Friday the 13th is supposed to be an unlucky day…a day where you should be prepared to have a Murphy’s Law type of day. Just a myth, right? Well, I was about to be made into a believer…
My Friday the 13th started shortly after midnight, when our wonderful internet service bottomed out on me just long enough to make me lose a large online order I was attempting to place.. So after having to re-enter everything, I practically fell into the bed about 2:00 am.
Somewhere around 5:00 am, I awoke to horrible aching in my little piggy that had roast beef. Dragging from my lack of sleep, I stumbled to the bathroom to take a look at what could possibly be causing my poor little toe so much pain. In my lethargic state, I managed to find the bathroom door closed in the dark with my nose first, drawing a few obscenities and tears to my eyes.
My middle toe was red and inflamed on the left side. I had managed to get my very first ingrown toenail at the age of 45. Yay me, right? I proceeded to fumble through the bathroom drawers until I found the toenail clippers for some homegrown surgery.
Operating on your toe at 5:00 am in a sluggish condition is not smart..but in this case, necessary. I said a few more swear words, and even invented a few, but I finally got to the root of the problem after hacking off over half of my toenail. After digging the culprit out, I went back to bed for a couple more hours sleep, because I had one busy day ahead.
When I returned to my warm bed, toe still throbbing, I had no sooner laid down when I heard a text message alert. I grabbed my phone and saw that I had a text from someone asking me to go check to see if one of my family members (who shall remain nameless) was awake, because they had been calling them and had gotten no answer. This person sending the text was at work and could not leave. I tried repeatedly to call them, but I couldn’t get an answer either.
Concerned, I got out of my very warm bed and began to throw on my clothes. My toe was still hurting, so I slipped on my house shoes. With no time to waste because I didn’t want this person to be late for work, I didn’t take the time to warm my car on this VERY COLD morning or defrost my windshield. So, I turned on my windshield washer and wipers that earned me just enough room to be able to see from a side view. The short ride was a long one because I had to practically hang my head out of the window like a dog to be able to see anything and did I mention it was COLD?
When I arrived at my destination, I found this person to be asleep, so I helped them rush to get out of the door. I headed back to my house, toe still hurting, with a quick nap in mind. Looked down for a second while driving, and when I looked back up I saw about three deer surrounding me. I slammed on the brakes, throwing everything that was in my back seat to the front, and the front to the floor. Not sure who was shaken up more…me or the deer.
When I pulled into the driveway, my dog, Myrtle came out to greet me enthusiastically as usual, but I was in no mood to play. I got out of the car and hobbled my way back anxious to get back inside with Myrtle dancing all around me. Halfway up the front steps, I lost my shoe because apparently I suck at hobbling. Myrtle saw this and thought this was her cue to play. She grabs my shoe and takes off running, thinking I’m going to chase her to get it back…Well, I did and in the process, I stepped into a nice fresh pile of dog crap with my good foot.
Now, Myrtle is not the smartest dog in the world but she very quickly picked up on the tone of my thunderous screeching that maybe we weren’t playing a game after all, so she dropped the shoe and cowered. I picked up my shoe and felt bad that I had scolded her, so I attempted to lure her to me with soothing apologetic words. She was having no part of it and would not come near me. Cold and irritated, I headed back inside to the warmth and comfort of my home. It was an interesting walk back in the house.
Back indoors, I decided to check the tracking on a package that I needed by Christmas and was having a hard time getting. From the tracking numbers, I could see the estimated date of the arrival had been pushed back by three additional days. At this point, I was livid because this had been an ongoing problem for three weeks now. So, I sent Fed Ex a not so nice, maybe somewhat threatening email regarding certain body parts if my package didn’t make it here by Christmas. After hitting the Send button, I realized after re-reading the message that I would be lucky to get it by Valentine’s Day.
So, my toe is still killing me and I do a frantic search through my house to find anything that will ease the pain. With a good Epsom Salt soaking and two Tylenol later, the pain has lessened somewhat, so I decide to take a quick power nap before I get started.
Before I lay down, I put some antibiotic ointment on my toe. I had just gotten settled when I realized my toe had started a strange cooling sensation that would not subside and it did not seem to be letting up. It was a little painful, but even more annoying. So, I get back up out of the bed and go into the bathroom drawer to see what cream I had rubbed on my toe. I was even more annoyed when I found out I had put hemorrhoid ointment on my ailing toe, although it did seem to help the swelling some. I began to really contemplate whether my balance would be affected much if I decided just to cut it off…I mean, it was the middle toe. How much could it really hurt anyway?
Thoroughly disgusted with the way my morning was going, I decided to a nice long nap was exactly what the doctor ordered for me, heavy workload or not. So, I piled back up in my
warm bed, only to hear the incessant crying of my cat, because he thinks the minute you are out of bed, you live to feed him. I tried to ignore him, but he was not to be overlooked easily.
Folks, you cannot starve a cat, period. They are the most resourceful creatures on the face of this Earth. A scorned woman ain’t got nothing on a hungry cat. So, if you have a cat, and you’re thinking of cutting back, don’t even try it. I promise you, they’ve already assessed you to see how you are going to digest in case of emergency. They will eat you even though they love you…it’s encoded in their DNA.
I drug myself out of the bed once again and fed the stupid cat, all the while looking over my shoulder for fear that Jason Vorhees was going to jump out and whack my head off. Maybe he didn’t feel lucky enough to mess with me after witnessing the scene in the front yard with my poor Myrtle, who by this time could not even be found.
By this time, I was curious what the rest of the day would hold, or maybe I just had a death wish, I’m not real sure. I ate, dressed, and was out the door to see if I could make the newspaper headlines in some crazy method before this fateful day was over. The rest of the day was busy, and quite uneventful…and believe it or not, I got through the day without going to jail or losing any limbs in a freak accident.
