Teenagers Need Designated Adults: Creating a safety net for our youth

Over the summer I had the pleasure of having four teenaged girls in my home.  My daughter, two step-daughters and niece.  We had some very insightful “girl talks” which I discovered what every parents dreads; yes our kids know way more than we hope they do.  Despite this revelation I wanted to create a safe space for them to feel free to express themselves and ask questions they have been wondering about regarding of course: boys, their bodies, their futures, schools, and parents.  As much as I cringed at the various topics and questions I tried to be open and honest and help them see the potential impact of every decision they will make from this point on; and reassure them that they have all the options and opportunities in the world available to them — it’s up to them to grab them.

Our conversations were deeper than growth and opportunity.  They were real life circumstances heightening their curiosity by the expose of a hypersexualized, over dramatic, unfiltered society.  The access to cell phones, internet, social media, and apps parents never heard of are exposing our kids to more, rapidly without our permission or knowledge.  With that being considered, I felt the most important message I want to stick with them is to consult an adult they trust when they have questions.  It would be great if they can speak to their parent(s), but let’s face it how many of us parents are ready to talk about sex, love, and virginity with our teenaged daughters? I warned the girls how important it is NOT to listen to their friends.  For questions that may hugely impact their lives they need the guidance of someone mature, experienced, and can steer them in the right direction.

The conversations left me feeling I need to develop a safety net for my daughter.  All teens, especially girls need one.  I started thinking about the idea of “designated adults”.  We are all familiar with the concept of a designated driver.  If we plan to have a night out of heavy drinking we designate someone as the responsible driver  who will not drink, and makes sure everyone is driven home safe.  The concept of designated adult is that same cautionary measure for our adolescents that we parents put in place with trusted adults whom we give permission to be the consultant, listening ear, and counselor when our girls have questions or situations to figure out.

Immediately after thinking this through I called my younger sister.  She is 25 compared to me being 31 is like I have aged exponentially in dog years when my daughter considers who may be more open and understanding.  I told my sister she is my daughters official designated adult. It is her responsibility to check in with her every week to see how the teenaged/middle school life is going.  I then told my daughter the same thing-Aunt K is your designated adult. If there is anything you need to talk about, or any questions you have that you do not feel comfortable to talk to your dad or I about please call Aunt K.  Of course, my sister has been sworn to secrecy by my daughter, and took an oath of full disclosure with me — but I trust she will know when to make the appropriate call in that regard.

I close by saying we need openness within our homes, and willingness in our communities to be there for our teenagers.  Our youth need us.  They do not need our speeches and chastising they need our love and attention.  The idea of a designated adult is to create a safe space for the young, inquisitive, growing pains of adolescence to verbalize their thoughts and seek answers from knowledgeable adults who love and care about them.  This network or even one individual will guide our babies so their futures remain bright.  We do not want to put the dim on their spark through fear and extreme discipline. It’s all about trust.  I trust that we will be there to help lead our children onto the right path. We are the village, lets stand up and act like it.

~Dreamx

I’m Still Here: The Doctoral Student Life

I see it has been several months since I posted on here.  Do not fear, I am still here.  I recently began my doctoral (PhD) program and needless to say it is kicking my butt!  People always speak about he “big payoff” in the end, but forgot to mention the journey! Nonetheless, it has been exciting thus far and I am honored to be in this position.  Only a small percentage of the population has a doctorate degree (about 1% I believe), so imagine the weight I feel being young, black and ‘me’ to be one of the elite few.  Trust me when I say it is not anything special that I did. I was not born with an innate superpower.  I do not have the magic formula.  By and large I do what works for me, and that is what we all need to do. On that note I must get back to the books. Pray for me and I will pray for you too!

-Dreamx

P.S- I will be forthcoming with the details of this journey in future posts, so definitely stay tuned because it is a story worth reading!

How I lost weight and gained it back, plus more

One of my favorite lines from the 2006 movie Dreamgirls comes from the character Effie White. The former lead singer of the group attempts to make a comeback in her music career after a long hiatus; during an audience at a night club she asks the owner, “Do you know how I blew $100,000 in 3 years? Drinkin’ that’s how!”

I understand that statement all too well. Imagine trying to figure out how you regain over 30 pounds after working extremely hard to lose it? Eatin’! That’s how.

Coming to the realization I have a weight problem was not easy. For most of my teen and adult life I never worried about my weight. I could eat whatever I wanted, however much I desired, and never have to exercise. I never gained a pound. I had 3 children and lost the baby weight usually within 6 weeks postpartum with every one of my children. You can say I was blessed. Maybe I was lucky. Whichever, I was defying gravity and I loved it!

