Monthly Archives: January 2016

CONNECTED: 2015, The Final Chapter (19) by Tamika and Catherine 


I’ve been trying to remember who I was and how I was at the onset of 2015; the year I had been referring to as “The year of change” from the very beginning. I remember thinking,’This is going to be a good year.’ Every time someone brought me news; good or bad, I heard myself say aloud,”This is the year of change.”

JANUARY: My father in law died January 22, 2015. He was 88 years old and had been battling Parkinson’s Disease. “I’m not ready to die,” he said and fought it for nearly a decade. A week before he passed away, he told my husband he was ready to go… and so he did.
FEBRUARY: My husband and I purchased a new home and moved into it, February 14, 2015. Buying a home is big, but that part wasn’t a major change. I lived in New York until I was 21 years old. When I moved to California I lived in urban areas: Oakland, Vallejo, and Sacramento. Now I am living on five acres in a town populated by less than three thousand humans and I love it. Working in a prison made me appreciate sanctum and solitude more than ever. 

MARCH: In March I de-friended my ex-husband on Facebook. People are probably confused about why I’d accept a friendship request from a man who battered and bruised me, and threatened to kill me and our children. Well, my children were minors when I accepted his Facebook request. He was Facebook friends with the children and I wanted to be able to monitor his interactions with them. He’s a saboteur. He has nothing and does nothing and invites the boys to be like him. I watched for things like that and tried to protect the children from what they couldn’t see. On March 28th my ex wrote a lot of bullying type things on my posts. I quietly deleted them, and then I deleted him. I’d wager he was inebriated; just as he had been throughout the years when he left drunken voicemails or messages in my Facebook inbox. Some people never change.


APRIL: In April my baby, my youngest spawn, turned 21 years old.  

MAY: On May 5, 2015, I had major surgery; a hysterectomy. I’ve had horrible menses since they started at age 12. I was forever anemic and the pain was unbearable. In 2014, I had a procedure done; it was supposed to remedy the anemia by reducing or eliminating the amount of blood loss. One possible side effect was increased dysmenorrhea. I was dealt that side effect. The pain was so great that one day I fainted for the first time in my life. It was a big deal and eye opening. I decided to stop avoiding a hysterectomy. A physician told me,”Your uterus has served you well. You were blessed with four children. Haven’t you suffered enough?” I agreed. I had suffered greatly. I gave up my uterus and my ovaries were left intact. As a result  I really don’t feel any different… mentally. Prior to surgery I only had one pain free week each month. Now I just feel free.

JUNE: My surgeon said,”You should be back to normal activities in a couple of weeks.” I was not. I returned to work after six weeks and struggled. I returned to the surgeon for a check up and told him what I was experiencing. He said, the nature and environment of my job was a stressor on my body and therefore it may take longer to heal. He remarked,”I didn’t know you moved around so much at work.” I told him, after parking my car, I walk more than 1/2 mile to get to my office. I told him I was constantly on the move and to imagine the atmosphere of an emergency room; not to mention, if I were to be in danger, I’d have to handle myself. He updated my FMLA forms permitting me to care for myself. I worked one full day and three partial days each week. My thought was to gradually increase my full shifts (10 hours) until my body could handle 40 hours a week in state prison. 

JULY: My birthday is in July (Yay team Cancer!!). I welcomed my 44th year on earth.  

I was traumatized at work on July 20th. Further traumatized on July 22nd and haven’t been back since. I tried with all my might, but I couldn’t get over it. Post Traumatic Stress had hold of me like never before. I kept waiting to get better, but I didn’t; at least not right away. I had to grieve, accept, and make peace with the fact that I could not keep both my sanity and current career. 

AUGUST: Toward the end of August; after one more nightmare, I woke and literally said,”Fuck this! I’m never going back to the prison.” Making that decision laid something to rest within me because the nightly nightmares stopped.

SEPTEMBER: On September 1st, I started my own business. I rented an office, obtained my business license and the month was spent completing paperwork and researching. 

I started a private practice because helping people actualize, grow, gain insight, improve, etc., is meaningful to me. I knew I could no longer work for an agency; for multiple reasons. My aim was to figure out how to do the work I found rewarding while feeling safe. 

OCTOBER: My first client came to me on October 1st. Thereafter I averaged one new client each week. Some weeks I have three to five new clients. I am pleased and happy. I have a lot of power and choice which makes me feel safe and secure. 

The last time I changed my career, I had been in a really bad car accidents that altered my path. This time a really bad incident changed my path. Both times I advanced mentally and spiritually. I cannot complain. 

NOVEMBER: November was low-key. Uneventful for the most part. One of our children hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. That was different, but nice.

DECEMBER: On December 1st my husband had major surgery. He had a hip replaced and seems to have bounced back faster than I did after my surgery.

While he was recovering I learned I am stronger than I thought. I had to do things my husband typically took care of and they were things I never thought I would do because I was afraid. The fears stemmed from PTSD. For example, I would never go outside after sundown without my husband. If I was coming home at night he would come outside so I wouldn’t be afraid to walk from the garage to the house. After his surgery he couldn’t do those things for me and I found I had evolved. I had to go outside into darkness to take care of my animals because if I didn’t they would suffer and be vulnerable to predators. I think the “momma bear” in me woke up. 

