NEW JERSEY – Recently, my Facebook friend James Smith was astonished to learn that Caitlyn Jenner was one of the recipients of an award for Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year. Years before, James’s wife Moira posthumously received the award after she valiantly gave her life on Sept. 11, 2001 as the only New York Police Department female officer who perished that day after ushering thousands to safety in the South Tower. In fact Martin Glynn tells his story here about being one of those fortunate people in the tower who Moira guided through. He wrote, “Moira’s job on 9/11 was without heraldry, yet she may have been responsible for saving more lives than anyone else.”
While Bruce Jenner literally made strides as an Olympic hero, many have been questioning how Caitlyn could have been bestowed this honor so soon, when Caitlyn has not been a female for a full year, plus has not fully transitioned. Even members of the transgendered community have countered that Caitlyn Jenner cannot relate to the full experience and the backlash of violence, discrimination and sexual abuse many transgendered individuals have endured (click here for a story on this topic and members of the transgender community picketing Caitlyn Jenner). James Smith, also a retired New York Police Department officer was equally puzzled, having assisted transgendered youth in shelters while on his beat, many on the verge of suicide, while recognizing that as Bruce and Caitlyn, Jenner has lived a fairly pampered existence.
While James also had no issue with Laverne Cox receiving an award as a transgendered woman who has been an active voice on the front lines of the community, he took exception that Caitlyn Jenner was presented, and considered it a publicity stunt. James was especially shocked when he learned what Caitlyn told BuzzFeed when asked what the hardest part of being a woman was. Among her comments she said (click here for full comments):
“The hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear,” Caitlyn responded. “It’s always that way; I never thought it would come to this. I had really no sense of style.”
James no longer wished his wife’s memory to be associated with this award, and later, writer Germaine Greer and actress Rose McGowan also aired their upsets about this. Plus, millions of citizens around the world who believed this was wrong.
It first started with a Facebook Post that James shared on Nov. 11. The post is below. He believed it a slap in the face to not only Moira’s memory and EMT Yamel Merino but to all women, because Caitlyn was given this award.
The following day, he posted an open letter to Glamour editor Cindi Leive, which he reposted on his own Facebook Page, and among his comments he wrote: “I was shocked and saddened to learn that Glamour has just named Bruce Jenner “Woman of the Year.” I find it insulting to Moira Smith’s memory, and the memory of other heroic women who have earned this award. Was there no woman in America, or the rest of the world, more deserving than this man? At a time when we have women in the armed forces fighting and dying for our country, heroic doctors fighting deadly diseases, women police officers and firefighters putting their lives on the line for total strangers, brave women overcoming life threatening diseases…the list of possibilities goes on…is this the best that you could do? I guess that this was a publicity stunt meant to resuscitate a dying medium.”
As a woman, I have asked myself the same questions James asked Glamour and felt a sting when I saw that Caitlyn was an award recipient. While I support Caitlyn in her decision to introduce the world to her new self, in my opinion, Caitlyn Jenner should have returned that award, not James Smith. In fact to quote Caitlyn further on the female experience: “But it’s more than that. I’m kind of at this point in my life where I’m trying to figure this womanhood thing out. It is more than hair, makeup, clothes, all that kind of stuff. There’s an element here, that I’m still kind of searching for. And I think that’ll take a while.”
To me, with this comment alone Caitlyn even realized receipt of this award was premature. She was well aware as Bruce Jenner what it took to be a champion – sheer hard work, the ability to crawl before walking, and walk before running for the gold medal. I pray over time that Caitlyn Jenner can be the inspiration that she claims she intends to be.
In response, I posted a call for submissions from my female friends, asking them if they felt moved to do so, to please share their stories of courage. I was overwhelmed by the responses, and honestly moved to tears by each one sent to me. All of the ladies featured here have been through some very difficult struggles, in which they have triumphed in their day to day odysseys, and proven that they each are the stuff of champions, and brave women. I dedicate this post to them, because their testimonies are the heart of this story. I also dedicate this post to the memory of Moira Smith and in honor of James Smith, who through his voice, has spoken out in defense of women and transgendered individuals worldwide.
I hope each of you will be inspired by each of these stories as I was. I am blessed and grateful each of these women has touched my path, and at the end, I share some elements of life challenges I’ve experienced, that I hope will inspire you too to never give up.
