Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

OCTOBER AWARENESS

October 14, 2013

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October being National DOWN SYNDROME AWARENESS Month is extra special for me this year having recently published my fourth book “Entertaining Angels Aware: I AM My Sister’s Keeper”.   Entertaining Angels… is about growing up with and now caring for my only sibling who was born with Down Syndrome. I never get tired of celebrating her being in my life, and others who have touched our lives with a special love.  To learn more about my Angel and Me, visit our facebook page “Entertaining Angels Aware”

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Another cause which is celebrated during the month of October is that of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS   During my early years in practice as a licensed Marriage, Family & Child Therapist, the idea of a man putting his hands on, or mistreating a woman, was so foreign and distasteful to me, I had difficulty conjuring up enough compassion and patience to work with women who refused to leave their abusive spouses/partners.  However, my love for and work with children—especially those in the foster care system, and my tenure of watching more than one generation evolve, have caused me to become much more understanding and compassionate in working with both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.  I now know that, as with most any other expression of powerlessness, “hurt people hurt people”.

In addition to my ongoing clinical work with those who are broken (or doing the breaking) I see the signs and symptoms of violence, not only domestically but through the verbal, emotional and physical abuse depicted throughout societal “norms” in professional workplaces, educational settings, and morphing throughout all avenues of entertainment in comedic, dramatic and reality TV shows, films and music. How can it NOT be in our homes?!

Being “The Heart Lady” I am constantly appalled by the negative and hurtful things I see even in comments posted in response to articles which were intended to be heart-warming stories—revealing a widespread attitude of anger and violence.  Where is the LOVE?

I’ve learned that LOVE means different things to different people, which when it all boils down, really has nothing to do with love at.  LOVE doesn’t hurt.  That’s all I have to say about that for now.

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Last but not least, the biggest cause acknowledged during the month of October is National BREAST CANCER AWARENESS Month.  This is a cause I’ve been pretty “mum” about. For the past six years I’ve both consciously, and subconsciously chosen not to speak about it because it was 8 years ago that my “bestest” friend Val, began her battle with, as she referred to it “the pink ribbon thing”.

For two years we talked about and explored complementary treatment which included Western as well as Holistic medicine.  We even laughed about the day during testimonial service when she was going to hang her bra on the wall of the church like those who had been healed of other maladies had placed their canes and crutches!  🙂

Unfortunately, Val passed three days following my own mother’s funeral, which she’d argued with her doctor to be able to attend just prior to her final hospitalization, and two and  half weeks before my 50th birthday.

Since then I’ve not worn, posted, or displayed the pink ribbon symbol of breast cancer, because just seeing it has only triggered feelings of loss for me.  I also think of the children who have been “orphaned” by ‘the pink ribbon” This year, however, although I still miss my sister-friend sorely, I’m making the choice to acknowledge the friends and associates who have SURVIVED breast cancer and am working on consciously celebrating their lives.

Statistics at some point indicated that one in four women would be diagnosed with breast cancer; and I recall looking at attendees of my 40th birthday celebration and realizing that FOUR of my friends in attendance either had already, or have since been a survivor of breast cancer.  I’ve also learned of childhood friends whose lives have also been affected.

Today I post a pink ribbon in celebration of the lives of Bernadette, Antoinette, Signe, Thelma, Debra, Lauren, Michelle, Gloria, and others who have and WILL have survived!

P.S. – Ironically, while going through a container of old key chains yesterday, guess what I came across?– a pink ribbon key chain with hearts.  I guess it time to open my heart and new doors.

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Mothers, Foster Care, and Mental Health

May 21, 2013

Brave Heart Lioness-Reduced Heart Work Photos of Bryant & Branden4

The Month of May recognizes and celebrates three important events and causes which are close to my heart: Mothers’ Day, National Foster Care Awareness Month, and National Mental Health Awareness Month. Already more than half way through the month of May, I’ve had ample opportunity to reflect upon personal experiences each of these brings  as both Mothers’ Day and Foster Care have each had a significant impact my Mental Health. Let me count the ways!

