Death By Any Other Name

Hey, y’all! I’m so happy to be back. March was a particularly hard month for me, but finally, I’m back.

Death is a part of life; I know that. At almost 50, I have lost some very important people, namely my parents. You don’t reach my age without having dealt with losing people in any number of ways — cancer, car accidents, heart attacks, etc. I’ve been the comforter of the bereaved and I’ve also been on the receiving end of that goodness. Up until March 13th, though, I had not experienced the aftermath of death by suicide.

“He’s Dead, Mama, He’s Dead!”

That day started out pleasant. My granddaughter was visiting and as usual, there were people in and out of the house all day. My nephew and a family friend had come down for lunch so the day was made even better with a little ribbing and some good laughs.

They had been gone a couple of hours when the house phone rang and as selfish as it may be for me to say this, I’m glad my sister answered. When the call came, I was working feverishly on a submission piece, but I stopped when, for the third time, she yelled, “Calm down, mister!” (My sister has called her son “mister” since he was a child.) By this time, I could actually hear him yelling and I was across the room.

The next words I heard were, “Who died? How? Jesus, no!” She then hung up and I knew I needed to give her a minute to gather herself. I also knew I needed a minute to brace myself. Everyone knows that my nephew and I are extremely close so whatever vexes his spirit will automatically tear mine apart. Finally, I asked who died and she calmly said, “His little brother, ****. He killed himself. He hung himself.” Before long, I’ll write about the rest of that day, but I’m just not ready to right now. Please understand.

The Sudden

By now, most everybody knows that I finally severed ties with the woman who had been my best friend for nearly 30 years. That friendship needed to be over in the larger sense, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be there if she needed me. I don’t believe in fake operations, but I also feel that we should be there for others regardless of the circumstance.

I found out that her ex-husband passed on March 10th. He was 48 years old. Had I not seen a post from a mutual friend extending condolences, I wouldn’t have known. As it stands, he had been gone over two weeks and she had not said a word. I wasn’t the only one who was shocked over his passing and the fact that she had not at least made others aware of it so that we could send cards and/or flowers, so I’m not alone in my anger. I will leave this alone, but I’m appalled that she didn’t even let me know.

The Inexcusable

As I said earlier, I have seen all manner of death. As of March 13th, I have now experienced nearly all manner of death in my immediate circle. Suicide is hurtful to the ones left behind. It happens for any number of reasons. We pray for the souls of those lost to it as well as the lives, minds, and hearts of those left to grieve.

Latina Verneta Herring, 35, of Florida, died on March 27th. Her death is inexcusable. It is yet another example of what happens when a woman’s cries are not taken seriously. Police told her to stop making false accusations and to stop calling 911 after they’d gone out twice. The man who killed her and her 8-year old son had even told police he was afraid he was going to do something to her. He did. He killed them.

Ms. Herring’s death is the reason that domestic violence/abuse must always be spoken about. We can’t sweep this stuff under the rug. We can’t turn a blind eye to this travesty. It won’t stop until greater efforts are made to make more people aware of the signs and to let the victims know there’s no shame in talking about it and leaving.

My Prayer

I pray for this woman’s family. I pray for the victims of domestic abuse who carry the invisible scars of mental and emotional abuse. Stay aware. Help when and where you can and should. A life just may well depend on it.

 

What’s Really Going On

Everyone knows I’m an ex-wife. I’m also that man’s first wife. One is not necessarily inclusive of the other. I am also the ex of someone who had a couple of wives before me. I snicker when I think about those titles because they each hold their own status and their own disadvantages.

The Ex-wife

I became an ex-wife on April 5, 2013. Without pomp or circumstance, I became the former Mrs. William H. Hinton, Jr. That meant I had to take the hyphen out of Trease Shine-Hinton. Deleting that hyphen not only severed our ties as man and wife, it also meant my separation from part of the union I had been in for nearly 20 years.

After the dust had settled, though, I realized that I had not asked to use my maiden name again. Legally, I am still Trease Shine Hinton. Just a heads up: if you’re getting divorced and you want to go back to your maiden name, be certain to ask if you need to formally ask to do so. The state of Texas charges $295.00 to change it after the fact so ASK! Anyway, back to the subject at hand.

