Christmas Musings…

Cowboy & I in Stowe, Vermont

Greetings RLD Family,

I’d like to take this moment to thank you for your support over the last 6 years of the blog. I’ve learned that content flows better when I have time to relax, or something outrageous happens.

Sadly, downtime has been a fleeting memory due to an insane schedule, and outrageous acts seem to happen so regularly that at times you think we are in bizarro world. If you are a Christian, you may think we are at the end of days as per Revelations.

But this I know – we made it though 2019! We are on the cusp of a new year AND a new decade. We are stepping into our purpose, taking it to the next level, and making our goals come to fruition – together!!

Most importantly, we celebrate today (or this week depending on your faith). We pause, we spend time with loved ones, and we break bread.

The Cowboy and I are in at our holiday getaway in Stowe. Today we will get a few runs in on the slopes, and enjoy our brief respite from reality.

I can’t let the day end without honoring two people I’ve lost this year – Jake Burton and Marion Hughes. Jake Burton was The Godfather of snowboarding. On our last trip to Stowe in March, I was sitting in the lodge chatting with two guys while the Cowboy was getting a few more runs in. They talked about both surviving cancer, and living every day to the fullest. We joked around and they shared a few snowboarding tips. One of those guys was Jake Burton. He was so down to earth, so cool, that you would never know he ran an empire. He passed away this November after losing his battle to cancer.

Marion Hughes was a dear friend who I also met on a ski trip. We were close friends for more than a decade until cancer took her in November as well.

I dedicated my last run yesterday – which was flawless (trust me that’s rare with my skill set 😂) to Marion and Jake.

May today be filled with love and peace. If you are missing someone today, may their memory be a blessing. And as we approach 2020, consider this as your motto (always heard it as a little girl on the Caribbean radio station in NY):

“Live every day as if it was your last…because someday it will be”

Don’t wait. Seize the day. Make your dreams happen. And get ready for a whole lotta abundance!!!!

Happy holidays y’all!!

A toast with a local Vermont cider 💕💕

Cancer Steals Another…

Marion & I in Breckenridge, CO 2008

The evil disease cancer took another woman dear to my heart.

My beloved friend Marion Hughes passed away on 11.1.19. Today would have been her birthday.

We met in 2008 on the NBS Summit in Breckenridge, Colorado. We were introduced to each other at Denver Airport, and by the time the two hour bus ride to our destination was complete, we were besties.

That day, I got altitude sickness. As a nurse, she immediately sprung into action. From then on, she always reminded me to do the best for my health.

She loved tennis, skiing, golf and retail therapy (aka shopping). Most of all, she loved leopard print. When I first saw one of her fab leopard print pieces, I complimented her on it. Her response, in her crisp British accent “nuff respect for the leopard darling”.

Our ski/snowboard group – Marion always had an amazing flair…

Her favorite thing to me over the years was “listen to your Auntie Marion. X is not a good idea”. She always made me laugh. We had a tradition of having lunch at Neiman Marcus in Bal Harbour – it was a good midway spot between our homes. We shared so many giggles and memories.

As she was fighting her battle with cancer, we sat at University of Miami Sylvester Cancer Center reminiscing.

I told her “you have to recover. Leopard is in this season. It’s your season!”

She replied “sweetie, leopard never went out of style. Quality never does”.

She didn’t want to tell me about her diagnosis because she knew how tough it was losing my mom to the same disease. Much like my mom, she downplayed the severity until she could not anymore. Even still, she was feisty —  we laughed to the end. And much like my mom, seeing me get married and be in a healthy, happy relationship made her so proud.

It’s always interesting to hear the untold stories at a funeral. Her family and close childhood friend from the UK shared how as a teen, she applied to work at a large grocery chain in her area. All was well until she arrived for her interview – suddenly no jobs were available. She was denied due to her race. In a concerted effort between her friends, community and family, she shamed the store and eventually was able to work there. I never knew the effect she had on race relations in her area. But that was Marion – never one to brag. She just did what had to be done and soldiered on.