What did I learn about Friday the 13th from this experience? Next time…clip your toenails frequently and sleep through it…
Here in the latter days of the Christmas season, most parents are scrambling around in full panic mode trying to finish up their Christmas list while most children are impatiently counting down the days in anticipation of the arrival of Santa Claus. For most people, this would be your average traditional behavior just a few days before Christmas Eve. But in a hospital bed at Children’s Hospital one faithful yet terrified mother, Amy Mitchell and a seriously ill daughter, Emma of Oxford, AL would give anything to experience this type of normalcy.
On Friday, December 20, Emma underwent her third brain surgery to remove yet another tumor at the tender age of 5. Emma was your average little girl until the age of 3, a bright-eyed little beauty full of energy who reveled in the warmth, love, and comfort of her familiar surroundings. Sadly, these brief days of ‘normal’ are now bittersweet times she cannot even recall at such a young age. Is this a blessing or a curse for sweet Emma? Maybe a little of both, because she has been sick for so long now, the endurance of hospitals, needles, and pain are all that she knows. Yet what she has conquered to date is one of the most inspirational stories you will ever hear.
Emma’s life began to change in June 2012 when she was just three years old and she was treated for an ear infection at an after-hours clinic in Oxford. She was sent home with antibiotics, which is standard protocol for an ear infection in toddlers. However, her condition would not improve. In fact it would worsen throughout the course of the following week, and Emma would return to the doctor two more times that same week. On her third visit of that week, her doctor said she had become dehydrated from vomiting and
gave her fluids which suppressed the symptoms somewhat, but Emma would still not get any better.
After watching their daughter lay around lifelessly for the next couple of days, Amy’s parents made the decision to take her to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. After examining Emma, they were once again told their daughter was only suffering from dehydration. They too, just wanted to give her fluids and send her back home. But knowing her energetic little daughter too well, Amy knew there was more to this picture. These fearful parents stood their ground until another doctor was called in and tests were ran to find the underlying problem.
A CT scan revealed a lemon-sized tumor on Emma’s brain with a great deal of swelling around it. Emma was admitted in ICU and underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor the very next day. The prognosis wasn’t good at all. The Mitchells were told Emma might not live through the surgery and if she did survive, she would most likely lose mobility of her left side where the tumor was located. Reeling at the rapid turn of events, Emma’s parents tried to prepare themselves for the worst. They prayed hard
for a miracle and their faith would not let them down.
Amazingly, Emma came through the surgery with no complications and the doctors told the Mitchells they were 99.9% certain they had been able to remove the entire tumor. Within 48 hours of her surgery, Emma was back at home and would not have to undergo any type of physical therapy. Within two weeks, it was as if she nothing had ever happened, other than the scar on her head. Doctors were baffled at her recovery, yet elated.
Even with the physician’s certainty, Emma still was scheduled to undergo six weeks of radiation as a precautionary measure, but would not make it to the end of these scheduled treatments before a reoccurrence would take place.
When Emma began to complain of a headache just four short weeks later, Amy took her back to Children’s and further tests would reveal the worst. The tumor was not only back, but it was bigger than the first one that had been removed. The doctors were in shock, stating they had never seen a tumor return so quickly at such a massive growth. Emma would spend her fourth birthday in the hospital.
Emma’s course of treatment was changed completely where her regular radiation therapy program was cut short with the new developments and was changed to aggressive radiation treatments that caused Emma’s beautiful mane of hair to fall out in just two short days.
In the beginning, the thought of Emma losing her hair was very important to Amy. “I couldn’t bear the thought of my little girl losing her hair, but I think God went ahead and allowed this to happen just I could get past this to show me that this was not the most important thing there was.” said Amy.
The next six weeks involved daily trips to UAB for radiation and chemo treatments, with a series of short hospital stays along the way whenever Emma would experience fevers, be given platelets and blood transfusions, or any complications with the feeding tube that had to be inserted.
Emma’s Christmas was celebrated a week early, so she would have time to enjoy her toys before she went back into the hospital for a long stay.
On Dec. 26, 2012 Emma entered into the ICU Stem Cell Unit where she was given three big rounds of chemo with stem cell transplants. In a typical stem cell transplant for cancer very high doses of chemo are used, often along with radiation therapy, to try to destroy all the cancer cells. This treatment also kills the stem cells in the bone marrow. Soon after treatment, stem cells are given to replace those that were destroyed. These stem cells are given into a vein, much like a blood transfusion. Over time they settle in the bone marrow and begin to grow and make healthy blood cells.
The next few weeks were very lonely for both Emma and Amy because during this time you are in complete isolation from even immediate family members. But unfortunately sometimes in life, you don’t always get to make choices.
One of the hardest things about this time for Amy was being away from Emma’s sister, her 14 year old daughter Kaitlyn, who was in the care of Amy’s mother while Amy stayed with her youngest daughter. “It’s really hard sometimes, leaving Kaitlyn because I know she needs me too, and no mother should ever have to make this decision. But with Emma is where I need to be and Kaitlyn knows this. She misses us both. She and Emma are very close, so this is hard on all of us.”
In April 2013, they left the Stem Cell unit with another good report from the doctors. Although the tumor was still present, it was thought to be nothing more than dead tissue. Emma and Amy were so glad to finally return to their home.
Emma was finally able to make good on that promise to do a lemonade stand fundraiser for the stem cell clinic that she had talked to her mother about during their stay there. This event started out small and grew to be very large. Emma’s stand raised almost $2000 that day, and all proceeds went back to the clinic. One customer, Jim Lehmann, who followed Emma’s progress on Facebook drove all the way from Huntsville just to meet Emma, have a cup of lemonade with her and also made a very large donation. He was completely taken with her and an instant friendship was born.
In May 2013, Emma was given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Make-A-Wish Foundation was sending Emma and her family on Walt Disney World. She wasn’t feeling very well, her body had gone through so much. She was nauseous and still swollen from the steroids, but overall she had a wonderful time.
