As I welcome 2019, it’s impossible not to reflect on the adventures, challenges, celebrations, laughs, and joy that 2018 brought. As is predictable with every new calendar, I stood alongside my family and friends to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, milestones, graduations — moments I’m always more and more thankful to share with those I love. But 2018 also presented new and exciting challenges and experiences I couldn’t have anticipated.
From the lows of heart wrenching loss of both dear friends and distant role models and rebuilding my community after Hurricane Florence to the highs of watching my sons take strides as young men and seeing myself in a new role as a first time political candidate — 2018 was full of twists and turns.
This time twelve months ago, I decided my “word of the year” going into 2018 would be “rise.” Inspired by Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” I set an intention to rise with such fortitude as she did – above seemingly-impossible challenges, to the demands of motherhood, above the negativity that seems to permeate every facet of our lives, to my passion in advocating for women and their health. On the toughest mornings, facing what could’ve easily been debilitating circumstances, I remembered Angelou’s words: “…still, I rise.”
My work as an advocate for women took a new primary shape this year as I ran my first political campaign for the office of State Senate. I decided it was time to stop pulling proverbial bodies out of the water and head upstream to save them before it’s too late, and that means taking aim at policy. While I didn’t come out on top of the polls, I spent nine months advocating for equality and common sense solutions in education, environmental protection, and of course healthcare. My run was impassioned by the maternal and public health crisis plaguing our supposedly first-world nation.
The intention I set for 2018 seems to have come full circle earlier this month when I announced the refocusing of my company and our mission statement. I have decided to step up my dedication to global maternal health and birth recovery by launching EudeMOMia. This word, my work — describes what I pursue as a working woman, mother of three, wife, & therapist. I want whole health and a purpose-filled life for women around me and around the world, for those who nurture the next generation through blood, sweat, and tears, and do so every day in the face of continued inequality & discrimination in the workplace and healthcare. Empowering women, through their own wellness, functional and integrative care, and self-care. Helping women move from recovery after giving birth, to discovery of their best selves, is the goal of EudeMOMia. I can’t wait to embark on this next chapter in the new year!
I am overwhelmed with thanks for the people who have supported me throughout the year, who have stood alongside me in the most uplifting moments and the most challenging. It is with all of you that I head steadfast into 2019. For now, I invite you to join me in revisiting the past twelve months…
January held the honor of performing in the world premiere of Sing! and The Armed Man, incredible works by an incredible composer, Sir Karl Jenkins at Carnegie Hall. My middle son, William, was even invited backstage by Maestro Griffith and Sir Karl Jenkins to the Maestro Suite before the night’s big performances. We later took a few minutes to soak in the beauty of the New York Public Library. I can’t think of a better way to ring in a new year than with “more music!”
In February I was lucky to join members of our incredible NC Delegation at the APTA conference continuing work to improve access to healthcare services, while also presenting at our CSM (Combined Sections Meeting) on how the voice impacts pelvic health, with colleague and friend Dr. Susan Clinton. Helping others find their voice through sharing mine has been a lifelong pursuit for me – through singing gospel, jazz, blues, soul, and all things Americana. Supported by physical therapy, yoga, and a passionate desire to help others. On another front, I officially announced and declared my candidacy for State Senate, setting an example in democracy as my sons looked on and then sharing my intentions for my campaign through song.
March brought hope through many difference sources of inspiration, young people, young women, activists. When my sons, husband, and myself joined the people of Pamlico County for their March For Our Lives to end violence, I was compelled to speak as an advocate for our children and for the peace of future generations. The same hope for peace was poignant as I spent International Women’s Day with our PYTI Spring Module 8 cohort in the “big pink beach house.”
April marked many firsts in my campaign. Maybe most importantly, my core campaign team met in person for the first time. They remained a source of support and plenty of laughs through months of hard work on the trail. We also saw the first batch (of many!) yard signs go up in bipartisan support of my fight to restore democracy in North Carolina. In the midst of the campaign ramping up, I saw through the last of our PYTI classes with the unbeatable Emerald Isle scenery.
In Eastern North Carolina, May brings humidity and festival season. After enjoying a day celebrating motherhood with the boys who made me “mom,” the campaign was in full swing as we prepared for a last-minute primary. After a nail-biting victory, the boys jumped on the trail and represented the Garner team at Vanceboro’s strawberry festival.
With June came the ritualistic last day of school, and all that entails (having three boys back in the house full-time for three months!) and inspiring causes to fight for across the state. My campaign team and I travelled to Raleigh lobbying for legislators to ratify the ERA and guarantee, in legislation, Equal Rights for women – I’d say it’s about time. I was lucky enough to meet our now-elected North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls who is a force – for women’s rights and social justice in our state and far beyond.
By the time July came around, the campaign was deservedly all-consuming! We were hitting the ground canvassing with volunteers, making phone calls, holding meet and greets, and of course meeting people during Fourth of July parades as pictured. Word on the street is July and August are the toughest campaign months…
As the boys went back to school in August, they also got some extracurricular education through my venture in politics. William in particular stayed engaged in current events as he met Governor Roy Cooper (a few times) when we joined him for a fundraiser to protect our environment with the NC League of Conservation Voters. Meanwhile, I remembered to make time for music as an escape, at a Leon Bridges concert with my Campaign Manager, and as an uplifting centerpiece to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. at the Morehead City MLK Park Dedication Ceremony through singing Up to the Mountain, the words to MLK, Jr’s last sermon.
September brought hard times for our sweet coastal community and beyond. As Hurricane Florence approached the coast we battened down the hatches and prayed for the best. While my family was lucky to be safe and sound, many of my friends and neighbors near and far found themselves displaced, flooded, stranded, and near-hopeless. So we did what we all knew to do as a tight-knit community: came together to help those who needed a hand. Florence’s effects still have a stronghold on much of our community, but the resilience of North Carolinians has shone brightly.
By October, the island was up and running post-Florence just in time to host PYTI’s fall cohorts. I was excited to take time in the midst of campaigning to catch up with our wonderful students and find myself rejuvenated by the energy and sprit that comes with a week in the big pink beach house. One cohort even showed up to hear me participate as a headliner in a locally organized Hurricane Florence Fundraiser. It was a wildly successful evening of music and fundraising, and we were able to donate 100% of proceeds to hurricane victims, totaling more than $10,000.
November brought to close my first political campaign. From voting with my campaign manager, sons, and husband through the last weeks before election day, we hit the pavement with volunteers, spoke with citizens at every event possible, and spread the word that Team Garner was here to fight the good fight. A mere two days after the election loss, I was honored to serve on the panel for United States Committee for UN Women – NC Annual Luncheon held at the NC Executive Mansion. Four of us were invited to speak on the importance of Claiming Our Power as women, took questions from the moderator and audience, and spoke with other community leaders taking an intersectional stand for women in the home and workforce. Later in the month I hosted, alongside my new fellow Board Members at the Carteret County Domestic Violence Prevention Program, the Annual Luncheon & Fashion Show to stop domestic violence in our community. We were able to raise over $30,000 to help battered women and children.
As December brought the year to a close, I brought closure to a few facets of the campaign. My boys and Jeff joined me in taking a chilly ferry ride to Oriental for an opportunity to thank our amazing volunteers and drink a few craft brews, enjoy Carolina Bluegrass, and reminisce over nine months of hard work from all. Before leaving to spend Christmas in the mountains (and all the firework that entails!) with family, I had the honor of celebrating the holiday season in the Executive Mansion alongside Governor Cooper and a host of incredible candidates from across the state.