Welcome to Motherhood!

 

Blogger: Deborah Levine-Powell – “Soulful Wonder Chef”

I had a really hard time this month coming up with a blog topic. It was like I had writer’s block. I started to think why is it that I can’t come up with a topic that’s important to me or I care about. I realize that a lot of my identity revolves around being a mother. Do people really want to hear about this?

I want to put in a disclaimer right here:

  1. I’m not saying it’s a negative thing
  2. Yes, I love my children
  3. Yes, I know it goes really fast and I need to enjoy every minute
  4. No, I am not complaining
  5. Yes, I love all of the things that I do for my family
  6. No, I don’t need your advice
  7. Yes, I know I am fortunate
  8. No, I would not change it for anything

Phew…does that cover me from any backlash from the Stepford moms?????

I enjoy being a mom.  It took a lot for me to have kids, after being told I could not have children. I had several miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy. The next thing I knew, I was pregnant, and then again soon thereafter (my kids are fifteen months apart).

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As Moms, if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we lose a lot of ourselves in the role (well, at least me).

I’ve asked myself, who am I outside of being the sports mom,  the PTA mom, the Girl Scout mom, cheer mom, football mom, baseball mom, Pinterest queen etc.

When I get introduced, I’m Andre’s wife, Ethan and Madison‘s mom, the lady who cooks, she is my social worker, and somehow I lost my title as Debbie. I started to think who I am outside of being all these things.

So I had to go on a journey and figure out who I am? It does not discount that I love having those titles.

Recently a friend asked me to fill out one of those “my favorites list’s”.  I couldn’t even answer what my favorite anything is anymore, because so much revolves around what everyone else wants and needs to get done, or what my kids like. We tend to as moms take a backseat because we want what’s best for our children.

I used to love taking a long ride to nowhere with my radio blasting and my sunroof open.  I used to read two or three books a week because I love to read.  I  used to dress in the latest fashions and I got my hair done once a week.

My hubby recently asked why I don’t go get some new clothes and shoes. I looked at him like he was nuts. I said: “there was nothing wrong with what I have”. His response was: “go get yourself stuff, it’s not always about the kids. They have enough”.

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I made a list (I absolutely love lists).  Here are some things, we as moms, should do for ourselves:

  1. Take a long hot shower.  Lock the door, because you will likely hear those noises we all think we hear
  2. Go by yourself and get a cup of coffee ☕or tea, and just sit. Don’t be embarrassed; embrace it.
  3. Go for a manicure
  4. Meet a friend and go for a walk
  5. Sit in your car, and text or call anyone you have lost touch with
  6. Hit the library and take out a book (just know the card file no longer exists)
  7. Sit on social media without feeling guilty
  8. Buy that outfit
  9. Eat that cookie
  10. See a movie by yourself

A friend texted me this morning (name withheld).  She told me how her kids were fighting and not getting along.  She felt so frustrated and upset. She went on to explain herself, and all the things she had done to make it better.   She asked if she was awful or terrible for feeling so aggravated. I reassured her that puberty sucks ass, no, she is not a bad mother, and no, it is not awful.  I supported her! I did not judge, give advice or say OMG! I listened and agreed it sucked but; this too shall pass.

Another friend, recently pregnant, told me about all the books she was getting on what to expect. I sat silent. She said, “it’s not like you to be so quiet “. I said: “you want my honest opinion, go return every single book. There is no amount of literature that can prepare you for being a parent. It’s the most gratifying experience, but there are a lot of bumps on that road”.

I think we spend so much time trying to make motherhood look perfect. No one ever talks about the emotional investment it takes to be a parent. We don’t talk about the fact that it is okay to feel like a fuck up, and that you are not doing it all right. We don’t want to admit that to ourselves, let alone anyone else.

You are raising humans.

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There needs to be a book on what it is really like.  A book that addresses the following:

  1. What happens when your kid isn’t invited to the party?
  2. What if they don’t make the team?
  3. What to do when they lose a game?
  4. How to handle the sex/period/puberty talk?
  5. How to handle failing grades?
  6. How to navigate girl drama? (It’s friggin worst- trust me, prepare yourself…they are little tyrants.)
  7. BE ready for carpooling, late nights; five hour baseball games
  8. Urgent care visits ( see sports injury)
  9. AND YOU CANNOT like anyone they don’t like, if you kid says “Joe Scmo is ___________”, you better agree
  10. The first time your kid comes home and says “so and so made me cry, called me a name etc.”.  Your adult self is going to want to kick that little shit’s ass (of course you can’t.)
  11. Don’t be a judge-y mom – because until you face it, you don’t know what it is like
  12. DO not give unsolicited advice

The list can be endless and you get my point.

When you get pregnant, you start planning and getting excited, but you don’t think that far ahead and say to yourself I am going to have to deal with all these big issues. You register for all the cute baby stuff; plan the baby shower, tell all the moms you know that you are never going to let your kid watch tv, use an iPad, eat sugar, drink soda, not curse in front of your kids, etc.

There is nothing worse than someone telling you all the things they are never going to do as a parent.  All I can do is laugh, because been there done that. Then reality kicks in, and you are begging for their favorite show to come on, so you can give them some sugar and go take a shower in peace.

As a psychotherapist, I am fortunate to have worked with teenagers for twenty years, taught sex education, and dealt with many of the pitfalls of adolescents.  Yet, I feel like a failure at times when it comes to talking to my own kids.

I felt vulnerable writing this article. But, you know what a lot of people call me “Wonder Woman”, “you are such a great mom”, “I can’t do what you do”.  I have hard days too, some days I cry, some days suck, some days I say you are royally fucking up being a mom, I yell, I make mistakes, I forget permission slips, lunches, practice, etc.  No one is a perfect mom, we all are doing the best we can, with the resources we have.

I lost my mom at a young age, as I have discussed in a past blog. The loss is still so profound almost twenty-six years later.   That loss has pushed me to be all that I can as a mom, and I don’t apologize for how I parent.

deb


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Deborah Levine-Powell is a psychotherapist in New York, where she works with teenage girls who are victims of abuse and trafficking.  She is a wife and a mom to a tween and teenager.  When she is not working, you can find her engaged in PTA activities, a leader at Girl Scouts, having fun with her friends and family, while serving up hot soulful dishes in the kitchen.

 

 

The Next Generation

Blogger: Padraic Maroney – “The Neurotic Urban Millennial”

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about legacies, and what we will leave behind after we take our last breath. For some, their legacy is written for them. They leave behind children to carry on their legacy and the family name. When I was younger, I used to joke that more of my friends would show up to my father’s funeral than to my own.

The reason this had been on my mind so much is during this time of the year, all the babies in my family have their birthdays. My godsons, and nephews, turned two earlier this month. My goddaughter and niece will turn two in February. My brother has another daughter due later in February as well.

As happy as I am to watch these little people grow, and for our family to grow in general, it’s also a little bittersweet. As the uncle/brother, I know that this isn’t really about me… I am there to lend a hand when needed and supply sugar when their parents say no, or help them in the development of bad (but not dangerous) habits. Well, through the happiness, it is also a reminder that I can’t have kids myself.

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A few years ago while having a few tests done related to my anxiety issues, my doctor informed me that while it’s not completely impossible, the chances of me ever impregnating a lady are very, very slim. At the time I was in my late twenties, having kids wasn’t even really on my mind. I didn’t want to have them right then and there, but I had always pictured having kids one day. Now that probably wasn’t going to happen — at least not biologically.

Hearing the news is like someone asking you if you want pizza. No, I’m not interested right now, maybe later. Instead, they say, “Sike, no pizza for you ever.”

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You hear a lot about women who aren’t able to or have trouble, getting pregnant. You hear a lot about guys who have trouble raising the flag, but the conversation never really gets around to talking about guys who are infertile. It should be noted that impotent, which a lot of people use for this, is actually a guy who can’t achieve an erection. Infertile is being unable to reproduce. Metaphorically speaking, I can raise the American flag, I just can’t create new stripes or stars. Betsy Ross, I am not.

