Sweet Love

 There’s a lot of great folks doing a wonderful job with parental relationships, be they with a parent or child. However, I wonder why our love relationships are so fraught with ineffective, inauthentic communication and a lack of the kind of work it takes to have relational sustainability? It seems that parental relationships are perceived to be easier due to the inherent power differential. But, there seems to be a lack of will when it comes to working on ourselves so we can be accessible to, and accepting of, each other.

IMG_1774Maintaining a relationship where individuals become egalitarian partners  seems to be beyond the pale. It seems that we tend to compete instead of IMG_1773collaborate; become resistant rather than accepting the fact that there will most likely, only be about 80% of the person we like and 20% we don’t, but decide to accept. We’ve got a lot of work to do on ourselves in order to change this, and going back to the “way things used to be” isn’t the answer. I would posit that love for self will lead us to make effective relational choices. When I love myself, I can love someone else because I already have a standard by which to decide what is humane treatment and what is not. When I accept myself without judgement, I can do the same for my partner. I don’t look for anything near perfection in my partner because I know I don’t bring that unrealistic expectation to my own life.  

Humility, acceptance and trust seem to be more attractive aspects rather than tight abs and a bangin’ body! Of course, all of these issues need to be addressed BEFORE we make a commitment. But then, that would require an entire paradigmatic shift in the way we approach potential romantic relationships. Maybe she’s NOT a potential partner because she’s “drop dead gorgeous?” Maybe he’s NOT a potential partner because he’s attained an above average economic status? Dr. Phil is correct:

“The success of a relationship is a function of the extent to which it meets the needs of two people,”

This statement begs the question: Whose needs do you want to meet? THAT’S the person you should BE with romantically. THAT’S your potential romantic partner. Life is so short. Relationships really can be sweet. Seems pretty simple to me……. #LoveIsEverything

 

PEACE! – Dr. Kim

My New Brothers 

  

These are my new brothers: Damon and Kemic Smothers. They recently adopted me (no adoption certificate was needed). One kisses me on the forehead and the other tells me S.Y.A.D. (sit yo azz down) when I’m overworking. We found each other in our 40s. As an incest survivor (and exSuperwoman) I’ve often spent my life looking for the brother I missed. I certainly didn’t think I’d find him this late in the game. But, that’s how life seeks to bring you its most benevolent blessings. My quest for one brother-connection – even when I didn’t know I was looking for it – produced TWO Brothers from another mother! That’s just what love graciously gives us if we are fully open on this journey called life. God will place brothers in your life that will provide you with the kind of steadfast support, listening ear, and genuine love that transcends the legitimacy established through a biological blood line. Yes, women and men can be more than friends by sharing the kind of familial love that makes us free to experience a fuller range of our humanity. There’s just nothing like a Brother’s love! So, it gives me overwhelming pleasure to honor these renaissance gentlemen who are unashamedly Black and unapologetically strong: my Smothers Brothas! #FathersDay2015 #BlackMenRock #BrothaLove #SistaLove

This is My Dad 

  

This is my Dad: Rev. Bernard Leonard (B. L.) Chandler. He has 2 children, 3 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren. He’ll be 72 years old in August. He cooks most days of the week, calls me to let me know his schedule for the day, and still keeps a home office even though he’s a retired pastor. He started teaching me to swim at 9 months old. As a little girl, he used to let me be in the pulpit with him and greet all of the people after church. As a kid, we’d ride around town, looking at the architecture of different churches and he could name all of the distinctive characteristics. From young childhood through high school graduation, I was his “road dawg” growing up. We traveled around the state and the country, going to various Baptist conventions, revivals, and other meetings. I’d never see other pastors with their kids, so I thought they just didn’t have any! My dad always told me that education is something nobody can ever take from me. When I was going through the worst time in my life with depression and serious personal crises, my Dad would drive back and forth from Tennessee to Louisiana – 8 hours each way – to go with me, whether it was to the psychologist or to pick up things from my office so I could go home with he and Mom in order to take a semester off on mental health medical leave. My Dad never told me I couldn’t do things because I was Black and a girl. He showed me Black manhood through his service to God, commitment to the community, dedication to his churches, and 50 year partnership with my Mom. My Dad has been through quadruple bypass surgery, prostate cancer, lung cancer, hospital stays too numerous to mention, but still gets in the pulpit to preach and teach the gospel whenever called to do so. This is my Dad. If you ever wondered what a REAL father looks like…look no further! #HappyFathersDay #MyDadRocks #ThanksDad

