Life with Gracie

Life with Gracie: How do we push past the trauma caused by Charlottesville violence?

Life with Gracie: How do we push past the trauma caused by Charlottesville violence?

Any time I broach the subject of race, I feel like I did every time I had to dissolve disputes between my daughters, which was, thinking back, much like walking on hot coals. It was certainly more complex than it first appeared. Having grown up in a family of 10 kids, I had no doubt about that. While it was always clear they were at war, the reasons weren’t always so obvious. One of them felt...
Life with Gracie: Glen Campbell’s death ‘brings Alzheimer’s out of the shadows.’ Now what?

Life with Gracie: Glen Campbell’s death ‘brings Alzheimer’s out of the shadows.’ Now what?

Sometimes Sue McCormick wonders what’s worse — caring for your loved one who’s physically impaired or one who is so cognitively impaired they no longer recognize you. As the co-owner of Synergy HomeCare in Alpharetta and the daughter of an ill parent, McCormick has seen both sides of that coin, and neither is pleasant to look at. “It’s devastating,” she said the...
Should parents force their children to submit to random drug tests?

Should parents force their children to submit to random drug tests?

You know times have changed when drug tests become part of the back to school routine. If that sounds extreme, you haven’t been keeping up with the opioid epidemic hitting our communities. It’s bad and it’s pretty scary. After years of ebbs and flow, teenage drug use has shown a steady decline, but drug addiction is still a big problem. In 2015 alone, more than 4,000 teens age 14-17...
Atlanta teen’s anti-gun billboard campaign going up in Chicago

Atlanta teen’s anti-gun billboard campaign going up in Chicago

At 19, Mary-Pat Hector possesses enough passion and compassion to cover a multitude of wrongs. If you keep up with the news, you might have heard of her. She was just 13 when she was named national youth director of the National Action Network, which promotes civil rights; 15 when she launched a campaign called Think Twice to raise awareness about gun violence; and last year she ran an unsuccessful...
Life with Gracie: Does affirmative action really discriminate against whites?

Life with Gracie: Does affirmative action really discriminate against whites?

We learned last week that the Trump administration is looking for lawyers interested in investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admission policies believed to discriminate on the basis of race. There’s still a lot of detail to be worked out — it’s not clear, for instance, exactly whom the Justice Department considers at risk of discrimination — but supporters...
Life with Gracie: How a dog was boy’s best friend in dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome

Life with Gracie: How a dog was boy’s best friend in dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome

Iyal Winokur is 19, a mere shadow of the boy he used to be. To look at him now, no one would ever guess the terror he wrought on his family; that he was once like a “bull in a china shop,” breaking the peace that rarely visited this piece of Roswell. For years after adopting Iyal and Morasha from a Russian orphanage, Rabbi Harvey Winokur and his wife, Donnie, were at a loss to explain...
Life with Gracie: Teaching method wins Ron Clark Academy math instructor hero status

Life with Gracie: Teaching method wins Ron Clark Academy math instructor hero status

Back in the spring, some former students of Valerie Camille Jones noticed a Facebook post in search of innovative teachers making an impact in their community. They’d barely finished reading the message when they decided to post a link to drvcjones.com, Jones’ website, the same one that had instructed and inspired them through the years, and lo and behold Darius Scott came calling...
Life with Gracie: Cherokee’s first black nurse takes friend’s illness as cue to retire

Life with Gracie: Cherokee’s first black nurse takes friend’s illness as cue to retire

The email said that Velma Blackwell had decided to retire and her colleagues were planning to throw a celebration in her honor at Northside Hospital Cherokee. It was hard to fathom. When I met the 71-year-old nurse back in April, retirement didn’t quite figure into her future. She balked at even the suggestion because, well, the hospital was poised to move into a new building and Blackwell...
She saved her school from a gunman, but her book wounds her son

She saved her school from a gunman, but her book wounds her son

Derrick Tuff’s life began the way a lot of premature babies do — fraught with uncertainties. He was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a rare but devastating inherited disorder affecting nerves in the hands, arms, feet and legs. He also had retinopathy of prematurety, a disease that causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina, the layer of nerve tissue in the eye that...
Why we women are flocking to ‘Girls Trip’

Why we women are flocking to ‘Girls Trip’

You know these girls. They live down the street, around the corner or across the hall. They are your ace boon coon, your BFF, family. They laugh with you and cry with you. They’re there through the good and bad, the ups and downs, through thick and thin. And whether you talked yesterday, a week ago or sometime last year, they have your back. No matter what. They are the women we see in &ldquo...
How many aluminum cans does it take to build a home?

