Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ryan? We didn't understand but we cared......

Understanding and caring are not the same thing. While I know that many students and adults are hurting over Ryan's suicide, I cannot say that I understand all the different ways this is affecting them and even myself. I cannot say that I understand what Ryan went through mentally and emotionally to arrive at suicide and I cannot say that I understand how to even begin to help our band family pick up the pieces. 

What I can say is that I CARE.

I CARE if a band student or an adult is struggling. 

I CARE if our band family is experiencing depression, tears, confusion, guilt, anger, anxiousness, pain, isolation, rage, trauma, or feeling withdrawn, fragile or burdened.

I CARE about how this has affected you, whether you were close to Ryan or were not because everyone at Bay High has been impacted by his decision.

How can I say with certainty that someone who didn’t know Ryan shouldn’t be affected by his decision? Just like with Ryan’s own internal struggle, I really do not know what others struggle with privately in their own mind and heart. AND NEITHER DO YOU. I caution all who read this to be careful about looking at anyone reacting to this tragedy with judgment or criticism because for all you know that person you are judging could have been considering suicide also and this has struck a nerve deep within. It may be utterly shocking for them to be here, alive to see the fallout from such a huge and tragically permanent decision. Don’t judge those you feel do not have the right to be affected by this. You do not walk in their shoes and do not know their battles. I saw Ryan oftentimes every day of the week, took trips with him, snapped many pictures of him, subbed his classes and hung out in the same geographical locations with him for 4 years and never saw this coming. While I was geographically close to Ryan often, [i.e. band room, Bay High campus, Tommy Oliver Stadium, bus trips etc] I was not in his inner circle nor was I close to him emotionally. I didn’t know the depths of his situation and yet had Ryan told me, he would have known very quickly that I and others around him CARED, adults and students alike. We might not have understood the whys or even understood how to help him, but it would have mattered to us.  And Ryan’s death matters, even to people who did not know him. Parents who didn’t know Ryan will grieve for the loss his mother and step dad feel. Students who didn’t know Ryan but have siblings will grieve for the loss his sisters must feel. People who have suffered loss through suicide in their own families and communities will grieve along with us from a place in the heart that holds all the hurt from those other losses, even if they never even met Ryan. Reserve judgment and lavish compassion and kindness anywhere you can. We all need it, even those who remained strangers to Ryan at his death. I CARE enough to choose compassion and kindness even if I do not understand how we have come to the place we are in. 

Students outside of our band family at Bay High School have been affected, too. Ryan’s choice has made a ripple in the fabric of our school and community that may defy understanding for weeks, months, even years to come. Some students have voiced fear and concern over being left out of the grieving process because they are not in band. I CARE, although I cannot control nor predict how the grieving process will unfold corporately at Bay High. If this is you, please talk to a teacher, or go to the office and tell them you are hurting, you are grieving and help the administration to understand how impactful Ryan’s decision has been to Bay High, not just to our band family. Bay High CARES, teachers, volunteers, lunchroom ladies, administrators, coaches and custodial staff ALL CARE. Please seek them out even if you don’t understand why you are feeling the way you do or are afraid of your feelings. Give them a chance to care for you hands on and in a real and tangible way. They will even if they don’t understand it, because they care. Chances are, they are hurting too.

A young girl stopped at my table at dinner the day Ryan was found. I did not know her nor did I see her until I heard this tiny voice say, “Are you finding comfort in food too?” I looked up, then at my son thinking she was a friend of his. He looked at me and I realized he didn’t know her either.  I looked at her red shirt, then asked if she went to Bay High and was she referring to the events of that day. She said yes and the tears welled up. I stood up and hugged her tight, tried to make some jokes and introduced her to my son. She was not a band student, nor did she really know Ryan but she was hurting too. I was glad she reached out and tried to connect. I may never see her again but in that moment she knew I cared, I knew she cared, and sometimes that is going to be the best we can do for each other. Hug it out and grieve together. And that’s ok. 

We were all robbed of the chance to show Ryan how much we cared until it was too late and the only ones who will know are the survivors he left behind. Hopefully, seeing the outpouring of care, love and concern over Ryan's death will speak to the hurting hearts of those who are quietly and secretly contemplating suicide themselves. Please don’t rob me or the people around you of the chance to show you how much we care by choosing suicide. It always is and always will be the wrong solution to the difficulties you are facing. Give hope and caring a chance.

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Yesterday's ending is today's beginning.

Two weeks ago, after much discussion with my husband and a couple of close friends, I made the decision to leave my job of 15yrs at GC 90.7FM at Gulf Coast State College.

