Friday, May 31, 2013

LGBT Pride Month

The Big Girl Chronicles:  LGBT Pride Month

November 2012 I had the privilege to attend a conference focusing on services and support of the LGBTQI2-S community.  The information and personal stories shared by the participants were inspirational and enlightening.  Inspirational in that many of the personal stories shared about the stigma and shame associated with LGBTQI2-S can be likened to so many life experiences and struggles among others who have sought acceptance and equality in society.  Enlightening because I was confronted with my own ignorance.  Yet, there are some unique struggles that are specific to LGBTQI2-S persons.  The month of June has been set aside as the month to create an awareness of the LGBTQI2-S community so as to increase knowledge and understanding of those that share our world.  I’m not speaking for the LGBTQI2-S community, but the following are some thoughts I felt would be useful.

Parent response

The decision a son or daughter makes to expose themselves and engage in gender expression has undoubtedly been a difficult one.  It was likely not one that you would’ve hoped for.  Not many parents would want their son or daughter to further complicate their lives by exposing themselves.  How you respond can make the process easier or potentially destroy any future relationship between the two of you.  For the sake of your son or daughter, set aside your feelings for a time when you can manage your emotions without making the process more difficult and remain in the moment.  If the two of you can engage in healthy dialogue that will foster understanding and communicate feelings constructively, then do that.   But if your form of expression tends to be explosive and possibly hurtful, agree to discuss it further at a time you’re in a rational enough emotional mindset to listen effectively.  You could want to explain that this is equally as difficult for you and make a plan to gradually be introduced into your son or daughter’s inner circle.  Make time to learn about the differences in terms, what’s considered offensive, acceptable and other discussion that will help you become familiar with the LGBTQI2-S community.  If you aren’t already familiar with your son or daughter’s partner, talk with him or her about what would be most helpful in making him or her comfortable and make plans to invite him or her over to make acquaintance.  Please understand that your wishes are irrelevant.  This is a choice your son or daughter has made.  And although your son or daughter more than likely wants you to remain a part of his or her life, emphasizing your disapproval will get you shut out from a very important part of who he or she is. 

Peer response

As I listened to a man share his story about other’s response to his sexual orientation, something he said resounded throughout the room.  He explained, “I don’t want every man I see.”  His statement spoke to the homophobic tendencies of some upon being told that his or her peer is LGBTQI2-S.  There is an unspoken sort of belief that the person is “contagious” or some kind of uncontrollable, sexually morbid maniac, when in fact just as any heterosexual male or female is attracted to a certain kind of person the same is true for one whose sexual orientation is LGBTQI2-S.  The best response could be for you to continue to be yourself and make time to learn about the facts versus succumbing to myths and responding in a way that would cause you to embarrass yourself.  To put a comical spin on it, a comedian is quoted as saying, “If you can’t find a man, you don’t suddenly become more attractive because I’m gay.”  Yet the reality of peer to peer homophobia has frightening ranges.  The risk some take to expose themselves can span with consequences from social exclusion to more severe actions involving hate crimes and violence.  Instead of reacting out of ignorance, try exercising tolerance and focus on something much more worthy of your attention.

Church response

Equally as heart-wrenching were the stories the panelist shared of their experiences among the religious community.  Speakers described the massive responses of hatred that were primarily received from congregations, pastors, Sunday School teachers and others who sat alongside them Sunday upon Sunday sharing lessons of love, forgiveness and the compassion of Christ.  Suddenly, the spoken truth about  sexual orientation nullified all those graces and earned that person a permanent spot on the list of those crowned only with eternal damnation.  Then the question becomes “what can the church to do support the individual without condoning the act?”  First and foremost, you can continue to include and welcome a fellow believer, extending to him or her all those things that your faith professes he or she is a partaker of because of his or her belief and love for the Lord.  An “us against them” approach only widens the divide, creating tension that is both unnecessary and counterproductive.  Learn to manage your emotions while remaining true to what you say you’re about.

For more information about the LGBTQI2-S community, you can visit:

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Centers

Do Something Organization for Teens and Social Cause  

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Big Girl's Guide to Summer Fun On A Budget

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Family Fun On A Budget
It’s summertime!  If your little ones are anything like mine, they’re excited about trading in their structured classroom schedules for less restrictive summer hours.  And if you’re a single parent as I am, trying to keep summer fun can be a challenge.  The following are some budget-friendly suggestions that should keep your little ones having something to look forward to without having you to dig too deep in your pocketbook.
Check your local listings.
If you peruse the internet, websites like your local convention and visitor’s bureau usually list summer activities that are family-oriented and free.  You can also check the community events sections of your local newspaper where you can find things of interest that are both free and fun. 
Don’t forget about us!
Places that we tend to overlook often have special events to gain community awareness and enrollment.  These are places like your local library or museum.  Your local museum will likely host a fundraising drive that may include a free tour and activities for the kids.  And the public library occasionally hosts book signings or book readings with authors for people of all ages.  Some even have summer programs and activities that are usually offered free and are appropriate for the entire family.
Must love dogs.
If you’re a family of pet lovers but can’t afford to care for one in your home, why not contact your local animal shelter or humane society about volunteering?!  You can spend some time just playing with the animals or assist in bathing and care if allowed.    
Destination BBQ!

