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Category Archives: encouragement

We’ve all been lied to….

When the date started getting close, I decided that I wasn’t going to post anything about it…I swear I wasn’t.  However, the closer it got, the more my resolve waned.  Thus….I’m writing this.

I submit to you all, members of the jury, that we’ve been lied to…

Run amok.

Led Astray.

Hoodwinked.

Bamboozled.

I submit that Time does NOT, in fact, heal all wounds.  It just makes the scab tougher.

I present  article number one into evidence.  It was a year ago on the 24th of March that my brother died.  And I swear that things haven’t gotten much easier.  I mean, a few weeks ago, I found myself searching thru my old cell phone voice mails PRAYING that I could find some from him…just to hear his voice one more time. I found a few.  Now the question in my mind is:  “Am I supposed to delete them?”.

Don’t get me wrong.  Me and Sid weren’t the CLOSEST of brothers, and he, like all of us, had his faults.   We had our differences (Boy oh boy DID we EVER have our differences), but at the end of the day, that dude was my BROTHER…and the end all be all of it is that I can NEVER question his love for me as such.   I remember how just a  few months before he died, my car was being worked on by a family friend.  It had been sitting in their yard for MONTHS with no progress, and it was putting me in a bind.  My brother called me and was like “Man…I can’t let him do that to my little brother.  I’m gonna take me a hit of my inhaler, get on my scooter and go tell him that he better fix my brother’s car right now!”  and that’s exactly what he did.  The mechanic used to tell me how my brother  (and his oxygen tank) would come down there almost EVERY day til I got my car back.  LOL

So in thinking about all of that, it occurred to me, a lot of times, there are little stories like that that really give people a good insight into the quality of a person’s soul.  If you allow me just a moment to wave my nerd card, I think the Bard said it best when he said,   “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.”  (HA…You didnt know that I could come off the cuff quoting Shakespeare, huh?  BAM!)  Anyway, my goal is that I let people know of the good that my brother did….and that he was appreciated, so consider this post my selfish attempt at just that.

So often, we measure a person’s  value in material stuff; cars, homes, income, etc.  When in reality, that stuff is meaningless.  My brother left this plane of existence without much STUFF to his name, but that didn’t mean that his moment in time with us was a waste.  It just means that if we were investing in the company that is the memory of  Sidney Sutton, we’d need to base our valuation on things other than assets gained…..maybe we’d need to look at some intangibles; souls touched, moments shared, and lives affected.

ANYWAY……..(wiping away tears again….dang…)

I decided to repost something that I wrote earlier.  When I first did it, one of my other siblings read it, printed it out and gave it to my mother.  I think that she still carries it with her to this day.  She shared it with some of the people at her church that were going through similar situations…and they even asked for copies.  I’m saying this not to brag…(I’ve never been the braggadocios type) but to share…If you feel like my story below can help you or ANYBODY going through something like that…feel free to print it off.  I really dont mind.  So, below is one of my posts regarding my brother’s death and how it hit us…….

Foot

Sometimes, the Words Ring Hollow (For My Brother)

(This post is therapy for me)

Even though it was many, many years ago, I still remember the words as clearly as if I had just heard them yesterday.

“God heals you in one of two ways, he takes the pain away from you, or he takes you away from the pain.  Either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.” , he said.

Deacon Harris’  words drifted up to me from the small makeshift bed in the back of the van as I drove.   You could feel the pain that mated  with his speech as each word, slowly, purposefully tumbled over his teeth; eventually breaking the forced, awkward “non monotony”  of the sounds of Sade songs wafting from the cd player.  The music was ill placed, but it helped me to ignore the obvious fact that here was a dying man lying behind me.

His words refused to let me wallow in the self imposed sanctuary of my  denial.    He said it again, but this time he used my name to get my attention.

“Ty, did you hear me?  I believe that God heals you in one of two ways, he takes the pain away from you, or he takes you away from the pain but you know, either  way it goes, he makes the pain stop.”

