Guess Who Got Published on MBB?

Happy Friday Folks!

If you haven’t heard, I was honored to get an article published on one of my favorite blogs…MyBrownBaby (yep, one word). MyBrownBaby is an incredible blog started by Denene Millner who states that “MyBrownBaby isn’t about pointing fingers at or putting down white moms. It’s about helping black moms. It’s also about providing a service for those who need the information but can’t find it or who just want someone to commiserate with them—help them sort through the beautiful struggle that comes with being black parents in America.” You love it right?

It’s a great blog with a wealth of information, articles, tips and stories from both men and women about children. I have been following along for the last couple of years. So, in light of #domesticviolenceawareness I decided to share my story in hopes of getting it published and bringing home what I’ve been sharing all month with you.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Domestic Violence is a topic that is close to my heart. I’ve shared more with you than I’ve shared with my own family. (I guess you guys/gals are my family). This writing has been therapeutic for me and I’ve grown through it. Which is incredibly helpful. Well, I decided to submit an article for publication earlier this month and I got notified on Wednesday that it was accepted and went live. I am overjoyed and I hope you have a chance to check out my latest piece and to subscribe to this incredible blog!

Click here for my post –  Suffer the Little Children: The Effects of Domestic Violence on Kids

Be blessed loves!

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Good Woman Down

I’m tired. I’m tired of being superwoman. I’m tired of being told that I need to be a hold it down woman for my man, family and business. Truthfully? It’s exhausting. I don’t want to wear my cape all the time. I get tired of trying to save the world. Whose gonna save me?

How many times do we have to convince ourselves that a good woman stands by her man? You are told that you have to be his ride and die and you have to have his back no matter what or you’re not a real woman. You’re not down. You’re not good enough. But, I have a question…should this apply to all men? Shouldn’t we be selective in our search of finding men who will love and want us without jacking us up emotionally, spiritually or physically?

Black women experience intimate partner violence at rates over 30% higher than white women. Yet, we continue to stay. We continue to say that “he didn’t mean it” or “I made him angry”. We make excuses for fear of being ridiculed in our own community because we left him. We convince ourselves that it’s okay because we’ve been told that “he’s a good man, he just has a temper”. But, it’s not true. Fact: He is a bully. He is our abuser. No good man will hit you.

I wanted to remind you that domestic violence affects everyone. It’s not an issue that we only need to focus on when a public figure is accused of a crime. It’s an everyday fight whereby we need to remember the numbers, educate our children and create policies that don’t allow for violence against women. Even in the private sector. I would love it if my employer could create a policy denouncing domestic violence and suspending employees who are accused of crimes. Wouldn’t that be revolutionary? Wouldn’t it show that we’re serious about the health of our employees and their families?

I read this great article last week on the Huffington Post entitled “30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics That Remind Us that It’s an Epidemic” by Alanna Vagianos and cried. Why? Because the numbers were painful.

Did you know my favorite number is 3? Probably not. Many people don’t know that about me. I am one of 3 children. I was a family of 3 and my birthday is on the third. Three is my favorite number. Three is also the number “of women murdered every day by a current or former male partner in the U.S.” Sad huh? Three.

Read the article. Read the statistics. Understand that it is an epidemic. Long before the article, I heard “Good Woman Down” by Mary J. Blige and knew that I would never forget the lyrics to this song. Why? Because her words were truthful and illustrative. They were haunting. Mary sings…

“When I used to see
My daddy beat
My mother down
Down to her feet
I used to say
That ain’t gon’
Never be me
(Never be me)
Now look at you
Bruised up
From him
Girl recognize
You’re better then
Him tellin’ you
That he’ll never hit
You again
Girl don’t cry”

Powerful isn’t it? Mary is taking me back to my own childhood. Violence. 

Now that we are wrapping up Domestic Violence Awareness month, I don’t want us to forget. I want us to remember. I want us to do something. Like the NFL did. They created this video denouncing domestic violence and sexual assaults against women. I love to see strong men standing up for women and women’s rights. No more blaming the victims and making excuses for the aggressors. Hopefully, we can reduce some of these staggering statistics next year, because I believe that together we can make a difference.

