Virtually Faithful

5:39 PM Shonell Bacon 2 Comments

It's been awhile since I've last posted. The summer was full of academic work (can we say read, digest, write annotated bibliographies, repeat?) and with trying to get self back into the creative writing swing of things.

There is something else I've been doing this summer, and it's why I was call to post today. I've been getting uber doses of faith--online. Actually within the virtual world Second Life.

Hold on - don't think I have lost my mind because I haven't.

IRL (in real life), I pray, worship, sing, and dance for the Lord. Makes sense that in other spaces where my identity is present I might choose to do the same thing, right?

Last spring, my RL best friend (who is also my partner-in-crime on Second Life) told me about Overcomers, a church in Second Life; it is also a church IRL, and actually many real-life churches are moving their faith and their churches into virtual spaces, too. The first time I went to Overcomers, I was moved in the spirit in a way I hadn't been in a while. There was dance and worship, there was a powerful message by the pastor, there were the shouts and praises to God, and there was altar call, and I quickly moved to the front of the church to pray and thank God. It did not matter to me that this space was virtual, that in the idea of having to touch something in order for it to be real, this place had no physicality. I knew within my soul and spirit that something special was taking place here and within me, and God was in the center of it. Enough for me to believe.

And so I continued attending Overcomers, going to their revival, coming to services, attending a few bible study sessions, and what all of this did was add to and strengthen what I did IRL. I've always been a fan of wanting to learn about the Lord in many facets and not be restricted by just one way of interpreting things, and faith in Second Life gave me a new lens in which to see faith develop and grow.

This summer, my virtual faith grew even more when I met Pet Karu in Second Life. A real-life pastor and counselor, Pet does many amazing things in Second Life, and one thing she did was create a group called *~*Unity*~*. Unity's mission is to take God's message to the next level through artistic endeavors in-world (in Second Life) and into the real world. Her personality, dedication to God, and focus captured me right from the start, and I auditioned to be a part of Unity.

So, what has Unity done?

Well, we put together our first production, a musical adaptation of the Song of Solomon called Come Away My Beloved. It was a true labor of love in which all cast members and crew met Monday through Friday, 2 hours each night for prayer, rehearsal, and worship. What ended up happening many of those nights is that we would get so caught up in the spirit, that we'd stay for many hours after, dancing, singing, crying, sharing experiences, and thanking God for the opportunity to do so.

Come Away My Beloved was an hour-and-a-half production that saw many of the popular media outlets of Second Life either write articles on us or allow us to come on their show and talk about Unity, the production, and to do a performance. We've been invited to churches to lead their worship. Several of us have since become workers within churches of Second Life because these people see our commitment to spreading God's word. We have, since successful run of Come Away My Beloved, been thinking about the future of Unity and what we want to do now in-world and in real life. We are in the process of developing our second performance, this one dealing with the Creation story. It will be above and beyond what we did for the first production as this will be less about music and dancing and more about acting and singing. I'll be playing Eve for the production, so I will have a lot of lines to get down, a song or two to sing (perhaps--afraid of this part!), and more responsibility.

Some might laugh, thinks it's crazy to be doing these things. Some have even said, how much faith is involved in making sure your avatar hits a dance ball on cue? On having an animation in your inventory to activate the real-life movement of praying or kneeling or worshiping God.

I can't speak for them. Or for anyone else. I know that for me it is important to surround myself with good people with good hearts and good intentions and good, strong faith in their back pocket and embedded in their heart, and no matter what space I find myself dwelling in, I need those people. IRL, I have those people--my family, my friends, teachers, church members that I can speak of God openly and be received. This blog, in which I talk about faith openly, is another space where I feel free to talk and to share with others my thoughts on faith and be the better for it. It only makes sense that in a place like Second Life, where I can create my body, buy a home for that body, buy clothes for that body, put that body to work (she writes in Second Life, too -- see how the lives blur?), I should be able to also allow faith to infiltrate that body, too.

When I do so, that faith resonates from the virtual spaces of Second Life and reverberate into the spaces of my real soul.

Below is a video that gives you a glimpse behind Come Away My Beloved; it's definitely not a full-version of the production, but these five-and-a-half minutes will give you the essence of it.

Oh, and BTW, at about the 1:02 mark, I'm the solo dancer in front, :-)


Sometimes, You Gotta Go OFF on the Devil

6:20 PM Shonell Bacon 0 Comments

Actually, you always have to go off on the devil. That fool is ignorant, sneaky, unfaithful, uncaring, always looking for a way to sneak up deep inside your mind, your heart, your soul, your very essence and being to destroy anything beautiful that has gone on in your life, that is going on in your life, and that will go on in your life. It's just how he operates, and he's not changing. Ever.

So what does that mean? That means that we have to do the changing. We have to stand in the mess of a situation we are in, stand with a firm, straight back, a determined mind, a strong voice and declare what our life will be and what it is because we are kicking the devil fully to the curb.

But sometimes, we let situations and feelings collect as the days go on, and we don't acknowledge what the devil is doing. We don't let him know that we know he's up to no good. We don't tell that fool to keep on stepping because we are not the ones to be messed with. We just wallow, and before we know it, we are mere shadows of the people God ordained us to be.

If we're too filled with his hateful spirit, it can take a long time to figure out what he's up to and to have enough gumption to break his spell.

But when we do break it, when we are too fed up with not only him but also with how we're acting as a result, the sight of that breakthrough is a sight to see. A God-filled, makes you wanna holler, pass the plate, and speak in tongues sight to see.

I had one of those "sights" this morning.

I had decided today would start a three-day fast for me. I hadn't had one since the fall, and my body, mind, and spirit knew it, too. When I fast, my morning and evening consist of prayer time, and throughout the day, I make sure to pause whatever I'm doing and pray, meditate.