I nodded my head, and said, “yeah” over my shoulder; too scared to look back at him.  I didn’t want the question to go into the territory of what I believed  because at the time, his words rung a bit hollow to me.   I couldn’t see past his impending death, and I questioned how a man  that had been in that much pain for so long, could be talking about healing.  Nothing had worked so far….Death was just……death.  No HEALING.

“Good.” he said.  “That’s important.”

So, with that, we plodded on.  I took great care to avoid as many bumps as possible, lest the sound of moans and grunts from behind me remind me of the frailness of my cargo.  Sade continued to be our riding partner.

Across the years since, I would often wonder  why he decided to say this to me twice on that ride.   Maybe he knew that he wasn’t going to be around much longer and wanted to make sure that I understood that he thought he’d be in a better place.  Maybe he just said it to make himself feel better, or maybe he felt that I would need to be equipped with this knowledge to help me down the road.

Fast forward to Sunday, March 24, 2013, 7:35 a.m.

My cell phone rings.  I answer.   The voice was  Dale’s.

Within it, I felt something that I had  never felt in that voice before.  There was a  seriousness that leaped over miles and miles of cell phone signal to grab me by the shoulders and shake the remnants of the night’s sleep away.

“Tyrone…What are you doing?” This strange/familiar/strong/weak/ brave/scared  voice said.

“Nothing much, man.  Just watching some t.v.  Everything cool?”  I knew things weren’t.  It was too early for  things to be “cool”

“Mama just called me.” He said.   “She said that Foot is might not make it.”

There was that shaking coming across the lines again.

Foot is my brother.  Well, his name is actually Sidney, but  for some reason, the name Foot was given to him and I guess he never disputed it enough,  so it stuck.  Foot had been battling some serious diseases for the last few years.  Over a year ago, the doctor had given him 6 months to live.  On Sunday, we were at over 14 months since that proclamation.  It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since though.  Between then and now, there had been many  ambulance pickups, e.r. visits,  long hospital stays and even doctors telling us that we needed to go ahead and call all of the family to town.  Each time, Foot would bounce back, like some kind of bad penny that just kept turning up.  I remember, the last time the doctors told us he might not make it back home, we were all gathered in his hospital room.  He was talking with us; joking like he always did, when he looks around in sudden realization and says,  ” Hey….All of ya’ll are here???  Is something’  happenin’  that ya’ll ain’t tellin’ me ’bout?!?!”  He went home a few days later;  Foot, the bad penny.

The voice on the other end continued to talk.  “I’m on my way down there now.  The rescue squad people are  there working on him, but Mama says it don’t look good.”

(Come on bad penny!…….come on bad penny!)

“Call Daphne and let her know, but don’t call the house, Mama is pretty tore up.  If you have to call, call Bobby.  He’s over there.” he said.  Daphne is Foot’s daughter.

“Ok, Dale.  I’ll make a few calls and I’m on my way down.  Don’t worry, dude…Everything will be cool.  I’m on my way in a few minutes.”

I hung up the phone. Sharon was the first call.  She had literally just pulled out of the driveway on her way to church, so she was back in the house in no time.  I told her about the conversation and she said that she would call Daphne for me so that I could get ready to get on the road.   So, I went upstairs to get ready.

I called Bobby.  He said that he got there about the same time as the paramedics did.  Despite my hopes that his interpretation of events would be different from Dale’s, they weren’t.  Things were not good.

He said that they had been working on Foot for over 30 minutes.  Nothing was working.  They had tried everything and they continued to try.  Then he said something that really brought things home to me.

“I want to tell them to stop trying; that it’s not going to work…..but I can’t tell them that.”

Bobby, the strongest one of ALL of us in my opinion, said it wasn’t going to work…..The shaking that came across the lines was worse this time.  It shook me with the force of a full fledged gorilla.

(COME ON…BAD PENNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  COME ON BAD PENNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  JUST FREAKIN’ COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I got dressed, packed up the car, and Sharon and I started on our way.  The plan was to pick up Daphne and the girls and head down.

