Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Twins Series: Summer Reading Review

I haven’t given an update on the summer book series that I planned for my twin sons. I also read the books (or already have) so that I can schedule time for us to share our thoughts. I am delighted to give a positive update about how enjoyable the conversations have all been. Although they were reluctant initially the Twins have become more involved and dare I say eager to share their thoughts and discuss the books along with the major theme and/or topic of the book choice. We began with reading "Unlocking the Truth", our discussion emphasized thinking outside the box and not allowing people to contain you to their limits. We then read Sharon Draper’s "Tears of a Tiger" this particular discussion focused on friendship and suicide. I believe that prevention is in talking about suicide to ensure that your teens don’t feel so isolated that the option to reach out isn’t contemplated.

The next selection was "A Long way Gone" by Ishmael Beah this book was tough due to the hardship that is being currently experienced in the Sub-African countries. The twins appeared to be quite sad about Ishmael’s journey and the loss he suffered. I must say as I consider all the books we’ve read this book stirred the most emotion. Unlike the other book, with this one I observed them reading together, sometimes taking turns to read out loud. I highly recommend the book if anyone is looking for something to read. I needed to be sure they read my high school favorite, by S.E. Hinton “The Outsiders”. The discussion focused on classism and stereotypes. I wanted to be sure they had a healthy comprehension and able to articulate their own thoughts. One aspect I cherish most about reading is being able to think about what I read, considering what I know about the content and formulating my own thoughts/perspective/assessment. I've notice from our first conversations up until now how they actually take the time to process what they've read, think about the questions and share their thoughts. They actually began to present questions and using examples from their life to explain or associate their reasoning.

So yesterday (9/5/17) after an hour and a half of some impressive conversation, I asked one of my favorite questions, “What character impacted you most and how do you identify with them?” Darrin Lee answered first, “Well I liked Scout the most, because she didn’t allow others to tell her how to feel about people or how she should be, she was an individual. I like being a twin but I like being me more. We do things different but I like being my own person” Then John answered, “I liked Tom Robinson the best, because he was a good man that loved and protected his family. He believed in being fair and I like treating people right.” What’s funny is that their character truly reflect the way they answered. John has always been the more caring of the two and Darrin Lee is the twin that will correct you should you call him by the wrong name or say “twin”. He’s also the one that asked me at a young age to stop dressing them alike. J When I inquired about which book out of all the books we’ve read, which book you enjoyed reading the most, and they both said in unison “The Outsiders”. They both stated they liked the “action” and the relationship between Darry, Sodapop and Ponyboy.

The idea to add summer reading for the Twins went so well, I decided to continue. Our conversations alone allow me an opportunity to connect with them about their views and how they feel about various topics and social issues. It’s a joy watching my sons use critical thinking skills and expand their minds. I want them to consider others, be empathetic, accept differences and hold firm to their own values/beliefs. Books allow so many paths to be explored that I dare not place limits on their potential. It’s a blessing to have the opportunity to encourage my sons to do more than just read but pick up a book to be enriched. There’s a quote that says “We lose ourselves in books but we find ourselves there too”.

Our next book selection is “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio, not sure what lead me to pick it but variety is good. I’m open to suggestions should you, yes you being the reader, want to share book selections. Thanks in advance and I appreciate your contribution to helping me to continue to parent enthusiastically.    


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The True Defeat

At first glance what does this meme say to you? No really look at it and take a moment to think about it and respond to self. Honestly speaking did you see yourself as the dog or the eagle? How did the situation end? Where were you, mentally when it ended? I saw this meme on social media and was drawn to it because this picture depicted what I see on social media whenever I log in. The amount of energy people use to spread negative and hateful messages is astounding. I call it self-destructive behavior because well essentially it truly only hurts self. (I’ll refer back to the meme as “exhibit A”) This type of self-destructive behavior can be seen in the passive-aggressive and aggressive form.   
Okay so we’ve heard the sayings, "If you dig one ditch you better dig two because the trap you set may just be for you" or how about "holding on to anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die"? For the believers the bible states in Proverbs 26:27, “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.” In my estimation, the true defeat in revenge returns to the hand that dealt it. I often use social media as an observation tool to help me pinpoint patterns in human behavior, test theories and make general assessments. Personally I had to reevaluate my own social media interaction and retain a better handle on being triggered and responding to negativity. A few years ago as I engaged in a war of words with a complete stranger and I remember thinking “What am I gaining?” I believe that question is vital to the individual that actively seeks revenge.
Vengeance is a monster of appetite, forever bloodthirsty and never filled.—Richelle E. Goodrich
It’s like chasing waterfalls, an intangible dream with no thought of the consequences. Take one look at the dog in “exhibit A” and we can see how that scenario will end. Please don't invest a lot of time and energy chasing issues, situations and people that are beyond your control. You can be more productive resolving personal concerns and concentrating on self-improvement help in the betterment of your daily living.  