So this morning, while listening to Juanita Bynum's "Peace" and "Shake Me Again" (two songs you must have in the get that devil out of here collection), I began to talk to God. At first, my voice was quiet, tentative, as if paying reverence to my father. But then, I got real---as I always do. The anger, frustration, irritation, and everything else came out. Not toward him as if he was at fault. I just always feel the need to come to God with the good, bad, and ugly so that when I leave a prayer session, some of the dis/ease and manifestation of evil spirits are gone.

And then, without warning, my wrath quickly went to the devil. It shocked me how fast it happened and how angry I was, but as I declared riches and goodness over my life, my mother's life, my siblings' lives, my friends' lives, I attacked the devil for what I let him do to me. That's right, I said it. I confessed to letting him take control over me and have his way. I, just like everybody else, have a choice. I can choose to say, "Screw you, Devil" from the jump, or I can let him infect me and color my world, and allow me to think nothing will ever prosper in my life. So, I owned up to my unbelievably stupid choice and told that fool he had to get. Told him I was tired of feeling forsaken, of thinking ill of myself, of not waking every morning to realize the possibilities that were before me for the taking, of not seeing all of the blessings that God poured into my life on the daily.

I went off, and did not care about what I said or how I said it. God knew it had to come out, so I let it out, and I knew that God had my back. I felt him right behind me, the heat of his smile warming my back.

I have to laugh now because I went so off on the devil that just after I said, "Amen," I went fast, fast to sleep. Had been months since I slept that hard and that good.

And this doesn't mean it's over. Shoot, the devil picks with E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y, and he adores and has dreams that leave him panting about what he can especially do the children of God, so I know he has an extra dose of hate in him for me.

And that's cool. I get it. I understand it.

Just need to be vigilant, more vigilant at letting that thing realize who I truly belong to and that he can't have me.



The Importance of Sisterhood: A DDIW Chronicles Commentary

2:51 PM Shonell Bacon 2 Comments

They say that behind every great man there is a great woman.

I really think that saying is beside every great woman is a great sister who always comes with the straight, no chaser advice, warm hugs, and a ready-to-take-on-all-challengers stance when things get a little sticky.

Every woman can recall at least that one sister—from birth or from another mother—who has been there to listen to her frustrations over a relationship, her aggravation over a job, her devastation over a loss, and her infuriation over being done wrong. And she can recall that sister railing with her over her man and then getting real to show her where she went wrong. She can recall the friend telling her to look for another job, to find something that will make her happy and keep her living well. She can recall sistergirl sharing tissues with her as they both cry over the emptiness she feels at having lost someone. She can recall sistergirl saying, “OK, where’s my Vaseline and sneakers?” when it time to crack a skull or two open on her behalf.

There are a plethora of self-help books written about how women can find the man of their dreams and keep him, but we often forget about the importance of having a great sisterfriend, that woman who can see you bare, ugly truths, lies, secrets, and all, and who will still stand beside you, like a trooper, helping you to grow into the strong woman you are destined to be. There are many components to a person, and a romantic relationship can satisfy many of those components; however, nothing can replace the relationship of sisterhood and how it, too, can feed your soul.

Jovan Parham-Anderson from Death at the Double Inkwell [Amazon] has a sister like that: her twin, Cheyenne.

These two may look alike, but their personalities are polar opposites. Whereas Jovan is often quiet, reflective, and quick to find fault with herself, Cheyenne is loud, opinionated, and always ready to put blame on the right person.

Despite their differences, the two connect in powerful ways when the other steps up to be there for her sister.

When Jovan thinks her husband Cordell is having an affair, who does she run to? Cheyenne

When Jovan suffers an unimaginable tragedy, who does she run to? Cheyenne

When Cheyenne's temper places her in harm's way, who comes to protect her? Jovan

When Cheyenne catches feelings for someone who seems to be her arch-nemesis, who does she spill the beans to? Jovan

Even when Jovan’s and Cheyenne’s lives are put in danger, they rely on one another to make it through.

As betrayals and lies surface, and the twins find themselves in peril, will relying on their sisterhood keep them alive?

You'll have to read Death at the Double Inkwell to find out.

It’s available NOW at [Amazon].


Sometimes, God Comes to You

1:36 PM Shonell Bacon 3 Comments

I. Am. Tired.

This is a major truth for me these days.

I am physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, socially, spiritually (every "-ally" you can find) tired.

The month of May was one in which so many things took place, ending in an ultimate pain and sadness that I know will take awhile to deal with.

I dealt with the end of a semester that was painful and wrong on a few levels, I dealt with my first May Seminar class, which started right as the painfully wrong semester was ending, I dealt with pressures of a personal online project I took on and that kept me stressed, and I dealt with learning that my father was gravely ill and eventually had passed.

Some might wonder why I would put my dad last on this list. Surely he was more important than everything else, and this is true. But what the above is, is a culmination of pain, stress, and exhaustion that exploded with the death of my father.

During May, I didn't go to church. Didn't once open my bible. And I don't remember actually praying or talking to God a lot during that time. I thought there was no time because I was running around crazily, doing everything but what I needed to do: stop, be still, and let God.

When I learned that my father was ill the third/fourth weeks of May, the exhaustion I felt heightened to levels I didn't know existed. It was unbelievably hard and tiresome to act like I cared about anything around me - school, people, situations - because my mind was exploding with memories of my father (good and bad) and how to deal with these feelings and with how to help my family deal with their feelings. Needless to say I did poorly at both.

But I didn't reach out to God for help, for guidance. I kept it all in and tried to deal on my own.

And then May 29th came.

