Friday, December 23, 2016

Genma Holmes on The Tom Joyner Morning Show 2016

Genma Stringer Holmes, owner of Holmes Pest Control, author, and host of Living Your Best Life Radio will return to Tom Joyner Morning Show's Inside Her Story with Jacque Reid on Friday, December 23, 2016 to talk all things Christmas!

This segment has become a tradition for Ms. Santa who believes in helping others only at Christmas but year round. We will talk to choosing last minute gifts for children that includes hot toys that will not break the bank. Ms. Santa aka Genma also encourage ways giving back, building traditions by serving others and supporting non-profits that have proven track records for making a difference!










Use you time, talent and treasure to help others. Visit www.livingtogivenow.com to support non-profits to serve communities in the Nashville area and beyond. Join Ms. Santa for her 12 Days of Christmas to support Nia House Montessori Christmas Wish List.





Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Reflections from Ms. Santa and Christmas 2016




Reading at a school in 2015

For many years now, I have worn a Christmas Suit to visit daycares and elementary schools filled with "wee ones" as Ms. Santa. When my son became a Marine nearly eight years ago, my visited expanded to military families and the veteran communities. My two months as Ms. Santa schedule expanded to several months a year to accommodate families who have love ones deployed. I learned that many families delayed Christmas celebrations until dad, mom, sister or brother were back home safely. Christmas was when they returned and not only in December. I have been called often to meet a member at the airport with the family to say welcome home and "Merry Christmas."

Members of the Air Force dinning with me at Monell's.

www.livingtogivenow.com
Precious #AO

My Ms. Santa's duties are pretty simple, bring love and joy. Love and joy have included toys, items needed and wanted, and most importantly, ears that hear and listen. Being in character is not an act to me, I take my role seriously. Over the years, I have heard requests from children and the young at heart that have made me roar with laughter. I have shared special moments like handing first time grandparents their "new gift" wrapped in a Christmas blanket. I will always cherish witnessing the look on their faces. Every member of the military I have welcomed home, face is chiseled into my memory and every child who only wanted their dad or mom home from battle names are written on my heart. Those requests remind of the time when all I wanted for Christmas was my Marine home. Photo after photo, conversation after conversation, preps me for the wonder and awe of the New Year to come.

Me and my hero, my son.

 With each year, I have learned to expect the unexpected and be prepared to bring comfort to hurting children and families. In 2008, the economic crises and hardship heaped on families were etched in the faces of children. Instead of asking for the new hot toy of the year, little ones remarked about who was jobless in the family. Many children did not ask for a toy but wanted a toy for their younger sibling. My heart ached as I heard one story after another from wee ones about the financial woes of the adults in their lives.

Grace Eaton Child Care in 2009

 In 2012, the tragedy of Sandy Hook landed in Ms. Santa's lap. A deranged gunman's actions had shaken the country to its core when he slaughter babies at an elementary school. Five and six year olds asked for bullet proof vests and back packs. A few wanted the vests for their dolls and action figures!  I remember several asking me to teach them how to fight a bad guy.  As I hugged each one to reassure them that they were loved and everything would be okay, I fought for control of my emotions. I gave out more hugs than toys the final days before Christmas that year.




Bullet proof vests for children.
This year, the tone and tenor of 2016 made its way to my ears and pierced my heart. In November, dolls in pantsuits were hot items. As a matter of fact,  many little girls wanted pantsuits not only for themselves, but for mom and grandmas. Baseball caps were in high demand as much as trucks by the boys. As much as those requests made me smile knowingly, there were some requests that made me winch with pain. A little Latina angel confided in me that she did not want her Nana to be taken away from her. When I asked where was Nana going, she said, "I do not know but every one is saying on TV she has to go back."  A hug was all I could muster in reply as I looked into her big brown eyes filled with worry. Children should not be worrying about life at five!

One encounter with a child left me bewildered and wondering what will 2017 bring. As I was winding down school parties, I visited a school at the request of a teacher I have known for years. It was my first visit to her school. I brought my winning bag of age appropriate goodies that were engaging; my Santas from around world that I have collected over the years along with my favorite Christmas books that I love to read that are as unique  as my Santas. When I entered the room, parents and grandparents were in tow to help celebrate the end of the semester and the start of the holiday break. As I set up my Santas, the children gathered around me with "oohs" and "aahs" that I have come to expect. Several wee ones stared at me with bright smiles that are given to Santas worldwide. As I counted enough ornaments to give away to the fast growing crowd around me, I noticed a family in the back with a child who was not sitting with the others around me. After I sat in the big chair after the teacher introduced Ms. Santa, I talked about my Santas from various countries and read several Christmas stories. After reading to the class, I asked about their holiday celebrations that included Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa ventures. I gave out Christmas cards for the children to sign for those who were less fortunate. While some students were signing cards, others stood in line to have their picture taken with me.

