Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Stronger, Faster, Smarter: A Guide To Your Most Powerful Body

To start a new 2017 year, I thought I would begin with a new book that means ALOT to me. While this book may be about fitness; it also gets personal. It is a story about how injustice in the judicial system is and how this man powered through to make this time in his life MATTER. A time not to be wasted, but to learn. Here is the story of his skill, technique, education & ULTIMATELY his story of being wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn't commit from the man himself; Ryan William Ferguson.

"God asks no man whether he will accept life. That is not the choice. You must take it. The only choice is how." Henry Ward Beecher

Ryan came of age within the confines of a maximum-security prison for a crime he did NOT commit. In total, he lost nearly an ENTIRE decade of his life. Ryan's life was changed on March 10, 2004. That was the date he was arrested for murder. Over that last decade, Ryan experienced more setbacks & defeats than most people experience in an ENTIRE lifetime. After seeing the inner workings of the United States justice system at its very worst and how the truth comes second to a conviction; Ryan never gave up. Ryan endlessly fought to prove his innocence. Once he was convicted, Ryan was face with 2 choices: fight or flight.

Ryan himself was a 19-yr-old kid who had never been in trouble with the law and had suddenly found himself locked up in a county jail and later in a maximum-security prison. After the initial panic subsided and having to face this new reality of a possible life sentence staring down at him, the only thing Ryan knew how to do was fight. FIGHT for his future. FIGHT for his life. FIGHT for his mind, his body and MOST IMPORTANTLY his innocence. Ryan had to find a way. More than that, he had to find his way. His way through the stresses, the pain and the fear in order to make himself tougher.

Ryan endured many tribulations & trials that could have destroyed his will. That was NOT him. With overwhelming fact and family support, Ryan refused to let someone get away with something he did NOT do. As time went on, media attention drew cause for the case which was featured on several news correspondence programs; such as 48 Hours.

It all began on Halloween night 2001. At around 2:10A., the sports editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune; Kent Heitholt, had logged off of his computer and left his office in Missouri. Within minutes, Kent was savagely attacked and murdered next to his car in the parking lot. A murder that had shocked the community. Sitting in the empty parking lot was Heitholt's colleague, Michael Boyd. Boyd claimed they had spoken briefly and then drove away around 2:20A. Heitholt, whom was 6'3/315 LBS, was struck from behind his head multiple times and strangled with his own belt. Nothing of value was stolen from him; aside from possibly an inexpensive watch and his car keys.

The first people on the scene were 2 janitors. One of them had gone out for a break and observed 2 figures behind Heitholt's car. As suspicion mounted, one retraced their steps and called on their co-worker, Jerry Trump. They had peered out into the parking lot but couldn't see anything. Finally, Trump called out and 2 men stepped from behind the car. The man at the rear of the car called out for help before calmly rejoining the other man and walking away. Jerry Trump's co-worker, Shawna Ornt, had gotten a good look at the man, including his face, before leaving the scene and called 911 at 2:26A. Later that night, Shawna Ornt helped police create a composite drawing of the man who had spoken to her. Police seen her as the "sole witness". Jerry was also questioned. After telling police & later others, he couldn't identify or give a detailed description of the individuals. Meanwhile, Boyd, the last known person to see Kent Heitholt alive, was briefly questioned by the police and was never investigated as a potential suspect.

Investigators discovered a trail of hair, blood & fingerprints at the crime scene. There were 2 sets of footprints leading away from the scene. A police K-9 unit tracked the scent from those shoe prints to a University Of Missouri dorm. The authorities printed a trove of evidence. The Tribune printed an article in hopes of gaining information about the unsolved murder. The article displayed the sketch that Shawna Ornt assisted investigators with and urged the community to speak up for information.

The Columbia P.D. were eager to crack the case that facts became secondary. A lead arrived in the form of a newspaper article by a reader of it. Charles Erickson, a high school friend of Ryan's, seen the composite sketch and thought it vaguely resembled him/Charles. He then appeared to have a dream that he was involved in the murder. On account of these "images", Erickson aired his dreams/fears to his friends; including Ryan. Needless to say, Ryan clearly remembered that Halloween night he & Erickson had been at a local bar called By George. They left at closing time. Ryan then drove him home and then drove himself home. Although it didn't make sense, Erickson's story was taken seriously by one friend who reported the dream to the police. Following that trip, for which there was a $10,000 reward, Erickson was picked up for questioning in March 2004. Erickson had no actual independent knowledge of the crime. He didn't know what the murder weapon was, how many times Kent Heitholt had been struck, or even where the murder had taken place. And those images from his dreams . . . . NOT ONE of them fit the actual crime scene. Nevertheless the police, desperate to clear up a high-profile cold case, proceeded to coerce and spoon-fed Erickson key unique details about the crime. Now, here is where Ryan comes in.

That morning in March, right outside of Kansas City, Missouri, was like any other day for Ryan. He was attending History class at Maple Woods Community College. The only thing on his mind was the next exam. There were no worries. Ryan had a decent job, good friends, an amazing family and a bright future. All was going well until Ryan left class and was heading home. On the way there, 2 huge guys were riding up on Ryan in an SUV on his bumper. He thought at first is was assholes on the road. Nothing new. Once the lane he was in went from one-into-two, Ryan was being stared down as they passed. He soon turned off to the parking lot of his apartment. When he put the car in park; that SUV was blocking him, therein Ryan's life would NEVER BE THE SAME! (This is something I can personally relate to! While it wasn't a legal action; it was severely medical. It all began in January of 2000. When the kids were back in school, I, on the other hand, was taken down a different road in the 8TH grade at 15-yrs-old. I was born with medical problems from the start. In 8TH grade, I was already on C.A.P.D. - dialysis done at home. When I was on a machine called The Cycler to be given more dialysis fluid to be needed, problems arose shortly after Christmas break. Problems arose with The Cycler. Problems came one-after-another to where I had to spend 5 months IN-AND-OUT of Riley Hospital For Children. Therein spending the ages between 15-30 on hemodialysis and at Indiana University (I.U.) Hospital. Thankfully, I was blessed with a transplant in 2015. From there, life for me personally whilest on dialysis was & has never been the same. Seeing the world COMPLETELY DIFFERENT then I had back then. Those years in a hospital + years on dialysis being raised around ADULTS at a young age FOREVER CHANGED my life and has NEVER BEEN THE SAME!)

These people that Ryan had never seen before proceeded to treat him like dirt under their shoes, rushing at him screaming "F.B.I." telling him not to move. From the arrest, to locking him in a car handcuffed with no explanation, to randomly stripping every right Ryan had, things were becoming intense. Ryan didn't know what to make of it. He even thought he was being arrested for a recent bomb threat at their school. Ryan had NO IDEA what was going on. He was just COMPLETELY & TOTALLY LOST! Within an hour, Ryan found himself in an interrogation room. He had told the police time & time again, over multiple hours of redundant questioning, that yes, Ryan had been at the By George bar with Erickson on 10-31-2001. Stating the obvious, he was there, but had left around 1:30A when the establishment closed. Ryan told the police repeatedly how he'd driven Erickson home on Halloween night 2001. He had driven Erickson home, before Ryan had driven himself home. These were the FACTS and Ryan never wavered from them.

