Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Never Alone

I was 18 when the doctors told me that I had contrast an std, scared, lost and confused was how I felt, by the grace of God it was something cur- able and not life threatening. You may read this and think to yourself; It was careless of me and I was being a foolish teen having fun without thinking of the consequences.  I was a straight A student, loved sports and president of my class. I never thought in a million years something like this would happen to me but it did.  

I remember it like it was yesterday, a bad dream hunting me. February 2005 I was invited to a friend’s birth- day party, we were having fun, en- joying ourselves and that's when Mr. Tall dark and handsome came along. He was cute as can be and what I thought was perfect. He had a great smile, he had a goal, a dream, and he wanted to be somebody. I thought he was too good to be true and I turned out to be right. As the night went along we kept bringing me drinks and I kept saying no. I wasn't a big fan of alcohol I saw what it did to my mom growing up but he kept pushing and finally I said okay.  

He said can we go somewhere more quite? Me not thinking at the time told him yes. We were outside in the back talking, having an innocent conversation when he kissed me, I kissed back but he wanted more. I told him I wasn't that type of girl and that I was a virgin and wanted my first time to be special. He kept pushing and I kept saying no, I was taught if a guy can’t take “no” for an answer get out as fast as you can. Don't wait for him to react, get your stuff and leave. I told him I had to go and he ask if he could take me home I told him I was getting a ride I’m fine. I didn't see it coming he snapped at me grabbing my hair, he began to beat me up like I was one of the guys. I try to scream for help and he said "no one is going to hear you, you’re not leaving until I get what I want.” 

After he was done he asked me if that was special enough for me. I think I spent the next two days in the shower trying to un- mask his scent and everything about him off me. I never told my mom or anyone. My grades began to fall and I wasn’t the same person anymore. I had supporting teachers who would talk to me asking me if everything was okay because they notice a change in my grades. With the help of staying after school and make up tests I was able to pull my grades back up.  

Time seems to be moving slower than usual and with time changes with my body began to happen. I was scared the first thought came to me was I have a disease and I was going to die. I went to the hospital where I found out I was 6 weeks pregnant and I had Chlamydia, I could hear the sound of my heart beating and I felt like a bomb had gone off in my head. I cried my way home and for many days after. I've tried to terminate my pregnancy and my life on several occasions, I told myself my life was over and I truly thought it was. My doctor told me the side effects of having Chlamydia and how it can affect my unborn child life. I finally found the courage to talk to my mom and let her know what had happened and that I was now pregnant with a child I never asked for. I thought she was going to be angry but she held me in her arms and told me everything was going to be okay and that whatever I decided to do she was there with me every step of the way.  

I graduated high school and took the year off for college. I have two beautiful 5 years old twin daughters that I love each and every day and a degree in Human Service. My life didn’t turn out as planned but it turned out to be much better than hoped. I'm married to a man who loves me and my daughters like nothing else in this world, I have a mom who supports me through it all and a God who held me in his arms and never let go.  

My advice to you, especially our teens, BE CAREFUL and SPEAK NOW. I thought no one would have believed me, and I was alone but remember you are never alone. When you find yourselves in dark days pray, talk to an adult and if you find it hard to talk to them, you write a letter. If I had went to the cops or an adult maybe I could have helped the next girl out there but maybe is some- thing I will never know. Be encouraged and stay in good faith for when one door closes another opens.  

I always told my daughters you are more than a conqueror but now I can tell them you are I-Female.   

Still pushing forward Hallie
“You are I-Female”
You Are Never Alone

J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 2 / I - F E M A L E M A G A Z I N E    

Ms. Z’s Traffic Report

 As I opened my eyes this morning, I felt proud of the way that I have been handling and dealing with all the circumstances in my life. It has been really hard trying to stay focused on the task at hand sometimes, due to quite frankly, the personal problems in my life. I have separated from my wife and she recently informed me that she filed for divorce. I’m okay and have come to terms with it being over; however I must admit that the loneliness at times can really get to me. There are times when I  feel that I can and want to go out there and seek things and individuals that I know can take that feeling of loneliness away, but something inside of me keeps me convicted from doing so.  I had a great, yet busy Saturday and was feeling as though I wanted to take the term, Turn Down For What, to a new level. Just as Lil Jon is mimicking my thoughts of what I was about to decide to do, all of sudden the conviction inside of me always seems to set in just as the beat is about to drop. Again, I was proud of myself, but more importantly, I was happy that God convicted me.  After eating breakfast and completing hygiene necessities, and watching my online church service from Baltimore, I decided to go to church. As I’m sitting in my seat at church, glancing at this week’s highlights, I suddenly began getting and becoming very distracted. I know what made me distracted, but unfortunately that’s between me and God.