It was to be a good day. Last day of my May class, I would start working on research for two professors while taking an online course. I might even have time to write. Had decided I would go back home with my family to see my father before he passed.

Was at a dinner party with classmates and professors when I learned my father had died. I cried, briefly, while at the party, not wanting to expose my feelings.

And again, I didn't go to God for help, for guidance.

During this last week, I've dealt with the pain of my father's passing and with familial situations and ignorance that left me hurt, empty, alone, forgotten, estranged, and fifty other emotions. I fluctuated from sobbing my heart out over the life I could have had with my father and the sadness that all chances were now gone to trying to "pull it together" so others wouldn't see me weak, so I could keep moving forth.

And again, I didn't go to God for help, for guidance.

And in the midst of trying to understand, trying to right myself during this time, I began a brand new worry; I began to wonder how I was going to make it over the summer if projects thought had, had vanished, which is a real possibility.

So, I sat, a frenzied, worried, sorrowful, tearful mess of a person, trying in her anti-social ways to reach out to people for the hugs and love she needed and not sure how to fix any of the things she was feeling or going through.

And again, I didn't go to God for help, for guidance.

And I guess he got tired of it because he came to me.

Last night, while I suffered from another night of not being able to sleep. It was nearing 5 a.m., and I was about to turn off the TV and go to bed, knowing I would just sit up for another hour or two before finally falling asleep for a few hours.

I was mindlessly flipping through the channels when I came across Joyce Meyer; her show had just started. Over the last month, I had typically rolled my eyes and changed the channel like, "I'm already screwed. Ain't much she or God can say to help me."

But then Joyce recited Ephesians 4:22-24:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

And I felt it, and knew it was for me. Joyce talked about worry, about people's needs to try to FIX everything, to REASON everything, to think they CONTROLLED everything, and I knew this was true for me. I had been trying to truly understand and figure out what I was feeling, what was going on with me so that I could fix it. And Joyce said, it wasn't for us to fix everything. God said he would be there, that he would take care of us if we asked. That we needed to, when in the midst of the storm and thinking there is no way out, remember all the times we felt like that and God came through at the appointed time. He's never not come through when he needed to, and we needed to realize this, to realize that we don't have to be the ultimate fixer because we HAVE an ultimate fixer, and his name is God.

It made me think of a conversation I had with my mother a few days ago when I was telling her about the latest news that had me worried. Frustrated, I had said, "And I know that I need to let this go and let God show me what to do because I am at the end of my rope. I don't have a solution, and it's killing me to be so desperate in trying to find one."

And God heard that. And though I wasn't coming to him to help, he heard my cry to him through my conversation with my mother, and he came to me through Joyce.

After the show, I went to bed, and I prayed and talked to God, and I told him that it would be hard, but I knew I needed to turn back to him fully and give him the woes of my heart. When I try to handle it myself, chaos and destruction always follows, but when I realize my limitations and go to who I know has the supreme power, things always fall into place.

I know I have to KNOW this. I have to REMEMBER this. I have to ACT through this knowledge so that I can help myself through these uncertain times. And even though the times are uncertain, having God in and around me will keep me moving forward and awaiting the fulfilled promises of my heart that God will bestow upon me.


The "Everything's Great, But..." Woman

6:13 PM Shonell Bacon 3 Comments

We know her.

On the outside, she is a woman that most men want and most women envy.

She's the "everything's great, but..." woman.

You know.

She's beautiful. She has a great job. She has great friends. She has a great family. She has a great home. She has a great car.

Her future is so blindingly bright your retinas can sear just trying to imagine what her future looks like.

And when she smiles that toothpaste-commercial smile, it makes her whole universe that much brighter.

But the smile is fake.

A woman like this can't afford to let everyone know what's really going on in her world.

Because everything's great, but...

...she's not happy.

And she's usually not happy because of some man.

Sometimes, she has everything BUT the man, and she goes home to all her wonderful things and feels empty and lonely.

And sometimes, she has everything AND the man, and when the two are together, people are that much more jealous of her because she appears to have the perfect life.

Yet she goes home to all her wonderful things, including her husband, and feels empty and lonely.


In my debut novel, set to drop next month--Death at the Double Inkwell [Amazon], Jovan Parham Anderson is the "everything's great, but..." woman. She's a bestselling mystery novelist, has a wonderful twin that she writes great novels with--she has loving parents, and everyone in their hometown in Maryland consider Jovan and her twin Cheyenne to be just DARLING. And then there's Cordell, Jovan's husband. She's loved him since college, and he her, but at some point that love began to dismantle and the facade of Jovan's idyllic life begins to crumble.

And before she can even think about the situation clearly, her focus moves at one point away from her husband and to herself.

Is SHE the reason he's being distant? Is SHE not doing something right?

She wonders if her curvy figure is no longer attractive to Cordell--after all, he does call her out a time or two about her weight.

She wonders if she's not doing enough at home--considering she's a successful businesswoman just as Cordell is a successful businessman. Is she not being Suzy Homemaker enough for him?

More WHYs cloud Jovan's thoughts regarding her marriage and herself, especially when an event occurs that rocks the very foundation she's built her entire world on, causing
Jovan to question everything about her life with Cordell.

How can the "everything's great, but..." woman have EVERYTHING great in her life...with no buts?

She has to take control of her life, see the TRUTH of her life, determine what she NEEDS in her life, and act accordingly.

Will Jovan do all of those things?

You'll have to read Death at the Double Inkwell to find out.

It drops next month--but you can by it now at Amazon.


Script Frenzy 2010 Winner

2:55 PM Shonell Bacon 0 Comments

One thing kept me fairly sane throughout the month of April - a month where crunch time is in full effect and plenty of major projects are coming due: working on my script for Script Frenzy [LINK]. Although I'm nowhere near DONE with the script [and much cutting is in my future with it], I did manage to cross the 100-page mark needed to win Script Frenzy!

