Everyone Needs Validation..

I was speaking about global vaccine access at KFWC State Convention

It seems like I have been so consumed with other things lately, I haven’t posted about something that
really matters to me.  My true passion for advocacy arose from my involvement with the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Campaign.  There are not words to describe how much the people I work with inspire me.  We have so many outside interests yet we are still devoted to one similar cause.  Everyone involved with the campaign believes that every child deserves access to potentially life saving vaccines.  I have been given so many opportunities and incredible support.  Whether it is Aaron talking to us about “using our wine glass” and channeling our voice, Jamie watching over ALL of the champions so diligently, quiet but powerful Maggie driving the campaign forward, or Anastasia and her bright smile and encouraging words, all of the champions have amazing support with the United Nations Foundation staff.  I am honored and grateful to be a part of such a wonderful campaign.  When I feel like mankind is lost in a very ugly and chaotic world, I look the Shot@Life campaign and I know there is hope.  There are good people that love others without hesitation and with true kindness, and my hope for humanity lies in you.  When I have been made to feel lesser and unaccomplished by someone who should have been my biggest support, you have made me feel powerful and validated.

In the words of a dear friend, “Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle.”  You are amazing and you were meant to shine.  You should be able to trust others, but most of all learn to trust yourself.  You know that you are powerful beyond measure, and you can achieve anything that you put your heart into.  Don’t let the belittling, petty, and hurtful actions of others change the heart of who you are.  We were born to do amazing things.

Happy Smiling Sunday,
XOXO
~Jess

My story: The Tale of the (not so silver) Spoon

asouthernmother
April 7, 2013
Baby Jessica and a photo of my son and I

Other than the details of my brothers murder, I have refrained from painting anything other than the beautiful details of my life.  It hasn’t even been a highlight reel of the chaos and ugliness that I have witnessed.  I love my southern roots, but the reality is southern women are raised to hide their problems.  Cheating spouses, abusive husbands, and deadbeat dads are easily masked with a smile and a Sunday visit to the church pew.  We are raised to fix our bleeding mascara, slap on some lipstick, put on our big girl panties, and pretend to the world that everything is okay.  This might seem like the best option in a non-idealic situation but when it starts to eat away at you.  The grief, pain, heartache, and unhappiness will eventually start to consume who you are.  There is no amount of masking it.  It will twist and contort your soul, and sooner or later you will become your problems.  Little did I know, my pain began long before I was born.  I am not just a product of a broken home, a broken childhood, or a broken heart.  

If you have ever read my previous posts, you know my father comes from a coal mining family.  Coal miners can often be like the black coals they dig from the ground.  It shouldn’t diminish from who they are, but if you spent most of your life in the dark miles below the surface of the earth you would change too.  They can be cold, hard, and rough.  How many years does it take for a piece of coal to become a diamond? How many pieces of coal never make it that far?  Long before the change occurs they often crushed and burned by mankind.  Coal miners often endure a similar fate.

My father was a coal miners son.  He was desperate to overcome his circumstance.  Growing up in a coal mining camp can’t be easy.  I have heard in high school he walked miles or hitchhiked to football practice.  It is a reality for many children in southeastern Kentucky.  The ultimate struggle to overcome poverty and circumstance.  There are

My dad and Phil Simms in the Morehead yearbook

very few ways to get out, and for my father football was the only way out.  It might seem like an insurmountable feat, we weren’t from a region of incredible football teams or players. The public high school he attended was in a rural area that didn’t always have the best fields or equipment.  He made the best of circumstance.  He became a football “Kentucky Headhunter” and eventually earned a scholarship at Morehead State University.  If you aren’t from Kentucky and that team doesn’t sound familiar, my dad played on the same team as the future Super Bowl MVP Giants quarterback Phil Simms.  You would think his life would change drastically but did it? 


I think that this enough sharing for today.  I’ll continue my story tomorrow.  I am hoping my readers will slowly get a sense of who I really am and how I got here.  

Happy Solemn Sunday,
XOXO
~Jess 

Will a Stolen Childhood Inspire a “Girl Rising”?

