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Life with Gracie

This Life: Former co-chair of 1994 crusade says Billy Graham was man of integrity

This Life: Former co-chair of 1994 crusade says Billy Graham was man of integrity

Funny what we remember about people when they’re gone. In the hours after Billy Graham’s death Wednesday, swollen ankles filled the mind of the Rev. Cameron Madison Alexander. Weeks before Graham’s 1994 Atlanta crusade, the preachers had just wrapped up a meeting in Alexander’s office at Antioch Baptist Church North, when Graham asked to use the restroom. That’s when...
This Life: Vietnam vet says AR-15 has no place in civilized society

This Life: Vietnam vet says AR-15 has no place in civilized society

In the days since the Florida school shooting, we’ve heard a lot about assault weapons and the AR-15 in particular. It is the same semi-automatic style weapon Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old suspected shooter, is said to have used to kill 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students. It was also the choice of weapon in which 27 were killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School...
Life with Gracie: Cobb teen engages kids with disabilities in martial arts

Life with Gracie: Cobb teen engages kids with disabilities in martial arts

On most any Friday night, you can find Marcus McAbee on the mat at Karate Atlanta Kennesaw. It isn’t the kind of thing most 16-year-olds will give of their time to after a long week of AP classes, but make no mistake, Marcus isn’t a typical kid. Never has been. Even at just 10, he knew as any good fighter does that sizing up your opponent before the first strike lands is essential to successful...
This Life with Gracie: Prison chaplain gets a pardon

This Life with Gracie: Prison chaplain gets a pardon

For a long time, Omar Howard had waited for his answer, but when it came, when he saw the letter from the Georgia Department of Pardons and Parole in his mailbox last week, he couldn’t bring himself to open it. He was just too scared it was another “no,” and he’d grown tired of the rejection. “I didn’t open it,” he said recently. “I kinda pulled it back...
This Life: Counselor’s compassion to family helps anchor student’s future

This Life: Counselor’s compassion to family helps anchor student’s future

So often we get so caught up in our differences that we forget, whether we admit it or not, that at our core we’re all the same. We all bleed red. We all want to be loved and accepted. We’re all human. Keep that in mind as you read the story of 15-year-old Jemariya Patterson and her mom La Toya, who at just 34 years of age has been battling heart disease now for nearly a decade. Keep in...
This Life: What hurting teens in school may need most: A listener who cares

This Life: What hurting teens in school may need most: A listener who cares

In any given school week, Kara Thompson sees as many as 38 students who need her help. Sometimes the need is as simple as a word of encouragement and other times as complicated as finding them a place to stay. As often as she can, she does whatever it takes to fulfill those needs. However and whenever she can. At just 29, Thompson, a site coordinator for Communities In Schools, is little more than...
This Life: #MeToo movement inspires Marietta mom to seek justice

This Life: #MeToo movement inspires Marietta mom to seek justice

For the longest time, Empress Rellise accepted other people’s impressions of her. She was, in their eyes, a promiscuous whore, a nymphomaniac. The problem with that is she never had a choice in the matter. No 5-year-old girl, or boy for that matter, ever does. Most 5-year-olds know their address and phone number. They can recognize most letters of the alphabet and they can count. But they don&rsquo...
This Life: Gate City Bar president helping the village that helped him

This Life: Gate City Bar president helping the village that helped him

Clyde Mize was attending a forum last year at Douglass High School, when a handful of teachers stood to lament the proposed shutdown of their elementary school in southwest Atlanta. They weren’t just a school, they were a close-knit community that not only provided classroom instruction but emotional support to students and even supplies and food with money from their own pockets. Moved...
This Life with Gracie: Life after Chipper Jones and divorce

This Life with Gracie: Life after Chipper Jones and divorce

Karin Luise’s Facebook post was simple and straightforward. “From my heart, I want to congratulate Chipper for making it into the Hall of Fame. He was an incredibly talented, passionate ball player. We had quite a ride together from the years in the minor leagues through injuries, the strike, the highs and lows, the best World Series ever … and all the rest.” With those few...
This Life: Why Women’s March hat moniker strikes me wrong

