Joy and Pain: a real mommy speaks out…

Hello World!!!

Latoicha Phillips Givens

As if you did not know, today is Mother’s Day, and I have to pay tribute to all mothers, particularly by mom! Do your thang today Mrs. Holness!!! (Of course, the fam is taking her out today…) And if you want to read my tribute to my mama, check out this post

Last week, I pondered what should be my Mother’s Day post…Since I wrote about my mom last year, I decided to write about another mother…But since I’m not a mother and really have no personal experience in mommyhood, I thought it would be best to pay tribute to mothers by having a real mother speak in her own words…So I asked My Girl Latoicha Phillips Givens, wife, mother, attorney and blogger extraordinaire to share her experiences about truly one of the highest callings a woman could have…

The hardest thing I have ever done is becoming a mom. I am not going to lie – being a mother is darn hard. You are your children’s source for emotional fulfillment, basic everyday needs and often times, financial support.

Jemel, 5 and Sydney, 2

Children seek out their mothers for their emotional well-being. When they are teased at school, they come to you to rebuild their self-esteem and self-worth. As a mother, you listen, give your child a big hug and tell him, “Baby you are the best!  Those kids are clearly out of their minds because you are so amazing and the smartest and the cutest boy I know.”  When your child is angry, you are the one that calms him down and determine the source of his anger, giving him solutions to deal with his anger in a constructive rather than destructive way.  When your children experience self-doubt, mothers make sure their children feel secure and comfortable in their skin.

What I find is the hardest is a mother’s responsibility to provide the basic day-to-day needs for my children.  These needs are greater when children are younger – the daily bath time, cooking meals, packing lunches, ironing and laying out outfits for the week, making sure your kids brush their teeth and floss properly. Let’s not talk about changing diapers and potty training. Really, need we go there? Definitely not my favorite part of being a mother. Whew!  Of course, ensuring all of these tasks are taken care of means that Mom does not get any sleep. I mean I always heard that, but it is so true. Completion of these tasks mean you rise as early as 6 a.m. and go to bed as late as 11 p.m. I am always exhausted!  Plus I have my own business and I write two blogs. Crazy!

And of course there is the financial burden of caring for a child.  I never knew how expensive and financially taxing it is to care for a child until I had to do it. We have to provide a roof over our heads, buy groceries, clothing and shoes and make sure we have transportation.  We also pay for their tuition and soccer, guitar and karate lessons. I find that our financial responsibilities are the most stressing of all.

Jemel, Latoicha and Sydney

But despite all of my complaints about the difficulty of motherhood, it is so worth it. When I see my children wake up with a bright and happy smile on their face, I feel joy. When the dentist tells me my children do not have one cavity and their teeth are well-cared for,  I am so proud. It is so gratifying when my children show off their academic skills and people remark on how well they speak. I am elated when they get so exited about a new movie, an ice cream cone or new shoes. The fact that my children are happy children and are polite and most of all caring means so much to me. Yes, being a mom is hard work but knowing my children are on the right path to becoming wonderful adults makes it so with it! 
Check out Latoicha at, a beauty and fashion blog, and IP Law 101, an intellectual property blog…
Any thoughts?

Your Turn: Journey Into Autism – Trella’s Story…

Trella, CJ & Orlando

Trella, CJ & Orlando

Hello World,

This post is written by Trella Stringer Crawford.  Although we both attended the University of Georgia at the same time, we never met.  Actually, we “met” through a UGA social media Web site similar to Facebook and have become fast friends through our love of writing. 

Please read Trella’s poignant story about her journey into autism and of course, comment 🙂 .

This is my truth: I am the mother of a child with autism.  Nine simple words; yet, these words encompass many emotions for me – pride, fear, disappointment, worry, confusion, joy, pain, and perseverance.  More importantly, these words remind me that God has chosen me to raise one of his special angels – not a role I might have selected but one I realize is God’s purpose for me.

You’ve probably seen the public service announcements with Toni Braxton or billboards and news stories about autism and wondered what autism is. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke fact sheet, autism is a neurological and developmental disorder defined by difficulties with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication problems, repetitive behaviors and narrow, obsessive interests.  This disorder affects one in 150 children and seems to affect boys four times more than girls. 

My journey into autism began on January 31,, 2005.  After eight years of marriage, my husband and I were blessed with the arrival of Orlando Augustus Crawford, IV.  It was such a regal sounding name for a little baby, according to the neonatologist. We thought so, too, and decreed that CJ was a more appropriate moniker to distinguish him from all the other Orlandos in the family. Our little boy was perfect and healthy in every way; however, he spent seven days in the neonatal intensive care unit because he had a neonatal seizure. Still, he seemed to flourish and thrive after that, meeting all of his milestones well ahead of schedule.  He walked at ten months old and could use a spoon by the time he was a year old.  

