“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” ~Sam Keen
I recently went with girlfriends to hear one of our favorite beach bands play. Since I turn into a pumpkin at midnight, I talked a friend into taking me home early.
While walking to our car, we witnessed a couple fighting. There was no pushing or shoving. Fists weren’t involved. Bizarrely enough, this couple was on opposite sides of the parking lot having their fight over their cell phones.
Due to the volume of their voices, the fight was easy to follow. Apparently, she didn’t give a rip about anyone but herself (his point of view) and he was a control freak (her point of view). There was much discussion back and forth and the words weren’t very nice, so I’ll gloss over that. However, what struck me about that fight was how pointless it seemed.
Did that couple realize how lucky they were to have each other? I wanted to scream at both of them, “What if something tragic happened to one of you on the way home tonight—would this fight have been worth it?”
I see too many couples take their relationships for granted. They forget why they fell in love. They forget the dreams they had and the plans they made. They forget their promises and commitments. The “healthy” of their relationships is based on personal happiness, rather than doing what is best for the both of them.
Love is a choice, not a feeling or an emotion. It’s a decision you make every day of your life. Even when your mate doesn’t take out the trash, or spends too much time at the mall, or when your new haircut or outfit goes unnoticed, or when poor financial decisions set you back—you can still decide to love.
Love is for better or worse. And when you choose not to love, you’ve given up and given in.
It’s a decision you’ll regret.
Take it from a widow that wishes every day that she had her husband at home to leave the toilet seat up, or scatter Popsicle sticks and papers all around the couch, or smoke stinky cigars in the house, or forget to pay the bills or pick up the kids. All those imperfections about your mate are what you will miss the most when they are gone.
Choosing to love isn’t always easy, but it is worth the effort. Here are some ways you can choose to love on a daily basis:
1. Let go of the little things. If you are truly honest, you’ll realize most of them are little things.
2. Give more than you take in your relationship.
3. Love without strings attached.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
5. Look at the world through your mate’s eyes. Seeing things from their perspective helps you better understand their actions and motivations.
6. Pay attention to your mate. Look at them and focus on what they are saying or doing.
7. Before you blame, examine yourself first.
8. Let it be okay that you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree.
9. Accept and celebrate your mate’s differences and uniqueness. Face it—you can’t change them, but you can change your attitude about their quirks.
10. Validate your mate’s feelings. Don’t try to “fix” their perspective or contradict them. Accept their feelings without judgment or correction.
11. Hold hands.
12. Work as a team. You are life mates, not room mates.
13. Be flexible with your mate. While consensus is always the goal, sometimes we have to bend to the other’s wishes.
14. Share your vulnerabilities and fears with your mate. A load carried by two is easier than one carried alone.
15. Be faithful to your mate, both emotionally and physically.
16. Don’t hide things from your mate. Trust is fragile—handle with care.
17. Send love notes—a card, text, voice mail, or message on a sticky note or the bathroom mirror will do.
18. Laugh. A lot.
19. Speak respectfully of your mate. They like to hear you talk about them favorably in front of others, but it means even more when you talk glowingly about them when they aren’t around.
20. Encourage your mate to be the best person they can be. Support their hobbies, learning interests, and passions. Be their biggest fan.
21. Apologize. And mean it.
22. Forgive. And mean it.
23. Develop couple rituals that are known only to you.
24. Work on goals and dreams together. Planning is half the joy.
25. Public displays of affection!
26. Say “yes” more often than “no.”
27. Appreciate the inner beauty of your mate.
28. Accept and love your mate’s family and friends.
29. Schedule time alone together, even if it’s just a walk around the block or drive in the country.
30. Love yourself. You can’t decide to love another until you can decide to love yourself.
Loving another person isn’t easy, and it can’t be based on feelings or emotions that fluctuate like the weather. Choose actions that show your love, and make the decision to do it every day.