This Life: Why Women’s March hat moniker strikes me wrong

A year after they were introduced as a symbol for the Women’s March, those outrageous pink hats, to my dismay, were back in the news last week. I had hoped I’d seen the last of them, but just as sure as seconds turn to minutes, annual anniversaries come and wouldn’t you know this year marked the first anniversary of both the march and President Donald Trump’s inauguration and...
 Software exec brawls for kids

 Software exec brawls for kids

Eddie Capel stepped into the ring one spring night in 1981 and knew instinctively the mostly Irish crowd, downing glasses of Guinness, wanted to see blood. His opponent, a 19-year-old who was leaner and taller, gave it to them, pummeling Capel to the head hard and often. “He didn’t knock me out but there was indeed plenty of blood,” Capel said recently. “Mine.” That was...
This Life with Gracie: Overseas work makes nurse long for more merciful immigration policy

This Life with Gracie: Overseas work makes nurse long for more merciful immigration policy

When Connie Venuso arrived in Bangladesh late last year, she’d seen enough refugee camps, cared for enough of their sick to know life in these places can be untenable. That kind of bird’s-eye view allows us to look at people as just “people” and not make any judgments. And so having looked into the faces of thousands of immigrants, Venuso can’t help feeling disheartened...
Life with Gracie: ‘Rewind’: Atlanta Women’s Chorus takes a look back

Life with Gracie: ‘Rewind’: Atlanta Women’s Chorus takes a look back

After 16 years supervising performing arts teachers in Cobb County schools, Melissa Arasi was starting to miss being in the classroom, making music, so much so she’d fancied starting her own chorus. As fate would have it one day in 2012, she discovered a former Walton High School student singing with the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus. She sensed, looking at his Facebook posts, that he&rsquo...
This Life with Gracie: I Am B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. message to empower girls goes national

This Life with Gracie: I Am B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. message to empower girls goes national

On Saturday, the nonprofit I Am B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. Inc. hosted its annual Pink Pajama Jam, by all measures the biggest slumber party eyes have ever seen. Try and imagine mothers and daughters dressed in their best pink jammies, talking into the night about the things that matter most to them, things that have changed and will change their lives. They have been meeting like this now for years...
This Life with Gracie: Out of the president’s heart, the mouth speaks

This Life with Gracie: Out of the president’s heart, the mouth speaks

Here we go again. President Donald Trump makes incendiary remarks, and the rest of us, well a good majority, are outraged. What did he do this time? What he always does. Open his mouth and let his tongue, ever void of compassion, spew evil, evil, evil, deepening the racial divide. Sadly, there is an undeniable history here, dating back at least to the 1970s, when Trump settled with the Justice Department...
This Life: Was Oprah right? Is a new day on the horizon for women?

This Life: Was Oprah right? Is a new day on the horizon for women?

A lot of folks seem to believe that Oprah’s acceptance speech Sunday night at the Golden Globes was a stump speech. Whether it was or not, it certainly fueled speculation about a 2020 run for president. I don’t know about that, but there’s no doubt the Oprah Effect was in full force. By the time she was done wringing our collective hearts, both men and women were on their feet, some...
Life with Gracie: How a sandwich-board hiring campaign helped turn a life around

Life with Gracie: How a sandwich-board hiring campaign helped turn a life around

Any day now, Mark Moore will start work at a local software company doing business-to-business sales, a position that he considers compatible with his work experience and skill set. It might not have happened had he not been spotted last year foraging for food in a dumpster outside Love Beyond Walls,the nonprofit founded by Terence Lester and his wife, Cecilia, four years ago. In another...
This Life with Gracie: Let not the tax changes keep you from giving