Once I turned 29 I began to notice my clothes did not fit the same. It was summer time so I did not take time to try on a pair of jeans. Several months of sundresses and elastic garments I was deceived into believing I still had my girlish figure. By the time fall rolled around I attempted to put on a pair of jeans with no luck. I try on another, both a dud. I thought maybe it was a mishap with the laundry. (Honestly, I know that wasn’t possible because I always air dry my clothes to prevent them from shrinking).  So finding something to wear I made my way to the mall. To my surprise my old size 9 jeans did not fit! By the time I came to grips with the situation I was walking out of the store with a collection of size 13 pants. To my horror, that is he very last size in the junior section! I was losing my youth to the 30s and now this! I may as well had picked a plot and started digging. What would I do if I had to shop in the old lady Misses section of JCPenny!? Being forever young was a myth.

Shocked! Yes, you could say that. I was more or less livid. Why hadn’t anyone told me I was getting big. Why were my mirrors lying to me, making me think I looked the same! Of course it was everyone else fault not all the steaks, cupcakes, potato chips, and Pepsi I was consuming on a regular basis with absolutely no physical activity at all.

The good thing is realizing my 30 birthday was about 8 months a way I committed myself to losing the weight before then. I got a gym membership, and let’s just say I morphed into an entirely different person. I went to the gym 5 days a week twice a day. EVERY WEEK! I would do cardio and weight training in the morning for an hour; followed by another hour in the sauna. In the evenings I would attend a group exercise class: spin, Zumba, cross fit, yoga, Pilates. You would think that I melted away and lost more than 30 pounds, but I couldn’t transform my eating habits. I actually felt entitled to eat the way I wanted to because I worked out. Go figure.

Needless to say I was successful in making a change to my habits to achieve a goal. Yet, I refused to change my lifestyle which is why I was unsuccessful in maintaining the weight loss. Two months after my 30th birthday I relocated to the South. The transition left me to establish a whole new routine. Unfortunately, the gym did not make the cut of daily activities I needed to complete. I did manage to begin rollerskating regularly when I first moved, but with a Waffle House on every corner you can guess that eventually my old habits were back in full force. All eating, no play, no work.

Christmas of 2013, just six months after relocating, I was looking for something to wear for the holiday. I was slightly more prepared this time when I went shopping. I headed for Macy’s because I knew their junior section went to size 17. Despite being back in my size 13’s I figured the snuggness was due to them being packed away. Lo and behold after trying on a couple pairs of jeans, size 15 was the winner! Here we go again. That was four months ago. It took me this long to accept the fact I had not only regained the 30 pounds I lost, but added a few more to the equation.

As I begin the process to lose this weight, I had to evaluate why I regained it in the first place. It all goes back to lifestyle. This time around I intend to make the following changes so that I can lose the weight, and keep it off to maintain a nice size, and live healthier.

1) Set a reasonable workout schedule

2) Get at least 6 hours of sleep every night

3) Find a way to manage stress effectively

4) Change my diet

5) Be flexible

I learned that to successfully lose weight, and manage it you have to make the transition slow. You have to accept were you are presently.  Acknowledge that change will not take place overnight. Be committed to the task, and see it through to the end.  You have to want it for the right reasons.  Looking good in a dress is fine, but to feel good and be healthy is what is important.

I believe that by setting reasonable goals, I can feel good about accomplishing them. Sometimes it is truly mind over matter.  For me I have to remain focused on the bigger picture. I always joke that I am going to live to be 120 years old. It’s time I give my body a chance to see even half of those years. I’m ready!

Change is inevitable, it’s how we grow

I have not made a post in about 2 weeks for several reasons:
-It was my birthday
-I was on vacation
Although I did not post, my brain was not on break. In fact, I thought continously about what I would post when I returned.

I spent much of this time reading about how to blog. I actually logged on on several occasions to update the content to more accurately reflect the message I wish to convey with my blog. 

During this unofficial “reconstruction” process I learned that we are forever evolving.  Now this may sound as if I’m a late bloomer, but really most life lessons mean nothing unless we can apply it to our own lives. So the reality is I finally accepted that I will not get everything right the first time, and it’s ok to make changes.  Corrections are apart of life, that’s why they make white out & backspace.

For me the perfectionist, the controller, the boss this may be one of many important lessons I take heed to in my adult life. I come to you all today with my new found wisdom. Change is good; it is inevitable.  I encourage everyone to not be ashamed or prideful when it comes to change. Be willing and open minded enough to make the necessary changes in your life to experience ongoing growth.  Maximize your opportunities by seeking the optimal level of growth!

~Dreamx

Parents encourage your children’s future: Speak positive today about their tomorrow.