I'm really proud of myself because it's the first time I've written creatively since November with NaNoWriMo [LINK], and it's the first time in about 9 months in which I've written something that I actually want to go back to and edit and revise and submit.

Below is an excerpt for the screenplay, the screenplay of NO NAME. LOL It will have a title some day, but the one I originally had, Hell's Angel, doesn't really fit the story or character any more.

Remember, this is a VERY ROUGH, haven't looked at it at ALL draft of the script. LOL Judge accordingly if you must judge.

Here's a quick synopsis of story: A woman returns to her life after a 10-year bid for killing her husband with one thing on her mind: reuniting with the daughter who hates her.


Peighton, dressed up, is sitting at a small table in the corner, typing on a laptop.

She looks deep in thought.

Good morning, Peighton.

Peighton looks up and is none too thrilled to see Detective Deeks before her.

You look nice.

Peighton doesn’t respond.

See you’re fitting into the world quickly.

Detective Deeks points at the laptop.

I used computers in prison...while I was getting my degree, Detective.

Detective Deeks looks outside the large windows and spots a motorcycle in a parking spot. He points toward it.

Is that your cycle out there?

Peighton nods.

And you rode it here? Dressed like that?

Peighton looks up to him and nods.

There is a pause.

(clears throat)
You mind if I sit here?

Peighton shrugs.

If you must.

Detective Deeks sits, stares at Peighton.

I’ve done some research on you...

Peighton snaps her attention toward him. She’s angry.

What the hell for? I haven’t done shi...

Detective Deeks lifts his hands.

I know you haven’t. I don’t suspect you of anything.
(softer) This is about your past. About what happened to you.

And why is that any concern of yours?

Because my son is seeing your daughter, and I want to know everything about her. And that includes you.

Peighton returns her gaze to the laptop.

And I’m sorry.

Peighton eyes Detective Deeks.

For what?

For seeing you just as a murderer when I didn’t know all the facts.

(shrugs) Doesn’t matter. Most of the world goes off indicting people without knowing all the facts. Why should you be any different?

Because I work to be different. And I think you’re a good person.

And you tell me this, why?

Because I don’t want you to get hurt.

By what?

Detective Deeks sighs.

Peighton shakes her head and points in his direction.

Don’t even go there.

I know things. Things you don’t.

Peighton closes her laptop and places it in her bag. She drops money on the table and stands.

She bends to Detective Deeks’ ear.

You just can’t believe people can change, can you?

Detective Deeks turns to face Peighton. Their faces are close. There is a pause as they stare at one another.

I believe people can change. I don’t believe the people you hang out with have changed.

Peighton stands and takes a step back.

Well, they haven’t done nothing to prove me wrong yet.

Detective Deeks raises an eyebrow.

Really? Nothing?

Peighton looks away.

Just protect yourself. If things start to feel funny, protect yourself and get out of the way of danger.

Peighton gives him a parting glance. Nods.

Heard you. OK.


Choosing the Better Part

12:45 PM Shonell Bacon 0 Comments

Yes. It's been awhile. I've been beyond swamped with the 50-11 things I give myself to do: school, editing, writing, and many more things I'm just too tired to even bring up.

I've wanted to write, really. It's been very cathartic to sit here every Monday and let words rush out of me that reveal my heart and my feelings instead of something that's purely academic. But when you write so much and spend so much time working on other projects, the thought of sitting before the laptop to write one more thing can be the breaking point.

I didn't want to break.

Well, I'm about three weeks away from completing my first year of doctoral work--more on that in later posts. Haven't really taken the time to sit, to reflect, to pat self on back for a job well done yet. Besides, got GRADES still to receive for this semester!

Like I said above, I've been busy--with stuff. Last night at church, the pastor preached a message that struck me right in the center of my chest and made me realize that for all the good I might be doing, I'm still not doing what is better for me...and this may be the reason for all the worry, the stress, the migraines, the health issues I've had this semester.

This isn't a new thing. In fact, earlier on, I talked about losing myself and losing my "religion" for the sake of "the work."

The pastor asked, "Are we distracted by things that may be good within themselves -- our duties as husbands, wives, mothers, daughters, employees, students...getting so caught up in that and not focusing on our true priorities, such as our service to the Lord?"

He talked of three specific passages: Luke 10:38-42, Matthew 10:37, and James 5:11.

In his message, the pastor said that family and work cannot come before the Kingdom of God. When we spend all of our time focused on the cares of this world, we are rendered unfruitful, unprepared for the true tests of our lives. We become worried, stressed out, troubled because we look for the world to help us when the world is in NEED of help itself. What can it do for us?

And these were all things I had heard before, kinda, in various ways, but when the pastor spoke of his wife and daughter, made it personal, it struck more than in previous times.

He said he loved his wife and daughter. He loved what he did. He said loving his wife and daughter and loving what he did were good things. They were pleasing things. But his wife, his daughter, his job were not going to get him into heaven. "They won't get me past first base. The one person that can is my heavenly father."

And as he talked, sparks of truth shot through my body. Shouts of praise from my mouth. My head nodded, and I knew this message was for me.

I do good things. I do pleasing things. I help writers become better writers. I am working on my Ph.D. I write--to entertain, to uplift, to teach. I give to others when I see them in need--even when I don't have enough for self. I do a lot of things that help, not hurt.

But when I stress, worry, grow troubled over whether I'll finish a class project, whether I'll give enough, or edit enough, or jump through all the correct hoops to make it to the end of a journey, I am not focusing on the better thing. I'm not focusing on God and who and what he is for and in my life.

