Posts tagged with "grandchildren"

Heather Ann illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Heather Ann

Dreaming the Impossible and Accomplishing the Unbelievable

Her name is Heather, and she is a statistic. Since the age of sixteen, she has been a statistic due to becoming pregnant with her firstborn son, Zachary. Heather had always believed that she would only be known as that: a teenage mom. She worked hard and graduated high school a semester early to entirely focus on being a full-time mother. Heather then put off college and any thought of childhood dreams because she felt they were unattainable. She worked minimum wage jobs to try and raise her son the best that she could.

Heather’s daughter, Tyanna, came along when she was 21 years old.  In that time, Heather found herself in an unhealthy relationship. She fought hard to pull herself and her children out of the situation; she eventually did. However, she found herself turning to alcohol to cope with the pain she had endured through the years. Alcohol became Heather’s best friend for over a year, and she was faced with losing her children and eventually becoming pregnant with her youngest son, Jaxson. He was her saving grace. An angel sent from above to remind Heather that she was worthy of love and that she was stronger than she had ever known. It took her a few months to get back on her feet for herself and children, but she did it with her head held high.

Fast forward to 2011 where Heather was working as a cashier at Walmart, barely making ends meet for her family. She met her now-husband, Joshua. In 2013, they became a big, blended family with six children. Heather gained three more beautiful children: Emmanuel, Lyric, and Benjamyn. Their children now range in age from ten years old to 22 years old! Also, Heather is a proud grandma to two beautiful grandchildren – Lydia and Jaxton, a.k.a. her Sweetpea and Monkey.

It hasn’t been an easy road, but it has been full of love and memories. Heather’s husband has been the sole provider for their family, sometimes working over sixty hours a week. It was decided that Heather stay at home with the children for many reasons. The most important reason was due to the emotional abandonment that Emmanuel, Lyric, and Ben went through due to their biological mother. Although they have learned coping techniques, it has been a stressful and emotional journey. It was always best for the children if Heather was available at all times for them.

In addition to the chaotic life they live with a large family, Heather’s oldest daughter was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome in 2016, which led to an emergency brain surgery to better Tyanna’s quality of life. This is a lifelong disease with no cure, so there have been quite a few struggles for her to find her new normal. She will never lead a “normal” life; however, she is doing her best to make life fun, and that is all Heather can hope for. Heather also has these health conditions, but they are nowhere as severe as Tyanna’s are. Heather also suffers from a dead talus bone in her ankle, along with two collapsed joints surrounding that ankle. This has contributed to continuing on as a stay-at-home parent as well. Heather’s family is big and unique, but they are full of love, and that’s the best thing she could ask for.

Heather has spent years being unable to provide for her family financially. As a parent to six children, this has always weighed heavily on her. She has watched her husband work from four in the morning to close to midnight in the same shift. He is hardworking and very dedicated to providing for his family. In 2018, Heather decided to start exploring the idea of college. She knew that she wanted to be in something art related. Art has been a coping mechanism throughout life; sketching, painting, and inks are her mediums of choice. She believed that the career she landed with should be something that she loved and would be proud to do. This led Heather to enroll at Independence University to obtain her associate degree in graphic design. This career choice allows Heather to share her art with the world and also contribute to her family.  She has worked hard to keep an impressive grade point average while learning as much as she can about graphic design.

Heather will officially graduate in January 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. She decided after a year into her associate degree that she wanted to pursue her bachelor’s degree. Obtaining this degree would open opportunities for Heather to work within public relations, publishing, and digital media businesses.

Heather had been asked by quite a few people why she wanted to pursue her bachelor’s degree so soon after graduating with an associate degree. Many assumed that she wanted to stay focused on her education; that is true. However, that was not the decision-maker for Heather. This decision comes from a life-changing situation that her family encountered at the beginning of 2020. You see, Heather’s father was taken away from her when she was three years old. She found him again when she was sixteen and had not been away from him since then. Her father, Mike, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS, in March of 2020. This disease has continually cursed her family throughout the years. It has taken her great-grandmother, paternal grandmother, an aunt, an uncle, a distant cousin, and now her father. Heather always doubted that she would be able to attend college and succeed, but Mike was always the voice telling her that she could and that he was so proud of her. Mike was an amazing person and had always been Heather’s biggest cheerleader in life. She has many reasons to continue creating art; however, her passion comes from wanting to pursue more for her family, especially her father. She would love the opportunity to make him proud continually, even though he has been watching her from heaven since November of 2020.

In February of 2021, Heather took a big breath and reached out to Vaughn Lowery, President of 360 Magazine, in hopes of obtaining an internship through the magazine. 360 Magazine stands out from other magazines on many levels. 360 is an edgy fashion, lifestyle, and culture magazine. The founding members have over 30 years of collective experience both as notable talent and uber professionals within fashion, music, art, design, and entertainment. They are an LGBTQIA-friendly publication. Quality art content is the constant goal – No magazine like it is available today, constantly celebrating racial and sexual ambiguous talent and artists. Interning with 360 Magazine was definitely an opportunity she was ready to take on!

The morning Heather interviewed with Vaughn, she was battling the flu that was running its course through her household – she nailed the interview and started the next day! Heather continues to learn every day during her internship and through her classes. She has become increasingly more confident in her illustrations with Vaughn’s guidance. In addition to her internship with the magazine, Heather is also the Communications Director for her school’s AIGA Student group. She was recently nominated and is looking forward to learning her new role within the group!

