After the unanimous Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 struck down the “separate by equal” doctrine and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, people of color continue to lag far behind whites in access to employment, opportunity, and education. If you recently saw the film Hidden Figures, a must see biographical drama that illuminated the racism and sexism that exists in this country, Brown v. Board did nothing to address the inequalities that existed. The film profiled three African American women from NASA who played a pivotal role in the launching of the first successful space missions and their struggles as black women in the 1960s. Today research shows that blacks and Latinos are still underrepresented in higher education institutions and professional employment, while they are overrepresented in high school dropout and incarceration rates (see Civil Rights Project).
In 2007, the Supreme Court dealt a severe blow to integration efforts that many school districts have adopted across the country. The Court ruled it is unconstitutional to integrate schools based on race, even if it means a racially diverse atmosphere. Justice Kennedy maintains that the school districts must use other means to the classification of students by race as he cast his fifth vote in the 5-4 decision in the case against the Seattle and Louisville school districts (Parents Involved in the Community Schools v. Seattle School District, No. 05-908 & 05-915, 2007).
Gatekeeping, which involves the process of course selection that begins in early years and continues throughout high school limiting access to challenging curriculum, increases the divide between black males and other groups of students. Because school districts have developed systems that determine course placement, this systemic design serves as a gatekeeper. For instance, some schools use a number of predictors such as recommendations, guidance, parents’ choice, test scores and grades received, while others use a rigid tracking system. Gatekeeping can be a result of parent and student choice input, but also persists if there is a lack of prerequisite courses in schools limiting enrollment in advanced courses. Lack of knowledge can also affect gatekeeping, where some students aren’t properly informed of their options or are steered to lower tracking. The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University reports that racial and ethnic makeup can adversely affect gatekeeping because some guidance counselors may encourage people of color to take lower level courses. I can attest to the former.
When I moved from an urban school district to a suburban district in seventh grade, the school decided that a lower placement was in my best interest. Fortunately, my mother, my report card and my academic ability only landed me in that environment for approximately two weeks. I do remember there was no learning occurring. It was the most fun that I had in school. All my friends were in the class, and I enjoyed their short-lived company. That experience was quite a revelation, for it was clear that the teachers’ expectations had been extremely low. Once, I moved to the appropriate level, learning returned as did increased teacher expectation. Unfortunately that was not my only experience with racism or gatekeeping in education.
Another time would be class registration in the library three years later, when my guidance counselor attempted to place me in a lower level science course for the upcoming year. Because I saw how my mother handled it several years earlier, I was equipped to handle the situation. I simply approached my science teacher to inform him of my guidance counselor’s decision. My science teacher marched over to the table and informed my guidance counselor at once that I was an excellent student and the rest is history.
A similar scenario occurred to a young girl whom I met in a summer program involving the same guidance counselor, ironically. She had been classified with a learning disability, but was denied access to college preparatory classes. One summer in the upward bound program at the local college during the SAT preparation course that I was teaching, she revealed that she would be taking recordkeeping her senior year. I told her to talk to her guidance counselor, still unfamiliar to our shared connection, to take algebra and other college preparation courses. Years later at dinner, she told me that he refused to place her in an algebra class. She then pleaded with her father to speak to her counselor, who like some parents in families of color (due to cultural differences) left such decisions to the school. After being cajoled, he agreed. She ended up taking algebra along with a geometry course. She did well in both courses receiving Bs and better. After high school, she went off to college, graduated with honors, and now is a Special Education English Teacher.
Unfortunately, many students and parents are not self-advocators and are not aware of the grave consequences of tracking. To compound the issues of gatekeeping, in inner city classrooms, black students are placed in classrooms with teachers who have less experience or who may be less prepared to teach in their content area. For instance, in New York City, close to 90% of black students are taught by teachers teaching out of their certification area or with no certification. Statewide, 7% of teachers are teaching out of certification and 5% of core classes are not taught by highly qualified teachers (see New York State School Report Cards). In District 18, 16% of core classes are not taught by highly qualified teachers, which is three times the national average (see Inequality in Teaching and Schooling). Black men being taught by less than qualified teachers in segregated schools is counterproductive to closing the achievement gap. Yes, segregated schools continue to be a real issue in New York City despite the diversity of the city due largely to housing. Negative experiences in school most likely will produce negative attitudes about education, thus leading to increased delinquency and possibly higher dropout rates. It is time for real changes to be made. Policy makers need to be on placed on notice or not reelected. We have the ability to effect change in solidarity.