So, I sit here in mid-thirties, watching many of my friends settle down and having kids. It’s the logical step at this point. Scrolling through Facebook on any given day shows the difference in my life. For my straight friends, I see more pictures of their kids than themselves. For my gays, well, let’s just say there’s a lot less clothing involved.

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Most of the time, I don’t miss the ability to procreate. Many of friends don’t want to have kids, so at least I know that I’ll have people to age not-so-gracefully with. It would seriously put a crimp in my social life anyway. It’s frowned upon to bring babies into bars. I’ve seen my friends do it and the reaction that some of them get in doing so.

I guess that I wouldn’t really know if I am ready until it happened. I mean, is anyone truly, really ready to have a baby. Even if they think they are?

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When all the babies were born two years ago, I campaigned hard to be their godfather. Like, I campaigned harder than the Bernie bros did for their political “godfather” during the 2016 primaries. I stopped just short of buying airtime for commercials on network television.

Uncle is great and all, but they have another uncle too. Both my brothers get to be father and uncle. It seems only fair that I get a second job in their lives. I figured if I was a dual citizen in their life, it would be the next best thing to having kids of my own. Granted, I don’t really have any say in how they’re raised or get to make any real choices in their life whatsoever, but I have elevated status that I would be the third in command and the first one after their parents that they might run. All the perks without the responsibility of not screwing them up! Who wouldn’t want that job?

Alas, my older brother said after the fact he had known I was going to be godfather to my niece, he wouldn’t have selected me as my nephews’ godfather. Since this was after my nephews’ first birthday, it seemed like a referendum on my job, which I thought I was doing a bang up job at — I gave the twins their first taste of frosting, usually showed up with presents, and even agreed once to change a diaper. He said he would have picked a friend he works with because I would still be the twins’ uncle.

It cut me deep. So much so, that I have decided not to run for re-election with my younger brother’s new daughter. My trio of babies, while they might not be my biological offspring, are sure to keep my hands full as they get older — and will definitely bleed my bank account. I’ll be there for them when they need me and let them know that I am available when they can’t talk to their parents about something.

I’m going to be best damn god uncle you’ve ever seen — and plan to buy their love if I can’t win it organically.


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Padraic Maroney hails from upstate New York, suffering from middle child syndrome.  His writing career began after moving to the Philadelphia suburbs while in high school. He wrote for The Bucks County Courier Times’ Reality section, written by local teenagers, and has the distinction of writing a weekly gossip column for a college newspaper at a school he didn’t even attend! His love of pop culture led him to intern at Teen People, where he met Janis Gaudelli, and realized he could turn being a millennial into a career. Since then he’s alternated between writing and marketing, but always focused on Millennials and everything they bring to the table. Padraic is a lover of shenanigans, 80s music, and the movie “Scream.”

You can follow his additional adventures on Instagram: @padraicjacob

 

 

 

 

Perception, Choices, Revenge VS Inner Peace

Blogger: Debbie Arace – “Ray of Sunshine, Hope & Laughter”

Life presents opportunities to us on a daily basis.  We decide through the choices we make whether we will reach for them or let them slip away.  I’m not talking about monetary opportunities.  Money is nothing more than currency that we use as a life preserver.  It’s a necessary evil that holds our heads underwater hoping to drown the best of us.  I’m talking about opportunities, not of a lifetime, but in a lifetime.  Opportunities to learn, to grow, to explore and experience the gifts that were put on this earth for each of us to partake in.  Golden opportunities where we find treasures valued more than money.  These treasures are found through our perception of life.

We are all born with our own perception.  What we see and how we see it teaches us about ourselves.  Part of human nature is to take our perception and try to project what we see through our lens into the vision of others.  We are our own directors of the film that plays before our eyes.  We exchange our points of view and we learn from one another.  This exchange can be productive or destructive.  It’s all depends on what our intent is.  Intent is a desire or plan to accomplish something.  Our perception of what we see and our intention for bringing what we see into action will either have a positive or negative effect. It depends on our motive of intent.  We develop our character based on perception and intent. My intent at this moment is to project my perception of happiness, fulfillment and coping onto the screen.

For as far back as I can remember, I knew I had a different perspective on life than those around me.  I felt different, I acted different and I reacted differently than others did.   I wanted to be me but felt strange doing so.  I was caught in the midst of who I was and who I thought society expected me to be.  I became very confused and frustrated because of this.  As I developed friendships  I could see that some of my friends wanted me to experience life as they did.  Granted, there were many things that I was grateful to have experienced through the eyes of others, just as there were things that didn’t sit right with me. If I believed anything would alter my inner peace, I tried to walk away from it or learn why it made me feel uneasy.

I found myself in many situations that I had only my self to blame.  I used those situations as stepping stones so I could rise above the weakness and find my strength.  Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your perspective, I learned my lessons the hard way.  One thing about me, I’m not afraid to look in the mirror to see my soul.  I see what looks back at me, just as I see my reflection in my critique of others.  I also take a glance at how others see me.  I learn from it all.  Some things take longer than others for me to let go of but eventually, I come to grips with them and free myself of their hold on me.  Whatever choices I make are my doing.  Nobody is forcing me to do anything I really don’t want to.  That leaves the responsibility of choice in my hands.  If blame needs to be found, I can only blame myself for that final decision.

I have found myself in painful situations were I sought revenge just so I could mask my pain.  Getting revenge hurt me more than the initial pain that caused me to seek revenge.  I betrayed myself by stooping to levels that shamed me into reality.  I was not a vengeful person but I acted vengefully and jeopardized my character.  I learned that my character meant more to me than any amount of revenge could afford.  An eye for an eye didn’t leave me feeling better. It made me feel worse.  It gave me a temporary power that took away more than it gave.  My dignity.  I went against myself but found myself through it all.  I made peace with my actions and keep them handy as a reminder of what not to do.  For me getting even is no longer an option.  It never really was.

We all have a desire to retaliate.  It’s normal, but it doesn’t change what happened.  Confrontation lets a person know where you stand, but it doesn’t always work. I’ve confronted people and I’ve seen them cower in denial or try to turn the cards on me.  They know they’re wrong but they are not going to own it.  I leave them in Gods hands.   He knows what to do.  My choice is to rise above them by respecting my own integrity.  Besides there’s a certain pleasure in looking at someone and thinking: “you have no idea that I am fully aware of how you tried to take me down.  The only reason you’re still standing is because I chose not to take you down.  I have enough ammunition to drop an atomic bomb on you and destroy you but I’m better than that.  And you’re better than that.  You just chose not to be”.  Knowing that I have weapons that could destroy, but choosing different measures to save myself, is power in and above itself.  Having that form of strength allows my inner peace to remain balanced.  Make no mistake, I am neither blind nor ignorant to what goes on in the world around me.  I choose to keep my inner sanctum at an even keel.  Should the day come that I make a choice to disrupt my inner peace look out.  I have an arsenal of weapons that can take out any bombs thrown my way.  That kind of power I never want to use.

Your perspective on how I handle situations may be quite different than mine.  You may think my methods are foolish.  What works for me, may not work for you.  That’s okay.  In the end, we all have to ask ourselves how our choices left us feeling deep down inside.  I rest easy when I know I’ve done the right thing.  That’s all that really matters to me.  I found the treasure in what I experienced and learned from it, by the choices I made.