Although there were still regular trips to the doctor, Emma and her family enjoyed the summer and hoped their lives would return to normal. Amy began making plans to return to her classroom at Munford Elementary where she was employed as a Kindergarten teacher. However, tragedy would strike again.
On August 16 2013, Emma had been playing when Amy noticed she had no use of her left side. She was rushed back to Children’s where doctors soon discovered the tumor was back. After an MRI confirmed it, Emma once again underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor. During the surgery, doctors found not just one, but three tumors; one from the dead tissue tumor they were aware of and one believed to be caused by radiation. However, it was the discovery of the third one that concerned them the most; a PNET tumor.
PNET tumors contain underdeveloped brain cells, are highly malignant, and tend to spread throughout the central nervous system. These tumors often contain areas of dead tumor cells (necrosis) and cysts. Fluid surrounding the tumor is not uncommon. PNETs occur primarily in the cerebrum, but can spread to other parts of the brain and spine. Because they tend to be large tumors, symptoms of increased pressure in the brain and mass effect are often present. Seizures are common.
All tumors were removed and a biopsy of the PNET Tumor was sent off to be analyzed . The results were not good. Cancer had reared its ugly head again.
Emma had to undergo two big rounds of chemo. The first round went smoothly and consisted of split time with chemo distributed at home and during hospital stays.
Faith and Friends
During these most trying times, Amy clung to her strong faith in God to help her through. Each morning, she would put on a brave face for her daughter which wasn’t always an easy task. Because inside, she was just like any other scared mother, who hurt when her baby hurt and fought to keep her feelings under control.
Some days she would break under the pressure and cry in the presence of the very one she was trying to be brave for. Times like these consisted of a reversal of roles, when her child who seemed to be wise beyond her years would look at her and quietly say “Dry It up Mommy” or “Mommy, please stop crying, I’m going to be okay”. This beloved creature was truly a Godsend.
The second round of chemo came with complications. Emma began having seizures, some lasting for 20-40 minutes at a time. Doctors at first thought she might be having an adverse reaction to the strong chemo. However, the problem turned out to be a brain bleed which was much more serious than they had anticipated. Emma was placed in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where she was unconscious for a week. When she finally regained consciousness, Emma had to undergo physical therapy to regain control of her motor skills again.
In times of need, Amy was overwhelmed with the support of her hometown, friends and family, and even complete strangers reached out to Emma in ways that she could never imagine. Team Emma was created held several fundraisers which has helped with travel and lodging expenses to date. There was such a large outcry on Emma’s behalf during this time that Amy could not even name how many nice things were done in Emma’s honor.
For instance, Emma wanted to become a midget cheerleader at the beginning of the school year. However when she missed tryouts, they made her an honorary member of the Munford Cheerleader squad. And although she wasn’t strong enough to make it but to one of the games, she still got to ride in the parade. Emma had a blast!
Another lady heard about Emma’s story and knew how badly she wanted a puppy. So, she got Emma a Maltese puppy, which was perfect for her because these dogs do not shed and are hypoallergenic, but they need to be kept indoors and this was going to be difficult task due to restrictions on Emma with her course of treatment.
Hearing this, another friend, Paula came to the rescue . Paula and her husband, along with his friends, employees of Coosa Valley Electric, raised money for a playhouse/doghouse for Emma and her puppy. They even went to Tennessee to pick the playhouse up and renovated it themselves. The end result was a beautiful pink princess playhouse complete with heating and air conditioning so the dog would live in it because at the time the stipulations of the ongoing stem cell were very restricted. Emma was absolutely thrilled!
Over Thanksgiving, Jim, the generous lemonade stand friend, extended Emma’s family all to a Christmas tree lighting in Huntsville. He was requesting Emma’s help in the decorating the tree in her honor. He paid for the family to stay at a hotel the entire weekend and continues to stay in touch with Emma. This was a very special time for Emma and a much needed getaway for the family.
Here and Now
In December 2013, the PNET tumor once removed had grown back in the exact same spot. This tumor is pressing on the motor cortex of her brain. All chemo has been cancelled and a new doctor has joined the flock with a new plan of action. This new plan consisted of a one- time dose of radiation on Thursday, the day before her surgery. This course of treatment has only been done with adults, so it is unknown how Emma will respond to it. Emma underwent a MRI of her spine at the beginning of this week to see if the cancer had spread to her spine and they were relieved to see that it had not. She is again amazing doctors with her walking and talking as if nothing has happened. With this amazing, unrelenting attitude, will Emma defy all odds once again? That’s the hope of thousands as they close their eyes in prayer for their little hero every night.
Although Emma’s story doesn’t sound to be taking a good route, it is very clear that is anyone can defy the odds, this little girl can. She has defied death several times now, and has risen above every obstacle that has crossed her path. Her courage and bravery has won the hearts of thousands of people, many who have never even met her before.
To anyone who sees her without actually knowing anything about Emma, all they see is a sick little girl, with no hair and swollen from the steroids. But for those who are fortunate to know her, they see a captivating little warrior, who melts their heart with her genuine smile and her courageous attitude that has impacted their lives like no other. A little girl who loves her family and friends and mostly God, will give you the shirt off her back, and just like any other little girl, she wants to play with her princesses, baby dolls, and her Barbies.
Because this has been a way of life for Emma, she knows nothing more than being sick but she also knows exactly what she is up against. Even though there are times she is in tremendous pain, Emma never complains, unless it is that she wants to go home. She is very caring and thoughtful of others. At times, you will find her sharing her snacks with others, and making things for her friends and family. She is especially thoughtful of those who are caught up in the same cancer journey as she is. She has made several friends at Children’s who have lost their battle with cancer which has been very hard on her.
The biggest thing bothering Emma right now is that she won’t be able to be home for Christmas. Last year, Emma was unable to experience a normal Christmas due to the fact that she had to be placed in isolation for the stem cell transplant she would undergo the day after Christmas. So, she was really looking forward to having a big family Christmas this year. Now, that will not be possible without a miracle, and that’s what they are banking on…
How does she do it?
