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Excerpt for The i'Mpossible Project—Lemonade Stand: Volume II by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



The i’Mpossible Project: Lemonade Stand, Volume II

A Special Edition

Joshua Rivedal

20 Authors

Skookum Hill Publishing 2019

Thematic Editor: Joshua Rivedal

Cover Design: Armend Meha

Book Layout: Joshua Rivedal

Copyright © 2019 by Joshua Rivedal

ISBN 978-1-7336276-1-0

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. If you would like to do any of the above, please seek permission first by contacting josh@iampossibleproject.com

The i’Mpossible Project: Lemonade Stand, Volume II (A Special Edition)/ Joshua Rivedal.





Table of Contents

Introduction: Joshua Rivedal

Finding My Light

- Tamar Sher

Rising from the Ashes

- Ahsera’t Baldwin

** a letter to let

- Darius L. Watkins, BBA

Body Under Construction. Mind on a Mission.

- Teddy Leo

Hope

- Emily Wisti

When Foundations Fail

- Jonathan Woody

umttr…No, Really, You Do

- Sivan Shilo

Unapologetically Me, Unapologetically Black

- Sydny Rivers

The “Perfect” Lunch

- Jared Fenton

But She Looks So Normal

- Lezlie D. Culver

I’m Okay

- Kara Stokke

Accessibility Matters. Bust the Stigma

- Kevin Dalfonso

Viet-Aus-American Girl: World Citizen

- Celestie Nguyen

Learning to Dance in the Rain

- Jillian Bailey

Miss Daisy

- Danya O’Nan

Starving for Self-Love

- Nicole Hmatkowsky

A Smile for All Seasons

- Kyle DeGood

Surviving Myself

- Landon Dickeson, MS, NCC

From Illness to Purpose

- Kurt Morris

Peaks and Valleys

- Steven Amazeen

Your i’Mpossible Story

Author Biographies

Also by Joshua Rivedal

Everything Happens for a—Blah, Blah; Yeah, Right… Kinda

Joshua Rivedal

lemonade | ˌleməˈnād | : Webster’s Dictionary defines lemonade as… yeah, actually, we’re not going to do that “traditional” definition here. We’re going to do a l’il something different with lemons and lemonade in this book.

I’m going to assume you’re familiar with the analogy, “life got difficult at some point,” and “I took that difficult experience, a lemon, and turned it into lemonade.” The point being you took something sour and turned it into something (bitter)sweet.

Life is hard. And if you’re fortunate, you’ll only have to learn or create one recipe for lemonade.

A lot has happened in my life since our last volume of Lemonade Stand was released. The abridged version: there was the tragic homicide of someone close to me, multiple crisis situations, and the loss of several relationships that I loved and valued.

After losing a parent to suicide, being in crisis myself after losing that parent, taking care of a loved one with cancer (who thankfully survived); I thought my lemonade-making days were over. But over these past two years, I’ve had to learn multiple new recipes, and I had to figure out a way to make it all—and fast.

Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately, depending on how you look at it), that’s the way life is sometimes. And as a result of learning these new recipes, I’ve found the capacity to create deeper and more meaningful relationships, cultivate self-love and acceptance, and discovered the ability to find beauty in even the tiniest of crevices.

“But, Josh,” you say, “Don’t you see: everything happens for a reason.”

And to that I say, “Shut yer face, yo.” I have a strong dislike for this phrase. Tell that to the parent who just lost their two-year-old to lymphoma. Everything does happen for a reason—but only if we choose it.

Back in late 2017, I got to be a co-author on a journal research paper based on some of the stories in the first three i’Mpossible books. The subject matter dealt with the trajectory of the survivor of suicide loss, and my co-author (who also did the heavy lifting on this paper) was and is my dear friend, colleague, and homie-extraordinaire, Regina Praetorius, Ph.D. who also happens to be the head of the Bachelor of Social Work department at the University of Texas at Arlington (#namedrop). In our research, we found that those who lost someone to suicide who had the healthiest trajectory were the ones who decided to make meaning of their loss (by starting a support group to help others, by creating a non-profit foundation, by using their experience to make sure no one in their community every felt worthless and alone). Essentially, we found that everything happens for a reason, if we CHOOSE it.

