Officer to My Son: “Let’s Both Get Home Safe.”

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I took my teen son to an empty school parking lot on Sunday afternoon to practice driving and a police officer pulled him over.

I was in the passenger seat, and the officer asked my permission to chat with Mini-Me #2.

Sgt. Hugate (who gave me permission to use his name) had watched my son practice signaling and turning and parking for about half an hour before motioning for him to stop, with a smile and a welcoming gesture.

With my consent, he spent about 10 minutes sharing his perspective as a member of law enforcement about how Mini-Me #2, as a teen driver, could stay safe if/when pulled over.

Before he launched into the advice, he led with his heart, telling Mini-Me #2:

– He spent the day before driving around a similar school parking lot teaching his own son how to drive, so he knew how meaningful and memorable the task at hand was.

– Everyday when he goes to work, he wants to be sure to make it home to his family; so the advice he was prepared to share was designed to keep both my son and him safe.

Then he walked through how an officer typically approaches a vehicle and explained that an alert officer is always on guard because he never knows who or what he may encounter when making a routine traffic stop – regardless of race, gender, age, etc.

Next, he told Mini-me #2 a few things that most parents of color often share already with their adolescent sons and daughters, during what we call “The Talk:”

– Keep your hands visible at all times. (He demonstrated where to position them on the steering wheel and suggested that placing them on driver’s side windowsill would be another option.)

– Over-communicate about every single move you make, from shifting to reach for your license to reaching to open your door.

– Stay calm and respectful and respond to all questions when asked. (Most people actually talk themselves INTO getting tickets, he said, because they can’t manage to stay calm.)

– If the situation permits, before placing your hands on the steering wheel or outside the window, call a parent and put him/her on speakerphone, so that there is a “third party witness to keep both of us safe.”

My son appreciated the feedback, which reinforced messages he has already heard from me and his dad and others in our “village.”

Sgt. Hugate, who is Caucasian, looked Mini-Me squarely in the eyes while informing him that yes – there are indeed some cops who shouldn’t be wearing badges or in the law enforcement field, because they don’t do what is right or good; but he is not one of them.

We didn’t discuss Charlottesville, Trayvon Martin, or any of the senseless violence that has occurred in many instances in between. In those few minutes in that high school parking lot, the olive branch he extended was an aha moment that even some officers are willing to be real and honest about the realities of what it takes to stay safe in this day and time.

Everyone wants to make it home alive.

Note: This post first appeared on Stacy’s Facebook page, on August 13, 2017. Due to the tremendous response it has received, she is posting it here and also on her Huffington Post blog.

Make Your Own Sunshine

TGIF! Make this a “just because” kinda day.
Do a random act of kindness “just because.”
Hold your tongue “just because.”
Smile “just because.”
Give thanks “just because.”
Forgive “just because.”
Have fun “just because.”
Be happy “just because.”
All because life is a gift worth cherishing – your own as well as others.
#LifeUntapped

Why You Are A Gift to Others

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Bring your best self to life today by reminding yourself that you’re a gift.
Only you can grace us with that smile, that laugh, that funny story, sweet song or moving prayer.
Only you can lead that tribe or love those lost ones or help others find their joy.
Only you can live the purpose that is tucked inside of you, and often straining to be birthed.
No one else sings with your tone, writes with your voice, walks with your style, hugs with your heartiness or lights up a room in your uniquely perfect way.
So just be you today, and be grateful for others around you who are being their authentic selves, too.

Her Story: A Caregiver’s Heart

By Guest Blogger Cassandra Savage

Recently I assumed a role I thought no longer fit me, since my two sons are old enough to feed and nurture themselves: I became a caregiver.

According to Family Caregiver Alliance, I am not alone. Approximately 43.5 million people have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months, and about 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older during that same period.

A caregiver, also known as informal caregiver, is a spouse, partner, family member, friend or neighboer involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks. Formal caregivers are paid care providers offering care in one’s home or in a care setting (i.e., daycare, residential facility, or long-term care facility).

I have become my 93-year old mother’s informal caregiver, and I can honestly say, this was never a role I thought I would have to play. I was too busy – I have my job, a teenager at home, my business, my blog, my church responsibilities and my social life.  I was even studying for my securities license.  So how could I fit the role of caregiver into my schedule?

Well, in this season of my life, God had another plan. He spoke to my heart and instructed me to take on this role, and I answered His call. Trust me, when God calls you to do something, He has already laid out the path and equipped you with everything you will need to accomplish it. I am thankful and grateful for my mother’s formal caregiver, Maria, who has supported me tremendously during this transition. She has been my rock.

When God calls you to serve another, it is not about the pain, the hurt feelings or disappointments you may have experienced with this person – it is about Him asking you to put aside all differences to serve Him and do what He has called you to do. As I repeatedly answer the same questions over and over again, due to my mother’s dementia or when she tells me I’m not doing something right, I remind myself that I am doing what God has requested of me.

I want to thank those who have been so supportive during this season of my life. I’m also thankful for God’s reminder in Hebrew’s 6:10: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (NIV)

As my mother and I begin to settle into our new normal, I have to remember that this is stressful for her as well, due to her having to leave her hometown, where she lived for more than nine decades. Watching her as she enjoys talking to my sons, feeding the dog an excessive amount of dog treats, appreciating my grandson’s visits and eating shortbread Girl Scout cookies, I know I have made the right decision.

