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Category Archives: Personal Processing

Catching Up Quickly

I realized that I have not posted on my blog in almost 6 months…..This made me question its relevance….As I am preparing to revisit my blog, title, purpose, etc I do want to share some of the quotes, images and emotions that have fueled me since my last check in. 

Please feel free to reply with some of your motivational stuff! We ALL NEED THIS! 

What quotes, pictures, etc have kept you motivated over the last 6 months?

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The Space in Which You Exist

Have you thought about the space in which you exist? What about your environment impacts your day to day or what about your experiences impact your environment? Today I took a few minutes to create the space in which I would see myself living in if I were a character in a book or play.

I may be missing some categories but it was fun to think about the space in which my character would live. Please take a few minutes to look at my characters space and feel free to share with us your vision for your characters space; Add categories as you see fit!

Overview: a wide open space, apartment connected to a larger house

Feeling: Warm and casual
Colors: Yellow, Reddish Orange and purple,
Accents: Candles, picture frames- pictures of things and places and quotes- no people, throws, pillows, drapes, heavy drapes, big furniture, statues, sunlight surrounds spaces, big plants
Sounds: Music is always in the background, jazz, instrumentals, opera, sounds of water and laughter in the distance
Emotion: poetry, optimism and sex
Lives for: peace, intimacy, meaningful encounters, truth, fun and purity

From apartmentguide.com

From apartmentguide.com

 

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Aside
Fasting in January (from my journal at the time)
This time I tried fasting from something in particular, something that I felt had a hold on me….. (last time it was food until after 6 for one day)…
It’s amazing how when you begin to fast you want the thing you selected to give up more than ever.
I had reinforcements…my friends helped me avoid temptation
I prayed a lot this time…a lot more than I used to….overall I pray a lot more now……Fasting4
How it all worked all a few months later…
I made some really big changes in my life….
The changes are not only attributed to the fasting but an overall process of change and prayer that I am committed to because my spirit is not settled. I want to rid myself of uneasiness more than the thing(s) I thought I needed….the thing(s) I perceived as happiness.
I think the changes will allow me to reach my path of financial freedom as scheduled….You never REALLY know how one big change makes a different in so many areas of your life…..
Share your pre and post fasting experiences. How was your life been impacted by fasting?

Fasting part 2 and starting 3…..

 

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Relocating With Your Dreams

This is a guest post from Keena Stephens

In July 2010, I made a career and life move by relocating to Atlanta, GA. My decision to move was greatly influenced by a trip to Atlanta in May 2010 during a visit to my cousin. My perception of the city prior to this visit was largely connected to the family trips to Ellenwood (suburban Atlanta), AUC Homecomings, and the glamorized view of Atlanta from TV shows such as The RealHousewives of Atlanta. During this trip, I gained a real perspective of the city of Atlanta. While visiting, I volunteered for a career day event at Sylvan Hills middle school. I witnessed the teachers work overtime to develop this event and their everyday curriculum with limited resources while working to reshape the minds of the students and expose them to positive role models and examples of the fruits of a college education. More importantly, the teachers were accomplishing this with within a community where the students were regularly exposed to images that were the extreme opposite. Here I was, in the middle of the beautiful “A-Town” and it looked no different from my neighborhood in Roseland or my dad’s old neighborhood in Englewood in Chicago. These students had the same fears, hopes, and dreams as the kids back home, and unfortunately the same barriers.

Atlanta Skyline

Atlanta Skyline (Photo credit: k1ng)

What I realized most was that although Chicago will always be my hometown, this city that others see as the Mecca for Black Wealth has ghettos, poverty, poor healthcare, violence and disparities in the delivery of resources to poor communities. These are the same issues that you will see in almost any American city. This changed my perspective of community to a more all-inclusive look at poverty across the country. I realize that no matter what a city may look like from a visitor’s perspective, it must be acknowledged that those that dwell in that city may share the same struggles of what you know of your very own city. The grass is not greener. There is work to be done across this country and more, globally. I personally focus my efforts on communities that are impoverished, considered low-income or have a poor school system. Other factors of service for me include- limited access to healthcare and other necessary functional resources. However, the community you choose to assist with should be near in both distance and to your passion. So, as my heart and efforts will still be tied to my hometown and my old Roseland southside Chicago neighborhood, I will not dare overlook and refuse to take part in the Sylvan Hill, Bankhead, West-End areas where those that look like me are suffering like my people back in the most impoverished areas in Chicago.