Shomari Stone, a reporter for KOMO-TV in Seattle was shooting a on-camera standup for a story when he saw a fight break out. He quickly jumped in to break up the melee. (Feb. 27)
CLEVELAND – A day after a homeless man from Columbus became an Internet sensation, the Cleveland Cavaliers have offered the man a job and a house, the team confirmed to NewsChannel5. Ted Williams has become a national phenomenon overnight, and during an interview on Columbus radio station 97.9 Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman from the Cavs called in and made him the offer.The team offered Williams full-time voiceover work with the Cavs and Quicken Loans, and also offered to pay a mortgage on a home.“That’s the best deal ever!” Williams said.A Cavs spokesman said that the organization is trying to “tighten up their offer,” and be more specific in the deal.Since his story has gone viral online, Williams has started receiving job offers from all over the country, but said during the radio show that the offer from the Cavs is the best one yet.The story was first reported in the Columbus Dispatch, after photographer Doral Chenowerth took video of Williams standing on the side of the road with a side that read, “I have a God given gift of a great voice.” He asked Williams to show off his voice, and the video took off soon after it went up online.
The 10 habits that will make you look your best all the time? You’re welcome.
By Farah Averill
This article is sponsored in part by Gillette (What’s this?)
The desire to look good is in our nature as human beings. After all, attractive people are more popular with members of the opposite sex and some studies suggest they’re financially more successful, too. Of course, there are an overwhelming number of things and products you can try in your quest to be the best version of yourself. What really works, however, are these top 10 habits that improve your appearance. Adopt these habits today and you’ll see a noticeable improvement in your appearance in two weeks’ time.
Page 2: Change your bedsheets
Dirty pillow cases are a prime reason for breakouts, so switching your sheets once a week will reduce your skin‘s contact with pore-clogging grime. It’s particularly important to lay out some fresh bedding if you frequently have a female in your bed, as residue from women’s makeup and hair products can get left behind on your sheets and subsequently be transferred to your face.
Page 3: Shampoo no more than once a day
Ideally, you should wash your hair no more than a few times a week as over-shampooing can strip your hair of its natural oils, leaving it dull and brittle. If you’re a regular exerciser, however, you can’t get around lathering up on a daily basis, so make sure to follow up with an intensive conditioner. For men who can’t get morning workouts in, skip the shampoo session if you shower in the a.m. and suds up only after you exercise later in the day.
Page 4: Floss every day and whiten teeth every six months
For a more attractive smile, nothing beats regular flossing as it gets rid of any unsightly buildup between your teeth. Take things one step further by using a drugstore whitening kit, which will do an excellent job of noticeably, but not freakishly, lightening the color of your teeth. Just make sure you whiten no more than once every six months or you could develop sensitive gums. For a week after whitening, avoid consuming products that could stain your teeth, such as red wine, coffee and soy sauce, and brush your teeth as soon as you can if you slip up.
Page 5: See a barber every three to six weeks
Keeping your hair trimmed is an easy way to ensure that you always look polished. It’s also typically inexpensive and quick. Once you’ve found a barber you like, stick with him so that he’ll always get it right when you come in for a cut.
Page 6: Shave after showering
Steaming up your bathroom is a bit like creating your own personal sauna. This humid environment will open up your pores, make your facial hair softer and plumper, and prime your follicles, all of which will reduce your chances of developing ingrown hairs and experiencing razor burn. If you don’t have time for a shower, create a hot compress by soaking a face towel in hot water and then applying it to your face for two to three minutes.
Page 7: Cleanse, moisturize, apply eye care cream, and use lip balm every morning
A basic skin care routine is an absolute must for improving your appearance. Start with a mild cleanser, preferably one with a 2% concentration of salicylic acid to help zap zits. Follow it up two to three times a week with an exfoliant to really get the gunk out of your skin and slough off dead cells. Next, apply a moisturizer that contains a broad-spectrum SPF to replenish your skin’s moisture levels and prevent aging related to sun damage. Then dab on an eye cream, working from the outside in toward the center of your face, to hydrate and keep the thin skin in this region supple. Finally, slick on a lip balm with an SPF of 15 to keep your lips soft, smooth and kissable.
