Visions of Rory Mae


Monday, March 16

I often wished Joanna Dereks would get hit by a car until the day it actually happened.  She came to me in my dreams night after night over the weekend, only I didn’t know it was her until this morning when Principal Matthews came into class with the announcement.  Hit and run, he said.  Joanna had been walking home from a friend’s house late Friday night when she was hit by a car and left for dead on the side of the road.  A paperboy found her early Saturday on his morning route.  Joanna was a bitch but that doesn’t justify her death.  She had friends, mostly out of fear and intimidation.  I’d known her since kindergarten but fortunately, I wasn’t cool enough to be selected as her friend.  She’d ignore and bump into me, as if I was a piece of furniture in her way.  I was just grateful she didn’t consider me prey, more for her sake than mine.  Principal Matthews assured us Joanna died instantly and didn’t feel pain, which I knew to be false.  As he continued to relay details of the investigation, while passing out hotline flyers telling us who to call if we know anything, flashbacks from my dreams began playing out.

The wind nipping at her ears, hands buried in her armpits for warmth.  It was black, pure solid darkness, causing her to increase her stride down the street.  She hears a roar in the distance but sees nothing when she looks back.  The roar becomes a vibration and without notice, she’s shoved in the back by a thick layer of metal, pushing her to the ground.  Before she can lift her head up, it’s smacked back down as her body is flattened to the ground.  An intense line of pain sparks up her spine and immediately turns numb.  Her chest hurts, she can’t breathe.  Her eyes are blurred from the hit but she hears a car door and footsteps heading towards her.  She tries to call out but no sound comes out.  She begs God for life and questions him when she no longer hears footsteps but rather a car driving away.  She lies there for what seems an eternity, scared and alone.  She’s tired and gives in to sleep only to never awake again.        

The premonition stirred queasiness in the pit of my stomach.  I barely made it out of the classroom before lunging towards a trashcan and vomiting over empty milk cartons and soda bottles.  I hate this “gift”, as my mum would have called it.


Tuesday, March 17

Joanna’s still being a pain in my subconscious, refusing to let me relax during sleep.  I want to tell her there’s nothing I can do or say that will help catch her killer.  I’m not  a psychic genie with unlimited abilities.  I see things, feel emotions and warnings but not at my control.

I’d go crazy if weren’t for the juicy eye candy I’ve been partnered up with in Chemistry.  Tyler Jacks, oh hot and sweet Tyler.  Considering the fact my knowledge of Chemistry is shorter than my index finger, it helps that this beauty has brains and can walk me through our mundane and repetitive experiments.  Science failed to cure the cancer from my mother’s body and since then I’ve failed to find any significance in periodic tables, hybrids and equations.  Before today, I never said more than two words to him.  Her voice is smooth like jazz and intoxicating.  I had to remind myself to answer him when he asked a question instead of daydreaming about what our future babies would look like.  He touched my arm but instead of feeling giddy with butterflies as I normally do, I felt sick and weak.  A hot guy gives me attention and I want to throw up.


Wednesday, March 18

First night Joanna didn’t grace me with her presence; however, her killer did and now I’d do anything to have her back in my dreams.

He’s driving fast and erratically without his lights on.  His breath, reeking of alcohol and cigarettes, leaves a taste of disgust in the air.  He’s angry and repeatedly slams his hand on the steeling wheel, causing the truck to swerve.  He notices it’s unusually dark but doesn’t think to turn his lights on.  Leaning back into his seat, he relaxes his hand on the wheel and briefly shuts his eye.  The gravel smacking against his tires warns him but it’s not till he feels a bump and then another that he’s startled and awake.  He leaves the engine on and opens the driver’s side door.  It’s a ways to the ground and he stumbles, barely catching himself.  Holding onto the truck, he makes his way to the back and hears a moan.  There’s a girl on the ground bleeding.  She’s not moving and her bones are sticking out.  He doesn’t know what happened but knows he caused it.  He scurries back into his truck and drives off.  What the hell has he done?

The vision, so powerful and strong disturbed me to new extremes.  I don’t know who killed Joanna but I know he’s a heartless, coward.  I woke up in tears, mourning Joanna and the cruelty life hit her with.


Thursday, March 19

I know the pathetic scum who took a life away and secured his own.  High school boys are a lot of things but ‘killer’ isn’t one I’d use to describe them, unless he’s the topic of discussion.

