My New Normal

November 9, 2019

As I sit here looking at you confined to this room I am deeply saddened. You don’t look like the same girl from the Southend. Now your clothes aren’t clean and your hair is a mess. The spark left your face and has been replaced with desperation and fear. And knowing that this is just the beginning makes this hurt even more. I cannot help but feel guilty thinking of all of the obstacles that you, a nine-year girl, will face before real healing takes place. What hurts even more is the fact that I cannot protect you from that. I am now a 37-year-old woman in a much healthier and happier space but that was not the case for many years. I want to warn you that most of our twenties and early thirties will be spent trying to unravel the mental and emotional pain that came as a result of these obstacles. I almost wish I could advise you somehow – maybe shield you from our mom’s addiction and the fear of abandonment that came with it. If I could, I would teach you that you are beautiful long before your beauty becomes validated by Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent bags hanging from your shoulders and by foreign cars carrying you to trivial destinations. If I could, I would assure you that you are worth your dad keeping his promises to come back that Christmas. You remember the one when you were seven or eight and he dropped off that huge teddy bear?

It will be decades before you see him again… 

There are many other things that I want to protect your eyes, your ears, and your innocent body from, but unfortunately I can’t. 

I cannot avoid you. 

These issues that have haunted me for years started when I was your age. And while most little girls at this age were concerned about who their best friend is and playing double-dutch, I was anxious about our mom’s crack addition and how to avoid the girls at school joning me because of how I dressed, how I smelled, and how I looked. The people that came in and out of this house were scary and looked like zombies. I remember watching them enter and exit over and over again while my mom got thinner and thinner. Some days she would comb my hair and pretend everything was normal. I played along even though I knew better. There were rare times when we would play and spend time together, but as soon as this woman (who I now know was her dealer) came around, I was no longer a priority. Instead, I was left to my own devices. Apart of me died in this house and it would take years to be revived. 


I could not understand why things around me had changed and having no one to talk to, I suppressed my emotions and instead focused on school. But good grades could not cover the fact that my beautiful, gifted, and talented mother was a full fledge crack-addict.  A crack-addict. And so was my father. But he was never really in the picture so it didn’t affect me much back then. 

I often grapple with whether or not I would move the same way had mom and dad been there to support and affirm me, us, throughout life. Instead, we were forced to take the more scenic route, which included being a young child trying to navigate the world with a drug-addicted parent. A world where nothing is consistent and everything is dark. Sometimes I want to erase this part of my life and be normal like “those kids.” It’s tempting to think that if I could somehow give you, my 9-year-old self, the wisdom and understanding that I have today, maybe that would ease your sorrow and heal your broken heart. But I can’t and I would not if I had the ability. Why, because if I did that, if I helped you avoid all of this trauma and pain, there is no way you would be the woman I am today. Your pain – our pain – was necessary in order to enjoy the life I have created today. 


Together From Now On

October 19, 2019

Hearing from you made me very happy; I am excited you are thinking of me again and I’m so glad you wrote me.  While reading your letter I kept thinking,  “I can’t believe she remembers all of this from such a long time ago.” 

But there’s a huge difference between how I feel as a child and how you tell the story. I wanted to scream while reading your letter. I wondered why you didn’t mention the times when I worried and feared being abandoned. Why did you make coloring sound so fun and exciting, knowing full well with each stroke of the crayon I wondered if this would be my last encounter with mom for a while? I mean sure, it wasn’t always that way but my feelings of loneliness, uncertainty, and sadness outlasted all of the happy times combined. 


Did you forget?


I am happy you went to counseling and found God but if we want to truly heal, we must tell the truth and if you won’t, I will. Now, let me look at your letter again to see where you left off. Oh, here we are, living in the South End. Now, I must admit that we did have some good times there in the beginning – especially during the summer. My biggest worry then was how my hair looked after going swimming at the neighborhood pool. I wished I had “good hair” like my best friend but instead my hair was nappy and thick, which sucks because pressing day wasn’t until Friday. And don’t get me started on pressing day. Sitting in the kitchen with one eye closed and my right shoulder raised, hoping the Blue Magic grease and hot comb stays a few inches away from my scalp. Pressing day was stressful and marked the end of my fun weekend because grandma wanted the hair on my neck to still be straight for Sunday school.