8:21 a.m

Bobby calls again..  “Man…..they just pronounced him dead…..”

It felt like the hand of God reached down and pulled every bone from my body,  squeezed my lungs until I couldn’t breathe and forced tears out until they  burned in my eyes.  I forced myself to finish the drive to Daphne’s house….all the while steeling myself up for the next phase.

I got out of the car, and walked to Daphne’s door. I knocked.  Out poured her and my two little nieces; bags of books and toys in hand.  We got the little ones settled into their spots in the back seat and put Daph’s bags in the trunk.

It’s kind of a blur, and I can’t remember who  told Daphne, but I do remember looking into the back seat and seeing her shoulders heave up and down.  I suppose, that God used his other hand to do the same things to Daph that he did to me.  Her pain spread across the back seat like wildfire and soon the little ones were crying too.  I decided it would be best to go inside and talk, so we got out of the car and went inside.

The four of them all sat, huddled together on the couch, with their shoulders rising and lowering with their sobs and  with their tears watering their shirts.  Our family had never been so closely touched by death before, so I let them deal with it on their own terms for a while.  Then, I knelt in front of them. with my mind overflowing with thoughts and stories and analogies and various witticisms and none of them seemed like they would work.  I decided to just start talking and let whatever would come out…just come out….And that’s EXACTLY what happened.

“Girls…..you know, God heals people  in one of two ways, Sometimes, he takes the pain away from them, sometimes he takes them  away from the pain.  Either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.” .

I smiled a bit on the inside. There was my answer as to why I was told that so many years ago!     God used Deacon Harris to plant something in me that I would use to console my family during my own brothers death.  Oh God, my God…..infinite in all your wisdom.

I used that analogy and others over the last few days each time bringing a small piece of understanding to those I share them with.  Heads would nod in approval.  Eyes would be wiped with understanding.  Now, I I wish I could say that I’m so strong that I don’t need them for myself, but that’s not the case.  Each time I get the chance to say it, I draw a little bit of strength for myself and I’m able to hold on just a bit longer.  I realize that I (and my whole family) will be tested over the next few days, but I take strength in knowing that God set some wheels into motion oh so many years ago….We’ll be just fine.

Rest in peace, Sidney (Foot) Davis  Sutton.  I miss you, Big brother.

 

 

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Filling up the Holes

Tees Bday Post largeTHIS POST WAS TEE APPROVED…(but without her approval)
(Oh…and she MEANT that I Was 29…not that SHE was 29.  That would be strange.)  

 Over the years since I had my daughters, I’ve often thought about life, death, legacy,  what’s really important and deep stuff like that.  (Hey…I’m a deep kinda guy.)…but, it would always leave me with a BANGIN’ headache and no answers,  so I would kind of just place it on the back burner until another situation came up that would put me in one of my Prince listening, dark room sitting, meaning of life pondering moods. 

One of those times came when my brother died almost a year ago and it left me with one big question that I’ve been internally debating ever since.

What exactly is legacy?

     It ain’t as simple as one would think. Well, it kinda IS, but  there’s a lot of stuff that muddies the subject for us.  It took me a LONG time to sort through it, but I think I can bring some clarity.  Through it all, I hope that  I can help some of you benefit from my ignorance so that you don’t have to go through it.  So hang with me, and I’ll try to shed some light on it or, more colorfully,   like one of my friends from my Air Force days used to say, “…throw some dirt in that hole”.  

     What I discovered is that as men, we often place such a huge value on providing for our families financially and materially, that we leave  ourselves with almost no energy to provide for them mentally and spiritually.   We sometimes worry so much about getting that hot, new toy,  or the latest Jordans, or the newest video game system (Okay…maybe that one was more for ME than the kids…but you get the picture.  DON’T JUDGE ME!)  when in fact, our time and attention is the MOST important thing that we can do for our daughters.  I now look at it like this…”If I can buy it, it will  eventually be useless…buy if I can INSTILL it, it will last forever…..You can’t run out of character.”

