Life with Gracie

Pain of son’s suicide became strength to help others

Pain of son’s suicide became strength to help others

Iris Bolton knows a lot about grief, and so she has come here to deliver a message. You really can survive brokenness and trauma. That’s true even if you’ve had to face the suicide of a child. That isn’t something someone told Bolton. She has lived with that reality now for more than 40 years. But unlike the vast majority of people who experience the loss of a loved one to suicide...
This Life with Gracie: Can a fat girl be fit, too?

This Life with Gracie: Can a fat girl be fit, too?

Sometime around 4:30 this morning, Mirna Valerio slid out of bed, did a few squats to warm up her back and legs and headed to kitchen for a strong cup of black joe. An hour later, she donned her headlamp and headed to a nearby track, where each day she runs, oh, 2 to 3 miles before returning home for a quick breakfast and work at the Rabun Gap Nacoochee School, about 117 miles northeast of Atlanta...
This Life with Gracie: Church families open homes to children caught in opioid crisis

This Life with Gracie: Church families open homes to children caught in opioid crisis

Cheryl Smith and her husband, Jeremy, had already gone through private adoption to build their family, but the thought of fostering a child scared them. The thought of having to say goodbye to a child they had cared for and loved seemed like the hardest thing in the world. But in 2012, the Smiths found themselves at a church meeting in which a representative for the nonprofit FaithBridge Foster Care...
This Life: In the wake of Las Vegas tragedy, are our prayers enough?

This Life: In the wake of Las Vegas tragedy, are our prayers enough?

It’s safe to say “our thoughts and prayers are with you” is a familiar refrain after a tragedy like the one that unfolded last week in Las Vegas. In many ways, it is as natural a response as “thank you” when receiving gifts and other kindnesses or “God bless you” after a hardy sneeze. And quite frankly often just as empty. But should there be a response after...
Do white NFL fans see players as human or as mascots?

Do white NFL fans see players as human or as mascots?

Some of my readers aren’t happy. They are, in fact, downright angry that I would, one, criticize the President and, two, disrespect the American flag by suggesting that it’s OK for NFL players to take a knee during the national anthem to express displeasure with police brutality toward African-Americans. And so after my column, NFL unity trumps President’s hate speech, ...
Pastors — one white, one black — take on hard questions of race

Pastors — one white, one black — take on hard questions of race

In a small prayer room at New Life Covenant Church, co-pastors Tim Rodgers and Catherine Gilliard talk about the cost of laying bare one’s heart when it comes to conversations about race, gender, gentrification and justice. Rodgers, a white father of two, feared being misunderstood and judged. He also feared being rejected. “I’m a peacemaker so I don’t like conflict,&rdquo...
This Life With Gracie: Does Las Vegas shooting leave you scared?

This Life With Gracie: Does Las Vegas shooting leave you scared?

Monday began like all my days – 5 a.m. quiet time with a cup a coffee and reading of the scripture. I felt pretty good but then my mind turned to work as it always does, and that meant checking my email. Twenty people attending a concert in Las Vegas had been killed. As if that weren’t bad enough, television news provided an update: 50 people were dead, 200 injured in what officials were...
This Life with Gracie: Friendship that’s stood the test of time

This Life with Gracie: Friendship that’s stood the test of time

On a Thursday late last month, Gloria Sheppard and six of her girlfriends gathered at Paschal’s over plates of fried chicken, fried fish and ribs to catch up. They have been meeting this way – for lunch, a movie or just because — as part of some unspoken ritual established more than half a century ago when they were in their 20s, and they cheekily call themselves the Unique Ones...
This Life with Gracie: A coming together to be the change you want

This Life with Gracie: A coming together to be the change you want

After the election of Donald Trump as president last November, Katie Anderson felt like a lot of women — shocked, appalled and afraid. In her mind, she was seeing a profound divide in the country along racial, class and even generational lines. “I felt for the first time in my life a threat to what I’d believed was American ideals and identity as a melting pot,” the 46-year-old...
This Life with Gracie: NFL unity trumps President’s hate speech

This Life with Gracie: NFL unity trumps President’s hate speech

It’s a pretty good guess President Trump didn’t count on the NFL’s response to his demand to fire or suspend players who kneel during the national anthem. And quite frankly, after seeing what happened to Colin Kaepernick, I hadn’t either but my spirit soared Sunday as I watched owners and coaches locking arms with players in defiance of the president’s verbal lashing...
This Life with Gracie: A pastor and his 150-year-old church come full circle

This Life with Gracie: A pastor and his 150-year-old church come full circle

By the time the Rev. Dwight Andrews arrived at the First Congregational Church in 1988, the Atlanta worship center had already established itself as a beacon of hope; a place of not only progress but possibility. But for all the good it had done, for all the uplift it had provided over the last century, the church had fallen into disrepair and had grown inward, more concerned with its own needs and...
This Life with Gracie: Alpharetta mom on a mission to prevent suicide

This Life with Gracie: Alpharetta mom on a mission to prevent suicide

People who lose a loved one to suicide are haunted by a myriad of whys, hows, and the what-ifs that can never be answered. Why would anyone ever take their own life? What makes them desire death in the first place? And how, for God’s sake, do they build up the nerve to do it? Like so many others, it was all Teressa Stann was left with after the death of her brother Louie Ruspi in 2011. Questions...
This Life with Gracie: Are white churches doing Christianity right?

This Life with Gracie: Are white churches doing Christianity right?