With him, I can do all things. With things, I can do nothing--but stress, worry, and become troubled.

Church, over the last month or two, has been the anchor of my connection to God. I run to church on Sunday like my life depended on it. I've started going to Bible study classes, too. But I know I need to devote more time, more me time, more God and Me time into my life so that I can get straight with him so that I can be straight...and good...actually better with everything else in my life.


Seeing Me in My Students

1:09 PM Shonell Bacon 0 Comments

It’s been about a year since I’ve been in a classroom as a teacher. With the heavy course load I have my first year of doctoral work, I can’t say I’m overly sad to not be a teacher. But today, I miss it.


I miss the students like me that I saw walking into the classroom. Every semester there was a handful, and while teaching underprepared and underrepresented students through the Louisiana Academy for Innovative Teaching and Learning (LAITL) program at McNeese State University, I saw many students just. like. me.

I was a first-generation student, which meant I had no one in my family to help me through the process of applying to schools, of applying for financial aid, of starting school, and most importantly, of staying in school.

I was fairly smart in high school; I had a lot going for me besides book smarts, such as singing (initially, going into undergrad, I wanted to major in music, become an opera singer, and then a music teacher) and sports (loved softball, soccer, and lax). I was the kid seen as the Great Black Hope. I was going to do something beyond get a high school diploma and a job. I was going to go to college and get a career.

But there were a lot of hurdles before me – both educationally and personally.

Though I did well in school, I couldn’t “pass” an SAT test to save my life, no matter how many classes I took or hours I studied. This initially kept me from getting into the schools I wanted. This moment, this inability to do well on an SAT (which later became the GREs), would haunt me for most of my academic career, even now. No matter how well I do in the classroom, there is a part of me always waiting for the other shoe to fall, to show me that my “smarts” are really just smoke and mirrors. I have to combat this demon on a daily basis. I can get an e-mail right now stating I made an A on a project, and my emotions will go as follows: Immediate excitement and thanking of God. Almost immediate thought of “Well, that was an easy assignment” or “I have to do better than this” or “I don’t know how long I can keep this fa├žade up.” Someday, I hope to have this issue nipped in the bud.

Personally, I was dealing with major problems that took away from my ability to focus on college. My stepfather was (and still is) a raging alcoholic, who was always verbally and emotionally abusive and times, physically so, too. As the oldest child, I wanted to protect my siblings, but I couldn’t always do that.

It’s hard, walking into a classroom and pretending to care about environmental science when you know that the minute you step into your house, you might have to call the police yet again because your father is on a drunken rampage and wants to act a fool on your front porch.

Some didn’t understand my need to take a break from school when my mother became ill and almost died. They didn’t know how important my family was to me. They didn’t know my inner workings, the thoughts that said school will always be there; my family won’t. They didn’t realize that with a basically absentee father, I would have to step up and make some dinners and lunches, wash the clothes, the keep up the house, take care of me and my siblings while my mother recovered. They didn’t see the times I broke down, thinking all was lost only to get back up and go back to the classroom and pass a test or write a paper despite the problems that raged about in my head.

I was a student, yes.

But I was a person, too. And sometimes, the person I am—the person you are—can affect the student you want to be.

I get that.

Some don’t.

There are many who roam the halls of universities and colleges and only look at the SAT, the GRE. They only look at what a student produces for the class, without thinking that this young adult could actually be brilliant, but because we’re only worried about the numbers at the end of the day, we would never know what that student is truly capable of. We don’t see that if we just paused and listened to a student, truly heard him or her, we could begin to unleash some of those problems for students and aid them in academic success.

And I have to admit, because you guys who read me here know I work hard to be truthful, that I was one of those teachers when I first started. The first couple years of teaching were a training of a lecture-assignment-grade-return cycle, and it was hard to break out of it.

And then I taught for LAITL. My first semester in that program, I had to call security. A lot. Students were rowdy. Sometimes fights broke out. I felt like I was starring in a remake of Lean on Me.

One day, I broke. And I got real with the students. I told them a bit about my struggles with school and my determination to make it through despite outside forces, to include family, friends, and especially those within the education system that—though I hate to admit—wait to see you become a statistic.

After my moment of realness, I dismissed class and went back to my office. I was drained. Upset. Memories of my hardships flooded me. I was ready, after only a few weeks into the program, to call defeat. I was done.

And then there was a knock on my door a few hours later. A black male student, one that thought he was the life of my classroom party, was standing at the door, looking ashamed. Almost immediately he apologized for disrespecting me and the classroom. You see, for him, I was the first black teacher he had ever had. The minute he saw me, he thought, “Oh yeah. Got a cool black teacher? It’s about to be on.” He was ready for fun and cuttin’ up because he thought I was down. He didn’t realize that down for me as a teacher in a university meant coming to class on time, participating in class, doing the work, and being a productive member of the classroom.

He didn’t have many people of color in his life that could act as a role model, that could guide him, show him how to make a way…sometimes out of no way.

My story made him realize that he and I weren’t that different. Like me, he worked hard to help his family, which often meant he didn’t have much time to help himself—which explained the late assignments.

My presence in the classroom made him—and a lot of the students in my classes—realize that blacks were educated and could be an agent of change within the classroom, and beyond.

And I miss that. I miss being a difference. I miss seeing students like me, full of circumstances that want to keep them bogged down in muck and wishful thinking, rise to match the brilliance that they hold within themselves. I miss seeing a student “get it” and begin to take autonomy of their academic career, their life. I miss seeing that change that occurs when a student who’s been told “You can’t” and “No” all her life decides to open her mouth and shout, “I can” and “Yes.”