After putting the highlights down, I actually decided to go outside the sanctuary for a second to take a phone call. After taking the call, I walked back in the sanctuary and sat back down to hear a word from God. I thoroughly enjoy hearing the word of God flow through Pastor Cedrick Brown, internationally known within our church body as Pastor C. I couldn’t wait to hear it. With all the crisis and battles, nah! With this war I’m fighting, I needed to hear the word! A word from God! I needed to eat! As I sitting in the seat listening to Pastor C explain about our missionary from South Africa, Joyce Ray, I all of sudden remember that she is speaking today. When I realized that I would not be listening and hearing a word from Pastor C, quite honestly, I became instantly annoyed. Some of you may say, well why did you become annoyed and the reason is simple, I didn’t come to hear Joyce Ray speak. I came to hear Pastor C speak.  After discovering this new information, I plotted and contemplated what I was going to do. I decided to text my boy Roderick, who drives the church van, to see if I can ride with him, as he makes his rounds to pick up some of the members who have transportation needs. He texted back and told me to meet him out in front of the church in 5 minutes. After gathering up my belongings, I made my way out of the sanctuary. Just as I am opening the doors, my dear friend Ms. Z smiles at me and follows me out of the sanctuary. While in the corridor, Ms. Z questions me on why I am deciding to leave. Due to our close and honest relationship, I simply told her that I didn’t come this morning to hear no Joyce Ray. I continued to tell her that due to all the situations that I’m currently facing, I needed to hear a word from God. Ms. Z continued to persuade me that I needed to stay and that I needed to hear what she was going to say. She told me that I needed to be here. I told her I’m leaving and that I would call her later.

After embracing and saying goodbye, I went outside to meet Roderick. When I got outside, I didn’t see him. I know he told me 5 minutes, but due to my conversation with Ms. Z, it had been about 10 minutes or so. I waited for a couple of minutes because I was under the impression that when someone says 5 minutes, it usually is longer than 5 minutes. After waiting an additional 5 minutes or so, I called Roderick to see where he was. He told me that he stopped by and when he didn’t see me outside, he had to leave, as he had other passengers to pick up. He also told me that he wouldn’t be able to come back and get me. Feeling disappointed, I decided to go back inside. Once inside the sanctuary, I didn’t really have a choice but to sit next to Ms. Z. As she was laughing, I told her it was her fault that I missed my ride.

At first, as I’m listening and right on cue, I began to tune her out. I already expressed earlier that I needed to hear a word from God, not necessarily Joyce Ray talk about her experiences in South Africa. Then the strangest thing started happening. As she is talking, no matter how much I try to continue to tune her out, I couldn’t do it! It’s like something pierced me as I became interested and engaged in what she was talking about. She told the story about Balaam and the donkey, or better yet how Ms. Z. says Balaam and his ass, and how it relates to her life. For those who don’t know like I didn’t know, basically Balaam, who was a sorcerer, was sent to curse the Israelites just as Moses was leading them toward Canaan. He was promised by the king that he would be paid handsomely once he completed the task. God warned him not to carry out the mission, but he proceeded anyway. As he was riding his donkey to carry out the mission, the donkey, all of sudden, stopped moving. This upset Balaam, as he beat the donkey and instructed the donkey to proceed. As Balaam was riding the donkey to carry out the mission, again the donkey, all of a sudden, stopped moving. Infuriated, Balaam again beat the donkey and instructed the donkey to proceed again. As Balaam rode the donkey, again the donkey, all of a sudden, stopped moving. Balaam began beating the donkey again. As Balaam was beating the donkey, all of a sudden, the Lord spoke through the donkey. He asked Balaam why he was beating the donkey and what had the donkey done for him to beat him three times. The Lord showed Balaam why the donkey had stopped 3 times. The Lord had sent an angel, which scared the donkey and caused it to stop.

It was at this point in Joyce Ray’s testimony that she revealed that her life, as well as the lives of others, is all about the ability to handle and be obedient to the turns, the turns of life. I wanted to hear a word from the Lord, but in my ignorance I assumed that I could only hear that word through my Pastor. I had fallen victim to a humanistic belief and truth that I am strongly against. I focused more on the title than the power of testimony. The wonderful thing about God is even when we try to outsmart and take the reins and attempt to take control, He shows us how ignorant we are and engages us into auto pilot.  His will, will be done, no matter what. I needed a word from God and that was what He gave me. He knew before I ever knew that I needed to hear what Joyce Ray had to say. He also knew that I would resist. Even when I tried to sabotage and leave, He orchestrated the interference that lead to a trickle-down effect that eventually brought my behind back in the church. Not only back in, but back in sitting right next to the one who He summoned to provide the interference. No matter how much we assume the position and attempt to control the course of which way to go, God will always orchestrate a traffic stop to inspire you to relinquish control.  God is the compass of our lives. Let Him provide the direction. Just drive! I love you all! Be Blessed!        

