Friday, October 29, 2010

Start Where You Are

Last week, I was angry and ready to blog about my anger. I had decided to blog about the perception of Black women, especially in regards to dating and marriage today. But I am no longer angry. I am sad. So that blog will have to wait and I think the forum for that will be my blog (I have yet to really use that that should help).

As I was saying, today I am sad. I was leaving one of my sites (that houses homeless women and children) and a tenant approached me as I was walking to my car. Although there are two social workers on site and I am not one (my duties there are more toward paperwork than people), she approached me to talk about her struggles finding a job. She told me that she doesn’t have a high school diploma, a GED and she has felonies. She’s trying to get a job.

We discussed her getting her GED and she told me that she reads at a 5th grade level and would like to get better at it for her son. She tries to read to him and doesn’t want him to know that she can’t really read.

When I left the site, I was very sad. It made me think of poverty and its effects. Especially when it comes to the cycle of poverty. Higher crime, poor health/medical care, developmental delays, poorly funded schools and substandard education, poor nutrition and eating habits, etc. etc. It repeats itself and becomes generational.

I speak about love a lot. I had a blog about it (see previous posts). Today, I was moved to spread love. What could I do to make a positive change in her life and/or the lives of others?

I talk about spreading love alot and I believe that compassion for others is paramount to manifesting God in human beings. This incident made me feel that I need to be doing more.

There are quite a few things that I have identified as MUST DO's for me. I MUST read and learn. I MUST love my neighbor as myself. I MUST be the best mom that I can be, as I believe that I have been entrusted to guide two souls on their journey in this life. I MUST be a a good friend to those I encounter. I MUST acknowledge, love, nurture,respect & accept
the value of a woman and human being. I MUST also help others wherever possible to do the same.

This incident compelled me to action. The first thing I did was call the Literacy Center of West Michigan to begin volunteering. Its something that I should have done a long time ago and had always planned to do. I am a lover of the written word and I believe that it is a most useful means of knowledge and discovery. I am also trying to get our site to be a tutoring site for them in the future.

In addition, I thought of my old sunday school teacher, Mr. Duren. He used to have Straight Talk for teenagers. It allowed us to get together to discuss whatever was on our minds. I thought it was wonderful at the time and it made me think about these women at my site.

So I am starting something similiar. This group will meet every other Wednesday night from 6-8 pm. It would be a place for the ladies to talk about their concerns - life, hardships, children, dating, etc. Talking about concerns can be helpful in working through feelings and experiences, recognizing strengths and exploring alternative solutions to every day and real life problems. Additionally, I envision the group being one additional means for the ladies to grow in terms of personal development. I want the group to be a safe place for discussion without fear of judgment or reprisals.

There is more that I can do. And there is more for you, as well.

Please take a moment today to find at least one avenue to help someone in your community today.

You may already be involved with something and if so, I’d like to thank you for your compassion and ability to live love.

It’s never too late to start.

there are more sites, but these few can help you get started. or start your own.

Peace & blessings to you!
Spread love

Friday, June 4, 2010

My worse news yet

I never would have imagined that one day I would hear the news that my daughter has a brain tumor. It’s not something I was prepared for or had researched. When I thought of the major things that I would have to deal with as a parent with Naiima, I assumed it was going to be coming of age type of stuff like the influence of her friends on her thinking and behavior (didn’t really happen); losing sight of goals because a boy has clouded her vision and focus (didn’t happen); if what I think of as the best of me had or would somehow be made manifest in her as she became the best of her.

I had started thinking that I had somehow had the enormous luck to get through raising her without the normal/standard teenage drama (ok, occasionally she is moody or says things without thinking and she can be spoiled) and that we are almost home - the bench mark for Home being High School graduation..even though I know that parenting doesn’t stop there. We have one more school year to go!
And then this curve ball comes along – BRAIN TUMOR. Naiima has a brain tumor. Its location has affected pituitary functions and as a result she is not producing and/or is producing low amounts of 4 of the key 8 hormones the pituitary controls. Her kidneys are unable to conserve water (diabetes inspidus) and she may not be able to have children.

Being a lover of Google and information, I immediately started to research. What is a brain tumor? What types of treatments are available? What are the side effects? What are the success and rehabilitation rates? Then it’s made even more frustrating because with her brain tumor, they don’t know what it is? So they don’t know how they are going to treat it yet or even if they are going to treat it. The size of a brain tumor matters because there is limited amount of space and even a small and benign brain tumor can trouble the areas near it just by being there. Thankfully, hers is relatively small. So it is possible that it could just sit there and not cause any further damage?
The not knowing has been excruciating.