In my upcoming blogs, I hope to address other life topics such as happiness, learning to cope using humor and how to survive in marriage.  I hope my perception of choice and revenge brought a different perspective to anyone who may battle with how to rise above whatever pain was thrown your way.  ❤❤


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Married 44 years to my hubby whose purpose in life is to prevent me from getting through the “Pearly Gates”.  Mother of two, Nanna of four loving granddaughters and retired secretary aka administrative assistant.  I went to the University of Hard Knocks where I received my Doctorate.  My thesis is titled:  How To Survive Life’s Trials Without Killing Yourself or Someone Else.  I live by the belief that when life throws you a curve, learn from it rather than use it against yourself.  Faith and humor are my survival kit.  Appreciate the simple things for they are the true treasures of life.

 

Panic Attacks Are My Cardio, AKA, Hold On, Let Me Overthink This

Blogger: Joan Poirier

It is the SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) season. When the days are short and the darkness is overwhelming, when our Vitamin D is depleted from hibernating inside, it is so easy to give in to depression and anxiety.  So easy to curl up in a ball, and ignore the world and let the Nothing take hold of you in what seems to be the most comfortable rocking you have received since the cradle.  Yeah, I know it well.  I have lived here often.

Depression is a dick. I have struggled with it my entire life.  I have accepted it as my own, but I struggle every day to make peace with it or learn to love it as a “part of me”.  Don’t get me wrong… I have “learned” plenty from my depression.  Personal strength and perseverance at the top of that list.  But no matter how “strong” I get with each bout and battle, there is always another one around the corner waiting to sneak up on me and whack me over the head, kick me in the gut and sit on my head so I can’t see or breathe for a while.  Depression is a life draining, soul-sucking, miserable beast.

That being said… so much worse, is living with anxiety.  Depression seems like a walk in the park compared to anxiety.  Anxiety is the daily, minute by minute worry that everything is going to fall apart.  The worry that something will go wrong, is wrong.  If it’s not wrong, then I am wrong, and that makes me worry.  Anxiety slips in when everything is seemingly ok and whispers in your ear “What if?”  What if you are in an accident on the way home?  What if your spouse died tomorrow?  What if you didn’t turn the stove off?  What if you screw up that project for work?  What if the world runs out of oxygen RIGHT NOW? What if aliens attack?  What if you just suck at life and everyone hates you? What if, What if, What if?

“And then anxiety set in.   If you told me that I’d have to be depressed for the next month, I would say, “As long I know it’ll be over in November, I can do it.” But if you said to me, “You have to have acute anxiety for the next month,” I would rather slit my wrist than go through it.” – Andrew Solomon – TED Talk “Depression, the secret we share”

What does it feel like?  It feels like a killer over your shoulder waiting to strike you in the heart.  Your heart races, your palms get hot, you can’t see straight, and everything is out of focus.  Your hand’s tingle and your body is vibrating so loud from the inside out that you swear you can hear it.  And you know you are going to die from it.  You are having a heart attack for sure.   You are not going to wake up if you go to sleep, but you are so tired.  But you can’t sleep because when everything is still and quiet, you become aware of the killer standing over your shoulder waiting to strike.  You live in a constant state of fear and physical discomfort.  When its bad, you drive yourself to the emergency room (more than once) and tell them you are dying, they swoop in, do an EKG, and you wait for them to confirm that you are in fact dying, only to have them tell you that “you are fine”.  A little valium and a “just relax” before they release you back to the killer.  Well, thanks for valium anyway, that does help temporarily put the killer to sleep so I can rest.

Sometimes I feel like a human pin cushion. Every painful emotion hits me with ridiculously exaggerated force. And the anxiety feels like hands inside of me, squeezing my guts really hard.  – Juliana Hatfield

“Just Relax”.  I truly fucking hate that sentence.  As my therapist once told me, telling a person with anxiety to “just relax” is like telling a constipated person to just take a shit, you will feel better”.  If it were that fucking easy, don’t you think I would do it?  Living with anxiety means you can rarely relax.  I mean, if you had a killer over your shoulder all the time, could you “just relax”?  Of course not.  I have found certain things do help.  Exercising and being outdoors are the biggest and most successful treatment.  Eating right and taking vitamins.  The beach… something about the salty air and sounds of the waves calms me.  Hot baths.  They don’t always work, but at the very least, they lessen the load a little.  But sometimes, no matter how much I do right… it still gets me.  And it gets me hard.  I carry “rescue meds” on me at all times to avoid those oh so fun trips to the hospital.  I try to retreat and regenerate when I am feeling overwhelmed (I am famous for disappearing for a week or two and avoiding people as much as possible).  But it never really goes away.  There is no cure for anxiety and depression.  They are as much a part of me as my bones and my blood.  My genetic and chemical cursed lot in life.  But managing it has gotten easier.

If you love someone with depression, anxiety, or both…. Be patient.  Understand they are struggling daily.  The battles in our heads and in our hearts that we fight daily to just keep going, are fucking exhausting.  We are tired.  Hug us.  Often.  Listen.  Sit in silence with us while we weep.  Don’t try to “fix” us or our fears.  Just be there, wholly and present. Don’t judge us.  Just love us.  And whatever you do, do not tell us to “its ok” or we are “overreacting and most definitely don’t tell us to “just take a shit, you will feel better”.

 Ode to the Public Panic Attack – Andrea Gibson

You find me at the coffee shop,
at the movies,
buying comfort food in the grocery store.

You find me on dates,
which is terrible, because on dates
I really try to appear––dateable.

You found me at Disneyland,
in line for The Little Mermaid
Slow Moving Clam Ride.

You found me at parties
so often I stopped celebrating
my own birthday.

You found me on an airplane,
in the arms of the medic,
after the plane stopped on the runway

and turned around to let me off.
Don’t worry, the medic said,
It’s just a panic attack,

as if that would comfort me,
to be told I am the enemy,
to know my body is its own stalker.

Last week, you found me on stage,
In the middle of a poem
Chewed the hairs on the back of my neck
Until I couldn’t hear the words coming out of my mouth
Until I wasn’t even there

Do you know how hard it is to read a poem
When you’re in another state
googling, sudden onset asthma
or how many bugs are in the human body?

Is it possible to be eaten alive
while an audience is all eyes asking,
Are OK? Are you OK? Are you OK?

No, never.

But I am creative,
so when I can’t breathe
I tell myself, It’s fine.

That’s just my heart
giving my sternum a high five
fifty times a second.

After the show I said to my friend,
that was so humiliating.
Did I look like a goat giving birth in a mall?
Yes, she says.
But also like someone who had fallen
Though an iced over lake and was screaming
To find the whole they fell through
To take a breath.

I think every good artist
makes their audience uncomfortable.
I’d hoped to do that with my politics

and not my body flailing
like the about-to-be-dead-girl
in a teenage horror flick,

my own spine curling into the claw
that strips me down to my day of the week panties––
and it’s always Doomsday.

If you’ve never had a panic attack,
there’s a good chance you’ve been an ass
to someone who has.

It makes sense that JUST RELAX
would feel like a helpful thing to say
if oxygen has never been over your head,

if your body has never become its own corset.
At the restaurant I say, I have a small bladder,
because it’s less awkward than saying, My parachute

didn’t open when I left the house
and I prefer the privacy of bathroom stalls
when falling towards my death
at the speed of utter darkness.

what pisses me off
is that this ever got misnamed weakness
Do you know how much courage it takes to live through this shit?
To know the apocalypse
is on the other side

of the front door,
and still–– I reach
for the knob.

To step towards the terror.
Its promised jaw.
To scrape your boots on the welcome mat.
To tell yourself fear
Is the seat of fearlessness.
Even when you’re falling through the ice that is never
Been weakness. That is the bravest thing I have ever done in my life.


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Joan Poirier is an Empath, a goddess, a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend.  She is you, and she is me.  Just a real woman, embracing her age and her wisdom, and not afraid of opening the da,m and making some waves during her short time on the wild ride of life. She is on an ever-growing quest to live better, do better, be better and taking all the lumps that go with it.