Amy has had her share of heartbreak before Emma was stricken with this deadly disease. Her mother became sick and had to have heart surgery. She lost a son in 2007, who was stillborn and went through a divorce in 2008. Also in the midst of her divorce, Amy found out she was expecting again. Emma was actually a twin, but she lost one of the babies a few weeks into her pregnancy. All of these incidents used up a lot of Amy’s sick leave, so when Emma was diagnosed, she didn’t have very much built up.
Amy has been unable to work in a year and a half now. She has used up all of her sick leave but has had several of her fellow teachers graciously donate some of their days to her, for which is extremely grateful. The school board also agreed to give Amy another year off in light of Emma’s illness.
Amy doesn’t ask what the future holds for Emma, because that’s not as important to her as the here and now. Even if it sounds bad, she knows if anyone can beat this horrible disease, it is her own little sweet warrior and she has proven it time and time again. And Emma is also determined to be cancer-free.
“My faith has gotten me through this. In the beginning, I admit I questioned God, but then one day it hit me. Why not? After all, look what happened with God’s son. He died on the cross for our sins, and also endured terrible pain and suffering. I just take everything one day at a time. Every day, I have made it a habit to read a daily devotion and one day a quote jumped out at me that I cling to: ‘Keeping your faith stronger than your fears’ That has become my motto because I am human and I have my fears” says Amy.
Amy gathers a lot of strength from avid followers of Emma’s on Facebook, where sometimes it is complete strangers who lift her up by sharing Emma’s journey with others. Emma’s courage has helped many people in ways no one could have ever dreamed. One person even told her they had even been contemplating suicide when they read of Emma’s brave journey and it changed their whole outlook on life. “Everyone who comes in contact with Emma is amazed by her,” says Amy smiling “God is using Emma as a tool to touch people, and if I sat back and didn’t share her story, we might miss something along the way.”
“It’s a roller coaster ride with lots of ups and downs, and lonely times. The world just seems to keep on turning and everyone is continuing with their lives while ours has stopped,” Amy says in a cracked voice, “But we’re not ready to give up…Emma is determined to beat this and anything is possible.”
Show your support
So, this Christmas, as you sit down with your family to your holiday feast, or open your presents, please remember this precious little girl and her family in your prayers. We all know that prayer can move mountains and Christmas is the season for miracles. I can’t think of any one person who deserves it more than this special little girl, who has endured more pain and suffering in her small life than many adults have. And she’s doing it all with a smile on her face. This is a nightmare no one wants to think about, but it happens, and when it does a positive attitude can be a winning factor when all else is lost.
You can keep up with Emma’s journey by liking Team Emma’s facebook page. Those interested in making a donation to Team Emma or to just send Emma a card can do so at: Amy Mitchell 75 Jenkins Road Oxford AL 36203.
Please continue to pray for and support Emma and her whole family during this journey.
Three weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending an Eagles concert at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center, thanks to my sister Rhonda Robinson. My sister is one of the biggest die-hard rock n roll fans you will ever meet. Now, don’t go getting mental images in your head of a middle-aged lady with long-stringy hair, torn up jeans, and a bandana across her head when I describe her like this, in fact she is quite normal and would not stand out in a crowd.
Rhonda just loves music and has spent what she calls the best part of her life catering to what she refers to as her “rock n roll therapy”. Music makes her happy and calms her soul. It has gotten her through every crisis in her life and no one begrudges her for that. She is an extraordinary person, who much like the majority of us women, holds down a full-time job and takes care of her family.
When she chooses to blow off steam, her occasional rock n roll therapy consists of attending concerts. Rhonda’s love for music is something she likes to share with her family, so because of that, we have all had some really great, memorable times on these “road trips”.
When Rhonda called me in the late spring and asked me if I wanted to go see the Eagles in mid-November, well, of course, I said yes. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? It was only one of the biggest rock bands of the 70’s. This band defined the 70’s era. To date, no American band has sold more records than the Eagles did during the 1970’s.
What my sister didn’t count on was that she would be battling health issues and would have to undergo a pretty intensive surgery just a week before the date of the concert. When she realized she wouldn’t be able to attend, she gave her ticket to my father and he was happy to get it.
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from this band I once loved from the mid 70’s on. There was a part of me that thought given the age factor of the members, their performance would be lackluster and disappointing. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
Now, I have been to many wild, energetic concerts in my time that would keep your blood pumping for hours afterward. This wasn’t the atmosphere of this particular event, but that did not mean it would not be memorable…
They began their concert by each sitting quietly on a stool playing their earliest hits after a brief synopsis of each one. It was a calm, relaxing atmosphere that everyone seemed to enjoy. And after a small intermission, they really got down to the good stuff…
Now, I was very young in the mid 70’s and had forgotten that I even knew some of these songs, but surprisingly I could remember every word. It was instant nostalgia from the moment each song began. The smooth, melodious tunes just seem to sink inside your soul and take you back with a mental picture of where you were at that very moment decades ago when youth seemed like it would last forever. There was a specific memory for every song they played and I closed my eyes and relished in each and every one of them.
From time to time, I would look around at the people around me and found them to be enjoying it as much as I was. And this was not your typical concert crowd…many were middle-aged to borderline elderly. They sported a headful of gray hair, some carried canes and wore glasses, but they made no apologies. Perhaps they were there to get a glimpse of the splendor of their youth or relive their glory days. And the look on their face said it all…It was a sight that would put a smile on your face because you could almost feel their enjoyment.
I remember thinking to myself as I looked around what some teenagers were doing there. How could they possibly appreciate this kind of music as much as I did? They weren’t even alive during the time this music was popular… It was then I realized that I was also one of these aging people, and I had to stifle an inward laugh at the irony of this.
