Self-Help

“God is looking for people who are prepared, people who are taking steps to grow, people who are serious about fulfilling their destiny.” -Joel Osteen.    It always amazes me of how the right words can mend a heart, rejuvenate the mind, and restore one’s faith. When I read this quote, I was instantly reminded of the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.”  And depending on your journey in life you might take that to mean some things. Personally, I take it to mean help God help you.  

Now, I’m not one to give unsolicited advice, but one of the ways I try to help God help me is by reading self-help books.  Today you can find a self-help book on thousands of topics. On Amazon alone, there are over 151,656 titles in the self-help category.  From The Secret by Rhonda Byrne to Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E.P. Seligman.  My sister who read The Secret said, reading the book made her feel powerful. Although I have not read the book and remain a little skeptical about the message the book is trying to convey, it is my understanding from the reviews that, it speaks of the power of positive thinking, and believing in the good of the universe. 

But let’s talk truth,  I can tell you that I started reading self-help books a long time ago. I remember reading my first self-help book on the heels of a devasting divorce.   At the urging of my sister, I borrowed her book: Yesterday I Criedby Iyanla Vanzant.  The book was instrumental in helping me come to term with my guilt as a young struggling single mother.   I  remember a passage from the book, by writer Kahlil Gibran titledl: The Prophet“Your children are not your children. There are sons and daughters of life searching for their own. They come through you, but they are not from you. Although they are with you, they belong not to you.”  Right away, I felt relieved, and I gave myself permission to let go of the guilt and just be happy. 

Over the years,  I realized reading the right self-help book was helpful in my ‘self-therapy’.  I read,  In the Meantime, by Iyanla Vanzant. At the time I read the book, I was in a toxic relationship and reading the book helped me to understand a few things.  Number one, in the meantime and in between time nothing in life was permanent.  Two, I needed to clean my own house (a metaphor for life) before inviting someone to share it.  And three, I will continue to repeat the same mistakes unless I stop procrastinating on solving my own issues. Meanwhile, I was filling the space in the meantime with relationships that started nowhere and going nowhere.   

Right around the time I was losing faith in men and everything in-between,  I did two things: first, I prayed harder. Second, not long after it was released, I borrowed my friend’s book, Act Like A lady, Think Like a Man by Steve harvey. The self-proclaimed relationship guru said he wrote the book to help those who were ‘relationship-challenged.’  In the book he wrote, “Everything you need to know about men and relationship is in there.”  At first I was critical, but, after reading just a few chapters, everything just clicked. It occurred to me that I already knew all that I needed to know about men. I learned that men are not that complicated! The truth is, many are looking for the same thing women are; and if you tell them what you expect, they will listen.  My favorite part of Steve’s book was chapter two titled: Our Love Isn’t Like Your Love. He talked about the three P’s: Profess, Provide and Protect. He said,  if a man loves you he will profess his love for you.  If he loves you, he will want to protect and provide for you.  On the other hand, if he has not professed his love for you,  it’s more than likely he is not in love with you.   Therefore,  you should not waste your time with him. Finally, he concluded, if a man loves you, he will shout it out on the highest mountain, and he will defend you against his mother, and his whole family if necessary. The only thing that I disagreed with in Steve’s book was what he wrote in chapter eleven titled: The Ninety-Day Rule. Let’s just say, I don’t like that rule.

Again, I’m not one to give unsolicited advice, but I do believe we all need a little help. And a good place to start, on top of praying, is a good self-help book.  In other words, get help, because there is no shame in it, only growth. As for me, I see a secret purchase on Amazon in my future. 

 

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Grooming

  Let’s get personal and talk about grooming.  I don’t know about you, but when I was single, I discovered that it was quite tidiest to maintain my grooming.   But even though it was time-consuming and costly I still enjoyed getting groomed because it made me feel good, and it showed.  Nothing says you care about yourself than looking and smelling good.  So, hats off to all the single ladies who keep up with their appearances.   Ladies, we know when we get wax it’s not just for us, right?  Studies show that 57 percent of women shave it all off at one point or another.   This same study also reported that “women who went for total pubic hair removal tended to be younger, were partnered (rather than single or married) and had looked at their genitals in the past month. Most likely, had received cunnilingus in the past month, and had a more positive genital self-image and sexual function.”  It’s not only good to maintain a clean look, but it also makes you feel good about yourself.   Whether your grooming is down there, in the face area, or your body, it’s important to keep in mind the good feeling you get just from getting yourself, groom.  And the good feeling you get from your man.  

