Law School. Check. Bar. Check. Job…

Everyone has their life planned out in their head to work out perfectly at every stage of their life.  Once we finish high school we plan to get into the college of our choice without having to worry about how to fund our education.  After we finish college we plan to land the perfect job that pays great and makes all of those late nights, exams and stressful moments worth it.  We plan to grow at our jobs or obtain all of the skills we need to get a better job and build our career.  After enjoying our early 20s we decide we want more and go back for an advanced degree to open even more doors.  After obtaining our post-graduate degree, we plan to walk into our dream job, make a difference and save the world.  Many of these plans work out but we are never prepared for the bumps along the road.

Many of these things were possible pre-recession and actually happened for a lot of people who are only a few years my senior.  Those of us entering into the market post 2008 experienced many unplanned bumps that derailed many of these well-intentioned plans.  Throughout undergrad, I was able to obtain jobs fairly quickly and build up my resume.  I  landed my dream job out of college.  I left that job and immediately started another job in DC.  I went back to law school thinking that we had passed over the roughest part of the downturn and we have, but the market will never be back to the pre-recession glory of jobs and opportunities galore.

I left my job as a bedside nurse so that I would have more autonomy over decisions that were being made in healthcare and for my patients.  I loved my job but I did not like the politics.  Politics in healthcare harm patients and undermine the mission and values of the healthcare industry.  I left my job because I wanted to be happy and I decided that my next job would be something that I loved, doing what I love and building up to my forever job.

This mindset kept me from applying to just any job, taking just any salary or just doing something to get a check.  I made great money coming out of undergrad, so I know that I cannot make any less than that, but additionally I know my value.  The issue is getting others to see my value and getting the position that will allow me to use my skills while growing as a health care advocate.  I just want to be happy and to grow within an organization.  It sounds simple but I know that it is so much more complex.

Everything does not work out as planned but that does not mean that we made any missteps or should have done anything differently.  We have to believe in the good times and bad times that our steps are ordered and the desires of our heart will lead us to the right place.  I am not here to just build my resume but to actually achieve my goals of changing the world and improving the healthcare industry.  This time is just a test of my patience and to see if I will stick to my guns or fold under pressure.  I know the right opportunity is coming and when it does, I will be glad that I waited.

Throughout life we can plan with the best intentions but bumps will come, foreseeable and unforeseeable.  Through these moments we have to hang on tightly and stay focused on our end goal.  Having a support system in place is vital and helps to maintain your sanity, stay encouraged and stay the course.  After you have checked off all of your goals and one remains, know that the last check is coming in due time.

Focused. Check. Patient. Check. Grateful. Check.  Job…soon to be checked. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Job Seeker (Entry level risk management, healthcare policy, healthcare advocacy, healthcare law): www.linkedin.com/pub/irnise-fennell-williams-jd-rn/52/304/b60/

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Health Care Providers Must Ask the Difficult Questions

There is a common thread that is running through many of the conversations about mental illness and domestic violence; the failure of health care providers to properly assess and ask the important but difficult questions.  I have asked questions about a patient’s mental illness in a routine questionnaire, but I was never trained on how to start the conversation without that form or how to be prepared for those who said yes.  I asked the question with the assumption that the person would say that they did not have any mental health issues or suicidal thoughts.  If a person would have responded differently, I am not sure what my response would have been.

After seeing this video (posted below) this morning, I was disappointed in myself.  Personally and professionally.  One of the survivors discussed how she went to the hospital because she had a black eye and no one took the time to ask her how she got that black eye.  She said that if anyone would have asked her, she might have opened up and received the help she needed to escape from her abuser.  Her words struck me right in my own heart.  It reminded me of all of the times that I had suspicions or could have asked more in-depth questions, but failed to go that extra mile and discuss those things with my patient.  I have failed professionally at the bedside but that does not mean we cannot change this conversation.  Healthcare professionals have to continuously remind ourselves that we are providers of holistic care, not just symptomatic care.

A patient may come to you with symptoms of high blood pressure and obesity, and the only questions that may arise are those that focus on their eating and exercise habits. We never stop to explore any underlying mental issues or emotional problems that may trigger overeating, depression or stress.  All of these factors could lead directly to these disease processes and their resolution could in turn fix the overarching issue.

Many times we enter into a patient-provider relationship with preconceived notions that block our natural interactions with our patients.  We do not pick up on the subtleties because we are focused on our agenda.  Quality health care is effective care.  We can only be effective if we are asking the right questions.  We can only ask the right questions if we are listening to the actual responses that are being given.  We have to open our ears and eyes to see more than the primary issue but all other issues that could possibly be connected.