Seeing these things, experiencing these things gives me personal worth as an educator. Accolades are nice. Getting something published, great. But the joy of seeing the fruits of your labor grow and aid in the growth of others? Can’t be beat.


And then it comes to me like an epiphany...

6:00 AM Shonell Bacon 1 Comments

I do love Chrisette Michele's song, "Epiphany," but I use a line of her song as title because yesterday, something came to me suddenly: an epiphany.

For just a split second, I was sitting at my laptop, having full-blown angst over trying to get my mind, my energy to focus on something, anything, when I got quiet. It was no longer than a minute. But I didn't hear the TV. I wasn't thinking. It was full, complete silence.

And in that one-minute of silence, I heard one sentence: Nothing inspires me.

And I tilted my head to the side, thought about the sentence and said, "That's it."

Since the new year, there has been a change in me. I would argue the "change" started months before this, but I felt its presence strongly after the new year.

But I didn't see it as me being uninspired.

I saw it as issues with me.

I was very depressed in January, and I spent a great deal of time being mad at myself for feeling the way I did. I struggled with thoughts. I struggled with understanding the most basic instructions for an assignment. I struggled in writing assignments. I struggled in having conversations with people. I struggled with thinking creatively. I struggled with ME, in all ways.

February brought less depression, but it didn't alleviate the struggle for me to accomplish any task. In those few instances where I was sparked to act and do something, the feeling was fleeting. I would start a project and then immediately my energy would diminish and nothing would get finished until it had to get finished because of a deadline.

When I heard the sentence - Nothing inspires me - I knew it was true.

There is nothing inside me right now that is urging me, pushing me forward.

Last year, I had so many things.

All the firsts I accomplished were spurred on by one word: independence

Once I got to school, completing coursework was spurred on by my need to succeed and prove I could do it and have my family proud of me.

Writing, though it came slowly, was spurred on by NaNoWriMo. The writing wasn't great, but I was writing, so that was something.

Now, as I move into 2010, I'm looking around me like, "What will inspire me now?"

Honestly, I have to say I have NO idea.

I don't know what that SPARK will be to set me in motion again.

Right now, I'm doing what I normally don't do--whatever will get the job done.

I will say I am using this revelation as a positive.

When I heard Nothing inspires me, I did smile.


Because now I have a rationale. For awhile, I've been spiraling in this whole What's going on with me mode, and my emotions were running rampant because of it. Now, at least I know the cause of my actions. I can take it and ask myself, "What will inspire me?" And from this question, I can explore what it is I need to restore the parts that are broken and dismantled.

And that's something.


The Importance of Movement

1:39 PM Shonell Bacon 0 Comments

Last week, I talked about the Forward March. This "movement" is a bit different. This one is about the movement that keeps your body at its optimal level, that keeps your feeling good, that keeps your healthier.

Before I came to Lubbock in August '09, I was on the road to better movement. I exercised three, four times a week. I drank less coffee. I drank less soda. I drank more water. I cut a lot of fast food, fried foods from my diet. And it showed. Not only was my cholesterol levels getting back to normal, but I was also losing weight. Was even able to purchase jeans two sizes smaller than the ones I had worn in what felt like forever.

And then I moved.

Have you ever heard of the Freshman 10? Freshman 15 (probably now the Freshman 20!)? It's the theory (very loose theory) that when a freshman goes off to college, he or she (usually she) will probably gain about 10, 15 pounds.

Well, I'm here to tell you that not only is this theory true (for me anyway), but it also moves outside of the "freshman" arena. Here I am a grown woman, a PhDer, and I couldn't stop the pounds from accumulating.

And the thing is I didn't, at first, see the weight piling on. I felt it. When I stood. When I turned a certain way. When I got into the car. When I got out of the car. When I just tossed my foot up on my knee (or attempted to) to tie my shoes. When I walked from classroom building to the Frozen Tundra (where I park).

By the time I went home for Christmas break, I had confirmation I had gained weight: a pair of my jeans was just a wee bit too snug. They are now on the floor in the back of my closet.

It wasn't hard to see what had happened. Five months of running out to buy Mickey D's instead of making dinner. Of buying white chocolate mochas from the Bux with whip and real milk (none of that low-fat mess). Of placing comfort food between lips when I was homesick, depressed, etc. And especially--of no movement.

I had stopped moving. There was no exercising. Of course, I was constantly running across campus and moving from here to there, but that all became a part of my life. It wasn't an exercise regimen. It was what my body got used to doing because of my new role. In fact, that part of my life wasn't too different. Back home in LA, I went from here to there all the time. And I sat on my butt a lot, too, editing and writing. The difference was three, four times a week, I dedicated 45 minutes to an hour riding my bike or going for walks or lifting weight or a combination of these and other exercises.

By the time I came back to the Buck (for Lubbock, not to be confused with the Bux for Starbucks), the problem with my weight became one component of my depression. And I didn't want to talk about it. Mainly because I was embarrassed. I let myself get like this. I wasn't sure I could get myself out of it. I mean there was no way I was just going to stand up and do an hour of cardio. I knew I'd pass out before that happened.

Last week, I was talking to my sister from another mother about some random thing, and all of the sudden, I blurted out my frustration with my weight and how it made me feel. She suggested I not think so BIG. Not think about jumping on the bike and riding for an hour. To start small. Take ten minutes out of the day for light cardio, for movement. Do that for two weeks, then move up to 15 or 20 minutes and do that for two weeks, and on and on until I get up to where I used to be.

I thought, Surely I can dedicate 10 minutes out of 24 hours to move for the betterment of me, so I did it that night. By the third night, I actually felt more loose, able to move in ways that didn't tire me as much. By the fourth night, it became fun. I would be out somewhere and thinking about what I would do for my ten minutes when I got home.

