while strumming on her guitar. (She is just so fly!) 

As I cried my eyes out, after having my heart crushed, she reminded me that I was a BEAUTIFUL FLOWER and that I too was WORTHY.  She affirmed that I AM LIGHT and allowed me to pass that knowledge to all my friends and mini-diva mentees.  I don’t know how she knew what I was looking for in a relationship but those joints—BROWN SKIN and STEADY LOVE–hit the spot.  She tko’d me with “HE HEALS ME” as I reminisced about a past lover/friend and my secret place. 

But, my soul was truly undone at hearing these words: 

You are where I go to hide/when the wind starts to blow/when the lightning starts to strike/ when the thunder starts to roll/when this life becomes a fight/You are where I put my gloves down/ when I‘m running out of time/you are where I go to slow down… Where I go to be moved/where I go to be still…

As a single mother who holds down everything—the special needs child, the jobs, the bills,—and every day has to fight (most time for crumbs), while getting knocked down at almost every turn, in all moments, I’m running to and thirsting for an oasis in the dry dessert of my life.  I always look for the corners in silent places to drop my load and cry my eyes out as I tune my ears and eyes to hear the whispers of divine guidance giving me an action plan to make my next move.  

I wonder, how does she know how to tell my story? How does she know what it’s like to live in my truth? 

‘Cause some days I just want to run into loving arms that will share my load and help to carry some of my burden. I’ve mastered the balancing act of compartmentalizing each issue in the crevices of my brain while my heart is bleeding to beat. And I fight, with my boxing gloves never in pause, to stay alive.  But, sometimes I wish I could rest and there was no war to fight or no challenge to be conquered.  Often times, I just want to be reminded that things are gonna be alright and perhaps have that cool sip of water before I die.

Your love makes me new/In your presence I heal…No walls, no war/No cause, no weapons formed/No law, what for?/You are where I go to hide/You are where I go to heal/You are where I go to feel/to remember what is real…

Feeling wounded and like I’ve been left without a covering, I sit in that silent place repeatedly and pray a cloak of reminders over myself…that I’m loved, that I’m beautiful, that I’m worthy, that I’m allowed to feel and be real in all my dysfunctional truth.  In that silent place, I remind myself to love and choose me first (since I’ve never been taught how to do that).   There, no picking at my flaws and quirks is allowed.  Rejected are the critiques of what I’m lacking to fit into a societal standard.  No examining of anything else, I surrender. There, it’s just me—all of me–standing in my true candor.  My safe and secret place…

You are my sacred space.God is.

Today, as we give thanks for muses, think about what or maybe even who is your sacred space.  Where does your creative ability blossom at its maximum capacity? Today, I’m highlighting two organizations, Upbeat NYC (www.upbeatnyc.org) and The Lynx Project (https://www.lynxproject.org); Upbeat provides free music lessons to learn just about every instrument to over two hundred children in the South Bronx.  Please donate your money, volunteer time, instruments, sheet music and materials, and any of your skill sets to helping this organization to thrive.   The Lynx Project does the wonderful work of bringing to life the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of their autistic participants by putting them to song and giving them a voice.  It is such an amazing program! Please check out their organization, catch an event when it comes to a town near you and donate to them so they can continue their beautiful work. 

Love Ya, 

Have a Great Day of Thanks!