Cassandra Savage recently celebrated 33 years of federal government service and holds a master’s degree in Organizational Management. Along with her extensive government career, she possesses a profound passion for serving others. She has struggled with her identity, experienced divorce and balanced a full-time job while single parenting, yet has never allowed these experiences to define her. Her resilience has inspired her to share her life’s journey with others, and two years ago, she founded New Wine Consulting, through which she provides personal development and leadership coaching. Learn more at New Wine Consulting, where a different version of this blog post originally appeared, in February 2017.

When Understanding Matters More Than Knowing

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Experience is a great teacher, but so is empathy. Today, rather than criticize, ridicule or dismiss the people with whom you share space in the world, consider viewing life from their perspective.
Or, if their experiences are so far removed from your own that it’s hard to relate, at the very least practice the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have done unto you. mutual_respect_and_understanding
When we’re willing to see past differences into another’s heart, and give others the benefit of doubt rather than assume the worst, we begin to really “see.” That’s what renders understanding versus simply knowing, fosters hope and healing, and enables humanity to rise.

A Balanced Mom = Balanced Kids

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Here’s a resolution most parents should consider making a habit: practicing self-care, and viewing it as a gift to their families.

Many  — in particular moms, and especially those of young children — tend to feel guilty if they take time away from their sons or daughters to focus on themselves. However, research and anecdotal evidence show that when parents are fulfilled and balanced, that contentment permeates their lives, including their interactions with their families.

So while they may have taken time away to pursue a career endeavor, hobby or some social time, for example, if they return invigorated or restored, that joy adds to the quality of time with their beloved youngsters.

With this in mind, I encourage my fellow parents to take off your superwoman or superman capes in 2017, and neatly fold and tuck them away for special occasions.

Because day to day, the person you are is the person your kids will emulate.

If your goal is for them to honor and value themselves while treating others kindly and generously, you must remember their best and first teacher is you.

Taking some “you time” gives your children a chance to watch you thrive at something you enjoy or that simply makes you smile, and it gives them a road map for how to someday support the goals and interests that are important to anyone they value.

During this resolution season, consider finding a few minutes of quiet time to reflect on what you most enjoyed “BP” — my newly coined phrase for “Before Parenting.”

If it’s helpful, write a list of five or 10 things you once considered fun or meaningful, but put on the back burner.

Depending on the season of parenting you’re in, you may or may not have time or interest in revisiting the things that once held your attention, but even if your list feels dated, it can serve as a reminder of who you are and what gives you energy.

Simplicity usually yields success, and here are some suggestions:

  • Commit to getting more exercise, whether that means joining a gym that has a kid-friendly playroom or finding a neighborhood walking or running partner with whom you can forge a friendship and fitness accountability.
  • Check in regularly with your friends by phone to stay abreast of their lives, or invite them over for dinner or a game night, and allow their kids to come. It’s great for your young children to see Mom and Dad have “play dates” or for your older ones to see you enjoying life beyond parenting.
  • Trade babysitting with a trusted friend or relative, and use your free time to visit your favorite bookstore for a few hours, go to a movie or hang out at your favorite coffee shop or eatery.
  • Informally pick a parenting mentor (or two) a few years ahead of you, who can help you navigate decisions and ease your worries during certain developmental stages. If you know that middle school is an awkward time for most kids and how that plays out for each gender, for example, you may assess your child’s behavior from a calmer place.
  • Try something new, and don’t be afraid to let your kids see you struggle or fail. Show them the right way to handle new opportunities or to withstand their own challenges by managing yours with grace, maturity and responsibility.

Commit to being the best version of yourself possible, and watch yourself and your children blossom as a result.

Editor’s Note: A variation of this post first appeared in Stacy’s Richmond Times-Dispatch parenting column, Life Notes, in January 2017.

Her Story: Finding Beauty in the Storm

By Guest Blogger Venus Bolton

There are times our children get sick and as parents we tend to them attentively, doing everything we can think of to make them feel better. Sometimes Mama’s home health care does the trick; but if you have multiple kids like me, your children may be on the germ-share program; so invariably what goes around tends to make the rounds.

However, imagine being told the illness your child has is life threatening – that time is running out and your options are few. When my husband and I received this news in 2011, it didn’t feel real. Doctors declared that our 4-year old daughter had severe aplastic anemia. Aplastic anemia behaves in the same way as several childhood cancers, with a similar course of treatment.

I now think back to the three years of active treatment that followed this diagnosis, along with two years of maintenance treatment, and I am truly amazed at how we navigated life during those five years. An illness of this magnitude can impose a crippling toll on a family.

The most significant lesson I learned is that beautiful things can happen in the midst of the worst storms life throws your way. My husband and I experienced what the hearts of people coming together to be the blessing looks like. We felt like every good thing we had ever done in our lives was returned to us through the love, prayers and generosity of others.

Through this unimaginable set of circumstances, we’ve had many opportunities to share our story as ambassadors for patient families, in conversations with lawmakers and officials, and by working with businesses and organizations that support patient families. We’ve walked alongside other parents (who became friends) through diagnosis, treatment, heartache and grief.

Our 9-year old daughter was recently released to full survivorship, and while it may sound cliché, my family has a renewed appreciation for life. We take very little for granted and have learned not to sweat the small stuff, because in the grand scheme, it all is smaller.

I never thought I’d say it, but what came to wreak havoc in our lives has ultimately ended up blessing our family in some ways we didn’t expect. Most importantly it gave me, and my husband, a greater desire to have a positive impact in our community, and to put ourselves in position to bless the lives of others whenever possible.

Venus Bolton writes and speaks on issues related to faith, wellness, caregiving and child advocacy. She lives in Midlothian, Virginia with her husband and four children and blogs regularly at Three & 1.