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Life with Gracie

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...
Life with Gracie: Cobb first-graders place second in international robotics competition

Life with Gracie: Cobb first-graders place second in international robotics competition

The little boy is 7 and the girl only 6, best friends for sure and lovers of all things robotic. They are a team and they call themselves the Robot Ninja Helpers. It might not have been except on Christmas morning 2015, the little boy, whose name is Drew Williams, opened a present from his grandmother, Rebecca Stensland, and inside was a bright blue and orange Dash Robot. His mother, Beth Denman,...
Life with Gracie: What’s it like being a #blackwomanatwork?

Life with Gracie: What’s it like being a #blackwomanatwork?

Oh, the stories I could tell. There are so many I hardly know where to start, but any old place would do. Mississippi where I grew up, Texas where I first fell in love with column writing or here in Georgia where I’d longed to be since graduating from college. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. Each have borne in me both goodness and pain, but I found myself reliving one bad incident...
Life with Gracie: Recent anti-Semitic attacks drive Dunwoody mom to become an activist 

Life with Gracie: Recent anti-Semitic attacks drive Dunwoody mom to become an activist 

Except when men are working next door, Lauren Menis lives on a quiet tree-lined street in Dunwoody. At 46, the mother of two has spent the past decade caring for her two children, doing loads of laundry, grocery shopping, making meals, washing dishes, all the things mothers do. “I was a stay-at-home mom four weeks ago,” Menis said. “Today I am an activist.” She says she was...
Life with Gracie: Survivors relieved campus rape bill is dead, for now

Life with Gracie: Survivors relieved campus rape bill is dead, for now

Lisa Anderson was raped late one evening in the fall of 2003, while attending graduate school at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Her hair had barely grown back after surgery to remove a brain tumor, but for the first time in a long while she was feeling hopeful. She was at a reception for graduate students that night when she met her dissertation advisor and he invited her to dinner to...
Life with Gracie: Oprah network actress is star teacher at Georgia academy

Life with Gracie: Oprah network actress is star teacher at Georgia academy

Fans of the Oprah Winfrey television series “Greenleaf” know her as Janice Turner, the mother of one of Mac’s alleged sexual abuse victims. At Clayton County’s Utopian Academy for the Arts, she’s Ms. Jackson, actress, artist in residence and drama teacher. That’s one interesting tidbit you may not have known about the “Greenleaf” co-star, but Tonia Jackson&rsquo...
Life with Gracie: From mother to daughter: Wishing you a love that lasts

Life with Gracie: From mother to daughter: Wishing you a love that lasts

Last Saturday, my daughter Asha married her best friend at Agnes Scott College’s Julia Thompson Smith Chapel, a stunning, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired sanctuary. We’d been planning this moment since December 2015 when Herman Hall Jr. asked Jimmy for her hand in marriage, but I was totally unprepared. I was ready when she headed off to kindergarten, to foreign places like Spain and Japan...
Which ‘down-and-dirty’ men should you spring-clean from your life?

Which ‘down-and-dirty’ men should you spring-clean from your life?

Normally when we think of spring cleaning, we think of a thorough do-over of our homes. We wipe the windows inside and out. We send dirt and germs packing. We toss the old in favor of the new. But how many of us ever consider getting rid of the — ahem — “down-and-dirty” men in our lives? Shannon Colleary did and, well, her life has never been better. “I feel like...
Life with Gracie: Once a ‘walking skeleton,’ rescued horse shows kids what love can do

Life with Gracie: Once a ‘walking skeleton,’ rescued horse shows kids what love can do

When she arrived at High Meadows School late last year, no one expected the thoroughbred to survive. She had no color. Her hair was almost all gone. Her hoofs were overgrown. She was at least 400 pounds underweight. “She looked like a walking skeleton,” said Walt Knapp, head horse trainer at the Roswell school. “I couldn’t believe my eyes.” No one can say exactly where...
Life with Gracie: DeKalb businessman Tom Stokes a ‘paragon’ to Georgia Boy Choir

Life with Gracie: DeKalb businessman Tom Stokes a ‘paragon’ to Georgia Boy Choir

For nearly a decade, Tom Stokes has been a staunch supporter of the Georgia Boy Choir. Sometimes fundraising. Other times traveling to faraway places like Scandinavia as they sang Mozart in Latin, Bach in German and Thomas Tallis in English, of course. Touring in Scandinavia, where his wife, Helena, grew up, was particularly heartening, he said. After a day of punting, playing cricket on the...
Life with Gracie: Single moms gather to celebrate and honor one another