Finding Your “Outlet”

Blogger: Liv Mazz – “The Lone Teen”

Has there ever been a time in your life that you feel so anxious that you can’t focus on anything happening around you?
I know that feeling all too well. Just the other day, while calmly sitting on my bed on a Sunday morning, I began to think about all the things in my life that bring me stress. All of a sudden, my leg began to shake, I had shortness of breath, and I just couldn’t function. Almost immediately I recognized this familiar feeling of anxiety.  This isn’t new for me, as I feel anxiety many times throughout the week, sometimes daily.
Unfortunately, the feeling of anxiety affects over 40 million Americans each day. Because of the common everyday stresses we feel, it’s important that we are all able to find an outlet. Something to do as a form of therapy to take away these anxious feelings – at least temporarily.

Music and songwriting are my “outlet”. Ever since receiving a ukulele for Christmas, it’s my go to. Whenever I’m feeling worried and my emotions are too much to handle, I simply turn to my ukulele and focus on the relaxing sounds of the strums.  Songwriting is the way that I can either evaluate what I’m feeling, and put into words or distract myself from my stress, by creating something totally new to focus on.
Especially in today’s world where it’s so common to feel anxiety, I invite all of you to find your “outlet”. Is it a hobby you enjoy doing? An art? A sport? Below, I created a list to help you find your “outlet”:

 

-Anxiety Coloring Books
-Music Therapy
-Drawing, Sketching, and Painting
-Journaling Thoughts and Ideas
-Crafting
-Creative Writing
-Exercise
-Sitting outside
-Yoga
-Organization

 

And the list goes on and on. In times of stress and worry, I highly advise taking something you love to do, and turning it into your outlet for an enjoyable way to live stress-free.
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Liv Mazz, aka The Lone Teen, is a suburban 13-year-old living with her father, brother and Havanese puppy. She is an eighth grader who enjoys spending time with friends in downtown Westfield NJ.

 

When not hanging out with her friends, you can find her dancing up a storm at her longtime dance school, running lines to audition for her next show or singing a ballad on stage. Liv also loves to spend time with her giant Italian family by enjoying a Sunday dinner and great conversation. She cannot wait to begin sharing her story as a not-so-average teen and is super excited to be a brand new addition to The Daily Feels.

January’s “FAN OF THE FEELS” is…

This month’s “FAN OF THE FEELS”: Dawnie B.
Dawn has been with us from Day 1, cheering us on, supporting our voice and is a true believer in what we set out to do here on The Daily Feels.
Dawn has liked our posts 51 times, commented 15 times, and takes time out of her busy schedule to read all of our blogs. For that and more, we are so very grateful and want to honor you as January’s, FAN OF THE FEELS!

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New Year, New You, right? RIGHT?! Not quite.

Blogger: Peter Dunn, “The Cynical Dreamer”

While it’s fantastic to be ambitious in setting resolutions, bettering yourself should never have a time stamp. The older I get, the more I realize how much I have negatively affected myself with timelines and time stamps. Whether it was: when I thought I needed to be married by, have children by, retired by, been an EGOT winner by (yeah, I was quite the ambitious ten-year-old), etc.  Those timelines did nothing but prepare me for what felt like… failure. No one deserves to do that to themselves, but I did it constantly. We all do it. Still we continually reflect on our year at the end of it, decide on the changes we need to make, then tell ourselves we need to start all of those changes as soon as we wake up on January 1st.

Reasons I won’t step foot in the gym on January 1st. A. Usually hungover AF. B. Usually exhausted AF from working. C. I absolutely can NOT handle how insanely crowded it is, as it’s full of people who have set these time stamps for themselves. Far too many sweaty people in one place for me, personally. I’ll see y’all there on the 2nd. Or the 3rd. Or maybe like the 8th, but don’t judge me! Jeez.

I had a pretty reflective end of 2018, due to both The Daily Feels and just the fact that I love to just sit and exist in my own thoughts and really, really think about things. It’s one of my strengths, as well as a weakness. I always find it fascinating how a quality can be so wonderful, yet so terrible at the same time. It’s those exact qualities that I feel really represent the root of who we are and who we become. I’m a ok with being a thinker, I just wish it wasn’t so damn maddening sometimes.

I made one immediate New Years resolution: to learn to say no to things. I’m failing at that one and only resolution so far. Oops.

I made many other New Years goals. These I had planned, and continue to roll out throughout the year, with no time stamp, no deadline, but just trusting that it will happen, when I am ready to.

Some of them are already happening. I’m reading daily, writing daily (even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes), and I’m forcing myself to have at least a short period of time every day to just be in my thoughts. None of these things I’m doing AS often as I like, but I am making them fit. My 2017 and 2018 felt like such a haze. My brain was constantly on overdrive.  I was constantly doing too much, and I very honestly remember very little from the past two years. That my friends is scary. Making time for those other things keeps my head a little less blurry, and making me really exist in my day, with a little more presence and cognizance.

As I said in my last post, 2018 was a year when I began to like, and even love myself again. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s pretty cool and was obviously needed. Doing those things and taking care of me, is the way to show myself the personal growth that began last year.

My other main goal was to get my fitness and eating habits back to a place that I am proud of. I have not begun this one yet. I know that I’m not ready to, and that when I am, I will be able to dive back into it and get back to the shape that I would like to be in.

I was at lunch a couple weeks ago with someone, and we were talking about when we’ve felt or looked our best. That was 2013/2014 for me. As I said to him though, when I was in “the best shape of my life”, I still hated what I looked like, avoided mirrors like my life depended on it, and still continually beat myself up about my physical flaws, each and every day. Now I look back at photos of that Peter, and I think, “Wow. You looked fucking great.” Or “Why the fuck did I let that go and how did we get to THIS?!” How sad that we can put ourselves down so much, that we can’t even recognize our own beauty.

I also have the fear of getting back into that shape, and again, still not being able to see any beauty in it. Therefore, I’m going to continue to hang off on that one until I’ve had a little more mental self-reflective time, and until my brain feels even clearer than it does now. And guess what, that’s fine. As long as you are good to your body, it doesn’t matter what you look like or how often you work out. Just be good to you.

My final goal for the year was to finally end my history of involving myself with emotionally unavailable men. Almost all of these things had to do with the fact that I didn’t really like myself. From teachers, to bosses, to narcissists, to sociopaths, to psychopaths, to married, to closeted, to straight, to drug addicts, to alcoholics, to abusive, y’all the list goes on and on! Especially in the past couple of years, the love for fuckboys had reached a whole nother level. MTV’s True Life: I’m Addicted to Fuckboys. That or basically a safe house for emotionally distraught or unstable penis (*insert eggplant emoji followed by any and all emojis that look INSANE*). Not only are they an addiction, but so is masochism (*shrugs while lowering head in shame*). When you realize that people have just continually taken and taken from you until you had nothing left to offer, and you really map out the routine and the cycles, it’s pretty terrifying. To me, I realized, Love was, fixing. Love was, a project. Love was, a form of work.

Real talk, I was celibate for a good amount of 2018 because of this. Not all, lol, but a good amount. If I was only going to have sexual relations with men that I couldn’t trust, then I needed to not be having sex with anyone. Point blank.

A couple of months ago, I met someone who felt and is, so, so very different than all of the guys that I’ve filled my past couple of years with.

While I am seen as an extrovert, I’m honestly pretty insanely introverted. I value my alone time, spend most of my time alone, and outside of work, I can be terrible at keeping in touch or being around people. I can get weirdly silent in public, I can be too lazy to text and have an extreme hatred and anxiety (hate my speaking voice) of talking on the phone.

I met this person, and very honestly, it was as if almost all of those things were lifted overnight. I hadn’t felt such a strong connection to a man that quickly and that supremely, since 2012, when I met J (J who lives on the other side of the world with his partner, and who always will, and who the universe helped show me the cruel side of love).