A final toast to Marion by her friends – wearing leopard print in her honor

Losing her is a reminder for all of us not to put things off. We wanted to take another ski trip together, but never got the chance. And PSA – get your affairs in order. This includes both a living will, and a traditional will for your belongings.

My friend, my confidante, my adviser, my ever fabulous “Auntie” Marion. Thank you for blessing me with your presence in my life. I love you and will miss you eternally.

November 2018

Top 5 Stories of 2018 on RLD!

Whelp, another year is in the books.  2018 brought some interesting highlights — many of us were full on #WakandaForever in honor of the movie Black Panther; we dissected Danny Glover’s masterful video for the song This is America; and millions of activists found their voices as a result of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, as well as due to the current presidential administration.  We lost Anthony Bourdain and Aretha Franklin. We joyfully welcomed a new Duchess of Sussex in Meghan Markle during a glorious royal wedding.

In my life, 2018 was a year of growth.  I became President of the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association, found my stride as Deputy Director of the ACLU of Florida,  and was recognized by the American Bar Association for having one of the best Legal twitter accounts and for being one of the eight most inspiring members for 2018.

I didn’t get to write as much as I wanted to — but you, my RLD Family, hung in there with me! For this, I thank you.

Here are the top 5 pieces that you loved:

5. Missing the Little Things on Mother’s Day

Every year, I write as a form of therapy to cope with the untimely passing of my mother from cancer.  It’s a way to honor her, as well as to take my mind off of the pain.  It’s been six years — the grief is better than it was, but I know I will never be the same.  Over time, I’ve come to accept this new normal.  Not everyone is blessed to have had a great relationship with their mother — so I count myself lucky.

4. “You’re So Articulate” Is Not a Compliment to a Woman of Color

This article came out of the #BlackWomenAtWork Twitter hashtag from last year.  Women of color were discussing various microaggressions we face in the workplace, often from folks who seem so “surprised” by our presence, or for defying the stereotypes they have of us.  I shared an experience I had, and a conservative commentator decided to weigh in without completely understanding the context (or frankly, even trying to understand).  So, a tutorial ensued. The fact that it has been so highly read for two years in a row shows that the issue is one that is not going away any time soon.

3. The Flawed Concept of “But You Have Nothing To Be Depressed About!”

anthony bourdain
Anthony Bourdain shooting ‘Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown’ on location in Salvador, Brazil on January 9, 2014.

In June of this year, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain passed away as a result of suicide.  It hit me hard — not only because I was a huge fan of his shows, not because we were in France at the same time — but because many people still struggle to understand mental health.  There are so many misconceptions tied to money, material things, and outward appearances — as to who should or can be depressed.  Money gives you access to better care, but it does not insulate you from the crippling effects of depression.  There is no shame in admitting you need help.  There were dark periods in my life where a good therapist helped me get back on track. Getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness.  May he rest in peace.

2. Toxic Tribalism: Why Diverse Judges Are Needed More Than Ever

Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years this past January for molesting the athletes in his care over a span of 30 years.  Instead of the focus being on his heinous actions and betrayal of young athletes who were serving our country through sport, the attention shifted to Judge Rosemarie Acquilina for comments she made during sentencing. It was, what has sadly, become a pattern of the “boys need to stick together” mentality, even when one of the boys was dead wrong.  In this piece I analyzed her actions and the context. Little did we know that there was more to come in the form of continued #MeToo revelations, and a contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearing.  These occurrences are a constant reminder of the need for diversity at all levels of the criminal justice system, to ensure that everyone gets a voice — regardless of gender, money, power or privilege.

And the #1 story of 2018 is…

  1. Betrayed By The Bench?

A judge in Miami Dade County, who many of us knew for many years, lost his seat due to his use of racial slurs at work.  Many folks who are not of color wonder how to be an ally.  I laid out a few — but the key is not to remain silent.  Record everything, and don’t let racist instances slide.  The lives of many hang in the balance.

There you have it! Were there other pieces that you liked from this year? Anything you’d like to see me write about next year? Sound off in the comments!