One of my earliest memories of Mothers’ Day, sheds a prevenient look at my sensitivity, as well as the temperamental relationship I had with my mother, even at an early age.  When I was about 9 years old I walked the couple of blocks to the neighborhood five and dime variety store to purchase my mother a gift for Mother’s Day. With my two or three dollars I selected a box of beautifully decorated and arranged handkerchiefs.  Somewhere between my purchase and Mothers’ Day my mother did something which made me angry (I don’t even recall what) and I decided that I wasn’t going to give her the gift so I hid it inside my room.  The details are blurry but I do recall that she demanded that I find it and give it to her. I felt entitled to give on my own terms just as she had ‘taught me’ when she withheld my gifts at Christmas because she thought I’d been behaving badly.

Most Mothers’ Days after that weren’t as noteworthy except for the sense that most times she didn’t seem to be as happy as I’d like for her to have been in my giving. Then there was MY first Mothers’ Day as a mom to my 9 year old adopted son. Dressed up in coordinating colors we drove the 50 miles to join her for Mothers’ Day service at her church. I knew it would surprise her and make her proud to have us there with her. The look on her face was priceless! This was the best Mothers’ Day ever for me, until…the minister asked for all grandmothers to stand.  My mother did not stand.  I waited for it to “click” for her that she was now a grandmother, but it didn’t. I looked at her and looked at my son and my heart sank. The gift of grandparenting wasn’t acknowledged and/or accepted by her. I felt hurt and angry and sad for my son.

As I share in my memoir, it was “Heart Work” being a Foster/Adoptive Mom myself as it was exciting, heart-warming, and challenging. Inasmuch as dealing with my now, TWO sons, dealing with the Child Welfare, Mental Health and Social Services took a toll on my own Mental Health.  Understanding that many of the behaviors exhibited by my sons were an expression of the impact of emotional and physical abuse and separation and losses experienced in their early childhoods, I found it difficult to get both the intervention and support needed to meet their needs while at the same time provide them with consistency, stability, and opportunities of a “normal” childhood. I even fought to keep my youngest son from being “medicated” for behaviors which I felt were unreasonably labeled as being “pathological”. Any of us would have acted the way he did if we’d been through all he’d been through. What did they expect?!

Feeling attacked, unsupported, and pathologized myself, depression set in and took me down a path I’d not experienced before as intensely.  I’d experienced bouts of depression before but not at this level. For the first time ever in my life, my sleep pattern was “off”, my desire to socialize with others was none, and rather than overeating, I stopped eating and began to lose weight.  I sought out my own therapist, going through a few until I found one I felt comfortable with, and who was a huge support during this time in my life. My feelings were validated, which in itself was major, as no one else seemed to understand; and I was encouraged to continue being my authentic self—which I’d begun to question.

I’d always wanted to be a mom, and thought I’d be a good one, having learned from both the good and the not so good characteristics of my own mother, who was an excellent provider but lacked in the area of “emotional nurturing”. Even in the midst of this extremely painful period in my own parenting she voiced that I’d brought it upon myself and that she didn’t think it made sense for me to invest my time and energy into them. Her advice was “let them go and go on with your life”. Of course this did not improve our relationship at all because I stopped sharing with her any of the details of my parenting struggles.

Feeling like a “motherless child” and a “childless mother” the depression deepened. My therapist explained that my depression was situational, however being in a prolonged negative situation had a significant impact on my body and brain chemistry. We also explored the correlation between my relationships as a daughter and a mother, and how my fear of becoming like my mother was a strong factor.  It was during this time the notion occurred that perhaps my mother had been depressed during my childhood. and that perhaps I was even biologically predisposed to depression myself. That made a lot of sense to me!

He recommended that I try a low dosage antidepressant, which I initially rejected but eventually decided to try.  Although I don’t recall feeling much different, I was able to get out the bed and as I look in retrospect, do some amazing things. I do know that my and others’ prayers and faith in God were all a part of it.

I’d tried to get my mother to join me in counseling previously, however was told “I don’t need counseling, you’re the one that’s crazy!”  When I shared with her my thoughts that perhaps our relationship struggles could be related to her relationship with her own mother, who died before I was born, she was in total denial, forgetting some of the stories she’d told me before about growing up. However, when I shared with her about the discussion and prescription for depression, surprisingly she was open to it and followed through with her doctor.  She later reported that she did indeed feel a difference.  Wow, who KNEW?!