Ms. Santa picture by Martin O'Connor
 At the exact same time, the child who stayed in back with her family, inched her way towards me. Once she stood near my chair, she looked back over her shoulder at her family and then turned back to me and blurted out loudly, "You are not Santa Claus. You are Black. Santa Claus is White like my Grandpa!" She then turned back to her family who seemed to beam with prided at her bold declaration. But the other children gasped with shock. A hush hit the room. As the classroom became eerily quite, the howls of laughter from the family were deafening. Their back slaps made me physically ill as I watched babies watching their behavior. As their laughter calmed down, the room remained quite as all eyes turned back to me including the teacher and the other adults in the room. With all the fiber in my body, I looked at the child standing in front of me and reached for a Santa that may have resembled her Grandpa. With a smile, I said, "Your grandpa is very handsome if he looks like this Santa." I then handed her a beautiful White angel and shared about my friend who gave it to me. I said, "Her granddaughter looks like you. How old are you?" The more I engaged the child, the more the child talked about her beloved Grandpa to the dismay of her family.  When she handed me the angel back, I said,  "Please keep it, angles are very special. They protect us from bad things and are reminders to be kind to others."

Villa Place Santa

 After regrouping, I began asking the other children if they saw a Santa that looked like their grandfather or grandpa. To their delight, and the relief of the teacher, the children turned their attention to Granddads, Grandpas, and Paw Paws who looked like Santa. The outburst seemed like a foul mist that dissipated quickly once we began discussing all things Christmas while photos were being snapped left and right. Several children gave me  extra big hugs as if they were comforting me and a few parents whispered, 'I am so sorry' after they took their child's picture. I have never had an encounter like that with a child or adults as Ms. Santa and I was determined to keep my focus on my duties; to bring love and joy.



 As the family who had encourage their child to remind of how Santa suppose to look was leaving, their wee one waved bye with her new Angel clutched firmly in her hand. I waved back and blew a kiss. My wave and kiss must were doused with angel dust from heaven because suddenly the child ran over to me and gave me the biggest hug ever. That hug brought tears to my eyes as I heard her say boldly, "Have a Merry Christmas Mrs. Claus."As I hugged her back, my eyes locked with her mother. Look at God, I mused to myself.

Later, on my way home, the words of my grandfather, a Civil Rights foot solider from Mississippi, flooded my thoughts, "Children are taught to hate. God does not teach us to hate anyone." I believe the wounds from 2016 will heal but the scars will be visible for sometime. My prayer is for adults to learn and believe words matter. What we say to and about about each other can affect generations to come. I learned from this year, more so than any other year, children not only hear our words but watch our actions and reactions intensively.

Merry Christmas




Friday, December 9, 2016

Gone Too Soon: Derek D. Young


After missing a few frantic calls from my girlfriend, Veronica, I called her back Monday morning to hear that Derek Young had passed suddenly on Sunday. Abruptly, I cut my Christmas Military visits short to fly back to Nashville. After speaking briefly to Dee, his sister, I knew I could not stay another day on the road. I needed to see her, right away.  I caught the first flight back to Nashville.

Derek D. Young

Derek was not just a dearly loved member of the Nashville Community but he was my maid of honor's only brother and the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Young who were like surrogate parents to me. Mr. Young walked me down the aisle many moons ago and Mrs. Young encouraged me as a young wife and mom for years until she joined God's roster of Angels in heaven. 

The Youngs in the 80's.
The Youngs have been fixtures in our lives for over 30 years. Deirdre, affectionately known as Dee to me, babysat my crew, and was there for milestones in the lives of my children, the good and the bad. 'Aunt Dee's' brother, Derek, was part of the package of love that came when you are friends with anyone from the Young Clan. You love one, you WILL get to know and love them all! You got two for one and rejoiced that you knew them both. Derek was the life of any one's party and had premium seats at every Holmes' TSU tailgate. He enjoyed my daughter's delicacies and he did not hold back praise for the Bug man's culinary skills. He knew my love of all things Christmas and was not shy of sending me messages saying "do you and do it well." My children often stated, "Mr. Derek was sharp as a tack and cleaner than Clorox."  