June Guest Blogger: Idrissa N. Snider

Let me introduce you to an inspiring woman with a unique and empowering message!  Idrissa is completing her PhD from my alma mater, Wayne State University. When we were eIntroduced (we met by email), I was impressed with her passion!  I know you will feel the same way when reading her work.  Enjoy!!!

– Dr. Kim

OUR FACE AS MOTHERS…AND PARENTS!

BlackFamilyDinnerWhen I think of my role as a parent I am often cognizant of how my own mother chose to raise me. While I have certainly adopted some of the traditional styles of parenting that I witnessed as a child growing up in the south, I also find myself making a concerted effort to critique them. The image of black mothers here in America is reflected from one extreme to the next. Toya Graham, a single mother of six, recently received national media attention for feverishly smacking her son upside the head when she caught him throwing rocks at police officers during a rally in Baltimore, MD. While her reaction seemed normal to many of us, others thought it was particularly noteworthy. I, too, can say that I am most grateful for many similar incidents when my parents had to grab me by my shirt collar to keep me in line.

While well intended, this notion of “black parenting” is sometimes restrictive. There are studies and testimonies that would corroborate the fact that spankings can be used as an effective measure of discipline. Nonetheless, too often I hear black parents referring solely to their disciplinary roles. Trust me, my children are the best-behaved little gentlemen you’d ever meet. However, I have come to the realization that my role as a parent is more fulfilling and enjoyable because I am their educator also. I love introducing these fresh new minds to travel and culture! Also, I want to make sure that they know how to have fun. Children who have balanced lives are more likely to be balanced adults.  Being centered is vital!

For Memorial Day, my husband and I took our sons to a local waterpark. As I laid back on the beach chair with my hat cocked to the BlackFamilyRollerCoasterside and shades perfectly perched on my nose, I thought to myself, “I’m blessed!” My family is healthy, happy, and thriving. However, for some unknown reason I started wondering about all the little black children who don’t have parents who take them out or make sure that their kids get a chance to experience activities. The children I thought about weren’t poor kids from a foreign nation or distant land. These were the children of neighbors, family members or acquaintances that I’d met throughout my life. I am referring to kids with able-bodied working parents who take great care of themselves, but not of their little ones. As I sat there, the names of these beautiful girls and boys touched my heart.

As you read this, I’m sure there are names of children like these who come to your mind. Some of them have been disregarded because they come from a previous relationship.  Others find themselves in the way of parents who are simply just too busy and selfish to BlackFamilyBikingsacrifice their own enjoyment. I would never suggest that mistreatment happens only to black children; that statement is far from any truth. That’s simply not the point. Instead, I am trying to emphasize the fact that as a stay-at-home mother, my sons are often the only black children in attendance at many activities I frequent. Also, I know far too many people who were misplaced from house to house or foster care because they were “too bad” or “didn’t mind.” In opposition to what you might assume, they were disciplined, spanked, and often told what not to do.

In my adolescent years, my parents faced many challenges rearing me and my siblings. My father suffered from drug addiction (which impacted us all in very hurtful/negative ways). Yet and still, he provided for us and was extremely supportive in making sure that we were exposed to more than he had been exposed to in his life. My mother was also a stay-at-home mom. I know that she loved her four girls dearly. However, despite the ills we were exposed to, our parents made sure we had a good time. Perhaps they wanted to “make-up” for the fighting, dysfunction, or whatever. But, what that taught me was that creativity is needed in parenting.BlackFamilyGolfing

