Best Man/Dot to Dot

by Danielle N. Hall

5/27/2019

It is human nature for us to give advice (whether solicited or not), but not take heed to our own words. We encourage others, but forget to be our own cheerleader when necessary. I decided to take a little bit of a different approach this year.

While I don’t necessarily feel out of sorts physically, I thought it would be a good idea to get checked out: it had been a few years since I had my last physical. At that time I’d been diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency which wasn’t surprising since I don’t consume dairy products based on lactose intolerance which I developed in my adult life. Additionally, because I am challenged with vertigo, I avoid the sun (especially since heat is a trigger). Unfortunately, sunlight encourages production of Vitamin D, so I had to resort to Vitamin D supplements. Anyway, I was overdue for a physical since a few years had passed and I decided to take care of business. I scheduled my appointment, showed up, and went through the process. They attempted to draw blood for routine testing, but had difficulty doing so. They referred me to an outside lab and I scheduled my appointment for the next morning.

On the morning of October 25, 2018, I hosted my daily inspirational call which takes place at 7:30am EST and then I proceeded to take care of my medical business. The blood was drawn, I went on my merry way and I picked up my phone to call my mom. I realized it was not quite 8:30 and that she would not have been at work yet. I said that I’d give her a little less than 10 minutes and I’d reach out. Well, she beat me to the punch. She wasn’t just calling to say good morning, though. She realized she left her house keys on her couch at home and she asked if I would go by her home to pick them up and get them to her. I did not hesitate, but I thought about it once I pulled up and it really didn’t make sense for me to do that. I could’ve just picked her up from work when she got off and let her use my keys to get in her home. Nevertheless, she made a simple request and it didn’t hurt. Besides, I was already there.

I went inside. All of the lights were off and it was an unusual stillness. I observed the keys, but decided to go to the bedroom. I decided to sit on my dad’s side of the bed: something I had not done since his transition on December 20, 2017. I sat and I thought about how much I missed him. I had a very tearful moment…but it was a much needed moment to sit still and connect. I hadn’t allowed myself to truly grieve, so this moment was treasured. I looked up at their dresser and I noticed the teddy bear that my cousin had bought for him during one of his hospital stays in his last year. It took me back to the worshipful moments we would have in his hospital room. Fortunately, I have a few captured on video. I also noticed a bottle of cologne…well a few. Dad loved his fragrances and he loved to mix them up when he wore them. He really didn’t care about any particular designer, he just liked his fragrances. I must admit that he passed down the fragrance loving trait to at least this baby girl. I digress. One bottle stood out in particular and I decided to take a picture of it.

It made me cry more. Dad wasn’t perfect…no one is, but I honor him and I appreciate him for being a great man! There are so many memories and moments to behold and I’m grateful for each of them. I truly appreciated the moment I was having at that time even though, he was not physically present. I did sense his presence nonetheless. I got myself together and walked out to the living room to get the keys mom asked me to get. My cell phone rang and after I answered, the caller asked if I was ok because she was riding in her car and my name just popped up and she thought she’d check on me. This was no ordinary caller, but this caller was someone who had also recently experienced the transition of her father and, fortunately, she happened to be in a good place on this day. She encouraged me and I cried some more. As a matter of fact I am now typing through tears remembering that moment. That call was timely and so was the visit to my parents’ home.

What I know about God is that He is the master orchestrator. He guides our steps, but it’s up to us to take them. If I had not chosen to get the physical, if they had not failed to draw blood at the doctor’s office, if I had not been at the lab the next morning…then I would not have been in position to honor mom’s request to get the keys she left at home and ULTIMATELY I would not have had the much needed moment I had reflecting on dad’s side of the bed. EACH dot connected and then God showed just how much He cares by sending that on time phone call. He cares about even the little details in our lives and He is nearer to us than we often acknowledge. That moment was one I won’t forget. It was so much to process and I actually originally started writing this blogpost November last year. Then I stopped and resumed in December last year and I kept getting stuck. I decided today would be a great day to finish what I started. It’s Memorial Day and in loving memory and honor of my father, who served this country, I decided to write this post. It was originally entitled Dot to Dot, but I had to pay tribute to my dad…my “Best Man”: the one who served both his country and his family.