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Where Do We Go From Here?

My eyes opened this morning seeking and searching for an answer. I cautiously opened the blinds to allow the morning light to come in, but today seems like it’s going to be a somewhat gloomy day. Either way, I looked up at the sky and meditated on what God is trying to say to me. I meditated on what direction God is moving me to. As I continue to look up for answers, the emptiness in my soul from not knowing, not having control, and simply not knowing what to do begins to take over. Luckily when this begins to happen, it’s about 7am and I can turn on Crefflo Dollar and listen to his service on television for a word from God. As I'm listening to Crefflo, I realize that I’m not really engaged. Normally I am, but today I’m not really feeling him. He is coming across like one of my old social studies teachers, Mr. Laky. He is knowledgeable, but he is sleepy boring!

When Crefflo goes off, I turned to watch the Potters House with TD Jakes. I just know that his word is going to help regenerate my soul. When I listen to him and his word, it really speaks to my soul. As I’m listening, I realize that I’m having the same problem I had when I was watching Crefflo. For some reason it wasn’t really hitting me the way I needed it to hit me. I did have a déjà vu moment for a second when I saw someone there running during the church service. I immediately thought of when I went to church with Donna White in Baltimore, MD sometime around 1998.

Back then, I never went to church, but I did have a spirit about me. It was a spirit that I kept hidden and allowed to lay dormant because everyone around me didn’t have it. I hated being the odd person out. To be honest, I kind of always felt like I was on the outside looking in, but that’s another story for another day. Anyway, while we were at her church, the service was going well, until all of a sudden, it became like the church Olympics up in there. Everyone began running around the church with Usain Bolt speed. Donna even began jumping up and down right next to me. So much so, that someone had to come over and grab her son she was holding. I was in shock! I was in disbelief. I tell you, I couldn’t wait till it was over because I was ready to go home, immediately and home I went!

I didn’t know what to do! I needed to hear a word from God! My normal routine wasn’t working for me today. I wasn’t feeling Crefflo. I wasn’t even feeling TD. I didn’t know where to turn. It always seems like life at times will always put us in a position where we don’t know where to turn. In a position, where we don’t know where to look. Where we don’t know where to go from here! I decided to read the daily message on the Bible app on my phone. The message was from Jeremiah 32.17NIV. Reading the message, I was empowered and reminded that I have great enormous power inside of me and that nothing is too hard for me. Reading, hearing, and meditating on this message not only settled my soul, but it also sparked a recent memory of something that confirmed that God speaks to us at all times, even in the most unusual times, in the most unusual places.

As I was traveling back from New York after July 4th, I got off the NJ Turnpike at my exit and stopped at my usual spot to get gas. While my gas was being pumped, and yes those of us who live in New Jersey are spoiled from never pumping gas, I went to the bathroom. As I holding my mouth closed, barely breathing, using the bathroom, I began looking at the very wonderful things that people wrote on the walls. After reading the last f-u, your father’s cousin’s mother’s an a ….., I came across a bible scripture. In the midst of all the profanity and vulgarity, there was a bible scripture in big bold letters, Jeremiah 29:11. How amazing is that! I’ve been to that restroom countless times and have never seen that scripture there. Maybe at the time I wasn’t looking for it and truth be told, I still wasn’t looking for it. But, it found me.

When I got home later that day, I totally forgot about it until today. I looked at it and it assured me that He is the only one that knows the plans for me, plans to bring me prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future that I have hoped for. My soul is at peace. I know where I’m going! When you don’t know where to go from here, let God’s word be the compass of your life to always provide direction. There are signs all around. HE IS EVERYWHERE! I love you all…Be Blessed!    

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

10 Minute High

I tell you, it always seems like it's always a battle living this life.  A battle to fight always enduring until it’s time to fight again, and again, and again!  It almost seems as though we never stop fighting! There is a saying out there that simply states there is always a calm before a storm, but it never seems to be calm for long. It's like it can storm for 72 hours, then it's calm for 8 hours, then it begins to storm again for another 72 hours, only to then yet again be calm for another 8 hours... It’s like it just goes on and on and on and on! One minute I can see the light at the end of the tunnel then suddenly…. The light is gone! I know it's all a test and it’s meant to prepare me and best believe I hold these values and truths dear to my soul, but in the words of my homie Rod Brown, CMON!