Revenge can only be found on the road to self-destruction.—Wayne Gerard Trotman
If you are not careful the essence of who you are can be consumed and damaged. So many people are never able to notice how deep the pit they are in is until hopelessness and loneliness appears. The dog is so obsessed with snatching the eagle out the sky, he’s lost sight of the road….well the lack thereof. So tell me, why aren’t you more important to YOU than the person/situation you’re after? Note: non-verbal (actions) supersede the verbal (words).

Revenge is not worthy of you. If you concentrate on revenge, you will keep those wounds fresh that would otherwise have healed.—Adeline Yen Mah
Healing is a response to an injury this sets into motion a sequence of events to restoration, physically and emotionally. I read that there are basically four phases to the healing process as it pertains to the physical. I won’t go in-depth because the research is for an analogy I’m using on another blog but dammit it’s fitting so I will use some information. Ok so the four phases a wound goes through are: the hemostasis, inflammatory phase, proliferation phase, and maturation. There are absolutely no suggestions made that one should pick over the wound, pour salt in it or consistently stare at said wound. The phases show how the body identifies what’s going on, takes action essential to fixing what’s wrong, covers the wound to allow time for it to recover and gain strength. This physical healing process resemble what is necessary for emotional healing.   

The best way to refocus, readjust an attitude and remove a self-destructive cycle after being wounded by life/person/people is to identify, cleanse, learn and apply. Identify what you’re feeling, why and where you are emotionally. Learn what it will take to help you cleanse yourself of negative emotions so that you don’t become consumed. Apply what you’ve learn so that you can eliminate self-destructive behavior releasing revenge for YOU. Why? Because you are more important than what happen to you, or didn’t happen for you. I know how-to steps always sound so simple however I understand all too well that the steps to transforming is the process of improvement. Let’s face it you don't want to be the German Shepard in the picture so consumed with snatching the eagle from the sky that he has lost focus on remaining grounded. He's allowed his pursuit to take him to the edge and possibly his demise. The moment he realizes his surroundings it will be too late and the eagle will continue to do what he/she was born to do, fly higher.

Moral: Be the Eagle, beware of the dogs and don’t be the cause of your own defeat.

Be Strong and Live Free


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Parent Enthusiastically & Enrich their minds

I’m in the midst of reading Charlemagne tha God’s book “Black Privilege”. The book is interesting for numerous reasons however my focal point will be something Charlemagne shares about his mother and her encouraging him to read books specifically book that didn’t pertain to him or his life. I initially didn’t fully appreciate the reason he shared until I was having a discussion with someone about a topic that they were surprised I could share an informed opinion about. I’ve stated in previous blog entries that I embrace opportunities to learn something new and how much I relish in the process of learning. The idea of encouraging your child to read about a variety of subjects increases their ability to think critically and assess situations from several perspectives. In an effort to keep the twins encouraged to read more I discovered that I catered to what they like, which is good however incorporating some variety could also be beneficial.

Lee and I were out this weekend, went in a few stores he indulged me by going into the Dollar Tree. I needed to obtain some gift boxes for some Mother’s Day gifts I had previously purchased. While we were in the store I walked down an aisle that was stacked with books. I was surprised and delighted because there was a great range of hard cover books and I didn’t realize were sold in this store. Similar to any true lover of books I took time out to shuffle through the three packed shelves of books. The price of the book helped in making a treasured find all the more valuable. Lee, aware of my goal to have the Twins become more engaged readers held up a book stating, “I heard about these boys and their band, this might be a good one for the twins”. I was enthralled in my search so without looking up I asked Lee to elaborate, as he read the inner cover he stopped and said “Never mind they may not be interested in this.” That was the sentence that made me pause, Charlemagne’s story about his mother making him read things that didn’t pertain to his life came to mind. I looked up and said “It’s the perfect book, do they have two?”