 

Check out Mary’s video from the Essence Festival. Start at 4:35 to see her perform “Good Woman Down”

To Freeze or Not

Lately there has been a lot of discussion on whether or not companies should pay for women to freeze their eggs and if they do pay for it, is it a true benefit or are they requesting that women delay their fertility? Now, let me start by saying that any benefit for reproduction rights or options I support. Not just as a woman, but as an HR professional.

No, I don’t believe they are requesting women to delay their fertility. I believe that when companies pay for women to have reproductive benefits and options they are understanding that people are waiting later to have children. Career, marriage and then children are happening later and thus making it impossible for seemingly healthy individuals to have children. Why not make your choice now?

As a woman who used her infertility benefits, my employer paid for Invitro Fertilization (IVF) which is how I got my munch. My employer offered a lucrative benefit of $100,000 per lifetime or 3 live births (whichever came first). This is a very generous benefit that many Americans may not have. That being said, I went through two attempts at IVF and had my eggs frozen on the second attempt. So, here’s what happened in a bullet format during this process:

  • My ex and I couldn’t conceive naturally so it was recommended that we do IVF.
  • The purpose of IVF is to give you one healthy baby. No more, no less. We had hoped for twins.
  • They put me on a lot drugs to regulate and control my menstrual cycle.
  • Lots of hormones to stimulate my follicle growth and produce multiple eggs being released. The drugs made me hate my spouse and he was patient because of the side effects.
  • Everyday blood work to see what is the optimal time to retrieve the eggs.
  • Taken into the room at the clinic and your eggs are extracted. My second attempt they extracted 11. I cried. Why? Because the woman in the other room had 23 eggs retrieved. All that pain for nothing. I felt alone and miserable. The doctor came in to talk to me and said “Not to give the other patient’s information away, but she has a condition called Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and she produced a lot more eggs. That doesn’t mean that they will all fertilize successfully. Our goal is to get you one healthy embryo to implant.”
  • Day 1 they called to tell me that I had 9 remaining embryos
  • Day 2 they called to tell me that I had 7 remaining embryos
  • Day 3 they called to tell me that I had 5 embryos that were developing beautifully
  • Day 4 they called to tell me that I still had 5 embryos and that they were going to do a day 5 transfer
  • Day of transfer was bittersweet. I had been there before and it didn’t work. I was scared. The same doctor who had done my egg extraction had told me that she was excited to do my transfer. She said you had 5 beautiful embryos and that they selected two grade AA embryos to implant. (Apparently that is good).
  • Decision of whether to transfer one or two embryos. Chances of implantation were 39% with one embryo and 68% with two. However, two embryos could produce two babies. Twins.
  • My ex and I sat there. He looked up and said, “Transfer two.” I hesitated. Could I handle twins? Yes, they were cute, but two college funds, two day cares and two sets of clothes would overwhelm us financially. But, people do it all the time right?
  • I asked the doctor with the kind eyes, “What would you do as a woman?” She smiled and said, “I would transfer two but, it’s up to you.”
  • We transferred two embryos. Froze the remaining three.
  • Waited two weeks for a pregnancy test.
  • Received the call that I was pregnant
  • Asked to repeat pregnancy test in three days.
  • Pregnancy confirmed.
  • Repeated it a third time. Still pregnant.
  • Ultrasound performed a month later.
  • One embryo implanted. Heartbeat and sac.
  • I was having a singleton not twins.

My three remaining embryos were frozen, but during the pregnancy confirmation, my doctor had indicated that he would prefer to go through a new cycle instead of using the frozen embryos if I was going to delay another attempt for greater than a year. Why? It was painful as heck. He said, “Better chances of getting fresh and viable embryos to implant. Freezing and thawing are hard on embryos. The embryos may not survive the process.” Wow, all that work for nothing I thought.