I believe every woman has her own story waiting to be revealed, and that one never knows what daily challenges and obstacles overcome are masked behind each smiling Facebook profile picture.
Erika Simmons’s Story – “I don’t know if I’d be where I am today without my loss.”
Editor’s Note: Erika Simmons has been a Facebook friend of mine for over a year, when we met on here after I reported on a councilman who was sworn into office and later was attacking police officers and the profession overall online. She has been recently promoted to Police Sergeant with the Buda Police Department. God bless you and your beautiful daughter Sergeant Simmons and thank you for your service! I can’t wait until the day when we can meet in person at some point! Thanks for sharing your amazing story of courage and how good has come out of a very tragic experience!
“In October of 1999, I had just turned 20, and I had just lost my mother, unexpectedly and tragically. This was also the night I learned about her narcotic abuse. I was crushed. My mother was and still is my hero and my best friend. She was taken from me in an auto/pedestrian motor vehicle accident. She was the pedestrian. I was living at home with her at the time. I lost my home and started to drink alcohol a lot.
I didn’t talk about my loss, I held all the emotion in and I drank. On more than one occasion I had a headache from drinking before I went to bed. I took risks, too many to count and made horrible decisions. I prayed to be with my mom and today, I’m thankful for unanswered prayers. I ran from my fears and buried my sadness.
I then found a will inside me to fight for something to make my mom proud. I wanted to make a change in others lives who suffered from drug abuse and who were young women in trouble.
In 2000, I applied and was hired with the Hays County Sheriff’s Office in Texas. The following year, I entered into the Basic Police Officer’s Academy. I was one of two female cadets and I was told women didn’t belong in law enforcement. I didn’t quit and I graduated #3 in my academy.
A lot of people doubted me, some still do today. I’ve been married, had a child and divorced. All of these my mom missed. All of these moments I needed her.
A friend with a strong faith used to tell me ‘God gives His hardest battles to His strongest soldiers and you are one of His strongest. -Today, I am a single mother to an 8-year-old beauty. I am a dedicated friend and employee. I’m a homeowner. I’m a newly promoted Patrol Sergeant, and I’ve found my passion. Helping teenaged runaway girls who feel alone and who are battling everyday life is my passion.
I’ve kept in contact with two teenage girls who have been prostituted and sexually assaulted repeatedly. They know I care and have reached out to me when times are hard. It makes me smile that they know I’m there for them.
My loss has made me stronger and has made me a fighter. I’m a fighter for what’s right and I’m training the girls I meet to be fighters. Both girls have turned their lives around and if I can change the heart and mind of one it’s a win. They are winning and in turn I’m winning.
In 2013, I was fortunate to be able to sponsor a little boy in Awassa, Ethiopia at the Alade Genet CarePoint set up by my best friend, Britany. In 2014 I was able to travel to Ethiopia to meet my little man, Habtamu and to see a side of the world I’d probably never otherwise visit. What an eye opening and God led experience! I fell in love with the people and the love for one another they have. I wasn’t able to make the trip in 2015, but I’m praying I am able to make the 2016 trip and this time to take my little girl with me!
I don’t know if I’d be where I am today without my loss. It was traumatic and I’d never wish it on anyone, but it has made me who I am today. I’ve learned when I feel alone, that that feeling couldn’t be more wrong. My mom is watching from above with a smile only my accomplishments could give her. She’s proud of me and knowing that, I’ll continue to rise above any challenge thrown my way. I’m a single mom. A police officer. A fighter.”
April Lynne’s Story – “For anyone who might read this, you are not alone!”
Editor’s Note: April Lynne and I had the blessing to “meet” one another on Facebook in 2014 because of a fan page that we belong to. She is a dear person and I look forward to meeting her in person sometime! When she sent me her story, I was amazed how much she has endured, in between her pregnancy difficulties and her pregnancy aftermath. I have only known her as a mom who is smitten with her son and shares many of her anecdotes of his daily progresses with us. God bless you April Lynne and your wonderful family! Thank you for sharing a story that I feel many moms can relate to different angles of it!
“As a young teen I was diagnosed with endometriosis. As I became an adult there was talk that it could cause fertility problems but I wasn’t concerned as I was “never having kids or getting married!”