However, I noticed that while my son was thriving in many areas, he still was not talking.  I also noticed that he was not responding when his name was called.  By the time CJ was 15 months, I began to realize that something was not right. I mentioned this to his pediatrician at his checkup, and she felt that he was just a late bloomer with language.  Still, my motherly instincts had kicked in, and I knew that something was going on with my child. We had his hearing checked and everything came back all clear.  Then, I started to notice other things like CJ biting himself or having violent, inconsolable temper tantrums.  He also had a fascination with eating non-food items (called pica).  

As my son was going into the “Terrible Twos,” I rationalized his behavior.  Still, restlessness in my soul persisted. I felt like God was trying to tell me something.  However, as anyone will attest who has ever heard my testimony, I don’t always listen to God’s subtle hints, and He often has to give me the in-your-face treatment.  Every time I drove I kept seeing billboards with AUTISM splashed on them, proclaiming “1 in 166” (it’s now 1 in 150) children. These billboards leapt out at me in brilliant and bold colors.  Every time I turned on the television, there were the autism PSAs.   Finally, I asked out loud, “Lord, what are you trying to tell me?”

I began researching online and found an autism symptom checklist. As I perused the checklist, I felt like I was reading about my own child.   My whole world shifted.  I had only voiced my suspicions to my mother at this point and didn’t have a name for what was wrong with my child.  All I could tell her was that I thought CJ was “special.”  I knew that I needed to approach my husband with my concerns but didn’t know how to tell him that I suspected our only child-the son named after him, his father, and his father’s father- had a disorder that I was only aware of because of the movie, Rain Man.  As expected, my husband did not initially react well to my suspicions.  After he thought about what I said, though, my husband listened to my concerns. 

However, it wasn’t until CJ was 32 months old (17 months since I first noticed differences in my child) that we even mentioned anything about getting CJ screened for autism.  My husband took CJ in for a sinus infection, and I insisted that my husband ask his pediatrician for an autism screening.   She referred us to our state’s Early Intervention program and that’s when things began to happen quickly. 



On December 4, 2007, a day I will never forget, our son was officially diagnosed with autism.  I was relieved because I finally had a name for what was plaguing my child. I also felt profound grief and loss.  I grieved for the typical child I’d never have. I grieved for the loss of all of the hopes and dreams I had for him.  I grieved for the struggles and challenges that I knew were ahead for our family. 

I would love to say that I turned to my faith in God and His ability to carry me through the storm. Instead, I was angry, hurt, and devastated. I remember ranting at God and asking him, “Why?”  I tried bargaining with God to make my child “normal.”  There were even times when I prayed for forgiveness because I felt like CJ’s condition was punishment for some past sin. 

One night, after an especially rough night with CJ (erratic sleep patterns and bedtime tantrums happen often), I was at my wits end.  I was exhausted, and I felt like I had no way out.  I was frustrated with myself because of my lack of patience in handling my child.  I remember thinking that I needed the patience of Job.  We all know the story of Job – the purest example of faith, obedience, patience, and redemption.  Job’s story is one of my favorite Bible stories; yet, I’ve occasionally and jokingly coined myself the “anti-Job” because of my lack of patience.  That night at 3- something in the morning, with tears in my eyes, I opened my Bible for the first time in over a year. I turned to the book of Job, and there was the epiphany.

Job lost everything but through it all, he continued to trust in God completely and wholly.   That’s what I needed to do — trust in God completely and wholly.  I needed to be patient that He was going to provide my CJ and us with everything we needed.  That night I gained a sense of purpose and shifted my thinking.  Instead of worrying about my child being “normal” to others, I began to focus on making the world “normal” for him. I stopped grieving for what I thought I had lost and began to appreciate the things that I had gained. Keeping this focus is an ongoing process, but when I feel discouraged, I turn to Job.

My child is now four years old and is in his second year of preschool. He has an amazing teacher who has a high success rate working with special needs children and particularly, autistic children.  That very same teacher introduced us to a wonderful woman named Jill who has experience working with autistic children and providing Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy.  CJ has been with Jill since October 2008, and the changes we’ve seen in our child have been exponential.  Upon reflection, I understand that my journey with CJ and this thing called autism has been carefully orchestrated by God to put the right people in our lives at the right place and the right time.   I also realize that God has allowed me to find my voice in advocacy.  I have quietly supported many causes over the years, but I’ve found my voice getting louder and stronger as I support an issue that is not just a cause for me but the reality of my life. 