My mother passed away six years ago at the age of 82.  During the later years of her life she experienced depression and anxiety attacks, which as a practicing therapist myself, I was able to recognize and discuss with her doctors.

As I’ve gotten older and experienced many losses and stressors of life as a single woman and caregiver, I have continued to battle cycles of depression which, though not as frequent, have seemed to intensify the older I become.   Being both a therapist and a Christian I’ve found myself again struggling with the idea of taking antidepressants or not.  In my journaling I frequently quote the phrase “Physican heal thyself”; and have questioned myself:  “Am I placing judgment on being depressed?” and/or “Am I placing judgment on how to HANDLE” the depression?” My conscious conclusion (which was subconsciously present all along) was that I  FEARED that others would think I was not a “good enough” Christian or Therapist if I needed to take medication myself.

My thinking is that like hypertension and many other physical conditions, there are certain biological as well as lifestyle factors which contribute to both, and even medical doctors receive diagnoses of conditions they treat patients for.  However it does no good, and can potentially become fatal, to refrain from treating those conditions—whether through Westernized or alternative medicine. We all have choices to be and feel better.

So in the midst of a recent “dark hole” of depression, the triggers of which I was very much aware and which were beyond my control, I made the choice to return to Western medicine,  in addition to prayer, reaching out others and making some changes in my daily practices. I’m glad to say I’m feeling more like my old (or should I say younger) self now!

I realize this may not be the choice for everyone, but the main thing is to choose to DO SOMETHING!  Just as with other areas of my life I’ve decided that “what you see (and don’t see) is what you get”!  Take it or leave it–no poll necessary!   The most important thing is that we make a choice that makes us feel better and stronger to fulfill our purpose and dreams—as long as it is not at the cost of the well-being of ourselves and others.

As far as my “mothering” and foster care, my boys are now grown and not necessarily making the life choices nor as close as I would like for them to, I did speak to my oldest by phone on Mothers’ Day this year–I called him.  I remind myself that although I may not always feel celebrated, neither do all biological parents, and that my purpose is fulfilled in having given them the gift of being two less “motherless children” in the foster care system.
I remain passionate about the hearts of youth in the foster care system; and  through the texts and couple of cards I received in the mail from those I’ve loved as an advocate and mentor, it was confirmed that I will never really be “childless” because they’re ALL “my children”.
Ending on a funny note, my favorite Mothers’ Day card read:

“If it takes a village to raise a child…
…where the HELL did EVERYBODY ELSE sneak off to?”!!

Don’t sneak away—hang in there, the children and village need us! 🙂

 

 

 

 

BARING IT WITH HEART: Alopecia? Why ME? What to Do Now???

September 27, 2012

Described as the smart girl with glasses and long hair, I wore my shoulder length hair washed and pressed, in braided and twisted pony tails from the time I was school aged.  I was particularly proud when I was allowed to start wearing it “down” in Junior High School, alternating between the flips, bobs, and buns. It was common to be complimented and told by peers that they wished they had my hair.  Even adults would ask me “where’d you get all that pretty hair from?” So imagine what it felt like to realize that I might be losing my hair in my mid-twenties.

My mother’s  hair was of average length, however she and one of her slightly older female cousins’ had a thinning crown area.  Being shorter and worn in tighter curls it wasn’t too obvious though. My maternal uncle, and seemingly the men on that side of the family had  bald spots but they were men.

Almost all of the female cousins on my father’s side had long hair, which was much thicker than mine. My father had a receding hairline (he died at the age of 50 so I didn’t really know would’ve happened had he lived longer) and his brother and nephews didn’t show any signs of baldness. So why was this happening to me?

