Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 6/4/2012 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - What Makes Up a Life

Martha's Big Adventure — What Makes Up a Life

By Martha Randolph Carr

There's a lot of angst in the average day of an American adult life. These days I get up at 4:36 a.m. on a workday so I can get to the gym and get on machines that I barely understand how to use. I have it all timed down to the minute so that I can sleep as long as possible and still get to work on time as an editor in a faraway suburb of Chicago.

Work takes up another sizeable piece of my brain as I navigate the relationships in a building with over a thousand people who are all there to do a good job and earn a paycheck. We all spend more time with each other in our small microcosm than we do with our friends and family.

At night I juggle the decision to hang out with my grown son, Louie or a few friends against the need to start getting ready for the next day and get to bed at a decent hour. Louie has recently instituted family dinner night every Thursday night and no decent parent can turn down her 24-year-old son who's actually trying to hang out with his mother.

It's a fast-paced routine that goes by in a blur but it's also not at all unique. Sometimes when I'm up before the sunrise I think about all of the thousands of people who are also up changing a diaper, starting the coffee maker, climbing onto a treadmill or are even already behind their desk. It's a lot of moving parts that can seem overwhelming but all in all, it's a good life.

One of the biggest reasons why others strive to live in America is that we get to choose all of those parts and build our own idea of what makes up a life. If we don't like something we can work on changing that piece or at least modify it till we like the picture more.

It's not always easy but there's a fundamental belief that given time, effort and the help from a few friends life can change for the better if we choose to do the footwork.

However, sometimes something goes wrong in the American system of democracy and we sweep up someone who really is minding their own business and convict them of a crime they didn't commit. No system can ever be perfect and it's to be expected that given the right combination of circumstances mistakes are made. Years are taken away from someone that would have been filled with all of those small moments that in the end are what we treasure.

It's one of those mistakes that requires letting go of what was lost and focusing on what can still be recaptured in the day we still have. It's also the hardest kind of necessary forgiveness in order to be happy.

Laura Caldwell is an author and lawyer in Chicago who is the founder of Life After Innocence, dedicated to helping people after their release from wrongful convictions and knows quite a bit about helping others to rebuild their lives, starting from a place of hope. Her newest book, A Long Way Home, is the true story of Jovan Mosley who was wrongfully accused of murder at 19 years old and in a twist to a tragic story, spent five years and ten months in jail without a trial after a coerced confession despite our Constitution's guarantee to the contrary.

He was a teenager on the edge of bigger things, emerging from the tough Chicago neighborhood he grew up in, bound for college in Ohio when the system swallowed him whole. "He's going to be defined by it his whole life," says Caldwell, who says that it was Mosley's tragic turns that inspired her to start Life After Innocence. It's the kind of life-changing event where the one inside of it has to make a clear choice to be happy or get lost in all of it.

It's a good read but not just because it's a thriller that actually happened to someone or because Jovan is now free and finally getting the chance to make up his own life.

Caldwell is an upbeat optimist who likes what she does and talks about all of the upcoming cases with a belief that something good will come out of all of it. That comes across in Long Way Home and is a good reminder for anyone who's looking for a reminder that often the sweetest parts of life are when we believe in the possibilities despite the present circumstances and we hold on for the ride. More adventures to follow. Tweet me @MarthaRandolph with your inspiring stories and I'll share them with readers in a column. Email Martha at

© 2012 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email

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