Quick tangent: one of my biggest pet peeves is hearing about someone going through a difficult time and then learning that a well-meaning loved one qualifies the difficult experience with, “everything happens for a reason.” That statement marginalizes that person’s pain.

“Everything happens for a reason,” doesn’t give enough context to the experience and is either a statement of faith or a statement of choice. If you have faith then you can either rest in that faith and be comforted or rest in that faith, be comforted, and move forward with some kind of action. If it’s a choice, then one can move forward with action to help themselves heal, to make meaning of the experience by helping others, or both.

In my field (suicide prevention, mental health, social justice, diversity), we talk a lot about encouraging help-seeking behavior. I’m cool with that and I believe in that, but we also need to help people cultivate healthier “help-offering” behavior. Circling back to “everything happens for a reason,” if we encourage someone to reach out for help and they take a risk and do so; and then the helper offers them “everything happens for a reason,” with no context or follow up—guess who might not ask for help ever again?

So, as I stumble down from my soapbox, you might be wondering… just where in the heck are you going with all this, Josh? Can’t we just get to the stories for Pete’s sake? And to that I have two responses, 1) who is Pete? and 2) yes, we can get to the stories.

Like in our last Lemonade Stand book, these are twenty powerful authors with true stories from: historically marginalized communities, a refugee, abuse survivors, … and much more; and in each, the storyteller chose themselves. At some point, they found themselves in a seemingly impossible situation and said, “I’m possible.” Each gathered the lemons life threw at them, concocted their own recipe for lemonade, and they share that with us within these pages.

These stories are no more than 1000 words, but unlike the main i’Mpossible book series, Lemonade Stand has no specific theme (our first main series i’Mpossible book had a diversity theme and our second had a mental illness theme).

Read Lemonade Stand: Volume II in order, out of order, backward, forward, or upside down (I dare you)—and feel free to pass it along. #sharingiscaring

Without further ado, I present to you the twenty marvelous, fantastic, splendiferous authors in The I’Mpossible Project’s Lemonade Stand: Volume II.

Finding My Light

Tamar Sher

Home isn’t just an inhabitable structure, but a place where one feels comfortable being their true self. I was fortunate enough to grow up in two homes. One is my home of nineteen years in St. Louis, Missouri and the other is in Zionsville, Indiana at a small Jewish summer camp, Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI). GUCI is the community that helped shape who I am and formed my Jewish identity.

As a kid, I never thought being Jewish would have as much of an impact on my life as it has. I always felt I was just going through the motions of a modern Jewish teen without understanding the significance of my actions. I participated in Hebrew school, became a Bat Mitzvah, and travelled to Israel, all of which enhanced my love for Judaism, but it wasn’t until I found camp that my strong Jewish identity took form. The immense feeling of acceptance within the community at GUCI made me feel like I mattered.

Sadly, my self-confidence faded as I transitioned from the place I felt most comfortable into the small high school I attended. By my peers and teachers, I was recognized for being an involved student and someone who thrived on creating strong relationships. What I chose to hide from them was that I felt trapped in a group of “friends” that didn’t allow me to be myself. Instead of the confident young woman I wanted to be, I was too timid to speak my mind and had trouble believing in myself.

For the first years of high school, I enjoyed being part of the group because I shared many similarities with the girls including a passion for school spirit and a dedication to our studies; however, my feelings changed as I entered my senior year. I started to notice how terribly they spoke of others as well as how often they would criticize me and shut me down whenever I showed interest in something.

Because their discussions were centered on hate-filled gossip, I often had trouble contributing to conversations. One of the only subjects I felt comfortable speaking about was the place I felt most content—camp. I truly believed if I could brush off their judgements and choose to speak of my own happiness, instead of others, I would be in the clear of any bullying. Sadly, I was wrong.

Senior year, the group was no better than the Mean Girl posse Tina Fey brought to Hollywood. Fueled by social media, the entire school district knew of the private Instagram account where three of my “friends” from the group created anti-Semitic, hateful posts about me. One post said, “If Tamar and *anonymous* don’t stop talking about Jewish stuff, I’m going to stab myself in the neck with my fucking pencil.” Another showed a picture of me with my brothers and our family friends captioned, “#fuckallthesejews.”