Being an ex-wife carries its own little stigma. On its face, the title “ex-wife” means that the failure of a marriage has taken place. It means that for whatever reason, a marriage is over. It doesn’t matter why it failed, the title “ex-wife” means that a woman who was once someone’s life partner is no longer in that partnership. In my case, my ex even changed my name in his phone to “ex-wife”. Childish? Yeah, but hey, if that’s what floats your boat, float on.

For all the negative connotations, though, in cases like mine, the title of “ex-wife” means an incredible freedom from abuse. It’s a good, good thing. No one gets married with the forethought of getting divorced, but it happens. The 19 years of hell that I spent at Mrs. Hinton was worth every second of the pain because, from the bottom of my heart, I love the fact that I have a story to tell. I love the fact that I can speak to women from experience — not because of what I’ve heard or read — I know all of this stuff from experience. I can assure a woman that she will be okay. It won’t happen overnight, but in time, she will be okay.

The First Wife

Shortly after we got divorced, my ex and I were talking and he ended the conversation with, “Trease, you’ll always be the first Mrs. Hinton.” I will always be his first wife. He’s remarried and not one person who knows his situation believes that the woman he married is out for anything except money. She believed that he was worth so much more than he really is. I chuckle when I think about that whole scene because he tricked her the same way he tricked me yet she was determined to claim the prize. She had an issue with him talking to me about ANYTHING so I fixed that whole little problem for them — I cut the lines of communication with him. It hurt him, but the days of me showing any concern for his feelings were over many years ago. The only way he will ever hear from me again is if (God forbid) something happens to Will. He’s lied on me to his new wife so trust and believe that I’m not playing into their stupidity.

Just remember, though, that I will always be his first wife. That statement is not an “I win” kind of declaration; it’s just something to keep in mind when it comes to the property and benefits we accrued over those 19 years.

In the End

I didn’t get married to get divorced. I never expected that one day I wouldn’t be that man’s wife. Just like many other women who are trapped in abusive marriages and can’t see a way out, I was frozen in fear from so many angels. I come from a family where divorce is rare. We hang in there. God saw fit for me to live (in more ways than one) and so He set me free.

Being an ex-wife is not a bad thing in many cases. Being the first wife sometimes means a woman makes a man a better husband for the new(est) wife. It’s where you land sometimes.

In Due Time

My son had a car accident on Sunday, February 19th around 3:30 A.M. He chose to FaceTime me with the news instead of calling or texting me, that way, I could “see” that he was okay. For that, I’m grateful because he knows that I would have freaked out. He wasn’t hurt, just ticked off because his car is down.

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Will’s beat up car

 

Being the mother that I am, I wasn’t quite satisfied that he was really okay, so that img_0194Monday, I made my way to Pine Bluff. He’s okay. We sat around and talked for a bit; I fussed because he was coming down with the flu, but had not taken anything for it. We hurried off to Walmart for broth, Nyquil, and orange juice, and shortly after that, I headed back to Louisiana. My baby is okay. No bumps, scars, scratches, or bruises. Y’all know I’ve been praising God mightily because it could have been much worse. He fell asleep behind the wheel…a whole block and a half from his apartment. He tore down a stop sign so there was pretty good damage to the car, but it’s being fixed. He had some pretty epic plans for spring break, but guess where that spring break money is going? Yeah…

The Email

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It rained a fair distance of the way to Pine Bluff, but the ride back was bad. I grew up in Louisiana so driving in the rain is par for the course here. If it gets bad enough for me to have to pull over, it’s bad. My nerves were frayed by the time I made it to Camden because I had tried to push through, but I needed a break.

I had sat in the McDonalds parking lot for about 10 minutes when I decided to get back on the road even though the rain was still coming down rather hard. I had shifted into reverse when my phone dinged. I automatically knew it was an email, but when I saw who the sender was, I shifted back into park rather quickly. I knew he wasn’t writing just to be writing. I haven’t spoken to him since he was here for Mama’s funeral. I knew that he wasn’t writing regarding Will’s accident. We don’t talk. It was my ex-husband so I braced myself for whatever he had to say in that email. No sooner than I picked the phone up to read the first one, another one came from him. I figured I would get pissed so again, I braced myself.

The first email I opened had five attachments. It took me a flat two seconds to realize what he sent. I opened the next email right away and that one had four attachments. I can’t tell y’all (yet) what the attachments contained, but I will tell you that it’s been a long, LONG time coming. It was a HUGE burden that had plagued me since 2000, but finally, it was handled. It took him 17 years to fix what he messed up because of drugs, alcohol, and just being a plain, pompous clown. I was caught up in the chaos and I’ll tell y’all, I had no intention trying any harder than I had for two years straight to fix it. I knew that it was killing me just as much as it was him just because I was married to him, but the harder I tried to steer him in the right direction, the harder he yanked the other way.