So in a nutshell, be careful not to fall into the trappings of giving your daughters STUFF.  YOUR time is one of the few things that no one else can give her and that can never be replaced.  Simply put, once it’s gone, there’s no getting it back.  That makes it valuable beyond measure.

When I first adopted the girls, we would sometimes go to a coffee shop together just to hang out.  I would get some kind of foo foo latte or something, and the girls would get what we affectionately called a “moo- moo steamer” or, plainly put, a steamed milk with flavoring in it.  We would sit there and I would read a newspaper and they would  pretend to read as they sat across from me.  One of my biggest regrets in regards to them, is not doing it more often.  I can remember looking across the table at them as they “read” but gosh…it sure would be nice to have a LOT more memories of it, but, as I said…you cant get time back.

So, the keys?  Share your time, and make good use of the time you share with them.  Here are a few ideas that I think would be great to do with your daughters.

1) Leave work  sometimes and pick her up from school “just cause”.  Go see a cartoon at the movies or maybe just go for a nice long walk and talk about life.

2)  Deliver flowers to her school for no reason.

3) Have lunch with her at school.  (That is IF you can still fit in those little tables….Let me tell ya, years of eating like the government would be making it illegal tomorrow made sitting in them chairs one  hecukva experience for yours truly.)

4) TELL her how important she is to you as often as you can.

5) Take her fishing.  (I wish I had pictures of when I first took my girls fishing on the pier.  It was HIGH-LARRY-US  and they absolutely LOVED it.  They STILL love to go.) Yes, I DO know how to spell hilarious…but EVERYTHING is better when spelled phonetically.

6) Take funny faced pictures with them.

7) Two words:  Pillow Fights.

8) Take her  kite flying. My daughters STILL talk about how I took them kite flying.  To them , it was the most amazing thing in the world, but  if I describe it, I’d call it “Daddy running around a field with a kite in his hand while they held the string.”

9) Hold her hand as often as you can.  There will be a time when you wont be able to anymore.

10) Listen to her.  Even though she may be little…she still wants to know that she’s important enough to get your attention.

In my mind, the litmus test is this:  “When I’m no longer here…and my girls are describing me to their children….what words will they use?”    I think of that…and then act accordingly.

BAM!  That’s some high quality dirt that I  just threw in that hole!

 

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So Many Questions, So Little Time…

Fat Ethan Approved

Hey…I COULD tell you that I never look for advice, but that would be a lie.  That said……

Over the years, there were several instances in which my daughters would come to me and tell me that other students in their classes were cheating.   EVERY time, I would tell them basically the same thing,” It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing.  WE DON’T CHEAT.  If you don’t get as good a grade as them, that just means that you need to study harder.  We go about things the right way. ”

But now I wonder, if by holding them to a higher standard than some of their classmates, was I tilting the playing field against them?  Was I forcing them to play the game according to a set of rules that very few others were playing by?

I mean, I understand the lofty goal of taking the high road, doing the right thing, manning (or in their case “girling”) up, being a stand-up kind of guy so on and so forth, but is that type of idealism DEAD?  Is it wrong to even teach it?

Is it just me, or does it seem that cheating has become more and more a part of the American mindset over the years?  Is it still true that cheaters never win?  Or have the cheaters taken over the game to the point where we all have to cheat at it just to compete?

Case in point, let’s look at all of the cheating scandals that have come to light over the last couple of years:

1) Harvard:  http://nyti.ms/1i4FZ3N
2) Air Force: http://cnn.it/1m87TLX

Sure, these people got CAUGHT, but the bigger story lies in the question of whether or not they only STARTED cheating in their current situations, or is it more likely that they cheated to get TO that situation?  How about those that didn’t get caught.?  I’m sure that if we knew the whole story, the numbers would indicate that it is much more widespread (and accepted?) than we thought.  I mean nowadays, cheating people out of money is almost considered a viable biz practice.

Does this lead to a bigger conversations regarding cheating within/between large corporations?

Anyway, I was just curious as to what you guys think of this?  Is it just my imagination?