That was my 2015 in a nutshell. Growth, progress and change

2016 is “The Year of Answers.”


By Tamika 
 At the start of 2015, I decided I would write down what I was grateful for. I heard that folks who are grateful would have more to be grateful for. Being a scientist, I wanted to test out that theory: every now and then, I would document what I was grateful whenever I came across something I deemed was significant. 

 As of today, I have documented  over 400 things I am, and have been grateful for. Some are simple: I am grateful I can afford comfy shoes and can buy what I want. Many are about love and how grateful I am for love and the loves in my life. Many were also about little lessons I’ve learned throughout the year. 

I noticed a trend in my data: I was becoming more open to seeing the signs or as the alchemist noted, “omens.” The signs could be as simple as getting lost, coming to a crossroads and trying to feel which was the right turn to make or mulling over a decision and trying to let my intuition guide me toward the best answer. The more I became open to the signs, the more signs came to me.

This insight led me back to the one significant occasion in my life that opened up this way of thinking to me. It was the death of my grandpa in 1998. He was a long time smoker and died of emphysema. He loved us so much and spoiled us in good ways. I was grateful he could always find me when I went downstairs to play outside. Granted, this was a massive amount of open space with four parks, a pizza parlor and more, but he always knew where I was. My mom would always yell at me for hanging out at the pizza parlor and playing videogames so I knew I shouldn’t be there but the lure of Super Pac man or Mr. Doo’s Castle was too strong for that 4th grader. I was always afraid of getting caught,  but when my grandpa found me there, he wouldn’t chastise me and he’d even give me a quarter to enjoy myself a little more before going back home with him for dinner. It’s little things like that that made me love him so much. 

They took him off his respirator on my birthday but he didn’t pass that day. He lived four more days. I stayed overnight many times in the hospital waiting room so he wasn’t alone when he passed, but I  don’t think he wanted to pass with me waiting for him. He passed on the day I left the hospital in the morning to take a shower and change my clothes. 

It was after he passed that I saw so many signs of him. He had Red Rover Beanie Baby, while in the hospital and he would pet him on his bed tray. Once they retire a Beanie Baby, they stop manufacturing them and you wouldn’t be able to find them anymore but when I missed him, I would find Red Rover in other forms (e.g., Seeing a cheap knockoff that was in green which is my favorite color, I saw a giant sized Red Rover at Hallmark when I was stressed out from graduate school, a re-issued green Red Rover at Toys R’ Us years later, a tiny ornament version,  and a real Red Rover my aunt sent me). There were too many instances for this to be coincidental and that was the beginning of how I began to see the signs and omens. 

We all have our rational brain that tells us this is true or this is not true. There is logic to our rational brain as we find empirical evidence to support our claims but seeing these signs is often not rational, but intuitive as there is no logical explanation. I am also a statistician at heart. I know the statistics of the occurrences of certain events. Many times, the statistics of so many things that have to occur in order for a certain outcome to result is astronomical. That is what fascinates me so about these “coincidences.” A friend of mine told me that there are no coincidences and that things always happen for a reason. 

Going back to my theory testing, I  noticed that I’ve become more open to seeing these signs and omens and what I’ve learned is, we need to live with the questions and uncertainty at times because the answers will come to us when we need them. The tools we need to reach our goals are always right where we need them. Case in point: I need to work towards tenure with published articles in peer-reviewed journals. I could spend many of my days worrying about that but I haven’t. I make a conscious decision to work through the fear and tell myself that I will have enough time to get my 6 publications out so I can become tenured and promote to full professor. I’ve been working on my manuscripts and applied for a fellowship that will give me a mentor who will help me with my publications. I was chosen for that fellowship and it has been a wonderful experience thus far. My mentor chose to mentor junior faculty because she knows how hard it is for a woman to get tenure and publish in academia. The best part is that the colleagues I have met are all doing such wonderful research in the health field and we are all supportive of one another. 

I feel that by not giving into our fears, it allows our eyes to see the signs that are set before us. Of course, we need to have a clear vision of what we want to accomplish in life but once we do that work, I really believe the universe conspires to help us accomplish those goals. I’ve come across that lesson many times before and I am only starting to believe it wholeheartedly. I’ve come across many opportunities that are all helping me to reach my goals and it’s encouraged me to dream even bigger. I’ve witnessed signs that once we align our life’s goals with the work that we do, we tend to see the bigger picture and how our life’s work can create even more good in the world. Of course, we may not be sure how to reach those goals but I have a firm sense that those unknowns will eventually become answered as time passes. So by simply having faith that things will work out for the best, being open-minded and content with unanswered questions for now creates a shift in the universe where everything works out and in your favor. Living this way makes me so excited because there are so many projects I want to accomplish because I can see the signs that point me towards my destiny. 

 One day I will be a full professor, the author of the best breastfeeding book around, a world-renowned researcher, and it will all come to fruition because I dreamed big (& bigger). My signs and omens all point in that direction and that makes life so very interesting.