This was a face of innocence and trust.  She loves going to church, reading books, and playing with her cousins.  She had her dads eyes and his ability to steal your heart.  She stole my heart the moment she entered this world and I am just her Aunt.  We both now share a very open wound, she lost her father at the hands of someone she should have been able to trust, and I lost my beloved brother.  

Photo courtesy of Jessica Urgelles Photograpy

She is one of countless girls in our nation and around the world who had her innocence taken.  Could you image being 6 years old and having your father murdered by your step grandfather following a domestic violence altercation with your grandmother?  No girl should ever have to endure such  a heartbreak, and certainly not at such a tender age.  She dealt with her emotions with maturity beyond her years.  When I wanted to completely fall apart, I held it together for her.  We sat graveside in front of his casket.  We shared our goodbyes and I was heartbroken when she asked for me to kneel next to her to pray.  She prayed with passion and fervor, asking for God’s comfort and mercy.  

I prayed for healing.  I was so angry.  I lost my brother but my nieces had lost their father.  Would they remember him?  They would never remember his contagious laugh or his kind smile.  They had their childhood stolen, and I was powerless to stop it.  

Did you know that 1 in 4 women around the world will experience domestic violence in her lifetime?  The women of my family were robbed of a loved one by someone we should have been able to trust.  It would be easy to let grief, anger, and hate consume me.  I can’t let my brothers death be in vain.  I want his legacy to be of kindness, hope, and charity.  He lives on in the people who loved him, by our words and actions.  

My hope is that no one would ever need such a heartbreaking personal experience to inspire them.  We can draw our inspiration from the people around us, hear their stories, feel their passion, and let it lead us to be a stronger society.  

My passion was renewed recently.  I attended a screening of the 10×10 film, Girl Rising.  The stories are powerful and poignant.  The issues discussed are a reality for girls everywhere.  Poverty, domestic violence, human trafficking, slavery, lack of educational opportunities, and child marriage are real.  The girls face unimaginable challenges.   They found triumph in their hardships and an astounding courage to fight not just for themselves, but to inspire girls around them.  

Image courtesy of www.10x10act.org 


I connected with Senna from La Rinconada, Peru.  She was the daughter to a gold miner who perished from complications of working in the mines.  I am the granddaughter and great granddaughter of a coal miners which you can read about in a previous post, You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.  She shared many of the same struggles that my own family did thousands of miles from her in Harlan, Kentucky.  My family did not endure the same harsh living conditions but they shared struggles for food, clothing, and the general brutal working conditions of a mine.  

I encourage everyone to find a local screening of Girl Rising and attend.  The girls are real and their stories are inspiring.  The proceeds from the film benefit several organizations including the United Nations Foundation Girl Up campaign.  The girls will renew your hope in humanity.  They are living proof that optimism and good can come from despair and evil.  

My hope is that my niece is a “girl rising”.   I hope that I can encourage and inspire her to turn a tragedy into a triumph.  I like to think that my brother is watching over us with pride and awe.  His legacy will not die with us, he lives on in this story and in our acts of kindness.  

Please visit www.girlrising.com to learn more about the girls and the film.  You can locate the closest screening or email them to help organize a screening in your area.  We are presently working to organization another screening in Lexington, Kentucky, and if you would like further information please feel free to contact me.    

You can also visit www.girlup.org to learn more about one of the films impact partners the United Nations Foundation Girl Up campaign. Inspired by this post?  Get involved with the Global Mom Relay which helps to benefit Girl Up and several other UN Foundation campaigns including www.shotatlife.org

“Inspire a girl and change her world.”  