Meanwhile, while doing what he could to help, these same police were doing what they could to wring a confession; right, wrong or indifferent; from Erickson. Erickson had no personal knowledge of Heitholt's murder, he had stated multiple times that he blacked out and didn't know what happened after leaving the bar, police didn't seem to care. After many grueling hours of threats & lies from detectives, Erickson cracked under the pressure. Thinking the police were being straight with him, Erickson told them what they wanted to hear. Over the following months, as Prosecutor Kevin Crane charged them both with murder, Erickson's statement slowly evolved, changing 3x aided by "discovery", which contained fabricated police reports bolstering Erickson's supposed guilt with an exhaustive source of details about this crime, Erickson came to believe his dreams were true that he & Ryan had murdered Heitholt in a robbery gone wrong. Due to this false belief, the fear must've been they committed this crime. Erickson panicked and agreed to a plea deal that would frame Ryan for a crime he had NOTHING to do with and leave Erickson with a lesser sentence.

From the time of Ryan's arrest in March 2004 until his trial in October 2005, Ryan found himself trapped inside the county jail. The judge that sentenced him, the "Honorable" Judge Ellen Roper, chose to ignore the "excessive bail shall not be required" part of the Constitution and gave Ryan one for $20 million. The largest of its kind in history. They would soon find it to be the first of many indications that those within the justice system simply not hold their colleagues responsible for its actions. NONE of the DNA evidence at the scene matched neither Charles or Ryan; there was NO motive. NO criminal record. The REALITY was that there was, and would remain, ZERO evidence connecting Ryan to this case. After multiple coaching sessions in prosecutor Kevin Crane's office, the Charles Erickson they seen in court was a new man. Confident & assured in his testimony. Taking the stand and pointing Ryan out as being responsible for the murder of Kent Heitholt. It was still far from being an open-and-shut case.

Ryan's attorney barely fought back. Partially due to poor preparation for trial; a sad reality that plays out way too often and not all evidence was given to fight this case to begin with, which is an illegal action. It tends to happen in a vast of innocent cases. Nevertheless, Prosecutor Kevin Crane had a new "star witness" to place Erickson & Ryan at the scene: janitor Jerry Trump. Trump had previously stated he didn't see/identify anyone at the scene, he now identified Ryan in front of the jury as the man he seen the night of the murder. Prosecutor Kevin Crane made the choice NOT to ask Shawna Ornt if she could identify Ryan as being there. Shawna Ornt, the sole witness, later testified in a 2008 evidentiary hearing that she met with Crane 3x prior to Ryan's trial. Her testimony stated that she told Crane numerous times that the men she seen that night were neither Erickson nor Ryan. Not enough for Ryan's "attorney" or the jury.

After hearing 5 days of evidence, coinciding with Ryan's 21ST birthday, the jury went into deliberations. Hours later, they had come back with a verdict. Ryan was found guilty of 1ST Degree Robbery and 2ND Degree Murder. Ryan was sentenced to 40 years in prison. (Happy 21ST birthday!) Where Ryan was going was worse than county jail. NO! Instead it would be place Ryan NEVER expected to be: State Prison. Ryan was shocked, betrayed, scared, lost . . . .you name it, Ryan was feeling it. A flood of emotions you attempt to avoid in life. Ryan felt powerless whilest those in charge of his sentence held the key. It left Ryan with so many questions. This, thankfully, was not the end of his journey. Incensed by the jury's verdict and knowing Ryan was innocent, the Ferguson family made it their mission to uncover as much evidence as possible to prove Ryan's case.

Bill & Ryan; Father & Son
Ryan & Kathleen
Ryan's dad, Bill Ferguson, eventually uncovered a shocking series of facts that would help prove the NON-BASIS of Ryan's arrest & conviction. Following Ryan's conviction in 2008, he was back in court several times over the years in a series of hopeless appeals & denials. Judges didn't want to stand out among their colleagues. So, Ryan sat in prison for years while officials lived a high-life. Continuing throughout many years of appeals, even though 2 prosecuting witnesses testified & admitted to perjury, NO physical evidence to link Ryan to Heitholt's murder and the "sole witness" to the crime stated Ryan was not the person they seen in the parking lot. A few months before his trial. in October 2008, the media began to take an interest in Ryan's case. Over the years, 3 major news magazine shows ended up highlighting Ryan's family's extraordinary efforts & their attention that would prove invaluable in securing Ryan's eventual release. CBS' 48 Hours & NBC's Dateline each ended up airing 4 episodes on the absurdity of this case. Later, ABC's Nightline also aired 2 detailed segments & other media interviews. Beyond that, there were countless newspaper articles & posts written about Ryan's struggles and his family's.

All of the media attention eventually attracted the interest of prominent defense attorney Kathleen Zellner. An extremely well-respected lawyer who focuses on appealing wrongful convictions. Kathleen's brilliance & incredible work ethic was essential for the fight to come. In the fall of 2009, Kathleen & her legal team met with Ryan and his family, examined the evidence and realized there had indeed been a miscarriage of justice. They had taken Ryan's case pro-bono, no expenses and worked tirelessly to prove Ryan's innocence. Shortly after they had come on board, an incredible break occurred in this case. Out of the blue, Ryan had received unexpected good news. In November 2009, Charles Erickson had decided to come clean in a handwritten statement admitting he lied under oath at trial! Finally! After years of attempting to prove the obvious to a bunch of courts unwilling to listen to the evidence, the truth would reveal itself. Ryan was still a bit afright since he knew how these courts operated. A hellish journey would soon come to its long-awaited conclusion. After seeing the way this went and the evidence to back it up, For the first time in years, Ryan began to dream again. Later on, things began to look even more promising.

Ryan's defense team ended up speaking with the other witness, Jerry Trump, who confessed to lying during his trial testimony under pressure from the prosecution. A classic scenario for the state's to drum up false testimony and pressure "witnesses" for their  "story" that places shots to kill the defense. When Erickson & Trump took the stand at Ryan's habeas corpus hearing in April 2012 and admitted to their lying, they were subjected to perjury. NEVER HAPPENING BEFORE in an American courtroom during a habeas corpus. How else do you describe a moment like this in a case built on nothing but words? This was IT! Ryan's time had come, vindication had begun! It was a watershed moment in his case. Or so it seemed. . .

6 months later, almost to the day of the anniversary of Kent Heitholt's murder, Judge Daniel Green denied Ryan's appeal, stating that Trump's trial testimony had no weight in the jury's verdict and that Erickson's habeaus testimony was "unreliable". Green had confused quite a few facts of Ryan's case, not to mention Missouri law. He misstated a witness's testimony of where Ryan's car was parked at the By George nightclub in his 2012 findings. An intentional attempt to alter the facts. How could a man given the responsibility to determine the course of another's ENTIRE future not even take the time to get the facts STRAIGHT?