How many aluminum cans does it take to build a home?

Rashawn Medley sits on the steps of her new home, imagining the moment her empty driveway will be filled with relatives arriving for, well, no particular reason. Family doesn’t need a reason to visit. It’ll be a heady moment for the 35-year-old single mother of two. For four years they’ve shared a one-bedroom apartment always in need of repair. Her daughters shared the bedroom while...
Life with Gracie: Diane Pfeifer’s quirky journey from hits to grits

Life with Gracie: Diane Pfeifer’s quirky journey from hits to grits

Listening to Diane Pfeifer recount the days of her life, I couldn’t help remembering that ancient proverb that claims a cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays and for the last three he stays. Truth or myth, some believe it foretells cats’ ability to always land on their feet, which gets me back to 66-year-old Diane Pfeifer and how this Midwesterner ended up atop...
Life with Gracie: A campaign to pour more coffee and help more refugees

Life with Gracie: A campaign to pour more coffee and help more refugees

The White House had just let it be known that it would not host an Iftar dinner to commemorate Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. It was a break with an annual tradition begun under President Bill Clinton and continued by both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama that Muslims in metro Atlanta found hard to digest. And so when local leaders decided to host a dinner here, they immediately...
Life with Gracie: DeKalb mom wages fight to help her autistic son

Life with Gracie: DeKalb mom wages fight to help her autistic son

If Rivkah Eidex had her way, Effie would be in his room down the hall, a short distance from the dining room table where she is seated telling his story. Happy. Safe like his four siblings. And weeks from now when school starts, he’d re-enroll at Druid Hills Middle School, just like last year. But Eidex has known since he was 9 months old that Effie is different and as much as she’d like...
Life with Gracie: Are black girls worse than white girls?

Life with Gracie: Are black girls worse than white girls?

I think sometimes about Salecia Johnson, the little girl handcuffed and arrested a few years ago after school officials called police to report she’d assaulted a principal and damaged school property. Milledgeville police said at the time that they were called to Creekside Elementary School because Salecia was allegedly throwing a tantrum and that when they arrived, the kindergartner was on...
Life with Gracie: No parent should have to choose between paying rent, buying medicine

Life with Gracie: No parent should have to choose between paying rent, buying medicine

Just weeks after she celebrated her 15th birthday on Jan. 28, 2016, doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite diagnosed Shuntica Carroll with leukemia. She had undergone only three rounds of chemotherapy treatments when doctors noticed another problem: The left side of Shuntica’s heart had been damaged by the treatment, and she needed around-the-clock care. Shuntica&rsquo...
Life with Gracie: Parents who met in China to adopt children became a family, too

Life with Gracie: Parents who met in China to adopt children became a family, too

As another weekend together drew to a close, four families from four states crowded around Amy Venn’s Alpharetta kitchen table. One family had already said its goodbyes and headed out the day before. Two others could not make it this year. Not because they didn’t want to but because life just demanded something else. You know how that is. The days between Friday when they arrived and the...
Clarkston refugees fear fallout from court ruling on travel ban

Clarkston refugees fear fallout from court ruling on travel ban

Jehad Al Homsi, 43, lives with his wife Manal, their three children and his two brothers in a three-bedroom apartment in Clarkston. Except for the constant hum of traffic on a busy stretch of Brockett Way, it is a peaceful place and far from the constant bombings they’d grown used to in their native Syria. Although six years have passed since they fled Dara’a, it’s nearly impossible...
Life with Gracie: Saying grace at meals reminds us to be grateful to God

Life with Gracie: Saying grace at meals reminds us to be grateful to God

Mark Reed is a praying man, which means he always says grace at mealtime. It’s been a practice of his since he was a little boy growing up in Smyrna, in a Southern Baptist family of three children. It was automatic, like being on autopilot, he said. Reed is 70 now, a retired father of two grown sons. He and his wife, Michelle, still say grace at mealtime. And according to a recent Washington...
Life with Gracie: For MJCCA league softball player, 47 years on the mound isn’t enough

Life with Gracie: For MJCCA league softball player, 47 years on the mound isn’t enough

Gene Benator’s quest for another Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta Modified-Fast Pitch Tournament softball title ended quietly on Father’s Day. After tying the game in the fifth ending, Team Benator sadly ended up on the wrong end of a 9-5 score, in a “do or die” loser’s bracket game. After nearly 50 years playing in the league, and playing both spring and fall...
Life with Gracie: There are millions and millions of Facebook groups; why this local one stood out 