Once I found out about the account, I became anxious and began suffering through panic attacks. My sight would dim and my body would go numb as I went over the situation in my head, wondering if I had done anything to deserve this torture. In response to the posts, families in the district who felt a personal connection created an uproar, which caused the school to react by suspending the three perpetrators. I was relieved to find I wasn’t alone in my horror, but I still had to work hard to regain self-confidence.

Though traumatic, the most important part of my story is not the event itself, but how I was able to overcome it and grow stronger. While it took me a while to come to peace with the situation, it was my family within my two homes who brought me to the realization that my kindness could outshine their hatred. Although I’d never want to relive the situation, in a way my life changed for the better because it allowed me to get rid of the negative people in my life, giving me the opportunity to start focusing on the people who uplift me.

Once this realization took form, I persevered and used the incident as an opportunity for growth. I did not mimic their awful behavior, nor did I speak of the situation ad nauseum, but instead learned to forgive and move on from the situation by staying true to myself. With that mindset, I am now not only a much more confident individual, but I am empowered.

As I entered college at Indiana University, I grew immensely. In only a few months, I stopped doubting my ability to succeed and began taking advantage of opportunities. To satisfy my love for making connections and being supportive of others, I joined a sorority and am involved in IU’s Health and Well-being committee, where I’ve found my voice as an advocate for positive mental health. I am also pursuing my passion for journalism by writing for the university’s newspaper and reporting for both Big Ten Network Student U and IU Student Television.

With the energy I gained from my ambitious attitude, I found the courage to approach one of the creators of the Instagram account. Although my goal was not to mend the friendship, I wanted to be the mature person. I was able to find it in my heart to forgive, knowing it was the right thing to do.

It was in that moment I learned to accept that every person faces obstacles in life that force them to make the choice to either dwell or grow. Those who can persevere through their own dark times and come out stronger are people who can make this world a better place. So, I will strive to continue to be the indestructible individual who can overcome barriers and stay true to myself in the face of adversity.

Rising from the Ashes

Ahsera’t Baldwin

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosis that has followed me around since I was seven-years-old. I never truly understood what the diagnosis meant, or how it affected me until June 16th, 2017—the day that changed everything.

At work, I fainted and began having chest pains; none of which were abnormal to me since I have a minor heart condition and a family history of heart disease. However, when I got to the hospital and they began running tests, all of them came back negative. For the next two weeks I lost vision and was extremely disoriented after another stent in the hospital and numerous tests also came back negative. It was soon brought to my attention that severe medical illnesses can be caused by stress or by a trauma.

On January 18th, 2016 I was sexually assaulted in my home. This was the second sexual assault I experienced in my lifetime. Out of all the trauma I experienced—the physical abuse when I was seven, being sexually assaulted at fifteen, being in an emotionally abusive relationship throughout my teens, to my mother passing suddenly when I was eighteen—being sexually assaulted again at twenty affected me the most because he was someone I knew. I felt hurt, betrayed, and disgusted by his actions. He was someone I trusted and considered a friend. He came to my home under the guise that he needed help and friendly advice. But that night, he held me down and refused to take no for an answer. I believed that over time if I didn’t talk about what happened, then it would just go away, and I could forget.

However, that wasn’t the case and I had nightmares for weeks. I wasn’t able to sleep, and I became isolated. I started engaging in risky behaviors to numb the pain. I thought I was managing everything just fine, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t see that my pain was manifesting in other ways. I fainted every month for four months after the attack. And five months after the attack, I was diagnosed with an illness that was tied to the attack and was treated for it. After the diagnoses, the fainting spells increased to once a week. I then thought that I could run from my pain, so I moved to another school across the state to start over. Again, I thought that I could just forget about everything and move on. But I continued to isolate myself and have violent outbursts. This continued for a year until June 16th, 2017, after the two-week medical scare and a summer full of doctor visits and test results that didn’t show anything.