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Then and Now

Exactly 2 years ago today, V.O.I.C.E. (Victorious Overcomers Inspiring Christian Empowerment) was launched. It was strategically launched in April because it is the month where #SexualAssaultAwareness is observed. #SAAM (sexual assault awareness month) is when the light is shed on what may otherwise not be acknowledged. I am not ashamed of my truth and I’m grateful to have been trusted to birth a ministry to serve women who have been sexually assaulted or abused. I’m also grateful to have had the courage to write my story.

On April 26, 2016, I wrote my experiences here in the form of a poem. It was liberating and received such an overwhelming response. Many said: “You should write a book”. I took heed and 3 years later, I’ve now expanded on those experiences originally written in the following blog post and I wrote my story:

https://daniellenhall.com/2016/04/26/dirty-little-secrets-the-little-white-lie/

Today, you can get your copy of Dirty Little Secrets & The Little White Lie for only $2.99 at https://amzn.to/2IssK33 or you can get the paperback copy if you like to physically turn pages. Thank you for your support! #littlewhitelies #secrets #breakthesilence

Growing Pains

by Danielle N. Hall

8/12/2018

Growing Pains ©️

I’m comfortable where I am.

I do not want to leave.

However, there is a very sad truth:

I have no room to breathe.

The pot has, unfortunately, become too small.

My growth is becoming stunted.

I find I just don’t fit at all,

It’s like I’m no longer wanted.

I try to wrap my brain around it.

I guess I just need room to grow.

It’s so hard to say goodbye,

but in order to live I must go.

The Hangover

by Danielle N. Hall

7/3/2018

One of the most horrible experiences EVER is the hangover! Symptoms include fatigue, thirst, headache, dry mouth, nausea, light and sound sensitivity, muscle aches, dehydration, loss of appetite, diarrhea, heartburn, excessive sweating, irritability, bad breath, and vomiting. Sounds like a new medication ad, I know… I mean the body really goes through some changes!

This one time…not at band camp…I remember having a pretty rough night. Ok, ok…maybe I’ve had a few memorable occasions and not just one rough night. Anyway, I recall watching a regular Friday night comedy special. There was the usual case of Schlitz Blue Bull available and random snacks. I indulged. I got extra creative and decided that it’d be a great idea to get a bagel and pour chocolate syrup on it. My creativity didn’t cease there…oh nooooo…I had that Emeril spirit and decided to kick it up a notch. I grabbed a little bit of lime flavored Jell-O and topped it with whipped cream. You can just call me Chef Girl-At-D. Well, needless to say, I probably needed to go back to culinary school because that combo juuuuust didn’t quite get together. The result was a catastrophe. I hadn’t experienced spending so much time in the throne room getting that acquainted with the throne. We did share much quality time on a few other occasions as well. It was a hangover to remember.

Now that was a true story, but also true is another hangover account. Picture it, DC, 1999. I was excited, nervous, confused, and happy: simultaneously. On the morning of December 13, 1999, I started having these unusual pains and discomforts. They were an indicator that there was some activity going on beneath the service. I had arrived at work at the day care center where I was employed and I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable. Not long after arriving, I decided it may be best for me to go back home to assess and deal with these changes. Time progressed and a few hours later I made my way to the hospital. I called my parents and they beat me there! Time was ticking, Dad got tired, but mom hung around.

I was offered medication to help ease the discomfort, but I declined. Somewhere near the 10pm hour, I changed my mind and took them up on their offer. A few hours passed by and after being extremely exhausted and going through these changes, an observant baby girl made her debut at 2:05am on December 14th…weighing in at a whopping 5lbs. 13oz. What an experience!

I had only gained 12lbs. The entire pregnancy: though it appeared as if I was gonna give birth to twins. After having given birth, I lost 14lbs. This was awesome! I walked often during the pregnancy and was pretty active. I lost 14lbs., but managed to gain a new trophy: the mother’s pouch, which I am dubbing as “the hangover”.