Although many insist that the thinning was due to the chemicals of the relaxer I received at 18, I have very clear memories of experiencing tenderness in the top of my scalp at various times, even as a child.  I remember telling tell my mother when this would occur, and her saying “Oh your head is just probably not closed good”.  I wondered what was that suppose to mean?  It was in the same area of my scalp that I  would later experience the same tenderness, and in which the thinning would begin.  (I would later discover that my father’s oldest sister had the same pattern of baldness which I eventually developed.)
                                        

I would wear varying hairstyles to camouflage and cover up the increasingly thinning to balding spot at the crown of my head.   The first was a layered cut of my relaxed hair, to decrease the weight and give more body and fulness  to the curls at the top.  When that no longer worked, I decided to have it cut all over, ear length ,and wear a short and flat press and curl until the relaxer grew out completely. From there a curly perm which, which although it took some getting use to, worked quite well for a couple of years or more. Over the next 2-3 decades, I donned slicked down to the scalp with gel styles, upswept braids, spray-on “fillers”,  partial weaves,  clip ons, head wraps (still one of my favorites) and finally full wigs.  Being the  Stevie Wonder fanatic that I am, I even declared I was going to start a new fad by wearing my hair in braids like his.  😀

I was told by sympathizing friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, about different hair “restoration” products and remedies, but never felt compelled to pursue them, spending money on things which had what I believed to be false promises.

Once I got use to them, wigs actually became fun accessories for me, and another object of my “retail therapy”.  Instead of buying new shoes, I’d go buy me some new hair.  😀
It got even better when I discovered the hairdresser who did my hair when I lived in another city during the 80’s, and who was a gifted artist when it came to cutting, now resided in the same city as me.
She would custom cut and style all of my wigs to fit my face, and it was ON then!  😀  I loved to  experiment between different colors, styles, types and qualities of hair.

As much as I liked experimenting with my different “personas” with the wigs, being the free-spirited person I am, I began to feel trapped, hating the feeling that I was “hiding” something, not being my authentic self, and having the fear of being “exposed”.  Because of the embarrassment I had of the bald spot which had now extended to all but a small patch of hair at my forehead, I almost always kept my head covered, even when indoors,

I adored the shaven look I would occasionally see women wear, but wasn’t sure if I had the courage to do it myself. When my best friend Val experienced hair loss from undergoing numerous rounds of chemo for breast cancer, I decided to support her by taking the clippers to my own. We were sisters, and she was the only one to see it as I didn’t wear it in public. Val, on the other hand, once her fine, newly grown hair began to grow out wore it beautifully and freely, though  still fighting “the pink ribbon thing” as she would call it.

Five years after Val’s passing, the part of my hair which would grow had grown back to shoulder length. I thought about how much Val loved life, and if she had continued to live “pink ribbon-free” how she would probably would have continued to freely wear her fine hair, saying to me “Gurrrrl, I’m from L.A., and you’re grown!”  😀

After a series of events, which confirmed for me that it was TIME, the final call came earlier this year when I “accidentally” turned to PBS and saw and heard the beautiful Ms. Sonya Renee Taylor*, a beautiful, full-figured, African-American woman who literally “flipped her wig during a spoken word presentation”! 😀  I KNEW , there was no doubt in my mind and in my spirit, that it was a green light from God. So on the eve of Independence Day this year I decided to free myself: I went to the local barber college and requested a razor shave.

Only two months later, with the support of women from all over the world I’ve met through AlopeciaWorld.com I believe I now know WHY me as well as WHAT to do, as I continue follow my heart and walk in purpose.  
   

Please join me this Saturday, September 29th at 10AM Pacific/12Noon Central/1PM Eastern. as I close out National Alopecia Month on my internet radio show, “HEART Talk with Ms. E”  with “Alopecia Awareness: Embrace Your Glory When Your Crown Is Gone”. www.blogtalkradio.com/hearttalkwithmse

My special guests will include:

My “Shero” Ms. Sonya Renee

Founder of The Body Is Not an Apology;  Internationally Acclaimed Performance Poet, Actress, Educator and Activist, heralded as a “force of nature on stage” and “humanity in action”, who has been seen on HBO, CNN, BET, MTV, Oxygen Network; performing on stages from New Zealand to Scotland to New York.

