Song of the Week ~ The Greatest Love Of All by Whitney Houston

I am sure that the song of the week will touch your heart just as the life and times of Whitney Houston has touched the lives of Americans and dare I say the world. THE GREATEST LOVE OF ALL has become an anthem for children’s graduations and weddings because the sentiment of the song is so simple. Her love of children, family and friends was evident as she sang this song and that is just one of many reasons I chose this song.

In a world full of joy, pain, love and loss — there was Whitney. She was the songstress whose melodies were the soundtrack of my life. I grew up looking at Whitney as she graced the cover of SEVENTEEN Magazine as the first African-American to occupy the cover by herself. I LOOKED TO YOU, Whitney to be my role model of beauty. Your beauty was not the beauty that was projected in the media for young girls. Your short curly hair and big wide smile taught me about self-acceptance.

When she sang, I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY my heart leapt for joy and I joined the Soul Train line and waited to strut my stuff for my special guy. I’d get SO EMOTIONAL whenever I’d hear one of your new songs on the radio. I asked myself HOW WILL I KNOW? if he really loves me as a teenager in love and Whitney made that alright for me. Her voice and success laid the foundation for Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Destiny’s Child, Britteny Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Jill Scott and a litany of other women who joined the musical ranks.

Whitney’s rendition of I’M EVERY WOMAN became the anthem of womanhood and women of every race joined and sang along with her as we celebrated her pregnancy with her. Her sultry vocals transcended race, class and politics. Her message was carefully crafted and universal and it became clear that WHEN YOU BELIEVE miracles truly did happen. Her Olympic Anthem, ONE MOMENT IN TIME captured the world, as did her version of STAR SPANGLED BANNER. Whitney’s solo work and musical collaborations continue to be favorites world-wide. Just days before her death she shared the stage with Kelly Price and sang JESUS LOVES ME, that would be her final public performance and what an appropriate song this is to have ended her storied career with.

A few of my favorites that held me together through a really terrible break-up were:
SAVING ALL MY LOVE FOR YOU,
HEARTBREAK HOTEL,
DON’T WALK AWAY FROM ME, and
WHY DOES IT HURT SO BAD?

I will not reflect on Whitney’s personal demons because it is not how I chose to reflect on her life. We all have our crosses to bear her’s was addiction and it is not my right to judge her. I conclude by saying I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU Whitney Houston and I thank you for the influence and contributions that your music has had on my life.

MY LOVE IS YOUR LOVE,

Sammie

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Gratitude Journal #3 for Dr. Susan Niebur

I wrote Curt Niebur a letter by hand this morning. Yes, Curt is Susan’s husband, so that affectionately makes him whydaddy by default. I had to write him and tell him how blessed I felt that I had the privilege of knowing his wife. Susan died on Monday, February 6, 2012 at the same time as I was burying my “son” Rich. I am comforted in knowing that he was there to great her when she passed.

My words are probably of little comfort to him today, but I hope that one day he will realize that Susan’s life reached thousands of people, dare I say hundreds of thousands of people. Her thoughts and experiences reached and touched people that never had the courage to write her but devoured her every word. Her life had purpose and impact on her family, community, cancer community and of course the blogosphere.

Those of us that did reach out to the heavenly star we knew as Susan, were received warmly, in spite of her daily suffering and pain. She braved a smile for us, she comforted us, she informed us and she lived for all of us. She inspired me in my everyday life and my writing (http://mommagazine.ca/Articles/SammiLove/15Waystohelp.htm) and I often made reference to her and I’d Tweet a Diet Coke toast to her during her treatments. She was a FIGHTER! She was a FRIEND! She was the best and brightest color of the rainbow (PURPLE) and she certainly lights the night as one of heavens brightest stars!

I am grateful for your life, your work, your support, your friendship and you will truly be missed Susan. But you will live on in the sky and forever in my heart!

Love you to infinity and beyond,
Sammie

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Rest In Heaven Among the Stars

Reflection on Happiness

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
Dalai Lama

Happiness is not a fleeting moment that can be captured in a mason’s jar. Happiness is a conscious choice. I believe that to be the case. It’s kind of like mind over matter. I say this after experiencing some of the best and worse times in my life.