Tips on relocating or consideration before moving

1- Visit the community for an extended period of time. This will allow you to develop a connection to that community and build relationships. You can become apart of the community if you don’t associate with the people within it. If you have not chosen a neighborhood, this will help you determine which areas fit your personality and interests.

2- Join a volunteer group after moving. My first major activity upon moving to Atlanta was the CHAMPS Health Summit in 2010. I worked with Morehouse School of Medicine, Emory, and the Midtown Urology Staff on this health screening drive for men of color. Not only was this a rewarding experience to be able to coach these men in taking care of their health, but I also met new friends and people that were doing great things in my career field. I later gained a great position working with one of the companies at the Health Summit.

3- Try not to compare your new place to your old city. I find a lot of people who constantly compare their new city to their old city, sometimes end up moving or completely missing out on the experiences that they can gain from relocating. For me, Atlanta is not Chicago, but I have found wonderful things specific to Atlanta that have made my move worthwhile. Every city has its own character, so exhaust the possibilities that your new city has to offer.

4-Try new hobbies and find new friends ASAP. When in Rome do as Romans do. I am a die-hard Bears fan, but I tailgate with the Falcons fans as often as possible….with my Bears shirt on of course! The best thing about relocating is that you have the opportunity to try things that you did not or could not try at home. This may include new foods, outdoor adventures, or anything fun that you may not have done in your old city. A great website to meet new friends and find out what is going on in your new city is Meetup.com. You can find a group that may have hobbies you do or hobbies you have always wanted to do.

5-Before you move at all consider finances first. This is the number one tip I can give before you relocate. Please do your homework. Actually find out what the actual cost of living is for that city, not just relying on the internet posted prices. Look into all additional costs as well including sales taxes, costs to insure and register vehicles, gas and proximity from home to work, and average utility costs. Finally, research the costs to move from your location to your new destination. These figures will help you to determine if your budget will support you relocating.

Good luck!

Bio:

Keena Stephens is a 28 year-old African-American woman, born and raised in a two parent home in the Roseland Community on Chicago’s Southside.  Her upbringing instilled in her the passion for community outreach and has been a major influence in her work as a healthcare practitioner.  At the age of 18, Keena received her license as a Practical Nurse and worked her way through college, graduating in May of 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Community Health from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Upon graduation she worked at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, IL until her move to Atlanta, GA in July 2010. 

While in Atlanta, GA, Ms. Stephens has worked as a Research Coordinator for Morehouse School of Medicine and more recently as a Research Project Coordinator for the Atlanta VA Medical Center.  Her affiliation with both Morehouse School of Medicine and the Atlanta VA Medical Center has afforded her the opportunity to reach a diverse healthcare population; underserved areas through community clinics and health education fairs as well as Veteran support outreach.  She is currently in pursuit of her Doctorate in Nursing Practice with a specialty in Family Practice.  Her goal is to provide holistic, comprehensive healthcare to patients of all levels of income through evidence-based practice.  Keena is a social butterfly and enjoys spreading her positive energy in and out of the workplace.  In her free time she enjoys traveling, great food, and getting acquainted with her new city.

 

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Resolutions That Don’t Have to Wait Until the New Year

New Years is a time that promotes reflection and goal setting, two of my favorite things. Today I have taken a few minutes to look over the book “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” by Eckhart Tolle. eckhart tolleI originally read the book in 2008 and revisited a few pages in which I had folded down the corner of the edges. The points below yet again put my attention in a chokehold and I am hoping that moving forward I can exist with the following in mind.

1. Focus on healing the inner and the outer will follow

I.e. my inability to lose weight is the physical manifestation of all that I carry

2. No longer use the words I, me, my, or myself unless necessary (the rest of this post will be difficult to write-lol)

I.e. avoid engaging with people in a way that puts personal opinions or preferences at the center of dialogue

3. When in doubt believe the following: Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment (Tolle).

4. Know the difference between a fact and an opinion

Tolle explains that we often perceive an event in relation to our reaction to the event, thus leading to confusion. He further explains that an instinctive response is the body’s direct response to an external situation. An emotion is the body’s response to a thought.

5. Redirect unhappiness (this is related to number one)

Tolle says: “Unhappiness is an ego created mental-emotional disease that has reached epidemic proportions. It is the inner equivalent of the environmental pollution of our planet.”  Tolle asks: “Can you see that your unhappiness about being unhappy is just another layer of unhappiness?”