This Life with Gracie: Let not the tax changes keep you from giving

This year, according to charity executives and experts, donations from moderate-income people to charities like the United Way will drop dramatically. They’re blaming the new Republican tax overhaul voted into law recently. The changes — particularly doubling the standard deduction we’re allowed — will make it less advantageous for many of us to continue making donations to...
This Life: Amanda Davis’ faith, humanity are part of what made her special

This Life: Amanda Davis’ faith, humanity are part of what made her special

Amanda Davis was remembered Wednesday as the caring, giving person she was. If you had the privilege of meeting her or even if you didn’t, friends and family said, love was the hallmark of her life. That life was celebrated during an hourlong service at Cascade United Methodist Church, where the television news anchor was a member. Davis, 62, died a day after suffering a massive stroke...
This Life: When your faith is bigger than your fear, miracles happen

This Life: When your faith is bigger than your fear, miracles happen

For three years, Becky Davis made plans to leave her corporate job at an optical retailer, but each time her exit date arrived, she struggled to take the leap. Next year, she’d tell herself. Then as 2011 faded into the new year, Davis found herself flat on her back in a hospital. Days after undergoing surgery to remove fibroid tumors, she started to feel excruciating pain and nausea. It was...
This Life: ‘Married to Medicine’ mom waging fight against sex trafficking

This Life: ‘Married to Medicine’ mom waging fight against sex trafficking

Like many of us, Genise Shelton was shocked to learn 10 young black girls were missing from their homes in our nation’s capital late last year and with the exception of a handful of local and black news outlets, their stories had been virtually ignored. We now know that much in a viral Instagram post reporting those claims wasn’t completely accurate, but this much remains true: 36.7 percent...
This Life: Is your business chasing dollars or a noble purpose?

This Life: Is your business chasing dollars or a noble purpose?

Three years ago, Lisa Earle McLeod was in a huddle with the CEO of a global educational software firm when he asked if she could create a three-day strategy intensive with his team. When they gathered days later, they started naming and claiming their “noble purpose” — being clear about how their products make life better for their customers and why that matters to each employee...
This Life: Why Gideon’s Promise is about protecting the rights of all of us

This Life: Why Gideon’s Promise is about protecting the rights of all of us

When I left off last week telling you about Jonathan Rapping’s efforts to reform our court system, his wife, Ilham Askia, had just left her job as a first-grade teacher in the Fulton County Public School system to join him in that work. It was an easy choice. While Rapping had extensive experience working in the system, Askia entered from a different place. Like Sean Ramsey, the homeless...
This Life: Single dads still increasing. What’s up with that?

This Life: Single dads still increasing. What’s up with that?

Becoming a single father never figured into Corey McDaniel’s plans. It is not what he would’ve chosen for himself or his sons. But if there’s anything the 48-year-old Stone Mountain dad has learned over the past year and a half, it is that sometimes we don’t get to choose. On May 18, 2016, without warning, McDaniel became the sole parent to his boys, Corey Jr. and Christian...
This Life with Gracie: Meet the keepers of Gideon’s Promise

This Life with Gracie: Meet the keepers of Gideon’s Promise

Back in September, Sean Ramsey stood at the intersection of Central Avenue and Memorial Drive just outside Atlanta Municipal Court holding a sign that read “homeless please help.” For all practical purposes, the 48-year-old may as well have been standing at the corner of Callousness and Indifference. Both were apparently at play when Ramsey was arrested, hauled off to jail and made to...
Nonprofit provides low-cost toys, but the dignity will cost parents nothing

Nonprofit provides low-cost toys, but the dignity will cost parents nothing

A week or so ago, this place had all the trappings of a little library, dark bookcases filled with all manner of books, tables and chairs sandwiched between a coffee shop and a neighborhood market. But since my visit to the Carver Neighborhood Market, it has been transformed into a winter wonderland, and right about now, I imagine it bustling with hundreds of parents shopping for the perfect toy for...
This Life: Is sexual harassment only about men behaving badly?