Contrary to popular belief, women are not the only creature on earth who likes to look and smell good. Personally, nothing says sexy to me than a clean-shaven man with a shiny bald head.   Of course, that’s my preference.  And if you are like me and you pay attention to things like that, you know it says that your man likes to maintain his appearance.   I once went out with a guy who asked me what kind of cologne I like to smell on my man. The next time we met up, I could smell that he was wearing my favorite cologne.  I was pleased.  After all,  it doesn’t  just feel  goodscience has proven that smell, as well as look,  plays a huge role in physical attraction between a man and a woman.   If your man is one of those who thinks looking like ‘big-foot’ is a good look, tell him it’s not.   He doesn’t have to go completely bald or hairless because there are many ways a man can maintain his grooming.  There are many different styles because let’s face it, not all man look as good as George Clooney  does with all that hair on his face.  But keep in mind that the shorter the hair is on your face, the better and cleaner it looks.   My personal favorite is the go-tea style, and I especially love it on my favorite actor Sherma Moore. You’re welcome! This look says (at least to me) that he is sexy, take himself seriously, and maybe just a little bit goofy.   Don’t take my word for it. To prevent many diseases and conditions, The Center for Desease Control (CDC) recommends that your hygiene also include your teeth, mouth, eyes, contact lenses and ears.  So fellas here is a little secret for you: we don’t mind if you spend a little extra time at the barbershop, even though we pretend we do. 

Embrace Your Entrepreneurial Spirit

As someone who has been working since I was sixteen, I knew early on that I was not the type of girl who could ever conform to a 9-5 job. I always felt deep down there was an entrepreneurial spirit waiting to come out.  Naturally, I am always intrigued when other people tell me they are starting their own business.  A couple of years ago, I was talking to my brother’s ex-girlfriend, Erica Mensah, and I discovered she had started her own catering business. Right away I wanted to write about her.  I don’t have to tell you, being the inquisitive type I was all up in her ‘business.’  The reality is, Erica is not alone.  Some time ago, web magazine Projecteve reported in, 19 Best Paying Jobs for Women in 2013, that, “these days, women are starting new firms at twice the rate of all other businesses.”  And that, “according to research,  it is projected that women labor force will increase to 78 million by the year 2018.

Erica is a college graduate who received a B.S. in Health Science from Lincoln University, and an M.S. in Exercise Science and Rehabilitation from Brooklyn College. During our talk, Erica told me she always had a passion for cooking and always wanted to own something food related since High school.  So, when she was laid-off from her exercise physiology position she decided it was the right time to invest in her passion.  She explained, “The first thing I did was find a name that best represented me. So I can express what food meant to me in my cooking, and how I wanted to serve my food.  Although, I was scared of putting what I love on a plate for people to judge. I had to ask myself: can I do this?”  Ultimately, it was the people that were rooting for her that motivated Erica to continue on her journey. They saw her potential before she did.  Knowing that, made her feel empowered, and reassured her she could do anything she set out to do.  Finally, Erica said she used her earnings to fund her dream, and social media like, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to spread the word and to increase her clientele list.  But as a novice, she said if she could give any advice to someone starting out, it would be, “Save ahead of time because there are lots of expenses seen and unforeseen.”  Also, networking is the key and equally important is research, research, and more research.  So far, Erica said she feels confident in knowing she can succeed, and she feels more comfortable with the aspects of what she is doing.

I learned in the past if someone wanted to start their own business, he or she would jump right in. They will hit up friends and family for start-up funds, and hope for the best.  Of course, that was then and this is now. Today, many experts write the first step to starting a business is to attend business seminars that covers the basics of starting a business. Seminars that teaches you about Business Registration, Licenses, and Legal Structures (LLC, S Corp., Partnership, etc.) of your business. I also read another important factor is to be well informed, specially when it comes to start up funds if you have non. For that there are a bunch of online tools that can help with fund raising. One such popular tool is  Crowd-funding  Another advice experts give is, do your research and research some more.  They insist that information is golden. One of the places you can get valuable business start-up information is at sba.gov.  The website offers an abundance of information, from how to write a business plan, knowing your customer and the future of your business, to a list of organizations that specialize in helping women business owners, and much more.