We have to ask the difficult questions about child abuse, sexual abuse, rape, drug abuse, mental health, suicide ideations, depression and domestic violence, to list a few. It may be hard, uncomfortable or may be offensive to some but that one person who needed to hear those words will thank you.  We may be the only outlet or opportunity that they have to get them the help that they need.

Healthcare providers are angels on earth. Our work is never done.  We have to continue learning and expanding our skills through traditional and nontraditional means.

Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

http://shine.forharriet.com/2014/08/nbcs-tamron-hall-shares-heartbreaking.html

Charge to the Social Engineer

Here is an excerpt from my Race, Law and Change paper that I wrote in the Fall of 2013.  One of the final portions of my paper speaks to everything that is going on now and why it is important that we do not look for one leader, one solution or one moment to define this movement.  There is work to be done and all hands on deck are needed.


 

The social engineer is continuously facing new challenges through changes in law, demographics, and the lack of educational institutions that prepare young lawyers for these roles. The power of the Civil Rights Movement has disseminated amongst many organizations and issues across the nation. The lack of unity rests in the lack of a uniform struggle. The African American community faces extreme challenges in education, economically, and within the criminal justice system. The burden of these issues has created a difficult environment for the social engineer because the issues are overwhelming and seemingly impossible to eradicate. Social engineers have to step up to these challenges and use the resources and organizations that are currently combatting each of these issues to their advantage. The interdisciplinary connection of organizations that have a common thread will ensure that a seemingly local issue has national effect and support. The strength of social engineers will ensure that justice and progression will materialize for those whose voices are powerful or loud enough. The challenges should be motivation to continue to fight against injustice and oppression.

Charles Hamilton Houston died at the age of 55 but accomplished so much as the originator of the plan that lead to the Brown decision.[i] Kelly Miller was a renowned scholar, educator, and author. He originated the idea of a National Negro Museum at Howard University, which is now the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. He was a Howard Alum and the first African American to be accepted at Johns Hopkins University.[ii] Anna J. Cooper, a renowned author, educator, and speaker, was the fourth African American woman to obtain her PhD and lived a life dedicated to educating the African American youth.[iii] All three of these amazing scholars brought to the table a different view of how to obtain educational freedom for the advancement of all African Americans. Their thoughts, scholarly papers, and published works all set the tone for a future of greatness. They have given social engineers the jewels needed to continue to forge ahead despite of the current state of the education system. They knew the secret behind the fight was that if they did not get weary than eventually the adversary would breakdown and give into their demands. All of their writings reflect a clarity and understanding of the current climate coupled with a vast amount of optimism. They have set a standard that many are unaware of and fail to even compare in their shadows.

[i] NAACP History: Charles Hamilton Houston, http://www.naacp.org/pages/naacp-history-charles-hamilton-houston (last visited Dec. 22, 2013).

[ii] Scope Note in Kelly Miller Papers Collection (Moorland-Spingarn Research Ctr.).

[iii] Scope Note in Anna J. Cooper Papers Collection (Moorland-Spingarn Research Ctr.).

Suicide Isn’t For Black People

I sadly believed this statement up until I began working for Dr. Donna Barnes at the Mental Health Center at Howard University.  At that time, I had never personally dealt with suicide, and I had only heard of a situation that occurred on campus the previous summer.  That incident was discussed more as an accident than a potential suicide.  I wrongly assumed that this was not an issue that affected people who looked like me and therefore I did not have to deal with it.  Working with Dr. Barnes on Suicide Prevention on campus and learning more about suicide changed my outlook and way of thinking.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall, but the 3rd leading cause of death in persons aged 10-14, and the 2nd leading cause of death in persons aged 15-29 (CDC Vital Statistics 2011).  Suicide was the 3rd leading cause of death among young black males from 2001-2010 (CDC Report 2010).  Comparatively, African-Americans commit suicide at a lower rate overall,  but there still remains a concern amongst our Black youth.  Black youth are affected by suicide at a higher rate than Black adults, and on average, die from suicide a decade earlier than White Americans.