Pack up the grill and venture to your local public lake/ beach or park for a family bar-b-que!  Instant fun!  Don’t forget the frisbee! 

Keep learning throughout the summer.

Education doesn’t have to take a back seat to summer.  You can keep it fun and never stop learning.  If there are some interests that you or your children have, consider exploring those interests further by contacting a local office and inquiring of a mock internship for a day.  Or spend time volunteering doing those things that you wouldn’t get a chance to do during the school year.  And it’s always a good idea to try your hand at making a little extra cash with a lemonade stand, bake sale or other project. 

Uh Oh! Rainy Days!

Has the weather caused a downpour on your plans?  Those old tried and true indoor activities will save the day.  Whether it be preparing baked goodies as a family or a favorite board game, the weather doesn’t have to put a pause in the fun.  Why not, instead of watching a movie, create your own skit and record it to add to your family reunion entertainment!  Or create a cookbook of your favorite family recipes to give as gifts!  There are no limits!

With a little ingenuity you can keep your family having fun throughout the summer without having to shell out cash.  Keep if fun.  Keep it safe.  And have the best summer-on-a-budget imaginable!   

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Big Girl's Guide to Rejection

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Rejection

I have become best friends with poverty.  Honestly, this change in lifestyle has been incredibly enlightening because I am now in the position to learn firsthand what some of the people I once served have to endure on a daily basis.  And although I don’t want to be shallow, one of the first “Big Girl” changes that I’ve had to make involves my appearance.  Not having the means to continue to practice the same personal care regimens that I was fortunate enough to afford when gainfully employed, such as routinely scheduled trips to the salon, has forced me go “au natural.” Unlike some of the other women that I’ve read about, who were able to manage the two textures, the mess my head was in made it utterly necessary to just do “the big chop.”  Honestly, it’s incredible how hair can change a person’s appearance.  And what I found is that I’m not nearly as cute as I thought I was. (Laugh) I applaud all you brave sisters out there who have boldly traded in your processed mane for natural texture. No matter the reason why, it takes a tremendous amount of confidence to make this change unless you’re Barbie doll cute.

Having made mention of that, I am surprised to learn that there remains a noticeable divide in what’s considered attractive, what’s not, and how the two are treated in society.  I don’t say this because of my experience alone.  I’ve also talked with another young lady that has shared in this experience.  Reading material about women who have opted to do natural rather than continue with processed hair suggests this change is trendy and seemingly well-received among women and men in the black community.  However, that hasn’t been my experience thus far.  The two of us shared stories of rejection from guys who made comments like “that just doesn’t look good on you” or just flat out expressed their dislike accompanied by some unflattering glances.  Equally as jarring were the nonverbal cues that come from potential employers.  The lack of eye to eye contact and flat tone communicating disinterest in you as a potential hire resound in the silence.  Your experience with rejection doesn’t necessarily have to be because of a change in appearance.  Perhaps there’s some other issue of comparable significance.  These are a few things that have helped me manage my feelings.

Dig a little deeper.

Making a change of this magnitude forces you to find something more than how you look to “sell yourself.”  It’s true that we are greatly influenced by what we can see.  What I’ve found to be equally as true is that what you see on the outside doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s on the inside.  Take time to think about those qualities you possess that are of far more value than outward appearance.  Now find ways to communicate those qualities in such a way that the other person is forced to see more than just what you look like.  This could include things like humor or charm.  Accentuate those things that allow your inner beauty to show.

Really, it isn’t that bad.

The truth of the matter is very simply that those guys could be right.  Just because a style is trendy or popular among most people doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for everyone.  Some people look better with short hair, some not so much.  What I’m trying to express here is that I could feel offended, rejected or embarrassed by the truth, when it really isn’t that bad.  In your experience, take a moment to assess if the offense, rejection or embarrassment you feel is unwarranted or if you’re reading too much into it.  If you’ve found that you’re taking it too seriously, continue digging until you find out why that is.  Then lighten up!  A simple solution for some would be to invest in a weave, braids or wigs.  (I don’t have money for that either, though!)  By all means, make reasonable changes that will make you more comfortable with yourself and get you more desirable responses, but realize that someone isn’t going to like that either.  You have to feel comfortable with you.  (I wish I could afford to hide behind a weave!)


I’m sure that you can remember a time or two when you behaved in the same way of which you’re the victim now.  How does it feel?  Now that you realize how thoughtless your comments or glares were, consider the entire ordeal a learning experience and begin to make changes in how you respond to others.  There is always a tactful approach that can be taken to communicate preferences and feelings.

Unfortunately, rejection is one of those things that we must face at some point or another in our lives.  However, each experience that we have builds character and resiliency to overcome the next.  Instead of nursing your hurt feelings, find some way to make the experience more of a positive one.  