Now this picture isn’t me, but I could’ve posed for it. I couldn’t understand why I had acquired this new gift, but I learned to embrace it. It is a reminder of one of the most rewarding experiences: becoming a mom. I’ve since become the mother of two more jewels and I’ve experienced tremendous weight gain and some weight loss…but that hangover is yet holding on. I proudly wear my badge of honor and I thought I’d encourage any mother who still has her pouch (in spite of efforts to reduce it), to wear your badge with pride. Don’t stop working at reducing it if it makes YOU happy, but don’t be discouraged if it hangs around for your lifetime. You are a mom and you rock!

P.S. – I haven’t had those other types of hangovers anymore…I’ve got a new appetite and I hunger and thirst after righteousness: not Schlitz or any other concoction I’ve made in the past. God made the difference!

The Other Silent Killer

by Danielle N. Hall

03/17/2018

I don’t watch much television and I’ve missed many movies, but I’m not all the way green…I have seen a few. One that comes to mind is Madea’s Big Happy Family. As with any other Tyler Perry movie, there were many things going on once. However, there’s a particular scene that I recall. “Mr. Brown loses a lot of blood during his surgery and the doctor asks Cora to donate some. When she does, she finds out that she doesn’t have the same blood type as him, implying that he may not be her real, biological father. At dinner later on that night, Tammy and Kimberly have a vicious argument that leads to Tammy revealing that Kimberly is Byron’s birth mother, having had him when she was 13 years old. Byron storms out of the house, angry that this secret was kept from him.”

They say that art imitates life. The truth is that Mr. Brown and Kimberly aren’t the only ones with family secrets: the other silent killer. More often than is acknowledged, families perpetuate lies and deception: choking the life out of the truth in order to spare the image of one. How many children grew up thinking that someone was their older sister only for the actual truth to be that said “sister” was actually their biological mother and who they had been thinking was their mother was actually their grandmother? How many Mr. Brown scenarios are there where people have assigned someone the title of “Daddy” that has no trace of the man’s DNA? The truth is this saving of an image has done more harm than good.

When I had barely entered adulthood, I gave birth to my first child. I was 21 years old and her biological father was 22. We weren’t fresh out of high school, but we were young. Things did not work out and we went our separate ways when our daughter was still an infant. Time progressed and I later married my husband. Now, my daughter’s father has always been active in her life, so she has been blessed with two dads. When she was about 4 years old I explained the difference between her biological father and her stepfather. Some may argue that she was too young, but you’d have to know my children to understand my decision to divulge when I did. She understood and I was never posed with any questions about it because I was straightforward with her. One time, our household had gone to the movies and we saw my daughter’s biological dad outside. When she saw him, she excitedly said: “My other daddy!”. I must admit that was a bit embarrassing, but it was her truth: she has two dads.

Sometimes our truths can be embarrassing or humiliating, but hiding it can be devastating. Suppose one begins dating someone and things get serious and marriage becomes a goal…and then a reality. Then, you through some very unusual way discover that you two are actually blood relatives…close ones at that. Do you see how problematic and destructive perpetuating a lie can be: all for the sake of keeping secrets and saving images?

Let’s not ignore the other proverbial elephant in the room. How about the sexual violation by a family member? This is certainly not foreign or unusual. It’s a sad truth that I am unfortunately very familiar with…more familiar than I want to be. It is common for survivors to not speak of what has happened because they are often muzzled by fear of other’s opinions. In some cases when the survivor does come forward, the common response is “What happens in this house stays in this house.” If you have a perverted individual who obviously lacks self control, why would you not make it known to spare others enduring the same offense? Is it because he’s the bread winner or because he’s everyone’s “favorite uncle”? The image of the perpetrator is salvaged, but there is a wreck in the internal environment of the survivor: her/his voice is suffocated and identity is often lost.