Page 8: Avoid sugar and simple carbs
A diet that’s high in lean protein, vegetables, slow-digesting grains, and healthy fats is one that will reduce bloating in your belly and decrease any puffiness in your face. Furthermore, steering clear of sugar and simple carbs will go a long way toward eliminating acne or keeping it at bay as junk food, even in moderate amounts, is a common cause of troubled skin.
Page 9: Get eight hours of sleep
Those seven to nine hours that you should be spending unconscious every day are when your body repairs itself. Skimping on this vital restorative process makes your entire system run less efficiently, and the signs of sleep deprivation show up on your face first. In fact, all it takes is a few nights without enough sleep before you start looking like a haggard zombie. On the other hand, prioritizing sleep will guarantee you appear refreshed and alert and it will also decrease puffy eyes and unflattering dark circles.
Page 10: Drink eight glasses of water a day
Staying hydrated keeps you healthy and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. Sipping water slowly rather than pounding it also makes it easier for your body to absorb. Additionally, be mindful of your caffeine and alcohol intake. Both substances are diuretics, meaning they cause your body to release water, which can translate into pasty, dry skin and more visible fine lines. Offset your consumption of these beverages by drinking an 8oz glass of water for each caffeinated or alcoholic drink you indulge in.
Page 11: Consider exercise non-negotiable
The No. 1 way to improve your appearance is to get fit. Start thinking of exercise as a must-do item on your to-do list and you’ll slow down the aging process, get better-looking skin, increase your confidence, and on top of everything, you’ll feel amazing. Engage in physical activity in the morning, and you’ll benefit further by burning more fat and kicking off your day with a feel-good endorphin rush. An early sweat session will also boost your circulation, so you’ll have clear, bright skin all day long — a potent sign to women that you’re a virile, healthy bedmate.
Indianapolis (CNN) — Ten years ago, days before Christmas, President Bill Clinton changed my life forever. I was in federal prison, serving the seventh year of a 24-year sentence for a first-time nonviolent crack cocaine offense.
Clinton’s mercy and acknowledgement that my sentence was unjust led him to grant me a commutation. Had he not done so, I would be in prison until 2016. On December 22, the anniversary of my release, I will join others in a fast for justice to honor those in prison who deserve the same relief from their long sentences for low-level drug offenses.
Many things have changed in the last decade. I graduated from college, attended law school, got married, raised my son who was born while I was incarcerated and gave birth to a daughter. I also established my own foundation to give hope to children of incarcerated parents.
Below is a link to a tremendous resource for your workout routines to help you work off the holiday weight and keep it off.
Enabling The Disabled To Play Sweet Music http://n.pr/fAQ5dz
Enabling The Disabled To Play Sweet Music
by Linton WeeksBecky Lettenberger/NPRSharon Adams, 40, plays a bell tree during a recent rehearsal of the interPLAY orchestra, which is made up of 60 adults with and without disabilities. Adams struggles with a learning disability and can read “a little.” She has been a member of interPLAY for 15 years.
The interPLAY company band is rehearsing on a recent Monday night in the elegant Music Center at Strathmore on the outskirts of Washington, D.C.
We are born with a gene for making music. … My job is to find out where that music is in this population and get it out.
- Paula Moore, interPLAY’s founder and conductor
* On a gourd shaker, Kristen Uleck, 38, who came into the world with spina bifida and epilepsy, and sits in a wheelchair.
* On a bell tree, Sharon Adams, 40, who has struggled with learning disabilities all her life, can read “a little” and spent her younger years in one special education school after another.
* On tambourine, Jared Raskin, 23, in a T-shirt and boarder shorts. When asked to speak of his disability, he says, “I just have a very good life.”