As I sit here enjoying yet another day, which will be filled with blessings, I reflect on the choice that I am making to be happy, regardless of the bumps and bruises that I will encounter today. I am cognizant that I am making this choice without the aid of the anti-anxiety medication that I have used for the past six months to help me deal with PTSD and frankly I am okay with that!

Today I choose to be happy. Yes, I said CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY! I choose to be happy because happiness is really my choice. I can choose to dwell on the negative or positive things in my life and right now I am choosing happiness!

There have been so many negative and bad things going on lately but they can not be allowed to outweigh the good and positive things that continue to surround me and bring me joy. I read a brief about the Happiness Project book and I have to admit I was truly inspired to put it into practice in my daily life. So without further adieu:

My Twelve Personal Commandments of Happiness

1. Let it go! (The bitterness of the past arguments, fights and life’s disappointments will only continue to cause problems in the future if I don’t let go of my anger, bitterness and resentment.)

2. Do it now. (There is no time like the present. If I don’t do it, I can’t count on anyone else to do it!)

3. Doing something everyday just for me. (It’s important to take care of my own needs especially since I spend my days taking care of so many other people’s needs — especially my children’s needs first.)

4. Treating others as I desire to be treated. (This really requires me to reflect on item number one so that I can react to people differently.)

5. Enjoying the process. (Too many times I am over-scheduled with too many things that I don’t want to do but I am required to do because of the kids activities. I know I should enjoy things more especially when I see that my kids are enjoying it. I need to take time to remember it’s not always about the end results it’s the process of getting there as well.)

6. Being more open with others. (No longer hiding behind my kids, insecurities to inform others that I can’t participate in things due to lack of money. My family is not the only family dealing with an economic crisis. Sharing my true and honest feelings about things instead of withdrawing from friends and loved ones.)

7. Purging. (Ridding myself of the clutter in my mind, heart, body, closet and house. Things bog me down. Be it purging the things in my mind: ie.. fears, doubts, anger, confusion, desires. Be it purging the things in my home ie… the clutter of holding on to things that are no longer relevant in my life. Purging “things” that create confusion is now a necessity that must go high up on my list of things to do. When there is too much of everything and that feeling of utter confusion occurs, I know it is time to purge because if I don’t it will lead to chaos. Nothing more needs to be said about that.)

8. Venture out into new pastures. (Trying new things, new foods, new friends, immersing into new cultures. Develop a new skill set, try a new job, volunteer for something that will allow me to learn something new.)

9. Decide to have it ALL! (Stop selling my hopes and dreams short and settling for less than I deserve by making the decision to say, “I can’t do that.” I can do anything that I put my mind into figuring out. However, I can’t do it all at one time and I must discern the difference. There will be times in my life where I can dedicate some time and energy to being the best at something else. I need to stop feeling like, if I’m tied up with one thing right now that it means I can’t do specific things. I just need to be patient and know my time is not GOD’s time!)

10. Conquering my fears. (Accepting the unknown and understanding that whatever happens is the way that it was supposed to be.)

11. Honoring my temple. (Listening to myself and my body.)

12. Be grateful. (Being grateful in all things at all times for the lessons that I will learn.)

What will your commitment to happiness be in 2012?

Heartbreak & Gratitude ~ Gratitude Journal #2

This week I am both heartbroken and grateful. I am heartbroken by the death of my friends twenty-one year old son. He was not just their son, he was my son. He was a part of my heart and my life since he was eight. He was my oldest son’s friend, confidant, playmate and teammate. He was our families treasure, our hope, our joy. He was a member of our “family” not by birth but by our choice.

Needless to say I am sad, but I am eternally grateful to have had Richard in my life. I was proud to watch his dreams become reality academically, on the basketball court, and as he created his own family. He will live on in my heart. He will live on in his young wife and their newborn son. He was a gift from GOD. A beautiful perfect gift that I will continue to treasure. I will look to him to comfort his parents, my children, and the entire community of “family” that loved him.

• I will be grateful every time I see the sun shining bright like his smile.