ALL of Ryan's hopes & dreams for the future were soon gone. Taken away in an instant. It looked like Ryan's future would soon turned to be that of the only person in the United States to still be imprisoned with ABSOLUTELY NO evidence and with the only alleged eyewitnesses, whose testimony was key in Ryan's conviction, recanting in open court. Nonetheless, they fought. On January 31, 2013, Ryan's attorney filed a petition requesting a writ of habeas corpus from the Western District Court Of Appeals challenging the judge's ruling. Ryan's faith had began to wain in Missouri courts. Even with no evidence and the only "witnesses" of this case recanting the Missouri attorney general, opposing the petition seen it as a "waste of judicial resources". Even at this point, justice didn't exist. No matter how much evidence, facts or proof, they weren't listening. They didn't care.

At this point, Ryan almost lost hope & faith. Chances were Ryan would spend the next 30 years listening to his cellmate snore as he attempted to sleep while an officer was shining a light into his eyes. On September 10, 2013. Ryan's case was heard in front of the Western District Court Of Appeals. Ryan wasn't there but everyone else he knew and cared about was. A huge day with all media flying down. A crazy time in Ryan's life. He anxiously awaited in his cell on what/how things happened. It was so surreal. Ryan even wrote a post on Facebook about it, one of the many that would highlight his thoughts and feelings at the time. Ryan had NO access to the Internet the time in prison. He would recite a post his girlfriend over the phone, so she could type it in her phone then post it on Facebook.

Later that day, Ryan received an ecstatic phone call from Kathleen Zellner saying that things had gone great. Better than she had ever hoped! Ryan felt nothing. Maybe fear, sadness or bewilderment; certainly not joy. Even as Ryan was able to speak to all those he loved & cared about, his emotions never changed. After losing faith, hope never existed. " Let me tell you something. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane." - Lloyd Ellis "Red" Redding from the Stephen King book & film The Shawshank Redemption.

After a couple of months went by, on November 5, 2013, after spending 9 years & 8 months behind bars, the Western District Court Of Appeals panel of judges ruled. It finally happened. Ryan's conviction was successfully overturned! A week later, on November 12, 2013, Ryan was unexpectedly released. He was a free man for the first time in nearly 10 years. Chris Koster, the same attorney general who 9 months earlier; stated it being a waste, decided not to retry or pursue further legal action against Ryan. Justice had finally won! Beginning his hell at 19 with his arrest and released less than a month after Ryan's 24TH birthday. A TOTAL of 9 years, 8 months & 2 days in prison were taken and robbed of Ryan for a murder he had NO involvement in.

While high school friends went off to college, graduated, pursued careers married and had children; Ryan was behind bars. He had missed the college experience, friends' weddings, other celebrations and even his own grandmother's funeral. While everyone else was moving on, Ryan remained falsely imprisoned. This is something I can personally understand & truly relate to due to MANY YEARS of surgeries and hospitalizations. My position is that you miss out on those experiences. Your life is never the same. Therefore, herein this book is about Ryan's journey in prison and his experiences as ONE of the MANY WRONGFUL convictions in the legal system.

Through the days of mental oppression and the physical hell of those first few years, Ryan somehow managed to find a balance and was able to maintain most of his sanity. Staying focused and learning what he has along the way, Ryan emerged from prison after 10 years not just unbroken but also stronger physically & mentally than he ever had possible. Ryan did NOT give up hope, and he was not going to let the Missouri justice system define him. While in prison, he exercised his mind & body daily. Ryan went to the physical extreme & fed his body with knowledge. For his last 6 years in prison, Ryan even worked as a tutor 3 days/week helping other inmates study for their GED. Helping others is what kept him going. GROWTH. NOTHING! stopped him! Whatever he faced, Ryan found a way to become better.

As a 19-yr-old man in prison for a crime he didn't commit, Ryan faced a very simple choice: FIGHT OR FLIGHT. Truth-telling, Ryan could either try to run & hide from the potential horrors that faced him in prison. Ryan chose to SURVIVE! To face his fears. To stand tall, back to the wall and, fight for himself. Ryan chose the latter. At a certain point, when does your decision take flight? Get healthy & exercise; or sit there, whine & bitch about weight and ingest MOUNDS of cheese and fatty foods? That was the decision Ryan had to make. They were life or death. This was about the only choice out of the few he had left. This was something the legal system could NOT take away from him. A SHRED OF DIGNITY! Early on in his incarceration, Ryan decided he was going to stand his ground. He was going to fight. Not just for his sanity or survival, but also areas that could cause him harm. Ryan wanted to walk out of prison still maintaining all his major bodily functions. Ryan was SCARED AS ALL HELL!

Walking through the jail, Ryan couldn't show his emotions. If necessary, he'd take an ass-whopping or 2 to let them know he was more trouble than he was worth. He knew wounds would heal and bruises would go away, but once you took your tail & run, the scars from permanent isolation would never subside. If he fled, he wouldn't be free. Ryan figured to just take the ass-whopping. He went in and earned his respect. That was until Ryan got his ass-whooped! Ryan's first call to his father, Bill, was one he'll NEVER FORGET upon entering the prison population. The advice Bill gave was truly taken to heart. Since your workout options in prison are limited, you have to make the best of what you've got. At first, Ryan was placed in county jail, which he and his family were unaware, was far different from prison. He thought once you were locked up; you're locked up. County jail would be the holding until conviction; then you're placed in prison.

During Ryan's 19 months in the county lockup, he discovered the HARSH REALITY of innocent until proven guilty was a mythical farce. County jail was pure hell! Ryan was trapped with 7 slightly psychotic men inside a concrete box smaller than people's homes. He literally stepped foot outside TWICE in his first year. He never missed an opportunity either. The good thing about human beings in that we adapt. For Ryan, he LITERALLY had no choice. The floor became his bench press. The stairs were his pull-up bar. The mat he slept on was his sit-up station and, a plastic coffee jug was his curl bar. A little patch of enclosed concrete he shared with his new friends was not only his living room, kitchen, dining area and bedroom, it was also his gym. For nearly 2 years, this was all Ryan had. Nothing more. Nothing less. He just reminded himself .  .  .  . things could be worse.

It was Ryan's time in county that he developed his "rudimentary calisthenics" program. He found a way to make it work with what he had. You can still be healthy and in shape no matter where you are in life. Whatever your circumstances. Upon entering prison for the first time, Ryan had one goal . . . TO GET BIG! County jail is where Ryan spent the first 19 months of his incarceration. From his arrest to his trial. The reason Ryan didn't ever bail out is because he never had a legitimate chance to bail out. It also meant no chance to get health/dental help; working to support himself, and having the opportunity to research attorneys, while still being accused. The standard reason for all of this  . . . . the astonishing $20 million bail, by far the largest of its kind historically, that was Judge Ellen Roper who issued it.