Life with Gracie: There are millions and millions of Facebook groups; why this local one stood out 

A full year after her son Nelson graduated from The Citadel, Dorie Griggs was still getting telephone calls and email from parents of incoming Knobs. Griggs had spent years blogging about her experiences as a Citadel mom and had become a trusted adviser about all things Citadel. What items should cadets bring with them? What’s the difference between men’s briefs and jockeys? How to empower...
Life with Gracie: Why Steve Harvey’s camp for boys struck chord with Atlanta businessman

Life with Gracie: Why Steve Harvey’s camp for boys struck chord with Atlanta businessman

In the beginning, Benjamin Raymond was happy just to be able to help sponsor this camp for boys because, well, he’d walked in their shoes. He was a grown man but remembered only a five-minute conversation with his father once when he was 7, and after that, he simply vanished from his life. He found him on the internet 20 years later, but he was soon gone again, locked away in prison for 25 years...
Life with Gracie: Who steps in when parents’ drug use unravels children’s lives?

Life with Gracie: Who steps in when parents’ drug use unravels children’s lives?

The men on Breckenridge Court in north Fulton adopted Aaron, then Katherine and Will because their mother preferred being high on cocaine to caring for them. Aaron is 10 now, Katherine is 8 and Will is 7, the sons and daughter of Jim Bass and Ken Adcox of Alpharetta. They are also Jim Bass’ niece and nephews, children of an ever-increasing number of families unraveling because their parents...
Life with Gracie: How an interior designer built a Rainbow Village for homeless

Life with Gracie: How an interior designer built a Rainbow Village for homeless

The year Nancy Yancey arrived at this place now known as Rainbow Village, the nonprofit was doing its best to help change the lives of homeless families in a single-story wood-frame house in Norcross. Rainbow House opened its doors in 1991 thanks to a $25,000 gift to Christ Episcopal Church as an outreach mission that amounted to about four months of respite care for some of Gwinnett County&rsquo...
Life with Gracie: Do mean girls grow up to be mean moms?

Life with Gracie: Do mean girls grow up to be mean moms?

Liz Doto was used to mean girls. From the time she was in middle school, she was the object of their criticism and near-constant harassment. So was Jessica Hayun, but it never occurred to either of them that any of those mean girls would turn into mean moms, too. Doto, 32, of Woodstock and Hayun, 28, of Marietta are members of the Mommy and Minis Meetup group and, to their dismay, they’ve seen...
Life with Gracie: DeKalb couple’s personal tragedy becomes crusade for genetic testing

Life with Gracie: DeKalb couple’s personal tragedy becomes crusade for genetic testing

In a third-floor office suite that is home to JScreen, a 44-year-old father talks about the moment he learned his daughter would never talk, never walk, would have the mental capacity of an 18-month-old and eventually go blind. “We were devastated,” he said. And surprised. Before they were married in 2004, Randy Gold and his wife, Caroline, made sure they were screened to determine whether...
Life with Gracie: Why 6th District voter launched petition for more debates

Life with Gracie: Why 6th District voter launched petition for more debates

Sandra Sidhom was minding her own business early last month when her iPhone beeped and a tweet about a scheduled debate sponsored by the Dunwoody Homeowners Association got her attention. “Karen won’t show up for debate,” the missive said. Sidhom, a 24-year-old real estate agent who took her first steps in Roswell and resides in Alpharetta, has lived her entire life in the 6th Congressional...
Life with Gracie: Have we become a nation of kids? The trend of adults behaving badly

Life with Gracie: Have we become a nation of kids? The trend of adults behaving badly

My daughters left school for the last time nearly a decade ago, but I can’t tell you how happy I am the school year is over. I wish I could say I owe my sentiment to an easier traffic flow but I can’t. I’m just sick and tired of all the adults behaving badly — coaches having inappropriate relationships with their students, parents joining schoolhouse brawls, and teachers, dressed...
Atlanta vet leads “platoon” in West End cleanup

Atlanta vet leads “platoon” in West End cleanup

In just a few days, more than 100 military veterans from across the country will fan out across Atlanta’s West End to give the area a badly needed face-lift. They will plant community gardens, construct an outdoor learning center, install a basketball court and improve parks, green spaces and access to them for residents along Atlanta Beltline’s westside trail. The mass deployment, billed...
Life with Gracie: Book based on African-American youngster meant to inspire all girls

Life with Gracie: Book based on African-American youngster meant to inspire all girls