Before the concert was over, middle-aged people you would probably never even notice in a crowd were dancing in the aisles as songs of their youth transported them back in time to a day when things didn’t seem to be so complicated but they didn’t know it at the time; A day when you weren’t plagued with responsibility, which is always associated with stress and worry. A day when you were only responsible for yourself and didn’t have to worry about your blood pressure or your diet. A day when having a good time was the only real thing that mattered. It’s funny how music affects you like that.
The Eagles played for over three hours and still did not get to sing all of their hits. To say I was impressed would be putting it mildly. The guitar pickings alone were enough to captivate your attention. They gave a stellar performance and sounded just like they did back in the day. You would never guess by listening to these guys that they were the same age as many of our grandparents.
Truth be known, it was probably as much therapy for these band members as it was for the crowd. I have heard that these gentlemen don’t get along well off stage and never really recovered from the bitter breakup that occurred many years ago. I can safely say from an audience standpoint, you would never have guessed. Their onstage performance was a magical one, creating a musical time warp we were all caught up in.
With all of the concerts I have attended, this will go down as one of the best ones ever. And getting to attend it with my father was like icing on the cake. I’m just sorry Rhonda wasn’t there to see it.
Music has a powerful effect on us that some do not even realize and impacts your life in ways you would never dream possible. It has the power to change your mood in an instant. Example: have you ever been riding down the road surfing the stations when a song comes on that you haven’t heard in years? You immediately turn the song up and sing to the top of your lungs, and in the back of your mind a particular memory associated with this song is brought back to life.
Music can be described as food to the soul or as a silent friend who is always there for you. It can cheer you up when you’re down, sympathize with a broken heart, motivate you or serve as a welcome distraction. It can allow to momentarily escape whatever problems are ailing you at the time. In some cases, music can get a bad rep for promoting violence in some people. But I say these people are already troubled, so to blame music is just a cop-out.
Music is a part of who we are. Our personality is shaped by the type of music that we listen to and has a profound influential effect on human behavior. Throughout the different stages of your life, your taste in music will mostly take you through many genres, but you will always have an appreciation for it.
I will close with some noteworthy quotes of famous people:
“When words fail, music speaks” William Shakespeare.
People haven’t always been there for me, but music has” Taylor Swift.
“ To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable” Aaron Copland
“ Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand” Stevie Wonder.
“ The Good thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain” Bob Marley.
So, the big…actually I mean HUGE news this week is the suspension of the incredibly popular series “Duck Dynasty”. Now, I must confess before I start this article that I do not watch this show, but only because I do not have time to get addicted to a reality show. With that being said, I think this the moral values of the Robertson family is a healthy addition to reality television. It shows that Christian values still exist in successful families instead of your usual starlet crap about who is sleeping with who. I must say, the Duck Dynasty loyal fan base is very impressive and leans more toward the working class who are also religious.
One thing’s for sure, the outrage over the suspension of this very popular show is the biggest I’ve seen since the Chick Fil A incident. However, it is nice to see people band together in support of this family who have turned into excellent role models for our nation. But here’s my problem with the whole thing…I think this was nothing more than a gimmick to cause a ruckus that would increase the show’s ratings and boost their popularity.
I mean, asking a man whose entire life that is based on Christian values what his views on homosexuality are is a loaded question. How did they think he was going to respond? Phil Robertson was as honest as he knew how to be and I have the utmost respect for that. It doesn’t matter what happens in life, you should always be honest and stand behind your beliefs, so please don’t think where I’m about to go with this is taking anything away from my admiration and respect of Phil Robertson’s answer.
Now, here’s what you don’t want to hear. Some gay people love Jesus too, so how are you going to tell them they are not going to Heaven because they have a lifestyle that is not like yours? Some get up and go to church every Sunday morning and reach for the good book just like you do to solve their life decisions. Their every day ritual is much like yours; they get up and go to work every day to support their families, the only difference is who they lay down beside at night. They pray every night before they go to bed.
Oh, I know the Bible says its wrong…but how can you begrudge their beliefs? Other than what the Bible states, how do we REALLY know they too will not spend eternity in Heaven? It is a question no one can really answer unless you can see past death.
Many people think leading a gay lifestyle is a choice. But what if it’s not? What if you were raised in a Christian environment and tried to suppress your inner feelings and desires because you knew it was wrong. Take Vicky Miles for instance. Vicky knew she was attracted to females when she was growing up, but she hid it from everyone, including her family, until it threatened to consume her. When she was a teenager, she became somewhat of a bully, picking fights with others to form a distraction as to the constant inner turmoil she was feeling. Thoughts of suicide ran through her mind frequently rather than to disappoint her parents with the thought of “coming out”.
One of the people Vicky was most afraid of hurting was her mother. “When I told my momma I was gay we were both crying and she asked ‘why haven’t you told me already’ , I answered’ I didn’t think you would love me’ and she replied ‘how could I not!’ explains Vicky.
When Vicky finally came out of the closet with the rest of her family, she was grateful for their support. She could at last be at peace with her choice and by doing that she found a happiness that money could never buy. But she still faced heartbreak in her journey. Her first life partner passed away with cancer at the young age of 33. She and Vicky were together for 13 years. Vicky was heartbroken, yet there were many who did not take her heartbreak seriously because they didn’t feel it was a real relationship. This was total devastation for Vicky. She grieved just like any other spouse would. She never thought she would find anyone again who would make her happy, but eventually she did move on.
When Vicky met Melissa, they fell in love and after some time together, they decided they wanted to make their family complete. Melissa underwent IUI( intra uterine insemination) and as a result, they were blessed with a son, Jacob. There have never been any prouder parents with the birth of little Jacob. He is one of the most loved little boys you will find anywhere and they make a beautiful little family. Vicky and Melissa recently got engaged and will exchange vows in front of family and friends at a later date.
Vicky is at peace now with her life and much like your average Christian, she gives thanks to God every day. She doesn’t think of her lifestyle as a choice, but more like something that was instilled at birth.