My goal in life as a mother is to equip my kids with the best information I have so that they are knowledgeable in multiple areas. I want them to do more than survive in life, I want them to flourish. I often tell them “I’m giving you the gift of knowledge and no one will ever be able to rob you of it!” I make it a point to learn additional techniques to improve parenting skills. I listen to the adult children about methods their mothers used while raising them (i.e. Charlemagne). Books have always been important to me from Judy Blume’s “Are you there God, it’s me Margaret” to my favorite “Coldest Winter Ever” by Sista Souljah. You tell me just how diverse the spectrum is pertaining to those two books.  

Like most mothers I consider the short and long term when it comes to parenting. The twins excel in all things electronic, math and athletics. While encouraging them to cultivate what they love doing I also want to build on what is innate in them. I pray what I teach helps them to succeed. What I do understand that if we want our children to exceed to a higher level we must sacrifice and find a balance.
I purchased “Unlocking the Truth” a book about young African American boys that started a rock band and against all odds have become successful. The twins don’t listen to rock music however the band’s story of perseverance and ambition to go after their dream is what I’m hoping translate. I’m reading along with them preparing questions for a 10-12 minute discussion after each section. The first section went better than I expected. Be sure to build a library that offers a variety of subjects and engage them in a short discussion about their thoughts on what they read. Encourage critical thinking skills early and encourage them to increase their vocabulary. Being actively involved in the enrichment of their mind and character is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give.


Live Free and Parent Enthusiastically! 

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Time to TEACH

The twins turned 13 years old back in October. Now while they are still adorably cute to me I had to accept the fact that they are viewed as a threat to society. I honestly believe this is due largely in part to the systematic dehumanization of the black male achieved by the media. A little over a year ago I decided to start conversations with them about how to conduct themselves in the predominately white school they attended. The murders of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice sparked a fear inside of me that no mother should ever have to endure.

Our discussions were great and the decision to have them watch the Netflix documentary titled “13th” took it to another level. Please don’t worry this isn’t a spoiler if you have yet to view “13th”, so stay with me I have a point. I decided to have the Twins view the documentary so that we can discuss their thoughts, feelings and the questions I prepared. I was surprised at just how involved they were and their response. They were both quite attentive while watching and full of their own questions after the documentary ended. We discussed what the 13th amendment was, the ramifications of politicians taking advantage of the loopholes in the 13th amendment and how the media assisted in criminalizing young black men. Their questions were perceptive, earnest and somewhat naïve. It all made for a good eye-opening conversation for us.

The difficulty I had with talking about the systematic oppression people of color experience centered on wanting the twins to retain the innocence of their youth. I mean I didn’t want to tarnish their view of the world they lived in but unfortunately black children aren’t always afforded an extended stay in “naïveté”. It’s a sad truth and the time has come for it to be revealed, explained and discussed. Like many other mothers, want my children to succeed and rise to the level of their greatest potential. This often means making sacrifices, enduring awkward conversations, being open, honest and taking the time out to teach them what social injustice resembles. It is important to balance bringing awareness to them and ensuring that they don’t become jaded. I want them to be proud of their racial identity and respectful of others. I believe that this has to begin with them knowing the history of our people and our country.

I was awaken by the oldest of the twins at about 3am in the morning. He was worried about what he saw in the documentary and he still had questions. He told me “Momma, I can’t stop thinking about that movie and why they think we are all bad.” I assured him that not everyone believed that however there is a system that needs to be altered and was stacked against minorities. What kind of answers do you give a boy that has friends from different races and backgrounds he genuinely likes? How do you soothe the mind of a teen you know has a heart for others? When is there a good time to have these types of discussions? I encouraged him to maintain his friendships, to do his best in making decisions and remain mindful of what his reality is. The truth of the matter is his results won’t be the same as his friends. I had to accept that and in order for me to keep him safe I needed him to do the same. “You are NOT less than, John. Some people are just afraid of allowing others that look like us to be GREAT!”   