Ms. Sandra Gibson Dubose, Author of “My Crown and Glory, It’s NOT About the Hair”, 2011 Winner of the Mrs. Black North Carolina Title; Speaker, Radio Host, Performing Artist, and Internationally recognized Empowerment Specialist, proclaimed as the  “Bald Beauty Queen of Self Esteem”

Ms. Stacie Ferrell-Tucker, Founder of Sisters Living With Alopecia, and designer of the soon to be released  2013 National Alopecia Beauties Calendar, for which yours truly has been selected to appear.  😀

BARING IT WITH HEART: What Is Alopecia?

September 18, 2012
The first time I ever heard the word “Alopecia” I was a young woman in my mid 20’s, making my second visit to a professional to find out why my shoulder length hair was becoming so thin at the crown.
 
The first visit had been a few years earlier to a “hair loss specialist” referred by a male friend who was experiencing early male pattern baldness. After scraping my oiled scalp with a wooden tongue depressor-like instrument, the “specialist” told me that my hair follicles were being blocked by the layer of oil on my scalp and that I needed to wash my hair 1-2 times daily with a special shampoo to be purchased from him.  Disappointed, frustrated, and even slightly insulted, anyone who knows anything about African-American hair care can understand how I would leave there feeling like this had been a total waste of my time.

This visit, a few years following the first, I’d been referred to an African-American female dermatologist by my hairdresser.  (This dermatologist is now frequently referenced in Essence Magazine). After taking a health and family history, and blood work, her conclusion was that I had Alopecia of unknown etiology, which was probably hereditary since my tests all came back normal, showing no vitamin or immune deficiencies which can sometimes contribute to the condition.  Therefore she had no recommendations.

So although I still had no idea of what to do about it, at least I now had a NAME for it:  Alopecia. However, when I looked it up, basically all I found was

 
  “loss of hair, esp on the head; baldness”
 

This was before the days of the internet, so I couldn’t just go to the computer, as I can today, and “Google” it to find out more information.

Approximately 5 years later  I became more self-conscious about the obvious spreading of the thin spot in the crown of my head, and I somehow found myself engaged in conversation with a co-worker who shared with me her experiences with 1-2 year cycles of Alopecia during which her scalp hair would come out in patches, eventually leaving her bald and requiring her to wear wigs.  She told me about an organization in S.F.  through which she received resources and support.  I did look them up and call them to request information.

I learned that there were various “types” of Alopecia, from various causes, however as I recall there was a greater emphasis on “prosthesis” for those who had total baldness, and even then primarily from the side effects of Cancer treatment . Since at the time my condition wasn’t as pronounced or “drastic”, I pretty much concluded that I should just be grateful to have the hair I did and not have to wear a wig or deal with some of the other issues some people were experiencing.

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BARING IT WITH HEART: A NEW ATTITUDE and “DO”—IT’S TIME TO RECOGNIZE!

September 4, 2012

I love to celebrate and acknowledge people and events which have personal significance to me and those I care about. I’m also known to be one who can talk a lot.  However I don’t like talking about just anything, to anybody, at any time.  

I like talking about things which inspire me and others to learn, grow, laugh, and be of help to others with those who share my interests.  Therefore, what better time than during a special, designated time of recognition and celebration?

Most people are aware of my personal love for Hearts, Children, Foster Care, and Adoption; and are familiar with my annual celebrations of “HEART” month (February); National Child Abuse Month (April); National Mental Health Awareness and National Foster Care Month (May); and National Adoption Month (November).  Well you can add one more to the list.  

 

I just recently learned that September is INTER National Alopecia Month.  You might ask what is Alopecia?  And why would I want to celebrate it? 

Throughout this month I will share with you the new attitude, new “do”, and new insights I’ve gained  through my OWN 30+ year journey of disbelief, camouflage,  embarrassment, cover-up,  frustration and finally acceptance and embracing of Alopecia!

If you, or someone you know has faced the challenges of Alopecia, or any other condition which has caused you to question your sense of identity and/or acceptance as an open, attractive, and confident woman, please stay tuned to my blog (sign up if you haven’t already) and let me hear from you.

So how ya like me NOW? 

Photo by Curtis Jermany
www.gzphotoz.com

Make-Up By Miss Kiya B

www.mkbthemua.webs.com

 

 


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