The past couple of months have been intense in a very welcoming way, and I’d forgotten I could be so happy just being around a guy who really didn’t want anything from me, outside of just the person I am. Who I wouldn’t mind seeing more than once a day, who I could spend 24 hours with without getting bored, who I could walk 60 blocks with without wanting to call an Uber, who I could whatttttt, talk on the phone with multiple times a day, and not want to commit mass murder. MINDBLOWING. It’s been like all of these foundations and walls I’ve found myself unintentionally building in my adulthood, were coming down in a way that felt effortless, and very simply put, right.

Alas, a couple weeks ago, Mr. Right told me something that should probably move him to the list of the history of wrong guys. Something he probably should have told me from day one. I use the word probably because a dependency has now been built up that keeps me from writing the word I should write, which is: “definitely”.

Just like that the strongest connection I’ve had in seven years, and possibly ever, felt different. What felt the most right, felt, wrong. And still, in no way, has been processed. All I’ve processed is that I am to the fullest degree, so sad about it.

The behavior you excuse, will usually, almost always, be your downfall. At a point, you must stop making excuses.

I feel weird submitting this blog cause I feel like it’s missing some of my humor, or relatability, or something. Really it almost feels like a selfish entry. This article is honestly for accountability to myself. To know the things I’m doing and not doing, and to verbalize them, and to put those words out into the universe, and know that for better or worse, actions have reactions. Own what you’re doing, and lead with an open heart and mind.

My ultimate goal in 2019 is to truly understand that I need to make myself a priority. So maybe a blog that is about selfish accountability, is actually, a step in that right direction. To take all the nurturing, compassionate energy that I shell out to others, and to give it back to myself. I need it. I deserve it.

In the immortal words of RuPaul Charles, “If You Can’t Love Yourself How In The Hell Are You Gonna Love Somebody Else?” Can I get an Amen?

Amen. Xx


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Peter William Dunn is a born and raised New Yorkers, who is currently a freelance writer, producer, director and sometimes actor in the city.

His professional passions include:  film, music, literature, helping other artists thrive and all around storytelling

His personal passions include: puppies, babies, black and white milkshakes, and attractive men with accents (he has an extra strong track record for attracting emotionally unavailable men, but don’t tell him we told you that, and don’t yell at him for speaking in third person right now).

His current loves are his dog, Domino, a whiskey neat, and in case you didn’t know, his mother is the greatest human being on earth❤

Beware The Drift of Life

Guest Blogger: Fernando Camacho

How did you get here?

Where you are right now in your life. Your job, your relationships, your health, your finances, your everything. How did you end up where you are right now in all the areas of your life?

The problem is that life keeps moving on whether we want it to or not. If we’re not quite prepared or don’t know what to do, life doesn’t wait, it keeps rolling on. And if we’re not paying attention or we’re too caught up in the responsibilities and drama of our daily routine, we don’t even realize how fast life is moving, taking us along for the ride.

Then one day something happens that makes us pick our head up and look around. It’s at that moment that we realize we’ve let life’s current take us places we really didn’t want to go. That’s the drift . . . and it’s deadly.

The drift is a subtle ninja that’s there all the time but you never notice it. You start off with great intentions and with amazing life goals in mind, however, if you don’t regularly check your course, you can find yourself in places you never wanted to go. It’s like if you were on a plane leaving New York headed to Los Angelas but your course was off by one degree upon take off. You don’t realize it, set the automatic pilot and six hours later discover that you missed L.A. by miles and miles and are now landing somewhere you didn’t want to go.

Any aspect of your life is susceptible to the drift – nothing is immune. It could be that one day you have a few cookies before bed. No big deal. However, then you do it again a few days later, then it’s skipping a morning workout because you’re tired, then it’s getting sucked into binge watching every Game of Thrones episode to “see what all the fuss is about.” Before you know it a year has gone by and you look down at the 25 extra pounds sitting above your belt line thinking, “how did this happen?”

Or maybe you’re in a relationship that starts off great but little by little turns into something that doesn’t fulfill you and now you’ve wasted all that time that could have been spent with your soulmate.

I got caught up in the drift a number of years ago in my job, which is the one aspect of life the drift is most prevalent. I was working as a real estate appraiser, not because I really wanted to, but because I needed a job and it was offered to me (that’s another interesting story but I’m trying to stay on topic).

Being an appraiser was a very dangerous situation for me and it’s one that so many other people end up in, which leads them to fall prey to the drift. In that job, I was comfortably unhappy. I didn’t hate my job but I definitely didn’t love it. It’s not something I was interested in or something I would talk much about if you asked me but it wasn’t horrible. So I did the minimum necessary to get my paycheck and lived for my time off.

I didn’t dislike it enough to go out and find a better job but it wasn’t making my work days pleasurable either. So, I stayed in that job for WAY longer than I should have. I drifted for years, unaware of where I was going.

Lucky for me, fate stepped in and forced my hand. In 2008, the economy crashed and overnight I had no more work as an appraiser. It was at that moment that I came to the realization that I didn’t really care about losing it because I didn’t enjoy it. With no job to keep me occupied I took the time to really think about what I wanted to do with my days – not what I had to.

After a lot of internet, as well as soul-searching, I decided I wasn’t going to drift any longer. Life is too short and we spend most of our waking time doing our jobs, so it makes sense to actually enjoy doing it. Thinking about my interests and what my passions were, I searched day in and out until one afternoon I saw a small listing on an online job board: “dog trainer wanted.”

I had always loved animals and had a great relationship with my own dog. Maybe I could help others achieve the same results. I had never even thought of dog training as a career option. It was only after I had asked myself what I cared about that I was open to seeing it.

So without much preparation, I jumped into it. The cool thing about the time that we live in is that there is an abundance of information and opportunity out there for the taking. You just have to take the action to find and implement it.

Dog training took off pretty quick for me. It wasn’t easy – I had to start a brand new business I knew nothing about in the worse economy since the Great Depression. But because I loved the work, I powered through the obstacles, fought to make it a success and have enjoyed every single day doing it (even when times were tough). Even now, a decade later, I smile every single morning as I jump out of bed and head out to work.

It’s an amazing feeling and now that I found a job that brings me so much joy and satisfaction, I realize how unhappy I actually was doing real estate appraising. I’m sad I didn’t realize I was caught in the drift sooner – I think about those years I wasted, not maximizing my happiness.

That time is gone and I’ll never get it back. Time is the most precious resource you have. Money can be replaced and duplicated in the future but once today is over, you’ll never see it again and it leaves you with one less day in your life. You can’t do it over. It’s gone.

If I’m bumming you out – GOOD! I don’t want it to take some economic or natural disaster to finally make you see that you’re drifting in your career. I want to be the kick in your pants that clears your head and makes you realize you’re not fulfilled in your job and not spending your days as happy as you deserve.

Work doesn’t have to be work. It can (and should) be fun and engaging and rewarding. If you’ve been caught in the drift at work for a number of years, it can seem impossible to get out of. You might have spent a lot of time and money building up this career and you feel like it would be too hard or wrong to just abandon it.

I hear ya’ and I’m sorry. No, it’s probably not going to be easy, but it will most likely be well worth it. I’m here to tell you that you can reinvent yourself as many times as you like. I’ve had 5+ very different careers (another cool story for another time) and every single time I switched, I started at the bottom, knowing nothing about my new job and worked my way to success in every one.

I was able to do this not because I’m special (damn!) but because I figured out what I needed to do (thank you internet), learned my new craft day by day and worked my tail off. Anyone can do it, if they have the desire to do it.

I can tell you once you complete your reinvention and see what life can be like when you’re living your days with a smile on your face, knowing you’re doing what you love, you’ll never allow the drift to pull you in again.

If you mindlessly drift through life you’ll be left with the bitter taste of regret. However, if you live with intention and prioritize your happiness each and every day you’ll be able to squeeze all the juice out of your life.