As a paralegal, I knew that if I had walked out of that marriage without stipulating that HE fix that thing, I’d be on the hook forever. He did what he was supposed to do, but not before telling our son, in that email, to tell me that his new wife had helped him. Y’all, it is impossible for me to care any less about who did what than I do. He owed me. Nothing material can make up for the infidelity, the mental and emotional bashing, and those rapes. NOTHING.

Anyway, what he did allows me to push forward with some things I need to take care of. For that I’m grateful.

Life goes on, but you’re in charge of how it goes. Get on with what you’re here to do. Enjoy the time you’re not working — I mean thoroughly enjoy it! You don’t have nearly as much of it as you think.

 

 

Last Night

The Oscars…I didn’t watch, but good Lord, my phone went nuts when things went well, haywire.

Contrary to what some people believe, I’m on Facebook and Twitter so much, not for investigative reasons (i.e., nosy), but because I find lots of work on social media. I’m a writer and I freelance. It’s my work. It’s how I eat and feed my kid.

Anyway, I was on Facebook, as usual, last night making a list of publications that I’m going to query and submit to this week and I couldn’t help but see the various posts about the Oscars. Some people had no knowledge of the movies/people that were up for the award; some people were ticked about who was being presented with the coveted award. Some of the posts tickled me; some pissed me off.

There wasn’t a lot of political talk on my Facebook wall, but man, my Twitter feed was on

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Photo credit: Hollywood Reporter

fire just like it always is. When Anousheh Ansari read Asghar Farhadi’s acceptance speech, which was expected to stir a little controversy since the director had already said he wouldn’t attend, Twitter went nuts. People are entitled to their own opinions and Twitter is the place to find all of them.

 

 

I don’t stand for prejudice in ANY sense of the word and it makes me want to puke when I hear of bans, intolerance, discrimination, racial inequality, gender bias — any of it makes me SICK! Here’s the thing: you can’t paint (for lack of a better word) a person according to his or her race, sex, sexual orientation, or anything else. That would be saying all white people are members of the Klan. You would be saying all black people are on welfare. You would be saying that all Muslims are extremist. Stop that crap. It’s not true and most folks know it. I say most because, unfortunately, there are people who are too ignorant to look past a person’s color or sexual orientation to see the inner-person. That’s so stupid, but there are tons of people out there who are like that. Anyway, back to the Oscars.

 

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Photo credit: SheKnows

Viola Davis. Viola Davis. Sweet Jesus, that speech. Like I said, I wasn’t watching when she delivered that thing, but I’ve watched it 1000 times since she did it. See, what she did here was light a fire in the hearts of artists. I don’t mean just actors. I believe she was speaking to artists in general. When you think about it, that means all of us. Whatever it is that calls your name, whatever it is that makes you go and give your all, is your canvas. For me, that is writing. I’ve known my entire life that I want to write. As a child, while everyone else was out playing, I was writing. I was either writing or reading, my second greatest love.

 

Viola said there’s one place where all the people with the greatest potential are gathered, and that’s the graveyard. She wants us to tell the stories of the people who “dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost”.

Y’all…it’s our duty to tell those stories. I’ve said it time and time again, and I’ll say it again — you don’t live through your thing, whatever it is, to remain silent. How dare you live through domestic abuse and not share your story? How dare you live through child abuse and not use your words, your journey, to help other children who need to know they can survive?

Sure enough, your business is not anyone else’s, but in my eyes, if you choose to keep your story to yourself, you travels have been in vain. Yep, you learned a lesson, but aren’t we all teachers on one manner or another? We’re most definitely students of this life from the time we come into this word, so why not pass on the lessons we learn?

Carry on with your day, carry on with your life, but do what you were put her to do — help others. Whatever your calling is, put your artistic ability into play and get on it. You’re the artist. Paint that thing!