I tabled the matter and focused on my pregnancy and my marriage. After one year of freezing our eggs, I wasn’t ready to be a mother again or go through the process of doing IVF. I was exhausted. The expense was now going to be on us to continue to store and freeze our eggs. My insurance covered the first year, but we would have to pay $783 the next year to continue the storage. That cost would increase the next year and so forth. We elected to destroy the embryos.

It was painful. It was necessary. It was a choice. But, I say all this to offer words of encouragement to women who may be thinking that it’s better than nothing. Yes, it is better than nothing. If you have no partner in mind, are not ready for children or you are career focused (like I was), it is an option to try and extend your fertility if you would like to have a baby someday. But, it is a painful process. If you don’t want children, I wouldn’t recommend it and it is expensive. Cost is a factor and more importantly…it may not work when you go and thaw your eggs. Weigh your options and know the choice is yours and any benefit that supports reproductive rights or options for women is a good thing.

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A Time Out is Necessary

So, I read this interesting article on Yahoo and was completely in awe of this young lady in China who stayed at a KFC for seven (yep 7) straight days after her boyfriend broke up with her. I was reading it and was like “I completely understand girlfriend” (raises glass in solidarity). Why did she do it? Because she needed to think.

Awesome isn’t it? The simplest answer is always the truest. She just sat there in that KFC wanting to think and eat. She said “I hadn’t planned on staying there long; I just wanted some chicken wings.” Dang, them KFC wings must be good in China! I loved this story because she reminded me that sometimes we all need just a break to figure things out in our lives. No real timetable to get over heartbreak or to just ponder our lives.

I felt that way this weekend. I really didn’t want to talk to people. Not because I don’t love my friends and appreciate the fact that I’m overwhelmingly blessed to have such great people in my life. It was just that I wanted a “time out” to focus on me and my thoughts. I didn’t return calls like I said (you know I hated that) and I just sat in bed watching TV and eating a bowl of Breyer’s Butter Pecan Ice Cream. It was perfect.

But, I felt remorseful because I didn’t know how to tell my friends that I needed a “time out”. I felt guilty. It wasn’t like I was depressed or upset about something. I was just in my head and wanted a “time out” for me. Yes, I had my son. Yes, I had to be his mother first, but outside of that, I just wanted me and my thoughts to be on one accord.

How many times do we go through life and just let it happen to us? How many times do we wish we could sit at home and veg out just because we want too? Nothing has to be wrong for us to want a break. People think if you want a “time out” that something is wrong and then they go about the great task of trying to decode and decipher if you’re having a breakdown. Sometimes I am. Not the “I need a padded cell kind” (not yet at least), but the kind where I need to regroup and regain focus because my thoughts are not aligned with my spirit.

Harmony. That’s what I strive for. Both my mind and spirit on one accord. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes I spend so much time out of balance that it feels like I can never get a break. A “time out” to sit back, think, reflect and get back to me. So, if I didn’t call you back this weekend like I said, please owe it to my mind and not my heart.

I needed a “time out” to reflect and refocus my spirit and mind. I will now return you to your regularly scheduled program of my opinionated, loving and charismatic personality. I will make you laugh, cry and throw your hands up in frustration by my wit, but you know what? You love it and so do I. Let the frivolity recommence.

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I Wish I Could

I wish I could is the most hopeful phrase I know. It’s filled with possibilities. I like possibilities. They give me hope. Hope is promise. I like promises.

I was sitting there watching my son sleep last night and reflecting on how people say that I’m a good mother and I love my son. Great! But, doesn’t everyone? Doesn’t every parent love their child more than their own life? Doesn’t every parent’s heart swell with joy every time they think about their child?

Parenting is hard. Yes, I get tired. Yes, I get frustrated. Yes, I want to run away sometimes and lock myself in a padded cell and not hear the words, “Mom” or “Mommy” for a full 48 hours. That sounds ungrateful though. Not appreciating what God has blessed me with – but it’s the truth. It’s not his fault that I’m tired or this is my busy season at work. It’s not his fault if I get sick and he feels the need to check on me every (and yes I mean EVERY) 10 minutes to see if I’m okay. He’s just concerned.