* And using his voice like a jungle bird, J.P. Illarramendi, 36. ”I was born with Down syndrome,” Illarramendi says. “I’m just like everybody else with the same disability. Over the years I have been put on the cymbals and drums. Today I get to use my vocal cords as the instrument.”
The four musicians — along with a roomful of other adults, with and without cognitive disabilities — are practicing an extremely complex Brazilian jazz piece for a 2011 concert. The rehearsal, a combination of hard work and goofiness, lasts 90 minutes. Three times a year the orchestra performs publicly.
Kristen Uleck, who often stands up with the help of braces to play in concerts, says she learned about interPLAY more than a dozen years ago through someone in her group home. “I got interested in wanting to play music. I can’t read music,” she says, grinning. “I’d never thought of becoming a professional musician.”
The Music Gene
Paula Moore, the godmother — and primary conductor — of interPLAY, is sitting on the hallway floor before the rehearsal. She is wearing blue jeans, a white collarless sweater-shirt, sneakers and a scarf around her neck. Sunglasses are perched on her head. For a mother who raised three adult sons, she still has a lot of energy.Becky Lettenberger/NPRJ.P. Illarramendi, 36, was born with Down syndrome. Illarramendi vocalizes like a jungle bird at the beginning of a Brazilian jazz piece that interPLAY will perform publicly in January.
Brain research tells us, Moore says, that when “we all come on to this earth, we are born with a gene for making music. Some of us make music when we have keys in our hands and we are tapping with the keys. Or we are standing at the stove and we’ve got a wooden spoon. … Or we’re humming in the shower. That all comes from somewhere.”
And, she says, “my job is to find out where that music is in this population and get it out.”
I’m With The Band
Hear a clip of correspondent Linton Weeks’ conversation with members of the interPLAY band. Speaking in order: Kristen Uleck, Sharon Adams, Jared Raskin and J.P. Illarramendi in a rehearsal hall at the Music Center at Strathmore.
The way Moore does it is through interPLAY. The core group of about 45 cognitively disabled adults — ranging in age from 23 to 62, all living independently and working in the community — meets once a week to rehearse. With assistance from volunteers, known as bandaides, the musicians play along with recorded music to learn what they will be playing live in concerts. As a public performance approaches, Moore brings in 20 or so professional musicians— who play the more difficult strings, woodwinds, horns and percussion — to rehearse with the entire band.
Together the pros and the core performers — playing tambourines, castanets, drums and other percussion instruments — stage a concert, with Moore as conductor. For the finale, ushers hand out instruments — to every member of the audience. At the next public concert, on Jan. 31, a professional jazz quartet will play with the interPLAY regulars.
“We pay the professional musicians who work with us a stipend — mostly for gas and for a thank you,” she says. The pros take home $75 for two rehearsals and the concert. “We are a nonprofit struggling like every other nonprofit on earth right now. And that’s how we do it.”
The interPLAY band has a board of directors and an illustrious advisory committee that includes jazz pianist and composer Dr. Billy Taylor, Scottish percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, Choral Arts Society Director Norman Scribner and former National Symphony Orchestra timpanist Fred Begun. The annual budget is $112,500, Moore says, and each of the disabled musicians pays a nominal fee — usually less than $1,000 a year — to belong.
“Remember they come to us with absolutely no musical education whatsoever,” Moore says. Members of the orchestra are learning to be musicians. “This is not therapy and must not ever be construed as such.”
Music therapy, she points out, “is quite expensive for about 50 minutes of time.” The interPLAY musicians, on the other hand, receive about two hours of time each week, plus concerts, opportunities for personal performances and other “instruction disciplines,” she says. Scholarships are available. Moore says that she is paid a “paltry” salary.
The InterPLAY Effect
Asked about interPLAY’s effect on disabled musicians, Glennie — who is deaf — says that a band for people with cognitive disabilities means “inclusion rather than exclusion.”Becky Lettenberger/NPROrchestra member Jared Raskin, 23. When asked about his disability, he says, “I just have a very good life.”