—————————————

Note from The Daily Feels: If you’re as inspired as we are and hungry for more, check out Fern’s new book Getting Paid to Play with Puppies: Creating a Career and Life You Love”


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Fernando Camacho has had 5+ different careers over the course of his life so far – always starting from the bottom and working his way to success each time. He’s reinvented himself over and over again, always keeping his focus on what brings him the most daily happiness Fern has also been able to transform himself from a pessimistic, depressed young man into a confident, lover of life. It wasn’t an easy or short journey, but was most definitely worth the effort. He’s the author of 5 books, the host of 2 podcasts and a popular speaker, where he tries to help others squeeze the juice out of life.

Follow Fernando:

Facebook – That Fern Guy

Instagram: That Fern Guy

Website: https://fernandojcamacho.com/

 

 

Quit Your Bitchin’

Blogger: Janis Gaudelli – “The Champion of Truths, Unicorns & AWE-tism”

In my past blogs, I have shared ad nauseam how I am a tried and true gratitude-er.  My daily practice is as sacred to me as my morning cup of coffee. Gratitude enhances everything good and releases the anchor(s) weighing you down.  One of the anchors I struggle with this time of year is good ol’ bitching and complaining.  Complaining becomes my default approach to communicating.

Ever since I started practicing gratitude, I have found very little to complain about, but there are three months out of the year that are difficult for me. Specifically, January through March, aka Winter. Winter challenges my strong sense of gratitude and makes me downright bitchy.  The cold makes me irritable.  The snow becomes a nuisance.  Everything is staticky, dry and just God-awful.

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There’s that bitchin’ I was talking about.

If you live in the Northeast like I do, winter is inevitable, so I should be used to this, right?  I am so tired of feeling this way.  It’s time for me to snap out of my wintery funk and quit my bitching.

Thus far in 2019, I have given up sugar. Now, I am here to announce my plan to go bitch-free (or at least bitch-less) for the next 21 Days.  I wanted to get to the bottom of what it exactly means to complain by unwrapping its meaning.  Complaining is when we blame others, or life, instead of accepting the situation and taking responsibility to make things better.

Complaining is basically the grown-up version of whining: it’s an expression of powerlessness.  And who wants to feel powerless?  It’s a natural human instinct to complain about people, places, or things (like winter) that make life difficult. But have you ever noticed how often we bitch?  If you’re like me (from January through March), it’s more frequent than I care to admit.  Research has shown that the average person complains 30 times a day!  Armed with that stat, I began to document the # of times I bitched for three consecutive days. I included verbal complaints, those on social media, and of course my bitchy thoughts.  Here’s where I netted out:

Day 1: 11 verbal complaints, 7 social media complaints (i.e. I posted a complaint, or I complained on someone else’s post), involved in 2 conversations where the other person was complaining, and 7 bitchy thoughts.

Day 2: 7 verbal complaints, 4 social media complaints, 2 conversations, 8 thoughts.

Day 3: 3 verbal complaints, 1 social media complaint, 1 conversation, 4 complaining thoughts

Do you notice a pattern here?  My complaining began to decrease (for the most part) because I was paying attention.  Worth noting that I was off from work on Day 3, which tells me that the cause of much of my bitching is work (this is probably true for many people).

Let me very clear here: I don’t think it’s humanly possible to never complain.  In fact, I am suspect of those people who are always positive and complaint-free.  Shit happens, and a natural reaction is to bitch about said shit.  But by observing people for a living, and now checking myself, it seems we have taken up complaining as an Olympic sport.

Complaining is also bad for our health, y’all.  When we complain, our body releases extra cortisol, and that impairs our immune systems.  Believe it or not, complaining makes us more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes.  Other harmful effects that might want to make you quit bitchin’ include increased stress, depleted energy, and heightened depression and anxiety. Not to mention it impacts our relationships and chips away at our self-esteem.  Crazy, right?  The words we speak and thoughts we absorb are powerful, friends.

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So, how do we stop this madness from affecting our overall health and making us miserable to be around?  As you may have guessed, I did my research.  There are legit no-complaining challenges out there (which I will cover later), but here are some common-sense basics if you’re not into challenges:

  1. Catch your complaints. Much like I did during that three-day trial, pay attention to when you complain, the source of your complaint, and who you’re complaining to.  Remember: complaining is just not what you say verbally, it’s your social media posts/comments, as well as your negative thoughts.  I know this is easier said than done, but it’s the only way to really know how often and why you’re complaining.

 

  1. Pay attention to the triggers. Are you complaining about a certain person all the time? Try limiting your time with them.  Do you bitch mostly at work?  Tell your co-workers to call you out when you do. Are you always complaining about your kids, parenting, etc.?  You’re on your own there (hahaha).

 

  1. Watch who you surround yourself with. Complaining is contagious.  Once I started practicing gratitude and began to complain less, I became sensitive to the people and situations when bitching went off the rails.  I didn’t judge those people. I was one of them, and again, they’re human.  I just knew I needed to limit my time speaking with them and putting myself in certain situations.

 

  1. If there is something worth complaining about (let’s face it, sometimes it’s warranted), approach it with a solution. Have a clear understanding of what needs to change. I’ll give you an example: my son has anxiety and triggers include changes in routine and other children’s verbal stims/outbursts/crying, etc.  Last year, we went through a few sucky months trying to curb it, and with that came my bitching.  Legitimate bitching? Hell yes.  Thing is, I knew just complaining about it wasn’t going to fix the problem.  Instead, I wrangled his team of experts (teachers, therapists, school psychologist, etc.) and we came up with a plan.  Within a month of putting that plan in place, my son’s anxiety decreased significantly– and so did my complaining.

Successfully decreasing bitch-fests means being more mindful.  Paying attention.  Listening to yourself and those around you.  Leaning into the solution to whatever you’re bitching about.

Now, if you’re into challenges like I am, I uncovered many.  In researching different “Complain-Free” challenges, I came across a common thread: no complaining begets happiness.  The people who have had success with these challenges all claim to be less-stressed, more productive and happier.  Sign me up!

The father of the most popular and publicized no complaint challenge is William Bowden.  His idea of going 21-Days complaint-free has changed his life and millions of others’.   I must admit it’s pretty hardcore.  After digging into the details, I found it to be a bit too restrictive for me (but it might be just right for you.)  Check it out here: https://www.willbowen.com/complaintfree/

I continued my search for a No-Complaint challenge that I felt was more aligned with my humanness.  Seek, and the challenge appears.  Ladies and Gents, I present to you “THE 21-DAY BITCH-FREE CHALLENGE”!

no complaint challenge

Here’s the game-changer: if a complaint comes to mind (and you know it will), acknowledge it, then think of how to verbalize that complaint in a more positive way.  For instance, I tend to complain about how sore my body is after workouts.  So, instead of saying, “Ugh, I’m so sore!”, I can reframe it to be more positive: “That was a good workout yesterday – I can really feel it!”.

This, my friends, is totally doable and worth a try.  What have we got to lose (except a helluva lot of bitching and complaining)?!  You with me?  Let’s go.

JGsignature


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Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels.  She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways.  Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living.  Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 7-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.

FOLLOW JANIS AND THE DAILY FEELS TRIBE @:  FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM

Today on MLK Day, Wake Up to One of the Most Dangerous form of Racism…Coded Racism. Everyone in the Human Race is Accountable to Turn Reverend King’s Dream into a Reality. It’s Time!

Blogger: Cherry Maggiore – “The Freak of Nurture”

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Chapter 21: Woke at the Border

As I stand and chat with one of my colleagues at a networking event, another associate taps me on the shoulder to congratulate me on the event I hosted that evening.

Humbly and gratefully, I thank her and introduce her to the colleague I was chatting with moments before.  She absently states that she knows him already, as she turns to him to say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you standing there.”