I was in Chemistry, aka ‘Heaven’, sitting next to the love of my life.  He got up from his desk and his sweater fell on the ground.  I picked up the sweater and went to hand it to him when my palm touched his.  The smell of alcohol choked me.  I looked in his eyes and saw what he was capable of.

He’s always been the good child who scored excellent grades, chiseled looks and athletic talents.  Girls came and went but on his time and the last time he asked his parents for something and was denied remains unknown.  Yes, he’s Mr. Perfect until now.  Now, there’s a girl dead and it’s his fault.  He’s remorseful but not enough to come clean with his sins.  This accident will blow over and one day he’ll be able to wake up and not think about Joanna.

His thoughts froze me in place, so much he asked me if I was okay five times before I could respond.  I released my grip on his sweater and backed up.  I ran out of the classroom, confused as what to do.  Tyler killed Joanna and I refuse to let him get away with it.


Friday, March 20

I called the hotline at two o’clock this the morning.  My disgust with Tyler and sense of responsibility for Joanna made it impossible to sleep.  I grabbed the flyer Principal Matthews had passed around.  Being early morning, the hotline went straight to voicemail.  Using a husky voice for disguise, I spoke into the phone and recorded how Tyler was seen out drinking and driving the night Joanna was killed.  I told the voicemail how Tyler had mentioned he was in an accident, which impacted his front bumper and passenger-side tires.  His truck is all the evidence they needed to tie him to Joanna.  By noon today, the news broadcasted that a prime suspect in Joanna’s death had been identified and was currently in custody.

It doesn’t feel as good as I’ve imagined it to be.  My first time catching a killer and all I can think about is how Joanna’s still dead.  The little control I have is far less than life’s tight hold on us.  Tyler’s parents will most likely buy his freedom and in no time, he’ll be out, trying to forget it ever happened.  I will never forget and as long as he’s alive, he can rest assured Rory Mae will be watching him.  Yes, I’ll be watching him because Joanna no longer has to.  We all have our secrets but when they become deadly, they’re no longer given the right to be kept hidden.


That’s What She Said…And Other Famous TV Quotes

There’s no greater feeling than having a connection with someone who watches the same tv shows as you.  One line can bond you for life, leaving you cracking up louder than a drunk at a comedy club.  I could go on for pages listing the best tv lines, but I’ll save some virtual space and just “yada, yada, yada” about my most recent favs (in no particular order).

1. “Legen…Dary!”  – Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother

No one has better catch phrases than NPH himself.  Everything from his “self fives” to “challenge accepted” never gets old, but my all-time favorite Barney Stinson quote is “Legen…Wait for it…Dary.”  It just amplifies everything that is awesome in this world.

2. “Treat Yo Self” – Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, Parks and Recreation

Work hard, shop harder?  Yes, please!  Tom and Donna gave us permission to “Treat Yo Self” to whatever is you please because we all need a little retail indulgence every now and then, don’t you think?

3. “Deal Breaker” – Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

Tina Fey is the voice of reason for girls and women alike.  She’s smart, funny, and regardless of how self-deprecating she is about her looks, I think she’s fabulous gorgeous with a great bod!  Act all indifferent you want Tina, but we both know you limit your Hostess Ding Dongs and hit the gym more than Kelly Ripa’s 6-pack abs.  Anyway, back to the topic.  “Deal Breaker” cuts out the bullshit and forces you to move on…to something BETTER.  Grown-ass man still living and mooching off his mama?  Deal Breaker!  Employee comes into the office looking ravaged and smells like a fish?  Deal Breaker!  Dog refusing to keep his shits to outside?  Deal Breaker!  Okay, well not really because he’s a pup and you’ll always love him, but you get the point.  Tina’s “Deal Breaker” gives you the authority to call it as it is ditch whatever it is that isn’t working like a hot tomato.

4. “Turtle Time” – Ramona Singer, Real Housewives of New York City

Better than  RHOC Vicki’s “Wahoo,” no one can resist a little “Turtle Time.”  I think Ramona’s swag dance moves hype the saying even better.  After working a long week, who wouldn’t want to take off their shoes, down a little Pinot Grigio and Turtle Time it up?  I think every moment should be Turtle Time!