Our new house is on a Summit Avenue. Do you remember this house? Come; let’s walk to the street. If you look to your right you will see my school, McHenry Elementary. I hate it there but mom says I can’t go back to Lucas so I may as well get use to it. I thought it would be cool having my school right across the street; especially when its cold out but there is nothing cool about this neighborhood or this school. There isn’t one girl that I can call a friend here and I think I know why. 

But we can talk about that later-lets go back inside the house. Make sure you’re really quiet; mom has friends over and I can’t disturb them. We can go in my bedroom and watch all of the action through my secret window in the door right by the knob. Mom and her friends don’t always like each other but today things seem to be going okay. Look at them; they seem to be having so much fun. I wonder what they talking about that’s so exciting? They even get to share a strange looking glass bottle. It’s kind of hard to see through this hole, but it looks like they are using that same smoking toy as Donald Duck except his is made of wood. Are you watching? 

Wait a second, that’s weird, everyone appears to be falling asleep after taking a smoke? I see people smoking outside all the time and they never get sleepy but whatever. I see all of mom’s friends using it but I bet she won’t. Mom told me that smoking was bad and that we should never do it. 

Anyway, I’m done watching them, back to us. You said in your letter that we are back together again. That’s good, but if that’s the case I want to tell our story together from now on.  I have a lot to say, but no one to say it to. So, can I? Can I tell it with you? 

That’s fine with me, young Niccoll. That’s fine with me.  


A Letter to My 9-Year-Old Self

September 30, 2019

Dear Niccoll,

I want to begin this letter by validating the fact that you were a victim and the things that happened to you were not your fault. Often people feel the need to display strength or indifference in areas of their lives that have the greatest need for acknowledgement, vulnerability, and care. What we do not realize is that the more we suppress and ignore our pain, the longer we delay the healing process. Years ago, I made the decision to no longer postpone your healing.

What’s funny is that you were not always that way. Remember when you use to color with mom for hours, trying your best to stay inside the lines because that drove her crazy? Our mother was such a great artist, never considering that your small fingers were not quite ready for the big leagues. You tried your best though. Why, because coloring meant spending quality time with mom and for a little girl that’s heaven on earth.  You drew picture after picture attempting to present mom with your best work and of course she obliged, claiming to never have seen coloring so neat and pretty. Her validation was everything to you back then.

Writing this letter as a 36-year-old woman, I can’t help but think about how young mom was back then. Think about it, when you were seven she was 22. I bet you never considered that but then again, why would you? In your mind, our mother was perfect and capable of doing anything that she promised. Those promises included coming home after a late night of clubbing with her girlfriends. Do you recall how enamored you were with watching mom put on makeup and high heels before leaving the house? She would paint her full lips with red lipstick and always rock a short haircut like Anita Baker and dance in the mirror to her favorite Sade album. Some nights you were allowed to stay up late and watch Show Time At the Apollo until mom headed downstairs. Those were the good ole days. The irony is that mom was still a child herself back then but she was so strict regarding you: No lip-gloss, no nail polish, no soda, no talking back, no grades lower than a B, and no boys! There were a lot of rules and you rarely broke any of them even if everyone else did.

Speaking of rules, one of my funniest memories of mom is when we all lived in the Southend in East St. Louis. Mom had to be in her early twenties; you were no older than 6, and our aunt and uncle were about 10 or 11. We were all in the bedroom watching an episode of the Flintstones when we heard Grandma’s Cadillac pull-up outside. Everyone hopped up to grab the cleaning tool that was allocated to their unique chore in a pathetic attempt to have the task completed before grandma made the 20ft walk from the car to the front door. In a panic, you stood there scared until a shout came across the room, “Niccoll do something!”

We were so close back then…all of us. Christmas and birthdays were a big deal, the women of the house set the standard for strength, beauty, independence, and we were dressed to kill. There were no fathers around, but mom and grandma made it work.