• I will be grateful when I pass the outdoor basketball courts where we used to play.

• I will be grateful for all of the time I had with him before GOD called him away.

• I will be grateful to see little pieces of him in his son’s eyes.

• I will be grateful because I know love never dies!

Rest in Heaven Richard Castillo.
Homecoming January 28, 2012

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Busy Times

During the month of December 2011, I will be moving and having surgery! It certainly is a busy Christmas season for my family and me this year. We are blessed beyond measure and pressing toward 2012 with lofty goals and accomplishments to achieve.

With this said, beginning Monday, December 1, 2011 my blog schedule will be changing until the New Year.

Monday ~ Song of the Week

Wednesday ~ Excerpts from my still uncompleted NaNoWriMo 2011 Project (which will be of an erotic nature)

Friday ~ Week of Gratitude post

Looking forward to hearing from each of you while I recuperate from surgery and unpack at my new home. Wishing each of you a blessed and wonderful holiday season!

Love,

Sammie

10 Ways to Support Parents After the Death of a Child

The loss of a child(ren) is life changing.  There is no greater sorrow one can experience. The loss of a child is like a sucker punch to the throat, its takes your breath away, it aches to breathe and it hurts to swallow.  It doesnt matter if the child died in the womb, during birth, in a tragic car accident or at the will of a random bullet meant for the local drug runner or gang member — it just fucking hurts!  There is no way to compare the feelings of such loss based on the circumstances of the child or children’s death.  To try and assign the weight or a degree of pain to a parent for the loss of their child is asinine. It seems unfathomable that people attempt to do this but I assure you that they do!  The love a parent has for a child who dies is unconditional, profound and lasts an eternity.   Such loss can leave family, friends and a community speechless, stunned and scrambling to find peace and understanding that may never come.

If you are looking for ways to support someone who has lost a child here are a few suggestions.  Please note that there are hundreds of things that people can do to help, but these are my simple ways and they will not be the answer to healing the depression, grief and overwhelming feelings of loss that a parent feels.  These are just ways for you to acknowledge this loss and show that you care.

1. Acknowledge The Parents Loss

Lift them up in prayer. Send them your positive energy. Send them a card, flowers or a monetary donation if there is a burial or scholarship fund set up in memory of the child/children.

2. Listen To Them
Listen to the parents as they talk about their loss or memories child/children. Allow them to share their feelings with you.  Offer hugs and a pair of ears to help ease their pain.

3. Cook A Meal For Them
After such loss it is easy for parents to be overwhelmed.  Offering and preparing a simple meal can help them with self-care and will provide them with the nutrition they will need to deal with their loss.

4. Invite Them Out To An Activity
Invitations to get out of the house will probably be declined but keep asking!  The goal is to get them out to participate in an activity, preferably an adult activity without children present.  Invite them to your home for cards or a board game. Ask to meet them at a coffee shop, or ask them to take a walk with you at a park.  Keep asking them, don’t barrage them but ask them at least once a week.

5. Plant a Tree in Memory of the Child
Call the Arbor Society or visit http://www.arborday.org and pay to plant a tree in honor of the child.

6. Make a Donation
Donate to a local school that they attended, a charity that helps children, or the Pediatrics Department at the local hospital in honor of the child/children. In these tight budget times, donations are needed and what better way to honor the family than to remember their child by helping another child.

7. Ask them, “How Can I Help You?”
Ask them if they need you to do anything specific for them. Tell them that you want to help them.

8. Speak Out For Children!
Become an advocate for children.  Speak out against community violence, talk about children’s diseases or become an advocate for change to protect and enhance the lives of children.

9. Offer Resources To Help the Parents, Family and Community to Heal.
Attend a grief support meeting with your friend.  Ask a grief counselor to meet with the family or community if necessary so that people can begin to process their feelings.  This is really helpful when children die after long illnesses or under violent circumstances. Children touch a community and sometimes it’s the community that needs to heal.

10. Just be there for them.
Finally, I say it’s just so important to just be there for the parents.  Let them know that they are not alone. Let them know that they are lived and cared for.  Let them know that YOU are there and you share their loss.