Fast forward to meeting my now husband, who I knew while dating wanted kids. After we were married we began to try. After a few months I became pregnant. But that joy was short lived due to miscarriage. We tried again but yet another miscarriage and yet again an ectopic pregnancy.
After losing three pregnancies I kept questioning myself, what had I done wrong? What was wrong with me? No one in my family had gone through what I was going through, I had no friends that could relate, I felt so alone.
I saw groups of different doctors but they had no answers. The only ‘good’ news my doctors had was that I was able to get pregnant so my endometriosis wasn’t interfering! So we tried yet a fourth time to get pregnant and stay that way!
Over Thanksgiving of 2010 I got my fourth positive test! Everything was going great. I was high risk, so at five weeks pregnant I started seeing my doctors weekly so they could check my hormone levels to ensure I wasn’t in fear of losing another. They also did multiple sonograms to ensure the egg wasn’t ectopic. I never had any morning sickness! I finally reached the end of my first trimester, 13 weeks and we finally felt safe to tell everyone!
Our happiness would be short lived. At 15 weeks I began contractions. I was monitored and put on temporary bed rest. By 18 weeks the contractions began again but this time I was dilated and the baby was in position for birth. I was given all kinds of drugs to boost the baby’s lungs, I had to take medicine to stop the contractions which gave me horrible migraines I could take nothing for and I was put on permanent bed rest.
I’ll never forget making it to my 32-week appointment and hearing my doctor say, ‘Your pregnancy is viable now.’ After months of lying around the house, after countless doctor visits finally hearing good news! I was told to start walking and prepare for labor, as the Doctors didn’t think I’d make my due date. Sadly at my 35 week check up I was told my amniotic fluid was too low and to get back in bed and hydrate. The following week I was checked again and told that induction would take place because my fluid was too low and unsafe for baby. After 18 hours of labor, he just wouldn’t come out, even with the vacuum, which was tried multiple times.
Our heartbeats dropped, the delivery room became critical chaos. I was immediately rushed stat to the OR for an emergency c-section. By the grace of God, Angel was delivered at 11:30 pm July 27, 2011.
I however wasn’t stable, my blood pressure continued to drop. It was around 5 a.m. on July 28th that I was finally stable enough to see and hold my son. Angel had jaundice so had to stay in the hospital after I was released.
I didn’t know it but I was becoming depressed. I thought it was hormones but it wasn’t. Here I was leaving my son at the hospital so he could recover from the trauma of his birth and I felt empty. It was two days after I was released that we finally got to return to bring our miracle home. In that short time, something happened inside me. This baby that I had struggled so hard to bring into the world I no longer wanted. I cried constantly, as did Angel (he had colic), which only made how I felt worse.
My husband and mom started to notice my behavior. My mom was afraid I’d hurt my son. She went with me to my 4-week check up and shared her feelings w my doctor. I was put on anti-depressants against my will. I just didn’t think I was sick, I was in denial.
After a few months I got better, Angel’s colic stopped and I was coping the best I could. Friends were helping, coming over to spend time with me while my husband worked. My mom would take Angel and keep him so I could sleep. I didn’t want to admit it at the time but I suffered from post partum depression (PPD).
I didn’t have a normal, happy pregnancy, even my baby shower was sad because I could only attend for a little bit and had to go back to bed rest.
I’ve gotten better, some days I struggle. I struggle with what I missed out on during that dark time but I try to make up for it now. There is such a stigma attached to losing a pregnancy or a baby and no one talks about PPD.
Little by little, I’m trying to share my story. I don’t want another women to feel like she’s alone, that there are women that have been through hell and have come out alive, like me. I am one in four women that has suffered pregnancy loss and I’ve also experienced PPD, and lived to share my story. I’ll always remember my three pregnancies I lost and look forward to the day I’m reunited with them. I’m blessed to have a healthy son.
For anyone that might read this, you are not alone! There are resources and online support groups, to offer kind words or guidance. Had I been aware of those options, maybe I would have coped better. Thanks to our God, my son is a healthy, smart and active 4.5 yr old. With the continued support of friends and family, I’ve adjusted to being a mom and take each day one at a time.”
Trisha Cavosi – Cancer will not take away my spirit, my love for God, and the true love and kindness of my husband that I have been blessed with.”