Then all of a sudden, things changed quickly and life as you knew it was over. Promises were now broken, things started disappearing from the house, and mom’s beautiful face slowly became unrecognizable. And then there’s the issue of us. How did we lose each other? One day you were an innocent little girl and then you or – I guess – I went into survival mode and grew up so fast that for years I forgot what you looked like…

For now, just know that while it took years, we are together again and I will never leave you. Trust me as I embark on this endeavor of telling our story and know that I will not dishonor either of us. While some parts of our story will be difficult to relive, always hold on to what we now know to be true:  God has us in the palm of His hand and He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Now let’s do this.


Happy Planner

September 30, 2019

Starting a blog has been a very rewarding yet time consuming endeavor. Honestly, it feels as though I have taken on a second job. Juggling a full-time career as an educator and now entering into the world of blogging has required rethink my idea of organizing, planning, and goal setting. With all this going on, it was nothing short of a miracle when recently a girlfriend introduced me to The Happy Planner. We were strolling the isles of Michealslooking for decorations when she stopped by the planner aisle. The look on her face when I said, “What’s so special about this; it’s just another planner”: She looked at me the way parents at work look when we mispronounce their child’s name that has 4 syllables.


Needless to say, after my girl explained the versatility of a Happy Planner, I was sold. You see, prior to investing in a Happy Planner, my idea of planning was putting the title, location, date, and time of an event in my iPhone, hitting the 2 hour alert option, and add. Yep, that was it. But now, I’m over here labeling, adding quotes (ya’ll know ya’ll love them quotes), organizing, scheduling blog and IG post, planning meetings with teachers, adding scriptures, and accessorizing. Yes, you read that correctly, I said accessorizing. In addition to the actual planner, you can also purchase buttons, stickers, magnetic bookmarks, and creative inserts to name a few. Guys, my Happy Planner is an entire mood and I’m here for it. If you desire to have more excitement and creativity as you plan your future, The Happy Planner has you covered!

Happy Planner


The Road Less Traveled

September 30, 2019

My first time reading A Road Less Traveled was in the fall of 2011.  Around that time I had started seeing a therapist as a result of a sudden inability to access any sense of joy and peace within my life. I emphasize the word sudden because my symptoms, which would later be diagnosed as depression and PTSD, came out of nowhere. These thoughts and feelings were very dark, lonely, heavy, and unfamiliar leaving me wondering what was wrong and what was the quickest way to fix it and get back to my normal life. You see, I thought I was happy. Aside from a few hiccups here and there, I was fine and the things that happened to me during childhood had been all but forgotten. I honestly could not recall one single time during my teens or early twenties that I thought about my childhood traumas. These problems had been buried deep inside my subconscious mind for years; but for some strange reason, they began to constantly demand my attention. It didn’t make sense!

At the time, I was thriving in my Bachelors degree program, living in my own apartment in the suburbs, and driving a luxury vehicle. On the outside I appeared to have it all together, but on the inside I was battling some serious mental and emotional health issues. How was it possible to have a fleet of designer handbags, weekly mani and pedi’s, vacations, intellect, a pretty face and still be miserable? At the time, I starting imagining getting into my car, driving away, and leaving myself behind. All of a sudden I felt unloved and worthless.

While reading The Road Less Traveled along with many other great books that will be recommended in my blog, I realized that traumatic events in our lives – especially from childhood – don’t just fade away. In one way or another, the effects of trauma will eventually have an inward or an outward manifestation in the life of the victim. The pain I had been consciously and subconsciously avoiding was now staring me in the face. It was now residing in my home, accompanying me to school, following me to the club, and disrupting my sleep. My pain had purchased an all-inclusive stay in my mind and I had a choice to make.

The idea of therapy was still new to me and I was not committed to the process. Seeking mental health was taboo in my culture, not to mention the fact that my counselor was a middle-aged white woman (who turned out to be one of the biggest blessings in my life to date). But that decision to continue therapy was partly because reading The Road Less Traveled gave me the answers to the “Whys” I had as well as the “How’s.” If you are struggling with traumatic issues from your past, I highly recommend reading The Road Less Traveled.

The Road Less Traveled