“Society cannot continue to disable themselves through their need to categorize people or make assumptions as to another individual’s abilities,” Glennie says. “The human body and mind are tremendous forces that are continually amazing scientists and society. Therefore, we have no choice but to keep an open mind as to what the human being can achieve.”
Roberta B. Hochberg, an interPLAY board member, says, “You cannot help but be profoundly affected by watching the joy on the faces of the band members when they play and then receive positive feedback from the audience.”
She adds, “I have been able to see growth in a number of the players. I have seen members learn to concentrate and follow instructions.”
There are similar ventures throughout the country. Special Orchestra, a nonprofit group in New Mexico, helps musicians play three-chord songs. Special Music By Special People in Chicago showcases performances by musicians with Down syndrome. The Coalition for Disabled Musicians brings performers together. And there are organizations for specific types of disabled musicians, such as the Disabled Drummers Association.
Certain symphony orchestras also offer programs for disabled members of the community.
But “what makes us a rarity,” Moore says about interPLAY, “is that the band has the opportunity to ‘live’ in a $160 million concert building.”
The Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda is a majestic glass-and-stone building with many rehearsal spaces and an auditorium that holds about 2,000. With tall windows and top-notch acoustics, the hall is impressive and somewhat imposing. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra plays there. So does the National Philharmonic. And a parade of musical giants, including smooth clarinetist Kenny G; unpredictable pianist Ben Folds; shred guitarist Joe Satriani; virtuoso vocalist Patti LaBelle.
And the enthusiastic musicians of interPLAY company.
On this night, the interPLAY orchestra is gathered in a vast rehearsal hall with high ceilings, bright lights and a mirrored wall. The members sit in plastic stackable chairs or wheelchairs facing Paula Moore. Some sit by themselves, some have bandaides reminding them when to play the tambourines, click-clack the castanets or tilt the rainsticks.Enlarge Becky Lettenberger/NPRPaula Moore conducts the interPLAY orchestra. She founded the group 20 years ago after seeing how music inspired her third son, Michael, who was born with Down syndrome.
There are some rules.
“Because we are working as a team,” Moore says, “there are certain basics that have to be accomplished in order for us to be an orchestra.”
The art of orchestration “is very complicated,” she says. “Very often one person is playing one instrument and the two people on the other side of him or her are playing different instruments. And so there has to be some level of understanding of how this can work.”
Performers, she says, “have to be able to watch the conductors, whoever they are. And they also have to be pretty mature socially. Because it is a huge group of people.”
Also, Moore says, “and this is an odd one: They have to be OK with loud music. We play very bombastic music sometimes. Whether it be marches, whether it be Mahler, whatever it is. And there are a number of people with disabilities who can’t handle this kind of music.”
Moore and others pore over confidential medical information when a musician is being considered for the band.
“We look at these things very carefully,” she says, “because we want to make sure that everyone that comes in is a good meld for everybody else.”
Paula Moore is a piece of music herself — playful and light, then stern and demanding. She is a serious conductor, and she expects her orchestra to follow her baton.
The interPLAY company, originally called the Mighty Special Music Makers, was founded by Moore 20 years ago. She got the idea from watching her third son, Michael, who was born with Down syndrome. He loved to make music.
“Our house has always been full of music,” Moore says. “For my other two boys, I had a vast array of all different kinds of music. Somehow I had Peter and the Wolf. One day I put Peter and the Wolf on, and the next thing I knew, this under-2-year-old little Mikey was singing to it. He wasn’t singing the way you and I would. He didn’t have words. He was singing the instrumentation. And it blew my mind.”
Michael knew all the different parts, Moore says, “and I would play it over and over and over again, and he got better and better and better. It was just very clear that this was one of the gifts he had, in place of what he didn’t have.”
Today Michael still plays music. He lives in a group home in Pennsylvania. He is taking cello lessons, and he plays two pitched handbells in a 90-piece orchestra. The orchestra has performed in Carnegie Hall and at Lincoln Center in New York.