I decided to make a change after learning that all the symptoms that I had been experiencing were due to stress and my trauma. I learned that because I didn’t process my trauma and instead bottled up my emotions, my pain showed in my paranoia, my lack of sleep, my constant need to be the best at everything, my health, my relationships with family, and with my significant other. June 16th, 2017 was the day I found out what the diagnosis of PTSD is and what it does to a person if left untreated. It eats you alive from the inside and it makes you unable to process emotions properly. You think you are managing just fine but then you look back and realize that it took over your life.

After making this connection, I decided to act and found a therapist that specializes in trauma. After nine months of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, I can now walk into a place without looking over my shoulder. I can process my emotions effectively and have processed all the trauma I experienced. I have a sense of clarity that I have never had before along with being able to effectively communicate with my friends and family. I have learned a great deal from my experience and have been made stronger by them. I learned that I am not alone in the emotions I felt, and that it’s okay to be vulnerable. I learned that I can go to hell and back and come out on the other side stronger than I went in and for that I am grateful. I know I have a long road ahead of me before I am symptom-free, but with all that, I’ve learned that the sky’s the limit.

** a letter to let

Darius Watkins, BBA

Growing up l remember hearing all the “bad” things about Detroit, Michigan on different news publications. As if they knew exactly what it is like growing up here!?! Sorry, I got off track. Lol. It’s hard not to let myself not take some things seriously. But it’s a practice worth developing! Detroit is a great, diverse place with all its community projects, food drives, GOOD FOOD, and kind people willing to help as best they know how. I could never understand the disdain people would speak about Detroit; I just knew it was home. A good home most times and sometimes not so good, however, I let my environment shape me the best way it could until I realized growth was the next step.

My actual home for me was at my Grandmother’s in Detroit’s lower East side. Once a thriving area in the midst of the industrial revolution, the tail-end of the 1980’s brought crack-cocaine to my community and ravaged it. Pretty soon, neighbors started passing away and homes started to become abandoned in part to the systemic effects of substance use. Either people moved because of crime, losing their job, or died because of addiction. Through all of those rough times, the only thing that remained is a sense of pride in the community and my sense of community started with me letting my Grandmother in my heart. Now 76, she’s been the de-facto mother of that community for longer than I can remember. No matter how much things around her faltered, she continued to pour herself into the people of the community and more importantly her family.

At an early age, subconsciously, I knew what was wrong or right and things that were out of my control (as most of us do). Growing up with a single mother, I sought out male role models to make sense of things I did not yet understand or for validation that what I was saying and doing was right. At the time, I didn’t know how their actions would shape the community, which would shape my actions, which would shape my future. Looking back, they were role models in a sense of how I can better myself, not emulate. Oddly enough, the environment I grew up in only reaffirmed not letting what I came from and what I couldn’t control define who I am and who I will be in the future. This was an eleven-year-old with this kind of determination! Lol. It was around this time I met one of the people that I let change my life, Mr. Doug Ross.

Mr. Ross was this old white guy. Old not like old, old—but old enough. He was forty-five or fifty around this time. Cool as ever and really passionate about helping people in the neighborhoods of Detroit. He created University Preparatory Academy and University Prep High School and I let these schools have a hand in helping to shape me. I let myself meet some amazing classmates, and advisors, and teachers—two strong women in particular: Michelle White and Krystal Muhammad. They gave me space to let myself learn how to instill confidence in both my abilities and shortcomings and taught me that there is nothing wrong with letting myself ask for help. They taught me what maturity is and what it looks like, as well as positive ways of dealing with life’s downs, and in healthy ways, maintaining its ups. I went on to let myself attend and graduate from college in 2011 and work in the community. I also did some pretty amazing things outside of work, including letting myself design clothing for New York Fashion Week, traveling the world, writing amazing songs that reached and touched people all over the world, and appear in commercials!

Nothing is possible if you don’t LET yourself explore the possibilities of life. Things will happen that you cannot control, you’ll fail, nothing will ever go perfectly. In fact, you may experience things in life that are absolutely horrible, as I did. Remember you always have this choiceto LET yourself grow from the moments in life where times are extremely hard and not have them define you and choose what will define you. Or you can LET yourself stay in those tough moments, knowing that more tough times are indeed coming. The more those tough times pile, the harder it is to overcome and the more likely it is that you are not going to let yourself explore all that life has to offer!


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