As one who has been known to say “Thank You, but not now”, I feel obligated to express my innermost thoughts on the reason why it was so easy to say “yes, we accept” when nominated for the Valens Award by Excellence-in-Success. My initial response was that it will be “a necessary boost to the Spirit!” which we needed in order to take a break from our “new normal” of almost daily doctor’s appointments and seemingly endless paperwork. That, though, would have been too empty and self-serving; so it quickly turned into a mission to advocate for love, camaraderie, and hope for all, including an important component….to give others a reason to show up and be relevant even in the midst of challenges that often force them into hibernation from the public. We believe we serve humanity no purpose when we as a people create this type of scenario that causes those experiencing setbacks in their life to protect themselves from the sometimes unempathetic dissociation that comes about in times like these. Who can blame anyone for protecting themselves from man-made additional stress while they have bigger fish to fry?
The Valens Award presented to me and my husband as a couple who “demonstrate unconditional commitment to each other” is one that we fully and wholeheartedly accepted last Saturday at the Brentwood Country Club; knowing that this gesture would be an opportunity to further our resolve to live a purposeful life to the best of our abilities, and to inspire others to keep this flame burning. We thank Mr. & Mrs. Leslie Lambert for this opportunity.
Our guests whom we regard as our extended family members joined our immediate family members to show their spirit of commitment and support to us at a moment’s notice.
We acknowledge the loving support of Rev. Dr. & Mrs. Edward Corley who were represented by their son and daughter-in-law. Our gratitude goes out in large measure to the following people who were in attendance: Miss Madona Branch, Mr. Hugh Lacy, Dr. Roxane Lacy, Ms. Zellin Lowe, Ms. Letoria Haughton, Mr. & Mrs. James Daniels, Mr. & Mrs. Kevin Taylor, Mr. & Mrs Edward D. Corley, Mr. & Mrs. Clyde James, Dr. & Mrs. Leroy Monroe and Ms. Florence Whitfield.
Along with the excitement of being the recipients of the Valens Award, we at the same time, wondered why we should be honored for doing what we were mandated to do when we took our vows in 2004…to love, honor and fully embrace each other in “good times and in bad”. Once we arrived on the scene, we were able to experience the benefits of being in a room full of like-minded couples who had inspirational stories – each with their own unique twists to their experiences.
We were delighted to be in the same league of a fine group of couples whose devotion to one another indeed deserved the radiant spotlight of the Excellence-in-Success Valens Award.
Some fellow honorees and their guests even took time out to minister to us. How wonderful that was! We thank them for allowing the spirit of love to move them in this way. We are honored to have participated in such an inspiration-filled evening— with stories from all angles of life experiences as proud couples shared their own unique stories about their relationships at the podium, and through their turning point statements read by Alicia Figueras-Lambert as she introduced them.
Below is the turning point statement of our relationship.
How We Do It
James and Madona demonstrate resilience in their relationship through their capacity for weathering adversity and maintaining normalcy in their navigation of James’ serious health challenge over the past three years –demonstrating the true essence of partnership “in sickness and in health”. The couple regards this turning point in their collective lives, as one for strengthening an already tight bond of love, devotion, mutual support, respect and partnership in all arenas of their life; driven by the sentiments reflected in a Valentines tribute composed in February 2016 and recorded by James in 2017 entitled “Be My Valentine” by James Lacy (https://youtu.be/EdG-GFvYAYo)
When Adversity Strikes…Pay the Lessons of Your Experiences Forward with Love!
It is our hope that people will begin to see they are not irrelevant and useless when the sideshows of life strike. On that score, we will now share in love a few tips of what has worked for us as a couple navigating such sideshows. Please click on link for PDF copy.
I salute you on this Veteran’s day for the diligence with which you served your country within the environs of the DMZ in Korea.
Your exemplary service record speaks for itself! I am so proud of you!
“Thank you for your service!”
As America exclaims, “Thank you for your service!” to my husband, and all other veterans who have sacrificed their lives in many ways; it is my hope that a much more user-friendly system can be put in place to navigate veterans’ life-after-service issues. While appreciative of all that is currently in place to aid veterans on this journey, I cannot overlook a consensus that suggests veterans feel set up to literally die proving they do indeed qualify for benefits which may or may not include identifying ways to connect victims to serious diseases that are deemed “presumptive” by the VA. It is time to go through the VA’s report card with a fine-tooth comb for ideas on how the offerings that are now in place can be more accessible to the beneficiaries for whom they were intended.