Sometimes I wonder if you can be or are you ever truly prepared. Is there ever a time when enough is enough; when you’re finally ready; when it's finally time to perform all the things that you’ve previously learned from previous tests that you’ve endured; when it's finally time to play all and put everything into action; when it’s time to start moving the chains; and when all the tests are over!  

I went to an interview yesterday and the interviewer, who I discerned was tired and a tidbit unprofessional as she sucked on her mint candy, kept asking me thought provoking interview questions.  Even though she asked me an enormous amount of questions for a temporary customer service position, there was one in particular that really stuck out to me. She asked me if I had a lot work to do in a short time frame what would I do to get it all done. I thought about it and simply stated, the first thing I would do is outline the most difficult tasks first, and then proceed to doing the most difficult to the least difficult tasks until the job was completed. She then said, well how would you do it? Thinking to myself that I just told her what I would do, I repeated what I originally said and emphasized that I would do the work and get the job done! She didn’t seem to understand me. I informed her that due to my professional and personal experiences, I don’t panic! I do what needs to be done to get the job done! She seemed taken aback by what I said as I assumed that she probably wanted more than that, but honestly that is really all I could give her. Henceforth, I didn’t get the job! I didn’t get the job because I wasn’t meant to go down that path again. He has something better in store for me. God told me just as He tells all of us to trust in Him and that His ways and thoughts are higher than any of our ways could ever think to be. That’s amazing! Think about that for a second…..His ways and thoughts are higher than any of our ways could ever THINK to be!  That means before we even think about it, it’s already higher! What does it all mean? Hmmmmmm…. Simply put. Don't panic! He’s got my back, and he has yours as well! Draw closer to God! I love you all….Be Blessed!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Miraculous Change in You

Do whatever you can to stay focus on your dreams.

If you have to listen to inspiring audios throughout out the day, then listen to them.

If you have to do affirmations in the morning and before you go to bed, then by all means do them.

If you have to put inspiriting quotes or scriptures in plain sight throughout the home, then put them everywhere.

If you have to go near the ocean, sea, or lake, then go.

If you need to look in the mirror to tell yourself “I love you”, then say it. Say it every day.

In fact, write everything about yourself that empowers you to feel good and say it daily when looking in the mirror.

When you say it, say it as if it already exists.

This process creates miracles. 


Survival of the Fittest

After enjoying the last 3 days spent with family and visiting some old friends, I made the two hour ride back to New Jersey early so I would not be caught up in any traffic, especially on that Belt Parkway. Before leaving, I made arrangements with my wife for her to pick up the kids late Saturday morning. I anticipated we would be back by 12:30pm. As we were riding, I attempted to make her aware of where we were at, as well as wanted to provide her with an updated estimated eta. For some reason, she never responded to any of the texts, as we arrived back home at 12:33pm. The kids called her periodically, but she did not answer the phone. She finally responded at 1:00pm and informed my son that she is not coming right now, but she will be coming soon. Around 2:10pm, she called and spoke with the children, as they continued to express how excited they are for her to come and pick them up. After talking with them, she wanted to speak to me and wanted to know why I waited so late for her to come and pick them up. Again I say that she wanted to know why I waited so late in the afternoon for her to come and pick them up. I politely responded that I told her that it would be late morning and in all actuality, we have been here since 12:30pm. I know that 12:30pm is not technically late morning, but come on! She asked me if I was gonna come get them tomorrow and I informed her that I truly don't have any money. Of course her response was how come u don't have any money seeing that you just came back from NY. I told her that I don't have any money and asked her why do think I constantly ask you for money? 