Life with Gracie: Single moms gather to celebrate and honor one another

Joyce Amilcar lives with her 9-year-old daughter in a second-floor high-rise just off Peachtree Road in Buckhead. It is a nice place and at 9 a.m. in the morning, when her daughter is away at school, and when Amilcar, a software salesperson, is waiting for the West Coast to wake up, it is especially quiet. Little about her or her home even hints that Amilcar is a single mom and has been for nearly...
Single-father families outpace ones led by single mothers

Single-father families outpace ones led by single mothers

Andy Kuklinski and his son will likely spend this Father’s Day with friends, cooking barbecue and, well, just having fun. Except for time around their apartment complex swimming pool, it will be an otherwise uneventful day. But this 40-year-old Dunwoody dad doesn’t need much these days to be happy. Just being with little Yusuf, 5, is more than enough. In managing the day-to-day care and...
Why I’m not an atheist

Why I’m not an atheist

The more-direct sun of spring has already arrived, the azaleas in my front yard have opened, and green sprigs of Bermuda grass are starting to emerge. After fall, this is my favorite time of year, when in the words of Tennyson, a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love, and everywhere I look I see God. Why? Apparently there’s ample evidence pointing overwhelmingly toward the non-existence...
You won’t believe how poorly metro Atlanta children are doing

You won’t believe how poorly metro Atlanta children are doing

Research by United Way of Greater Atlanta and community partners about the state of our children contains plenty of food for thought – some of it heartening, some downright alarming. On the good news front, birth rates are improving in some areas like Clayton County. The region’s homelessness rate has dropped 61 percent over the last five years, making Atlanta one of the only major cities...
Black men and the new Jim Crow

Black men and the new Jim Crow

Bert Skellie, a 70-year-old retired state employee and civil rights activist, had known about bias in our nation’s criminal justice system for a long time. All you had to do, he said, is witness who shows up in our courtrooms: mostly young black men. Nothing in his mind could justify a criminal justice system that had essentially eviscerated the African-American community, and black men in particular...
African-Americans can live longer despite disadvantages, adversity

African-Americans can live longer despite disadvantages, adversity

Back in 2015, Ambassador Theodore Britton was attending a meeting at Hampton University on minority men’s health when in walked Dr. Herman Taylor. Taylor, a cardiologist who made a name for himself leading the largest epidemiological investigation ever undertaken to discover the links between cardiovascular disease and race, had come to talk about his work with the Jackson Heart Study. Britton...
Ex-pro ball player creates movement to promote racial harmony

Ex-pro ball player creates movement to promote racial harmony

I think often of a little boy from my hometown named Danny, wondering whatever became of him. He was of mixed heritage — half white, half black — cute as could be and just as sad. Not only did white children reject him, so did black ones.
Life with Gracie: Reading 1,000 books is just a start for this 5-year-old Georgia girl

Life with Gracie: Reading 1,000 books is just a start for this 5-year-old Georgia girl

You’ve heard of Daliyah Arana. Last week, I got the chance to meet her, her mom and dad and two siblings at the Southeast Atlanta Library. And if you’ve heard of the 5-year-old, that last bit of information will come as little surprise. Libraries are Daliyah’s favorite place to be in the world. The kid loves books and, most especially, reading them. It was a love affair born, according...
Life with Gracie: Last Ringling circus brings first female ringmaster to town

Life with Gracie: Last Ringling circus brings first female ringmaster to town

If you’ve been paying attention, you know the greatest show on Earth recently added some girl power to its lineup. But just one week in, Wilson was sadly out. She learned it was only a matter of months before she’d be gone, along with the other Ringling performers. The circus that had entertained many generations was ending. “I just kind of went into shock,” Wilson told me...
Fulton County woman keeps connection to Gee’s Bend alive

Fulton County woman keeps connection to Gee’s Bend alive

Soon after her parents passed away, Marlene Bennett Jones returned to Gee’s Bend and stuffed every piece of clothing the couple owned into 15 garbage bags. They didn’t look like much, but all Jones needed were pieces of cloth. The moments she’d shared with her mother before her passing had sown a longing deep inside her, and it was time to purge. Back home in Fairburn, she emptied...
Life with Gracie: Prison artists get to show off their talent, do good at same time

Life with Gracie: Prison artists get to show off their talent, do good at same time

For the longest time, the boxes had sat untouched in Lucy Fugate’s basement. It’s hard to say exactly why she never bothered to check the contents before now, but stuffed inside were nearly two decades of yellow newspaper clippings, magazine articles and other mementos, including a pencil portrait of Fugate’s grandmother Pauline Wiggins. Wiggins was the wife of Marvin E. Wiggins...
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