I read Dr. Beverly Tatum’s book “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria” for a class I was taking. I didn’t realize at the time how timely the material in the book would be for me when talking to the twins. Dr. Tatum shares insight on the impact of racism, racial identity and the lack of addressing racial issues. Reading this book I realized that it’s my duty to address these issues that would affect my kids during their formative years. I also had to prepare myself for the questions they’d have and the uneasiness I was sure to feel. I must admit one of my greatest concerns was to make sure they continued to treat people fairly. I needed them to know that conversations on race are essential in order for there to be an informed understanding of the minority’s reality. Racial biases are formed early and typically are taught. Breaking the silence to talk about race and accepting differences will help to nurture an open mind. I want them to embrace people on the content of character not the color of their skin. I want them to live who they are....embracing all aspect of being Black and American!  


Friday, February 3, 2017

"Don't go in the direction of the dogs."


It is almost impossible to live a life that is unaffected by other people, their attitudes and opinions. If one isn’t diligently careful those negative aspects could shape your perspective, influence decisions and/or behavior. One skill I’ve acquired during my personal growth is the ability to identify when I need to keep my perspectives non-bias and my judgement to a minimum. Unfortunately, I still have blind spots. I'm still vulnerable to being influenced toward ungodly attitudes and negative actions. Just a couple of weeks ago I found myself reacting to negative energy created by someone else due to their foolishness. I typically steer clear of the negativity produced by people who are obviously miserable. Try as I might I’ve lost some battles. It's difficult to remain positive when you grow weary from a continuous effort of being the “bigger” person only to be taken advantage of or felling like you have. It’s like pressing forward only to be continuously pulled back to a space you know you don’t want to exist in.

I added the picture below this paragraph to assist with forming a mental picture of what I want to help me illustrate my point.  I will use the guy in the black to represent my life. Essentially it’s me working my hardest to change and alter surroundings, attitude etc as I press forward. The guy in the white represents negativity trying to pull me back, notice he has one foot firmly anchored in the “past”. {Side bar; the sad reality is if you don’t remain diligent in positivity no matter how many steps you may take forward negativity will cause you to lose more ground than you’ve gained.} The green resistance bands represents “things/mistakes” used to hold me. Now how many times have you personally agonized over past mistakes, poor choices or bad decisions? What good has it done? So why do we continue to allow it to be used in holding us back or slowing us down? The guy in the pink represents the “prize”. What’s the prize? I’m not sure what the prize is for you but for me it represents a place of truly balanced contentment. It’s where anyone can express what they think, how they feel and it does not penetrate my positive atmosphere. I know my “prize” is waiting for me. I can sense that I’m closer already. I’ve noticed how I can allow things to happen without owning or taking it personally. I can not control how people think, feel or what they do. However I must share with you what I have done to continue to ascend.    











Stay focus and maintain my drive to press forward. “It's difficult to see the forest for the trees” don't be so consumed by the details of a problem/conflict you lose sight of the situation as a whole. No one can take from you the joy in your life, the focus you have on healthy living nor the positive direction you are walking. Be attentive to what you entertain if you are not mindful you could give away the peace and positive atmosphere you created. I had to make a conscious decision to cut out negativity through the people I allowed to have a seat at my table, the conversations I participated in and the places I spent time going. There had to be some cutting away in order for there to be an increase. There wasn’t a moment of vacant spaces because God filled every space with positive energy and new opportunities. I shared a dream I had about a stampede of some vicious pitbulls running with a trusted confidant and she offered this advice “Nay, don’t go in the direction of the dogs!” There will be times when you feel like reacting, retaliating or handing out repercussions but none of it will be worth giving up your peace to run with dogs.
  “When they go low we go high!” ~Michelle Obama.
LatriceRenee

Be Strong.....Live Free

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Release the Prisoner: Free yourself

The danger of feeding into negativity and the resulting factors have been well documented on a psychological and spiritual level. The only true way to release yourself from the burden of a life of bitterness and dwelling in misery is to actively implement the life changing information readily available. Why do we opt out of using it? Is it easier to hold on to bitterness while denying that it so obviously exist in your life? Bitterness drives so many of us yet we swiftly dispel that notion instead of giving it proper consideration. I mean hell who wants to be labeled as being "bitter", right? I'm going to challenge you to take some time to think about it, no one is around it's just you and your thoughts. If you begin by excluding the time spent on what/who caused the hurt/pain allowing you to only to concentrate on what your reality is, at this present moment. So what happen, happened! It sucks! Refusing to acknowledge acceptance of what has transpired and your present day reality is the seed of bitterness. We can get into what fuels it a little later. What does accepting look like because it’s not just saying “I accept what’s happened to me!” Acceptance resembles release, learning the lesson and growth. If you find that your struggling is covered in negative speech, destructive acting out and constant blame then you are bitter. Acceptance is not your reality. There are other variables that feed into the end result however when you deal with the core of anything your chances of resolving the complete issue becomes inevitable.

