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Tag: Unpacking Grief

From Victim to Victorious: Falling in love with a burn survivor

From Victim to Victorious: Falling in love with a burn survivor

Out of all the topics that I’ve discussed this is definitely the hardest. Now, there will be some things shared here that are exclusive to my personal archives. Viewer discretion is advised.

Just got paid. It’s Friday night. I decided to go from shoulder length hair to a bob cut. I would say a good 4 inches of my hair was on the floor at the beauty shop. I was FREE! I was ready for a weekend in Charlotte, NC with my girls for the annual CIAA tournament activities. It was our first year, we were single, and ready to paint the town red.

We mingled with people in the lobby of our hotel, laughed all night with strangers, and even marched the streets of downtown Charlotte in 4-inch heels. We had the time of our life.

Back to work and school on Monday. I walked into work feeling like a new woman. I worked late on Tuesday, said my “good nights” to every one, hopped in my car and made my commute from Durham to Raleigh. I didn’t show up for work on Wednesday morning.

I got home Tuesday night exhausted. I had homework and I needed to eat. I decided to cook a quick meal and call it a night. I placed the pot on the stove, had a seat on the couch, and snapped a few selfies.

I dozed off.

I woke up to smoke, and then flames. I panicked. I grabbed the pot of hot grease, and ran to the door. Too late! The damage was done. It was raining outside so of course grease and water doesn’t mix. Next thing I know the pot falls from the second floor balcony and flames engulfed the stair well. I shielded my eyes with my left arm, and ran back inside of my apartment.

I didn’t call 9-1-1. I called my friend Shanita. I was numb. I stood in the bathroom, and ran my fingers through my singed hair. My hair was transferring from my fingertips to the floor. Shanita picked me up and took me to the hospital. In her words, “it smelled as if you cooked the whole way there.”

Shanita would have to make the phone call to my family and friends about my condition. To this day she says that’s one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do.

After hours of not being able to move I finally wobbled to the bathroom after the suggestion of not looking in the mirror. I did it anyway. I needed to see what the road looked like ahead. I thought, “eh, I’ll be okay.”

 

My features began to transform over night. I took the above photo(s) because I believe in results and of course I’m a visual person. Very visual. I needed those photos during the recovery process to prove to myself that God had this situation under control.

I was in therapy 3-4 days a week for mobility in my right hand and my leg. Changing my own bandages, and sleeping most of the day.

My support system though. My God. My mom and sister were there during my entire hospital stay. My friends were delivering food to my family while I suffered with hospital food. My brother was receiving updates from my father (who arrived the day I was discharged). Everyone had a position, and I’m still blown away by their love and support.

The therapy wasn’t the hardest part. I had to learn to love again. I was a new person. Falling in love is hard, but loving yourself after a traumatic experience is harder.

When you’re faced with insensitive questions you become very defensive. I know I did. “Well, what were you doing trying to deep fry your hand?” Or, “Well you know you could’ve put floor or sugar on it to put the fire out.” Until you’ve experienced the shock of something like that, YOU have no room to judge. Those questions crushed my pride and self-esteem. Yes, I understand I didn’t think clearly in the moment but who would? I was exhausted and delirious. Imagine trying to adjust to having NO HAIR, spots on your face, and a glove that someone asks “what happened?” every five minutes of your “new” life. You can grow even thicker skin to deal with it or you become a recluse. A lot of burn survivors prefer the latter. There were times I wanted to go in hiding, but my personal care giver (Aka my dad) wouldn’t let me do that.

Years later I realized that this whole experience was not about me. When I tell you it strengthened the relationship with my dad and I, I mean my God it did. He brought his clippers with him from Michigan to North Carolina and shaved my hair so it was even. He kept reassuring me that my hair would grow back.

The faith walk wasn’t just for me, it was for my dad too. He was able to witness the transformation of my face. He was BLOWN AWAY. I would hear him in the other room on the phone, “Man, when I got here she looked pretty bad leaving the hospital. She’s looking better and better everyday. Up walking around, and her color is coming back. I mean, man, it’s unbelievable.”

Weeks after the hospital discharge.

God did that. My faith was shook, but my dad’s was questionable. He witnessed a miracle happening before his very eyes.

Loving myself after becoming a burn survivor was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. If I could go back to March 2, 2010 and change what happened, would I?

Answer: Nope.

That experience blessed me with three things: Strengthened my faith, learned how to love beyond the physical, and a priceless relationship with my father.

Back to work. Months later…Glowing!

So, on the 6th anniversary (or BURNiversary) of a life changing event, I am encouraged to keep going. The hedge of protection is real, and God ain’t finished with me yet.

P.S. My hair grew back. 💁🏽

#SteeleThankful

My labor of love, “Final 48 Project.” The will to keep going!

My labor of love, “Final 48 Project.” The will to keep going!