Going from the county jail to prison is like the difference between community theater and Broadway. The seasoned veterans of the penitentiary game were the REAL DEAL! Once inside, you face the REALITY of prison life. Your life can be FOREVER altered in the blink of an eye. Ryan's first memory of such an event in prison was one he'll NEVER FORGET. He described it as the passive form of physical dominance. Ryan seen multiple people get stabbed over less than $50.00 of bad dope they weren't willing to for + jaws broken over cutting in the chow lunch line. The worst of it was when Ryan had to listen to a man get the FUCK beat out of him while screaming for help. They were locked down all day in "the hole" and this duologue was their only form of communication. NO ONE is SAFE IN PRISON and ONLY the STRONG SURVIVE! These words applied to Ryan's very existence, his survival and his life. Then it became Ryan's turn.

Ryan had NO CHOICE but to fight. It's who he is and who he'll always be. His only problem was . . . . he can't fight. On top of that, these guys weren't only BIG, but bad and dangerous. After Ryan caught a glimpse of the weights in prison, he was ecstatic. Ryan was small and seen these weights as a ray of hope. No one could help him and the weights offered him POWER! Now, he needed to know how to use them before time ran out.

Ryan figured "How difficult could this be?" He was young and athletic, so he figured all he needed to do was hit the gym. He would be in super-tight shape before he knew it. Ryan attempted weight lifting for a month while in college, but . . . .  Ryan went to with zero plans of action. He would push himself to excel. As the days & weeks slowly rolled by without too frightening an incident, Ryan enjoyed a few slight gains, but with little result. Therein, Ryan learned the most important lesson in weight training; BRAINS! For almost 2 years, Ryan was on lockdown 24hrs/day at the county jail. During this time, Ryan educated himself on such things as politics, vocabulary & literature with great success. Ryan KNEW it was time to get smart about his body. So, Ryan decided to focus on what he had left - mind & muscle. A decision that FOREVER altered Ryan's life in numerous ways. Knowledge is the golden ticket. Knowledge only becomes power when it's ACTUALLY USED! We can ALWAYS learn more and we can ALWAYS be better.

In the fall of 2005, after almost 2 years of being locked away from his family, it was time for the next stage of Ryan's physical development. Getting big in a hurry. His life depended on it. In prison, it's life or death. One day, Ryan was preparing to go to the gym when he became clear of a CODE RED of HIGH ALERT. Cops were running, lights were flashing, and C.O.'s were yelling for inmates to lock down immediately! This lock down was different from the rest and Ryan didn't know what to make of it. 2 1/2 hours later, with no word of what's going on, everything was fine . . . .sort of. It was 6:30p and Ryan was due to be at work tutoring other inmates. Something he greatly enjoyed volunteering for as it helped others attain their GED's. There was a night where Ryan didn't want to go. He didn't want to leave his cell. Things had felt a bit off. Spooky. (In a way where you can tell something within the atmosphere is off, but you can't pinpoint it.) On Ryan's way at school upon arrival, a brutal murder had supposedly occurred in the house next to his, Six House. The murderer had beaten his cellmate to near death and stuffed his body under a bunk to die a lonely, terrifying, slow and painful death. Ryan's immediate thought was that it could've been him. Scaring him several times it could've. Six House was bad, but Seven House was worse. Toward the end of his imprisonment, Ryan worked hard to get to Five House and even harder to stay there.

Ryan had to endure a yearlong intense program where his life was essentially under the control of the administrators. They marched, went to classes and group sessions from 5A-9P w/ 5 minutes to shower and follow rules. The living situation hadn't always been at option. Years earlier, Ryan was forced to share a tiny cell in obscenely oppressive housing units with a bizarre mix of random psychopaths; everyone from carjackers-to-robbers-to-merciless killers. The reality is, as long as you're stuck in prison, you just never know what'll happen next. With inmates, Ryan's cell bunkies' environment was peacekeeping. Needless to say, Ryan had to make many frustrating changes. Ryan made adjustments for himself to "not rock the boat". While inside, Ryan's choices were limited/slim. The silver lining to the situation, if there was one, was that Ryan's cellmate worked out hard, and knowing this helped motivate Ryan do the same. He had to. Ryan seen his best interest was to "keep up". Keeping up his dedication to fitness. The only help he had was himself.

Staring in the mirror at his image, all he could think of was the mental image of his skinny physique. So, Ryan ate more. He worked out and hit the books. Ryan came to realize much of his time spent in the gym was quite useless. His breakthrough when he learned about compound moves.

When Ryan first arrived at prison, cardio was of little concern to him. He needed size, not health, and running around burning the few calories Ryan could attain was not in his best interest. Early on, Ryan avoided cardio at all costs. Unfortunately, he soon reached a point in prison where Ryan couldn't just keep eating and gaining weight, no matter how much he might've wanted to. His body just couldn't take it any longer. After a few years of navigation through the world, Ryan felt a bit safer from the various predators that lurked, largely due to his increased size and the knowledge he gained from prison experience. At the same time, Ryan was also slower, lazier and lacking the energy necessary to keep up with the torments of prison life. Ryan had to find a balance. This is where cardio entered his life.

Fortunately for Ryan, as his waistline grew, so did his reputation. He was big and was generally accepted by the tougher crowd in prison. A blessing. People didn't really know what to think of him. He was focused, educated, quiet & covered in muscle. While he was grateful, every moment Ryan felt things could go south at any time. He was petrified he'd mess up and Ryan's true, slightly less brave colors would be on full display. He dreaded what the result would be once this secret was out. Having reached the apex of his accumulation of mass, Ryan realized it was time to begin the process of turning his body into something useful. At this particular point in time, Ryan had an incredibly important hearing coming up and larger media opportunities were looming.

While giving interviews is not something Ryan enjoys or is really comfortable with, he basically had no choice. As far as he was concerned, since the courts were no longer interested in seeking justice, and these TV shows would provide some level of accountability and bring awareness to the masses. He had to stand up for himself, put himself out there, and beg for people to look at the facts. Contrary to popular belief, they never initiated contact with programs such as 48 Hours & Dateline. Although Ryan greatly respects these shows; professionalism and their work, their work was outline of what they were going through. This wasn't some interview for fun; this was Ryan's life he was fighting for.

So, Ryan ran. The entire time he focused on his survival. He thought about how he would look and come across to a judgmental TV audience. It was these thoughts that kept Ryan going when he thought of quitting. He began to build little momentum in his training. His stamina improved and showing results in exercise. For the first time in his life, Ryan could actually claim to be a runner. Pushing himself and working hard separated him from the herd. Having finally battled and conquered cardio, Ryan felt on top of the world. With all things in place, Ryan was a machine! Then a week before and going into the cold months, Ryan severely sprained his ankle in a game of pickup basketball, effectively knocking him out of commission for 4 months. For 3-out-of-4 months, Ryan couldn't even walk. He was crushed. Leaving Ryan to feel What If?

