Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author Ashton Smith — The PBS Blog

Today is a special edition of Introduce Yourself. Please help me to welcome Ashton Smith to The PBS Blog! Ashton is an amazing young woman from Fort Worth, Texas, with a powerful story. She’s a world-medal award-winning swimmer, author, and corporate speaker. She is legally blind in one eye and has difficulty seeing out of […]

Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author Ashton Smith — The PBS Blog

I read this article above and was overcome with emotion. I would be lying if I said I was surprised because capitalism and the ability to take from others what’s rightfully theirs or prevent others from making sustainable income is the primal American way. But I am saddened, deeply saddened by Ashton’s story, and I abhor the entities/organizations/people who have placed her in this position.

But I know and feel as though, better days are coming for her.

Read her story via Yecheilyah‘s blog. It’s truly worth it.

Threaded Chapters

I will miss her sunshiny presence, but I am happy she will have a new beginning

Photo by L.A Co. on Unsplash

My neighbor is moving. It appears I say that phrase now more than I care to. Since the rent has increased in my apartment complex for many of us by $115.00 to $250.00 (depending on the type of unit you are leasing), the choice to leave is easier than the choice to stay. Some have found their new homes in cities right outside ours — shifting from one county to the next.

They are doing this, from the outside looking in, without fear — without a pressing feeling to remain planted where they are — without wondering what they will do in the next town.

She lives (lived) across the breezeway — directly from my unit on the third floor. She is soft-spoken, sweet, and very much a talker. She cannot remember Jernee’s name, and oddly enough, I have not been able to remember hers. But I have “Yes, ma’amed” and “No ma’amed” her for nearly five years and I do not want her to move.

And this is a dilemma of mine — fear of change — of adjusting to the differences that lie ahead. My therapist says, “You just have to run straight through it, Tre. It may not be as bad as you think it will be.” And I know she’s right — I know she has seen more than I have — I pay her for her expertise and the connection we have built over the last three years.

Back to my neighbor. I will miss her sunshiny presence, but I am happy she will have a new beginning. She is excited about the move — about the city where she will be living. She found a place for senior citizens that will cost her $275.00 less than what she was paying at our apartment complex.

And as she told me this a couple of weeks ago to prepare me for the move, I couldn’t help but say, “Look at God. He found a place for you that isn’t too far, and is also less expensive.”

She smiled at me and said, “And He will do the same for you, too.”

And while I believe her, I both want to leave this place and I don’t want to leave this place, and if I do, the mountains are calling me — they are calling me home to them.


Everyone is moving, the community will not be the same

This scares me — what keeps me inside most days and away from new people who do not exchange “Hellos” and “How are yous?” They are too busy walking briskly to the mailbox or shoving themselves into their cars to recognize one’s presence. They have some business to attend to, and you are not it — you’re a blip in their time zone, a speck to be brushed away at the right moment.

You could pass out in the middle of the street, and the one thing they would probably focus on as important is the color of your shoes or, even worse; the color of your skin.

The people in my building talk — we share our workdays with each other, our experiences. The people across from us and next to our building — it is the same. We have built up our community and look out for one another, and with all the new people moving in, I see less of this, and it hurts me — hurts me truly to my core.

I foresee it being more of a selfish thing, as they fill the vacant units to the brim with people simply looking for a place to stay and not a place in which to live. (Let that sink in for a moment.)

We are losing our elders. We are losing the single mothers who look forward to you wrangling their kids along for them. We are losing men willing to shovel your hatchback compact vehicle out of your parking space after an overnight snowfall.

And I am not settling well with this at all. But I guess I will have to, and soon.


She’s not gone just yet, but she will be

She tells me she is paying rent at her current place and the new place because her lease is not up until January. The catch is, if she did not jump on signing the lease with the senior citizens’ spot, she was going to lose her unit there. Her sons can help her these last two months — they will help her.

I say, as pleasantly as I can, “I understand that. You had to get to it while the getting was good.” She smiles and shakes her head in agreement. She then tells me, “So, I’ll be back. You’ll see me coming in and out — cleaning up — getting the place in order. I’m not gone just yet.”

And a small piece of my heart releases the strain it automatically pressed upon me.

I always wonder who my next neighbor will be when someone moves. Will they be kind? Will they be considerate? Will they understand we live in an apartment building and not their own home with a backyard and all their customized trimmings?


We live in threaded chapters, turning the pages of each other’s books

When the day comes that she says her last goodbye, I want to have a housewarming gift for her — something she will look upon and remember me and Jernee. I am having a hard time figuring out what that should be, but I know I will select the right thing at the right time.