My mother passed unexpectedly when she was 33 years old. I often wonder what type of grave impact her passing would have had on me if I had only experienced just disciplining, or even just the troubles we faced. Instead, just as I have memories of our struggles, I also have the fondest memories of her making and teaching me how to cook everything from collard greens to stuffed mushrooms. I can also recall taking dance, piano, flute, and cello lessons (none of which I do today). Still, my point is that these sacrifices helped to cultivate expanded interests and also provided me with creative outlets. Trust me, these activities were major sacrifices coming from a family on a stringent budget.  For example, one memory that stands out most prominently is when she took me to an audition for a performing arts school. She was so excited to help me showcase my 30 pieces of art work! That school changed my life and exposed me to more possibilities.

So, my point is that while culturally, blacks (and other cultures) are typically labeled as disciplinarians, I think we should add to the image – to the face – of what it means to be parents. Yes, we stand proudly in the fact that our children don’t “cut up in public” or curse at us. But, when I think about the many conversations and encounters I have had with black mothers and fathers, while I hear the love…it saddens me that there seems to be a lack of joy in parenting due to the disciplinary responsibilities. Yes, parents should hold one another accountable for how we treat our children. But, we also need to reach out to children who have limited access when it comes to experiencing life’s pleasures. It takes a village to raise a child; but, what is to come of our children – our families – if the village remains silent on these issues.  Let’s not raise a generation of children who never get to be children.  Let’s change OUR face as mothers…AND parents!

IdrissaSnider

Idrissa N. Snider, born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, always had a love for the arts. Her creative passions as a painter ignited her career in broadcasting and television for nearly a decade. Snider’s proudest accomplishment is her family. She wed her childhood sweetheart in 2001 and is a proud mother of 2. Idrissa believes that her purpose in life is to inspire and educate others. She is currently pursuing a PhD at Wayne State University in Rhetorical Criticism: Media, Society, & Identity. Snider also travels the country as an author and inspirational speaker.

May Guest Blogger: Shelia Y. Darden

I take great pleasure in introducing this blogger to you. Shelia started working with me as my event planner in my previous ministry work. Her work in the field of Domestic and Sexual Violence has transformed the lives of innummerable women and children.  She’s a real dynamo! Enjoy!!!

— Dr. Kim

IS LIBERATED LIVING REALLY LIBERATED?

BatteredWoman1Liberated living is joyful, fun and exciting! You can go where you want, do what you desire, and even travel all over to see the world. However, for some people, liberated living is not liberated at all but comes at a cost. For them, liberated living means power and control at the hands of another – doing what they want, when they want, and how they want. Some must ask for permission to go visit family and friends. They have to check-in every few minutes concerning what they are or are not doing.  At times, they are not able to even leave the house at all.  Whenever a person uses physical and sexual abuse, controls finances, uses the children, makes threats, etc., these are tactics used to get and maintain control in a relationship. That’s not liberated living; that’s bondage!

Working in the field of Domestic and Sexual Violence for over 15 years, I’ve seen the pain, scars, and trauma that Survivors endure from hitting, slapping, kicking, punching, burning, etc. No matter the race, education, economic status, etc., no one deserves to be subjected to any form or type of abuse.  Assaulting another person is a crime and Batterers must be held accountable.  We must keeping fighting to liberate Survivors from this violence.  This important work must continue. Unfortunately, so often Survivors are told the following:

 “What did you do to get slapped?”
“If you’d only keep your mouth closed, this would not happen to you.”
“Why don’t you just leave?”
“I would not allow anyone to hit on me!”

ManHitWoman

Instead of blaming the Survivor, we need to challenge the Batterer by saying,

“Why do you use violence to solve problems?”
“Why don’t you just leave when you do not agree?”
“There are programs available for Batterers who use power and control in their relationships; you need to get help!”
 In order to embrace liberated living, SURVIVORS: You must accept that you CANNOT change an individual.
In order to embrace liberated living, BATTERERS: You have to admit and accept that you have a serious problem with violence. YOU need help.