After going back and forth about the money situation, she then proceeded to
tell me about how I try and play the victim to people all the time and how this is my fault why all this is happening. I know when I was younger, I had and I'm sure many of us did, have a victim mentality. But that was when I didn't want to accept any accountability or responsibility for anything. With life experience and maturity, I know I don't look at myself as a victim anymore. Quite frankly, I feel like I'm more of a survivor. I separated from my wife in August 2013, basically because I could no longer ignore the problem that continually plagued our relationship. My wife is a beautiful person, inside and out, however her past experiences from childhood, hinder her from showing the world that beautiful person she really truly is. I know that I've made mistakes and done things to light the match on the rage and fire that burn inside her, but I can't and will not take responsibility for all the things that is causing the fire to burn out of control. I separated because I no longer could be the blame for her behavior. When she decided to tell me how much I was a piece of shit and how much my family wasn't shit, I could no longer accept her blaming me and her telling me that I made her say those things to me. When she decided to tear the house and my belongings up in a fit of rage for my children and I to witness, I could no longer accept her blaming me and telling me that I made and caused her to behave that way. Lastly, for the sake of time, when she decided to tell my kids I was a bum with no job and a ho, I could no longer accept her blaming me and telling me that I made her act that way. When my mother died, my life changed instantly. I no longer had the voice of reason, comfort, love, understanding and security that my mother provided throughout my life. I remember telling my wife the day she died that it was going to be me and her against the world, but instead it became me and her versus one another. There are always three sides to every story and quite honestly, I am not trying to tell my side because I don't really feel like I need to defend myself. Again, I know and understand that I am not perfect and neither is she.  I didn't separate because of our or even her imperfections. I separated because of the way those imperfections are disrespectfully displayed. We were together a very long time and I KNOW I stepped up and tried to do right by her because not only was it the right thing to do, but really most of all because I really loved her. I'm sure she will agree that I have a funny way of showing my love, but honestly I think most of us do especially when the pressure of life arrives. My language of love is different from her language of love and vice versa. I tried to show her, but it was ultimately something that I had to come to terms with that no matter what I did, no matter what I would say, and no matter how much I compromised, nothing would ever be good enough. I remember her telling me how if I did this or if I did that, then this would change and that would change. Nothing never changed as the level of disrespect only increased.  I distinctly remember her saying all I want to do is be your wife Brice. We were together for a long time before we got married because something inside of me told me that if you act this way before the ring, you will act this way after the ring. I look back now and realize I should have trusted my instincts, but I don't have any regrets. I married the woman I loved and the mother of my children. I made us a family under the authority of God. I became a better individual through this whole process and experience.

I remember my co-worker, Dr. Yrenki, a psychologist from Baltimore, once told me that God wants us to come to him when we are nice and broken. Well as was broken at the time, dealing with spiritual warfare, as she was the one who brought me to Celebrate Recovery Church in Columbia, Maryland, which inevitably led to me getting saved and acknowledging Jesus Christ as my love and savior! Before leaving Baltimore, I was sort of in the same transitional period in my life that I'm in now. One Sunday, I was tuning in to New Psalmist Baptist Church online service when Bishop Walter Scott Thomas said to pray for a Road to Emmaus. That night I prayed for a Road to Emmaus, which eventually brought me to New Jersey, which then eventually brought me to my home church, Commitment Community Church. After meeting with the Pastor and now my favorite Pastor, Cedrick Brown, I realized how closed my heart had been for so long. Even though all these positive changes were happening in my life, I still never really understood the meaning of praying for a Road to Emmaus. I assumed for so long that it simply meant praying for finding the right road. I knew I was on the right road when my son and daughter were coloring bible activity worksheets called the Road to Emmaus in Sunday school classes, but I still really didn't know. Honestly, it wasn't until recently, maybe a week or two ago, that I finally understood what Bishop Walter Scott Thomas was saying when he said pray for a Road to Emmaus. It took me 4 years to finally know that praying for a Road to Emmaus simply meant that I was gonna finally meet Jesus! I finally met Jesus for myself! That's the reason I am attacked and pressed on all sides. I finally met Jesus! My wife can think that I think I am victim all day long, but I know I'm a survivor! I survived everything that was meant to destroy me. I survived and continue to survive because I met Jesus! I am sure all of you who are reading this know of the old saying, “It is the survival of the fittest, and only the strong survive”. This saying is so true, but only if you know who your strength is and where it comes from and that's Jesus Christ!  I have a responsibility to pay it forward so I want you to hear me and hear me loud and clear! During these difficult transitional times, pray for a Road to Emmaus so you too can experience what it feels like to truly be a survivor! I love you all...Be Blessed!!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Voices of the Soul

After playing basketball with by brother, son, and daughters, I decided to go for a drive. My drive ended about 5 min later due to no gas, as I ended up at the park. While watching the little leaguers get ready for the game, I couldn't help but reflect on the things that I really tried hard to do with my family. I think what put me in reflection mode was riding through the neighborhood and seeing all the beautiful nice homes with kids playing outside in front of them, as their parents kept a watchful eye on them. Their lawn was the epitome of the color green and it was cut so sharp and even like a typical New York barbershop shape up. The flowers in the garden were blossoming with exuberant summer colors. The kids were smiling. The parents were smiling. They appeared to be living the American dream, but of course you never know what lies beneath the surface. To me, it honesty doesn't matter though, because even though things aren't always what they seem, at least there is a foundation to build upon. 