“ You don’t choose it, it chooses you. How can you choose to disappoint your family and friends because you feel something that they don’t and you don’t know why. All my life, I was taught that homosexuality was wrong and I tried with everything in me to resist these urges, but they were bigger than I was. I don’t apologize for leading an alternate lifestyle because some people feel that it is morally wrong because in the end I am happier than most heterosexual people will ever be and it took years of struggle to get me to this place”, says Vicky. “ At the end of the day, I am still a normal woman who is filled with faith and hold a strong believe in God as my Lord and Saviour”
How does Vicky feel about Phil Robertson’s response in reference to gay people? “I am not offended by his views because these are his opinions and we are all entitled to them and I respect his honesty. I have dealt with people like this my whole life, it doesn’t bother me. What I am offended by is saying homosexuality will morph into beastiality. To me, that is a bit much.”
So, my thing is this. Respect the opinions, agree or disagree, but don’t stereotype gay people, because they are creatures of God too. What seems morally wrong to you does not apply to everyone. And even though we use the Bible every day as a tool, and it says it is wrong, we should not judge people because they feel differently than us. Judging people is not something we are supposed to do. In God’s eyes we are all created equal,right?
Thanksgiving Day: a national holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year; prayer of thanks: a prayer that offers thanks to God.
This is the definition you will find when you look up the meaning of Thanksgiving. But this holiday is all this and more to me. It should be a special time when families should come together and count their blessings. Even in the hard times, you should still ban together, because family is all you have in this world that you can never replace, the good ones and yes, even the bad ones.
There’s a saying about families:” When you shake our family tree, a bunch a nuts will fall out.” Well, this is true in any family. You can’t choose your family, they are God’s gift to you. You may not even like some of them, but there should be times you should be able to make allowances for them, and Thanksgiving is one of them.
Many families have chosen to stop having family gatherings due to conflict in the family these days and I think this is huge mistake. Because how are you ever going to get past the conflict if you choose not to have any contact with them? People have blow-ups within the family all the time, and sometimes things are said in the heat of the moment that seem really terrible at the time. Which brings me to another saying, one of my favorites: “This too shall pass.”
Ninety percent of the time, if you allow a little time to pass, things will eventually settle down and you can begin to make amends. No family is perfect, so don’t ever catch yourself looking at someone else’s and think “I wish I were in that family”. I assure you, that family has just as many problems as yours, if not more. They just may be better at hiding it.
Family gatherings are very special to me and we may have had our share of problems within ours, but at the end of the day, we all still love each other. And our family gatherings are priceless. We all truly enjoy one another. After stuffing our faces to the point of agony, we all sit and socialize, laughing and talking sometimes for hours. These are times I wouldn’t trade anything for, because you cannot put a price of this kind of fellowship.
So, as this Christmas season approaches, remember to reach out to those around you; the once close friends you have lost contact with, the neighbor across the street who is always there for you, and yes, even to those who have wronged you once considered your friend. Most especially, reach out to those who don’t have any family because the Holidays are a really hard time for them.
Because here’s the thing about time, we never know when our time is going to run out and you may not have as much as you think to repair those bridges that were once burned. Many who have lost loved ones or were never able to repair friendships will tell that time can be your friend, or it can be your enemy and issues you think that are really important to you at this moment, are just not worth holding onto if you lose that person forever.
Thanksgiving is just another day is you choose to see it this way. Or, you can choose to make the most of it, with family, friends, an abundant feast, good times and making memories to last a lifetime. Life is what you make it, my friend and you hold all the cards. You can make the choice to be happy, or you can be miserable, but it’s the latter part that is so exhausting. It takes more energy to hate someone than it does to love them.
So, if you have parted ways with your family on a bitter note, now is the time to patch up. It is common for families to have misunderstandings. However, it may be wrong to assume that your family no longer loves you. The bond of love runs deep, and conflicts can be resolved with trust and understanding. This Thanksgiving Day, extend an olive branch and talk peace.
When you walk away from your Thanksgiving feast this year, make sure that not only is your stomach full, but your heart is too. Count your blessings, but also be sure to make your blessings count. Remember, it’s not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them is a true measure of Thanksgiving.
Note: Last week, there was a sentence that went into my article about disability fraud that I meant to go back and change, or even take out. So, I retract the statement I made that read: “If you’re crazy enough to draw a check then you need to be locked up somewhere”.
I am perfectly aware there are REAL people out there who suffer from mental disorders that struggle every day of their life. These are not the ones who my problem is with, it is the ones who CLAIM to have mental issues because they know this route is hard to prove in a medical sense of the word. These are people who can get out there and work as well you can, but they are lazy and have learned how to work the system.
So, if this statement offended you, please accept my apologies. This was never my intention. Also, please remember, this is in fact, an editorial, which means these are strictly my opinions and you don’t have agree with them. There is no correct or incorrect method to use here. Whether you agree or disagree, the Voices page is here for you express your opinions. So, let’s hear from you…
How many of you know someone who is drawing a disability check that does not deserve one? Well, I think this pretty much covers everyone, now doesn’t it?
In April 2013, statistics showed a 29% jump since 2003 in the number of Americans with little or no work experience getting disability payments, this meaning these people have never paid in a cent in taxes. Sure, there are many who deserve these benefits, but this number is growing smaller by the day. Nowadays, you have more people who are on disability for “diseases” that are quite frankly, just a crock. Alcoholism, obesity, depression, pregnancy…and my personal favorite, mental health.
If I worked in an SSI Office, I would have a field day, because here’s my way of thinking. If you’re overweight to the point of not working, then get out and lose some weight. If your drinking is hindering you from working, then stop. If you can’t stop getting pregnant, then seek out a tubal ligation, or better yet, abstinence. If you’re depressed, the get a job and you won’t have much time to think about how sad you are. And as far as mental health goes, well…that’s a whole other issue entirely.