This Life: Is sexual harassment only about men behaving badly?

Every time you think the last man has fallen, there’s one more to add to the ever-growing list of sexual harassment claims. Let’s see. Last week’s tally yielded journalist Matt Lauer, creator and former host of “A Prairie Home Companion” Garrison Keillor, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, and Reps. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas). Of course, those are...
Justice for the Rev. Otis Byrd Sr.; a new beginning for his namesake

Justice for the Rev. Otis Byrd Sr.; a new beginning for his namesake

On a recent Wednesday evening, a half-dozen members of the gospel group Adoration gathered at the home of its founder Otis Byrd Jr. For nearly two hours, they oohhed and aahhed through vocal exercises before launching into “Hosanna,” “I Need You” and “Glory and Honor” and then spilling out into the night. In less than 24 hours, the 33-year-old was at it again. This...
This Life: Advances in HIV detection a small step in the right direction

This Life: Advances in HIV detection a small step in the right direction

The window from HIV infection to diagnosis is closing. That was the big news released Tuesday in a teleconference with doctors at the Centers for Disease Control about the agency’s latest Vital Signs report. The estimated median time from infection to diagnosis dropped to three years in 2015 from a high of three years and seven months just four years earlier. That means 85 percent of the estimated...
This Life: Why Decatur mom decided to bust some moves in public

This Life: Why Decatur mom decided to bust some moves in public

It being the holiday season when a lot of darkness can creep into our lives or the lives of those we know, La Detra White was in search of a light moment last week, something that might remind her and others that bad moments have a way of turning around for good. She logged onto her computer and began searching through her blog, LiveYourAwesomeLife.Com, the place where she often offers up words...
This Life with Gracie: What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

This Life with Gracie: What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome. For more than two decades, those three words have consumed Liz Burlingame because, well, words mean something. They convey feelings and connote action. They can comfort or cause pain. They can be our best friend or our worst enemy, failing us completely. That’s how Burlingame feels every time she tries to explain this thing that sent her back to her parents’ home...
Former Morehouse professor’s serve America tours win AARP grant

Former Morehouse professor’s serve America tours win AARP grant

Mike Weaver was teaching environmental health at the University of South Florida back in 2011 when he posed a question to his students that would change the trajectory of life: How would you like to go serve New Orleans? Of the 44 students who decided to take him up on his offer, only two had previously visited the city. Twenty-five of them had never ventured outside the state of Florida. Twenty-five...
This Life with Gracie: What is nonviolent domestic abuse?

This Life with Gracie: What is nonviolent domestic abuse?

A year after her husband died in May 2013, Angie Racine was still reliving the emotional abuse she says she suffered during their marriage. Like a lot of women, she didn’t consider the secrets he kept — his drug use and money problems — harmful. When he died in May 2013 of colon cancer, Racine found herself processing their years together with a therapist. Two years later, in honor...
This Life with Gracie: Druid Hills Fulbright scholar headed to Greece

This Life with Gracie: Druid Hills Fulbright scholar headed to Greece

At the end of another school day early this month, I met Vincent Gray again in the teacher’s lounge at Druid Hills High School. It was the second time in just two years. The first time, a parent had reached out to tell me what a great teacher Gray is, the kind that not only teaches students facts, but how to think critically. After just six years at Druid Hills, Gray, who earned a master&rsquo...
This Life with Gracie: Thanks to Habitat, another family is home for the holidays

This Life with Gracie: Thanks to Habitat, another family is home for the holidays

Next week, Jamilah Najeeullah will sit down to a table surrounded by family and spread with a large turkey, turnip greens, dressing and all the trimmings that make Thanksgiving Day special. And in keeping with family tradition, she and nearly 20 others will take their turn at reciting the thing for which they are most grateful. For 64-year-old Najeeullah, this Habitat home, the first she has ever...
This Life with Gracie: HIV quarantine? No. Better access to health care? Yes, by all means