This weekend was rough. I woke up this morning like “Ugh, I can’t believe it’s Monday already!” We had a great and exhausting weekend with visits to the pumpkin patch, swim class, my nail and hair appointments and dinner with his friends at Pizza Hut. As I stood above his bed watching him sleep (like I do many nights) my heart swelled with immense joy. I was truly grateful and blessed that I have an incredible little boy. As I stood over him seeing him in all his innocence, I started a list in my head. A list filled with hope and possibilities.

I Wish I Could:

  • Capture the sound of your laughter at this age because it is the best sound I’ve ever heard. It instantly makes me feel better and gives me hope that I’m not a bad mother when you get disappointed by me telling you no.
  • Teach you how to recognize, acknowledge and respect God’s favor over our lives. I don’t know why God has continually blessed us and keeps us even when I’m not the best person in the world, but I’m thankful. Truly thankful and blessed and I want you to be better than me in that munch.
  • Kiss away the scary. Sometimes you will wake up and I may not be there to kiss away your fears, but know that I am never far away. I believe in you and I believe in the fact that you are a big boy and this too shall pass.
  • Videotape your memories and thoughts when it comes to expressing your love for Jesus. You continually amaze me when you want to talk about Jesus, tell me about the Bible, be Jesus for Halloween or analyze how God is always watching over you even when I’m not there. You didn’t have a problem yelling out at Courtney’s 5th birthday party last week that we had to sing “May God Bless You” before we cut the cake because you want to honor God with everything you have and I am overwhelmingly in awe of who you are.
  • Always remember that I never wanted children. Because until you came along, my life was just ordinary and it was fine. But, the moment you were in my womb, it became extraordinary and I NEVER EVER want to forget that. It allows me to appreciate you and what you have done for me. Your very existence changed my world view. I am eternally grateful for that.

Motherhood is not always roses and laughter. I know there will be days that we will probably be ready to strangle each other, but I can’t take it for granted. The good or bad both matter and they mean that I am doing something right. I am not perfect. I am trying and I love being his mother because I now have purpose. To do what it says in the Bible, “Bring up a child by teaching him the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn away from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (NLV)
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Dating and Domestic Violence

I read the tragic story of Bianca Richardson Tanner this summer and was immediately heartbroken. Bianca was a beautiful, 31-year-old educator and mother. She was reported missing by her boyfriend and 10 days later her body was discovered in a wooded area in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was a victim of domestic violence.

According to her family she had moved to Charlotte with her boyfriend to start her teaching career this fall. Her dream. Her dream died the day she did. Thankfully, her boyfriend was arrested for the crime. How did they catch him? Because Bianca’s courageous three-year old son told the police “Mommy got a spanking with the belt. Angelo kicked mommy’s butt and made her cry,” the boy told police according to court records. “Angelo is mean to mommy and hurt mommy in the face.” The police now had a starting point.

Let’s talk about Bianca’s case. Bianca’s boyfriend was a violent offender against women. He had abused other women prior to Bianca. Bianca never knew. How could a man have three separate abuse charges filed and not have spent time in jail? Why can’t we enact a required law that causes charged abusers to register like sex offenders? I mean did he really have to abuse three women before murdering the fourth. No.

We as women need to be educated when it comes to dating men especially when we have children. We need to diligent about background screenings for potential mates. Even if everything comes back clear, we need to leave at the first sign of abusive behavior. Why do we stay with our abusers? I don’t care if he says he’ll never do it again. I don’t believe it and neither should you. I mean Bianca was abused before right? According to her son, her boyfriend was mean to her. Last month, I read this great piece, by Feminista Jones, for Time where she said:

“Racism and sexism are two of the biggest obstacles that Black women in America face. But because many Black women and men believe racism is a bigger issue than sexism, Black women tend to feel obligated to put racial issues ahead of sex-based issues.”