FreeBlackWomanLiberated living for a Survivor is knowing that it is NOT your fault. Liberated living for a Batterer and a Suvivor is knowing that violence is never the answer or solution to solving an issue. Keeping yourself safe is a start to embracing true liberated living. You CAN live free of violence! Call the police. Get a Personal Protection Order (PPO). Get support from family, friends, and co-workers. Leave. Move out or move away.  Make a safety plan and use it.  Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to find shelters in your area that service Survivors of Domestic Violence.  Shelters will assist you with housing, counseling, support groups, legal assistance, etc.

Please know that God has not called you to a life of abuse, torment, and torture.  You CAN embrace a life of liberated living that includes joy, peace, and happiness!

SheliaDardenShelia Y. Darden, a Detroit native, lives in Ann Arbor, MI.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.  Her work in the field of Domestic Violence, spanning over a decade, focuses on counseling battered/abused women and children. She’s also counseled women in prison seeking clemency. A multifaceted entrepreneur, Shelia owns an event planning company, works as a Standardized Patient Instructor for University of Michigan, and continues to work with troubled and at-risk youth through Wedgwood Christian Services.  Shelia is also a licensed Respite/Foster Parent with Monroe County Community Mental Health Authority in the state of Michigan.

April Guest Blogger: Yolanda Stephens

I’m excited to introduce this awesome exSuperwoman to you this month. Yolanda’s story is powerful, insightful, and inspiring. Enjoy! — Dr. Kim

LEARNING TO BE YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF 

Most of us live two lives — what people see on the outside, and what is really going on inside us.  As kids in school, we learned what outward signs of attention would please the teacher.  At our jobs, we learn to “put up a good front” whenever the boss happens to stroll past our desk or office.  Lastly, as if putting on masks, we style our hair, choose our clothes, and use body language to impress those around us.  Over time, through these behaviors we have learned to excel at hiding truly serious problems.  We use any and everything to hide the invisible scars we possess.  I know this all too well!

Unfortunately, people tend to judge us by our outward appearances; and thus  can be easily fooled. Hence why masks are so effective, because they allow us to hide who we truly are.  So why do we wear masks most of the time?  The reasons are many and varied.  For instance, we wear a mask because we are hiding behind a brave face when actually we are trembling with fear inside.   

Another possible use of a mask is putting on a big smile to conceal an aching sorrow and/or pain. Or maybe we wear a mask to clothe ourselves with a costume of competence, as a way to hide our insecurities. Regrettably, I knew all too well about wearing masks at an early age.  From a child and far into my adulthood, I was extremely insecure because I felt unloved and uncomfortable in my skin.  In my BlessedI was ugly and damaged goods, unworthy of receiving or even deserving love.  This was as a result of my scarlet letter — abuse!  I experienced physical, verbal, and emotional abuse from my parent; and sexual abuse by a male neighbor by the age of 5.  While the physical, verbal and emotional abuse lasted until adulthood, the sexual abuse was short-term. Regardless, of the length of time, the abuse I endured had a huge effect and impact on my life!  Abuse places a heavy burden on the person, because of feelings of guilt and shame due to the need to maintain this deep dark secret.  For years I carried this burden, as a coping mechanism, I learned to wear various types of masks.  Each of my masks provided me with a sense of protection.  However, I would come to realize that my masks were a self-imposed prison, because they held me captive from being my true authentic self.

So, why do we wear masks most of the time?  Well, I wore mine to hide the fear of others recognizing my guilt and shame from the abuse.  More often than not, I used smiles and laughter to conceal the pain of my past.  This was accomplished by being the life of the party, in the limelight.  Yet, truth be told, I was crying inside from all the pain.  I’m reminded of the lyrics from the song, “Tears of a clown.”  The verse starts out, “Now if there’s a smile on my face, it’s only there trying to fool the public….”  No truer words have ever been spoken, because that’s exactly what my masks accomplished.IMG_1566

On the other hand, I used perfection to hide my insecurities I incurred from the verbal abuse.  In addition, I had a need to control things and situations, this way I could shield others from knowing my true feelings.  And if that wasn’t enough, became a “people pleaser” and wore this mask because I wanted people to accept me.  Wearing the various masks became overwhelming and tiring.  