And here’s the sad thing…the people who really need to be on disability have either spent years trying to get the benefits, only to be denied time and time again. Then, you have another portion of citizens actually have a disability who choose to be a part of the work force and have learned to live with this disability. They don’t use their disability as a crutch as some do and they actually have to work twice as hard as we do to get the same end results. These are the people who I have the utmost respect for…
Take for instance, Mr. Charles Hill from Lineville, AL. In 1962, just one day before Thanksgiving, he lost his right hand and part of his arm in an accident at his place of employment at the age of 21. Charles was working as a meat grinder when in a split second, the accident occurred. To make matters worse, his arm was caught in the electric grinder after being severed. So, a portion of this machine had to be removed, with Charles’ arm still attached. He was taken to Clay County Hospital in the back of a police car, because in these days, there was no ambulance or 911 to call. Even though he was in unbelievable pain, Charles remained conscious during this time so he could tell them how to disassemble the machine. As soon as the machinery was disassembled and his arm free, then he lost consciousness.
Charles long-time girlfriend, Jane, stayed by his side during this difficult time, and in just one month, they would be married on Christmas Day. Not many women would have made the choice to spend the rest of their life with a person who was considered to be handicapped, which shows what kind of person Jane was. She kept Charles grounded and never made him feel inferior in any way. In fact, she has been his biggest cheerleader for 51 years and counting. Their union would produce two children, Anthony and Anna, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Charles immediately began searching for employment after being released from the hospital, only to be turned away again and again. They would take one look at him and send him away, but he kept on pounding the pavement every day. Finally, after going to Higgin’s Slacks every day for some time, Plant Manager Mr. Parrish hired Charles to be a Bundle Boy, a fast-paced job that required a lot of lifting. In less than three months, he lost almost 50 pounds, but he able to sufficiently do the tasks. Charles was employed at Higgin’s until 1969.
The next forty years of his life took him through many different types of employment, from manual to professional. Charles did construction work, owned a junk yard, worked on vehicles, even building motors from the ground up, owned chicken houses, and sold life insurance. Charles Hill worked so hard that many people never even noticed he only had one hand. Charles never once drew a dime of disability until he was 62 years old, and then it was due to the deterioration of his shoulder. And even then, he had a hard time being approved. What an extraordinary and inspirational story that should be placed in every Social Security Office across the nation.
Another person that fits the inspirational category is Ellen Sewell of Ashland. Ellen lost four of her fingers on her left hand when she was just a toddler, but she didn’t let that stop her from doing whatever she wanted. She credits her father for her strong work ethic because she said he never treated her like she had any kind of handicap and always encouraged her in every aspect of her life. Ellen has spent the majority of her life doing manual labor through carpenter work, and could work circles around many men. She is also a talented seamstress to boot. At 58 years old, Ellen is the owner of the Brown Gables House in Ashland, AL, a beautiful, historical home she almost singlehandedly reconstructed after it was destroyed by fire.
I had a politician tell me one time that the reason deserving people can’t seem to get any financial aid is because they are honest. It was the saddest statement I had ever heard, but probably the most truthful. There are many on disability and every type of government aid they can get their hands on who have learned how to work the system, so that is why the cycle continues with each generation. This is just one of the many things that is steadily crippling our country.
When President Barack Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, there were 142,187,000 people employed and 7,442,377 workers taking federal disability payments. That equaled about 1 person taking disability payments for each 19.1 people actually working. In May of this year, there were 142,287,000 people employed, and 8,707,185 workers taking federal disability payments. That equaled 1 worker taking disability payments for each 16.3 people working.
Guess that’s another “record” for Obama, huh? Boy, he’s really racking them up, isn’t he?
as reported by: Tammy Griffin Andrews in the July 22, 2012 edition of The Clay Times-Journal
An answer and counterclaim has been filed by former Clay County jail inmates, Anthony Haywood and Daniel Hall, also in response to the civil lawsuit for libel and slander filed against them and former Correctional Officer Phillip Green by Clay County Administrator Scott Cotney.
In addition, The Counterclaim also names the Clay County Commission and Sheriff Dorothy “Jean Dot” Alexander to the list of the Defendants.
In the answer and Counterclaim, Haywood and Hall report the sexual misconduct in 100% true. The 21-page lawsuit gives explicit details to the sexual abuse they allegedly suffered at the hands of Scott Cotney and how Clay County jail employees were aware of wrongdoing, yet not one would come forward. It goes on to state how Sheriff Alexander and the Clay County Commission were and should have been aware of the sexual misconduct and still did nothing to report it.
Here are those named in the lawsuit and counterclaim and what role they played:
In the original civil lawsuit, Cotney claimed that former Correctional Officer Phillip Green and inmates Anthony Haywood and Daniel Hall made” false defamatory statements” against him as well as “instigating vicious rumors” that accused him of abusing an inmate.
As a result of these allegations, Cotney claimed he suffered humiliation, embarrassment, damage to his reputation, mental anguish and/or emotional distress.
Cotney was placed on Administrative leave when these allegations unfolded, but is not back at work as Administrator for the Clay County Jail.
Attorney for Plaintiff Scott Cotney, Joseph Ficquette, says the allegations in the counterclaim made by Haywood and Hall are utterly false or “almost fantasy”. “ I look forward to our day in court when a jury of Clay County citizens will be listening to testimony and hopefully agreeing with us.” Says Ficquette.
Former Correctional Officer Phillip Green said he was employed at the Clay County Jail for two years. Not long after being hired there, he began to take notice that some things were just “not right”.
Green earned a trustworthy reputation with the inmates along the way. One day, Green claimed that inmate Hall came to him and said “ Mr. Green, I just can’t take it anymore.” Hall began to tell Green stories of the sexual abuse he had sufferd at the hands of Scott Cotney and how he had no one to turn to. Green stated Hall told him this misconduct had been going on for quite some time, even before Green’s employment.
Green felt it was duty to investigate these complaints to help Haywood and Hall, so he began gathering statements from Haywood, Hall, and even other unnamed inmates who also claimed they had suffered sexual misconduct from Scott Cotney as well.