How often do you look at your children,  or other kids and think to yourself: “I wonder what he/she will become in life.” As parents, we have this thought less often than we should.  Then 20 years later we are shocked and disappointed that our children chose the particular path they did. They did not fail us & our expectations; we failed them by never telling them what our expectations were.

I do not need the guidance counselor to administer a test to my child in the 8th grade saying, “based on your answers to this generic test, you will grow up to be a street sweeper; but a marvelous one nonetheless.”  No thank you! I am the counselor.  I often tell my kids:  wow daughter you are really interested in those doctor shows I think you wil be a surgeon.  Or you are very caring son; you have the personality of a teacher.  Even, you son are always building, questioning & taking things apart you would be a great engineer.  The seeds are planted.  They have ideas of what they can become,  their interests and habits have a name.  Take a minute and imagine how that sounds to them. What do you think they hear when you identify, label & speak positive to their future based on what you observe about them? Powerful right! I guarantee they do not hear, “you better be this!” But instead,  “I can be this, that, or even something that has not been created yet, because I’m just that great!”

Parents,  teachers,  aunts, uncles, friends it is up to us to encourage the young minds we encounter.  Let’s not have our youth wandering around in the dark wilderness.  Shine some light on their future so they may be free to dream, hope, and expect a succesful, happy, and abundant life.

The NIV Bible Romans 12:3 says,
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Let’s give our children the faith to be humbly proud of who they are & live to the full capacity of the gifts bestowed upon them by God.

Baby Blues: New Tune

For 5 years now I have been on the cheerleading squad for new mommies.  My youngest son will be 6 in two months,  and it was during that pregnancy I decided to throw in the reproductive towel.  At the time I was delighted at my decision, but as time goes on and people my age are still having babies I feel like, dang I do miss that “new baby joy”.

Now don’t start feeling sorry for me and sounding the awwws. All 3 of my children go to school full-time and my bank account thanks me for cutting out our daycare expense. But new babies do make me realize I took for granted my own babies.  I had the chance to owwww & awwww 3 times but I didn’t.  I spent the first years from conception through toddler days hoping, wishing, praying and counting down until they got older. I couldn’t wait!  

Now they are older. 12, 8 & 6 years older. I look at new babies and regret  the time I lost enjoying mine while they were young, because I was wishing they were big. Part of the reason for this anxious time lapse was being young myself. I am only 31 years old now. I spent most of their younger years trying to accomplish my dreams while I was in my younger years; most of the time I was exhausted, irritated, and needed a break.

I finally understand now that if I had children now, at this age; I could appreciate them so much more. I never neglected them, but I neglected the little things that made the experience of motherhood. Time brings patience, wisdom, and understanding. Qualities essential for raising children that I had not honed and perfected being a young mom. 

Now taking from my parenting valuable life lessons; I encourage others to appreciate what they have.  I hate I no longer have the opportunity to try again, the right way; but I can always love on the ones I have a little longer before they become big heartless grown ups & shew me away.

Also, it gives me solace knowing that while my friends are in their 40s doing little league and school dances; I will be cruising the world seeing the sights with my adult children, enjoying the good, carefree life!!! I like that tune even better! :-)

5 Books That Every African-American Should Read

Today most of us receive our information by Smartphones, Ipads, Social Media, and Downloaded Apps. While these are very reliable, primary sources, my position is: these methods diminish the value of the information through the level of involvement required to process the text of written word. In other words the texts formerly known as books (and newspapers) are neglected because their antiquated nature is an inconvenience to our fast pace world. I do not argue (maybe I do, just read on) that Kindles, Nooks, and the App from Amazon are amazing, wonderful sources of technology and information. But, I believe much is to be said about the experience of picking up an actual one pound book and manually turning the pages to connect with the author and his/hers message.

In support of my ideals I adamantly boycotted ebooks. Recently, (last week actually) I decided to download a couple to see if there was any value in reading my books electronically (hear me out). I concluded that while convenient, the retention of information was more challenging by reading books electronically. Yet, as a doctoral student I can see how owning an ebook reader would be valuable for reading research on the go. My preference remains to print, highlight and scribble notes on anything I read. Therefore, I will continue my boycott, with modifications. I will read ebooks as a means to pass time, but anything that I truly want to read and apply I will stick to the hard copy. One minor deviation I will note is I have been reading The Bible electronically for the past 10 months and find this to be very useful. I guess you could say I am moderately updated with stipulations.

Third paragraph in and we still don’t know what the 5 Books That Every African-American Should Read are, or what any of the preceding information has to do with the list. Honestly, the correlation is indirect, more or less just highlighting the process by which I derived at compiling the list. One more deviation from the topic, but definitely noteworthy for future reference of this blog; sometimes I get to the point, sometimes I fluff around. *Note to reader: Today is a fluff day. Sorry. (Read on).