As Hurricane Irma barreled toward us last week, I was hunkered down at home putting the finishing touches on a less threatening story and half-listening to the television. Then at precisely the moment my husband switched the channel from the weather forecast to ABC’s “The View,” I was forced to lean in. Robert E. Lee IV was speaking, and the mixed-race audience was going wild with...
This Life with Gracie: Teddy the Spaz Man more than a hound dog

This Life with Gracie: Teddy the Spaz Man more than a hound dog

Teddy the Spaz Man is a 3 1/2-year-old hound mix who lives with a man, a woman, two dogs and a cat, last name Warren at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. The Warrens, Diane and Aaron, first met Teddy at a shelter in October 2014 and brought him home here to Canton, where he has lived happily ever since. You might have heard of him. He’s goofy. He’s funny. He’s every man’s dog...
This Life with Gracie: Wondering if Westside Works works? Here’s one answer

This Life with Gracie: Wondering if Westside Works works? Here’s one answer

On the eve of The Falcons-Cardinals football game a few weeks ago, Antonia Thomas sat just outside the small kitchen of West Nest and told me how the stadium restaurant has changed her life. Thomas, 43, moved with her four children from Americus eight years ago to Atlanta’s Westside just as talks of a new Falcons stadium began. She is one of nearly 500 residents from some of Atlanta’s...
Life with Gracie: White retired educator offers a different view of affirmative action

Life with Gracie: White retired educator offers a different view of affirmative action

Janet Hogan Chapman believes there was a time when affirmative action was needed to correct discriminatory practices against blacks and other minorities. Not anymore. “Let each be judged solely on set parameters and qualifications,” the 63-year-old retired McDonough school teacher said. Chapman was responding to the Justice Department’s recent memo seeking lawyers to investigate...
This Life with Gracie: Pizza and the 9/11 terrorist attack

This Life with Gracie: Pizza and the 9/11 terrorist attack

Every year around this time Robert Eisenhardt gets an uncontrollable urge to go outside and be alone. He knows instinctively the moment when a plane struck the north tower of the World Trade Center and that he will fall part because, well, that’s what he’s always done. With the 16th anniversary of the terror attack falling on Monday, he will likely spend the day working at Fiserv financial...
This Life with Gracie: Mom, are you suffering from postpartum depression?

This Life with Gracie: Mom, are you suffering from postpartum depression?

The pregnancies were pretty easy except Amy Corn felt unusually anxious. About germs. About death. The dark moments first surfaced in 2008 when Corn was pregnant with her daughter and again in 2011 while pregnant with her son. “There were days when I felt completely hopeless, and nervous, and cried for no reason,” Corn said recently. For years, she accepted the dark mood as her new normal...
Changing the narrative about black gay men

Changing the narrative about black gay men

One night in November 2014, Charles Stephens listened intently as black gay men rose to recount their stories — some heartbreaking, some inspiring — about homophobia, racism, HIV and other issues at an event called the Blueprint Dialogue. There was the Morehouse college senior who expressed a need for unconditional love. Small acts of affirmation, he said, would go a long way toward healing...
Black, gay and proud: one man’s quest to thrive

Black, gay and proud: one man’s quest to thrive

For two days early last month, Daniel Driffin hunkered down at the Westin Hotel working to create ways to improve the lives of young people ages 13-24 who are living with HIV. As the 31-year-old co-founder of the non-profit THRIVE SS, this is Driffin’s life as he tries to make good on a mission to ensure black gay men no longer feel ashamed about who they are or live in isolation because they...
Despite progress, Atlanta’s HIV epidemic is worse

Despite progress, Atlanta’s HIV epidemic is worse

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted in 2016 that if current rates continue, one in two African-American gay and bisexual men will be infected with HIV, the virus that causes it AIDS, during their lifetime. In Atlanta, the epidemic was particularly acute. Now, it may be worse.  Dr. Carlos del Rio, co-director of Emory University’s Center for AIDS Research, put it this...
The Silent Epidemic: How purpose saved this HIV survivor’s life

The Silent Epidemic: How purpose saved this HIV survivor’s life

In the spring of 1985, Craig Washington started to feel constant nausea. He had no appetite and he was battling a cold that wouldn’t go away. Before long, he was experiencing night sweats, swollen lymph nodes and thrush, all classic symptoms of the virus that causes AIDS. He was 25 and certain his life was about to change. Four years earlier on June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and...
Personal stories help counter negative images of black gay men

Personal stories help counter negative images of black gay men

One night in November 2014, Charles Stephens listened intently as black gay men rose to recount their stories — some heartbreaking, some inspiring — about homophobia, racism, HIV and other issues at an event called the Blueprint Dialogue. There was the Morehouse college senior who expressed a need for unconditional love. Small acts of affirmation, he said, would go a long way toward healing...
The Silent Epidemic: Counting the cost of being ignored

The Silent Epidemic: Counting the cost of being ignored

Black gay men are 22 times more likely to be HIV positive than Black Americans overall, according to the CDC. And reports say that 54% of black gay men who are HIV positive are not in care.  But despite the daunting numbers that illustrate black gay men are over represented in HIV infection cases, many express that their reality—their struggle—is ignored. Today black gay...
Life with Gracie: 54 years after March on Washington, a new call to action

Life with Gracie: 54 years after March on Washington, a new call to action

At exactly 6 p.m. Sunday, Kylan Pew will board a chartered bus to our nation’s capital along with hundreds of other faith leaders to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington. Pew, 27, won’t have much in the way of memories to share with the others, but the anniversary is no less important. The way he sees things, Monday’s 1,000 Ministers March will be a show of solidarity against...
Life with Gracie: How Aimee Copeland will use nature to help others with disabilities

Life with Gracie: How Aimee Copeland will use nature to help others with disabilities

The idea came to her during one of the darkest periods of Aimee Copeland’s life. After nearly dying from a flesh-eating bacterial infection, Copeland felt crushed. To save her life, doctors had amputated both her hands, her right foot and her entire right leg. “I was feeling bad for myself, thinking I wouldn’t be able to go hiking in the woods or any of the other things I used...
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...
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