My mouth drops open as she quickly wishes us farewell, as she rushes to catch her train home.  I turn to him and stare with mouth agape…dumfounded.

It is critical to note that my colleague is a 6’3” African-American man who was a college athlete.  Compared to my 5’2” frame, he was really fucking hard to miss; and to add insult to injury, she interrupted our conversation.  It took me a solid five minutes to reconcile what I witnessed, and it hits me…it hits hard.

With the shock of the moment lingering, I ask him, “Did that just happen?”

He calmly responds, “What do you think just happen?”

I respond with disappointment and say, “I think that I just witnessed the most abject form of racism, subtext racism, and you were the victim of it.”

He firmly responds, “You are woke.”  He then went further to correct my language around subtext racism and educated me on coded racism; which is defined as statements of racist ideologies that are carefully designed not to appear racist.

As I reflect on this interaction, it strikes me that I didn’t say anything to this woman; I didn’t stand up for my colleague.  I was caught entirely off-guard.  In retrospect, I wholeheartedly regret not saying something to support my colleague, and now friend.   When we spoke about this later, he pointed out that she probably didn’t even realize what happened.  That racism is so systematic and seeped into our culture, that for many people it has become subconscious. And this is where the danger lies…

When I found out that I was scheduled to publish my blog on Martin Luther King Day, I realized the enormous opportunity to use The Daily Feels platform to share this story.  Furthermore, I wanted to challenge all of us to be more “woke”, and to inspire change by starting a long overdue conversation around racism.

As I began to write, I harkened back to my own history with racism as I tried to deconstruct the events that made this disgusting behavior and belief system uniformly unacceptable to me.  The moment my eyes opened…

To start with, I am an independent, liberal-leaning outcast in my family and my community.  But the collision between my beliefs and my family/community values came to a head the summer of 1989 (the summer of my 15th year of life, as I entered my junior year of High School).

Yusuf K. Hawkins, a 16-year old black man, was shot to death in Bensonhurst on August 23rd, 1989.  Hawkins and three friends were attacked by a crowd of 10 to 30 white youths, with at least seven of them wielding baseball bats.  As Yusuf Hawkins and his friends came to Bensonhurst to see a used car, they were beaten, and he was ultimately shot and killed on this tragic summer night.

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In the days that followed, Al Sharpton along with hundreds of protesters, peacefully marched down 20th avenue in Bensonhurst.  As they came to the corner of where we lived on 80th street, I recall (with disgust and rage) the Italian mobs, spitting at them, throwing fried chicken and watermelon.

It was not lost on me that Yusuf and I were the same age when he was murdered.  While I would go on and live my life, his life was lost just because he was black.

What saddens me most, is that even after 30 years of this despicable, frightening and culture-shifting loss, we still see an excessive amount of black lives lost for no other reason than the color of their skin.  These crimes against the black race live on…recurring as a living nightmare.

Around the same time, I remembered the day my friend Stacy (who was in the Academy with me in H.S.) came over my house to study for a project.  I didn’t know my father was home and I thought we were peacefully alone.  I decided to heat up some leftover pasta and meatballs, as it was her favorite meal.  I promised her that my moms was the best ever and she sassily replied, “I’ll be the judge of that!

Suddenly my father appeared as he heard us in the kitchen noshing and laughing while we prepared to study.

As I introduced Stacy to my father, he mumbled hello but seemed extremely upset.  He stormed back into his room and called me inside.   He angrily whispered to me, “How DARE you bring home her into the house to eat MY food.  How could you let that n##### eat off my dishes and use my fork???”

I got sick to my fucking stomach and screamed at him! “How ignorant and disgusting. You don’t even know her.  She’s brilliant and one of the smartest people in my class!  She was helping ME with my project!!!! How can you judge her and act this way because she’s black???!!!”

This didn’t end well for me…my father was not a good person, and he told me not ever to bring my friend Stacy to HIS house again.

I cried and cried that night out.  I cried for Stacy; and roared out of pure frustration, embarrassment and white-hot hatred for the man I called Dad.

The division between my father’s values and my own worsened.  Unfortunately, there are so many other memories, like this, that breaks my heart when I look back on my upbringing.  Moments that confuse me as I cannot understand how skin color, cultural identity, religion or sexual orientation matter at all when you are engaging with another human being; that these things have anything to do with whether they are a good and kind person.

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It’s these instances that made me want to disassociate with my culture and my race.  I didn’t understand. I didn’t agree.  I didn’t belong.

As I grew up and went to college, the people I surrounded myself with were vast and diverse.  People who were open-minded, curious and accepting.  Artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers who saw the world as much larger and more interesting than our small-minded Brooklyn ecosystem.

As I learned more about the origins of racism, I understood that racism was at the crux of nearly every single evil act and war in human history.   This knowledge and my personal experiences were the foundation that helped me realize I had a responsibility to be better than my upbringing and even more so to drive change; to convince others and educate them on the evils of racism.  To take advantage of my “privileges” that people of other races do NOT have in America.

It was the driving force behind my desire to foster diverse teams that represented all cultures, religions, and genders.  Ironically, but not surprisingly, what I came to discover was that the more diverse my team was the better the work and the results.  Our collaboration was better, our bond stronger as we defined our own communities and our own values that were grounded more in our similarities than our differences.

But as overt racism became intolerable and equal rights became law, the bubbling of coded racism took over as we have yet to solve the issue and origins of racism in human beings.   The cause and the effect.

As I stood in front of my colleague and friend, I witnessed his disappointment.   It broke my heart as he told me that this was an issue he still dealt with often.  At that moment, I knew I had a chance to correct my inaction.   So I decided to open this dialogue and in collaboration with my colleague, use my blog as a platform to help people understand the dire impact of racism and to call on our friends, colleagues, and family to join us in our efforts to change our culture of hate and judgment.  That we could together inspire others to initiate an honest and transparent conversation.  To communicate that we all have the responsibility to open the dialogue on the subject of racism and we all need to fight this on-going division of humanity, TOGETHER.  We are ALL accountable!!!

chris

I asked my colleague, to curate his advice and some essential facts to help lead this change… Here is his side of the story…and his heartfelt request of you all.

Be Mindful of What’s Going on Around You

When the event that Cherry Maggiore describes was happening in real time, I wasn’t shocked that it happened, as it is not an uncommon occurrence in my life. What surprised me was that the person that I was speaking with had the spatial awareness and aptitude to diagnose what was happening at the moment and most importantly, why it was happening. There is a certain sense of entitlement that many people have regardless of race or upbringing. As we progress in our career and journey as humans, we become accustomed to certain social norms and environments. It is entirely possible that many of us have never worked with a person of color and even more feasible that when we have, that person has likely not been in a position of power with the education and experience to support. What this means is that when a person of color is in the same room and space, it is entirely possible that one may assume that this person is “less than” what they actually are.

This happens to me on an almost daily basis. When people see my credentials, they often respond with shock and amazement. Rarely is it verbalized but the look on their face says it all, and then I am met with “oh, I didn’t realize…” usually followed by some form of coded language (more on that later).

The woman that did not acknowledge me or my existence at the moment was indeed not doing it overtly. Instead, she was just reacting to the environments in which she had become accustomed. Years of existing in a homogeneous work environment where a person of color is rarely on the same level or higher than herself. This is compounded by living and interacting with the same type of people.

At the end of the day, I was more proud than I was disappointed. Proud that a colleague recognized what was happening and articulated it instantly. Progress.

Be mindful of Coded Language

Author of the book Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, Ian Haney Lopez describes coded language as:

  • “… Coded speech operates on two levels,” he says. “It triggers racial anxiety, and it allows plausible deniability by crafting language that lets the speaker deny that he’s even thinking about race.”

Coded language, or using phrases or terms that actually mean other things has been around for many decades; however, many black people today have become very skilled in recognizing when coded language is used to describe something about themselves or another person.