The numbers may not be alarming enough to make people wake up and realize that we have an issue on our hands, but the reality is that we cannot wait any longer to discuss this topic.  Now is the time to begin to look at the root of the issues that are affecting our youth.  Suicide is not a comfortable conversation to have.  As a health care provider, I have never become comfortable asking someone about their mental health status.  It is a very private and personal topic that very few feel comfortable sharing.  Understanding suicide, the warning signs, and knowing where to go for help, may not be able to save every single person, but may be able to teach us how to reach someone who may need our support and save a life.

The first thing we have to do is stop putting a face to suicide.  We see suicide as a White issue and that barrier prevents us from taking the time to discuss, understand and recognize suicide as our issue.  Secondly, we have to be ready to relinquish the idea that we have to be strong to survive.  Yes, our strength and resilience can be an asset you our success, but it also can be a trap that leads to someone feeling overwhelmed trying to live up to that image.  Lastly, we have to support each other and check-in on one another.  Many times someone crosses our mind and we brush it away, instead of picking up the phone and reaching out.  When people say things that show that their troubles are beginning to overwhelm them, we have to express empathy and patience, instead of ignoring or sweeping it under the rug.

Suicide is not a new issue and will not quietly go away with any one solution.  There are so many pressure points that we have to recognize, address and deal with in order to provide people with options.  We have to change the way we talk about suicide, mental health, depression, counseling and even the use of prescribed medicines.  The conversation may be hard to start but once we are honest with ourselves and each other, we can grow and empower others.

After working with Dr. Barnes I became more aware of suicide and the potential signs, but it did not prepare me to lose someone close to me.  To this day, I think of my dear friend often and I have vowed to continue the conversation as a way to honor her life and all that she was to so many.  The pain that those left behind endure after losing someone to suicide is indescribable, but I can only imagine the pain that she was dealing with that led to her decision.

On September 20th I am walking in her honor at the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, to appreciate her contributions and to continue the conversation.  Feel free to support or send words of encouragement.  I continue to pray for her family and loved ones.  We will never forget who she was to each of us. This conversation is deep and has so many layers.  This is the first installment of many that will help to facilitate the conversation.

Know that you are not alone.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Donation page: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=585209

Resources to learn more: 

http://www.nopcas.com/absu.html

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/

50 Years of Love and Life

My 50th post is dedicated to my grandparents who would have celebrated 50 years of marriage today.  They have both taught me so much individually and collectively.  Their strengths and weaknesses have allowed me to be the woman I am today, without any apologies.  They shared many ups and downs, celebrated many milestones and supported all of their children and grandchildren through the good, bad, right, wrong or otherwise.  I appreciate their honesty, depth and selflessness.  Adam and I are two years in and we can only hope that we make it as long as they did and still be generous enough to give until we cannot give anymore.  I love my NeeNee and PaPa so much. May his memory live on and his life continue to be celebrated. Rest in Power. Happy Anniversary.

Cheers to 50 years.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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Those Who Deserve Credit Don’t Have to Ask For It

I always post about how appreciative I am of my amazing family, friends and others who have helped me along the way.  I have been blessed to be in the presence of Gods many angels He has planted on this earth.  Despite many of the things that I went through growing up, God allowed me to see his grace and mercy through the actions of those around me.  I have personally shared with each person in my life who has been my rock at some point, their importance in my life through conversation, emails, text or cards.  None of these people have ever asked to be credited for my success or accomplishments.  When I achieve something, it is as if they achieved something because they were apart of the process.  These amazing people never say that I owe them anything, even though I feel that I am indebted to them. These amazing people never attempt to discredit me or tear me down in any way, even if they could.  These amazing people continue to push me through my next dream because they have never left my side.

So for anyone who feels that they deserve to be credited for my success but not my failures; for that person who may feel that they deserve to be credited for my accomplishments but not my missteps; he who wants to be applauded for being the battery to my drive or determination; the one who may feel the need to yell to the heavens that they are the only reason that I am where I am, I am who I am, or I have what I have but forgot that I never forget, here is my message to you:

I will never forget the decisions I had to make my senior year of high school in order to graduate and go to college.  I will never forget the attempts that were made to destroy my life or reputation. I will never forget the times when I reached out in distress and was dismissed and degraded.  I will never forget the disrespectful lies that continues to be shared with others about things that you don’t know about and aren’t even remotely true or accurate.

So, when you are making a scene about the credit you deserve, make sure that you are taking credit for everything.  Not just the good but the volcano of a mess that your words and actions have created.  Be careful when you speak because the same words you use to hurt will return to you and your life will reek of all of the negativity you put into the atmosphere.