I originally started out as a student in the Communications/radio/television program  and was approached fairly early on by then station manager Frank Sundram to come on board as a part time employee after a brief stint as a volunteer. Together we started the Community Calendars and in better economic times the calendar actually split into 2 calendars, Cultural and Community due to the abundance of underwriters wanting to fund it. I also had the pleasure of serving as producer for some of the Emerald Coast Almanac shows for Professor Armstrong in the 90's.

Eventually I added website contributor to my resume as we moved the calendars to an online format, served at meet and greets with our listeners, and embraced the social media movement as a valuable tool in public awareness of who we were, what we did and what our vision was for the community. I asked for and got permission to take on our social media presence as a personal responsibility and  increased our page numbers, created graphics, wrote content, and eventually served as admin on 6 separate pages. My love for photography came into play as I photographed the staff working, playing and just being themselves. Those photographs always garnered the most attention on our FB pages. It has always been a lot of fun.

As the years passed, our staff size decreased and our local show line up increased. Meetings were held to keep the staff abreast of all changes as they became known and I felt like maybe there was something more than calendars, photography, fund drives and social media for me. Maybe I should throw my name in the hat to step up and find a place hosting if I was needed.

I met with Harley, our Operations Manager, to see if it was something worth pursuing. All he asked is that it be a genre of music that I was passionate about. That happened to be funk music, which was already in the local, Saturday night line up on Funk 180. It was also Harley's concept, creation and one of a few shows already being hosted by him. To my surprise he gave it to me almost without hesitation. I was in shock. I went from never hosting anything to 3 hours of content that was all up to me and me alone.

 I was jazzed!

I was stoked!


The first show took me 9 hours to put together. It was only 3 hours of music but my love of the genre did not mean I had a huge working knowledge of funk music, just the songs that I really liked already. And we had almost a thousand songs to choose from. Time passed and under Harley's patient tutelage I eventually got a better handle on how to use the technology and how to put together a good show, both content-wise and flow-wise. Hosting Funk 180 has probably been the best part of all these years at GC 90.7 FM and I am very grateful for the opportunity to do it. If you're reading this, THANKS HARLEY!

I want to say that I feel very lucky to have been a part of the family at GC 90.7 for so long. I could not ask for a finer group of people to work with anywhere.

I never finished my degree in Communications but I hope to do so in the next couple of years. I will also continue to work as a substitute teacher at Bay High School here in Panama City. I will continue to blog but will be deactivating my professional FB page. My last Funk 180 show is August 16th and it is non-stop my favorite funk tunes for 3 solid hours so make sure you tune in!

Blessings, y'all!


Sunday, August 10, 2014

New blog

I have added another blog to my stable of blogs that  I do not write upon nearly enough.

It is entitled, " Does This Mountain Make My Butt Look Big?" and oddly enough it came from a conversation about just that one afternoon in Pigeon Forge TN. with some lovely friends of mine.

It went on to become a blog on a message board that had quite a bit of positive interaction so I am bringing it out of the message board and online publicly. Lord help me!

Here is the address:

If you are interested in being added to the email list that will be sent out when I post please email me here:

Thanks and come over and check it out!

Blessings, y'all!


Monday, February 24, 2014

Stay in your lane.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and then one of my friends voiced it just last night.

"I'm glad I'm a leader and not a follower." ~Garrett

Now, Garrett is a young, twenty something, highly anointed man of God. By most standards I would say he is successful. He owns his own home, has a great marriage, is an ordained and degree-holding pastor and  finds favor in every area of his life on a regular basis.

In work, in ministry, and in their personal lives, Garrett and his wife Erica both do their own thing rather than the thing everyone else is doing. They pray and look to their own creativity, the Lord's inspiration and each other for new and innovative ways to do the things that are important to them. Garrett and Erica really are leaders, not followers.

Two of my other friends seem to have this same trait. Nick and Kelly , whom I met through the band program at our local high school. Both lead rather than follow. They, along with Garrett seem to be focused on new and innovative ways to do what they are called to do rather than looking around for what someone else is doing and copy it. Nick is doing some highly innovative stuff in the area of fundraising and it is working. Kelly has taken the leap to free lancing her vast skills and  is building upon success after success. They both lead, they do not follow. They, along with Garrett and his wife Erica, are constantly brainstorming and praying about what God wants for them and their callings. They do not scramble around looking at what everyone else is doing. They don't have time. They are busy working on their own stuff.

Sometimes, from my own perspective, it seems like if folks focused as hard on what THEY need to do for their OWN success, as what they are on what someone else is doing, they would have a higher level of growth and excellence in their own program/ministry/organization. And maybe they wouldn't have any idea what the Garrett/Erica, or the Nick/Kelly, or the [fill in the blank] are doing because they are just too busy, successful, and focused to care.

Just some random thoughts that have been rolling around in my head for a while.

Blessings, y'all!