“It’s a very exciting thing to be sitting in Carnegie Hall and watching your Down syndrome son playing Bartok,” Moore says.
She describes the experience in the same energetic, enthusiastic manner that she describes every Monday night at interPLAY rehearsals:
“It’s just an extraordinary feeling. All the hackles, wherever hackles are on your body, I’ve never known where they are — but they are up.”
Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear|Jon and Stephen – Formidable Opponent http://www.comedycentral.com/videos/index.jhtml?videoId=363861
Times Square bomb plotter sentenced to life in prisonBy the CNN Wire StaffSTORY HIGHLIGHTS
- NEW: Faisal Shahzad remains defiant, saying “the defeat of the U.S. is imminent”
- He pleaded guilty in June to 10 counts stemming from the failed bombing
- Prosecutors said Shahzad planned to detonate a second bomb if the first had worked
New York (CNN) — A 30-year-old Pakistani-American was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for attempting to detonate a vehicle bomb in Times Square this year.
Faisal Shahzad was defiant before a judge sentenced him Tuesday, saying “the defeat of the U.S. is imminent.”
Shahzad pleaded guilty in June to all 10 counts in an indictment against him. At the time, he told the court, “I want to plead guilty 100 times because unless the United States pulls out of Afghanistan and Iraq, until they stop drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen and stop attacking Muslim lands, we will attack the United States and be out to get them.”
Charges against Shahzad included attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy and attempt to commit international terrorism, among others, authorities have said.
Shahzad is accused of attempting to set off a vehicle bomb in Times Square on May 1, according to documents filed in federal court Wednesday.
Prosecutors said Shahzad carefully selected his location as a highly populated target and intended to strike again if he wasn’t caught the first time.
The bomb failed to detonate and he was arrested two days later while trying to leave the country on a flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport bound for Pakistan.
In a sentencing memo submitted to a federal court Wednesday, prosecutors painted a picture of a young man determined to target Americans on a large scale.
According to the memo, Shahzad used webcams accessible on the internet “as part of his effort to maximize the deadly effect of his bomb.”
The memo says Shahzad found webcams online and studied the real-time video feeds of different areas in Times Square to determine when and where he could inflict the most damage.
Prosecutors said Shahzad “wanted to select the busiest time for pedestrian traffic in Times Square because pedestrians walking on the streets would be easier to kill and to injure than people driving in cars.”
Federal prosecutors also contended in the sentencing memo that Shahzad believed the bomb would kill about 40 people and that he “was prepared to conduct additional attacks until he was captured or killed.”
According to the document, at the time of his arrest, Shahzad waived his Miranda rights and stated that “if he had not been arrested he planned to detonate a second bomb in New York City two weeks later.”
At a June court appearance, Shahzad admitted to receiving five days of weapons training in Waziristan, in Pakistan.
Prosecutors said Shahzad spent 40 days beginning in December 2009 in the tribal region that straddles Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he lived with members of the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP.
According to the court documents, he worked with an experienced bomb trainer affiliated with the TTP for five days. In addition, Shahzad was given $5,000 to help fund the mission and agreed to appear in a TTP video glorifying the planned attack.
The roughly 40-minute video, according to its description in the memo, features Shahzad quoting from the Quran while the other side of the screen is filled with images of Times Square after the botched bombing.
Toward the end of the video, the memo quotes Shahzad as saying, “I have been trying to join my brothers in jihad every day since 9/11 happened. I am planning to wage an attack inside America.”
Being bullied is hell, but life gets betterBy LZ Granderson, Special to CNNSTORY HIGHLIGHTS
- LZ Granderson was regularly beaten, demeaned, and bullied by his stepfather
- Granderson says he tried to end his life at 12, but went on to get stronger and fight back
- He ended up with graduate degree, happily living with partner and 13-year-old son
- His message to those who are bullied: It gets better; don’t give up, happiness is ahead
Editor’s note: LZ Granderson is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com, and has contributed to ESPN’s Sports Center, Outside the Lines and First Take. He is a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism, and a 2010 and 2008 honoree of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for column-writing.
Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) — One night before going to bed, I walked into the bathroom, opened the medicine cabinet, and swallowed an entire bottle of aspirin. I was 12, poor and not very attractive.
My stepfather routinely used me as a punching bag, and as I was entering puberty, I was entering a confusing period with regard to my sexuality. I just didn’t see life getting any better, and so that night I decided to end mine.
When I woke up the next morning, I was dizzy, lethargic, vomiting — and confused. “Why am I still alive?” I wondered. Maybe I was a loser, as my stepfather had told me countless times before; after all, I couldn’t even kill myself right. Of course I would find out much later that I had less than a 5 percent chance of dying from an aspirin overdose.
And despite everything that was going on in my life, and I mean everything, life would get better.
That doesn’t mean things immediately turned around after that night.
In fact, when my stepfather learned I was too sick to go to school because I swallowed a bottle of pills, he beat me again. And for four more years the beatings continued. But eventually I grew stronger and I learned to fight back — physically, but more important, mentally.
The abuse stopped, and his chokehold on the way I saw myself was gone. I earned a scholarship to college, then a full ride to graduate school, and today I am happily partnered and the proud father of a 13-year-old boy who thinks my sole purpose in life is to drive him around.
So for any young person who is being bullied in school, or as in my case, at home, don’t give up. It gets better.
But if I had died that night, 25 years ago, I would not have been around to know. I would not have been around for all of the amazing opportunities I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing, like having beers with my favorite singer, Kenny Chesney; driving through a rainstorm with the Jeep top down; or falling in love. For years I continued to have nightmares from my violent upbringing, but they are happening less and less, as the pain of my childhood continues to give way to the joys of life. And believe me, there are joys, even if the dark cloud of your current circumstances makes it difficult to see.
Brad Paisley has a song, “Letter To Me,” and in it he fantasizes about an adult being able to offer encouraging words to his teenage self in a letter.
You’ve got so much up ahead,
You’ll make new friends.
You should see your kids and wife.
And I’d end by saying have no fear,
These are nowhere near the best years of your life …
The first time I heard the song, I began recalling the sense of hopelessness and desperation that used to haunt my life, and then the tears freely began to flow. If I could’ve written a letter to my 12-year-old self, I would’ve told him, this too shall pass. If I could’ve written a letter to Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his college roommate allegedly posted embarrassing video of him online, I would’ve told him, “I know life is hard right now, but it does get better.”
The same for 13-year-old Hope Witsell and 18-year-old Jesse Logan, two girls who committed suicide in separate incidents last year after explicit photos of them were made public. My heart just breaks hearing stories about someone as young as Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, who was just 11 when he hanged himself last year because he was being bullied at school and felt so helpless and alone. This is why I felt compelled to open up about the troubling things that happened early in my life — so any young, hurting soul who stumbles across this column would know he or she is not alone.
Syndicated columnist Dan Savage recently started the “It Gets Better” project on YouTube as a way of rallying support for GLBT students who are being bullied and feeling alone. But I would say the stories are universal and can offer comfort to any student who may be a victim of bullying. Remember, pain and isolation know no race, gender, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation.
And thankfully, neither do hope and love.
I was around Walker-Hoover’s age when, one morning before school, I was beaten so badly, the blood coming from the welts on my arms soaked portions of the sleeves of the shirt I was wearing. The spots caught the attention of one of my teachers, Ms. Jackson, who asked what happened. Fighting back tears, I said “nothing.” She asked if I was sure, and I said “yeah,” afraid of what would happen if I said otherwise.
I’m not sure how things would have turned out if I had reached for her helping hand that day. But I do know how things would’ve turned out had the hand of death grabbed me that night 25 years ago.
I would’ve missed life getting better. So much better.
The opinions in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.