( Sorry about all the questions today.  Chalk it up to the 5 cups of coffee coursing through my veins atop and sending my natural ADHD into overdrive.)

 

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My knowledge for the day.

The rule is that I’m going to keep this one short n sweet.  Well, actually, it’s more like a suggestion…’cause, well… you know how I am.

ANYWAY, my mother once told me “You can learn from a fool….you just need to know what to throw away and what to keep.” , So I always try to learn something from everybody that I interact with.  Some make it easier than others.

So,  yesterday I was having a conversation about love and acceptance and the like…and my friend broke it down to me as simply as I have ever heard it.  She simply said :

“I love you should  never have “buts”…it should  only have “ands”.”

Think about it.

See?  Short n sweet.

 

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Games We Play

So, Me and Tee have this “thing ” we do.  She’ll say something like, “Dad, you’re my best friend.”  To which I ALWAYS reply something like, “I’m not your bestie.  I’m not your friend.  I’m not your pal.  I’m not your buddy.  I’m not your com padre.” in my most monotone, uncaring voice.

Anyway, being that yesterday was Father’s Day, she got me a card.  She held the card oout in front of me so I could read it.  This was the front of the envelope:

Photo 2

So, Upon seeing it, I INSTANTLY went into my tirade…”I’m not your bestie.  I’m not your friend.  I’m not your pal.  I’m not your buddy.  I’m not your com padre….”  To which she politely flipped the envelope over and shoved it in my face so I could read:

Photo 1

Well played, Tee……Well played indeed.

 

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Once…twice….three times a Lady (part one)

Sup, Daddies??  Happy belated Fathers’ Day!

I figured I’d take a little time today and write a lil somethin’ somethin’ to encourage you (us)  all  since, well, you know…Father’s Day is over and we probably won’t get any more props ’til next year at about this time.  Anyway, I wanted you to know that the stuff we do all year round IS important and it IS recognized, and it will have lasting effects on our daughters…

I know, I know, I know, sometimes,it may seem like your  daughters aren’t listening or don’t even pay attention when you talk…but, dear reader, I have evidence that at least SOMETIMES, they listen.  Here’s the proof!

Cue the flashback music!…..

“Doodle loodle loo…..Doodle loodle loo…….doodle loodle loo………………..”

(Hey, I don’t have a budget for special effects and a fancy, schmancy soundtrack, so I do what I can.)

Anyway, the year is probably about 2005 or so, and my oldest daughter, Tee was about 12 (13?) years old.  At the time,  they had three rules that I would give them pretty much EVERY time they left  the house.  We always followed the same ritual.  (It was probably more so to help ME remember the rules  than for their benefit….my memory has never been the best, and I needed to make sure I knew what I was punishing them for if the need arose…)   I would ask them what each rule was and have them tell me what it meant.   It went something like this:

Me:  What’s the first rule girls?
Them : Respect ourselves.
Me: what does that mean?
Them:  That we should never do anything that we wouldn’t be proud of.

Me:  What’s the next rule?
Them: Respect our surroundings.
ME: What does that mean to you?
Them: That we should always know what’s going on around us and pay attention to things so we don’t get hurt.

Me: And the third one?
Them: Act like little  ladies.
ME: And what does that mean?
Them:  That we should always carry ourselves like ladies.  We sit like ladies.  We talk like ladies.

So, that was what we went through day in and day out.  Now over the course of time, the ritual got shorter and shorter, and eventually it just got to the point where I would just have them recite the rules to me before they got out of the car.   I hadn’t had an opportunity to see if they were actually FOLLOWING the rules, and they were never actually put to the test.  Heck, I wasn’t even sure that even remembered the rules after the car door slammed……….until….

One day, I took Tee and three of  her neighborhood friends to the mall.  They were all about the same age, except for one, who was a few years younger.   As usual, and without discriminating, I had her AND HER FRIENDS go over the rules with me.  I said them one at a time, having them repeat them to me and asking Tee what each one meant.  She did it without missing a beat. So I let them get out and go into the mall.  I drove off and went home.  One of the other girls mothers was going to pick them up in a couple of hours.