We live in threaded chapters — connected by time and space and community. Some of us are more apt to pick up each other’s books and turn the pages and learn something about each person as we move forward.

And as I look up from my laptop, I see another moving truck back in. Two people exit and then pull up the truck’s door. The bed of the truck is empty.

I think to myself, “Who is moving now” and I close my blinds and shake my head.

And just like that, I have another book to read.


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.

I Had a Dream About Oprah Winfrey

And she was writing a book I would love to read

I rarely dream about celebrities. It is a rare occurrence, and in order for it to take place, I would have had to watch a movie or read a book about that person right before going to sleep. And I certainly have never dreamed about the incomparable Oprah Winfrey before; the woman whose net worth is 2.5 billion dollars.

The dream I had early Sunday morning on September 11, 2022, struck me as peculiar, yet intriguing. I was in a dark room and the only area with an inkling of light was the small space where Oprah sat.

She wore her famous square-rimmed, flashy glasses, her hair was pulled up into a neat bun, and she donned a white blouse and brown slacks. She was shouting, “I am writing my book in Chicago about the children I never had, and I will need my fucking space!”

It echoed throughout the room. I simply stood there in awe. I could not move. Both my body and mind knew exactly what was taking place. I was in the company of one of the most influential Black women who was shouting repeatedly at the top of her lungs about a book she would need space to write, and I could not move.

There aren’t usually smells in my dreams, but in this one, I could smell a sweet and earthy scent. It was welcoming — a scent that provided safety and peace. Could it have been a signature perfume of her choice wafting from Oprah’s body? I don’t know.

I just knew that there I was, watching one of the most beloved women in the world declare frantically of the book she was writing. And it was both painful and motivating to witness.


Oprah does not have children and neither do I

Why did I have this dream? What does it mean? I do not fancy myself as someone who analyzes dreams. I simply try to understand them in my own way. Of late, I have had my share of weird ones, though, and this one is no different.

Oprah Winfrey does not have children. She has been open about this in many of her interviews and speaks about it candidly without regret. Her career path did not have room for the time, support, nurturing, and care she would have needed to allow for children, so she passed on that opportunity.

She endured giving birth at 14 years old to a baby boy who was the product of familial rape from an older cousin. The baby died after just two weeks.

I think about what she must have lived through — how she had to cement herself — become hard enough to keep moving, and I tear up.

I realized, ‘Whoa, I’m talking to a lot of messed-up people, and they are messed up because they had mothers and fathers who were not aware of how serious that job is.’ I don’t have the ability to compartmentalize the way I see other women do. It is why, throughout my years, I have had the highest regard for women who choose to be at home [with] their kids, because I don’t know how you do that all day long, Nobody gives women the credit they deserve. — Oprah Winfrey

I do not have children. Not for the same reasons as Oprah, but my reasons are also valid enough for me. I have always had an incredible fear of not being able to love my children how I would need to or losing myself enough to forget my past and not burden my children with my baggage.

I also found out in my early 30s that it would be difficult for me to have children naturally, so I did not take that risk. Not to mention, I have yet to have a partner worthy enough in my eyes to share such a responsibility as parenting.

“I am writing my book in Chicago about the children I never had, and I will need my fucking space!”

I have watched many women give their all to their children — love them unconditionally — lift them up where they have faltered; teach them right from wrong, and these same children grow up to leave their mothers crying senselessly about the choices they are making or have made.

How much of it is nurture? How much of it is nature? One can never know who or what their children will become until it has happened. That is a weight too heavy for me to carry.


And there was music and tears and nervousness too

I am no stranger to music in my dreams. Music seems to be the way I love — the way I lean into life when everything else becomes too tough to tackle. I speak using music and the world around me silences itself to hear me.

The song that played in my dream was Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s “We Are One.” It repeated the following lyrics:

Sometimes I feel
That we try and make each other sad
(I don’t know why)
The things we do
How we make each other feel so bad
We’ve got so much
We could all be having so much fun

This song sends me to a space and time that is both nostalgic and a sad reminder of my past. My mother’s family always had these wild cookouts and family gatherings. I say wild because there would inevitably be an argument, an altercation, and someone or more than one person would head home in tears or angered by the day’s events.

Her family frightened me. So much anger. So much intensity. And oddly enough, amongst the pain, so much love, too.

Funny how the mind works, huh? To have this song on repeat in a dream reflected around the non-existence of children, Oprah Winfrey, and me as the voyeur — there’s more here, I know it.