I volunteer to be a part of the solution! How about you?
It was a few weeks ago on October 14th that I was afforded the privilege of marking one more year with my husband and soulmate, James A. Lacy. The celebration and acknowledgement of his birthday took on a new form for me this year!
It was not about how early in the day I could get a social media posting going to alert friends about his birthday. No, that was not on the agenda this year. Besides, I know of at least one portal that generates birthday alerts that gives well-wishers the opportunity to acknowledge birthdays. Some did make good use of that to express birthday sentiments, and I thank them for that. Others celebrated him by sending him text messages, making phone calls, and in the old-fashioned way- – -by being physically present and taking charge of what turned out to be a rather meaningful and unique surprise informal gathering which underscored a variety of themes aimed at celebrating and sincerely acknowledging his sweet spirit from a close vantage point.
It is not surprising that the celebration did not end on the day of his birthday as more extended family members have since stopped by to show him some love!
My heartfelt gratitude goes to all who contributed to making Birthday 2017 ever so exciting for him.
As I mark my own birthday in the hospital waiting room today, with much anticipation of the answers to questions that have cropped up of late, I cannot think of a better way to spend my time than to write this open letter for all to understand what my husband means to me. I hope by doing this, more people would open up and subscribe to a culture that accommodates the celebration of humankind in a grand way – as the default modus operandi – be it in celebration of the spouse, the offspring, the neighbor, the boss or Joe Blow! Here goes!
Love, respect and reciprocity engender credit for the role our partners play in empowering us. I invite you to share your story.
My dearest Darling Jim:
In addition to being grateful for “One More Year”, my position with regards to celebrating you is one which takes the form of daily in-the-moment meaningful interactions that bear as much significance as the birthday milestone itself. Giving credit where credit is due, I thank God for using Rev. Dr. & Mrs. Thomas Lacy to manifest his handiwork in the form of the kind, gentle, courageous and selfless human being that I know you to be. As I celebrate you, I thank God for blessing me with a partner of such courage, resilience, stamina, caliber, and integrity, …and for heeding to my prayer that if there was ever to be a second time around, it was going to have to be with a man (an earthly Angel) who possessed the qualities you possess, my darling.
Even though you have- – – along with me- – -subscribed to a real life demonstration of what happens when we ask for what we want—knowing that once we play our own part, our wishes do stand the chance of coming true—I cannot in good conscience embrace this “ask-do-believe concept”, without doing the same for our resolve to navigate to the best of our abilities, the unwelcome guests that come in the form of serious health challenges we are currently navigating. Your propensity for grace to precede all – – -while under fire- – -is second to none! You have effectively subscribed to a new definition of what it means to gracefully navigate life-altering challenges. I thank you for making it so much easier for me to keep my composure and focus on the important lessons of our journey. I am proud to say that you and I are card-carrying members of a breed that embraces emotional and spiritual growth in the midst of life’s calamities and its resulting side shows as its status quo. How wonderful!
Come Hell or High Water!
You know what is so special about our partnership? It is the unwavering awareness of our role on this earth – our unshakable raison d’être that brings and maintains meaning to our collective lives. Thank you for being the perfect “accomplice” to a mindset which effortlessly dictates that even as we go through our own trials and tribulations, if we could “help somebody along the way”, our “living shall not be in vain”!
You are truly a Class Act…and a Half!
I will continue to smile for you, knowing that you are right for me, and I am right for you, my darling…in sickness and in health! You are the best birthday gift I can wish for today! I suspect Mama, Samuel and Madona understand why they have to play second fiddle at this time. 🙂
The following is a social media posting I woke up to on the morning after the 2016 Election Day
“Accurate description of how I feel right now:
In the sixth grade, I found out that the KKK still exists…that it wasn’t an entity that solely existed in my history books like the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and outright literal slavery in the US, but that it was an organization that still exists to this day.
My first reaction wasn’t irritation, rage or frustration. It was fear. Deep, bone-chilling fear that produced sobs that wracked my 12 year old body. And I only had one concern in response: will they kill me? Can I be killed for no reason?
If I try to fit in and I don’t talk slang, and I tell everyone I don’t like fried chicken or grape drink, if I cringe along with the white people in my class when slavery is brought up in history class…IF I DO EVERYTHING RIGHT, EVERYTHING TO ERASE MY BLACKNESS, WILL THEY KILL ME ANYWAY BECAUSE OF MY SKIN?