This is my story.  I will tell it my way.  I will give credit to whom its due and ignore all others.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Flip A Coin: Be Decisive in Your Decision Making

If you have ever struggled with making very important decisions, this post will give you an option to apply on your next big decision.  Don’t think about it.  Just try it.


 

The only wrong decision is indecision. All others are just a variation of the best decision. –Ronald Allen Smith

 I grew up sheltered, protected, and guided. I am the oldest child of three and as far back as my memory will allow I hung on to every letter of my parents’ words. Everything my parents said to do, whether I liked it or not, I complied. Once applied, their words of wisdom usually led me down the right path, so I never felt the need to deviate from their instructions or find my own way. This was so until I went away to college. Immediately I was bombarded with decisions. From the miniscule task of deciding what to eat for the day, to the mountainous decision of deciding my major and career. My Libra instincts always seem to place me in the middle of a decision because I can easily argue why both sides would be best for me. Even after consulting friends and family on many of life’s dilemmas, it always boiled down to the fact that the decisions (as well as the repercussions) were mine alone to handle. So after many years of fumbling through life (and months in therapy, LOL) I have finally decided on a foolproof procedure for making decisions.

1. LIST THE GOOD AND BAD FOR BOTH SIDES.

Things are always much clearer once written down. In your head you can argue the pros and cons for an infinite amount of time going around in circles. However, when you write something down it becomes plain and clear and all of the little nuances of a decision are written in black and white for you to analyze.

2. LIST THE POSSIBLE OUTCOMES FOR EACH SIDE.

What’s the best and worse thing that can happen if you choose side A? What’s the best and worse thing that can happen if you choose side B?

3. ENLIST THE HELP OF OTHERS.

Discussing your dilemma with TRUSTED friends and family will give you a fresh perspective and possibly bring up some things that you did not consider. However, at this step BE VERY CAREFUL. We all have our own individual beliefs and ways of approaching situations. So take advice with a grain salt, because what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander.

4. FLIP A COIN.

One of my best friends swears by flipping coins. I’ve known her for forever, and up until a month ago thought she was insane for letting a head or tail decide her life’s delicate steps. However, she introduced me to I Ching or Book of Changes by Brian Browne Walker, and the book has literally changed my life. I am completely anti-hocus pocus but this book is seriously the truth.

5. PICK A SIDE AND STICK TO IT.

Regardless of what decisions we make in life, if you lead a life worth living, there will be no straight and easy path. Once you make the decision that is best for you, don’t let life sway you from that decision. I am not saying don’t change your mind ever, however, be very careful how quickly you change and the reasons for which you are changing. Things take time, hard work, and great effort to work out. So if at first glance it seems like you made the wrong decision, stick it out for a little while and see how things go.

REMEMBER: The only wrong decision in life is indecision. All others are just a variation of the best decision.

 

Courtney Edwards is a mother, teacher, real estate extraordinaire making her way through life one breath at a time.

Toddler Discipline: Be Ye Always Ready

The Guest Room is filled with amazing women who are sharing knowledge and empowering others through their own personal experiences.  An educator and mother of a busy 2 year old shares some advice on disciplining a toddler.


 

Children need love, especially when they do not deserve it. –Harold Hubert

As a mother of a rambunctious, energetic, inquisitive two year old I am forced to admit that there is no one way to raise a child. I can also reluctantly admit that I do not have all the answers. I can use my Masters Degree in Education to teach my child everything he needs to know to prove proficient in Common Core Learning Standards. I can use articles and different theories to potty train him. I can use my mother’s advice to teach him how to be a kind a loving man. I can call on my pastor for words of wisdom on how to raise a strong man of God. However, all of the education, advice, and encouragement seem to quickly vanish when my son asks for a “pop” (lollipop) at 8am, I explain that he can’t have one, and he reaches up and slaps me in the face. Only God can hold my hand and tongue when after spending 2 hours getting us ready to go out the door my son asks for juice, pretends to drink it for 3 seconds and then launches the majority of the contents drenching me from head to toe.

Anger, aggravation, frustration propel me to give him a “pow-pow”, pluck, or pinch. However, as an aware and educated mother I have to remind myself that my reactions to his negative toddler behavior will shape his actions. I don’t want him to slap a kid in preschool that takes his toy. Or pinch a child in school who spills juice on him. I am not saying that I don’t slip up a time or two and lash out, however, for the most part I try to adhere to the following when it comes to disciplining my toddler.

