Your Woman Gone Too?

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For some special friends…

Billy and Dad's Music Emporium

James Baldwin (1962):

In all jazz, and especially the blues, there is something tart and ironic, authoritative and double-edged. White Americans seem to feel that happy songs are happy and sad songs are sad, and that, God help us, is exactly the way most white Americans sing them . . . Only people who have been “down the line,” as the song puts it, know what this music is about. I think it was Big Bill Broonzy who used to sing “I Feel So Good,” a really joyful song about a man who is on his way to the railroad station to meet his girl. She’s coming home. It is the singer’s incredibly moving exuberance that makes one realize how leaden the time must have been while she was gone. There is no guarantee that she will stay this time, either, as the singer clearly knows, and, in fact, she…

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A Photo Tribute of my son, Brad Custer

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Due to the tremendous response to my post, “Literary Find:  A Heart Torn, A Soul Mended: A Bereaved Parent’s Search for Harmony,” I asked the book’s author Ms. Tricia Wolfe what could we do as a follow-up to the interview.  With the anniversary of her son’s death nearing, we both thought it would be a great idea to do a photostory tribute to Brad.  It is very obvious that she loved her son very much!


A Photo Tribute of my son, Brad Custer

Born: February 4, 1974

Died: March 23, 2003



Baby Brad!

Baby Brad!

I heard his first heartbeat…held him and looked into his eyes…I relive the wonder and special meaning of that day every year!

With Grandma Johanna, brother and mom in Grandma's backyard.

With Grandma Johanna, brother and mom in Grandma’s backyard.

Grandma Johanna hosted an annual corn roast Labor Day each year at her home.  We all thrived on those family gatherings.

Again with Grandma Johanna, brother and mom, at the RenCen

Again with Grandma Johanna, brother and mom, at the RenCen (Detroit)

She always glowed when surrounded by her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Jammin' with giant Tinker Toys in our basement playroom, four years old.

Jammin’ with giant Tinker Toys in our basement playroom, four years old.

He had a way of bringing special moments to our days… a delightful child, full of joy and wonder.

Standing at the foot of the Rockies with me and his brother, age 3.

Standing at the foot of the Rockies with me and his brother, age 3.

“Go Rest High On that Mountain” Son, your work on earth is done.”

A close up of us three.

A close up of us three.

 A proud momma with her two sons. 

Vacation photo at a working pilgrim farm in New England.

Vacation shot at a working pilgrim farm in Massachusetts with mom and brother.

Brad added a touch of fun and wonder to every family vacation we took.

Brad was sort of a St. Francis type of guy as he loved animals and had many pets. Here he is holding our albino runaway dog, "Duchess".

Brad was sort of a St. Francis type of guy as he loved animals and had many pets. Here he is holding our albino runaway dog, “Duchess”.

His was a quiet love, strong, yet gentle…he communicated straight from the heart

A handsome pre-teen in middle school.

A handsome pre-teen in middle school.

Through every stage and through every age he was beloved by all who knew him.

Sophomore at Northville High School

Sophomore at Northville High School

As Brad moved out of boyhood into manhood, his sense of wonder and joy grew into an aura of self-discovery and a concern and compassion for others.

Dressed up and happy, ready for the Senior Prom!

Dressed up and happy, ready for the Senior Prom!

Brad was the kinda guy who could connect with anyone, anywhere: dressed up or in jeans, his personality touched many. 


Proud to be the "Best Man" at his brother's wedding (1997).

Proud to be the “Best Man” at his brother’s wedding (1997).

A special boy who became a special man!


Brad and brother Scott

Brad and brother Scott

They were the greatest gifts to each other!

One of the last photos of Brad, watching a California sunset (2000).

One of the last photos of Brad, watching a California sunset (2000).

As he grew into manhood, he filled my heart with pride…So many mountains he climbed!

Memories of Yesterday…Fill a mom’s heart…With love always

What Is A Friend…What A Friend Is…What A Friend Does?