Editor’s Note: Trisha Cavosi and I have known each other less than a year and we bonded immediately in Facebook Group that she joined and I’m a moderator of. She is another virtual friend that I totally cannot wait to meet! She has a heart of gold and has been through so much in her lifetime, and has a very rare strain of thyroid cancer that she has been battling. She is a total light and delight on Facebook, always with something insightful to say, and as funny as heck with her delivery of some of the things she says. She, like all of the women featured here, has been courageous in sharing her story and has shared many photos below of what her cancer journey has entailed. God bless you my friend, your husband and kitties and thank you for being brave to share your world with the world.
“Shortly after turning 40, I was noticing that I was slowly gaining weight, even though I lived at the gym. I always felt run down. I’d lose my voice without having a cold. I was having trouble sleeping, so I started to keep track of my diet, exercise and sleep pattern. Nothing changed what was going on, and every doctor I spoke to assured me this is what happens after women turn 40 or else just brushed me off.
Eventually, I had a doctor run bloodwork/labs on me. She informed me they were fine and nothing was wrong with me. I literally told her that I could say I had aliens coming out of my butt-and she would say I was fine.
Several months later, after having passed a kidney stone, another doctor told me he had looked at the results of the previously done labs, and he didn’t like the results. He said I definitely had hypothyroidism. He asked if he could do some tests on me. I gladly said yes. The very first thing he did was feel my neck, upon which he discovered that my thyroid gland felt huge. Ultrasounds led to fine needle biopsies, which revealed I had thyroid cancer.
Up till that point, I only believed that the thyroid gland was something that controlled your weight. I was very wrong. In a nutshell, the thyroid gland-located in the front of your neck below your Adam’s apple-makes hormones that control the way your body uses energy, affects almost every organ in the body and is responsible for the function of every cell in your body. And mine was very unhappy.
Surgery to remove my thyroid and any nodules/cancerous looking masses would be performed followed by RAI treatment. Radioactive iodine ablation-RAI/I-131,is what is used for thyroid cancer, not chemo. It targets only thyroid cells anywhere in the body and destroys any it finds. Even after the thyroid is removed, some thyroid tissue and cells remain.
When I first told the head person of my employer’s human resource department that I would be going out for thyroid cancer, she smiled brightly at me and told me that was ‘the good cancer’ to get if you had to get cancer. She told me her college roommate had it, and it was no big deal at all. I would be back at work in just a couple months she informed me. Not a chance.
Yes, thyroid cancer is one that has a good prognosis and high survival rate generally but there is more to that. I received a very high dose of RAI, which is given to you in the hospital in the form of a pill. It’s brought into the hospital by an outside facility that deals with the radioactive material. It shows up in what looks like a series of metal nesting dolls. Finally the pill is dropped into a cup and given to the patient with a cup of water, while the nurse hides behind a partition. The second you have swallowed the pill-you are booted out of the hospital with certain instructions.
You are now radioactive. You must isolate yourself from your family, pets, other people for generally three to five days.(for pets, small children and pregnant women-the isolation time is much longer). You’re given a card stating you have been given a radioactive material in case you plan on traveling, because you will set off alarms at airports, certain tunnels and other places of travel. You must make sure to not use utensils that other will use. Plastic works best. You must flush the toilet several times after every use, shower often to help wash away the RAI that comes out in your sweat and saliva. Bed sheets must be washed over and over or thrown away. Also, your trash must be separated and there is a chance it could set off alarms with the waste disposal company.
It turned out that I was one of the 4 percent that is resistant to the RAI treatment. But,I still suffered from all the side effects-extreme neck pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of taste, dry mouth and eyes, and pain in salivary glands are just a few.
Other side effects from having my thyroid removed and being put on a synthetic thyroid hormone pill to try and mimic having a thyroid were extreme fatigue, memory and concentration problems, hair loss, muscle weakness, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, extreme mood swings, joint pain, tingling and numbness in hands and feet…the list goes on.
They also discovered that my thyroid cancer was worse than they previously knew. My thyroid gland had been huge and contained a two-inch malignant tumor. It was all very attached to my trachea and strap muscles. This explained why I was having so much trouble breathing, swallowing, losing my voice and when I slept-I felt as if I were being choked. They told me I had RAI resistant metastatic papillary carcinoma with hurthle cells present, extranodal extensions and heterotrophic ossification.