Friday, May 10, 2013

The Big Girl's Guide to Single Life

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Single Life
No matter what the reason, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, a time comes in life where we find ourselves “between relationships.”  The drought of intimate companionship has been a source of heartache for centuries.  And we have nursed our loneliness by purchasing innumerable books, movies and those dreaded love-gone-wrong songs relating to the subject.  Our drive to find someone to fill that void can lead to another unfulfilling relationship that all too soon finds us right back where we began.  To cushion the periods of “in between” dating, consider trying to refocus on what’s available to you and how you can better yourself for that next meaningful relationship.   
Make wise use of your spare time by doing things that spark your interest – no date required.  Volunteer at a homeless shelter, humane society or other organization.  Seek out an internship or part time gig that could not only distract you from your loneliness but beef up your resume as well.  Taking the focus off of you and putting that energy into something else is the best way to overcome the “blah” side of single life. 
Master a hobby
Take some classes to master a hobby or trade that could possibly earn you some money in the long run.  Whether it’s making jewelry, giving swimming lessons or piecing together a website, it’s never a waste of time making money.  A vegetable garden could lend an opportunity to earn some cash at your local Farmers’ Market.  Love to bake?  Why not take some time cooking your favorite goodies and host a bake sale?  Tap into those talents that you overlook and use them for your pleasure and pockets! 
Start a club
Spend time with friends and make new ones by joining or starting a book club or dinner club. Widening your social circle will not only occupy your spare time with meaningful social interaction, but also increase your chances of meeting someone with similar interests.  Host a bbq, movie night or plan a gathering at a recreational park to enjoy some outdoor activities.
Do A “YOU 5.0” Upgrade
Use your “in between” time to make some improvements.  Take some time to tone up that body and uncover a svelte, sexy you.  Then do a little mini makeover with a new hairstyle or color, cosmetics and some new clothes to show off that well earned physique. 
Your downtime from relationships can be therapeutic if you take some time to focus on meaningful changes that could make life more fulfilling.  Instead of focusing on all the things you it seems you can’t do, focus on the things that you can dive into without having someone else compete for your spare time.   Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mental Health Awareness Month

The Big Girl Chronicles:  Mental Health Awareness Month 2013

A lot of exciting things happen in the month of May.  High School and College Seniors are preparing for graduation.  Families prepare for summer vacations.  Cinco de Mayo.  In the midst of such excitement, there’s also an observance that often times carries with it a quiet stigma.  That observance is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Over 20 million Americans struggle with some form of mental illness in this country.  May has been designated as the month to acknowledge and promote mental health.

The stigma associated with mental illness has been a barrier to acceptance and treatment for decades.  There is a general misconception that persons who suffer from mental illness are excluded from the liberties and rights that all Americans enjoy daily, and this simply isn’t so.  Many people with mental illness continue to lead fulfilling and productive lives.  However, whereas that individual could be a valuable resource to model life with mental illness, stigma and undesirable stereotypes keep ignorance in circulation.  And ironically so, being that 20 million people should touch upon almost every family in the United States.  The DSM V names over 300 disorders considered a form of mental illness.  Those range from depression and anxiety disorders to more severe forms such as schizophrenia. And although family history is a factor, absence of family history does not exclude one from developing a mental illness.    

There are many things you can do to help end the stigma associated with mental illness.  First and foremost, if you or someone you know is experiencing something that impedes daily capacity for social functioning, see a doctor or a mental health professional immediately.  Whether it’s anxiety, depression or some other concern, you are not alone.  Schedule an appointment with a local mental health center to get the answers you need.  Early detection and treatment are the single most important factors to continuing to lead a productive life. 

Secondly, take action to raise awareness and increase acceptance of people with mental illness.  Join support groups and attend events that assist with research of mental illness.  As with any other illness, funding is a very necessary part of sustaining adequate resources and developing medicines that could prolong or sustain quality of life.

Businesses and employers can be more sensitive to the special needs of those with mental illness by creating policies and procedures intended specifically for them.  Those policies and procedures could range from protocol for handling employees suspected of experiencing a psychotic episode to something as simple as establishing a companywide mental health day, mental health fair or other observance/activity.  (As many policy and procedure manuals as I've read, I've never seen this issue addressed.)  All employers should provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that extends professional therapeutic services to its employees.  I know this can seem unorthodox.  However, with the change in times comes the need for adaptation.  When there are numerous reports in the media of tragedy in the streets and workplace, taking all necessary precautions to protect those who could fall victim of someone experiencing a psychotic episode becomes priority number one. 

To learn more about mental illness and mental health in general, visit these websites for information:

National Alliance On Mental Illness

National Institute of Mental Health

If you or someone you know feel that your rights have been violated due to presumption of mental illness, seek the assistance of an attorney.  You can contact your state’s Attorney General, the American Civil Liberties Union or other advocate to assist you.  You can also check out some movies on the subject.  King of California, As Good As It Gets and A Beautiful Mind are a few that provide a Hollywood snapshot of life with mental illness.