I try to dig a little deeper. A fellow writer left a comment for me after we’d been conversing regarding my most recent article in An Injustice Mag, stating, “Exactly my point, leave their table for yours. In fact, write a book about the hypocrisy you face to become a writer. Be the change you want to see. Prove them wrong and exceed their limitations.”

His suggestion sent my mind swirling, and several moments of creativity flashed before my eyes. I can do what he is suggesting.

In the dream, I was nervous. I have yet to figure out if it was because I had been standing in the presence of the great Oprah Winfrey or if it was because of all the things I have lined up for me in the coming months. I am excited. I am full of fear. But it all will be worth it in the end.

I have always had an incredible fear of not being able to love my children how I would need to or losing myself enough to forget my past and not burden my children with my baggage.

And there were tears from both me and Oprah. With Oprah’s frantic shouting, came free-flowing tears that streamed down her face gently. Her declaration hadn’t bothered her. Her voice bull-horned without the bullhorn. Everyone, I am certain, who was anyone, could hear her.

I cried. Watching her in this intense state shout about needing the space to write about the children she never had, moved me — both in the dream and when I woke up.


The truth is in the details

We miss, sometimes, what we never had. And perhaps, that’s our link in this dream — knowing we have not and want not, but we sometimes regret it, even if we tell ourselves we don’t.

The truth is always in the details if we’re willing to plow through the dirt of us and retrieve a cleansing state.

I had a dream about Oprah Winfrey, and she had been writing about the children she never had while I stood there as a witness, which led to me thinking about the children I never had. Maybe it is a coincidence, this dream. Maybe there is nothing there and nothing I need to search for within it.

But I would love to read that book.


Originally published in The Narrative Collective via Medium.

Back to School but Only in My Mind

A narrative reflection

Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

We bolt from the yellow Blue Bird bus that carries us from fifteen streets away. The bus driver has a pronounced gap between her two front teeth and yells at the top of her lungs every afternoon for us to “Sit our behinds down” before she parks the bus somewhere and lets us have it.

This is the deep South, right before the summer break. The heat is a devil on stilts. The kind of heat prepared to kick God in the shins for creating it.

I’m best friends with two sisters, one loner, a metrosexual, and there are an undisclosed number of acquaintances who know me but don’t know me-know me.

My mom is a recovering cocaine addict who buries her face in goblets of Hennessy and Tanqueray. I spend most of the evenings crying in my room — praying for a way out of where I seem stuck.

My brothers are 8, 9, and 10 years younger than me. The oldest hears me crying and sits by my closed door until I fall asleep.

I never tell him this, but it is nice to have him there — listening, waiting for me to be at peace. He’s still the same to this day — ready to protect me. Open to keeping me safe.

We spend the humid nights at the poolside, playing spades and talking shit about anyone we wanted to.

Or … I run circles around the boys in the neighborhood on the basketball court until the day I split my lip open and bruise my right jaw. I still have the scar. My bottom lip — purple and midnight blue — never the same.

We are young, bold, academically advanced, and full of wonder. I leave at 18 — travel one hour for college — settle there for seven years, and pick my shit up one day out of the blue to journey onward to North Carolina.

I do not look back. I am not speaking to my mother, who finally proves to me I mean little to her when she does not come to my college graduation.

It is a weight I choose not to carry as I move through my 20s, stressed out by the constant feeling of worthlessness. If my own mother can’t see me achieve this goal, why should anyone else?

To my surprise, everyone I love more than mint chocolate chip ice cream shows up. Even my friend from Mississippi.

The Powerhouse coordinates visits and caters to my every whim, hugging me until I feel my soul smile before she leaves to celebrate her boyfriend’s graduation day too.

I am 17, 18, 21, 23, and 25, and with all those past ages still living in my mind, I become the woman I never thought I’d be.

And I love her so much more.


©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt

*This piece is in response to the Back to School prompt in CRY Magazine via Medium.

The Grieving Room

Understanding what happens and why while grieving

On late Sunday night and into early Monday morning, a dream awakened me. In that dream, I could see a crew of siblings I’d grown up with in my neighborhood as clear as day; a sister and her two brothers.

We played kickball, dodgeball, and many other outside games, and raced to our respective homes before the streetlights came on.

We attended the same elementary, junior high, and high school. I have not seen them since I was in my late 20s, or early 30s, maybe? Why was I dreaming about them?

In the dream, the focus had been on the two brothers. Although the sister was present, she did not have a strong role — it’s like she made a cameo appearance only and moved along without a word.

I jumped up from my bed, not too sure why I had this reaction, and began searching for them online. What the search led me to was the death of one brother back in October 2011. He was 35 years old. I was 31.