6. Accept that it is so…..

Using a quote by Shakespeare and focusing on perception again, Tolle reminds us that events and happenings “are as they are. What is dreadful is your reaction, your resistance to it, and the emotion that is created by that resistance.” Shakespeare’s words, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

7. Become a better listener (this ties in to number two)

I.e. in conversation or in reading and writing allow others to go through their own process. Tolle states that the power of allowing lies in noninterference, nondoing.

8. Stop being over dramatic about the past

Tolle encourages us to know that whatever we learn through self observation or psychoanalysis is about you. It is not you.

9. Live in the moment

Tolle suggests that we frequently ask ourselves: What is my relationship with the present moment?

I can say I right now because this is solely about me :). In closing these are the lessons I am guided by beginning right now.

Where have your reflections led you to today?

 

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The Impact of Domestic Violence in Communities

a-new-me-final LogoGuest Post by Felicia Simpson, Founder and Executive Director of A New Me Foundation.

When I hear and read statistics such as: in the city of Chicago, there are over 500 calls reported daily for domestic violence incidents, or 1 in 4 women will be abused in their life time and 1 in 3 teen girls will be abused, it is beyond overwhelming to my spirit. Domestic violence is presented to our community in two ways: either our communities care, or they don’t. Simple. Bottom line. It amazes me that once a year domestic violence is only “highlighted” a few days in the month of October and then over shadowed even more because that’s the same month as breasts cancer awareness. But yet our lives and our communities suffer daily due to the increased rates of violence against women and children who live there.

Let’s take a step back, when you were little, you were told that famous line that momma only had to tell you once, “What goes on in this house STAYS in this house”. That one famous line is the same line that is causing so many deaths, drug and alcohol addictions, health disparities, rape, child molestation, new cases of HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure, debt due to unpaid medical expenses….. these are as I like to call it, side effects of domestic violence in our communities. Some are easy to relate to the cause of cycles of violence. Others you may question, what does that have to do with domestic violence and the impact it has in our communities? The answer, what goes on in your house, affects all that live inside your community at some point. For instance, that victim or abuser of domestic violence that has become addicted to alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, now or soon will have major health problems, causing them to stay a resident in the county or local hospitals emergency room, assuming that they likely don’t have insurance…. guess what? That victim is now in debt, stressed and blood pressure is soaring through the roof to find extra money and will probably do just about anything to get it…… Have you noticed what is happening here? From one domestic violence case in our community, society has just housed another possible, inmate, terminally ill patient, rape victim etc. Now another person in our community is making “us” look bad.

The property value of our homes go down because after so many holes and tears in the walls, the foundation of the house is no longer valuable. The abuser isn’t working and recently the victim got fired because their employer was tired of their boyfriend coming to their job, making a scene and making them loose faithful clients and revenue. So now what, the mortgage cannot be paid and there’s another boarded up house on our block. Here’s another famous line, “Whelp, there goes the neighborhood”.

Most homicides due to domestic violence leaves a trillion questions for the grieving victim’s family of what and how they would’ve done something different. Or now, the family of the abuser, who didn’t physically lose his life, but now that person is physically lost in our judicial system adding to the already overpopulated correctional facilities. Now our community loses another person who, if had been helped and or treated, possibly would’ve been another productive citizen in our communities and not another hindrance. I always make awareness that if we only “fix” or “advocate for the victims of domestic violence and not the abuser, the families involved or educate the community, we will NEVER end domestic violence. To me, I have seen enough of the people in our communities die silently and slowly from domestic violence and I work diligently to raise awareness and educate our community to know that domestic violence is PREVENTABLE.

There have been many celebrity lives affected by domestic violence played out in the media. Our communities, who endorse and help pay the salaries of these celebrities, need to take more action in providing more money into prevention services and not funerals and tax dollars for prison inmates each year. Celebrities that we’ve seen the effects of domestic violence include Rhianna and Chris Brown, Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson and Evelyn Lazada or the recent alleged murder and suicide of NFL player, Jovan Belchr and his girlfriend. Hollywood has provided us with movies such as “Precious”, “For Colored Girls” and “Enough”, to give us a glimpse of how domestic violence plagues our communities. Too often the communities wait too long to respond and we are attending another funeral or watching the slow but fast demise of another loved one.