Unfortunately, people tend to judge us by our outward appearances; and thus can be easily fooled. Hence why masks are so effective, because they allow us to hide who we truly are. So why do we wear masks most of the time? The reasons are many and varied. For instance, we wear a mask because we are hiding behind a brave face when actually we are trembling with fear inside. Another possible use of a mask is putting on a big smile to conceal an aching sorrow and/or pain. Or maybe we wear a mask to clothe ourselves with a costume of competence, as a way to hide our insecurities.

IMG_1569Finally, I came to the conclusion that I was no longer willing to deny who I truly was. It was at this moment, the healing process began. And through my healing I became aware that people wear masks of anger, bitterness, jealousy, violence, hoarding, over-eating, excessive shopping, etc. Therefore, a mask is anything that you use to hide your true authentic self! You need to realize that masks are a lie, and they will eat you alive! Even though my numerous masks provided me emotional protection, it was only temporary. The costs are high when we put on our masks, because they imprison you. As humans, we have a real need to feel connected to others. But when we wear masks, we don’t get the experience to feel the warmth of belonging because others don’t know our real authentic self.

As I continued on my healing journey, I began to realize that I was created for a divine purpose; and, no longer did I have a need to be afraid of being my true authentic self. So, I began the process to remove my masks. Besides, what I tried so hard to hide while wearing my masks was actually seeping out through my behaviors and attitudes. Yes, my masks had cracks and gashes.

Finally, I learned to fall madly and deeply in love with myself. Self-love is a powerful feeling because it frees you from bondage. When I learned to truly and unconditionally love myself, I began to love ALL of me — the good, the bad and the ugly unapologetically. Now, I no longer feel the need to seek others approval or acceptance! I came to the realization that no matter what, there will be those who will either like e, love me or hate me; and I’m okay with whichever one a person chooses.

Today, I share my story in hopes that others will find the courage to let go of their masks and allow their true selves to shine. Do not allow F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) to hold you hostage. Allow others to see the real you — the authentic you, the one who is divinely designed with a purpose! My hope is that you too begin the process of “Learning to Be Your Authentic Self.”

Yolanda Stephens, a Detroit native, is a resident of Lansing, MI.  She is a minister, teacher, and works in an administrative support capacity for the State of Michigan. Currently, Yolanda is working with women and girls in her ministry and community work. Whether preaching, teaching, or hosting seminars and conferences, Yolanda believes her mission is to support women and girls on their healing journeys so that our communities will be made whole.

 

 

 

An Early Easter Message

  

I know it’s a day early, but I want to share my online #SundaySermon with you…Enjoy!

In the Christian tradition, today is a celebration: Resurrection Day. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As you honor this day in your own unique way, consider the things that need to be resurrected in your life. When Jesus was nailed to the cross, He was fulfilling His purpose to conquer sin (separation from God) and spiritual death. What that means is that you are never disconnected from the very heart of God. YOU – the very spiritual essence of who you are – will never die. Along with those promises include your dreams, destiny, and determination. It might feel as if old dreams have died.  Take heart.  They’ve just been deferred until YOU are ready to resurrect them. You might believe that you’re unsure of your destiny. Take heart!  You just have to resurrect your faith in the fact that your future was created before you were even born. You may believe the trials of life have destroyed your determination to move beyond sitting in the seat of sorrow to walking in the light of your Divine potential. Take HEART!  If you will resurrect your trust in God’s endless love for you, determination will rise up in your soul, pushing you to persevere through any passive complacency and any relentless struggle. Let the resurrection of Jesus Christ CHALLENGE you to CHANGE your mind – first – and give your soul a soft, secure place to rest from its weariness. This is YOUR resurrection day. You may feel as if you are in the tomb of terminated possibilities. Not so my Beloved!  I see God in your circumstance. I hear God underneath the burdens weighing down your heavy heart. God says to YOU on this very special day: COME FORTH!!! #LoveIsEverything