To break that down, my cancer would not respond to treatment. it would spread, it would sometimes be as hard as a rock and it would attach to anything it came in contact to and not just stay within my neck.
My first surgery was in January of 2014 followed by RAI in March 2014. Normally, this would work for most all thyroid cancer patients, with the chance of it returning years and years down the road. Within six months, my cancer markers showed that I had cancer growing somewhere.
My second surgery was set for January of 2015. I was to have a bilateral central neck dissection. Two days before the surgery, my surgeon called me and told me she wasn’t comfortable doing my surgery because my case was so unusual. I was instructed to seek counsel from one of the best cancer doctors on the east coast. (I had been previously treated at Lehigh Valley hospitals. I was sent to the University of Penn in Philadelphia).
My second surgery ended up being done in April of 2015. Eighteen lymph nodes along with parts of my strap muscles were removed. After my first surgery I had developed asthma and a very raspy voice. if I talked more than ten minutes I’d experience pain and voice loss. In the second surgery my surgeon discovered that my right vocal cord had been paralyzed in the first surgery. I went home to recuperate the day after surgery, only to end up in the ER when my left lung partially collapsed. I’m on two inhalers now and pills to help my breathe normally.
Also, the list of pills I now take is incredible. I joke all the time that I could start a pharmacy out of my own home. My life is constant doctor appointments and tests. Luckily my husband has stood by me through all of this from day one and he is the rock I cling to constantly. My medications are always being changed as they try to find the right balance and keep my numbers virtually undetectable in order to help slow the cancer growth.
I’ve lost almost every friend I used to have from the depression, anxiety, weight gain and fear of the cancer returning basically keeps me a prisoner in my own home. Before, I was extremely outgoing, bubbly and always smiling people told me. Now, I am a shell of my former self.
The guilt is the worst thing I believe. I have such guilt because I feel as if this is all my fault, the constant fear and worry that I am putting my husband through, when I wake up from my surgeries and he is crying at my bedside. How I catch him staring at me sometimes as if he’s afraid to close his eyes and I will be gone. Some days, the guilt immobilizes me and the fear of when my cancer will return is too much.
Most of the time, I really try to be positive and upbeat. I don’t want my husband to know how much I’m hurting inside and I don’t want to cause him more pain. When I do see people that know or find out I have cancer, often I am questioned as to why I still have most of my hair and why I am not skinny from the chemo they think all cancer patients are treated by. I never know exactly how to respond. ‘I’m sorry I don’t look like Gallum from Lord of the Rings??’
Talking to others with thyroid cancer helps a little, but I usually find myself being bitter and resentful because they had one surgery-treatment-and have been good ever since.
Six months that is all I got. Six months and it had already spread. When I go to the cancer hospital in Philly I look across the street at the Children’s Hospital. There are bright colored balloons and hand made signs hanging in the windows. I stop and tell myself that if those poor angels are dealing with cancer at such a young age, then I have no right to be bitter and resentful about anything. I take a deep breath, squeeze my husband’s hand and tell myself that I will keep fighting. Cancer will not take away my spirit, my love for God, and the true love and kindness of my husband that I have been blessed with. Not to mention, I have five kitties at home and they are depending on me as well.
‘Better to die standing than on your knees.’ I like that saying. It gives me strength.”
Christina Honthy-Little – “Courage to Change – ‘I learned that NO is a complete sentence.’”
Editor’s Note: Christina and I have a very interesting history! We first met in 1992 when I worked with one of her family members. Years later Christina and I were reuinted in a very unusual place: an online Al-Anon group. Now for anyone familiar with the tenets of AA and Al-Anon, it is a “safe” place that I would not normally disclose participation, and I am only sharing this connection because Christina has shared her story and I asked her if it was OK to disclose how we connected again. Little did either of us know at the time we first met that we would each deal with an uphill battle ahead, and that is contending with addiction via people you love. You love the person, not the addiction, which can make addiction so draining because it takes time to learn to separate the two. Those who play the role “co-dependent” in the relationship(s) are some of the strongest people out there who are guilted into carrying the burden of the world on their shoulders. That is until they take their lives back and realize that they cannot control the actions of others, and that the addiction of the loved no one else can be blamed for, except for the one who has the addiction. Once Christina and I deduced that we were living in the same county and our connection from many moons ago, we connected in person again more than a decade after we first met. She is a blessing and I am so proud of what she is doing, like I am of all of the ladies featured here! She is an amazing mom, person and friend! God bless you and your family Christina. Please see the note at the end of this segment about all that she is involved in and contact her with any questions.