And of course, those sobs were hysterical. I realized that I could not totally protect myself. If someone was out to kill black people, they need not wait until I open my mouth. They need only look at the skin I was born in and can’t change.
It was the moment I remember feeling the most afraid and impotent. That is how I feel now. I can’t move past this question that it’s a shame I have to ask: will they kill me? Will I survive to see the next president elect in 2020?
Way back in middle school, I eventually concluded that I was overreacting and my life wasn’t truly in danger. I was overly emotional and easily frightened.
Over ten years have passed since then and I’m struggling to stay rational, to not give in to fear… But I heard how he spoke at rallies and the debates, I heard his soundbytes, I heard how his supporters spoke and how they behaved…and I can’t tell if I’m overreacting this time.
And that’s what terrifies me the most.”
My dear daughter, Madona Ayorinde,
As the mother of that middle schooler and 10 years later, a young adult who is trying to make sense of life on her own terms, I want you to know that it is at times like these that you work at unleashing qualities of the firm foundation which has been laid in you over the years.
The seeds of sensitivity, high self-esteem, love and appreciation of the humanity of mankind, empathy and much more that have been embedded in you are now yours to use.
I wish I could make you a promise that moments like these will be few and far between as you blossom into full adulthood, but I can’t, as the reality of life as I know it dictates otherwise. The trick is to use the tools that are available to you in a manner that will bring about self-preservation in the physical and mental health sense of the term, with little or no chance of feeling victimized by the shenanigans of this sometimes cruel adult world. I implore you to always operate from the mindset that: it is not the hand that life deals you that defines you, but it is the way you handle what is thrown at you that defines the essence of life for you.
I am sorry that for you there were no satisfactory explantions that could have protected your 6th grade mind set from what you discribe as bone-chilling fear when you learnt that the KKK was not merely a group that once existed, but one that was and is now alive and well.
I am sorry that current events have taken you back to reliving the nightmare that no child should have to experience, as adults around them espouse hatred, racism, bigotry, insensitivity, ignorance, lewdness as the status quo.
I am sorry you once entertained making changes to the essence of your being and or buying into the stereotypes that a cross-section of white America has in place for its black counterparts, in order to fit in and escape the wrath of the KKK.
I am particularly sorry I did not read between the lines at that time to identify the emotional trauma you experienced, for you know my parent-school alliance initiative would have been stepped up to include tools that the school would have had to put in place to address this important issue in a manner that would have been of benefit to not just you, but to the rest of the school. Surely, you recall from experience how important it was to me that the school reinforced the basic universal personal development values I taught you at home.
Having said this, my daughter, I want you to know that one cannot be adequately prepared for the complexities of life. We know not when and in what form societal ugliness may come our way. It is for this reason that I will again stress the importance of readiness through the implementation of self-improvement tools.
I implore you to focus your energies on building yourself up in ways that you can be a blessing, not just to your family and friends, but also to those who do not mean well for you. I ask you to do this bearing in mind that the only competition you have to contend with is YOURSELF. Allow me to draw upon the gift of Grandpa’s wisdom, as I say to you: “Festine Lente.” Hasten slowly, as in act decisively, yet thoughtfully! I ask you to take your time to figure out how you can tap into the academic discipline, life-skills and orientation you have received thus far, to turn around what you perceive as an eminent license for nationwide ugliness, danger, and unsettling behavior. If I know of anyone with the capability to do so, it is you. “Let your light so shine…”. You know Dad and I have your back, and that we are here for you.
A Mommy Disclosure
What you may not fully realize is that, as a United States Citizen and Citizen of the World – with deep community and family values that were instilled in me at an early age in my country of birth- I am automatically a good candidate for some form of discrimination, rejection, and the issue of fitting in – more often than I care to recount. This, my child, is in no way to be confused with the occasional misunderstandings that occur in the normal discord of life! It is the waging of all-out war in the…just because.. department!
The ‘God News’ is that even though the scale may tip more to the side of the undesirable, it is not everyone that I know or encounter that is this lacking or needy in character and spirit. I suspect by now, you are asking how I manage to appear so ‘sane and composed – most of the time.’ I can tell you what I do not consider to be viable options: withdrawing into isolation, cutting ‘these people’ off (this is not possible as they are all over the place), a tit-for-tat stance, a feeling sorry for self response or engaging in self-destructive behaviors. How I deal with this is to position myself to continually search for positive ways to prevent this phenomenon from overshadowing my sense of self. Maintaining a sense of self mindset in each unique encounter helps me emerge from the lion’s den emotionally, socially and culturally intact. Also, please note that if I were to internalize the negative effects of this dynamic and allow said perpetrators to take control of my life, I doubt that those touching sentiments you and your brother, Samuel, recently expressed to me on my birthday would have ever found their way to me in a hurry.