As I continue to drive, I tell you, I tell you, my heart begins to ache. It aches because that's what I really wanted with my family. I know I can still have it in due time, God’s speed, but is there anyone out there who can admit that waiting on God’s speed hurts??? It hurts really badly. Constantly toiling day in and day out, experiencing the same problems and dramas, gets so so so draining that sometimes I just wanna throw up both my hands and holler like Marvin Gaye! I know things take time and old things have to die off for new things to grow, but I’m tired y'all. At times, I get tired of trying. I believe I got a good heart! I tried to be responsible and make things work! I married the girl I loved and made an honest woman out of her! Currently, I am taken care of my kids with very little help since we separated! I sacrificed pretty much all I have, so they can have. Believe me, I'm content and maybe it’s just me sometimes, but I get tired and weary. There are times that I feel like I'm failing them because I can't give them what they deserve. They deserve to have their own room, clothes that I don't have to wash every 3 to 4 days, and 100% juice that they can drink regularly rather than ice cold bathroom tap water... And y'all know the bathroom tap water is the coldest! I'm embellishing a little because I'm very expressive, but I think you get my point. I know there are those out there doing worse than me and believe you me, I am extremely grateful. Very grateful, but that doesn't mean I don't want more. God told me the first shall be last and the last shall be first, so I know I'm on the come up, but I don't know when?   When am I gonna be first? I just wanna know when? I wanna know when God? I wanna know when is my time over? When is the wait over? When are things going change? When is it going to get better? When is the pain gonna go away? When is my soul gonna stop aching?  When am I going to smile on the inside like those very same people that I saw smiling when I was driving? When is it gonna happen? When God? When are You gonna say I'm ready God? When? Please tell me when? Please God! I'm ready! I'm ready God! I'm ready to walk into my blessing! I love you God! I love you! Thank you for listening... I love you all! Be blessed……

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Glimpse of the Past

After constructing my family genogram, I had begun to see layers of dysfunction in the family. At first, I had thought I knew everything to know about my family patterns, but I had noticed other patterns when I finished the genogram. For instance, the intergenerational patterns and themes passed down through the family were the women having children with married men; the women having mental health issues; and hostile relationships with the women of the family. There were patterns of affairs with married men, which lead to babies that were kept a secret to the biological father’s family and led to missing information about my paternal side of the family. My father and stepfather were married to other women when my mother met them. My grandmother was also having an affair with my grandfather who was married throughout their relationship. We did not get a chance to meet our paternal grandfathers, and I met my biological father for the first time when I was 10 years old. I did not know anything about the men in my family, not even my biological father. In our culture as an African American, the women are use to the men having not being there. However, I could not exclude the fact that the environment could have played a role in the women’s conditioning of having children with married men. This was a red flag because of the concern that I would become an enabler of men who cheat since this was passed down. 

Furthermore, there was tension in the family due to hostile relationships. The conflict between the mother and daughters in the family created anxiety for others in the system. My mother and I had seemed to get along on the surface, but she really did not show enough love and affection. In addition, there was strife between all the women of the family because of the certain hostile relationships. My sister and mother’s relationship was similar to my mother and grandmother’s relationship. Both relationships were hostile. For example, my grandmother had put my mother out of her house when my mother was 16 years old. My sister went to live with her boyfriend around that age. They both (sister and mother) blamed their mothers for their shortcomings. They believe that their mothers did not support and love them. This was why at every family function my sister and mother had nasty verbal arguments, and my mother and grandmother (before her death) had argued at family gatherings as well. These arguments affected the entire family. We felt as though we had to choose. According to McGoldrick et al. (2008), women lead far more complex, varied, and unpredictable lives than men do, reinventing themselves many times to meet different circumstances (McGoldrick et al., 2008, p.43).

Lastly, I had noticed a lot of mental health illness with the women of the family. My grandmother said that she had a nervous breakdown over my grandfather. My mother mentioned that she could talk to the dead, and she drank a lot, so the drinking could be an attempt to self-medicate. Aunt Alberta died suffering with bipolar but, at the time, the family called it demons. Aunt Laweeze was in physically abusive relationship where she eventually developed a mental health illness. Spiritually in the family, men were supposed to be the head of the household and women should be submissive. Most men often abuse their power physically and emotionally abusing the women. The African American culture mostly encouraged a lot the physical abuse since they believe that children should get beating when they did something wrong. These children would usually repeat the abuse as adults. Everyone called one of my aunts crazy, but I was not sure why. I was not sure if staying in these emotionally unhealthy relationships had caused the onset of their mental illnesses. According to Zanden, Crandell, and Crandell, C. H. (2009), people who receive support from family members have low incidents mental, and physical disorders following bereavement (Zanden, Crandell, & Crandell, 2009, p. 642). 