About an hour or so later, the phone rings.  On the other end is one of the parents.  Apparently, the kids had gotten into trouble for trying to steal some jewelry and she was bringing Tee home.

So, of course, when Tee gets there…I was  ready to read her the RIOT ACT with both guns a blazin’.   I didn’t  ask any questions, and we went straight to my room.

“What happened, Tee?”

She looked me right in the eyes and said, “I didn’t do anything wrong, Daddy.”  and she began to cry.  So, me being the concerned, loving, sensitive Daddy that I am, I thought, “Okay…here she goes with the waterworks to throw me off balance, but I ain’t no SUCKER.”  (Yeah…I kinda am…don’t judge me!) She continued  to tell me what happened.  We didn’t get to talk long before there was another knock at the door.   When I answered, I saw the neighbor girl (the young one) and her mom.  The daughter,   was standing there ; her eyes all red as if she’d rubbed them with sandpaper and flushed them with bleach.  The mother asked me if she could talk to Tee for a minute.

I called Tee to the door, and she came and stood beside me in the doorway.  The mother then said, “Mr. McDuffie, I want to tell you that your daughter didn’t do anything wrong so don’t be mad at her.   Our daughters weren’t stealing from the store.  The other two girls were the ones stealing….Our girls were at another store .  Security just assumed that because they were in the mall together, that they were in it together.  (There’s a LOT more to this story that I’m saving for next time.) Then she looked down at Tee and said, “Thank you for keeping ___________out of trouble.”

The next voice we heard was that of the neighbor girl.  What she said hit me like a truck and I’ll NEVER forget the little life lesson that I got from it.  With that tiny, scared, still borderline crying voice she said simply…

“……you told them to act like ladies…You TOLD them…..and they didn’t do it.  They wouldn’t listen……”

Mind….blown.

This little girl, who had only heard the rules  that I drilled into my daughters ONCE, had taken it to heart.  She remembered it!  Granted, it was only two of four that heeded it…but that was better than ONE of four, right?

Now, the message behind all of this is larger than this post, and it’s larger than just me, my daughters and their friends.  In essence, it ain’t about me and mine, it’s about  about YOU and YOURS.    If my words could mean that much to her; a little girl that I hardly knew past her first name, apartment number and mother’s name, think how much weight YOUR words carry with all of the potential “little ladies” in your life.  God has placed and continues to place them in your path all the time.  You have the ability to help guide these little ladies and TRUST me….they listen to you more than you think.

Funny thing is….out of everything that happened that day, the biggest disappointment that BOTH girls seemed to have  was that they thought they had let ME down.  It wasn’t a trip to the mall suddenly cut short.    It wasn’t being questioned by mall security.  It wasn’t  that their “friends” were now mad at them.  (I’ll explain that in part two), but what was most important to them was what I thought of them.  Heavy stuff, huh?

I say ALL of the above to simply say  this:   Your words carry WEIGHT, gents…don’t undervalue yourself.

So until, next Father’s Day, stay encouraged.

I’ll share part two with ya next time.

Thanks for reading.

 

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My letters to God

So, somebody that read one of my poems before said that I should write more….I don’t really fancy myself as being a “poet” but I do LOVE poetry….(But only the real MANLY kind.)  Anyway, I decided to put one of my old rituals from the years of raising my girls into poem form.  Hope ya like it.

My Letters to God

Sometimes,
at night,
while you slept,

I’d sneak

quietly,
to you
just to watch you breathe.

I’d kneel
and pray,
by your side,

Concerned

for the stars in your eyes
and the joy in your laugh
and the strength, thru life’s lessons, you’d  earn.

I’d pray
to God,
for things I didn’t see..

in me;

the friend,
the guardian,
the confidant that I needed to be.

Then

I’d stand,
and speak
softly in your ear

of my

dreams
and wishes
and hopes, never fears

And this

 I’d send,
addressed to  God
and stamped with a  kiss on your cheek.

 

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