If you know someone who has lost a child or children please be present for them and comfort them as best you can. You may feel there is nothing you can do for them, but being there for them can and often does mean the world to them and it can truly help them begin to heal.

New children after the loss of a child /children, is a blessing but it is never a replacement of those who are gone. This article was written because I am feeling the need to give a special thanks to those who’ve helped and a wonderful Congratulations to my friend Lani and her hubby and the impending birth of their child after losing their child.  I know Silas is watching over his sibling from heaven.

Song of the Week — YES by Musiq Soulchild

Music has the power transcend you from your current mood and transport you to a magical place or carry you away to a great memory from your past.  Music’s influence and power are so profound in my life that I am truly honored to pay homage to the songs that have influenced me, carry me through difficult time or plain just make me forget my age and make me shake my tail-feather!

Enjoy as I begin to take you on an eclectic musical journey.

Love,

Sammie

I just saw this video this morning and I was absolutely floored! I always loved the song but seeing this video through the eyes of a woman who has lived with cancer — it is just mind-blowing.

The intimate relationship between partners dramatically shifts once cancer enters the picture. It is not just a journey for the woman with breast cancer, it affects everyone surrounding her — but most especially her partner who usually silently struggles with her while battling their own fears, insecurities, feelings of loss and uncertainty. Some relationships don’t survive cancer but for those that do, it is truly a blessing to know “The answer is yes, I’ll still think you’re beautiful…”

“Yes” Lyrics by Musiq Soulchild

Let me get this out the way
so there ain’t no complications
later on for us, no
Look, I know things don’t stay the same
People grow and seasons change, but
when it comes to love
don’t you feel like
you ever gotta worry about
my feelings changing for you all the time
’cause when I say I’m here
girl, I mean it.

So when the world and the odds are against us
you won’t have to question,
The answer is yes.

When 2 or 3 years from now
you start having some doubts
about if this love will last
The answer is yes.
I’ll still think you’re beautiful
’cause I’m more attracted to what’s inside of you
You don’t have to guess,
The answer is yes.

‘Cause I love you
All I care about is your happiness,
so the answer is yes.

People just don’t stick around (no)
build you up and let you down, but
I’m not one of those, no (girl)
I understand that you’ve been burned (before)
Honesty is what you deserve (so much more) yea
and so that’s what I’m giving you, girl.

So when the world and the odds are against us
you won’t have to question,
The answer is yes
When 2 or 3 years from now
you start having some doubts
about if this love will last
The answer is yes.

I’ll still think you’re beautiful
’cause I’m more attracted to what’s inside of you
You don’t have to guess,
The answer is yes.

Now, if you ask
will I go (no)
when you need me most (no)
the answer is no
I’m dedicated to what we have
but will I be here
the way that I promise
I’ll say with no fear
The answer is yes.

When 2 or 3 years from now
you start having some doubts
about if this love will last
The answer is yes, and
I’ll still think you’re beautiful
’cause I’m more attracted to what’s inside of you
You don’t have to guess,
The answer is yes.

When 2 or 3 years from now
you start having some doubts
about if this love will last
The answer is yes
I’ll still think you’re beautiful
’cause I’m more attracted to what’s inside of you
You don’t have to guess
The answer is yes.

15 Ways to help a Friend or Loved One with Cancer

On November 25, 2009, the day before Thanksgiving I began my fight with Cancer. It seems like a lifetime ago when I was told that the mass that was removed from my breast was cancer. I was 41 years old and I had just gotten the hang of living life in my 40’s. It was shocking to say the least. I was fortunate that it was non-invasive and I required minimal treatment. But I was flabbergasted ten-months later when my Mom was diagnosed with invasive Breast Cancer at the age of 68.

I was determined that my Mom wouldn’t have to deal with the same uneasiness from friends that I had dealt with. It is something about telling friends and family that you have cancer that make everyone uncomfortable. There are long pauses, followed by looks that remind you of when your puppy died when you were a child. There are friends that you normally chat with for hours that are at a loss of words. There are long days filled with medical terms and lots of blah, blah, blah spoken by doctors, radiologists, oncologists, technologists, nurses, etc. that you won’t remember. But I remembered this experience all too well, like it was yesterday and I decided to provide the support that I was given and to also be the support that I WAS NOT GIVEN to my Mom.