On the other hand, my family has strengths and resources as well. My family members are hard worker as previous generations picked cotton and worked on farms as slaves. They passed down good work ethics. We also stick together during tough financial times. Family members share their resources with other members of the family. If someone in the family needs food and money until they receive they pay check, they can get money from various members of the family. If we need food, we can eat by family members home or get food out of their pantry to make ends meet. Moreover, my spiritual belief helped me overcome the pain and hurt enduring struggles and tough times.

Understanding myself relates to my work as a counselor, because it helps with the management of transferences during therapy session. Managing unfinished business is helpful, because all clinicians translate their inner selves into a personal style of helping (Kottler, 2010). It is important for counselors not to place their beliefs, values, and experiences onto their clients. Self-reflection and awareness keep me stable; this process helps with my wellness as I overcome adversities. Counselors have to focus on the positives of their family in order to keep a sane and stable mind. I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from the genogram, and this information is useful so that I will not harm my clients or repeat the same generational patterns. When counselors take care of their unfinished business and form a therapeutic alliance, they must take in account their level of involvement and personal behavior (Moorrissette, 2001).
In conclusion, there was a lot of missing information in the genogram. However, the genogram assessment tool would be more accurate if information had come from everyone in the family subsystem (McGoldrick et al., 2008). Unfortunately, I was not able to contact my biological father or family member on his side. As a counselor, I would want to know about my father’s side of the family and what had happened with the mental illnesses of the women. Did they seek help or do they still suffer in silence. Did my family members with substance abuse issues think they had a substance abuse problem? Did they believe nothing was wrong? I also concluded that my life-cycle transition occurred when I went to college, got married, and moved to another state. These were beginning steps to breaking the cycle.  



McGoldick, M., Gerson, R., Petry, S. (2008). Genograms: Assessment and Intervention (3rd Ed.), W.W. Norton & Company, New York, NY.

Zanden, J. W., Crandell, T. L., & Crandell, C. H. (2009). Human Development (9th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Morrissette, P.J. (2001), Self-Supervision: A Primer for Counselors and Helping Professionals. Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York, London.  

Kottler, J.A. (2010,) On Being a Therapist (Fourth Edition).John Wiley & Sons, Inc. San Francisco, CA.  

This 1’s 4 U…..I Know You Hear Me

My wife just left from picking my kids up for her weekend visit and boy do I hate going through all the nonsense that I have to go through during the exchange. In the midst of the verbal barrage that has become customary, there was one thing that she said that severely resonated with me. She said that she doesn’t know why I try to act and make people believe that I was a good son to my mother, when in fact, I basically didn’t become a good son until she died. She also stated that I was a horrible son to my mother and that I’m not going to learn, but once I get served the divorce papers that she filed and I finally lose her, I will learn just like I learned when my mother died.  

I can’t help but think back and remember when I was little growing up in my mom’s apartment. I was the happiest little kid, I promise you. I had my friends Yodi and Jamel, as we were like the 3 musketeers. We did everything together. We played basketball, using the monkey bars as the hoop, rode our big wheels around the apartment complex, and had BBQ’s on the terrace. Life was fun. Life was comfortable. I loved my room, as my brother and I would rearrange it constantly, like we were on the lifestyles of the rich and famous. We would switch the beds around, change the dressers around, and set up our entertainment center, which consisted of a black and white TV with pliers as the remote control and a disco record player that would light up and flash disco lights when the music was played. Again, life to me at that time was good. Then everything changed! Just as quickly as you can snap your fingers and blink your eyes, everything changed. In a course of 1 to 2 weeks, my life changed in a way that it would never change again until recently. During that small time frame, I suddenly had to relocate to live with my father, I lost my friends, and I lost my family. Of course as an adult I know I didn’t lose my family, but as a little boy in first grade, I lost my entire world. In addition to losing my entire world, my mother was never the same. I began seeing another side of her that was different than what I seen before we moved with my father. The reason we moved with my father is because my mother had a baby by a man we use to call Pop. When she was with Pop, my mother was always happy. She talked less about my father and her mood was good and consistent with feeling loved. She was a great mom and I was really close to her. I remember always wanting to be around her and getting those hugs that mama gives, you know the kind that gives reassurance to a son.