Ryan began to give up thinking it was over. He began to give up. Then he was HIT with inspiration after thinking and using his brain. When one door opens, another one opens. He used his education from training to get back in action. High-Intensity-Training. Bike riding, jogging; etc. Ryan's favorite is a stationary bike. The more active your lifestyle, the better off you'll be both mentally & physically.

Looking back into his life, Ryan was pretty fortunate when it came to his food intake. While his family wasn't too concerned with a "healthy diet" or healthy living, they just lucked into eating a relatively well-balanced diet. His mom insisted on cooking; but the food Ryan grew up on was great and his body was appreciative. Eating out was expensive and Ryan's mom wasn't going for it. Why spend money on something you can get at home? Things changed when Ryan left home for college and his personal diet began to slip. As do many college kids at 18, it's take out and Ramen Noodles. By 19, Ryan began to find a few healthy alternatives and was rapidly learning the hows and whats of enlightened eating habits. Things were coming together and Ryan's body was on track for incredible growth. He was amazed with how much it changed just with knowledge. Then Ryan's diet had taken a drastic turn for the worse. His arrest changed the way Ryan would eat in a bad way for the next 10 years.

The meals he had to eat in prison were similar to those given in an elementary school cafeteria. A setting where you NEVER get full. As an adult, those were what Ryan had. (Working with what you've got at your disposalFortunately, there were occasional bits of relief. The only supplements he could attain was from commissary. Quieting the growl in the empty pit of your stomach. This was how Ryan's life played out for nearly 2 years. While waiting for his eventual trial, Ryan's life was defined by the battle to scrounge up enough food to get by day-to-day. This was a new reality. The most oppressive, life-draining environment Ryan would endure during his hellish 10 years in the Missouri judicial system. No choices, no options. NOTHING!

Ryan & 48 Hours' Erin Moriarty
The first opportunity Ryan had to buy REAL food in nearly 2 years after leaving county jail and entering the prison system was one Ryan will NEVER FORGET! It was on Tuesday, December 10TH. He had arrived at the prison diagnostic center with NOT a penny to his name. He was told that the commissary would be open on Thursday morning. You were only able to go once a week. If you missed it, you were screwed for a week and had to suffer. Luckily, someone let Ryan use their phone time and he called his dad, Bill. While things don't happen overnight, Bill sent his son money IMMEDIATELY! A GRATEFUL Ryan would NEVER FORGET this quick response. 36 hours later and it was his housing unit's turn for the trip. Coincidentally, and unbeknownst to Ryan, CBS' 48 Hours had showed up at the same time. He wasn't ready. While Erin Moriarty and the 48 Hours team were Ryan's only help and he is GRATEFUL, he couldn't be of use to them unless he helped himself first. Thankfully, it all came together.

Ryan's cellmate gave him a razor. He had exactly 5 minutes to do his business where he promptly cut his lip, then he was on his way. He would be able to go back to commissary after his interview, which Ryan found out he had as much money as he came in with. Not the start Ryan was hoping for. After the interview was over, it occurred to Ryan to check is account one last time. At first, the C.O. was reluctant to check, but after a seemingly endless wait for the technological screen refresh updates, Ryan had up to $200 in his account! After going without for so long, Ryan couldn't help but splurge.

After being deprived for so long and taking FULL advantage with donuts, coffee, cigarettes, soups & a summer sausage; needless to say, Ryan ate like a fiend, smoked & drank coffee for 3 days STRAIGHT! For the next couple of years, that's how Ryan ate. To worsen matters, Ryan accelerated this unhealthy diet in the misguided hope that, along w/ rigorous workouts, he might become large enough to scare away potential predators. Along the way, Ryan's continued reading & education taught him he HAD to get his diet back on track. As his thinking began to shift and choosing to be big & lean, Ryan had to reeducate himself and get health conscious. Not knowing where to start, Ryan began by learning about nutrition labels on the back of typical everyday products. The more he read, the more he learned and Ryan's whole diet quickly shifted. Changing his own diet had a profound effect on his body and truly separated him from the herd. In less than a year, Ryan was more shredded and had built much more mass that even the BIGGEST bad asses began going to Ryan for pointers.

When you're in prison, you lack many essential nutrients and suffer from a severe lack of protein. Since rest periods in prison were unavailable, Ryan often found himself sleeping up to 15hrs a day. Ryan spent many of his waking hours reading, playing chess, or catching up on the news, and, obviously, working out. But, even exercise proved challenging at times. When you live in an oppressive cage devoid of sunlight, nutrition or even an adequate supply of clean clothes, it can be hard to scrounge up the necessary motivation to hit the weights. Nonetheless, as Ryan's workouts progressed, along with his exercise education, so did Ryan's understanding of the human body. Rest in of itself is ESSENTIAL for your body & muscles to recover. His first foray in the world of supplements was in 2006.  After being formally introduced to penitentiary workouts, Ryan soon realized that if his efforts were breaking down on his muscles, protein was essential in building them back up. Ryan had to embark on a journey to find his own protein source: BEEF! It was available in prison, it had the protein for what he found valuable. It was also a good excuse to spend money on something Ryan would've otherwise considered a luxury. After 2 years of this taking a toll on Ryan's body; Ryan packed on muscle.

Ryan is someone who is and always has and always will be on the move. As a kid, he loved recess and couldn't wait to go out and play. The minute those doors opened, Ryan was gone like a shot. ANY sport; you name it. Ryan was game. Sitting on the sidelines with the "cool" kids made him feel out of place. Ryan seen those who had the best and they didn't do anything w/ it. They would talk to girls. Ryan didn't have time; due to being on the move. Unfortunately, being in prison kind of took him back to his school days, and not in a good way. At school, Ryan often couldn't wait for the doors to open between classes. In prison, he often found himself waiting for the doors to open, but to a less inviting world. When you're out on the yard/recess, it's essential to keep moving. If you're listless and lazy in prison, it's CERTAIN that the predators will eventually make your acquaintance. Not good. You could become another lost, helpless victim. You could help; but that doesn't work. Ryan decided to stay in perpetual motion. He felt like a child playing peekaboo. It worked for Ryan most of the time.

Since he didn't hide and rarely hung out in groups, Ryan was viewed very much as an individual as his own man. Being who he wanted to be proved to be both a blessing and a curse.  After awhile, people had gotten the message. You're overlooked as the miles of chain-linked fence that surrounded the prison. As the years played, Ryan just kept on moving and never stopped. People knew Ryan didn't like to be bothered, and if anyone wanted to talk, they had to keep up the pace with Ryan. He had to keep moving. It was a survival tactic; but it also helped his physical lifestyle. 2 birds. 1 stone. Whether you're in prison or outside in the world, you just keep moving. In fact, most of this book was written standing up! He wrote most of his first draft while still in prison and 90% of it was written while standing by his book. It got him off his ass and made it easier for him to pace a few steps every now & then. Continuous movement is essential in our lives. GET UP & KEEP MOVING!