5. “Chang / Chang-ed / Chang-ing” – Professor Chang, Community

It’s like “Fuck.”  It can be a noun, verb, adverb, whatever you want to make it, which is why I love “Chang.”  You can “Chang It” or “Be Chang-ed” or “just Chang.”  Professor Chang may be crazy, but at least he’s making “Chang” happen.  It’s so fetch!

6.  “That’s What She Said” – Michael Scott, The Office
Thats-What-She-Said-Michael-Scott-Last-EpisodeCome on, it never gets old.  I’m a chick, and a proper one at that and even I can’t even resist when someone says something and the opportunity to blurt out, “That’s what she said” comes…”That’s what she said!”  See what I did there?  Right there?  I just did it.

  1. “It’s Handled” – Olivia Pope, Scandal

My favorite is actually, “I’m the Best” but I couldn’t find any attractive memes with it.  Scandal is like a more sophisticated soap opera my husband and I enjoy indulging in.  And by sophisticated, I mean it airs after 8pm.  Overly dramatic and ridiculous, the hubs and I have an ongoing joke that whenever a really intense scenario appears, one of us will ask, “will get it handled?” and the other responds, “yes, because she’s the best!”  Perfect drinking game.

  1. “Patrice!” – Robin Scherbatsky, How I Met Your Mother

Poor Patrice.  She just wants to be Robin’s BFF, but is always the automatic scapegoat/punching bag when something goes wrong.  Oh well, I’m over pitying her because blaming her is just that much more entertaining.  Dammit Patrice!

Miss a favorite of yours?  Share in the comment section below.

Human Interest

Raising Health in Mississippi

Hushpuppies, Fried Chicken and Pork Chops have been Arkansas staples; however, over the past several years they’ve been revised and replaced by healthier options.  Once, deemed as an overweight state, Arkansas has taken proactive measures to fight the obesity rate by establishing the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention (ARCOP) and Southern Ain’t Fried Sundays (SAFS).

Before the state of Arkansas established health programs and initiatives, Dr. Scott Hall, M.D. of Cypert Ridge Family Practice, located in Helena, Arkansas had been advocating healthy living to his patients for years.  Born and raised in Arkansas, Dr. Hall’s life has always consisted of wholesome eating habits and an emphasis on physical activities.  “I grew up on a farm, where the family sat down and ate all three meals together,” remembers Dr. Hall.  His mornings begin at 4:30 with a run followed by weight conditioning after work.  Don’t think that he expects his patients to work out as much as him though.  Dr. Hall recommends starting with one thing at a time.  “People often make the mistake of going from one extreme to the next,” he says.  For example, start by revising your diet, and then gradually incorporate exercise into your daily routine.  For many people, their days are already packed with school, work and family so to find time to workout can often seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be.  “This is your time,” Dr. Hall informs when referring to exercise.  Whether it’s walking during your lunch break or riding your bike with the kids, exercise can be fun and therapeutic.

Diet and exercise isn’t just about being physically attractive, it’s about your health.  When Dr. Hall comes across a patient suffering from high blood pressure or diabetes, he advises they follow a nutrition and exercise plan as a means to lower their blood pressure and maintain their diabetes.  However, nutrition and exercise advice aren’t just limited to patients who require it; Dr. Hall supplies it for everyone.  “Preventative medicine is the focus,” he states.  The younger a patient starts eating well and getting consistent physical activity, the more likely they’re able to avoid health scares.

1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (NIV).  If our bodies are temples then we should feed and treat it lovingly instead of poisoning and damaging it.  Thanks to the state of Arkansas and Dr. Hall, citizens have the tools and education to becoming healthy and live a longer, happier life.

Featured in By U Magazine’s Fall 2010 Issue as Amanda Williford

Human Interest

Armed Warrior with a Breast of Faith

“Cancer don’t have no age, no name, no color,” exclaims Jackie Griffin, who was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in the summer of 2009.  It all began with a mailer from the doctor’s office, reminding Jackie of her annual mammogram, which she missed the previous year.  Fortunately for Jackie, she responded by getting a mammogram, where doctors found a lump in her left breast.  They proceeded with further testing until it was confirmed that she had breast cancer.  “I never did cry, never did show emotion,” she recalls.  The doctors carefully went over with Jackie the specifications of the cancer, how far it had grown in her system and options for treating the disease.