Unfortunately the baby died and to be honest, a part of her died as well, which is natural when you lose a part of you. It also didn’t help that Pop basically pretty much disappeared and left her all by herself. Now not only was my mother dealing with the loss of her son, but also with the separation of her two other sons, and to top it all off, the loss of Pop who was supposed to be there for her. As an adult, I can only imagine what she was going through, but as a child, I didn’t understand. Due to all this and other events that she was forced to endure from childhood, my mother would sometimes be mean to me. Again as an adult, when I look back I wouldn’t necessarily consider that mean, more like frustrated, but back then, I considered it mean. It damn sure felt mean! I didn’t feel safe anymore because I didn’t know how she would be, except when Pop was around. It was that feeling of not feeling safe that shaped and molded my relationship with my mother for the next 30 years or so. I built a wall to protect myself from her. I was scared and nervous to be around her because I knew she could always make me feel the way that I felt when I was that little kid growing up. I’ve seen her endure hospital stays, numerous procedures due to kidney failure and quite honestly, due to my scared and nervous feelings, I barely visited her. I barely ever wanted to be a part of anything that she was a part of, always making excuses and seeming inconvenienced when it came to her. She would try to let me know how much she loved me in the best way she could, but when you’re living in a safe zone, all you know is what’s in the safe zone.

I remember having a conversation with her once and she told me that I will see everything and that I would see the truth of it all one day. Well, that one day came on 7/11/13, the day my mother suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Even though everything became clear, the process began on 10/12/08. That was the day I decided to give my life to Jesus Christ. Something happens to your soul when you sit in that COLD, COLD tub of water as they pull you head backwards under the water. It actually felt like I was finally able to breathe which was kind of crazy because how can I finally be able to breathe even though I was underwater. From that day on, I was on a mission to be righteous. I wanted to be better! I had to be better! I had two kids that I loved with all my heart. I had a girl, which later became my wife, whom I really loved and wanted to be better than what I had been. I was finally on the path and beginning the process of growing up. Slowly, but surely, I began leaving the safe zone and trusting in God. Slowly, but surely, I was beginning to understand love and what it really meant to love someone and more importantly what it meant to love yourself! I began to understand and realize that the love you have for others is a direct reflection of the love you have for yourself. I am so thankful that I was able to finally leave the safe zone and show my mother how much she meant to me before she died. I have regrets, of course I’m sure I always will have them, because I wish that I had done things differently and showed my love for her sooner. I’ve let so much time pass living in a safe zone instead of coming out and receiving and letting love flow through me. How many of us live in a safe zone because of the things that we have experienced and endured? How many of us have been shaped and molded by our experiences that it dictates and controls our future? We tried so hard to not show any vulnerability, so we build this wall up and begin manipulating our feelings not only to ourselves but to others. I’m here to tell you and be a living testimony that living in a safe zone only guarantees that you will manipulate and be manipulated because you are so scared, nervous and afraid to be vulnerable. All you do is guarantee that you will build and shaped your life accordingly to the fear inside your soul. Tia Parker was the first one that told me that fear simply means, false evidence appearing real and boy at one time in my life did that fear feel very real! It’s only by the grace of God that He has given me the peace to come out of the safe zone and experience life, that same secure life that I had when I was a first grader living in my mom’s apartment.

My wife and I are going through a divorce because God has to deal with everybody in their own place, space and season. Just because I get it, I can’t force her to get it.  With that being said, I could have easily fired back at my wife, but I decided to let her know that she was right. I wasn’t the best son that I could have been. I should have and if I could do it all over again, I would do things differently, for sure. I told her that I didn’t know how much my mother meant in and to my life until she was gone. I informed her that I would hate for her to have to learn that lesson in life and find out the hard way. Sometimes what we think we know, God has a way of showing us how much we really don’t know at all. Don’t miss the moment! Submit to God, so you too can experience life again outside of your safe zone! I love you all….Be bless!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

That's That

I know God took you home but I can't help but say that we are going to miss you down here. Even though I know it hurts because we won't see you, touch you, hold you, or personally my favorite, laugh with you, I have peace in knowing that you are in a better place. I bet you’re probably watching us right now as we speak, eating a lobster, dipping in butter sauce, sipping a glass of Zinfandel.

I have so many memories of you that there will never be enough time or enough paper for me to say them all so I choose to remember one that you and I will always cherish... And That's That.... That was your favorite line to say when you made your point and to be honest, I always laughed when I heard you say it. Whether it was those spirited conversations at the table in Lakeview, or Thanksgiving holidays in Queens, or one of my favorites, BBQ’s in the backyard when you brought your own ribs, you always made and found a way to express, And That's That.  I think that’s what I loved about you the most is that you meant what you said and you said what u meant... And no matter how one may choose to interpret, one thing that cannot be denied is that you loved your family. And we loved you!  You will forever be in our hearts and I personally want you to know that we will keep your legacy alive with all the memories we have of you.  My brother and I recently loss our mother and on behalf of us, When you see my mother tell her we said hello and that we love and miss her so.... In closing I just wanna say and share this last moment with you. To let you know I love you…..We love you.......And That's That....