In the end, it was inspirational to talk to my girl Erica who taught me a lesson in following your dreams even if you are scared. I especially loved when she said, “Do something you are passionate about, because the road isn’t always going to be smooth. You have to do something you love to persevere. Your gift is the only gift you have.  So if you can, share it, and make sure you love love what you do.”

For additional information and resources check out these links:

Dressing for Success to a Job Interview

As a Program Coordinator, my colleagues and I conduct job development seminars in the community for individuals entering the workforce for the first time, or going back to work after many years of being unemployed. One of the seminars we conduct is the Image Enhancement: Dressing for Success. During the seminar clients ask us questions like:

  1. When do we schedule this type of seminar?
  2. Is the seminar always the same?
  3. How do you dress for success?
  4. Should you pay attention to trends or just stick with what’s traditional?  
  5. Why does it matter or important that you dress appropriately for a job interview?

Imagine after sending countless resumes to numerous job openings, you receive a call back for an interview.   To help you prepare for your job interview here are some important tips to remember for both men and women.

1) What dressing professionally appropriate reveals about you: 

It takes three to seven seconds to make a first impression. Your first impression reveals a lot about you. One, it reveals that you are organized and paying attention to details is crucial to you. Two, it reveals that you are reliable, because you are conscientious in your choice of attire. Three, it reveals that you can demonstrate soundness of judgment. Organized, detail orientated, reliable and soundness of judgement are skills you are demonstrating through your professional look, before you even say a single word in your interview.

2) Dressing professionally appropriate for your interview can increase your chances of making a great first impression:

The Wall Street Journal wrote an article last year about a study published in the Journal Social Psychological and Personality Science which found that, “people engage in higher levels of abstract thinking when they dress up, compared with when they dress casually.” The study confirms dressing professionally have the ability to:   

  • Tap into your sense of power
  • Help you feel more confident
  • People are likely to view you as important                                      

The same study also found, what you wear can influence your thinking and negotiating skills.  When you are professionally dressed, people view you as a respected person. As a result,  you become more assertive in achieving your goals.

3) It matters to dress appropriately for the most important interview of your career:

Research  has shown, body language accounts for 55% of our nonverbal communication, compared to verbal communication which is only 7% of what we say.  So, it’s important that you choose your interview clothing carefully. Remember, your suit should make you feel the way you look, confident.  It’s equally important that you communicate in your interview positive aspects about your personality and what working with you might look and feel like.

4) Fashionably trendy or traditional?:

When in doubt, dress conservatively. Which Means, dress appropriate for the position for which you are applying.  Research the company culture or just inquire about the dress code while setting up the interview.  But regardless of the company dress code policy, you should always wear a suit for an interview. For men, a suit means a matching jacket and pants, dress shirt, tie, coordinating socks and dress shoes. Your suit should be comfortable and fit you well, because when it does you act your best, and you feel more at ease. For women, a suit means a skirt or pants. Your suit should be comfortable and fit you well. You should not wear anything tight, bright, short, or sheer.  Wear knee-length skirts with a conservative blouse with your suit. Do not wear bright colours, animal prints, or anything lacy, or low-cut. Your clothing should always be neat, clean, and pressed; if you don’t have an iron, either buy one or be prepared to visit the dry-cleaners often.

For those of you who keep up to date on fashion trends,  dressing fashionably for a job interview can be an excellent way to express yourself and boost your self-confidence. However clothing styles and trends never stay constant, your best bet is to keep your interview attire simple. Like black or navy blue, which are the preferred colors of hiring managers. Bear in mind that,  research has shown that those colours help people view you as a leader.

5) Preparation is essential:

Think about your interview attire before the big day the night before. Take a shower or bathe the morning of the meeting. Wear deodorant. Brush your teeth before you leave for the interview.  Makeup and nail polish should be very little and flattering; shades that are neutral to your skin tone are acceptable.  Avoid bright or unusual colours or very long nails. Keep your jewelry and hair accessories to a minimum, choose not flashy, distracting, or shiny accessories.  Your hair should be neat, clean, and conservatively styled. Banana clips, brightly-colored scrunchies or elastics, are not recommended. You may want to wear your hair in an updo or wear it pull back.  One ring per hand is best. Little to no cologne or perfume: you don’t want to smell overpowering or worse, cause an allergic reaction.  No visible body piercing beyond conservative ear piercings for women, and minimal jewellery. Shoes should be conservative and fairly low-heeled. They should be in reasonably good condition, not scuffed or run-down at the heels. Do not wear shoes with an open toe or back; a basic pump is flattering, versatile, and always in style.  Lastly, no gum, candy, or other objects in your mouth.  Make sure you have fresh breath and don’t eat or smoke before the interview.