Happy Witty Wednesday,
XOXO
~Jess 

People you admire..

asouthernmother
January 23, 2013

I saw a post on twitter earlier asking who you admired and why.  I occasionally get amused at some of the responses.  The response is often something similar to asking a 5 year old what they want to be when they grow up… There is one person I admire above others.  She never had a drivers license, carried a paddle with her everywhere she went, never traveled out of the country and rarely out of the state, she was known to be stubborn and contrary, but she was one of the wisest, kindest, and loving women I have ever been blessed to know.  Her name was Rose Garland Cole and she was my great grandmother.                                                                                                                                                

She was born on September 26, 1911 to Perry and Ida Townsley Garland.  She had several siblings who were equally talented and amazing, three brothers James, Beckham, and Charles Garland, and one sister Etta Garland Bargo.  If I am correct all of the siblings attended and graduated from college, several of them working in education.  My great grandmother graduated from Union College in 1933.  Amazing, huh?  Most women weren’t even dreaming of college in that era.  I would have loved to have known and befriended her back then, I can only imagine what a feisty and spitfire woman she was.  She started work at a very small school in Cole’s Branch, Kentucky which is in rural Southeastern Kentucky.  She met and eventually married my great grandfather, Delmar Cole.  They had two handsome sons Earl and Freddie, along with a daughter Ruby Lenore who died shortly after birth.   She continued teaching following the birth of her sons, working their modest farm, and being very active in their local church.

She walked to school most mornings, and impacted countless lives in our small town.  One morning while walking to school she was struck by a drunk driver and thrown into a ditch.  It fractured both of her femurs, did significant damage to her knees, and nearly crippled her.  She never gave up.  Her injuries would have been hard to overcome with modern medicine, and she survived this many years ago.  She eventually required bilateral knee replacements, and the constant use of a brace and walker to get around.  Even after the death of my great grandfather, she lived and managed their farm alone.  I can remember as a small child helping her work in the garden, can tomatoes for the cellar, canning jam, or making her famous peanut butter fudge.  I can also remember having a brush or two with her infamous paddle.  I have been approached by many of her former students who told tales of how they encountered the same paddle many years before me.  
Dewitt School 1950-51
She taught me about life, sewing, hard work, love, and education.  When I had to be home schooled because I was in a wheelchair, she taught me multiplication tables and made me french fries.  We worked on quilting and made my senior Halloween costume, Alice in Wonderland.  She encouraged me to travel and see the world that she never got to see.  She loved me unconditionally and never missed an opportunity to remind me of that.  I am a better person because I knew her.  
The summer after my freshman year of college I was staying with her.  She lived in a small white farmhouse just past the Dewitt bridge. The house had no central heating, so we relied on air conditioners and heaters to manage summer and winter. One year, the A/C system broke so I had to find someone that offered Air Conditioning Repair before the house overheated. I was so worried about her, especially in winter. Her house was always so cold. Luckily that summer the A/C was fixed really quickly, but I was still worried about her. The last memory I had of her was telling me goodnight and closing the curtain to her room. My Mamaw Cole was a creature of habit, much like I am now.  She was always up, sitting in her chair at about 6 am, prepared to watch everyone leave for the day.  I got up at about 7am to use to the restroom, I never realized her chair was empty or the erie silence in the house until I sat down.  My heart began to race with panic.  I screamed her name and ran through the house.  My world came to a screeching halt.  I found her eyes wide open, laid halfway off her bed, unable to move or call for help.  She had a massive stroke.  I have always questioned if she tried calling for help and I couldn’t hear her for the air conditioning.  I laid sobbing at her bedside until the ambulance arrived to pick her up.  There wasn’t anything that could be done other than wait on nature to take its course.  On September 11, 2001 while the nation was mourning an incredible loss, I mourned the most incredible loss of my life.  

Mrs. Rose Garland Cole with one of her many school classes 
I wish that everyone could have someone like her to admire.  She was incredible in every way and the world was a better place because she lived.  She was my great grandmother, but she was also one of my closest friends and biggest supporter.  I have spent too long focusing on how I failed her instead of how I could please her.  I hope she is proud of the woman I am, and she knows that every day I am trying to be better than the day before.  Her life is a testament to never giving up and overcoming whatever obstacles may be thrown her way.  She stood out in a crowd and was well ahead of her time. She is my inspiration, and I still miss and think of her daily over 10 years later.  
Who do you admire and why?  We should choose those people carefully.  Don’t raise your children to admire star athletes or movie stars.  Teach them the meaning of a real hero, or better yet show them with your own actions and deeds. 
XOXO
~Jessica