I will now summarize the personal development tools of my response in easy-to- read quotes I have formulated:
Personal Development Madonarisms by Madona Cole-Lacy
1. Since there is no patent on societal ugliness and propensity to minimize humanity, do not assume there is one to prevent you from unleashing the qualities of a firm foundation which has been laid in you over the years.
2. Use fear and anxiety as tools to focus your energies on building yourself up in ways that you can be a blessing, not just to your family and friends, but also to those who do not mean well for you.
3. Those of us who have lived long enough know that bigotry, racism, and many more “isms” that are in place to suppress and diminish others are alive and well in all shapes and sizes.
4. Whenever we consider directing our attention toward the avoidance of stereotypes meted out to us by others, we unwittingly position ourselves to accepting the hate they espouse. Hatred for self is as unlikely to cause the unenlightened, unfeeling and uncaring to love us more, as self-empowerment is as likely to chase these characters away from us -each time! You know which one to go for!
5. I implore you to focus your energies on building yourself up in ways that give you joy and satisfaction in knowing that you can indeed be a blessing, not just to your family and friends, but also to those who do not necessarily mean well for you.
6. We must approach life knowing that the path to being an Agent of Change begins and ends with us. This change is only accomplished when we operate from a place of understanding that the change we desire is the change we want to be …and the first step to this long and sometimes arduous haul begins with us.
God Bless You, My Daughter.
Mom, Momeeeee, Mother, Madona Catherine
As I take stock of all that I have learned about the rich history and culture of Black Americans, and Black pioneers around the world as a whole, during the month of February that has been officially designated for the observance of Black History, I cannot help but ask myself how that knowledge and the accompanying mindset can be translated into respect and regard for self and others. My hope is that a large number of us have made a worthwhile contribution to lifting up and keeping Black History alive by engaging in activities and participating in events that can only help people of the human race understand that there is indeed a common denominator inherent in all citizens of the world that is anything but common. For there is so much more to this “common” denominator. It is binding, it is healing, and possesses the ability to forgive and assuage fear and ignorance…and yes, it can quite easily yield the opposite result when it is not given the attention it needs to flourish.
In addition to my contribution to the Black History Month enrichment process, I was blessed with knowledge that I otherwise would not have received had it not been for those who made major contributions by sharing so many “Firsts” by Blacks that were virtually unknown to the masses before now. I was elated to see establishments make a move towards spotlighting people of African descent here on Long Island – a move whose time had come, in light of the unsettling racial climate in this country.
I invite fellow Americans and African Americans to join me in enjoying this sense of pride and desire to understand the rich legacy of people around us, in a manner that will stay with us way beyond the last day of February.
As America welcomes Women’s History Month; followed by Asian Pacific American Heritage, Older Americans Month and Jewish American Heritage Month in May; I want to take it upon myself to ask everyone who understands the need for these special observances, to plan on making some move toward gaining a little bit more knowledge of and appreciation for the spotlighted groups.I hope that those who do not understand will be open to a briefing from those who do. This, of course, is only a sampling of other significant upcoming observances of various ethnic and special interest groups that make up the diverse fabric of the American culture!
Let it be known that as I make this request, it would not surprise me in the least to learn that some would say, “Why should I care about this or that group?” My response to that question is as follows: If for no other reason that is remotely obvious to you, you should care because the bliss of ignorance must be superseded by the folly of wisdom if we expect to be treated with respect, empathy and even sympathy when it is our turn. We cannot allow the unwillingness to make wholesome connections to lead us down the path of ignorance.
Newsday Jan 24 2016 (‘Dynamic, multi-ethnic art’- page E6)
The tone has been set with Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday and Black History Month Cultural Enrichment activities leading the way to more opportunities for Americans to find that common thread that runs through the fabric of mankind. Let us not miss out on the power of cultural enrichment and social enlightenment that will subscribe to the greatness and security of our neighborhoods and country. What we do with this opportunity will augment the process through which we can make the world a more congenial place in which we can all proudly take on the responsibility of healthy engagement, and build a firmer foundation on which the next generation of the human race can stand. This mindset, by the way, is race, ethnic and gender neutral; and calls for those who are now referred to as “those people” to be equally engaged and appreciated by those who may not have given this a thought in the past.