This Life with Gracie: HIV quarantine? No. Better access to health care? Yes, by all means

Last month, Georgia Rep. Betty Price set off a national firestorm when she asked a state health official whether people with HIV could be legally quarantined. It wasn’t the first time the word and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, ended up in the same sentence, of course. We heard it a lot in 1985, when 51 percent of respondents in a Los Angeles Times poll supported quarantining AIDS patients...
8 tips to consider before your church falls victim to gun violence

8 tips to consider before your church falls victim to gun violence

Tuesday morning, two days after a gunman killed 26 people during a morning church service in Texas, the Rev. Bruce Cook awakened to find himself still shell-shocked like the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, Cook, who spent nearly three decades as a parole examiner and chaplain in local jails and state and federal correctional systems and another nine or 10 years counseling crime victims, was...
Please tell me: Who do you think is the good Samaritan in this tale?

Please tell me: Who do you think is the good Samaritan in this tale?

I might have dismissed her judgment of me out of hand, but she called me sister. Sister as opposed to racist, like so many others. Sister instead of some other rather graphic label. She called me Sister in Christ. Sisters who are polar opposites apparently when it comes to loving your neighbor as yourself. It rang like old news. It wasn’t the first time someone called into question my Christianity...
What if developmental disabilities get between you and playing ball?

What if developmental disabilities get between you and playing ball?

Less than two years ago, Taylor Duncan’s dream for a baseball league that welcomed teens and adults with autism, Down syndrome and other developmental and intellectual disabilities was just that. A dream. He tried desperately to join one league after another, but each time, he was rejected. Coaches decided he just wasn’t cut out to play ball. The reason, they said, was his autism, which...
Life with Gracie: Five years later, Tripp Halstead better than expected

Life with Gracie: Five years later, Tripp Halstead better than expected

Five years ago Oct. 29, Stacy and Bill Halstead’s only child was nearly killed when a tree limb fell on him while he played outside his Winder day care center. And so every Oct. 29 since then, without even looking at the calendar, the stress of that day comes for a visit. “I let myself cry for what happened to him, for all the suffering he went through,” Stacy Halstead said. But...
Life with Gracie: When should you be concerned about colon cancer?

Life with Gracie: When should you be concerned about colon cancer?

We don’t hear much about women and colorectal cancer, but it happens. And sometimes it happens earlier than even medical professionals would expect. Really early. Hard to believe? Ask attorney Tawny Mack of Atlanta. She was a senior at Georgia Southern University when she first saw blood in her stool and suspected something might be wrong. Mack did all the right things. She immediately saw a...
If Trump got it wrong, what should he have said to soldier’s widow?

If Trump got it wrong, what should he have said to soldier’s widow?

A lot has been said this past week about President Donald Trump’s telephone call to the widow of La David Johnson, one of four service members killed earlier this month during an ambush in Niger. What he said. What he didn’t say. Listening to the back and forth, the critics and those who came to the president’s defense, I couldn’t help wondering what would’ve been the...
This Life with Gracie: How a school assignment became a campaign to help transgender youths

This Life with Gracie: How a school assignment became a campaign to help transgender youths

Bennett Stone is just 10 years old, but he’s heard enough about the plight of transgender youths to know life for them is more than a little difficult. And so when his fifth-grade teacher handed him a list of possible topics to explore for a class project last spring, the choice was clear: gender diversity. His research revealed even more about life as a transgender person and society&rsquo...
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: Couple turns spotlight on childhood brain tumors

This Life with Gracie: Couple turns spotlight on childhood brain tumors

Nearly 13 children in the United States are diagnosed with a brain tumor every day. It’s estimated 30,000 children are living with brain tumors, according to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. Of those, nearly 1,500 will die. And yet, only about 4 percent of government funding for research is earmarked for pediatric cancers, with less than 1 percent going toward pediatric brain tumor research...
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...
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