Maybe the family secret doesn’t involve any offense. Maybe a mom or dad didn’t graduate from high school and yet they keep it a secret for fear of others labeling her/him as a failure. Now let me be clear, experience is a great teacher and we can learn a lot in life from experience. High school graduation does not mean that you have arrived. The point I’m making is that in many areas in our lives we fall short and then we play the pretend game because we worry about other’s opinions. When I drafted my father’s obituary in December last year, I was adamant about telling his truth. He spent a lot of years of his life concerned about what others thought, though he often said he didn’t. My dad graduated high school at the age of 21 and even MY existence is a result of one of dad’s unfavorable choices. However, it was his truth and he suffered silently being concerned about his image. In his last couple of months, a family member visited him in the hospital and essentially cursed him. I was livid and it was obvious that it affected how he felt about himself. I discerned what he wasn’t speaking, but was yet communicating. In a rare type of discussion I had with him while I was heading to work one day, I told him that unforgiveness was a sin even when don’t forgive ourselves. He said he never thought of it that way and his voice became more lively.

People can be so brutal sometimes. What I have come to live most about my life, is that I discovered the liberty that Jesus avails to us to walk in. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. So many are bound by the guilt and shame of life choices that they die a slow death inside. This is not the intent of God. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom].” 2 Corinthians 3:17 (AMP)

I implore you on today to be free and I pray that the spirit of liberty will reign in your family so that there will be no more death of the truth as lies are nurtured to save images!

A Hug From Heaven

by Danielle N. Hall

2/4/2018

I find myself having life experiences that often have me saying: “I can’t make this stuff up!”. I have not had a full week go by without me saying these words or having an experience that would provoke me to say those words. I’ve decided to share one of such experiences that I had about a month ago.

The Christmas season is pretty busy for us at work. There are a few different celebrations that take place. Usually kicking off the festivities is a brunch hosted by our admin department for the anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists. There always a variety of food and one of favorite things about this brunch is that I usually have smoothie duty…and I’m reeeeeal serious about my stuff. Each year I choose a different feature ingredient…last year’s was passion fruit. My “special ingredients” are under this table.

Anyhow, the other celebrations we have are an evening gathering at a hotel or a country club, another gathering at the department which is usually catered, and the last celebration is when our administrator takes the admin staff out for a time away from the office. On December 22,2017…two days after my dad transitioned…we had the lunch with our administrator. One of the activities planned was the White Elephant Gift Exchange. I signed up to participate, but in light of my father’s unexpected passing, I hadn’t yet secured a gift.

The morning of the lunch, I stopped at the CVS near my home to grab a gift card and some candy. I first went to look for a gift card holder and these small, plastic, gift bags caught my attention. I picked one up and placed it on my wrist so I wouldn’t forget. I gathered the other items I needed and, as I was shopping, I took note of the employee I observed that he was wearing a white shirt, American Flag print pants & a tie with the same print…during the Christmas season. I thought it to be a bit strange, but proceeded to complete the task at hand.

It is custom for me to view the name tag of the cashier when I approach a register, however, I hadn’t done so in this case. I placed my items and the counter and the gentleman scanned them and rung them up. He gave me my total and I paid for my items with my card. I realized after the fact that I hadn’t added the small, plastic gift bag to the items I was purchasing and I said: “Awww shoot! I forgot to put this on there. Oh well…it’s too late so never mind.” My receipt came out and the cashier said: “Wait! You’ve got something coming to you here. You’ve got $4. I don’t know how much this costs, but it’s a good thing you waited. You can actually now get it.” I told him that it was $1.99 and he excitedly told me I could go get another one. I really appreciated his spirit, but I was a bit hesitant because the line of people waiting was quite lengthy. He reassured me so I got another one.

The total of my items was $4.26. I didn’t have cash, so I took my card out again. He told me not to worry about it because he would take care of it. He got a quarter and a penny and added it to my $4. I told him he really made my day and he was going to make me cry. I shared with him that my father has just transitioned and that these little things really make my heart smile. He told me I was gonna make him cry and he asked sincerely about my mother and her well being. I thought it strange, yet comforting. I was overwhelmed by his compassion. He then told me he was going to come from behind the register to give me a hug. It was such a comforting embrace. I was nervous because the line of customers wasn’t growing any shorter. Nonetheless, it was as if time stood still for me in that moment. He told me to let my mom know he asked about her and he said he’d keep us in his thoughts and prayers. It was at this time that I asked him his name. I was blown away: He and my father shared the same name!!! His name was Robert! I was certain that this guy was an angel. I frequent that CVS and I never saw him before, neither have I seen him since. Just a few days ago as I was thinking about creating this blogpost, I thought again about the attire of the gentleman. The angel wasn’t confused about the holidays. I was SURE that “Robert” was my Dad paying me a visit checking on mom and looking out for me.