 

Living on Borrowed Time

img_673082936717-1Last night at exactly 9:46 PM, my iPhone dinged. It wasn’t my son’s notification tone so I didn’t move immediately, but I also recognized the time and knew that it was a little late for my friends to be writing since we’re all in wind-down mode around that time. I glanced over and noticed that it was a “virtual turned real-life” friend. When I realized who it was, though, I became nervous because the woman writing me lives in New York. I have a lot of friends in New York, 99% of whom started as virtual friends, but have come to occupy places in my heart as real-life friends. She should have been asleep because she takes the train in the early morning hours to get to work.

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I was a little shaky when I picked up the phone to read her message and within seconds, my heart had completely dropped. She had just seen a post on Facebook with the time and details of funeral services for another friend that we’d “met” online. It took me a minute to absorb what I had just read, but before I responded to her, I went over to Facebook to see it myself. I needed to see it for myself. There it was.

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I knew that our friend had breast cancer and I knew that she had been fighting it for years. She last posted on my wall for my birthday back in November and I had seen a post or two from her, here and there over the next month or so. I assumed she was still in remission. She was not. It’s impossible to fully know a person, especially online, but you could just tell she was a sweetheart. Cancer has taken another sweet soul.

As I do quite often, I reminded the people on my own Facebook friend list that our time here is short. I don’t wait until someone passes, but when they do, I take the opportunity to let people know that we never have as much time as we think we do. In the same vein, though, I believe we are left here just long enough to fulfill our purpose. After seeing my post about my friend’s death, another friend that I met online who has become like a brother to me wrote and told me that very thing — people leave when they have done what they need to do.

I urge you to do what you know you need to do. Whether it’s something as far-reaching as joining a mission and traveling abroad to feed the hungry or something as close to home as delivering meals to the elderly, DO IT! If you don’t know what your purpose or calling is, figure out what it is and get to it.

What you need to do may also involve making amends for some foolish shenanigans you were involved in. Maybe you split someone’s heart in two. Maybe you have some business issues that need to be tied up. Maybe you just need to seek someone’s forgiveness. Whatever it is, get to it.

I know exactly what I was left here to do. I will always, always, ALWAYS be a student of life, but I know for a fact that my life experiences make me a great teacher. I have a story to tell. Not very much of it is pretty, but it’s my story to tell. I know what it means to be belittled by your husband. I know first-hand about the confusion that comes after spousal rape. I know what it means to be battered so badly mentally and emotionally that the sound of that doorknob turning causes you to hyperventilate. I know what it means to be the one left after being the one who was abused. I have stuff to say. I have a testimony to share.

I don’t know when my time here will be up so mine is to get to the business of telling my story. I haven’t been as consistent as I need to be in blogging. I haven’t gotten the ball rolling on my speaking career. My vow is correct those things. I believe I survived an aneurysm that was the result of an abusive marriage so that I can provide a visual picture of the fact that there’s life after abuse.

Whatever you do in life, do it on purpose. Do it with purpose. Time is borrowed. One day, you’re going to have to give it back.

Book Review: Waters of the River Red by Susane Lavallais Boykins

As an avid reader, I’m always on the lookout for books that speak to my soul, my spirit, my heart and my mind. I found all those connections in Waters of the River Red by Susane Lavallais Boykins.

February is Black History Month and tucked away nicely on the 14th of the month is Valentine’s Day. Waters of the River Red came to my attention late last week and I couldn’t have asked for a better book to pay tribute to both the subject of Black History and Valentine’s Day, the day of love. This book touches on every emotion from the pain of unrequited love to suppressed anger that threatens to overtake common sense and everything in between. We’re given access to a true love story while we’re also exposed to tragedy, shame, and misdirected hatred. Let me tell you a little about it.

Loss and Heartache

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Photo Credit: EngineerGirl

The story opens in Marksville, Louisiana, during a somber time in the life of the main character, Charlotte Ford. It’s August 1960 and she has just lost her best friend, KeyKey, to cancer. Immediately, we’re able to identify with Charlotte, because unfortunately, I think we’ve all been affected by the evil that is cancer. During this period of mourning, we’re introduced to Charlotte’s staunchest source of support and strength, her mother, Josephine (affectionally known as Feen), who is so reminiscent of the strong Black woman whose primary attention is to her family, especially her children. While Charlotte is an elementary school teacher, her mother, continues to work as a maid. Feen made certain that her girls received an education in order that they lived easier lives than she did.