As Ryan would fight to achieve a body that would help keep him safe & alive during his near decade in prison, it was his last 2 years of incarceration that would prove most productive. He did develop a rock-solid foundation and through education, slowly became aware of his time and energies were best spent on. What took Ryan was believing in himself and the program he developed. Committing to consistency. Leaving his preconceived notions at the door had given Ryan a wide range of ideas, methods & philosophies that have improved his quality of life as well as made his training significantly more efficient. Research and doing homework. Looking into this phenomenon, Ryan learned about up-and-coming into the sport of bodybuilding. Needless to say, it amazed him of the YEARS of dedication, patience & understanding. After 2 years of consistency, Ryan is feeling better about himself than he ever has before. He became and is a NEW man because of one small change. He SHOWED UP! He is in his plan to be CONSISTENT. DO the WORK!

Life in prison for Ryan was a series of "highs" if you can call them that and "lows" affecting his mental state on a daily basis. Of his relatively 3 decades at this time on Earth, moments of inaction are the only ones Ryan TRULY REGRETS! Boiling down to points of insecurity. Once he changed how he felt about the possibilities of not succeeding on his first try, Ryan's life changed! The last 10 years of Ryan's life have been in many ways a nightmare. But, he can CONFIDENTLY take with him the KNOWLEDGE that he left prison stronger, faster & stronger than he ever dreamed. He made that happen. Ryan WILLED himself into EXISTENCE! Once you taste SUCCESS. apply those skills in other areas of your life and keep going. Believe in yourself and take action!

While the scars from his past are fresher & deeper than he is able to contemplate, Ryan still does and feels he has much to offer the world. He is NOT a number. He is Ryan William Ferguson. A man DETERMINED to leave this world BETTER than he came into it. Through AWARENESS, ACTION & EDUCATION, all things are possible.

As of this book's publication, Ryan has ventured onto a NEW project that helps inmates in similar situations that he's previously been in and paying it forward by helping wrongfully convicted inmates PROVE their INNOCENCE, along with law student at the time, Eva Naggaro, on the MTV REALity Docu-series; Unlocking The Truth.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

End Of 2016

To those whom read, follow or check out my blog, I just wanted to send out a thank you for what you've read and/or commented on. It is TRULY VALUED & APPRECIATED! I just wanted to say that this 2016 year hasn't always been the best, but I have tried to keep up the basis of books that I hope others view exciting as well. I hope those that do read and/or follow my blog will continue to check this out within this new 2017 year and I will concede to educate with stories and lives of people whom have influenced me as I hope they influence you.

Thank You for checking out and/or following this blog. More will be shown and read soon. Hope you will check this out for the new year.

I would like to dedicate this year's blog in HONOR of 2 LEGENDS. Ones that have TRULY enriched & influenced my life. Thank You to these ICONS in more ways than one.

                                       In the Honors Of Carrie Frances Fisher and 
                              her beloved mother, Mary Francis "Debbie" Reynolds

   Mary Francis "Debbie" Reynolds


Friday, November 25, 2016

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say!: 7 Simple Strategies to Help Our Children Along The Path to Purpose and Possibility

For this next book, I thought I would acquire some justice with a heart. This next book is NOT a parenting guide, but it is an example. An example of the wayward REAL life TRUTH facing kids/teens. While this book is a front-row perspective and does get personal with her, it also gets into the stories of her own professional life, so here is her story from Your Honor herself, Judge Glenda Hatchett.

When Glenda was growing up, she leaned a whole lot from her own parents about the kind of parent she wanted to be; continuing to learn in her own follow-your-heart, go-with-your-gut, on-the-job training as a mother. Her father used to speak about the crossroads in a young life; what avenue were they going down that her father called New Hope Road. What we don't understand as a child, we GET as an adult. An opportunity arises to make change.

Glenda had always wanted children. After much anticipation and prayer, she was blessed with 2 wonderful sons. Loving and maturing them into 2 men who would make the world better. In the last conversation with her father, Glenda promised him she would care for his grandsons. It was customary for her father to send Glenda off with a charge; a new and refreshing outlook regarding his grandchildren. Somewhat poetic to be of his last words from a father to his daughter. Glenda has tried to keep this promise.

In a world of uncertainty, one thing is CERTAIN. No mother is certain about what she's doing when she first has children. Glenda wasn't clear, but she KNEW one thing -give her kids a goal; something to shoot for, a path that allows them to realize and ACTUALIZE their dreams. Glenda set the bar for herself to set an example. A notion she received from her own parents, who nurtured their sons and daughter, Glenda, to reach beyond their circumstances. For every positive Glenda received at home, the world threw a negative. The world had enough negativity. When Glenda became a parent herself, she had to level the playing field. When it comes to 2 boys, Glenda refused to hear outsiders opinions. From the beginning, Glenda turned a deaf ear from it. There's hearing the outside world then there's listening to them. Better to aim high and push their child high above & beyond their easy targets. In cliche, their is truth.

Glenda could never accept allowing her children the wiggle room to play down to expectations. She never gave her children the ability to have an easy out. Play up to what would be a challenge. Face it head-on rather than runaway. Glenda was always amazed by parents who EXPECTED their child to fail with very little from their kids. "You're from around here and this is our life. You don't need anything else." Parents give out this direction and then are surprised when kids follow suit. You are who you hang with. You can't be surprised by what you put out there. Then there are the kids who become the exception. They surpass and accomplish with NO help AT ALL! They deserve the utmost kudos. When Glenda hears of these accomplishments, she catches herself marveling and her hat goes off to them for doing it on their own.

When it comes to OVER-THE-TOP PROUD parent moments, you see the child that you PROUDLY raised. Your work reflected when your child shines. When you child publicly thanks you for their belief in them, it's validation. A piece of you shines through them. Expect the BEST from those you love and to offer your BEST in return. In Glenda's courtroom that we've seen through the small screen there was evidence of children being raised with no expectations AT ALL! In juvenile court, Glenda got the quick habit of telling kids who came before her there was a dream out there. There is no cap on dreaming. Encourage your child to SEE THEIR dream. NOT yours; but theirs.

Both of Glenda's parents grew up in small towns in the deep South. Her father, Paul, was from Georgia, and her mother, Clemmie, was from South Carolina. Both were capable of becoming anything they wanted to be. Clemmie dreamed of being a pediatrician and Paul dreamed the dreams of entrepreneur; although he barely voiced them. But, the REALITY was of a deep segregated South, only 2 generations removed from the Emancipation Proclamation. Instead of a pediatrician, Clemmie became a teacher and later an assistant high school principal truly dedicated to her students. Even though her father had done graduate work to his MBA, he worked for the United States Post Office. Ultimately after federal legislation forced open doors, Paul was promoted to positions in federal agencies, eventually retiring from the Dept. Of Labor.