As I read this, one thought entered my mind, “Yes.” This is why we stay. We have been programmed to believe that our value as black women is to support our black men first and then women issues. We wonder “Am I black or Am I woman”. We can’t seem to simultaneously fight two battles because we have to be strong black women holding down our black men and our black people. But, what about self? I want to change that.

We need to change that. A study of 2011 homicide data conducted by the Violence Policy Center examined that “The disproportionate burden of fatal and nonfatal violence borne by black females has almost always been overshadowed by the toll violence has taken on black males. In 2011, black females were murdered at a rate more than two and a half times higher than white females: 2.61 per 100,000 versus 0.99 per 100,000.” These are not total strangers. More like boyfriends and intimate partner violence.

Recognize the signs. According to Safe Horizon here are some signs of domestic violence:

Does your partner ever:

  1. Accuse you of cheating and being disloyal?
  2. Make you feel worthless?
  3. Hurt you by hitting, choking or kicking you?
  4. Intimidate and threaten to hurt you or someone you love?
  5. Threaten to hurt themselves if they don’t get what they want?
  6. Try to control what you do and who you see?
  7. Isolate you?
  8. Pressure or force you into unwanted sex?
  9. Control your access to money?
  10. Stalk you, including calling you constantly or following you?

So, what do you do if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence or intimate partner violence? First, get help. Call the police! Leave. There is no reason to stay in an abusive relationship and you have to trust that people will help you. You can call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Safe House Center has created a handbook for survivors of domestic violence. You can download it here.

Let’s remember that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and not forget the women who have fallen victim to domestic violence like Bianca Richardson Tanner. Let’s encourage each other to never forget Bianca and know that we can make a difference.

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Check out this video I posted last month about a woman who didn’t hit first and was a victim of domestic violence:

The Economics of Dating

Dating now is a lot like going shopping when you don’t have any money. Even if you find the right thing, you can’t do anything about it. –Joshua Harris

Recently, I’ve been listening to the frustrations of dating and in particular…Who should pay? Should women ever offer to pay? Should men accept the offer? How long should a man and woman date before a woman ever offers to pay? So, I headed to cyberspace to do my research and came across this article on the Huffington Post, written by Catherine Pearson, “Men Still Paying for Dates…And Women are Partly Responsible”. Interesting title right? In short, a study was done and found the following information helpful:

  • 84 percent of men and 58 percent of women say men pay for most entertainment expenses — even after they have been dating for some time
  • 57 percent of women say they offer to help pay
  • 39 percent admitted that they hoped men would reject their offers to pay
  • 44 percent were bothered when men expected them to chip in
  • Nearly two-thirds of men believe women should contribute to dating expenses

The author didn’t offer an opinion on whether or not she thought this was an accurate statement as to how dating should be done. She just interpreted data. That being said, I wanted to know if anyone offered an opinion on this data and found an article for Women’s Health written by Clint Carter “Should Men Still Pay for Dates” and he offered an opinion. Now, before we start to believe that it will be bad, I will say that I agreed with some of his thoughts, but not all of the article. Why? Because of this statement:

“What these women are saying is that, despite egalitarianism, feminism, and all the high-minded isms we now stand for, there’s still something sacred about courtship. And although it’s true that you’re perfectly entitled to ask for equality in the workplace without practicing equality in your dating life, it does create some tension.”

Now, you see why I was like “Woosah”. I was sitting there thinking how odd that you think a man shouldn’t pay for dinner because I want equality in the workplace? Wow! I guess I should stay barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen or be a part of the secretary pool because that will allow men to pay for me right? I had to breathe and realize this is in part the fundamental argument that feminists face…you want equality in the workforce, but not in the courtship.

Sidebar:  Let’s try to breakdown some realities. I am a feminist. Feminism is defined as “the doctrine advocating social, political and all other rights of women equal to those of men”. That’s it folks! Plain and simple. I don’t want to be told that I can’t work somewhere because I’m a woman. I don’t want to be told that if all things are equal and I do the same job as a man that I will be paid less. I don’t want to be told that if I have a baby that I can’t take leave to care for my own self and newborn.