Here is my list of 15 ways to help a friend or loved one with cancer and my special way to say I love you and I am thinking about you Susan @whymommy:

  1. Give them lots of gentle HUGS and LOVE! Needless to say, this is a scary time for everyone. Hugs and extra expressions of love go a long way.
  2. Listen as your friend shares the news and be available to listen to them. Sometimes they need to just talk about things other than cancer and other times they might just need to vent. Don’t make them feel like they have to make you feel comfortable. Remember that they are sick and they shouldn’t really have to but on a good face for you. They might be losing hair or weight and feel uncomfortable keep the focus on them getting well, not how they look.
  3. Offer to take them to their initial appointments and take notes for them. Doctor’s speak so quickly and can be so matter of fact. Cancer patients can be hyperviligant or completely overwhelmed by all of the information that they are given. It’s good to have a note taker – someone who writes everything. Spouses can be overwhelmed too.
  4. Plan a Let’s Kick Cancers Butt Gathering. Include her whole support team. Ask what she needs. Sign up to cook meals. Sign up to take care of pets (walking and bathing them).
  5. Create a Cancer Bag. Fill it with: gloves, a decorated binder, a plastic bag full of writing pens, a micro tape-recorder to record their thoughts or what doctor’s tell them, a couple of her favorite magazines, and a business card holder (a neat place for all of the cards they will get: the oncologist, nurse, interns, patient care representatives, financial representatives, support group leaders, etc.)
  6. Offer to take their children out for a fun activity. Children need to have fun! Mom & Dad and even Grandparents are focused on fighting cancer. Frankly, they are often just worn out. Include your friends children in an activity with your family. Take them to the mall for a treat or a movie to to get them away from the house. Take them to one of their soccer, baseball or basketball games when Mom can’t be there. Cheer them on, reassure them that they are loved and talk to them about their concerns.
  7. Prepare meals for them and their family. ASK — what are their favorites. Prepare the items in disposable pans or come over and serve it to them and wash the dishes and clean the kitchen for them after they are done. It’s just one more thing that they don’t have to worry about during this time.
  8. Help keep business affairs in order. Children’s Field Trip Notices, recurring bills, medical receipts and paperwork.
  9. Go with them to their Chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Some people go as little as 3x’s a week to 7x’s a week. Offer to take them and sit with them if you can. They would love the company and it will take their mind off of their treatment for a little while.
  10. Chip in with some friends and pay to have their house cleaned professionally. Lurking germs can wreck havoc on a compromised immune system. Sometimes the simplest things get overlooked when everyone is focused on a cancer patients recovery.
  11. Put together a Memory Book. Include pictures and mementos of their spouses, children, friends, activities, places she loves. This can be assembled by a professional organization like http://www.bellflowerbooks.com (@bellflowerbooks), who is so graciously creating books for the JustBeEnough Campaign (@JustBeEnough) visit http://www.justbeenough.com, or at My Publisher visit http://www.mypublisher.com
  12. Plan a Ladies Night. Rent her favorite movies, bring out the healthy snacks, nail polish, and photographs, old music and have a BLAST!.
  13. Offer to dictate or help write letters to her family and friends. You might just be there to support her but she will appreciate it!
  14. Plan a Cancer Walk or Fundraiser specifically for your friend. Did you know that 1/3 of people who file for bancruptcy because of uncovered medical cost for life threatening illnesses? You will be amazed at how many fundraisers and donations go to help research or a national organization but never reach your local area. See the ideas below:
  • Walk-a-thon ask people to sponsor you per lap or a flat donation.
  • A Prayer Breakfast at Church ask people to donate $10 per person to benefit the family directly for expenses not covered by their insurance.
  • Plan a gathering at a local restaurant. Ask the restaurant to give 15% of the nights receipts to the family. Create coupons and contact EVERYONE you can think of and tell them to eat in or order to go. Email coupons to your co-workers, church members, friends and ask them to forward the email.