As a child, Glenda knew what it was to be counted out before being counted in. She encountered racism by the white kids in town. Glenda knew of the taunts and inequities of that time and place. Her parents taught her to rise above them. Her mother gave her the "sticks/stones". Glenda's father taught her to carve her own path. Within the segregated South, it was an entire operation of hand-me-downs/secondhand. Although encountering many talented & inspiring teachers over-the-years, but in first grade all Glenda knew was boredom. Clemmie had taught Glenda to read before starting school. Glenda was advanced by the time she began school. In school without resources, Glenda was bored our of her mind.

Things began to change midway through Glenda's first grade. Light arose and darkened again when passed down books were torn and ripped making Glenda unable to learn due to the racism of the South. Her father, Paul, gave Glenda a way to learn where the school wasn't able. When you get to places in life's book that have been torn by injustice you can't stop; you must rewrite those broken passages and create your own story in your own words and time. In hard times,  you learn a lesson to remember. SAY WHAT YOU MEAN and MEAN WHAT YOU SAY! Clarity and consistency are all-important communication tools. There are consequences to every exchange we have with our children. Those moments when we show & teach our kids how fortunate they are as to those whom aren't. Donating what you've outgrown. Sometimes it takes a child to bring a little clarity to a parent's atmosphere.

Parents need to be firm and focused. Stick with their rules and NOT let your child slide. If trouble havoc arises, DON'T give them a pass. Glenda was never confused by Paul's ground rules, and he was never lax in enforcing them. If her dad gave a curfew, Glenda was meant to keep it; down to the minute. No excuses. With her own kids, Glenda had some retooling to do. After hearing of her son, Charlie's, viewpoint; not troublesome and reasonable, Glenda was able to SEE his opinion on an interim basis. Her younger son, Chris, is a different story. Parenting styles must remain fluid. Adapt to different situations, different environments and remain focused on the mission at hand. Rather than go back and give, having your child EARN what they want want is both pride on both parts. A sense you will NEVER FORGET as a parent/child. An INVALUABLE lesson. Kids are designed to test the limits and it's up to the parents to stay FIRM on STRUCTURE! Otherwise, if you constantly give in; you ALWAYS will and you've lost the battle. BE CLEAR in what you expect and be CONSISTENT. Otherwise, you'll be in a room you/your child weren't prepared for.

Glenda never thought she'd be a judge. A lawyer, yes . . . . but one whom kept her opinions open. They didn't have money when Glenda was growing up. Their family was rich in other ways that they could be. A last that was essential. They weren't allowed to attach REAL prospects to their dreams. Glenda's younger brothers, Paul & Kolen, were enormously blessed with parents who taught them to trust in themselves and in their circumstances. Believing that race or gender was in no way problematic. They weren't a curse; but a blessing. They taught Glenda to use these situations to her benefit. From time-to-time that confidence was shaken by the racism & dividends of the South. In a fundamental way, this taught Glenda to keep her options open and stick to how she was raised.

Judge Horace Ward
Glenda was never the sort to be denied easily, this was especially so in choosing a career. As a young lawyer graduating from Emory Law School, Glenda's goal was to open the biggest door with the widest range  of opportunity, perhaps one that has never been opened before. Glenda was determined that door would be a coveted clerkship in federal district court. She never meant to be a judge; but she was meant to work for one - especially for Judge Horace Ward. Glenda was meant to cut her own road, and as far as she knew that was alongside Judge Ward. While others thought Glenda was crazy for this road, she was working in this position opened ALOT of doors for her. Her tack for this job was seen with a different eye. And as it so happened. When others were fleeing their positions due to new politics, Glenda was already on-board to be taken on as a clerk in federal court; learning the job on-site rather than her counterparts. At the age of 26, Glenda sat there and was overcome due to being in a place where HISTORY was abound. Glenda was becoming the FIRST black federal district clerk EVER in the states history. NEVER again would racial history be an issue while Glenda was a judge pursuing her dreams.

Glenda's first week on the bench was one she'll never forget. She was brand-new enough to the juvenile court system that the slightest jolt to her sense of humanity & fairness could send her reeling. You don't get used to a child being done wrong. What Glenda was so far off her everyday experience that she could've asked for directions and still wind-up lost. It was an experience where you mentally bring your work home at the end of the day. You could be doing your daily work at home but what you seen previously in the day didn't ever leave you. Life was around you and you're stuck. The power in this was a routine ritual. Open eyes. Open hearts.

Even if Glenda had planned to be a judge, she didn't fit the profile one would expect from a judge. She didn't think she had the disposition for it. What a judge is to display in this courtroom, it didn't fit Glenda's personality. When she did finally ascend to the bench, Glenda had to sit on her hands for a couple of weeks to keep herself from objecting! She would think of what she would do when she was an attorney. She would think of what better action these attorney's she would do better. She did that for the longest time.

When it came time to move on from federal district court, Glenda took a job in the legal department at Delta Air Lines trying cases. It was the perfect job at the perfect time in Glenda's young career. She was married and they were starting a family. Everything was on the rise. A perfect balance for a working mom. Easy transition between the 2. Things went on this way for 6-7 years; good mostly; although over time Glenda's marriage began to fall apart. When your personal life goes to hell, your professional life excels. While the position at Delta became a job to do; it became the job of her dreams. Glenda became the highest-ranking woman of color at Delta with a mentor who would become president and C.E.O. of the company. And then the world changed with Delta's dual plane crash. Glenda was the one in the front deflecting charges from the company and in doing so, she had become one of the public faces of a major airline at a time of profound & stressful crisis. Due to the way Glenda tackled and got the job done; she was asked to join their PR and crisis management team full-time, on a permanent basis. Becoming very interesting.

With Glenda's great legal education and thoroughgoing background in litigation, she was plugging the holes in their P.R. program. It was a moment of getting things done. Glenda put a spin on the spin control. After she took a call from a family friend, Judge Romae Turner Powell, whom was terminally ill with lung cancer, she wanted Glenda to be her successor. After Judge Powell passed, Glenda still found herself considering the job. While Glenda was seeing this offer, she was considering what she was giving up. What worried Glenda was doing work that MATTERED and made a difference. Mentally Glenda was seeing a pro/con list. She had ended up applying for the position on the very last day submissions were due. Glenda had gotten the job. What stunned those at Delta wasn't the news, it was that Glenda left to become a judge.

At the right time in her life, a judge was one thing; but a juvenile court judge was something completely different. A way to make a difference. Next thing you know Glenda took a field trip to acquaint herself with her new surroundings. To see what she'd gotten herself into. While the job was depressing, at the HEART of the crimes was a CHILD where your HEART is pointed to.

DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU WILL DO! Your word is your bond. Promises are meant to be kept. Glenda's parents without fail ALWAYS kept their word to her and her siblings. Her father was a stickler about it.  Never keeping a promise on the offshore it would be broken. If you say you'll do, then do it. If her father gave his word to be somewhere, he was sure to be there. When Glenda was a child, her father's promising word meant the world to her. She could count on it like clockwork. There's an enormous sense of security that comes with KNOWING you can count on your parents. NO MATTER the situation. Glenda's father was very particular about this one piece of parenting. He didn't want to let his kids down/feel he failed them. His kids were a priority to him in every respect. If he wasn't there, he was clear about it. He had made every effort. Their parents made sure to HONOR the PROMISES Glenda's parents made to their kids.