How can the community help end violence against women and their children? Start by educating yourself, the block you live on, discuss it at the town hall meetings, book clubs, fraternal or sorority chapter and regional meetings, family dinners, volunteer at the shelters for battered women and their children or homeless shelters (some of the women that live in shelters is due to leaving an abusive partner), use your social media accounts, donate money to organizations to help them continue to provide services, talk to your children and their friends and anyone with a listening ear, that we have a serious problem in our communities and we need to do something about it. I thank you in advance for what you will set forth to do after reading this post to help victims of domestic violence and their families.  May God continue to bless you and all that you do in the lives of others as we continue to help break the silence of domestic violence in our communities.

For more information on ways to donate or volunteer, you can contact me, Felicia T. Simpson at anewmef@gmail.com or (773)469-6758.

Bio:

Felicia T. Simpson, a proud mother of three children, a four time self – published author, Motivational Speaker, and a Family Violence Prevention Specialist. She is the Founder and Executive Director of A New Me Foundation that serves as an advocacy platform for domestic violence victims, survivors and their families who are affected by domestic violence. Felicia works throughout the city of Chicago teaching violence prevention classes in grammar and high schools. Her motivation for providing these services is because at one point, she was a victim and continuously survives to teach others how to break the silence of domestic violence in our communities.

 

 

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Why Pro-Choice Equals the Right to Choose Better

This is a guest post by Raven Ashley. She can be reached at Ravenashleywrites@gmail.com. Great read and a fresh voice on factors that influence the design of community and self.

The inspiration for me to even pick up a pen (okay, my Macbook) and write this opinion piece is the cornerstone of why I am Pro-Choice, put another way, why I am pro abundant life. I could tell you this piece was derived out of years of protest and support for the right of choice. I could tell you this piece was inspired by the sincere disdain I have for political parties who support a cesspool of misogynistic malarkey some of its members represent by actually attempting to define the levels of rape; because, well, we all know that “legitimate forcible rape” is the only kind of real rape. Right? Riiiiiight. However, if I told you that, I would be lying. This piece is inspired by Jasmine.

As a nearly lifelong resident of the south side of Chicago, I am often exposed to the full gambit of what this side of the city has to offer: comedic genius, heartbreaking despair, familiar peculiarity, altruistic motivation, pessimistic stances, hopeful ideals, unabated success, depressing defeat, defiant triumph, soaring confidence, unabashed ingenuity, and everything in between. This past August, while sitting in front of my home in my car, I witnessed heartbreaking despair.

After a long day at work, I pulled in front of my home and just rested. I stopped at the grocery store before coming home and I was mentally preparing to trek up three flights of stairs with my workbag, purse, gym bag, and grocery bags (talk about bag lady!). As I sat with the windows down, two girls, no older than 16, walked and talked. While I obviously did not hear their entire conversation, I heard enough. With a terrified look, I heard one of the girls say, “But, I’m not ready. I made a mistake.” As the girl rubbed her stomach, she declared in a stern staccato rhythm, “I. Am. Not. Ready.” To this serious affirmation, her walking partner (and de facto reality check) responded, “Jasmine, you ain’t got a choice. The baby will be here before you know it.” And with that, the girls had passed my earshot and I became mentally paralyzed: frozen in a moment of anger, concern, and sheer fear.

I did not know these girls and it is likely I will never see their faces again. Nevertheless, in that moment, I wanted to grab them both and let them know, YOU DO HAVE A CHOICE. But, I did not. I sat in the car and I prayed. I prayed for clarity and preparedness for Jasmine, her family, the father, and his family. I wish I had done more, but I am not sure what was my rightful place to do beyond put forward earnest prayer for her.

Admittedly, abortion is not ideal. Ideally, abortion would not be necessary as women would not be subjected to rape and only persons physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially prepared would bring children into the world. Ideally. But here, in reality, women are raped (the ambiguity of the term sexual assault is a patriarch’s attempt at softening the harshness of what rape entails—please excuse my decision to call a spade, a vile spade) and people who are totally ill prepared (in all aspects) to have children get pregnant and then what?

I am sure it makes everyone feel warm and cozy at night to think that unprepared parents, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, make the necessary sacrifices, and raise amazing children in fantastic environments. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. For the small portion of unprepared parents who are able to allow the blessing of a child to catapult them into magnificent parents, I am thankful for them, their experience, and their ability to excel in spite of challenges. However, my concern lies with masses who, for whatever reason(s), are not equipped nor prepared to raise a child into abundant life. What happens when an ill prepared person brings a child into this world? Why is it okay to force an unborn being into a potential life of poverty, educational ignorance, and overall hardship? That is why I am pro-choice: rather, pro abundant life.