Many people have opined on what a friend is.  With Thanksgiving approaching and the opportunity to reflect on memories of family and friendships in the air, I thought I would share a few quotes or statements from some near-famous or famous people as to what friendship really is…or isn’t?  Now, I have got to tell you that I shared this blog with a friend before I published it and she said all of the quotes were very nice, but she wanted to know how I defined being a friend or what characteristics were necessary to be a friend of mine?  I quickly realized that, as a friend, I did different things for different people and I am sure that’s how I pick my friends.  No two people are exactly alike and therefore it was virtually impossible to nail it down to one or two traits.  I think I ask for and give a lot of different things as a friend, so in a way the diversity of these quotes probably reflect my personal behavior in being a friend and choosing friends.  Lastly, I must say that I have some tremendous friends, males and females.  Our love and support for each other is boundless.  I have a lot of friends but only a few really, really good ones.  I am so blessed to be able say to all of them…thanks for being a friend and for allowing me to be theirs too!

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. 

Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow.

 Just walk beside me and be my friend.”

Albert Camus


“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you.  You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”

-Bob Marley


“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

William Shakespeare


“Life is an awful, ugly place to not have a best friend.”

-Sarah Dessen, Someone Like You


“We’ll be friends forever, won’t we, Pooh?’  asked Piglet.

Even longer,’ Pooh answered.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


“What is a friend?  A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”



“How many slams in an old screen door?  Depends on how loud you shut it.  How many slices in a bread?  Depends on how thin you cut it.  How much good in a day?  Depends on how good you live ‘em.  How much love inside a friend?  Depends how much you give ‘em.”

-Shel Silverstein


“Each friend represents a world in us,

 a world possibly not born until they arrive,

and it’s only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

-Anais Nin, The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol.1: 1931-1934


“Well, it seems to me that the best relationships-the ones that last-are frequently the ones rooted in friendship.  You know, one day you look at a person and you see something more than you did the night before.  Like a switch has been flicked somewhere.  And the person who was just a friend is…suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with.”

-Gillian Anderson


“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Can miles really separate you from friends…

If you want to be with someone you love,

 aren’t you already there?”

-Richard Bach


“A good friend can tell you what is the matter with you in a minute. 

He may not be such a good friend after telling.”

-Arthur Brisbane


“When I say it’s you that I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is more than anything you can ever see, hear or touch.  That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without humankind can survive.  Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”

-Fred “Mister” Rogers

“In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends.”

John Churton Collins


“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”

-Alice Walker


“A good friend is someone that thinks that you are a good egg

even though he knows you are slightly cracked.”

Bernard Meltzer


“By chance we met, by choice we become friend.”

-Millie Huang


Friendship is everything.  Friendship is more than talent.  It is more than the government.  It is almost the equal of family.-Don Corleone”

Mario Puzo, The Godfather


“No man can be called friendless who has God

and the companionship of good books.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


“A friend is one that walks in when others walk out.”

-Walter Winchell


“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”

-Helen Keller


“True friends are like diamonds, so precious and rare. 

Bad friends are like stones and can be found anywhere.”

-Elisabeth Littsey, Original Author Unknown


“A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.”

-Lois Wyse


“Who could refrain that had a heart to love and in that heart the courage to make love known.”

-William Shakespeare


“So when you’re cold

From the inside out

And don’t know what to do,

Remember love and friendship,

And warmth will come to you.”

-Stephen Cosgrove, Gnome from Nome


Which one(s) was your favorite?  Did any one of them remind you of someone you know?  I will leave it up to you to figure out which was mine.  I would love to read some of your favorite friendship quotes or a thought as to what friendship means to you.  Feel free to post them in the reply section.  The holidays kind of bring out a real need to be close; as a family, with neighbors and friends…childhood friends, school friends…past or present, as lovers.  However you spend your holiday, I hope it will be in the company of friends… “A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.” – Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter



Source: GoodReads


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Black History Month – The Duty of Black Americans – A Letter From Wendy Woods Jackson


After publishing yesterday’s blog, I received an email from Ms. Wendy Woods Jackson where she  expressed her concerns with regards to the issue of “re-writing” an author’s work and in some cases re-writing history to make it more palatable in accordance with today’s “politically corrected environment”.  I had made a specific reference to the efforts to re-write Mark Twain‘s stories.  She took issue with the fact that these efforts were being done without the permission of the writer, the artist or the people whose lived these moments, many of which are dead and cannot protest what is being done.  She was most critical of those individuals that stood idly by and did nothing and/or acted like they were somewhat ashamed of who they are, where they came from and what it took to get there.  An excerpt from her email is included below…

“There is still a duty that must be fulfilled by black people and the most essential element of that duty is to keep our minds continuously open to knowledge about ourselves.  I chose to refer to myself as “black” and our community as “black” because it is a choice in pride that I say it, feel it and swell with joy when enunciating from the “b” to the “k”.  Knowledge, not political correctness led me to choose my words that describe me.  Knowledge provides me with choices and the lack of it leaves me with no alternatives.