He’d also been the sibling I communicated with the most. Although he was older, we had a lot in common. Not only that, we simply gelled well. We had our fair share of quips and subtle arguments from time to time, but we were always right back outside a few days later, enjoying what young life and innocence offered.

The obituary stated he’d died when his “health had failed.” 35 years old … I’d spent many of my childhood years dodging dodgeballs, kicking kickballs, running home before the glimmer of the streetlights with him, and having not seen him in over 15 years, I just sat with myself and this news.

I cannot describe how it made me feel. Initially, pain struck me as well as curiosity. It hurt to know he was no longer alive, even though the last time we saw each other was over a decade ago.

I had also been hit with the incessantly annoying want to know what happened. Why him? What started the path down to the reality of his health failing?

My therapist encourages me to study the why but not to overthink what could be simple

Naturally, I discussed this dream with my therapist this past Thursday, August 18, 2022. I love watching my therapist as she sits back in her chair, cups one of her hands on her chin, tilts her head, and says, “Okay. Where is the why in this? Why do you think you had this dream after not having seen them in so long?”

The question stumped me when she first asked it. I had trouble connecting the dots. My mind had been moving so fast, trying to wrap itself around it. I was dealing with the “how” so much more than I was dealing with the “why” of it all. I could pull nothing from within me.

She allowed me several moments to sit with the question and it finally hit me. “I thought I had gotten to a happier place with my grief — that I could say it does not hurt as much as it first did — I am doing better. But this … now this.”

And we talked through it. Her next question really drew the emotion out of me. “What do you feel in you right now, knowing that a childhood friend is gone?”

How does one even address this question? Especially if one has had multiple childhood friends die. Some before we’d even made it to our 30s.

I don’t want to say I am numb to it because surely I am not — I still feel each loss completely and wholly and the pain isn’t any different. My response … “I am saddened by it. I am hurt. I wish I would not have found out this way, or that it did not happen. Why did I have this dream? Am I supposed to reach out to his brother … his sister? He died so long ago.”

And the tears fell.

It all hit me like a Mack truck a few moments later. I didn’t give my therapist time to respond. My old friend died in October 2011. My cousin’s birthday is coming up in October. I had already not dealt with the month of October well because my maternal grandmother died In October when I was 23 years old.

Plainly put, October is a struggle month for me. There are days in that month when my focus is completely and utterly off, and I cannot move through them as I can months before it.

My maternal grandmother’s death had broken me in places I did not know breaking was possible. October brings darkness for me — so much darkness, and my cousin … she had been the light. Every single year — she was beautiful, unfathomable, undeniable, uplifting, and consistent light.

So, what will this October lend me this year? In all honesty, I am afraid to greet it but I also cannot worry about something over which I have no control. And I will try not to have any predestined wallowing moments piling up, either. I have to press forward. I have to move through it as best as I can when it approaches.

I will continue to give myself the grace and understanding I need.

I am aware that you worry about many things that you can’t control. There’s so much we would like to have but we cannot really hold. You have to be kind to yourself. You have to be kind to yourself. — Zooey Deschanel

How I got through the week embraced by some entertainment

I have made it a point to watch more television. For years, I had immersed myself in reading, writing, editing, and viewing a couple of hours of television per night and a few more during the weekends, but of late, this form of entertainment is keeping me above water.

Throughout the week, I allowed myself to be enchanted and excited by Gnome Alone (on Netflix), intrigued and motivated by Prey (on Hulu), angered and emotionally shaken by The United States vs. Billie Holiday (on Hulu), and finally, distracted, saddened, yet uplifted by Over the Moon (on Netflix).

And with the roller coaster week I have had, each of them has been a welcome reprieve.

I have learned to allow myself moments of joy regardless of how they are introduced to me.

I may not know the “why” but I will probably find out soon

Finding out about the loss of a childhood friend the way I did has definitely bruised something within me. I won’t lie — it was crushing waking up to learn of the death of someone I had been close to while growing up. I am still struggling with thoughts of, “why didn’t we keep in touch?” “What prevented us from spending more time together as we aged?” “What would it look like for me to make attempts at reconnecting with his surviving brother and sister?”

I do not have the answers. But I will tell you I am sitting with this loss. I am honoring it with the time I believe it needs. I am looking to the spirit of my cousin to cradle me as she has been doing over the last six months. And that is all I can do for now.

That is all I will do.

Grief changes shape, but it never ends. — Keanu Reeves


Welcome to The Grieving Room. I am here. You are here. We are not alone in this.

See you next Saturday.

©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in The Grieving Room newsletter on LinkedIn.