What Is A Culturally Conscious Company?

A culturally conscious company is not a new thing. In fact, it is more of a trend now than ever before for businesses. “More and more organizations are beginning to realize that culture can’t be left to chance. Leaders have to treat culture building as an engineering discipline, not a magical one,” wrote Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi, of hbr.org on ‘How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation.’ Nowadays modern technology and the ability to remain anonymous behind one’s keyboard is making it possible for unhappy employees to blast their companies’ lack of cultural inclusion all over the ‘world wild web.’ For example, recently the retail giant Amazon had a major PR problem when it was reported in an article, ‘Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas In a Bruising Workplace,’ that inside Amazon, “Workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas…,” among other things. Because of this news, Amazon was forced to sent out their best executives on many news outlets on damage control to deny any claims that made them look bad.

The writers of ‘How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation,’ explained, “A high-performing culture maximizes the play, purpose, and potential felt by its people, and minimizes the emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia.” The report focus was on three main questions. “1) How does culture drive performance? 2) What is culture worth? and 3) What processes in an organization affect culture?” They research found culture drive performance when motives are tied to performance. The three primary motives that impact an individual’s work are play, purpose, and potential. In other words, enjoyment, why, outcomes and benefits usually determine how well a worker perform a particular job. Simply put, when you care about what you do, and it brings you joy and satisfaction you are more likely to do a better job, resulting in increased performance that ultimately increases the potential benefits in the long run.

In my line of work, I have had the privilege of meeting many different people from all walks of life. Some who were just starting out in their careers and others who have been at the same job for 20 years or more. When asked about their company’s culture, I discovered that many of them share the same experience. They expressed the lack of cultural inclusion felt within their company that did not recognize employees as valuable to their brand and ultimately viable to their bottom line. The late Jeff Klein, a founding trustee of Conscious Capitalism, Inc., wrote that a company that is culturally conscious often, “fosters innovation and adaptation ​and calls for people to engage deeply with each other and with the process of the organization and its work.”

I often ask my clients about their dream job, and nine times out of ten many agree their dream job would mirror what their value, which are recognition, relationship, and support. As a result, I always encourage my clients to look for work in companies that are invested in not just their customer base, but also companies that are committed to their people, diversity and practice inclusion and accountability.

A Poem In Your Pocket

Do you

I wonder
Wondrously in my mind
Do you

Do you ever think of me

Funny, even
When waking  life is at its wonderfulness  
Yet I wonder In my wondrous mind
Do you

Do you ever think of me

Remembering when
convinced
You must love me
But never got to the end of that fantastic fiction and just like that it ended.

Funny how
The mind plays tricks
The fictitious kinds
Still I wonder
In my wondrous mind
Do you

Do you ever think of me

How To Stand Out In A crowd In Today’s Job Market

 

Stand out in the Crowd

Stand out in the Crowd

If you find that your ability to reach companies has grown stale, I’m here to tell you there’s a reason for it. Before the economic meltdown, it used to take an average of three to six months to find a job, now finding a job takes an average of five to eight months. That’s a longer time than the average individual put away money in an emergency fund for a rainy day, like job loss, which as we all know is vital to getting back on your feet financially. Also, I might even add it is longer than the government allows an individual to collect unemployment benefits. Even more daunting is a CNN report that said, according to Corporate Executive Board, a research group, “So far this year, for every job opening, about 30 people apply on average. Of those applicants, less than 20% meet the qualifications for the job,” but rest assured, I have good news. According to many experts, you can stand out in the crowd in today’s job market by taking these simple steps.