I engaged in the above mentioned minor experiment because in the past whenever I entered a debate with someone about the value of reading hardcover books I found that I had no real proof or personal familiarity with ebooks. Now when I defend my position to own hundreds of books on several dusty bookshelves, I can give an informed reason. Actually, all this hypothesis testing comes as a result of my new role as a PhD student. With 3 children, the demands of school work, and teaching I have to perfect my balancing act. I am testing all theories that may lead to the best and most efficient time management program for me. Suggestions welcomed.

Lastly, (I promise the list is coming) I realized this blog will be a valuable asset ti the newest chapter of my life. One of the ebooks I downloaded was how to improve your blog posts. So in thinking of how to add value so my site can be of interest to my readers; I began to list all the things which have been helpful to me in my life. With the exception of God; reading has been the most influential aspect of my entire life. Reading is the one activity I have engaged in for as long as I can remember; through good and bad, school or social, it has been beneficial to me at every stage. In recent years (the last 3 to be exact) I have shifted my focus from reading for pleasure to reading for knowledge; which is still very pleasureful (<— that may not be a word, oops; oh well it fits).  The purpose of my blog is to inform and inspire. I believe being whole is how we become our best selves. I cannot speak for everyone's experience only my own. The knowledge I needed to grow came from knowing my history, what the world had to offer me, how to interact with the world, and what was best for my mind, body & spirit. And so, in conclusion, I came up with 5 books I feel every African-American should read for their own development and growth. These books helped me grow as a person and a thinker, and I believe they can help others. Enjoy and Happy Reading.

 1). The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of American’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

2). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

3). Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington

4). The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

5). Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind by Joyce Meyer

 

 

 

Long Walk to Leader

“He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him is only taking a walk.” ~ Malawian proverb

I do not think I was born a leader. I possess the trait, but lack the desire. Granted,  I am not a follower;  a trendsetter maybe at best. My reasons for all my actions are selfish, and I prefer to operate alone. Therefore,  I have concluded that I am not a natural born leader, in the typical sense of the term.

In my view a leader has the following characteristics:
1) charismatic
2) powerful
3) independent

According to Webster a leader is:
Something that comes first; a person who leads

The reason I never viewed myself as a leader is because of my preferences. I do not even like to speak in front of others. When given a choice I like to be alone. Contrary to my life as a teacher & helping others, my lack of desire for the spotlight is not a fearful handicap that hinders me; merely my preferences that are never fulfilled.

People think it’s the cool or popular thing to say you lead, but I never liked that type of attention. I’d rather be my own audience of one.

I will admit that I am definitely independent.  My tenacity is powerful. I even would say my humor and view of the world is pretty charismatic. Yet, of all the people I know, everyone who has seen my journey; no one has followed.  Why? Are they afraid of success?  There is no such thing as being a copycat when doing better. It is our foolish pride which keeps us stagnant.  I’d like to think by looking to or even encouraging others we are setting mold; a blueprint.  

Despite my disposition.  I think I’ve done some cool things whether I feel I was born to do them or not. Until others find my actions cool enough to follow,  I will continue to take this walk….

I Think You’re Awesome

It is sad to acknowledge the pitiful condition our “inner man” is currently in. Some how we have been programmed and mistakenly grown accustomed to being negative people. We regrettably expect the worst from people or ourselves.  Like all bad luck & universal damage is radiated upon us. We look for, and do not expect anything good to ever happen.

More disheartening is the phenomenon currently operating which, if we give each other praise and accolades we think something is wrong. Those positive statements are viewed out of the ordinary.  Encouragement is met with scrutiny and skepticism. The squinted eyes of a, “what did you do or what do you need?” are the immediate response.  Giving a platform for confusion because we believe positive words only come as part of a modus operandi.

Why is it odd for me to say you are a great person. Or God made you pretty awesome. Not because you were just rewarded with something or promoted, but your character deserves acknowledgement because of the way you naturally shine. 

I say all this, not only as my oberservations but to challenge our interactions with one another. We must make an effort to speak life into people, even ourselves. More importantly, we have to prepare ourselves with the esteem, grace, and humility to receive it. Most of us are awesome let’s hear that awesomeness spoken to ourselves & each other going forward.

Eliminating monkeys

“If you marry a monkey for his wealth, the money goes and the monkey remains as is.” ~ Egyptian proverb.

Stop entertaining the monkeys in your life out of “loyalty” & comfort. Use wisdom to assess the value of your relationships with others; everyone is not lifetime quality.  Move on.

As Jay-Z said, “Stop letting people chill in your life.” We have to make a conscious choice to have meaningful friendships & relationships that add to us as people, and reflect who we are. Everything should be in the spirit of love, family and/or community.  We should always be building!