This is day five, and I'm already feeling the "burn" in my arms from the weights and in my legs from the stepping machine. And better than all of day, mentally, I feel better. Because I made a decision and then acted upon that decision, I see me differently now. I don't just see what I am today but what I can become tomorrow, and the next day if I continue to act, to move.

Sure, there are going to be days I will say, "Screw this. Mickey D's!" But now that I have put myself in movement, my mind will question those thoughts and maybe, more often than not, I will go home to the baked fish and steamed vegetables and feel better having done so.


Forward March

5:13 PM Shonell Bacon 0 Comments

I have a good author-friend named Fon James whose latest novel is titled Forward March. I remember doing editorial work on the novel for Fon last year, and when I read the title, I smiled. Each word in that title illustrates a movement, and every time I read the words, I think about my life and where it's going or not going and how, at the end of the day, it's about the Forward March.

Even when insanity brews in your life, you have to forward march. Yes, there is time to stand still, to deal with the insanity, to listen to God and have him aid you in your movement, but the result is always about the forward march.

It's funny how the mind works. I wasn't sure what I would mention here today. I wasn't sure I would mention anything. My life over the past week has been pretty uneventful, and to be honest, I've been having a fluctuating mood--moving from pure happiness or abysmal sadness in the matter of minutes, and I wasn't really in the mood to talk about it. Not because I didn't want to share. I'm all about sharing as those of you who have read this blog know. It was just that I didn't want to read my words on the screen. I didn't want those words to be read, to rechannel themselves into my psyche and affect my mood, a mood that is quite delicate these days.

I sat before my laptop, looking at the screen, wondering, What might I say today? I could talk about the day I went from the elation of reading a professor's evaluation of me to doubt in my abilities when I received news that made me question my intelligence. I could talk about the homesickness I still feel that keeps me from immersing myself into the semester like I know I should. I could talk about the growing feelings of "Don't care" that makes me just want to bury myself in my comforter and sleep for a really, really long time.

Yeah, I could talk, in detail, about those things, but as I opened up the blog space to write, I thought, Forward March, and I smiled.

Because even though right now, as I type these words, I have this mixture of anxiety/stress/sadness/pessimism brewing about me, I still get up, put on my clothes, grab my jacket and run my errands. I still do my school work. I still talk to people though I would prefer to be left alone. I still edit. I still write (well try!). I still do the million and one things I do because quite honestly, I don't know how to do anything but the forward march. It's been ingrained in me since childhood. Since I watched my grandparents work at the same place for more years than I've been alive. Since I watched my grandparents get up and move despite the illnesses that would eventually take their lives. Since I watched my mother take ill and almost die but recovered and went right back to work. Since I saw my mother do these things despite what she might have been feeling inside, in her heart, as she stayed in a marriage that had died decades ago. Since I watched my mother have to bury her parents within months from each other's death; she had a grace, a forward march about her that I know I will never be able to replicate.

I have been born into a long line of forward marchers: grandparents, mother, uncles, aunts, cousins...

And even when I think I can do no more, even when I don't want to do any more...

I do. Because I have to. And if I do more enough, I will get through the problems that beset me.


A Lifting

2:10 PM Shonell Bacon 2 Comments

First full week of school kicked off last week. I'm excited, nervous about the semester. I'm excited because every class I'm taking will provide a practical benefit almost immediately to me. For example, my grants/proposal class will enable me to submit a proposal to a conference, to develop a proposal for a non-profit organization, and to develop an academic or industry proposal...with a purpose. Last semester was heavy in theory, in the foundation, the understanding of all the things we will be doing. It got very tedious, very fast with the mounds upon mounds of words to read and dear God, try to understand in order to articulate a fairly intelligent response. I've always been good at doing. Not to say I'm bad at thinking and understanding, but if you give me a task, the task will get done, and usually, done well. So though there is a lot of work to be done this semester, the act of doing is right up my alley.

Having said this, the first week, week and a half of school had been plagued by my depression, which I talked about in my last post ["Battling Depression with the Word"]. I'm surprised I got all work done over this time because my mood was so low, my mind so heavy with negative thoughts I didn't think I was actually moving at all.

But the middle of last week, I found myself doing something I don't do often - I reached out. I lifted a hand, hoping someone would grasp it and help me out of the swirling waters of depression that threatened to drown me.

Typically, I think I'm Super Woman. I don't need anyone to help me. I can do everything all. by. myself. I suffer in silence, and even though people can read me like a book and can see I'm in pain and am in need of helping hands, I will smile and say, "I'm good. I got this."

But I never have it.

And this time, I realized that. This time, I lifted a hand to my daughter-in-spirit and cried to her. She listened to me. Prayed for me. This time, I called my mother and wept, telling her how I couldn't fight the thoughts in my head alone. She listened. Offered advice. Told me we would get through this. Later, she called me just to say, "I love you." This time, I called a sister-in-spirit who acknowledged that this was the first time ever that I opened up about anything and showed my angst.

I never, NEVER want to burden others with my problems. It's the number one reason I've kept feelings to myself...usually until they explode in long-running, painful, depressive episodes.

But this lifting of hands, of eyes...this silent askance of help has been the biggest, best thing I've done for myself. Letting others in, others with stories to tell, with advice to give, with love to share has lifted me out of this current battle of depression.

This is the fifth day in a row in which I have not cried. This is the fifth day in a row in which I have not had a depressive, painful thought. Does this mean the depression is gone? Probably not, but it means I'm learning new ways to manage it so that I can be productive and, dare I say it, relatively happy.

As I've said in other posts, my writing here is not generated to bring forth pity, sympathy. I write to reveal myself to myself. If it helps others, that's an added blessing.