Wishing you and yours a happy, safe and prosperous New Year.  See you on the flip side!

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Missing the Little Things on Mother’s Day

It was March of 2012. I took an extended trip to New York from Florida to spend time with my mother, who was battling cervical cancer. She had hid from me how bad it was since I had just gotten married weeks before, and she didn’t want me to worry. After collapsing and being hospitalized, I discovered the full extent of what the disease was doing to her.

We were hanging out at home one afternoon, and she was going through some of her things. She handed me a silver bracelet and said “here, take this. I don’t need it anymore“.

Of course, silly me did not grasp what she was doing. I was there thinking “she figures she’s not going out to any fancy events“.

Denial is a powerful thing.

When she passed away weeks later, it was the bracelet that gave me a modicum of comfort. Some nights I would go to sleep after clutching it and weeping uncontrollably.

As time went on, it became a symbol of her companionship. I’d get ready for a challenging meeting or an interview, and I’d say “ok Ma, don’t let me say anything crazy. Help me get my point across“.

Now, sometimes I’ll just tap it. It’s enough to center me, channeling some of her strength, eloquence and energy.

On this, the 7th Mother’s Day without her, I reflect. I still grieve, but it’s less crippling than in past years.

This week I published a post on the power of the little things (if you missed it, see it here). Something as small as a silver bracelet can mean so much.

Today, cherish the little (and the big) things that your Mom taught you or gave you. A Mom is beyond blood; it’s an emotional connection to a woman who pushes you forward to your future. Ties that bind can be biological, emotional or spiritual.

If you are without your mom today, I hope that the memories, along with the love of those around you, will help you through the day.

Happy Mother’s Day, especially to mine in heaven.

 

My mother and I at my law school graduation in 1997. RIP Mama Pearson

 

 

The Frailty of Life — Please See Your Doctor…

I’m struggling with my emotions this morning. Late Sunday night, I discovered that a friend, George Cholakis, suddenly passed away while at a Miami Dolphins football game. I’m completely saddened and stunned. Not more than 2 weeks before, we laid another friend to rest, J.C. Dugue. He passed away from a massive heart attack just before Hurricane Irma hit.

These gentlemen were attorneys that were a few years ahead of me in my legal career. J.C., who was a defense attorney, knew me pretty much my entire career as a prosecutor. His sense of humor always added levity to tense moments as we stood across from each other on opposite sides of the courtroom. Just looking at him sometimes would have me in stitches. He was just that way.

George was helpful to me as a young prosecutor, as I was floundering (as we all did) to stay afloat with the heavy caseload. He’d often have words of encouragement, or the right answer when the judge was grilling me. He was senior to me, having tried intense homicide cases. He was kind, always pleasant, down to earth, and a fun guy. A few years ago, a really tragic incident occurred that pretty much cost him everything. George took responsibility, and started from scratch to rebuild. He began his own legal practice, and brought the same personality that he always had to his new line of work. I had such respect for George in doing so. Sometimes when folks fall down, they never get back up. He did, which showed the strength of his character.

What bewilders me is that they were not old. I know, the definition of “old” tends to shift as one ages upward, but I’m talking maybe 10 years older than me. I get it — when you hit your 70’s and 80’s, you expect to lose friends. Not in your 40’s.

Earlier this year, we lost two more members of our legal community to suicide. We all were devastated, and started work among our voluntary bar organizations to address depression. We lost J.C. and George to natural causes. Now, it’s time for us to talk about self care of not just the mind, but the body as well.

It takes wild horses for me to drag the men in my life to the doctor. I joke that for my husband and my dad, if an arm fell off, they’d pick it up and keep going, still refusing to go to the doctor. We have to be more forceful about getting the ones we love to the doctor, and heeding whatever warnings are given.

And, we ourselves need to take responsibility for our own health. Taking on too much, unmanaged stress, and ignoring what our bodies tell us is the formula for a fatal disaster.

We have to take care of each other. The pain of those left behind is immeasurable.

RIP J.C. and George.