While Heather stays really busy with art-related things, she really does enjoy doing other things! Her family has five dogs (Beethoven, Duchess, Ruby, Lucky & Alaska) and six cats (Pepper, Chewy, Tom, Jerry, Ebony & Dolly) that fill their home with fur and love. Heather and Josh try to hop on the ps4 a few times a week and play some Warzone. They have always been gamers! They enjoy having game nights, outdoor experiences, and hiking. Her husband is in the process of finishing their home gym – which they are pretty excited about it! Oh, can’t forget reading! Heather has a ton of books that she has bought over the years or have been given to her. She loves being able to curl up and spend an entire day just reading. Music. Music is her saving grace as well! Heather has such a unique playlist(s) – pop, country, r&b, hip-hop, rap… the list could go on!

Heather has a new mantra that she tries to tell herself daily: Keep going until YOU’RE proud. Heather has always doubted herself…but she needs to remember – like many others – that she needs to keep pushing and straighten her crown!

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Family illustrated by Mina Tocalini for 360 MAGAZINE.

I Miss My Grandfather

By DH Cermeno

Relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren is something that families take great pride in and enjoy to immeasurable degrees. Unfortunately, the current quarantine has put many grandparents into situations where they are unable to see their families, and I went through something similar with my own grandfather years ago.  But the difference is that today’s grandparents are doing what they can to ensure they can see their grandchildren once the quarantine is over, just as referenced in this article by Robin Marantz Henig. But that does not mean that the process is not difficult.

I miss my grandfather. He has been gone for almost 40 years but our relationship is one that I have treasured all of my life.  I remember his warmth, his wisdom, and above all his affection. My grandfather introduced me to wonderful things life had to offer such as jazz and the comic genius of Charlie Chaplin. We had our own private jokes which made us laugh and no one else could understand. I found a tremendous amount of comfort going to his house to just enjoy talking and playing together.  Something simple as sharing a bag of M&M’s or a Snickers bar was a treat. And then once we had enough and were tuckered out, I found great comfort falling asleep with him in his recliner as he crooned “Shortnin’ Bread” in my ear. Then my parents had to ruin it by coming to pick me up. 

I will never forget the last time he was in the hospital.  At eleven years old, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t see my beloved “Atun”, as I called him. His immune system was low due to the disease he was fighting and the doctors were hesitant about having too many people visit, especially children. All I know is that I was unable to see my grandfather and in my young mind, it didn’t make sense. All I wanted was to see Atun. In an article by Colleen Temple, I understand exactly how the children referenced feel.  

Daily I kept hearing from my family that Atun was getting better, and that I would be able to see him once he came home.  I held that thought in my head, had tremendous hope and I looked forward to seeing him reclining in his favorite chair.  I started drawing pictures of us together and making cards to show him how much I missed him.  I listened to jazz records that he loved, and I even watched Charlie Chaplin films, and imagined him next to me.  I did get to hear his voice on the phone, but he sounded weak and tired, not as peppy as he always was.  But he reassured me that he would be home soon and what wonderful times still lie ahead of us. I told him I couldn’t wait.

But God had other plans and, one morning, I was awoken by my sister and she and I had our first difficult discussion. She shared the news that Atun was not coming home. I bawled my eyes out. I felt cheated and betrayed. Who was to say that the last time that I saw him prior to his going into the hospital was the last time I would ever see him? 

I am grateful for the fact that I was able to speak with him over the phone to hear his voice.  And as modern technology has evolved, grandkids and their grandparents are able to see each other’s faces through Facetime and other inventions.  However, these means are not a substitute for human contact and the warmth we feel when those we love are close to us.  We miss kisses, long warm hugs, and just the solace of cuddling and sitting next to our family members. 

During these times, we need to hold on to the memories and the times shared to get us through this pandemic.  We don’t know how long this will last and that is the other factor that makes this experience so difficult.  If we had a deadline we could work towards, it might make it easier. But we don’t.  All families are trying to do now to remain healthy so that once the quarantine is lifted, they can be reunited.

Since I haven’t seen my grandfather in years, the memories and experiences I shared with him live in my mind and my heart daily.  It was because of everything he taught me and the love he gave me that I felt compelled to write Coffee and Cedar: Finding Strength From Memories. As difficult times arise and we feel helpless and unsure about what the future holds, we need to look to the teachings of our elders, whether they are either alive or have passed, to help us persevere.  Their wisdom and insight help us overcome hurdles and hard times just as they did.  They build us up, make us feel secure and uncover the confidence and resilience that exist in each of us. Whenever I am met with a challenge, I think of Atun and how he would tell me, “El sol no se tapa con un dedo.” He was telling me that the talent and gifts that I had inside of me were impossible to be denied, no matter what criticism or obstacle came my way. And that gave me confidence and the ability to move forward to pursue my dreams.  Our mentors instilled confidence in us and the strength to overcome anything, and that is what we all need to remember.  This situation will come to an end.  And once it does, we will rejoice and truly take advantage of the time together. But until then, we need to be strong.  Because the more we do to control the pandemic, the sooner we can be reunited. So, remember, hold onto those memories of the past and use them as a way to warm your soul to have hope for many more wonderful times to be shared in the coming months.