1. Polish Your Résumé

Speaking from experience, I know before you find your dream job chances are you have probably revised your resume more than you can count. And since you are trying to tell a story about your career that says you are the best man or woman for the job, you are likely to have several different resumes that speak to your plethora of skills. All to no avail, right?  For instance, the staffing company ManpowerGroup reported that “52% of U.S. employers surveyed say they have difficulty filling positions because of talent shortages.” Many experts agree that the key to a great resume is not that it’s beautiful or stylish, and it has your headshot, but the key to an excellent resume is as simple as the language you use. To accomplish that you have to be a great communicator on the pages of your resume. Only then, will you be able to tell your story of why you are the best candidate for the job. Another thing to keep in mind is, whether you are applying for an Administrative or the Director of Human Resources position, employers want to be impressed. In other words, many companies want you to be already doing the job you want. One of the many ways to do that is by participating in multicultural initiatives like lectures, workshops, and seminars and an excellent place to list those is under activities is and also on your LinkedIn account. Have you taken a foreign language recently? Let them know under education. I say this because, honestly some people just don’t know or forget to mention knowing a foreign language on their resumes. After all, if your goal is to stand out from the crowd, you should use all of your skills to your advantage. Last but not least, and perhaps more important is the proper use of spelling, grammar, and punctuations. Make sure you have more than one person look at your resume for some constructive criticism. One last thing to remember is, eighty percent of success in job searching is about successful follow-up. That means, keep a job log of all your submissions so you can follow up promptly with your thank you’ letter.

See also: How to Write a Career Summary on your Resume

2. Furthering Your Education

According to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS) “Hiring is down the world over.” But the good news is, the same study also said in the U.S. future job market is very positive because “Regional employers are expected to increase hiring by 20 percent.” And that is especially true for people with associate degrees. Although looking for work is in itself a full-time job, a non-paying one at that, but if your goal is to give yourself an upper hand in the job market and get noticed, I say you should look into investing in getting a degree. That way, you become that much more desirable for an employer who doesn’t have the time or the money to train you, especially after a long hiring process. If you do not have time for a full associate degree, look into professional certification, but make sure it is an accredited one. Specifically, one that offers transferable credits for later. Your best bet is to research the degrees or certification that will provide you with the most return for your education. In other words, “make sure you weigh the cost of the degree or certificate versus the value it will bring to you,” said business owner Mark Riddix.
See also: 10 Master’s Degrees that Won’t Get You a Job in the Modern World

3. Stay up to date on current events

I cannot stress this enough, the more you know about your current field, the better informed you are because you never know where a great opportunity might be. There are many ways to stay current on trends and the news. One way is to subscribe to magazines that specifically target your interest and or industry. I know what you be are thinking no one reads magazines anymore because everything is readily available online. Maybe so, but if you want in-depth stories, then your best option is to pick up a magazine. Better yet, join a book club because it’s a great way to network. Two, set up news alerts because it’s another excellent way to keep up to date on what is going on in the world around you. Finally, three, make a list of the ‘ten top companies’ you would love to work for and follow their Twitter page, like their Facebook page, and research people in the company on LinkedIn, which is an excellent way to network. If you do, keep it discreet and professional. I should mention, another great way to use LinkedIn is to remain in touch with old colleagues, that way if a company reviews your page (by the way, eighty percent of companies do) they can immediately see that you are still in contact with old colleagues from work. Finally, by managing your social media, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. One career adviser said it’s smart to toss your net in many directions.
4. Volunteer

Yes, volunteer, it’s an excellent opportunity to get your foot in the door. It’s also a great way to gain valuable knowledge and experience, and not to mention making contacts with people who can give you a good letter of recommendation. More importantly, most companies usually hire from the inside first, which means you are already ahead of the line. A good start is by doing some research, try to connect with someone who is in charge of community development (or other similar position) for your chosen company and work your way from there.
5. Dress for the job you want

I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true if you wish to be the part you have to act the part. In other words, fake it till you become it. The truth is, what you wear says a lot about you. Believe it or not, how you dress translates to how organized, and sound in judgment you are. And a well-trained HR personnel can spot that. So, always keep in mind that your grooming, posture and presentation play a critical part in being a desirable candidate. Be smart, and know the difference between dressing corporate and dressing fashionable. Finally, just be confident.

 

Share  what other interesting ways you have tried to stand out from the crowded job market.

