Joy and Pain

“Remember when you first found love how you felt so good
Kind that last forever more so you thought it would
Suddenly the things you see got you hurt so bad
How come the things that make us happy make us sad”


Not unlike most people, as 2015 comes to a close, I reflect over the year. For me, this year, more so than any other, has showed me, in no uncertain terms, the contradiction of America. Yes, there are many good things about this country. That doesn’t negate the facts. America needs to get honest. It is both ironic and befitting that I sit here, writing this post, two days before Christmas. And it is with that contradiction I begin. Continue reading

Highland ICU

As I returned to the waiting area to give an update, again, I was trying to figure out, how to convey, that which I, was yet to fully comprehend; 17 gunshots wounds, 3 guns, 3 shooters; Vin’s repeated account of the black truck, the man with the hoodie and the AK. He would repeat those 3 details over and over again. As I walked through the double doors, everyone who was there began to circle up. I don’t recall the words I spoke. I believe I gave the update. I know I said that Vinnie needed to rest and everybody should go home, get some rest and come back later. I know I promised them that they would all be able to see him when they came back. I remember looking up and seeing tears, streaming down faces. I had done a good job of holding it together, I got choked up, my words wouldn’t come out. I think it was Dolla who grabbed me and said, “Don’t worry Mom-Zos, we’ll be back”. I remember Steve asking me if I needed anything. I asked for the staples that you need in a crisis, a toothbrush, some toothpaste and a cup of coffee. Continue reading

Tirade Tuesday…this one’s for you Courtaney!

I have taught high school for a total of 8 years in 4 districts. I have never taught in a comprehensive, traditional high school. In fact, not only have I taught in alternative schools in the community, for kids who have been expelled from their districts, I have taught in Juvenile Detention Facilities. I have also taught in the high school in San Francisco County Jails. In not one of the locked facilities where I taught, was anyone in there for singing too loud in the church choir.  Not one person was expelled from school, therefore at the alternative school, for talking too loud, talking excessively, chewing gum or having a electronic device out in class (all the “reported reasons”, I have heard as to why the SRO was called to that classroom in So. Carolina).

When I taught in the community, the schools had Campus Supervisors. When I taught at the Juvenile Facilities, there were counselors. When I taught in the jails, there were deputies. In the institutions, there are panic buttons. I have never pressed the panic button. I can count on one hand the number of times I kicked somebody out of class.  I’ve been cursed out once.  I’m not going to front, I wanted to sock her; I envisioned my hands wrapped around her throat.  However, I knew two things. One, I needed my job, teaching credential and my freedom. And two,  her behavior, though directed at me, wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about her being disrespectful or challenging my authority. It was about her not knowing any other way to express herself. (She was upset because after asking her 2 times to stop talking, the third time I told her she had the choice to stop talking or leave class.) Continue reading

From Children’s Hospital to Highland Hospital

I returned to the lobby to give everyone an update on how Vinnie was doing and what was going to happen next. He was being transferred to Highland Hospital at 7 am. It all continues to be surreal to me, at this point. Even now, looking back, thinking back, recalling details, and remembering details I had forgotten. Kendra (Vinnie’s then girlfriend, now wife) calling me as I was en route to the hospital asking me for directions; me being unable to articulate something so simple as directions to Children’s Hospital. I remember telling her to call Var, who then went to meet her; which is why he wasn’t there when I initially arrived at the hospital. As I returned to the lobby area, all I could hear was Naomi (Var’s then girlfriend) saying, repeatedly, to the security guard, “Sir, please don’t say anything to him. Sir, please just leave him alone. Sir, please don’t talk to him.”  I had no idea why she kept repeating this. I soon found out that the security had not only made assumptions about the circumstances which caused Vinnie to be shot, but had the boldness to voice those assumptions to, of all people, Var, that was BAD IDEA. (For those who don’t know, thus the sarcastic “Sir” and “Ma’am” were born.) Continue reading

The Expectation of Loss

I remember 12 1/2 years ago I got an early morning phone call from a friend telling me his mom had passed away.  She had been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer the previous summer and it had been a grueling 6 months from diagnosis to treatment to “keeping her comfortable” to her passing.  Although we lived in different cities, my work often brought me to Southern California and I was blessed to be able to support him through that very difficult time. I had a few friends who had loss their Moms but I didn’t know them when their Moms had been alive. This was, for all intensive purposes, my first experience being extremely close to someone during such a major loss.