In conclusion, I would like to offer executable tips on ways we can go about obtaining and maintaining a much-needed cultural enrichment, social enlightenment and racial harmony.
The following starter ideas can, in part, be attributed to my observations last month
- Don’t exclude yourself from discussions that are meant to uplift, empower and educate-in person, on LinkedIn, on Facebook or other social media portals-simply because you can’t see yourself relating to “those people”.“Those people” exist in all neighborhoods on all corners of the world, and could use some refreshing input laced with sensitivity and a desire to connect in a healthy way with them.
- Make it a point to converse with an associate or co-worker whose race, ethnicity or social group is being celebrated at the time. This would work well within group settings of professional and community organizations where, more often than not, people are brutally prejudged.
- If you have young children or teenagers in your life, hold a discussion with them to find out their opinion on, or knowledge of the culture or history of the highlighted group for that month. Don’t forget to share helpful resources with them. Encourage them to hold discussions with seniors in the community. This can be arranged with Senior Centers, Churches, Synagogues, Mosques etc.
- Go on a themed exploratory trip to the library, utilize google, see what Wikipedia has to say and visit museums, art galleries and other places that can assist you with a horizon-broadening experience. Write a poem on your impression, do a painting or come up with your own creative form of self-expression that would suggest growth.
- Remember that you can neither be held responsible for the atrocities your ancestors might have perpetrated on others nor be pigeonholed as the ultimate helpless victim of circumstance, if you don’t conduct yourself in ways that bring to life the negativity of past experiences or support the perpetuation of the selfless victim syndrome. We cannot wish away the mistakes of the past, but we can surely work toward improving the present climate that we have inherited by acknowledging the resulting pain, hurt and confusion; and formulating a language that will generate camaraderie and healing instead of stone-throwing, name-calling and worse!
- When in doubt, show LOVE, connect with EMPATHY and unleash KINDNESS. These three tools are versatile enough and come in color schemes that do not ever lose their luster without much effort on the part of mankind.
- Cast aside the built-in suspicion which invariably leads to defense mechanisms that keep your radar up in the company of people you are meeting for the first time. Be open to interacting with people from whom you may potentially learn something new.
- Be genuine in your interactions with others. People tend to switch off when they realize that they are dealing with the disingenuous.
West African Surface Design Workshop conducted in observance of Black History Month. Wear Your Art: An African-Inspired textile designing workshop.
Valentine’s day in perspective
Story of St. Valentine
“The story of Valentine’s Day begins in the third century with an oppressive Roman emperor and a humble Christian Martyr. The emperor was Claudius II. The Christian was Valentinus.
Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship twelve gods, and had made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians. But Valentinus was dedicated to the ideals of Christ; not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. He was arrested and imprisoned.
During the last weeks of Valentinus’s life a remarkable thing happened. Seeing that he was a man of learning, the jailer asked whether his daughter, Julia, might be brought to Valentinus for lessons. She had been blind since birth. Julia was a pretty young girl with a quick mind. Valentinus read stories of Rome’s history to her. He described the world of nature to her. He taught her arithmetic and told her about God. She saw the world through his eyes, trusted his wisdom, and found comfort in his quiet strength.
“Valentinus, does God really hear our prayers?” Julia asked one day.
“Yes, my child, He hears each one.”
“Do you know what I pray for every morning and every night? I pray that I might see. I want so much to see everything you’ve told me about!”
“God does what is best for us if we will only believe in Him,” Valentinus said.
“Oh, Valentinus, I do believe! I do!” She knelt and grasped his hand.
They sat quietly together, each praying. Suddenly there was a brilliant light in the prison cell. Radiant, Julia screamed, “Valentinus, I can see! I can see!”
“Praise be to God!” Valentinus exclaimed, and he knelt in prayer.
On the eve of his death Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia, urging her to stay close to God. He signed it, “From your Valentine.” His sentence was carried out the next day, February 14, 270 A.D., near a gate that was later named Porta Valentini in his memory. He was buried at what is now the Church of Praxedes in Rome. It is said that Julia planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship. On each February 14, Saint Valentine’s Day, messages of affection, love, and devotion are exchanged around the world.“