If you're in the midst of a longstanding depression, lift yourself -- a hand, an eye, a word -- to someone who will willingly and lovingly lift you into the light and help get you back on your right path.


Battling Depression with the Word

1:50 PM Shonell Bacon 2 Comments

Earlier today, I was trying to get up the energy to leave the house and run some errands when my baby bro called. I plopped onto the sofa and chatted with him about his new license and his need for insurance for his new-old car. After the conversation ended, I remained on the sofa, kneeling upon it, arms resting on one of the sofa arms, just being.

Then I saw it.

The bible.

It sat on the end table. Dust laid on its cover. It had been awhile since I had opened it.

Though I felt something jump within me when I saw it, I wasn't sure I wanted to touch it.

I always got this way when I was depressed.

For nearly three weeks, I have been battling depression, and every day, the anxiety and issues that come from it have increased.

I've battled depression most of my life though it wasn't 'til about nine years ago that I was diagnosed with clinical depression (or Major Depressive Disorder, specifically Atypical Depression. I went through three years of psychotherapy and the taking of medication in the early 2000s and learned ways to help keep my head above water without a counselor or medication.

But it always creeps back.

There's always this low level of sadness that exists and a lot of performing on my part so that the world thinks I'm OK.

It gets tiring. And only adds to the depression.

When I saw the bible, I thought about all the frenzied thoughts that have been racing through my mind, all the issues--real and imaginary--that have plagued me over the last several weeks, and how there was still some part of me that wanted this depression to go away because I was still putting up my scriptures, I was still reading the scriptures in my daily planner, I was still offering advice to others and praying for them, I was still--every once in awhile and out of the blue--saying, "God, help me."

There is a constant battle in my head; I call it The Battle over Life and Depression. There is the Shonell that has lived with depression her whole life, who can call up at any time the saddest moments of her life because she wants to revel in the sadness. Besides, it helps her conjure up the future depressive moments that will surely ruin any form of happiness that comes her way. This Shonell can sit, for hours on end, and do nothing but stare blankly and listlessly, barely feeling the cadence of her heartbeat and then "wake up" from her catatonic state hours later, more depressed because time has eluded her and she has even more stuff to do now. This Shonell fears anything that the "Life Shonell" does.

The "Life Shonell" goes to school. She writes. She publishes books. She laughs. She seems to have a personality. She plans for the future. She can actually envision a future in which she might actually be happy and bring goodness to the world.

When these two are doing major battle or when Depressive Shonell invades the body fully, there is no room for God. God means hope, and for Depressive Shonell, that word does not exist.

But Life Shonell waits, waits for that moment when her worse-half takes a nap, looks the other way, and she is able to whisper a "God, help me."

And that brief pause occurred when I saw the bible today.

I wiped my hand along the cover, erasing the dust. I rifled the pages of the bible, never once lifting it to me. I closed my eyes and allowed myself--though I could feel the battle within--to get deep and dark and quiet.

And I stopped rifling.

And I quietly prayed for God to show me something.

And he did.

I opened the bible and came to a discussion on Ezekiel 16:6, and I read Ezekiel 16:6-14, which states:

6 “And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ 7 I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed, your hair grew, but you were naked and bare.

8 “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord GOD.

9 “Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk. 11 I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. 12 And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth.

You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. 14 Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,” says the Lord GOD.

And I cried.

And I smiled.

And I whispered, "Thank you, God."

Today, at least, as I battle Depressive Shonell, I have a better chance of winning because God revealed to me how special and precious I am. And because God brings people in my life like my sister from another mother, my mother, and my daughter-in-spirit -- who all rallied around me last night and helped me get through a dark moment, I know that I can overcome this.


New Year, New Possibilities

2:23 AM Shonell Bacon 1 Comments

Happy New Year, Everyone!

I've been on (and still am on) vacay, so I was away from the blog, but I plan to get back into the swing of things - especially with me going back to Lubbock at the end of the week and with school starting next week.

If you follow me on any of the social watering holes like Twitter {I'm HERE}, Facebook {and HERE}, and MySpace {and HERE, too!}, you know that the semester ended pretty well for me. Despite my issues and wishes to flee Lubbock for Lake Charles, I finished the semester with great grades and even a few papers that sparked me into General Dissertation Thoughts. Always a good thing.

The biggest thing I learned over this semester was if I could succeed when I felt so overwhelmed, so unstructured, so unprepared, so un-everything, then with more organization and preparation (and heavy, heavy doses of God and prayers), I can shoot for beyond the stars.

I'm nervous and excited about the new semester. Why? Well, though I'm happy to be taken one less class than last semester, this feels like a "crunch time" semester for me. Need to get my committee together. I need [more want than need, but need is a close second] to get my dissertation idea firmer and be able to articulate some research questions. I need to start thinking about grants and fellowships and research and ideas for papers for conferences.

OK, moving on. LOL Will drive myself crazy thinking about it. Let's just say that spring 2010 semester will present new academic challenges for me.

Besides, there are more NEW challenges, possibilities before me for the twenty-ten [yeah, don't overall feel this twenty-ten thing, but I'm going to use it].

I finally connected with a bit of creativity while home. I scoured through story ideas and the two unfinished books I have and chose one of the unfinished books as my next project. I did a bit of organizing and planning of my writing agenda for 2010, and I'm excited for all the things that will be coming up - through my new writing, the release of my debut solo project, Death at the Double Inkwell in June {pre-order HERE!}, the development of my The Write Life for You series of books I plan to indie-publish and go live with the first book in December. The possibilities right now, literally, feel endless.

Although I'm anxious and a bit rattled and nervous, I'm also confident that once I get over myself and get on with it all, I will conquer every obstacle set before me and succeed...yet again.