 

Welfare To Work: The Harsh Reality Of Being On Welfare

image

One of the most difficult question that I often struggle with as a budding new writer is, how much of myself I am willing to share with my readers. But no matter how difficult the subject is, good or bad, I will always choose to reveal if it could help someone.  Even now as I write these words, I feel the bitter taste of betrayal in my mouth. Still, the part of me that wants to divulge the fact that up until recently I was a welfare recipient is stronger than the part of me that is afraid of people’s judgment.  

Needless to say, I already know what most people think and feel about people on welfare. Yeck, I was one of those people who once judged and believed that most people on welfare are a bunch of deadbeats, uneducated, and lazy people with no dreams and aspirations sitting on their butts collecting food stamps and cash. But this is far from the truth. It’s a misconception and a narrative that has been on repeat about people on welfare for decades. So, I can’t say I am surprised that some people are narrow-minded in their thinking when it comes to people on welfare.  I realized that many people are not aware that 25% (1 out 4) of children in the United States are enrolled in the food stamp program.  The National Center for Children in Poverty reported,  “More than 16 million children in the United States – 22% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level.”  The same report also stated that “In most cases these children have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet.”

From welfare to work may be four meaningless words to many, but for me, it was a journey that I had taken once too many times.   The first time I found myself on welfare I was young, newly married with two toddlers attached to my hips. Coincidentally, it was around the same time welfare reform was one of the top priorities for the Clinton Administration.  In 1996, Congress replaced the traditional welfare programs known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  TANF was designed to help families in need become self-sufficient.  With the new change, states receive federal block grants to operate their programs and meet the goals of TANF that include: reducing the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation. The introduction of  ‘Jobs Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS)’ program, and the ‘Emergency Assistance (EA)’ program.  As part of the new TANF requirements, during that time I enrolled in a training program to acquire the skills I needed to attain employment.  Eventually, hard work and determination persevered. It was a great accomplishment for me when I started working and was able to move out on my own without the help of welfare.  In essence, working gave my girls and I a new beginning. Nevertheless, despite all I had accomplished: college student, full-time single mom, and a seemingly striving career, I was overworked, and still struggling.

Despite all the progress the federal government have made over the past decades to help low-income families, the fact remains that there are still several key issues still confronting mothers, and other welfare recipients as they transition from welfare to work.  The first is the issue of education and training. Due to lack of good education and training programs, many welfare recipients families who enter the welfare system for the first time and manage to leave to become self-sufficient are still unable to support themselves. They are several reasons why.  One reason being many TANF recipients often find themselves returning to welfare because they take on less-than-stable jobs that are often low-wage work.   The second issue is not having access to affordable, quality child care that could be the difference between being employable and unemployable.  As a result, for many there is not enough financial incentive to make up for the loss of benefits and help participants move from TANF to work.  Studies have shown that low-income families on the borderline of poverty who are dependent on welfare have the most difficult time coordinating work and child care schedules. Experts believe that the working poor is also the least likely of all income groups to receive assistance with their childcare costs. The third is the issue of health care, and being able to maintain health coverage and housing subsidies without fear of losing one or the other and in many cases, both.  

The final issue is the lack of case management to monitor and eliminates barriers to childcare issues, medical problems, and even substance abuse. What’s more is the startling fact that more studies have shown that since the insertion of TANF the programs now lifts far smaller fraction of poor families and children out of severe poverty than AFDC did over twenty years ago.

Several years later, with strong professional skills, and college education under my belt I was laid off from the career that I believed would take me into retirement.  Honestly, I saw it coming, and I blamed it on my lack of passion for what I was doing, underlined by the sudden recession.  After I lost my job, and unemployment benefits barely paid the rent and other bills, I was faced with difficult choices.  I once again found myself a welfare recipient, because I had no other choice when Congress voted against extending the unemployment benefits.  During the time that I’ve had to travel back and forth from one office to another trying to get help and pull myself by my bootstrap, I’ve encountered many obstacles. The first obstacle was the non-existent human factor. Anyone who has ever been to the Department of Social Service in any of the tri-state areas seeking assistances will tell you (if they are not too embarrassed) that it is an uncomfortable and intrusive experience. Often people are treated unkindly and looked at with disgust. The social workers are often hard, uncaring and judgmental, which was surprising at times, considering the social workers are in the ‘human service’ business. But now and then if you were lucky,  you’d get a nice case worker who treated you like you are human.  I once had the privilege to meet one such case worker. Machete was, to say the least, a breath of fresh air. I knew right away that she was new, unaffected by time and the disillusion of helping the needy. She gave me the human factor that I desperately needed in my time of need. By the time I was done with the whole process I had forgotten that I was being stripped of my dignity and pride.  She had a smile the whole time that melted away my defenses and shame. The second obstacle was,  I did not know how the system worked. There were and are so many rules and regulations that govern welfare, it makes for a system that does not work, and a process that is slow and outdated.  More often than not, cases are mishandled, and paperwork goes missing or gets lost.  I once met a mother of three who took time off from her job at Toys R Us after working two shifts to drop off papers to her case worker because she was in fear of losing her case.