It is so hard to get this news and have to wait for “real” action. I have read probably hundreds of case studies and survivor stories and they give me hope and the knowledge that people get it and deal with it and make it. There are blogs of people with brain tumors describing treatment or describing survival only to have reoccurrence years later. There are other stories of loss and grief; of parents who have lost children and surviving spouses. I have stopped torturing myself with reading those.

I do believe that eating “real” food without additives, antibiotics, pesticides, etc is necessary and I’m transitioning my family to that. I have also been reading up on articles and people who speak about alternative cures and treatment. Some of them I believe. Some I do not. People have cautioned me about allowing my daughter to receive chemotherapy and or radiation. And I have to say at this point, we don’t know if it is malignant or benign and not even sure if they are going to treat it or watch it. I don’t believe that doctors know everything and I don’t accept their words as absolute. However, a lot of doctors today recognize that diet, spirituality and attitude play a huge factor in treatment and her doctor sounds like he does. But I would say this – when it comes down to it..when its life or death..when its my child..I want the best available treatment and if that’s chemotherapy, then we’re doing chemotherapy. I have read a lot survivor stories of teenagers who have had conventional treatment. Keep in mind that brain tumors that are malignant (and primary) are not like other cancers.

This news makes you want to prepare for battle. You gear up, read all that you can, talk to who you can, get the support that you can and prepare for the coming onslaught armed to the teeth. And then I’m waiting..and waiting and waiting. In the meantime, I’m trying to be very strong. I don’t want her to know that I cry about it a lot. I don’t want anyone to know the possibilities that sometimes invade my brain that I don’t really want to think about but can’t help but do so. When I talk about it to people or type about it as I’m doing now, it’s like I swallow all of my emotions. Sometimes there is literally a lump in my throat as I swallow my emotions. Put them away and speak about it as if I’m clinically detached researcher. “Yes, that’s what they said,” “In my research, I’ve come across,” “No, we don’t know,” “Our next appointment is..” “Oh, she is holding up fine,” “Yes, I’m ok”.

I can not cry and talk at the same time. So talking or typing about it, keeps me from focusing on it if that makes any sense. But I find that if I am not talking about it then my emotions are taking over and I don’t like that. So I would put a status update on facebook and reading the comments helped me not focus on my own feelings, but the concern of others.

I have gotten lots of support and “if you need anything”s and even if I haven’t called on you for that particular anything..I’m still glad to know that it/you are there. This posting is just about my thoughts/feelings dealing with this as the parent. It has been very hard. I feel helpless and at times overwhelmed.

I am prepared for battle, but I don’t know the details to come..I’m just waiting. After I had previously blogged about coming out of the holding pattern, I am now in a holding pattern. So I’m tense. I’m tired. Sometimes, I am over compensating.

I keep thinking, after this is over then I can really talk about it. Then I can give my “testimony”. Right now, I’m in it. In the battle and I’m preparing and I’m READY. and I’m waiting. I’m doing what I can – reading, changing our diet, showing her my support and giving her my love and not focusing solely on this. We are not sitting at home dwelling on a brain tumor. We are living our life. It’s just in the quiet moments, when I’m in the car alone, when I go to bed at night and sometimes when I wake up in the morning. It is there. (mothers worry).

I have not mentioned God in this posting up until now. People give me great scriptural references to help get me through. We’ve been prayed for and prayed over. I do believe in the power of prayer. I am not a Christian in the traditional sense. I always say that I practice “tenisiaism”. I’m not really a traditional person anyway. I believe in God and I believe that my purpose is to explore my personal relationship with God and live my life accordingly. With that said, I want to say that of course I pray to God about this. And of course, I expect God to work it out. But at the same time, I have let go and am letting God on this one (as they say). This one is bigger than me. I can’t reason it out (yet). I can’t claim that I have faith that if I do not “claim the tumor” that it is not there. It is there. I have seen it.

My belief in God and my spirituality have not been tested. I believe in everyday miracles. And try as I might to find the answers to everything, sometimes I do not have them. And thats ok too.

I hadn’t wanted to blog about this because I didn’t want to say, “I think its just a small, benign tumor that they are just gonna monitor and it will probably cause no further damage” and then later have to recant my words. I don’t want to jinx it. I also don’t want to blog speculating about the worse when it is the best case scenario (even with brain tumor, there is a best case scenario).

I was able to blog about it right now because last week, I really talked it out and released some of those emotions that I had been swallowing and today Martha sent me an email that sparked something in me today (this is the second time I think Martha).

