Strong Women on a Journey - May 2020

Did you know what you wanted to do with your life when you graduated high school? I thought I did. I got myself accepted to the University of Tennessee Dental school at age 19 and took off to Memphis. After only two weeks I was completely miserable and able to add “dental school dropout” to my resume. All this came to mind when I was interviewing this month’s “Strong Woman on a Journey.”

I can’t remember the first time I met April Parnell, and I was surprised at how little of her story I even knew. At OUTsideIN, I let folks tell me what they want me to know about their lives. What I did know about April’s life was that her mom and our employee, Lisa Salazar, was very proud of her. I wanted to know why.

A couple of decades ago, Lisa became a single parent to April and her sister and they lived in the Nashville area. At about the time April graduated high school and tried to decide what to pursue next, Lisa started to pursue drinking. Heavy drinking. April entered college with the idea of becoming a teacher but after a year, she realized that teaching wasn’t for her - just like I decided that becoming a dentist wasn’t for me. But she was a hard worker and resourceful and soon began work and got certified to be a pharmacist technician. She found out she really liked being associated with health care but wanted to be more involved with patients. That’s about the time she encountered Emily Hinson, a pharmacist who began to plant the seeds of returning to college in April’s mind. Empowered women empower other women and soon April found herself attending classes at Bethel University in McKenzie with the goal of becoming a nurse.

This time, the college experience was much different. Having a husband (Dylan) and son (Easton) made time management a life skill that she had to master in order to survive. In fact, it became her “super power.” And this time, unlike before, Lisa was involved and available to help her daughter achieve this important goal.
Like so many others receiving their college degrees this spring, April did not get to participate in the. commencement ceremony she had worked so hard for. Instead, she began a new job at in the emergency room at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Union City, Tennessee. Starting a new job as a nurse right in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis meant that April launched her career at probably one of the scariest times that modern medical professionals have ever faced. Even so, it provided the backdrop for an encounter that affirmed her decision to become a nurse. While caring for an elderly man who was distraught to the point of tears because his family was not allowed to visit him, April was able to reassure and pray with him. This simple act gave peace to this gentleman and strengthened April’s resolve to continue to “run towards the pain.”

While a young woman getting a second chance at a college education is certainly worth writing about, the bigger story here to me is that of a relationship between a mom and her daughter being restored through recovery. Today, May 23, 2020, Lisa celebrates 7 years of sobriety. That has been hard work for her just like school was hard work for April. Seeing the way they have supported each other in their respective work has been inspiring to me. But not enough to make me go back to dental school.

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