This is my truth: I am the mother of a child with autism.  Nine simple words; yet, words I have come to accept and words of honor because God chose me as this child’s champion.

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Any thoughts?


Your Turn: A Closeted Virgin Speaks Out…

Hello World!!!

Guess what y’all?! It’s my second installment of “Your Turn,” through which people with interesting insights and views post THEIR stories on my blog…I’ve had this post for over a month now and because of my busy schedule and good ole-fashioned procrastination, I neglected to get this post up…Sooo here goes…Calling all virgins out there? Can you hear me? Raise your hands if you are a virgin! I can’t see anybody of course as I’m sitting at my computer, but I imagine there are very few virgins out there past the age of 22 or so…And if you are a Christian and have been since you were a teenager, you are supposed to be one according to the Bible’s views on premarital sex…But as someone who grew up in the church and have known others who have grown up in the church, I know there are very few out there…

But I do know One…And on the condition of anonymity, I convinced him to share his views on being a virgin well into his adulthood…and for the record, he’s not an ogre…he’s actually quite handsome, but I will let him tell you all about it in his own words…

 She was a walking rap video, with proportions so ideal that they seemed surreal. A living and breathing fantasy, her slim waist, curvaceous hips and perfect planetary backside made me shake my head each time I looked her way…

“Concentrate on her eyes…,” I reminded myself as she lay beside me, attentively waiting for the announcement that I promised to make. “Uhhh,” I uttered as I cleared my throat.

“When…when I was 13 years old, that’s when I became a Christian…”

“Yes,” she said, interrupting my words.

“And…,” I continued. “Well, that’s when I made certain promises to GOD to not get high or drunk and to not have sex until I was married.”

She laughed. “I made those promises too…

“Yeah,” I said as I looked her squarely in the eyes. “But I haven’t broken any of them.”


“Wait, so you’re saying…Are you saying you’re a virgin?”

I was 30 years old then…I’ve had this conversation with so many women, both churchgoing and otherwise, and the reaction is always some kind of meltdown. It makes me reluctant to share it anymore. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about specifically identifying myself publicly as a virgin, but the older I get, the more it complicates my relationships with people. People who aren’t Christians don’t understand. But I wouldn’t expect them to..

Church folk, on the other hand,..well, they say they believe this is right. But let them find out you’re a virgin in his 30s and they act like something is wrong with you. They either act like you’re the guy from “The 40 Year Old Virgin” movie or you’re just a freak – like you can’t choose to not have sex. In their minds, only two options exist: You either have to be a lame or a misfit.

Virginity is, of course, a complicated issue. I understand that. But I know a few other Christian men who are virgins (older than I am), and they’ve stopped telling church folk altogether…

These days, I often let people think I’m a lothario, as that’s generally what they assume anyway because of my ease with women. The only people who know that I’m a virgin are the women I date –and even they don’t know right away.

And it’s all because of these crazy reactions…For a while, because women in the church were so averse to this news, I tried dating women who didn’t go to church…

I think of the girl who fell to her knees, naked, crying. “What’s wrong with you,” she said as the tears flowed. “Why won’t you $%*@ me?” Or the stripper who found that she was aroused by a “dominant virgin” fantasy when she found that out that she couldn’t punk me.

And then when I did date church women, the response wasn’t that much better…They said they agreed with me on this matter but attempted to tempt me by degrees: “We don’t have to do anything. Just take your pants off…”

I reflect upon these experiences: all the women I’ve loved, all the women I’ve tenderly kissed and all the women I’ve just “made out” with…And somehow, I wonder what it all means…What does it mean that these women have passed through my life? What does it mean that women have learned to equate their worth and sense of power with their ability to grant or deny sex?

At times, I feel very alone in this journey. Occasionally, I feel disappointed in GOD. I wanted to be married by now. I did not expect to be alienated by church folk for obeying what they taught me. And more than that, if GOD wanted me to preserve myself sexually, then why does sexual energy come so easily to me? Why do I love women’s bodies so much? Why do I know how to kiss a women’s neck, touch the small of her back or speak deeply into her ear in just the right way?

These things come naturally to me…All I can think is, because sex is such a driving force in my life, it means something to GOD that I’ve been able to sacrifice it to Him.

I love women’s bodies. I love how they look, how they feel pressed close to me and I really love the idea of sex.

But I love GOD more…

And yes, I’m tired of waiting…so what’s up with your homegirl?

Any thoughts?