No individual wants to bring a child into the world where they cannot give that child the basics. When I reference, ‘the basics,’ I am reaching beyond the baseline food and shelter requirements. I am speaking of purposeful nurturing, in-depth teaching, varied life experiences, a caring familial atmosphere, instilling a dedicated sense of worth/self esteem, among other basic abundant life requisites. Jasmine said she was not ready. Why would we, as a society, not listen to Jasmine? She is well aware she does not (yet) possess the tools required to raise a child into abundant life (however, I would like to note that recognition of her current capabilities is indicative of a self-aware and intelligent kid), so why should she be forced into giving her child something less than what she wishes for the child? Because of religious fanaticism? While I should end that discussion with the simple phrase“Separation of Church and State,” I am not so foolish as to end there; plus there is a better point to be made!

Religion is no excuse. We are free-willed beings. Because the apple is there, does not mean we MUST eat the apple. We have a choice. If someone, for whatever reason, chooses an abortion, that is a decision for which that individual must harmonize with their God (provided they are believers). Who is man to over step boundaries into the personal decisions of each other? If you want to start the line-stepping let’s start with BIG business: fast/overly high caloric food, alcohol, pornography, weapons, cigarettes.  Oh, what’s that you say? Those industries are different and do not present any threat to the moral compass of this society. Insert crisp sarcasm.

The reality is we all make unplanned steps. We have all succumb to desires and urges that are best left alone. Not one of us is free from piss poor decision-making, at one time or at present. We are human. However, to take away the freedom of choice is an unequivocal infringement on our distinct right to make a better decision in response to poor decision. Moreover, the denial of the freedom of choice is an extreme display of massive hubris: to decide, with sweeping generalizations and reckless abandon for individual rights, what a woman can and cannot do with her body is a depraved abuse of power.

For those who say, “there are other options” I ask, for everyone? Let’s take adoption, for example. Even a cursory glance at the Department of Human and Health Services report for the foster care/adoption data (reporting data for FY 2010), shows that it will take, on average, upwards of three years, before a child will be fully adopted, if they are ever adopted at all. Do you know what can happen in three years? Well, someone could complete law school, an administration could save the United States economy from the likes of a Depression-like annihilation by allowing the government to back mainstay business institutions, or a child could be crushed with defeat as they hope and pray someone will “love them” all the while growing cynical and becoming hardened by life’s hand. But, hey, that is how the cookie crumbles. Chin up, chap!

Let’s take another option, foster care. The kids who never get adopted are likely to remain in foster care until they age out: group homes, private homes run as group homes (often with four or more children at one time), or worse, abusive private homes run as indentured servitude camps. Neither option is likely to prove helpful for a child who will, undoubtedly have some emotional challenges (let alone the normal issues relegated to childhood). Forcing a parent to choose this reality for their child is equivalent to forcing a parent play Russian Roulette with their child’s life.

So, let’s say the parent keeps the child but is financially, among other ways, unprepared to raise the child. Who takes care of the child? Baby has got to eat! Generally speaking, those who are Pro Life are, also pro small government: to be read anti-HELPFUL government programs such as food stamps, Medicare, welfare etc. So, let me get this straight, people are all for bringing a life into the world, they are not willing to help support. Talk about a Catch 22! So, you take away the freedom to choose when you bring a life into this world but conversely, you are against providing adequate support for people when they are forced to bring a child into the world. How is that pro life? Sounds like pro cyclical despondency, if you ask me.

I am not professing to have all the answers. Quite on the contrary, I am more perplexed about this subject now than I was when I began writing. But, the right to choose is sacred. Being Pro Choice is really about being pro abundant life. For those who, despite their readiness, decide to press forward and bring life into this world, with the hopes of providing abundant life to that child, I applaud them and I hope they are able to complete the task. However, for those who know, at the outset, they are unprepared for parenthood, the right to choose is precious and it is their right. Now, I am not naive enough to believe there are no limits to the right to choose. The right must not must not be abused (if abortion is your birth control, then we have yet another display of depraved abuse of power) nevertheless, the rules cannot be made for the outliers as only the middle suffers at that point.

The truth is, the right to choose is more than making what appears to be an easy decision, it may ultimately be the most agonizing decision one ever makes. However, it is theirs to make. To the Moral Mollies condemning being Pro Choice, being Pro-Choice is not about supporting the action but rather supporting the right to choose.

Jasmine did have a choice and I hope the next Jasmine has the same choice: the choice to choose abundant life for her child.

 
 

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