1. BE YE ALWAYS READY.

More often than not you can beat a tantrum to the punch. Knowing what sets your child off and what makes them go bananas is half the battle. The other half is trying to avoid those situations. If you know your child runs around the supermarket, put them in the shopping cart. If you know your child goes straight for the sweets as soon as they enter the kitchen, put them on top of the refrigerator or in the cabinet. Its not being a punk to try and appease or change according to your child’s needs, its called being a great parent.

2. DISCONNECT FROM THE TANTRUM/BAD BEHAVIOR

Most of the time we react to negative behavior physically out of embarrassment, frustration, and anger. However, when you take yourself and your emotions out of the equation you are able to see the tantrum or behavior as a cry for help. Children, especially toddlers, don’t have the same communication skills adults have so often times they resort to tantrums or simply doing what they want despite your objections because they can’t express their desires. Take a step back and look at the situation through kid lenses and I bet you’ll be slow to react with physical punishment.

3. ENGAGE YOUR CHILD IN COMMUNICATION.

Give words that your child doesn’t yet have to their feelings. It shows them you care and understand what they are going through.

4. EXPLAIN WHY THEY CAN’T HAVE/DO WHAT THEY WANT IN AS LITTLE WORDS AS POSSIBLE.

One thing I’ve learned with my toddler is he tunes me out when I talk too much. So a simple, “It is too early for a lollipop. How about a muffin?” will suffice. No need to explain the sugar levels, and how rotten their teeth will be with excessive candy intake. They are not listening!

5. MOVE ON!

The attention span of a toddler is nowhere near that of an adult. Usually when they want something, it’s a feeling of the moment. After they get over the disappointment (sometimes coupled with a falling out on the floor) they move on. You should to. There will be many battles over the course of 18 years, don’t drag them out any longer than necessary.

REMEMBER: Children need love, ESPECIALLY when they do not deserve it.

 

Courtney Edwards is a mother, teacher, real estate extraordinaire making her way through life one breath at a time.

If I Listened to Society, I Would Have Never Succeeded

Children like me are not supposed to graduate from high school early.  They are not supposed to go to a great college or university.  They are not supposed to finish and get their dream job.  They are not supposed to get dissatisfied with their career and go back to a great college or university for a second degree.  They are supposed to have a baby out-of-wedlock but they are not supposed to marry their child’s father.  Children like me are not supposed to own a home, complete a second degree and have opportunities to choose from.

If I listened to society’s message about being black, motherless, fatherless, poor or a mother before I planned, I would have never succeeded.  If I listened to society’s message about the value of an education at HBCUs, I would have never fought to stay at Howard every semester and would not have went back to Howard, declining scholarship opportunities at other law schools.  If I listened to society’s message about balancing a family and your dreams, I would not be investing all of my free time into making my dreams turn into a reality.

Society has a way of shaming, demeaning and humiliating women, mothers, poor people, minorities, working parents, those who are not sexual conformists or sexual purists, and anyone who attempts to advocate or speak up for these groups.  The messages that are highlighted in mainstream media, backed by “policies” and shown through biased images oppress, silence and discredit these groups. The instant and ease of access to social media, video recording and outlets that connect millions of people together have only begun to shed light on the truth of who we really are and who we can become.

YouTube videos, blogs, Instagram and Twitter hashtags have connected people from different walks of life who have endured similar experiences.  These mediums have allowed us to see that many of us are more alike than we are different, that we are powerful and we are beautifully complex and interesting. We have been exposed to amazing people with unique backgrounds, survivors of horrendous crimes and minorities who are making a difference in their communities locally, nationally and internationally.   We are beginning to accept that poor people are not the enemy and breastfeeding in public should be supported and not shamed.  We are applauding working parents, stay-at-home moms and dads and those who chose to do what makes sense for their own families at that time.  We are beginning to accept that civil rights should be equally applied to everyone despite who they love.  We are respecting the talent and value of a person despite their sexual identity.

The exposure to the possibilities of life and the truth of our existence has transpired because we have stopped listening to society.  We have taken control of our stories, the images we consume and strengthened our power by rejecting the limited scenarios that we have been offered to choose from.  Our power is to be feared.  An open and aware mind cannot be controlled.

They said I would never make it.  They said I should not go to college.  They said I would not finish college.  They assumed I would never find a job.  They thought I would become like my mother.  They wished that I would give up.  They hoped I would stop believing. Their words, thoughts and wishes did not work against me because I did not listen to them. I have succeeded because I did not allow them to define my success.

Stop listening. Succeed.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.