Upon hearing the news Jackie went directly home and told the news to her friends and family.  “I called everyone myself,” she says, “I knew how to explain it better” then having friends and family spread the news themselves.  Whereas her faith sustained, she strongly believed she might lose her life to cancer.  “My cousin died in 1999, my sister-in-law in 2000.  I thought, ‘they had [breast cancer] and died, I probably will too.’”

On October 21, 2009 Jackie underwent a mastectomy of the left breast, which was immediately replaced with an implant.  She still praises her husband for his unconditional love and support.  “He did everything for me that I couldn’t do myself.”  Her children and grandchildren didn’t shy from lending a hand either.  “It’s all about support,” she reminds herself, “my family got me through.”

Following her mastectomy and a quick recovery, Jackie started taking chemo pills and had enough strength to head back to work, the side effects of chemo kicked in.  She experienced severe hair loss, nausea and hot flashes.  No matter how physically weak she became, Jackie never gave up.  God kept telling her, “I brought it to you; I’ll bring it through it.”  Not one to accept pity but rather fight like a warrior, Jackie’s faith outlived the hair loss and nausea proving that it wasn’t her time to die.  “I came back for a reason,” which is to share her story.

Today, Jackie can proudly say she is cancer free.  She still goes in every three months for a check-up and she frequently reminds women to get breast examinations.  To her surprise, Jackie has found that a lot of women she knows have never gotten a breast examination before.  “You got to motivate yourself,” she states, “time makes all the difference.”

What better way to celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October than to get a mammogram?  For the past several years, non-profit organizations and government programs have established funds to allow all women the opportunity for a mammogram.  “CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides access to breast and cervical cancer screening services to underserved women all 50 states, the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories, and 12 tribes.”  For more information, please visit

Featured in By U Magazine’s Fall 2010 Issue as Amanda Williford


Human Interest

Loving Those That Others Won’t

“If you build it, he will come,” stated character Shoeless Joe Jackson in the movie “Field Of Dreams”.   Sallie Swanigan of Columbus, Mississippi received the same message; however, it didn’t come from a baseball player but rather, God.

Raised attending church with Christian morals and values, Swanigan knew the Lord but didn’t always live her life for him.  It wasn’t until she was well into adulthood and a mother of two adult children, that she moved to Georgia and discovered her true ministry.  “God put me to go back on the streets,” Swanigan relays, explaining how she became a street preacher.  “I was a new creature…it’s about being saved.”  While ministering on the streets, Swanigan kept hearing God tell her to “build this house” and re-connect with relationships that had gone sour.  This house wouldn’t just be any house.  It would be a Christian-based halfway house for women coming out of prison.  Here they would learn the fundamentals of Christianity while studying the basic tools of cooking and cleaning and education as a means of creating and maintaining a productive life.  Swanigan tried to ignore this new calling but in 2008 she could resist no more.  Moving herself back to Columbus, Mississippi, she mended broken relationships and started a new chapter of her life.

Opening a halfway house might have been easier for Swanigan if she owned a big house but she didn’t nor did she have the funds to buy and operate a facility of this type.  So, with little money, Swanigan reached out to her community for help by going on the radio and local television news programs, appearing in the paper, anything to help spread the word about her intended project, “All The Way with Jesus”.

Praying for the best but expecting the worst, she was flabbergasted when attorney David Owens donated an un-occupied house of his to be used as the halfway house.  If that didn’t seem a direct gift from God, the following would ensure it.  Swanigan was graciously given the opportunity to set up “All The Way with Jesus” as a 501 (c)(3) Nonprofit Organization without any cost.  Furthermore, the community continued to provide continuous support.  Instead of objecting to ex-cons living next door to them, neighbors and organizations came in and “did all the cleaning and stripping of the floors” in the three-bedroom, two-bath house.  The only thing Swanigan could do was call out “God this is really you.”

Yes, Swanigan has jumped enormous obstacles yet plenty still remain.  Money is needed to pay for food, cleaning supplies and basics and the house still has repairs that must be done before it can board tenants.  With the continuation of help from the community, “All The Way with Jesus” will eventually be set up and running.  When?  That question is unknown.  What is evident is Swanigan’s desire and persistence for “All The Way with Jesus”.  The woman has raised two children, preached to prostitutes on the streets and drunks in the bar and is ready to finish building this house before moving on to the next nine houses she plans to set up within her lifetime.  Sally Swanigan is not your average retired woman and we thank her for that.

Featured in By U Magazine’s Summer 2010 issue as Amanda Williford