The more we hold onto past hurts the more we become drunk on our pain and the experience can rob us of the joy we can find in anything. Again no one likes to admit that they are bitter or harboring resentment especially if you use so much of your energy trying to convince others that you are not. Unfortunately what typically happens is you began believing what you’ve said over and over as truth. The facade then  becomes disastrous because you will spend months or years in a private hell due to self deceit. Long lonely tearful nights, many moments of emptiness and feeling unfulfilled daily. I once nurtured bitterness and was well on my way to being consumed. I remember making a choice about 4 years ago to work towards being honest with myself about my feelings and intent. This was for my personal growth not for anyone else. Once I accepted my reality I knew I also had to figure out how I would then LIVE in it and alter it. I realized that the negativity that surrounded me had a lot to do with my choice of allowing it to breath. There would be no relief if I didn’t first suffocate it and replace it with positive energy and people.  

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison”. ~Nelson Mandela
I always appreciate a quote rich in substance and reality, much can be said for practical advice not just philosophical words. It also helps when the quote assist in proving a valid point. Mr. Mandela understood that if he planned to live out the remaining years of his life happy and effectively that there would be no room for bitterness nor hatred. One of the many lessons he learned while in prison was that a mental and emotional prison is just as restricting as a physical prison. Your pain may be valid but a bitter attitude will only increase YOUR misery. It will drive away potential sources of true support and love. Bitterness will always chase away love in your heart and your life. What’s most unfortunate is the obvious denial of what has taken root and is being nurtured. I’m sorry but it’s not that well hidden. If you are honest with yourself then you’ll see some of these descriptors as being familiar: sad/depressed, angry, hostile, ranting about wrongs, refusing to see self, resentful, dwelling on past wrongs, stubborn, wounded, moody, lashing out at others, carrying emotional baggage, blaming others, stereotyping, scapegoating, agitated, negative and critical, defensive, cultivating grudges, raging, maliciousness. This is what bitterness looks like. How could anyone possibly succeed with moving forward fostering any of these emotions and actions mentioned? One of the first successful steps to healing is identifying the wound. If we take a moment and think about it that would apply to any physical/emotional wound or problem as well.

When we are hurt, we have a tendency to replay the painful events over and over in our head or tell anyone who will listen about our pain–even over and over again. Now I personally think it’s great to discuss your inner most feelings with someone or a support group. However that someone should be about helping to heal the hurt, facilitate reconciliation if so desired or just encourage the rebuilding of your life. These are all my personal reflections as I’ve had to fight the battle of bitterness to save my own life from decaying. The few things I’ve noticed in hindsight are the denial (non-acceptance), how it kept me tormented and those that were so willing to eagerly watch me suffer. There is only one word of advice I will offer about the latter and that’s beware of those who vouch for you to continually have a seat in despair among bitterness. These individuals do so by making it comfortable and inviting for you to remain tormented disguising their help as “being supportive”. Again I speak from personal life experience not solely on research. I learned that the pain and heartache I experienced wasn’t going away until I dealt with and accepted what happened. I let go of the idea of “payback” or proving someone wrong. I shifted my focus inward, so I could see me because I had abandoned me like many others. L

Carl Jung stated “the person who looks outward dreams, the person who looks inward awakens.” It wasn’t until I realized that the only true control I had was over myself, I was then able to begin and allow the work needed to fix my heart and mind. I opened my eyes to what I refused to see was causing the ongoing heartache. I know it’s difficult to admit but I want to share with you in love what those around you may have tried and you wouldn’t listen. Or maybe you know but decided to subconsciously suppress. Your life will never get better, that piercing sting will only become more agonizing and you will always be a prisoner if you persist on the path of bitterness.

Break loose and FREE yourself!