Green took the information he had gathered from these inmates and reported these allegations of Cotney’s sexual misconduct against them while Cotney was in charge of the Clay County Jail.
Agents from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation (ABI) and the Attorney General’s office traveled to the Clay County Jail to investigate, interviewing the inmates Hall and Haywood to take their statements. Quickly thereafter, Hall was removed from the Clay County Jail and transported to Kilby Correctional Facility in Montgomery.
A short time afterwards, Inmate Haywood was also transferred from Clay County Jail to Kilby as well.
Green said he had always thought a great deal of Sheriff Alexander because she was always good to him. But one day when Green and Alexander were making idle conversation, he made the remark to Alexander “You don’t know about a lot of things going on around here.” To which Alexander replied, “ I know more than you think I know.”
After that, Green said it wasn’t long before he was released from his employment at the facility ( Clay County Jail) with no specific reason being given for his sudden termination.
Green took the accusations of the inmates very seriously, and continued to assist in the investigation even after his employment was terminated.
Anthony Haywood claims during the period of time he was incarcerated in the Clay County Jail, he would be assigned to work on road crews. Upon returning from work, Cotney would single him out of the four- -to- five man work crew and take him to a private area where he would order Haywood to remove his clothing and then proceed to touch him in a private manner. Haywood claims these strip searches were not for legitimate jail security, but for Cotney’s sexual gratification.
In 2009-2010 Cotney made Haywood a Trustee and assigned him to work in the jail kitchen. At different times, Haywood was subjected to sexual advances from Cotney that stemmed from innapropriate touching to sexual remarks referring to Haywood’s body.
As an inmate under the control of Defendants, Haywood said he was unable to escape Cotney’s sexual advances, thus claiming this caused him constant humiliation, embarrassment, and mental and emotional distress.
Former State Inmate Daniel Hall claims his endurance of Cotney’s sexual abuse spanned over an 18 month period.
During this time, Hall was taken off the jail premises numerous times by Cotney, and transported to Cotney’s mobile home in Millerville, AL, and then later to his new residence in Ashland. It was during one of these times when Cotney forced Hall to allow him to perform sexual acts on him while Cotney was still in full uniform and badge. Cotney threatened Hall that is he told anyone, he would send him back to prison with a “ bad report card”. This reference meaning denial and delay of this parole and/or severe disciplinary action, such as confinement in “The Hole”, or being sent back to a maximum security prison.
During Hall’s 18 month period as Cotney’s unwilling sex slave, it became customary for Cotney to take Hall out of the jail and off the premises with Hall dressed in street clothing at least one to two times a week.
These trips included accompanying Cotney to the local grocery store, where Hall claimed Cotney would purchase food for his personal use on the Sheriff’s personal account. Hall also stated he accompanied Cotney at different times as well to go shopping for clothing, shoes, a camper trailer, a flat screen television, and a DVD player. These trips occurred on weekdays and weekends, ranging as far as Sylacauga, Childersburg and Pell City, AL.
On many of these trips, Hall claimed they would encounter Sheriff Alexander, who would just wave as they passed by in their vehicles. Cotney also kept Hall well-groomed by regularly taking the inmate to a local barber shop in Ashland.
On days or weekends when Cotney was off-duty, he would call the jail and have Corrections Officer or jail employees obtain Hall from the jail and deliver him to Cotney’s home for sexual purposes. Hall, who is married and has a son, said this would cause him great shame and humiliation.
One particular occasion Hall recalled when Cotney took the inmate to his residence to help him install a large flat screen television Cotney had purchased by using rebates earned from food purchases for the jail from Red Diamond Foods. After the installation, Hall said he was forced to watch pornographic movies on this television with Cotney present, resulting in sexual activity.
Cotney also purchased a digital camera on one trip to Walmart when accompanied by Hall. After purchasing the camera, Cotney then ordered the unwilling inmate to be photographed in the nude for Cotney’s own personal pleasure.
Hall also claimed in the counterclaim it was common practice for the inmates to be taken from the jail to perform personal services, such as lawn care, carpentry, auto mechanics, and general manual labor for the employees of the jail and Sheriff’s Department, the Court system, individuals and businesses in the community unrelated to legitimate work release programs.
Sheriff Jean Dot Alexander said she was not at liberty to divulge any information on the counterclaim because of the ongoing criminal investigation which has links to the lawsuit, as she has previously reported to the Clay Times Journal.
However, Alexander stressed she felt quite confident that once the criminal investigation was completed that there would be no wrongdoings found and she, Cotney, and the County Commission would be exonerated. “ I am quite certain of this” said Alexander confidently.
County Attorney Greg Varner says they were currently preparing a defense strategy. “ We are planning to vigorously fight the allegations made toward to County Commission” Varner stated.
Hall and Haywood are seeking compensatory damages for mental and emotional anguish, humiliation, mental, physical, and emotional distress. They have both given statements to investigators for the ABI and the Alabama Department of Corrections. Both are still incarcerated at Kilby Prison at this time. According to reliable sources, Hall and Haywood have both been given polygraph tests and have both passed.
Anniston Attorney Ray Bryan. Attorney for Phillip Green and inmates Hall and Haywood gave the following statement: “This case represents the worst kind of abuse of power. These young men were entrusted into the custody and care of the Clay County Sheriff’s Department while paying their debt to society for the crimes they committed. However, their punishment went beyond all standards of decency as they were made to submit to the sexual demands of Jail Administrator Scott Cotney, who demanded the surrender of their manhood or face severe punishment in prison or longer prison terms. The irony of this case is that these men were so ashamed and humiliated by what happened to them while incarcerated in the Clay County Jail, they would have probably never talked publicly about the harm they suffered at the hands of the Jailer, had Scott Cotney not sued them for reporting what he had done to them in the jail. By Cotney suing them, the inmates and former Correctional Officer Phillip Green were forced to publicly answer Cotney’s complaint and slander by responding with the truth of what really happened to these inmates, Haywood and Hall.