Honestly, I can not even describe the feelings that I’ve been going through. This whole blog posting is just an attempt to convey it but somehow it can’t come close.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

my favorite month

It’s February. The month of my birth. I was born February 13th at 11:58 pm. So close to valentine’s day. I like to think that’s why I am so enamored of “love”. In all its forms - agape, eros, philia, storge and xenia. and as i grow, my ideas of love grows. february is also black history month.
to be honest, i don't particularly "do" anything different in february than i do in other month with respect to black history. i believe taht we need to read up on and honor our history all the time. however, i do get to catch up on ALOT of black movies that are played accross the various channels during the month of february. :)
it's quite a short month but it is host to me, love and black history. right off the bat, love and black history does not appear to have anything to do with each other.

when i was younger, my concept of love was limited to familial love and romantic love. in high school, i developed a love for my people. that love coincided with me learning about african american history in america. i was in shock learning that there was so much that i did not know. i was young. and i was angry. i remember thinking that black history month seemed to be defined by a few people, a few plays and church programs, usually associated with the civil rights movement. particularly, dr. martin luther king, jr.

i had read malcolm x and i agreed with "any means necessary". watching the clips of the civil rights marchers trying to march with dignity while being attacked made me angry. thinking about those 4 little girls (16th street baptist church bombing), i didn't want to hear turn the other cheek and listen to speeches of non violence. i was inspired by "We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary. ” (Malcolm X, 1965) and for some reason, i felt that i had to choose between the two. in my mind, it was choosing between the weak and the strong. i wanted our people to be strong.

last night, i watched a piece on mlk by cnn . and it made me think about how angry i used to be. the older i get, the more i come to love dr. king's actions and words. the older i get, the more i realize how much strength it takes to live and practice love & non-violence in a society determined to circumvent your inherent human dignity. when i watched the clips of the marchers being attacked, i still got angry. but i was also in awe of the will and resilience of those marchers to keep marching based on the principle of the upliftment of our people. i was aware of the strength that must have taken. and then he goes on to say that we are to love our enemies. there was a time when i would have thought that that was weak. that time has since passed. Clarissa Pinkola Estes says that "some people mistake being loving for being a sap. Quite the contrary, the most loving people are often the most fierce and the most acutely armed for battle".

as i grew so did my concept of love and its association with god. i've already written a blog on living love and god being love. it seems to be a recurring and growing theme in my mind & spirit. at some point, i discovered Gandhi. This man's non-violent struggle lead to the end of England's century long rule of India. he inspires me. it is amazing to see men who live and die for principles when those principles are for the upliftment of people and the human condition. gandhi believed that all great religions conveyed the simple truth that love, truth and non-violence are synonomous with eacher & are synonomous with God. How can you not love Gandhi?!!

MLK was inspired by Gandhi also. In Stride Toward Freedom, he wrote "Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale." King concluded: "If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. We may ignore him at our own risk."

you see, here is where black history & love meet. MLK is influenced by jesus's command to "love your neighbor as yourself" and gandhi's living example of that commandment.

Reading Gandhi's words struck a chord in my soul. "It is the law of love that rules mankind. Had violence, i.e. hate, ruled us we should have become extinct long ago. And yet, the tragedy of it is that the so-called civilized men and nations conduct themselves as if the basis of society was violence.
Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
Whether humanity will consciously follow the law of love, I do not know. But that need not disturb me. The law will work just as the law of gravitation works, whether we accept it or not. Through the Heart we may come to know the Love of God; through the Heart we may become the Love of God."

with that in mind, it is with love that we transform society. and i mean love as an action word. the kind of love that inspires you to donate to haiti after watching the devastation. the kind of love that inspires you to donate or work at local shelters. the kind of love that inspires you to mentor a teenager or be a big brother/big sister. the kind of love that inspires you to "be the change you wish to see in the world" (gandhi)

at the end of the mlk program last night, i thought about black history and how it is sometimes only thought of during the month of february. or how i've heard people complain that it is in the month of february and that's the shortest month of the year. but really, we don't need a government approved holiday to remember or honor our history. i think one of the driving forces for carter g. woodson in establishing black history week and then month was the lack of available evidence of the contribution of black people. it is definately important that we are aware of what we have accomplished, how far we have come. i think we have to remember that there is sometimes not a love of self-love in our community. we sometimes don't hold our culture in high esteem (unless we are being attacked). and we sometimes do not behave as if we hold our culture in high esteem. so maybe black history month is so important to serve as a reminder that we need to understand who we are as a people, what we can do and how much we can improve as a people and more importantly really love ourselves as a people.

The Senegalese poet Baba Dioum once wrote, “In the end, we conserve what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”

lets love ourselves!