The great side benefit to all this is that a child is a whole lot less likely to test a parent they know they can count onIf a child realized his parents were constantly failing to live up to their word, he might consider it acceptable to break promises of his own - including the law. Sometimes a single broken promise can set a child reeling. Before Glenda's son Charles was born, she had an idea in her head of the kind of mother she wanted to be. Well, a working mother and throughout her time on the bench she was an advocate for children, working women & related family court issues.

When Glenda was presiding in her TV courtroom, these issues remained front & center; especially when she found herself being pulled into all kinds of directions. Being a parent in Atlanta on top of a taping schedule in New York. There were times when Glenda felt there wasn't enough of her to go around. A mother trying to do and be there for all. No matter the situation. Glenda's youngest son, Chris, was a starter on his BIG high school football team. A moment Glenda wouldn't have missed for the world. As excited Glenda was, she was careful to put all of this into perspective. She knew enough about the entertainment industry to know that at the other end of a long day taping, it might end up on the cutting room floor. Either way, Glenda was arranging to get things done. Problem was the shoot was the day of the game/playoffs. Glenda's producers KNEW to work around her kids' events. She'll work as hard as production wants and do whatever they ask; but at the end of it she is to be a MOM to her sons.

Another part of the reason Glenda was firm on her commitments to her sons is the behavior by her ex-husband - the father of her sons - attended some of her son's events to have a parent root for their sons. When she is there for her sons, it's a proud moment for her as a parent. It's all connected for a parent/child and your word is the thread between the 2. If you keep your word to your kids or if you let them down; they'll always depend on it. There was a period of time after Glenda first took the bench when she questioned whether she could endure the kind of suffering & tragedy that she seen in juvenile court every single day. From time-to-time, Glenda secretly longed for the kind of career she had prior. You begin to wonder if you are/were ever making a difference. If you weren't. what's the point?

All it took was a case that would FOREVER shake anyone to turn her around a month later. A case with a history involving a 2-yr-old boy beaten to death with a stick. A homicide-turned-manslaughter. There are no juries in Georgia's juvenile court system, which meant Glenda was both judge & jury in a case that carried an enormous burden. Pretty soon taking an emotional toll on Glenda herself. Every single day, case after case. It was everything. Sometimes the potholes in our lives don't appear until they're past the point of filling. Glenda often wondered what it truly takes to lay a healthy, nurturing foundation for our children, to smooth the paths to purpose and possibility. What Glenda keeps coming back to is the love and support that comes from a caring, constructive family on a juvenile court, you'll often find a parent whom is so uninterested & uninvolved in their child's upbringing and they wonder how the kid had gone so wrong.

Glenda meant to be there and show support and be present in every sense to her sons. Since both of her sons were in competitive sports, she never wanted for opportunities to show her support. The need to cheer for your children extends far beyond sports and reaches into every aspect of their lives physically & personally. Sometimes a little word/cheer for your kids can mean so much. It all starts in the home. If a child is called upon constant ridicule and disconnect, they believe what they've been told. If they're cheered on,; they encourage to believe in themselves. It should be on a bumper sticker. It's one of the STRONGEST messages we can give our children. It needs to be said, done & showed. If they don't get the positivity at home, they'll find a different message elsewhere. It may sound weird, but one of the best places for cheering and quality time is in the car. The focused atmosphere is what's going on. There's an opportunity to communicate. CHEER ON and MAKE TIME to be PRESENT for your kids.

Sometimes what you think is meaningless fun becomes SERIOUS real quick. A friend rides with a buddy only to discover their in a stolen car or drugs were in the car. When pulled over, the innocent party becomes a victim. Good kids can find themselves in bad trouble due to peer pressure - even with a bad result with devastating or deadly consequences. Every week, or just about, Glenda would hear a joyriding case. ALOT of time it's wrong place; wrong time. You could be in your teens and in trouble. You're arrested and sentenced until age 40 with no prior record. One story bleeds into another with the same lesson to learn. These are a crossroads where we find our best opportunities to communicate with our children. Hopefully, they learn from their peers of their mistakes. You could be a STRAIGHT A on your way to success; one event can turn that around. ALWAYS happening to the BEST!

Money matters whether you believe it or not. When you get to the bottom of almost every juvenile court case; no matter the issue, you'll find money somewhere at or near the bottom line. Therefore, downloading onto our children a clear, value-laden understanding of, familiarity with, and appreciation & respect for money is all-important. It's never to soon to start. Glenda's household was a hands-on approach. Every time they went into a store, or passed a billboard, or an ad on TV, there was something her kids needed right away! When her eldest, Charles, was 11-or-12, she hit on a notion of a clothing budget/allowance. She was teaching them a lesson. Hand them the money they earned and let them manage it - to the extent they could. Twice a year, Glenda supplied the essentials. It was up to them to buy the extras. If they wanted it, it came out of their budget. It forced Glenda's boys to think things through. It was all on them.

As they grew, so did their allowances. In elementary school, she earmarked $300.00 for each of the 2 shopping seasons; in middle school it was raised to $500.00 and in high school up to $800.00; twice a year. After figuring it out, Glenda was ending up ahead of the deal. The choice was up to them. One of the smartest moves Glenda ever made as a parent and life lessons came along with the bargain.

There are times as a parent when it's okay to soften the drawn hard line; just as long as it's NOT CONSTANT! There is a way to stay firm and have wiggle room. When it comes to stories of cases similar to the ones Judge Hatchett has had in her courtroom; just remember this: This could be you! Teaching your children to be responsible about money doesn't end with earning and managing it - they have to learn to invest as well. You can give your child money; but you need to teach them to save rather than run & squander. Sometimes the lessons you teach your kids may not apply as you directed; but they did GET & LEARN the initial teachings you were passing down & more.

Glenda has been spending a lifetime of things on faith; but at the same time she's had her share of uncertainty - but never meant more than when her father passed. Glenda & her father had a wonderful relationship. She's very close to her mother; but she was always closest to her dad. (A daddy's girl) From time-to-time, Glenda would sneak away from the courthouse and join him for lunch back in the home she grew up in. He was able to give his daughter a clear head. Her dad was a reinforcement for courage.When her father died, it became painfully stitched to her soul. Glenda had rushed to be there when he was brought to an ER from her mom. After finding out the info, Glenda couldn't accept that he was dying. Glenda went headlong into a take charge mode. A coping mechanism to somehow fix what you can't. This was a real test to Glenda's faith. A real turning point for Glenda. What honestly turned Glenda's faith around was his funeral.

At the heart, it's the faith we have that propel us forward and our willingness to learn & reach beyond what we ever thought possible. Sometimes you catch a piece of wise council in the unlikeliest of places.