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate men. I love men. I have a son who I adore and motherhood is the singular most important thing I’ve ever done. I just want him to understand that although you may fight for racial equality remember that gender equality is also something you should advocate for because women deserve it. Simple. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get back to the economics of dating.

BUT, when I re-read Mr. Carter’s statement (truthfully like 6 times) what he’s really saying is that you deserve equality but understand that it is going to create tension in your dating relationships. Ain’t that the truth? You don’t believe it? Get up and ask three women between the ages of 28-48 how they feel about dating and whether or not they’ve paid for a date or been asked too? Ask them how it made them feel.

I realized that he’s actually right on point with this. In talking to a number of friends, associates and women and men in general they actually feel that women should be chipping in or paying for some dates. But, what if a woman doesn’t want too? Is it her prerogative? Yes, absolutely. Will she find a lot of men willing to commit for her “to figure out” whether or not they are compatible? Probably not. In reality, dating should be a slow process whereby two people get to know each other and determine whether there are sparks. How much should this cost?  How long can two people who are getting to know each other decide if they like each other enough to be exclusive? Why do women include their costs of make-up, getting an outfit, nails and hair done equate into what “we’re paying” for the date? Is that fair?

Since, I’m slow and tend to think of things in terms of economics, let’s break down some numbers so that we can see how much dating can in fact cost a potential suitor. Here goes:

Now, let’s say he’s a 40 year old male (divorced) with a 6 year old child who is in school full-time.

Expense Monthly Cost                      Notes
Rent  $      1,200.00 Two bedroom apartment in a not so good area in the Washington, DC Area
Car Note  $         300.00
Car Insurance  $         120.00
After Care  $         300.00
Food  $         250.00
Utilities  $         300.00 Includes Gas, Electric, Cable and Cell Phone
Gas for the Car  $         300.00
Credit Card Bills  $         400.00 Expenses with car maintenance and dating
Student Loan Payments  $         200.00
Child Support  $         600.00
FSA  $         100.00 Required as part of his divorce decree to assist in the payment of his child’s medical expenses
Health Insurance  $         220.00 Based it off a monthly two person rate of $1100 with him paying 20%
Total a Month  $      4,290.00
70,000/12 (months)  $      5,833.33 Monthly (Gross)
5833.33*25% (taxes)  $      4,375.00 Net
4375 (Take Home Pay) – 4290 (Monthly Expenses)  $           85.00

Sobering reality huh?  Looking at the chart above, this man is already broke before taking you out to dinner. I’m not judging, just acknowledging that his financial picture is a little sketch. Living off credit cards and a monthly take home of $85 after expenses. How can he afford to court and woo you on this amount? Is it fair for him to take you out weekly at an average spend of $80.00? Does his financial status make him ineligible to be considered a life partner? Truth: It costs to be the boss. Many men and women want to be the boss and have a fairy tale dating life when the economics of dating don’t support it. Life happens and some (not all) men can’t afford to take care of their responsibilities and wine and dine you without some reciprocation. The man above by all accounts seems like a decent man, but let’s face it…some women won’t even give him the time of day if they knew his monthly financial situation.

Finally, I know many people (women) will find fault in my argument, but I want to go back and say that I guess I did agree with Mr. Carter’s response to the data and I want to implore more women to be open about the economics of dating. Realize that sometimes, you have to pay if you want to get past the initial stages of dating. Be open to picking up the tab for breakfast, lunch or quick dinner at a diner. How can a man know you’re a contender if you spend your money getting ready for the date and deduct it as dating expenses? How can you show a man that you genuinely care about him if you find it deplorable to reach into your purse and at least offer to leave a tip? It doesn’t set the gender back. It doesn’t mean that he won’t court you or invest in you. It means that you understand simply…the economics of dating.

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