“In 2006 my life was spiraling out of control. My immediate and extended family was riddled with addiction and I was crumbling under the pressure. I was desperate for answers. The fear I felt was suffocating. Fear of the unknown, of starting over, of letting go of the expectation of a successful marriage and I was not ready to admit defeat.
My children, who looked to me for guidance and stability, were met with a shadow of the woman I once was. I was not sleeping, operating on fumes, paranoid that my house of cards would come crumbling down. Insufferable to be around, irritable, judgmental and controlling, I took to managing everyone’s life, but my own.
Through marital and spiritual counseling, I found myself in the 12-step rooms of Al-Anon. I sulked in there desperate for answers -hoping that these friendly faces would tell my loved ones how to stop their drinking and drugging. I didn’t find those answers there. But what I did find was a network of men and women dedicated to holding me up when all I wanted to do was fall to my knees. Strangers, who were brave enough to share their stories without shame, reminded me that I was not alone. I attended open AA meetings, which gave me comfort. Hearing the stories of those in or struggling with recovery gave me a newfound compassion for those that suffered. In those rooms, I developed the courage to find myself. I found the direction I needed and a keen sense of HOPE through steps, slogans and shared experiences.
I can say that in the last 5 years I faced my biggest fears. Everything that I was afraid would happen, did happen. I lost my marriage, the marital home, my job. Yet by exhibiting grace under pressure I became a survivor rather than a perpetual victim and I found myself. I learned that NO is a complete sentence. And I learned that what you give out comes back to you tenfold. The support of my community was priceless and I can honestly say that there are angels in this world, and 90 percent of them live in Byram. People I hardly knew would stop me in the grocery store or on the football field to ask if I needed help. When I finally gained a little humility and developed the courage to say YES, my own growth accelerated.
My marriage ended after 18 years not because I had a cheating or abusive spouse, but because of a cunning, baffling disease called addiction. But it didn’t stop there. I’ve lost friends to heroin addiction, family members to alcohol addiction, and dear, high school friends to suicide. I watch helplessly as the most compassionate and creative minds are robbed of their senses. Through education, I learned that the science behind addiction proves it is not a disease of choice. It is a medically recognized disease, not a disgrace.
Someone recently shared with me a Jewish phrase that says: ‘Save one life, you save the world.’ I’ve witnessed firsthand the magic of transformation and the collective power that a shared experience can offer. For the last nine years, I have dedicated my free time to raising awareness about addiction and sharing my story because each time it’s repeated, it becomes less painful. It’s my story and now an integral part of who I am. Being proud of that journey robs my past of the debilitating suffocating power it once held over me.
I am also a proud Al-non Member in Alateen Service (AMIAS) and through this I am able to give adults and teens alike the tools they need to overcome adversity. I am remarried and my husband and I are Ambassadors for Shatterproof.org, a national organization committed to protecting our loved ones from addiction to illicit and prescription drugs, and alcohol, and ending the stigma and suffering of those affected by this disease. Through these venues, I plan to continue sharing my message of hope, because it’s through Hearing Other People’s Experiences (nice little acronym) that we gain strength. I never want to go back to that place of helplessness and if I can help just one person, it will hopefully create a domino effect of hope.
Note: Christina Honthy-Little is a member of the SAC of Voorhees, member of Hunterdon County Local Advisory Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, and Ambassador for Shatterproof.org. For more information, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anonymous – “‘No more fear, no more pain, no more abuse. I’m free.'”
Editor’s Note: Due to the sensitivity of her situation, anonymous has asked that her story remain just that…anonymous. She has been a friend for many years and though I knew there was trouble in her background, I had no idea until recently (and we’ve known each other now for over seven years) how extensively she was physically abused. Tears literally poured from my eyes as I read the shocking details. She is a happy person by nature, always willing to help a fellow human being, kind, an amazing wife, mom and daughter, and overall just a joy to be around. It hurts me to know she was bullied like this at home and I’m so grateful that she’s overcome all the odds to share her story of courage and breaking away. God bless you and your family sweet lady.