Now, don’t get me wrong I had experienced loss before, of people close to me, as both my grandmother’s had passed within 5 years of each other. However, they had had health issues for a number of years. They had been in and out of the hospital and in my young adult mind, they were “old” and old people died. As I got older, matured and gained some real life knowledge, I realized they weren’t old at all and had, in fact, died early. I also identified their deaths as the loss of my grandmothers, never thinking of their passing as my parents losing their mothers. This, I believe, is merely a reflection of being young and everything being about you. Continue reading

The Who and Why of It

A friend suggested that I write an introductory blog to let people know who I am and tell the purpose of my blog. Deciding to blog about my life, my experiences, my pain, my joy, my life was not a difficult decision to me. It is talking about who I am that is difficult and cheesy, right up there with displaying my degrees, awards, etc. In mind I think, “Who cares about my accomplishments?” However, I know that we rarely see ourselves as others see us, therefore maybe who I am will inspire someone to dream bigger and believe they can. So here goes…

I was a teen-age Mom. I was pregnant at 15 and had my daughter, JeNae, when I was 16. She was born July 13, 1979, the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I grew up in San Francisco and attended George Washington HS (Go Eagles!). I cut school a lot because, apparently I thought being in school all day everyday wasn’t important. Interestingly, I always got all my work done, went to summer school, earned work-study credits (I’ve worked since I was 14), so by the time I returned for my senior year, all I needed to graduate was 10 credits. I do not recommend this road, nor do I share it in a boastful way. I share it as part of my story of always understanding the importance of education despite my antics and shenanigans. Continue reading

Children’s Hospital

I am standing in front of the security desk. I am calm. I am clear. I have not shed one tear. I am focused. I am wondering where Var is, why isn’t he here, he was closer, he should have been here by now.

“I’m here to see my son, Vinnie Valentine. He’s been shot.”

The security guard checks the computer, “We don’t have anyone by that name who has been admitted”, he replies matter-of-factly.

“My son was shot and they brought him here. His name is Vincent Valentine II.”

“I’m sorry Ma’am, but nobody by that name has been admitted here. Are you sure they brought him to Children’s Hospital?” he says with a hint of sarcasm. I remember thinking, “If i jump over this counter and choke you I bet you would be a little more helpful and a little less of a smart-ass.” My rational mind kicked in, reminding me to continue to be calm and polite.  It is amazing how many things your mind can think, seemingly at once. As I was beginning to ask for the third time, the double doors open and a white woman in non-hospital attire comes out.  She hears what I am asking security and asked if I would come in the back with her.

As I begin to walk toward her, my mind is screaming, “Nooooo, why are you taking me in the back where they give you the bad news? Where is Var? Did they tell Var Vin died so he left. How come nobody is here? God, you told me he wasn’t going to die.” Continue reading

The Night of The Shooting

On January 30, 2009, my life, our lives, forever changed when my oldest son was shot.  This story is complex, in so many ways. I can not tell the story without the context in which it occurred. My son and I were both working full time at our church. I was also working part time as a Private Investigator. I was up late that Friday night, because the homicide case I was currently investigating was in trial, in Alameda County, and I had a several interviews which I had to conduct the next day. I can remember thinking I need to shut it down because I have a long day tomorrow. I looked at my cell, one last time, and saw 2 missed calls from my son’s best friend. Although it was not unusual for Vin’s friends to call me, it wasn’t the normal this late. It was midnight. Continue reading

Writing Saves Me

For a long while I have known I needed to write to keep my sanity, to keep me from being sucked into the black hole. I love to express my thoughts, feelings, and sometimes even my opinions through my writing. I recognize it is a gift I have been blessed with. I refrain from being judgmental because I “got my own stuff”. Trauma and tragedy are events. Healing is a journey. There is much truth to the cliche, “Hurt People, Hurt People”. However, conversely, “Healed People, Heal People”. This is “My Healing Journey”. I choose to be open, honest and transparent as I share the good, the bad, the ugly and every thing in between. It is my desire that as I help myself, I will help others.