Mr. Clean!

Derek and Deidre were the finest examples we could show our kids of how siblings take care of each other and did we drum that point home often. As recently as three weeks ago, we mentioned them as an example of pooling resources to make a dollar triple in value with two of the Holmes. "Work together," I said. "Look at Derek and Deirdre, be like them," with the firmness of mama who was not accepting of anything less.
Deirdre and Derek
As so many of us are trying accept the reality of Derek's untimely death, let us hold deep in our hearts the wonderful memories that many made with him through the years. Derek's love for his family, his adopted families, his church, his community and his fraternity will be with all of us forever. And ever! Like Derek, let us be committed to living life to the fullest and be intentional about helping others because it is not only right and pleasing to God but because it is a blessing to be a blessing to others! Derek believed with all his heart and soul in being a blessing to others. With purple and gold running through his veins and his trademark infectious smile, Derek will be missed. Dearly. 


Derek D. Young's Obituary 

Baby Derek, 1961

Christmas 1963


Derek Dexter Young was born on November 17, 1960 to Robert A. Young and the late Claudine H. Young. He departed this life suddenly on December 4, 2016. 


Derek’s early education began in the Wilson and Rutherford County schools and was completed upon his graduation from Oakland High School. After receiving a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Middle Tennessee State University, Derek began his professional career as a manager for Kroger in 1985.  While at Kroger, he built friendships that lasted his lifetime. Often, Derek spoke of the good times he shared with the “Covington Crew.” In 2001, Derek began working at Suntrust Bank, where he matriculated to the position held at his death, an Officer Bank Support Specialist.

From November 2005-2012, Derek was united in marriage to Granvisse Earl.  

In April 2000, Derek was initiated into the brotherhood of the Gamma Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated. Being a lifetime member of his beloved fraternity was a major accomplishment to Derek. 


Mr. Young and "the Aunties," Christmas 2015
Derek was known for his love of family! He put great effort into staying connected with his loved ones and never missed family events and special occasions.  Whether it was a gathering with the Young Clan or a party for a member of his second family, The Blacks, everyone depended on Derek to be there. His devotion to his parents was known far and wide. He was big brother extraordinaire to baby sister, Deidre. And he was a beloved nephew to “the Aunties.” He made every effort to attend to their needs (and occasional wants). Every Saturday morning at 9am, Derek would talk to his favorite cousin, Jackie, to catch up on the week’s events.  Derek loved attending the football games of his godson, Tyler Black, and he was overjoyed when he learned that Tyler committed to play football at Tennessee State University! Knowing that Tyler was on the TSU team made his season ticket subscription that much more special.
 
New Year, New Attitude!

In his youth, Derek attended St. John United Methodist Church. He was currently a member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, where he served as a dedicated member of the Mt. Zion Antioch Finance Team for over 13 years. 
 

Nashville's Best Dressed!
Derek had a keen sense of style that he attributed to his Mother and Aunt Annie. He would always say, “My Momma and Aunt Annie always kept me dressed.”  No matter the occasion, you could count on Derek being fashion forward from head to toe.  His great attention to detail and quality was not only apparent in his attire, but also in his home and his vehicles.  He enjoyed nice things and took great care of what he worked so hard to obtain.  
Deirdre and Veronica

Phil 1:3

Derek will be lovingly remembered by his father, Robert A. Young; his sister, Deirdre D. Young; his Aunts, Lillian Harding, Jeanetta I. Young, Helen M. Young, and Ida F. Hicks; his godson, Tyler Black; a host of cousins and friends. 

Family visitation: Friday, December 9th at HELLUM FUNERAL CHAPEL at 611 South Highland Avenue, Murfreesboro, TN 37130 from 5 pm to 7 pm.

Homegoing Services: Saturday, December 10th at Mt. Zion Baptist Church Antioch location at 2261 Murfreesboro Road, Nashville, TN 37217. Family visitation from 10:00 to 10:45 with the Omega Omega Service commencing at 10:45 AM with funeral to follow at 11 AM. Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III eulogist. Interment Mt. Lebanon Memorial Gardens, Lebanon, Tn.


Photo Credits: Keith Layden, Todd Boston, and the Young Family.