Duty has strong implications.  It implies that there is a responsibility and accountability factor.  Black American‘s duty to itself has never wavered.  The journey of how we came to be in this country must never be under told.  It must not be filtered.  It must not be restated to the point where we wrap our history in new words of political correctness to ease the harms of being stolen, enslaved, assimilated and filtered.  The richness we should find in inherited pain is the fact that nothing that has ever happened to us historically was politically correct.  It was raw from start to finish.  The way we tell the stories of history in our black culture should articulate the authenticity of its time.  That is knowledge.  That allows me to simmer in the words of the story and understand the idioms and circumstances of that place in time.  It allows me to linger in pockets of history my modern self will never know.  The words of the story will transport me for profound understanding; fore if I know not where I come from how can I have an unguarded appreciation for what is possible?  My history in its rawest of forms does not keep me guessing.  It shows me what was, so that I may embrace the possible.  It is my gauge.

Those who would allow the erasing hand of political correctness to deface the character of stories passed down would be guilty of slaying the griot.  They would be guilty of reducing the pain of our people to a simple sadness instead of what it truly was, a travesty against human beings once counted as livestock in the plantation log books of their massa.

Our duty is to protect the knowledge in its original story form.  We’ve always known that, but uncomfortable generations of “us” choose to waken the stories with wordplay.  This we cannot allow.  We cannot allow their discomfort today to minimize the pain of yesterday.  We cannot allow the watered down versions of re-writes to be the words of our ancestors and their pain.  We must keep our minds “continuously” open to knowledge about ourselves and to teach it responsibly without turning it into a cynical work of art fabricated by those who are not comfortable in their own black skin.”

Wendy Woods Jackson

I believe that Ms. Jackson‘s words speak to more than just “blacks”.  Political correctness will never take the place of the truth.  It is the balm that soothes but doesn’t heal.  No one…black, white, christian, muslim or jew should be asked nor should they be willing to sacrifice their history, their culture or their art in the name of political correctness. 

After Mark Twain, who’s next…Picasso?  Hemingway?  ShakespeareWhat are your thoughts?

BLACK HISTORY MONTH – The Work of Wendy Woods Jackson


As part of Black History Month, I would like to introduce you to Wendy Woods Jackson.  Ms. Jackson is a writer that currently resides in Texas where she now teaches school.  Born in 1959 to Henry and Ruth Woods in Indianapolis, Indiana, she is the second of four children.  She attended St. Monica Catholic School, Ladywood-St. Agnes Academy in Indianapolis and subsequently enrolled in the HBCU (in case you don’t know…that is a Historic Black College/University)…Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina where she achieved B.A.& B.S. Degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Journalism.

Upon leaving college, Ms. Woods (Jackson) worked with the late Earnest R. Rather on his book “The Chicago Negro Almanac and Reference Guide”.

Wendy enjoyed a successful 20-year career at the Dallas Morning News where she wrote the prestigious 56-year-old column “Shopping the Town”.  Wendy is a “Silver Star” member of Alpha Kappa Sorority, Incorporated and is an active member in the Omicron Mu Omega chapter in Dallas.  She is the proud married mother of twins, Justin Wayne and Jennifer Ruth Jackson.

What makes Wendy a noteworthy person for Black History Month is that she is more than a writer.  When you read her material, what comes through loud and clear, is that she is a historian/preservationist as well.  Through her stories, she has preserved the tone and spirit of days gone by and the culture of the people that have preceded us. With her words, she deftly takes you on a journey back into time that is rich with imagery and the vernacular of black people of the day.  Her portrayals of the times are vividly strong, provocative and accurate.  Though, we now live in a time where some people are inclined to revise our literature and our history to make it “politically correct” (think Mark Twain, school books in Texas, the U.S. Constitution), she pulls no punches and makes no apologies for it.  This is a lady who writes and tells it like it is…or should I say “how it was”.  Oral history written at its very best!

Click Here to read select Excerpts from The Black Vineyard

Her book “A Soulful Christmas Carol” can be found on Amazon.