I know this post is supposed to be about still floating on a cloud because of Valentine’s Day but quite frankly it’s nothing like that.
My Valentine’s Day will never be the same, and this year I declared that I’m okay with that. I knew when my dad passed away the day before V-Day 3 years ago that my life would be completely different this time of the year.
I’m not bitter or against the holiday. I choose to display or talk about love in a different way. I use this holiday to restructure my life’s goals, because that’s something that started three years ago. I should probably keep the tradition going, right? Instead of being depressed due to the reminder of my father being absent I had to think of another way to honor him.
This year I decided that I would own that my life has officially changed, and I’m unapologetic because it’s my life! The relaunch of my labor of love is under way and I’m excited to share it with you. I know that this project would not be possible without knowing my story, and my connection to this amazing grief platform. When you get a chance be sure to follow/like @Final48Project on all social media to follow the journey. Hopefully it will impact your life and give you an extra boost to keep going! I appreciate your love and support. Stay tuned…

Guess Who?! The #FaveArchivist strikes again!

Guess Who?! The #FaveArchivist strikes again!

One of my favorite board games as a child was “Guess Who?”  You know the one that you tried to guess your opponent’s character by asking questions, and you narrowed it down by process of elimination.  Don’t tell me I’m alone here? Well, I know it well because Granny would play with me, but she would CHEAT!  Good times!

In a sense “Guess Who” is similar to a mystery game.  We ask questions or find clues to solve a problem.  That’s probably why I became an Archivist.  Anyways, let me stay on task.  So, as you know (well I hope you know) for almost two months I’ve been going through my dad’s personal archives, and some of the photos I’ve been finding has me feeling like the board game.  Constantly asking my sister to “Guess Who?”  The plan to have all of his papers sorted by February 2016 is actually ahead of schedule.

As I stated before when it comes to going through a person’s belongings it is important to go through EVERY sheet of paper, pants  & jacket pockets, and address book!

**SideNote: I have something special coming up involving an address book tomorrow.  You don’t want to miss it!

I came across two envelopes with United States Army on the cover.  One of them had never been opened, but the other one had a large dark ring on it.  I was hoping that the contents on the inside of the damage envelope were okay.  I’m not sure what melted on the photo, but it was definitely an Archivist’s nightmare.  A damaged primary document, that happened to be a certificate and a photo.  I’m sure I could request another document but I don’t think I need to at the present moment.  I looked for a familiar face in the photo.

Guess Who?!

U.S. Army Photo
U.S. Army Photo (1970)

Hi Dad!  I’m pretty sure I make that same face when the sun is in my eyes, or when I’m not understanding something.

I shared this photo during my weekly Periscope show, “Let’s Talk About Grief” for #GriefTalkTuesday.  The show has been extremely therapeutic and it’s another way to unpack grief.  If you want to catch last night’s episode you can view it by clicking here. I’m excited to see the project grow, and new viewers every week on the show.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for my special announcement.

P.S.  I’ve been receiving rave reviews about the first book in the Adventures of Alleykats series.  Do you own it?  No!  What are you waiting on?  You can purchase it now.  If you own it, please be so kind to leave a review.  It truly means a lot, and I thank you for your continued support!

Tomorrow may be too LATE!

Tomorrow may be too LATE!

Hump Day! Today is the day I recap “Let’s Talk About Grief.”  A weekly show that I do on Periscope for #GriefTalkTuesday and it almost didn’t happen.

Yesterday, was a regular day.  I was scrolling through Instagram early in the morning and I came across a photo that seemed quite odd.  I was about to reach out to my friend in Houston and ask if everything was okay, and then I logged into Facebook.  The first status I read ended with the words, #RIPZin.  The same friend that I was about to text, was gone.  He passed away in a fatal car accident in Colorado over the weekend. The first thing I thought was, I JUST TALKED TO HIM A WEEK AGO!   How could this be?  I was heartbroken.   This was the first time in my life that I experienced losing a friend.

When I moved to Houston a couple of years ago I didn’t know many people. One of the people I connected with was Brotha Zin. The first night I met him he was dj’ing an after party.  It was my last night working for a local jazz festival, and I wanted to hear my song.  I wanted to hear D’Angelo or Guy.  Don’t give me that look.  Yes, I go to parties and request 90s R&B.  Don’t be judging. Lol. Zin was sitting on an ottoman cranking out the good vibes, and while requesting my music I lost my balance.  The ottoman he was had WHEELS! He attempted to catch me, but I fell on him and we went rolling on that ottoman towards the window.  We crashed…HARD! I had the bruises to prove it.  That story never gets old.  Our friendship began there.

I remember the conversations we had in 2012/2013 about him starting a radio station, and I talked about writing a children’s book.  He would say, “Peace Sis, we gotta keep building.” He started All Real Radio, and I published the first book in my children’s book series.  On this day I can say, we did it!

We were supposed to connect while I was in Houston during Labor Day Weekend, and he was supposed to interview me on his show.  Well, he left early to go to New Orleans, and I didn’t return to Houston after that weekend.  As far as the interview.  I put it off, I told him, I need a minute, I’m not ready, maybe next week, or tomorrow.  Why was I waiting?  That tomorrow will never come, and I have to take the lesson that comes from it. I can say one thing, if Zin feared anything I didn’t know it.  Stop waiting.  Stop putting things off until tomorrow.  Just do it!

He was always positive, and ready to spread the good word. An activist, hip-hop head, visionary, and a man that loved his Queen and his two daughters!  That’s how I will remember him.  Our last conversation was about his interview with David Banner. I was so proud of him. Man, he was more than a friend.  He was my brother in the struggle. Just trying to spread love, light,  and knowledge. You will never be forgotten Anthony “Zin” Mills. You are apart of my “Final 48 Project” story.

Peace.