A Doc McStuffins doll seemed like the perfect gift. She’s African-American and female. She provides for us an abundance of teaching moments. And so you might understand why Munson Steed was beside himself, sure his goddaughter Skye Johnson would be beside herself, too, the moment she saw it, the set of books and other gadgets Steed had purchased. “I thought I had done something,&rdquo...
Life with Gracie: Gwinnett single mom makes medical history

Life with Gracie: Gwinnett single mom makes medical history

You might say Danielle Ward has lived her entire life for days like this. Rushing off to yet another hospital to train for the day she becomes a full-fledged Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. The thought of such a thing ever happening began, she said recently, when she was no more than 5 and witnessed a doctor perform surgery on television for the first time. Ward knew then that was what she wanted...
Life with Gracie: 3 friends make cut for YWCA annual ‘Woman of Achievement’ award

Life with Gracie: 3 friends make cut for YWCA annual ‘Woman of Achievement’ award

For more than three decades, the YWCA has been honoring women for their commitment and contributions to Atlanta, women who embody the organization’s mission to eliminate racism and empower other women. In recent years, Home Depot CFO Carol Tomé, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, the Rev. Joanna Adams, and Billye Aaron have each been named a “Woman of Achievement.&rdquo...
Child support scofflaws given alternative to jail

Child support scofflaws given alternative to jail

John C. Cook’s life was a mess. He was divorced, and child support payments for his three children were so far in arrears he feared there was no way to catch up. Then in May 2005, the law intervened. Cook landed in jail for driving under the influence and he was held on contempt for missed child support payments. Instead of the judge scrutinizing him for his past failures, Cook said, &ldquo...
Gracie: Flipside of ‘13 Reasons Why’: Grady program helps women choose to live

Gracie: Flipside of ‘13 Reasons Why’: Grady program helps women choose to live

You notice Stephanie Ball’s eyes brighten the moment there’s any mention of her toolbox. For years before she discovered Grady’s Nia Project, Ball couldn’t think of one reason why she should live. It seemed everyone she encountered, she said, “used me up, then spit me out.”
Life with Gracie: First school in decades opens in English Avenue

Life with Gracie: First school in decades opens in English Avenue

One afternoon recently, Benjamin Wills took me on a quick tour of Peace Preparatory Academy, its well-appointed classrooms and new playground, then led me to a small second-story office to explain how the small English Avenue school came to be. Wills, a 30-year-old bespectacled father of three with a penchant for slim jeans and bow ties, was educated in the public schools of Duncanville, Texas, where...
Life with Gracie: AID Atlanta takes its case against CDC to court

Life with Gracie: AID Atlanta takes its case against CDC to court

AID Atlanta filed suit Thursday against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claiming the federal agency’s decision to defund it threatens the delivery of HIV testing and prevention services to the community most at risk of getting the deadly virus — young, black gay and bisexual men. The suit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, comes less...
Life with Gracie: Why you’re getting bad customer service and not just from airlines

Life with Gracie: Why you’re getting bad customer service and not just from airlines

When it comes to customer relations, the airlines have had a bad couple of months. Denying boarding to teens for wearing leggings. Dragging a passenger from his seat because he refused to give it up for an employee. Booting a family over the use of a seat even though they were paying customers. If you’ve bought into the old adage that says the customer is always right, this might be a good...
Life with Gracie: Trying to reconnect with your dreams? It might be time to pursue ‘Oola’

Life with Gracie: Trying to reconnect with your dreams? It might be time to pursue ‘Oola’

More than 60 years ago, Langston Hughes penned one of the most famous poems of the Harlem Renaissance, “What Happens to a Dream Deferred?” Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore — And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over — like a syrupy sweet? Now come Troy Amdahl and Dave Braun, the OolaGuys who aren’t just exploring...
Life with Gracie: If you’re grateful I-85 is reopening sooner, say amen

Life with Gracie: If you’re grateful I-85 is reopening sooner, say amen

I’m grateful for any amount of highway lanes above one. I didn’t know that, of course, until very recently when my twice-weekly commute to church turned into a short road trip. Thursdays to and from choir rehearsal have always been considerable — the trip down I-85 more than the trip northward toward home — but I’d gotten used to that. That was like breathing. But in...
Life with Gracie: Champion swimmer in race against childhood cancer

Life with Gracie: Champion swimmer in race against childhood cancer

There was no reason to think the eye infection plaguing Mary Ellen Warta’s 3-year-old son Jonas was anything more than pink eye, but it just wouldn’t heal. Both she and her husband, Geoff, had been diligent in following doctor’s orders, administering drops to Jonas’ right eye on time and as scheduled. For weeks. For nothing. Then one spring morning in 2012 while at St...