An African – American middle manager within a previous company that I worked for described an interaction with a white male leader within the company when that person used the coded language of sorts to describe another company’s black executive.

When describing this Harvard Business School-educated executive, this leader made a point to say that he was “well-spoken” and “articulate.” Now at face value, this may appear to be a compliment, but when we dissect the spirit of the comment, each black person will agree that it is indeed a derogatory statement to describe this person. It assumes that the expectation was that the black executive would not be articulate or well-spoken and that this came as a surprise. The fact that he was so articulate was the exception and not the rule. They may also agree that they had rarely or never heard those terms used to describe a non-ethnic person. These statements continue to chip away at their psyche of Black professionals while they try to navigate corporate America. In this so-called “post-racial” society that we live in, many have detailed that coded comments have replaced seemingly bigoted comments that many adults had to deal with from decades past.

Today, coded language infiltrates our homes via the television, cubicles, and boardrooms across the country and the worst part of it is that there is a sentiment that this must be endured or one will be labeled as using the proverbial “race card” if a complaint is made or if one points out the undertones of such language.

It is also clear that coded language is not something that is unique to minorities as women in the workplace face the same issues. There often remains a sentiment that when a woman has a voice that she may be viewed as being aggressive or angry. Women have often had to conform to standards acceptable by men to fit in. Especially when environments are predominantly male, the woman is put in a position where her voice will not be heard or where she needs to assume a macho role to fit-in. Coded language can also be used to discriminate against employees over a certain age. Common coded terms used are ‘youthful” or “enthusiastic” to describe the ideal candidate.

In fact, one leader at a former organization has mentioned that the most desirable candidates on an executive track are those with “a lot of runway.” It is clear that the use of coded language can intentionally or unintentionally be used to marginalize certain members of groups and that there is an opportunity to extract value from these members and execute upon an effort to celebrate each person’s differences instead of alienating them because of it.

Never say “I don’t see color.”

Often I have heard very well-intentioned people say that they do not see color when making hiring decisions. When I hear this, I usually think to myself, that’s bullshit, and then I make clear to them that they should see color.

It is impossible not to see that I am black when I walk into a room. It is the first thing that anyone would notice about me. Only a few times in my career has someone who was meeting me for the first time after a phone or email relationship said: “wow, you’re black, I didn’t realize that!”

Many would think that I would be upset with such interaction, but to the contrary, it does not bother me at all. I am proud to be black, and I am somewhat relieved that the person was acknowledging that without making a value judgment. Accepting that people are different than yourself (and provide value) is the first step in recognizing that a diverse team will, in turn, bring diverse ideas to the meeting and help shape an environment that is more representative of most consumers.

Hire people who look different than yourself

Have you ever been at a meeting or event where you were the only “one” in the room? Only Hispanic or Black person, woman, young person, older person? Many have not had this experience and certainly not over a sustained, but for those of us who have to endure it every day, it is not easy.

It is true that people are often attracted to people who have something in common with themselves. In fact, many of us who have hired people will say things like, “she reminds me of myself” or “I am from the same town as him.” Or “I went to college with his dad.”  While on the surface, this may appear to be a benign comment but what it does is reinforce the fact that we often work in homogeneous environments with many hires being referrals from similar people like ourselves with minimal appetite for diversity as an input in our hiring criteria that would likely yield significant measurably better business results long term.

Everyone can agree that business is becoming increasingly global. Advances in technology allow for many companies to innovate, compete and differentiate from competitors. These changes present many challenges and difficulties to overcome, but they also create opportunities for continuous improvement. To win and maximize shareholder value, legacy companies, as well as start-ups, must rely on its visionary leader to make investments in the future to secure revenue growth. Companies must anticipate marketplace changes and evolution in customer tastes. Adaption to increased competition and making decisions about the complexion of human capital will be paramount in a company’s ability to be market leaders. The topic of diversity and inclusion can polarize and alienate many within the business while others may have an emotional reaction to the subject.

To extinguish emotions around diversity and inclusion, there must be clear metrics that allow for measurement of such efforts. The language of data transcends emotion and in many cases provides the data needed to make a decision about the future of the organization. Ultimately, any effort put forth will need to focus on potential problems and not specific people.

Ask questions and be open to dialogue

One of the most polarizing topics in popular culture today is the divide within our country about Black football players kneeling during the national anthem; the silent and peaceful protest of the injustice that many black people have had to endure as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or doing seemingly everyday kind things.

As a result of a varied career and education, I have become excellent friends with people that I would otherwise not come in contact with in my everyday routine. One of my closest friends is a 43-year-old white male from business school who lives in Columbus Ohio in an overwhelmingly non-diverse neighborhood, and his kid’s school has almost no representation of black or Hispanic people. I have visited him multiple times for long weekends, and as we move through the neighborhood, we play a game of counting the number of black people that we see. I often would joke that it was my cousin every time I saw a black person!

What makes him one of my closest friends is that we can have an open dialogue about race, inequality and our positions on it. Never do we argue or try to convince the other that our way of thinking is the right way, instead, we chat about our feelings but most importantly, we listen to one another.  He asks me ignorant questions about my race and upbringing, and I feel safe to do the same.

Ultimately, we disagree on the merits of those football player protests, but we listen, ask questions and learn. The final question that he or none of my closest friends have been able to answer is why does the Me Too Movement likely have close to 100% approval amongst Americans but the Black Lives Matter Movement have, at best, 50% approval? Aren’t both about marginalization, abuse of power and injustice? I suspect Dr. King would have a strong opinion on both movements and the paths in which we take to support or denounce either.

______________________________________________________

Finally, I will add another request to the suggestions my friend and colleague provided above…

Take Action- If you see something, say something

Think back on some moments you may have witnessed racism or coded racism…challenge yourself to recognize the behavior and the language.  One of the most important things we need to do is recognize it, and the next is to speak up.

Additionally, bring diversity into your personal and professional life.  If you don’t have any friends outside of your race, culture, religion or sexual orientation make that a focus for the immediate future.  If you do and have never discussed this issue, take your friend/colleague/neighbor out to dinner and start talking.  Talk to your kids, ask them questions about this, educate them on MLK and other black leaders who have made such a tremendous impact on America and on the world.

One of the ways, I have contributed to making a change was by founding a diversity initiative at my company which we named, BOLD (Building Opportunity for Leadership and Diversity).  I am very passionate about building diverse teams as well as the urgent need to sponsor diverse talent throughout every stage of their careers.  And that was the foundation upon which BOLD was created and now exists (and my hope is that it will continue long after I am working at the company).  As the Founder and Executive Champion of BOLD, it is my way of using my privilege to impact long-tale change.

Nearly 56 years after Mr. King uttered the words “I Have a Dream,” at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28th, 1963, we have yet to fulfill his dream.    And those words are as relevant and important today as they were the day he spoke them; especially as we continue to battle this pervasive, dangerous and systematic cultural problem that impacts the lives of millions of people.

Today, I will ask you all to do three things: share this blog, share our story with a friend and/or colleague and start the conversation.  Don’t let fear or discomfort stop you…be brave and let’s decide to come together to wake the nation.

Let’s finally be part of making Reverend King’s dream come true because even the smallest act can help change the world.

chris

Xoxo

Cherry Maggiore


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Cherry Maggiore is the proud single mom of her 9-year-old super-sassy daughter (aka Miss Sassy Pants or MSP) and 15-year-old pug baby (Tiki Barber); in addition to being an award-winning senior marketing executive at NBCUniversal.

Beside her side hustle as the Freak of Nurture, she also started a home design company after being inspired by renovating and designing her 1880’s home in NJ.

This insanely curious and passionate “multi-potentialite” can be found dancing the Argentinan tango, swing and Hustle every Saturday, cooking her family an Italian Sunday dinner, singing and air drumming at concerts or searching for her next adventure.