15. Host a VICTORY PARTY! Include anyone and everyone! Make it a potluck and CELEBRATE KICKING CANCER’S BUTT!

Wonder — Dedicated to #BlogHer11 Attendees and Us Here at Home

Everybody has a story. Our story is about: our experiences, our families, our triumphs, our challenges, our reactions to the daily occurences in our lives. We are Bloggers, more specifically we are BlogHers! We support each other, learn from each other, and encourage each other.

Our stories are full of wonder. The wonder of who we are, what will we become, why will we become that way, where will our lives lead us and when will we know that we have become the person we’re destined to become. We prod along, learning, striving, living, existing and being the magnificent wonders that we are. One day we meet and share our stories online and become a unique member of a sisterhood/brotherhood that share similar experiences but seen through our own perspective. We are wonders now connected through thoughts, words, exchanges, and computers until a wonderful event like BlogHer happens. BlogHer is place to physically meet the people that we have shared our lives with online, a conference to celebrate the wonder of who we have become and to make tangible the connections that we have made through our blogs.

I thought of this song today as I am siting at home thinking of the friends I’ve met this last month that are at BlogHer11. I celebrate each of you that are attending and those that could not for whatever reason! Our stories are powerful, our lives are truly full of wonder, and our laughter heals the world.

Enjoy BlogHer11 Ladies. I will meet you at BlogHer12 in NYC next year and in the meantime I’ll see you here online!

Love,

Sammie

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“Wonder” Lyrics by Natalie Merchant

Doctors have come from distant cities
Just to see me
Stand over my bed
Disbelieving what they’re seeing

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation

Newspapers ask intimate questions
Want confessions
They reach into my head
To steal the glory of my story

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation

O, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way

People see me
I’m a challenge to your balance
I’m over your heads
How I confound you and astound you
To know I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as you can see you can offer me
No explanation

O, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as she came to my mother
Know this child will not suffer
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way

You don’t get to tell me WHO I can be anymore!

This is the August 1, 2011 writing prompt from The Red Dress Club called Mentors. Unfortunately I was unable to link up but I wanted to post this anyway.

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One of my favorite books is by Loraine Hansberry — that’s right it’s TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED, AND BLACK.

When was younger I used to call this the triple wammy! I was too young to understand that I needed to work harder than others in order for others to recognize my talents because of my color. I didn’t understand why my 2nd grade classmate couldn’t play with me anymore because her mother told her that “blacks were stupid and dirty.” I couldn’t comprehend that in my young mind how someone would think that I was stupid when I had skipped a grade to be in that 2nd grade class! I was devastated that my friend wouldn’t play with me anymore but I had an amazing teacher, who was angry enough about my experience to include a classroom lesson about how Americans differences make our country stronger! This may not seem impressive today but I assure this was quite controversial in the early 70’s and it was not a part of the state standards on curriculum.

Mrs. S. introduced us to all kinds of authors, who were all nationalities and paraphrased their biographies or autobiographies to explain to us what it was like in “their” AMERICA, and when she read from TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK something touched me.

I loved Ms. Hansberry’s story and I continue to be inspired by her daily! There have been so many times in my life when have doubted my own talent, diminished my own gifts in order to make others feel better about themselves or just surrendered my power knowing I didn’t have the confidence to follow through with my decisions because of my inexperience. But as I look back on those experiences, I reflect on how much I’ve grown, the confidence I’ve gained, and I proudly proclaim to those who doubt me or question my abilities — “You don’t get to tell me who I can be anymore”. I have surpassed the expectations of many people in spite of my age, gender, economic status and life circumstances.

Because of Mrs. S.’s care, love and “teaching outside of the box”, I am a confident, resilient, intelligent woman. I am an advocate for change and tolerance among Americas youth and I too am a TEACHER!

Thank you Mrs. S. for teaching me that I am blessed to be YOUNG GIFTED AND BLACK!

Post script:
You may wonder if my friend and me ever made up. Mrs. S. made sure that that happened. In fact, we all reconnected last year via the telephone when we found out that our beloved teacher is now suffering from a brain tumor.