Care for the dying

These were the sorts of situations that made them think there had to be a better way to die and, maybe, even to be better nurses. "I always refer back to one of my first deaths, " Shannon Collins said recently. One of her patients, a middle-aged woman who had suffered a stroke, had stated in her will that she did not want to be artificially fed. Her husband, however, insisted. And her son...
Life with Gracie: Homeless youths more likely to be bought and sold for sex

Life with Gracie: Homeless youths more likely to be bought and sold for sex

Je’Brial Lee talks about her years in metro Atlanta’s sex trade the way one talks about a day at the office, only she was posing in sexy outfits, naked inside cages and performing untold sex acts. “For me, it was business, easy money in my hand,” she says matter-of-factly. For three years — from ages 14 to 17 — Je’Brial said the man who lured her into the...
Life with Gracie: Kids in Syria need diapers too; metro Atlanta woman wants to help

Life with Gracie: Kids in Syria need diapers too; metro Atlanta woman wants to help

It’s been pretty hard to miss the news out of Syria, its ongoing civil war and more recently the chemical attack by the government on its citizens. More than 80 people died early this month after breathing in poison. It was hard to watch and even harder seeing children choking, gasping for breath. Dying. Our president, after viewing videos and photos of the dead children in Khan Sheikhoun, ordered...
Life with Gracie: Georgia Festival Chorus’ 90-year-old leader has own rich history

Life with Gracie: Georgia Festival Chorus’ 90-year-old leader has own rich history

Just minutes into the Georgia Festival Chorus rehearsal the other night, I’m struck by its choirmaster Frank Boggs. Even at 90, he is no doubt an incredible force — disciplined, intense and charismatic, possessing the sort of persuasive rigor it takes to coax music out of a choir of any sort, even this one, a mix of retirees and working folk. Lawyers and nurses and schoolteachers and engineers...
Life with Gracie: In search of the teens booted from United Airlines flight over fashion

Life with Gracie: In search of the teens booted from United Airlines flight over fashion

If you were barred from a United Airlines flight in Denver because you were wearing leggings recently, there’s a company that wants to give you a free pair. That’s right. Define Your Inspiration, considered by Forbes magazine to be the next Lululemon because of their high-waisted leggings, is looking for you. When DYI execs heard the airline turned you away, they were bombed like the rest...
Someone must die so another can live

Someone must die so another can live

At 58, Lance Cunha had traveled the world counseling organizations on strategic matters, helping solve complex development and economic problems, and advising countries on debt and capital market issues. He was, as they say, at the top of his game. Having grown up of modest means in New York City, he was proud of how far he’d come in life. He was a first generation American, a hard worker who&rsquo...
Life with Gracie: At 71, Northside Cherokee’s first black nurse still endures

Life with Gracie: At 71, Northside Cherokee’s first black nurse still endures

May 6 won’t look anything like March 1, 1969, the day Velma Blackwell first reported to work at Northside Hospital in Canton. In ’69, Blackwell was 24 and the first African-American to work as a nurse at the facility, known then as R.T. Jones Hospital. Notice I didn’t say the first nurse. There were other black nurses — registered nurses, in fact — but they weren&rsquo...
Life with Gracie: CDC denies funds for fighting a rapid spike in black and Latino HIV cases 

Life with Gracie: CDC denies funds for fighting a rapid spike in black and Latino HIV cases 

Just one month ago, AID Atlanta was recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its strong track record providing needed services to thousands of metro Atlantans living with HIV/AIDS. It was confirmation that AID Atlanta’s prevention/intervention programs were making a difference. And so when the nonprofit, which has been receiving CDC funds for the past 14 years, applied...
Here’s one good way to honor your mom this Mother’s Day

Here’s one good way to honor your mom this Mother’s Day

Sometime on April 11, Audrey Brees will log onto her computer and make a $60 donation, maybe more, to the Miracle Foundation in honor of her mother. It will be an early Mother’s Day gift, the same one she has given for at least the past three years. That might not seem like much, but for the millions of children without mothers across the globe, who languish in substandard institutions, it means...
Easter marks the season of hope and new beginnings

Easter marks the season of hope and new beginnings

For nearly a decade now, Suellen Daniels of Cumming, along with her husband Steve, has been working to put healthy food on the tables of metro Atlanta’s needy families. Every day she longs to be the catalyst for someone else’s new beginning. It’s her way of propagating the hope that lies at the heart of the Easter story. Hearing Daniels talk about how she came to form the non-profit...
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