One thing that Feen is not able to shield Charlotte from, though, is the same thing that any other parent seeks to block from a child’s life and that’s the pain of a broken heart. As hard as her mother tried, she wasn’t able to stop Charlotte from delving into a relationship that spelled trouble from the start. As a grown woman, Charlotte knew better than to take a bite of that forbidden fruit but she did it anyway. She paid the price for falling in love with a married man. Most certainly, things got worse before they got better.

One of the things I liked most about this book is that the author allowed the characters to be real. They made mistakes just like everyday people. None of them went without paying the consequences and that’s what makes this book worth the read.

Secrets and More Secrets

Charlotte finds herself in a position that would have caused her tremendous shame in that day and age for more than one reason. She was blessed, however, to be surrounded by people who genuinely loved her and were willing to go the extra mile for her. This book provides an excellent example of what unconditional love looks like.

If you don’t know what strength looks like in the human form, you will see it in Josephine Ford. Her resilience and refusal to stop living in the face of adversity are what real women are made of. She holds a secret that is excruciatingly heartbreaking. Her’s is a story that must be read.

You’ll see what sacrifice looks like in the character, Adrian Fonteneau. He is a man’s man.

You’ll see what it means to be willing to let go in order to live the life you want to live in Lucien Ford, Charlotte’s father.

You’ll see what it means to hold on to secrets that burn the very soul in order to spare the feelings of the ones you love.

The Pain and Release

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As a very outspoken advocate against domestic violence/abuse, this book touched my core. Laura is Charlotte’s older sister and the author shines the spotlight on the fear that many domestic violence/abuse victims feel. She also shows us the courage it takes to finally get out. Ms. Boykins does an excellent job in the delivery of the fact that the victim is not at fault in cases of violence and shows just how badly things can go.

Peace, At Last

I can’t recommend this book enough. It not only flashes back to give the reader a little history of the lives of Blacks in the 1960s south, we’re also given a clear picture of a woman’s ability to stand strong in the face of controversy.

Head over to Amazon and get your copy today! You won’t regret it.

Clearing Your Head

Here we are at the beginning of a new year. Tons of people have resolved to get in better physical shape. Some of them have paid for new gym memberships. Some renewed their old, unused ones. Lots of people have vowed to eat better. They’re going to drink more water. I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve vowed to do all this stuff, too. I know I need to lose weight. My family’s medical history is filled with diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure so outside of the fact that my knees hurt because of the excessive weight, those medical issues provide plenty of inspiration for me to hit the pavement and work off some of these extra pounds. While I want to look good in my clothes, my greater mission is to improve my overall physical health. In the same vane, I will continue to work on my mental state.

Depression and Anxiety

Even before I was married, I suffered from what I now know was depression. It was periodic and only happened when things went wrong. That thing became 100 times worse after October 23, 1993, though. It would not leave under any circumstance. There was always an underlying sadness. Oh, and the anxiety. I remember the times when I could not breathe. I was never diagnosed as being clinically depressed, but I believe that’s only because I didn’t get help earlier. I was placed on anti-depressants, but was never officially diagnosed with depression. While we still living in Denver, I was given a prescription for Zoloft so in reality, for what my doctor saw as a low level of depression. The Zoloft proved to be too much for my system because I could barely hold my head up. I was taken off them, but I had already planned to stop taking them because I thought I was too strong for them.

Once I moved to Dallas, I knew I needed help, so I spoke with my primary care doctor about the situation and was given a prescription for Celexa. It worked, but I dragged. I was able to get some balance, but for the most part, I was on a slight time-delay. I would hear what people were saying to me, but my responses were delayed enough that my friends noticed. That’s when my doctor also prescribed Wellbutrin. It was a perfect combination. Things were a lot better. All of this happened before I started counseling through my church. By His grace, I was able to leave the meds behind. My thinking became clearer. I needed to talk to someone. I will always be grateful for the help I received through Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship.

Taking Care of the Whole You

While you’re working on the physical you, make sure you take of the mental and emotional you. Get any help you need — ANY HELP!

If you don’t want to seek counseling with a secular professional, seek help from a spiritual leader. Your mental and emotional health is equally important as your physical health. Where one fails, the others just may follow. Even if they don’t all fail, there will surely be a lack of balance.

Know that there’s no shame in seeking help for your mental health. Many people feel that seeking counseling is a sign of weakness. It’s not. The strongest among us need help sometime. If you don’t release some of that pressure, you’ll crack. No one says you have to advertise your situation to the world. It’s your business, but you need to take care of your business. Get your head right. Keep yourself together.