It was my Dad…still looking out for his family.

Thanks, Dad for sending me a hug from Heaven! Rest easy 🙂

“Do not neglect to extend hospitality to strangers [especially among the family of believers—being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2 (AMP)

A Night to Remember

by Danielle N. Hall

1/17/2018

This morning I was trying to dress according to the weather. I was looking for my gray sweater and I remembered where I had it. I got it and remembered why I had placed it there. I still have the visitor’s stickers from the night before my dad Robert Brock-Smith, Sr transitioned.

On Monday 12/18/17, Mom and I had visited Dad after work. For some reason I felt uneasy about leaving that night. Mom was ready to go, but I told her I needed to know he was ok. A nurse came in to tend to him and she began to sing “I’m trading my sorrows. I’m trading my shame. I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.” She also fervently prayed for him and asked God to have mercy on him. At this point, I was content with leaving. We had exceeded the visiting hours by 30 minutes. I took Mom to the store and then to her home. I remember being brought to tears as I watched my mom take gifts and boxes for gifts in her home. She was so excited about being a blessing, even while her husband’s health was failing. I watched in awe of this great woman and called my first grade teacher expressing to her how I endeavor to be at least half the woman that she is.

I snapped out of, pulled off, and headed home. I got home and laid across the bed just trying to rest my mind. Very shortly after, my cell phone rang. It was Mom and my heart started beating fast. She said: “Danielle, the hospital just called and they moved your dad to ICU. His heart has already stopped 3 times and they don’t think he’s gonna make it through the night.” I hopped up, put on the first shoes I could grab and heading back to pick Mom up to head to the hospital.

We arrived and were escorted to his room. Soon after we heard those dreadful words as we watched things unfold before our eyes: “Code Blue, ICU”. We were asked did we want them to revive Dad. Mom affirmed. We were initially asked to step out and then we were invited back in to observe the process. It was much labor, but they were successful. However, he depended on a ventilator 100% for breathing. We were joined by my sister and a couple of my nieces and we stayed overnight.

On the morning of 12/19, Mom and I went downstairs to the cafeteria and grabbed an omelette. It was highly recommended by one of the ICU nurses. After breakfast, we returned to the room. They checked Dad’s pupils and there was no reaction when they shined the light in his eyes. At this point, Mom was ready to go. I took her home and headed to my office…looking and smelling like the day before. Fortunately, I had some toiletries available at the office and could freshen up. I stayed a short while and decided to head back home to get more clean and change clothes.

On the way home, I received a call from my daughter telling me to call my husband because his van had broken down on the side of the road and then she informed me that my son had been jumped at school. By now, I’m a bit overwhelmed. I called my husband and he contacted my son and I asked him to wait at the school for me. I headed straight to the school and, unfortunately, the school day has ended and students had already been dismissed. I met with the head of security and filed a report.

We headed home to get my youngest son and then we stopped by to see my daughter at work so she could be reassured that all was well. Our next stop was the emergency room to be examined for head injuries. Fortunately, there is a Children’s Emergency Room connected to the hospital where Dad was. The boys and I went to visit Dad that evening and then headed to the ER for my eldest son to be examined. This is how the pictures sweater has two stickers from the same date with time stamps so close. Now one of the funny things about visiting Dad is that they almost always put the wrong name on my sticker and Mom’s. Clearly that was the case this night as well. Fortunately, my son had no serious head injuries…and fortunately we went to see Dad that evening…it was the last time the boys saw him alive. On the next morning, Dad peacefully transitioned. One thing I learned during the season of my father’s major health challenge was to maximize moments and make new memories. His legacy will forever live…memories of a life spent with him will be everlasting.

This post was written in loving memory of my father, Robert Henry Brock-Smith, Sr. 4/10/1937-12/20/2017

May He forever rest peacefully.