“I grew up outside of New York City and moved to several other places within New Jersey before coming to the DC metro area. My mom is and my grandparents were the strongest people I ever knew. I was born very prematurely and my twin brother passed and I lived.
My father was a military man war veteran who was extremely verbally and mentally abusive. My mother worked very hard to spoil her only child, while my father resented me for it. I slept behind a locked door and listened for hours to music and read to escape my reality of his awful words.
My name went from ‘stupid kid,’ ‘brat,’ and ‘dumbass,’ to him saying, ‘the best part of you ran down your mother’s leg.’
At age 15 I found that drugs muffled the pain better. My grandmother always took care of me, protected me. I even remember burying my head in her lap as my father hit my head with closed fists while she pleaded for him to stop.
Turning to drugs made me accepted by a crowd. I never really fit in and was bullied horribly in middle school, so pot was my drug of choice.
The worst beating happened my sophomore year of high school (I still cry thinking about it). My father cornered me in the kitchen and smacked me across my face for being 30 minutes late with doing the dishes. No joke. I picked up a pair of scissors to defend myself, when he threw a glass at me, while calling me a worthless piece of sh*t. I was beaten close-fisted.
My mom ran in attempting to pull him off, while I was screaming, ‘Please help me! He’s going to kill me! Please someone call the police! Please!’
One hour passed. I was bruised, with a sprained arm, and literally peed myself in fear. Taking off my clothes, I started to pray that God would help me, that this drug addicted life and my dad wasn’t going to stop. I showered and it hurt like hell. My mom soaked my arm and dried my tears.
The police came, and to this day I regret not stepping out of my room to say, ‘This is what he did to me! He hits my mother…help us!’ But my mom knew and so did I if I said anything about it, it would be worse.
The next day in school, kids teased me saying, ‘Someone got their ass kicked!’ Until ironically, a girl who was my friend (she was beaten too by her parents) asked me ‘Who did this to you?’
It was in the middle of English class when I was nagged by kids, ‘Who did this?’
After saying, ‘let it go leave me alone,’ I finally had the guts to say, ‘my father did this to me.’
I was sent to my counselor who said, I ‘deserved it,’ I was a ‘bad, never would amount to anything’ kid.
It didn’t break my heart. It made me say the words an angel whispered in my ear, ‘you’re a survivor, not a victim.’
Later in the year, I met my husband. He saved me, got me away from drugs, loved me and encouraged me to be something. I went from failing, to being on the honor roll, and getting a partial scholarship to John Jay. I was making it.
I attended school and now have two children of my own. I broke the cycle of abuse and rescued my mom too.
I stand up against bullies and am not afraid to tell someone they’re wrong. I have such an amazing life. My kids are both honor students and my husband is still my hero.
I believe that God has a path for everyone. At age 18, I was driving to pick up my husband, when I was struck head on by a drunk driver. I lived, but I was nearly killed, and I was told I’d never walk right again if at all or bear children.
Well folks, even though I have nerve issues, Fibromyalgia and spinal injuries, I’m here walking and occasionally shuffling.
I no longer am afraid. My father in his old age now, sees what he’s done. And I have forgiven him. For my children’s sake, I will never leave my kids with him ever. But he has apologized to me, sees his wrongs. Thank goodness for that. But there is always a part of me that is broken. But those little arms and ‘Mom I love you,’ makes it all OK.
I’ve also learned that any contact with him is my choice not his. I’m now a full-time mom. Law stuff is behind me. I love this job and it taught me the biggest life lesson of all. Joy. Pure love and complete joy.
And the best part…no more fear, no more pain, no more abuse. I’m free.”
Glamour Magazine (copied on their Facebook Page – let’s see how long it stays there since they remove posts)
ATTN: Cindi Leive
1 World Trade Center
New York, NY 10007
Dear Ms. Leive:
As a longtime writer, I pondered how to begin this letter to you. But today, after I escorted my two friends from Germany to the ferry destined to New York, I received my cue. That is because as we were saying our goodbyes, I looked up and saw that they would be ushered back to the city aboard The Moira Smith, one of the New York Waterway Ferries.