Once again, just like the first time I was on welfare, I was required to look for work and or enrolled in an education program.  Since I had no desire to stay on welfare longer than necessary, I welcomed the opportunity to change my current state. That’s when I walked into the office of Suits For Success Hudson County, a Not For Profit Organization that provides professional attire, and career development tools to help disadvantaged women and men thrive in work and life.  That day, I believe my life changed for the better, despite the looming reality that I was on the verge of losing my apartment and becoming homeless. Still,  I was focused and determined to attain full employment.  Every day I thrive as a volunteer at Suits For Success, showing everyone that I was determined to succeed no matter what.  At that time, one of the mottoes that adopted was ‘dress like the person you want to be.’   Today I am gainfully employed, and even though I eventually lost my beautiful apartment, I am still grateful that I was able to change the trajectory of my life for the better.  When I think about where I’ve been, I am often reminded of this quote: “Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.”  For me, the best was getting hired to work for the same organization that helped me ‘thrive in work and life.’   I am proud to say that I love my job because I get to help people who are in the same situation I was when I walked into the office of Suits For Success.

One blogger on The Economic Collapse wrote, “Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans [received] food stamps.  Today, close to one out of every six Americans [receive] food stamps.”   My story is not a unique one, in fact, it’s one of many.  Too many to speak of, but I am hoping by writing my story I can give voice to the unfortunate many who find themselves at the mercy of government assistance.  Stigma aside, this is one issue that should not be pushed to the side.  We have to start the conversation because everybody that I’ve met on this journey in the same situation I shared says the same thing: the system doesn’t work.  People like my friend Linda who said, “I can’t even tell my family because they will think I am a lazy bum, what I need more is a job,” agrees with me.

 

 

A Poem In Your Pocket

Genevieve
Your mask of make believe…
You wear it so well
No one can tell
That so far at the bottom of the well
Is your real deceit
The mask you hide behind indeed
Will be your demise one day
Truly you must know
Somehow your mask will come
Undone in pieces wear away
By grieve
Love lost
Trust unravel
Self loathing
Deep seething insecurities
Low self esteem
Your mask of make believe
You wear it so well
Will be your demise one day
Genevieve

Strong Black Woman…

Some time ago I was talking to a young black man who said to me that he did not understand the so-called strong black woman. Adding that he especially did not know why young black girls today are also claiming to be strong black women. Of course, being a strong black woman myself,  I was thrown for a loop. Truth be told, this was not the first time I’ve heard this statement, so it was kind of hard to convince my ears that it didn’t listen to what it had heard.  Fortunately for him (depending on whose side you on) he was about to get an ear full, because, I was tired of hearing this same lame statement.  Not bothering to ask him why he said what he said, I began to educate him on the strong black woman.

I said to him I’m a strong black woman, so I want my daughter to be a strong black woman. She bears witness to the struggle. She can attest to the ups and downs of raising her as a single mother. She will not only learn from me; she will be better than me. So, in essence, she is not only a strong black woman she is also a superwoman. She’s been groomed since birth to believe in herself, stand up for herself, speak her mind, and more importantly to know her worth. She’s been taught to have her own and know the difference between a real man and a wannabe.

I said to him he shouldn’t be confused with strong black women, but rather he should question why we have a lack of strong black men. Daughters need fathers and sons need fathers. Where are they? Why are they not involve? Without they involvement, the only option a black woman has is to be a strong black woman who’s capable of doing it all. So yes my black is strong,  not by choice but by necessity, and as a result so is my daughter.  With that said, I rested my case and left him with his mouth open.