Of course I don’t need to remind you that recently your magazine received some unpleasant press regarding your award to Caitlyn Jenner during your Woman of the Year event, an award that Moira Smith received posthumously in 2001. As a Facebook friend of Moira’s widower, James Smith, I witnessed his angst over this, and I asked the same questions that James asked about your choices of heroic women for this award.
On September 11, 2001, Moira Smith saved the lives of thousands. And the New York ferry not only takes thousands of people safely to and from New York daily (including my friends) but in 2009, the ferry in her name and her crew aided those on U.S. Air Flight 1549 that landed in the Hudson, and not one life was lost.
Just like Moira lived her life, including her final moments, this small and mighty vessel, The Moira Smith has its own legacy for helping others. That is an incredible legacy that all women should strive to achieve. How much better would our world be if we were all as selfless as Moira Smith demonstrated?
Yet your spokesperson (a spokesperson for an editor? Seriously?) as well as Caitlyn Jenner’s spokesperson lacked the compassion to answer Moira’s grieving family directly when they returned the award in her name to Glamour. Your candy-coated answer on the subject makes me ashamed for the direction of mainstream publications like Glamour and prayerful of the difference that small business, independent publications like mine can make. By the way, InsideScene.com is a woman-owned venture that came to life in 2013 after I was one of many defrauded by a Bernie Madoff-esque fraudster, who enlisted me in a media business and instead, exploited my labor.
Did I let that hiccup stop me? No…instead like others who were defrauded by this person, I took another direction and started InsideScene.com from the ground up in 2013, and I now have over 25,000 unique visitors to my site monthly and growing. One of my specialities is helping others, by spotlighting the accomplishments of “authentic” personalities. I’ve even been awarded for that work with nominations in how I run my business, and also was the only member of the media to walk away with the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma Award in 2010 for sensitivity and objectivity on reporting on mental health issues. By the way, not only have I overcome the odds in my business, I have done so as a divorced mother who also contends with Crohn’s disease, and has faced a range of situations in my lifetime alone, or with very minimal support. By the grace of God, I smile every day and keep on keeping on – as a victor, not a victim. I also work in my community promoting local businesses by the way, and have written two books, my third to be published in just a few days.
After learning of James returning Moira’s Glamour award, like any journalist does, I sought an answer to his compelling question, and asked ladies that I know if they could share their stories of overcoming obstacles and hope. The results were incredibly moving and I had willing volunteers. These courageous ladies are highlighted in the link below, and I will say I am proud of each and every one of them, as well as to know them.
And I know I could share stories like this for the rest of my lifetime because there are so many worthy women out there who have endured so much. Your “winners” this year, outside of the Team USA and Charleston Strong ladies, in my opinion are bland and vapid typical headliners who step in their stilettos with more media might behind them than the ladies who shared their stories in the attached article. I feel the ladies profiled in our story (I’ve shared the byline with them) far surpass any of your so called “stars.”
The bulk of your award recipients are unlike the majority of the ladies who purchase your magazine monthly. That’s because for us “normal” women, our lives, unlike Kardashian-land, offer no dress rehearsals. Moira Smith could not ask the camera crew for a retake to avoid the nightmare she so bravely faced on 9/11/01. The ladies who shared their hearts in this story, couldn’t ask their makeup artist to touch up their eye makeup after it ran down their cheeks from grief or pain, as well as to Photoshop their bruises from close-fisted beatings or cancer surgery.
Instead, they each have lived their lives in the best way they know possible, overcoming great obstacles and doing great things. I know they could teach Caitlyn Jenner, Victoria Beckham, Reese Witherspoon and any of the other celeb winners a thing or two about how to live an authentic life, and would do so with grace, class and willing and generous hearts. As Audrey Hepburn once said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” Each of these ladies has proven that through their examples they are each geared towards making a difference. Moira Smith, without question, used both of her hands on 9/11/01 to help others. Your publication, it appears has used both hands to help only yourselves, and based on comments, your readership sees this too.
The epitome of “glamour” is not in your publication’s pages, but the many ladies out there who so selflessly lead by example each and every day and don’t always have the opportunity to share their stories. I am proud to run a publication that has honored and will continue to honor these brave women in their unscripted life stories. To me, they are the unsung heroines and already celebrities in their own right.
Very Truly Yours,
Jennifer Jean Miller
JJ Avenue Productions/InsideScene.com
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