Educators play a huge role in shaping the lives of our future. It isn’t an easy profession as educators face many issues such as student homelessness, poverty, and increased testing mandates. The attitudes of teachers and leaders affect the students tremendously. Students respond to educators who sincerely care about them. In Pedro Noguera’s (2003) research in Northern California schools, 90% of black males indicated “agree” or “strongly agree” to questions such as “I think education is important” and “I want to go to college.” However, only 22% responded affirmatively to questions such as “I work hard to achieve good grades” and only 18% indicated affirmatively “My teachers treat me fairly.”
Noguera’s study confirmed that teacher expectations of students are extremely important for black students. He finds black males were least likely to respond positively to statements such as “My teachers support me and care about my success in their class.” Ferguson (2002) also found teacher encouragement as critical for students of color, where 47% of blacks cite encouragement as crucial compared to 31% of whites. An evaluation of the discrepancies between the desire to achieve in higher education, the effort put forth in school, and teacher expectations suggest the need for more support structures in and beyond schools.
Teachers and school staff are responsible for the culture of the schools, student learning, and the upkeep of the building. Clearly not all building resources such as computer labs and per pupil spending are in their control. Educators who work in underserved communities need to work with what they have. Although school staff may not be responsible for the all conditions in the building, educators are accountable for instruction and facilitating meaningful and engaging lessons.
As an educator, I have encountered students whose attitudes appear to be apathetic. I say appear because many of these students have multiple issues that lead to this mindset, destruction in self esteem due to tracking and gatekeeping that occurred in elementary and middle school not to mention many of life’s issues, e.g. homelessness, residential treatment programs such as group homes, abuse, low skills, etc. To reach students who appear to be apathetic, I create relevant lessons that include knowledge of pop culture, e.g. movies and music, while building a rapport with my learners. To reach learners, assessments that are project based, student centered with engagement at the core are utilized.
Over the years, I have encountered students who gave me eye-opening experiences. One student will forever resonate. She asked me two months into the U.S. History Regents course, “Do you give us all this hard work because you taught AP?” I replied, “I challenge you all because you can do it.” Slowly but surely that class began to rise to my expectations. Her comment made it clear that other teachers weren’t holding them to the same standards. A fact I had known, but her comment illuminated the effect of gatekeeping and low expectations. I cannot imagine that class’ various experiences from elementary to junior year that affected their views on learning.
Generally speaking, society has a negative view of the underserved communities as lazy and uncaring. Additionally, many of the parents may not be involved in their child’s education because of monetary reasons, e.g. working multiple jobs or cultural reasons, where many minorities feel the school knows best or don’t know the best way to advocate for their child. The use of gatekeeping and tracking can also affect a child’s self-esteem.
It is important to build strong school communities to support learners. A strong school would include effective educators who make learning relevant. To increase student achievement, schools need administrators who are effective leaders, have experience, and are in districts that do not have a high turnover rate. An effective leader will:
Recognize teaching and learning as the main business of a school
Communicate the school’s mission clearly and consistently to staff members, parents and students
Foster standards for teaching and learning that are high and attainable
Provide clear goals and monitor the progress of students toward meeting them
Spend time in classrooms and listen to teachers
Promote an atmosphere of trust and sharing
Have high expectations for all: students and staff
Provide meaningful professional development for teachers to meet diverse learners
Build a good staff and make professional development a top concern
Not tolerate bad teachers
Advocating for students and providing support for students is crucial for many, especially those living on their own or coming from impoverished homes. All students should be connected with someone who cares at school, educators should stay informed and pay attention to research on school violence, have community meetings to inform parents, churches, and youth organizations about youth problems and expectations from students in school. Schools should develop collaborative associations within local communities to address the needs of at-risk students, and conduct asset surveys with students in the community to identify their behavior. Leaders and teachers should maintain high expectations for all students where learning in the classrooms is made relevant.
Enough is enough, except no one seems to give a f∗ck.
Another sitting duck, accustomed to the news.
One down, two, three, four, five. Lost count…
Black lives continuously denied.
Emotions ensue: incensed, enraged and fuming are a few.
Born free and equal so to speak. When will this hold true?
Or does it depend on your hue?
Another life lost, tossed aside, a life deprived. Why?
Psychological science is very clear.
Hunting us like deer, 1955 was the year
A brutal murder and mutilation laid the foundation
Long ago, shook the conscience of a nation to end Jim Crow.
A plea for change and a break from the firing range.
Remove the twisted fate of crazy and deranged.
Disenfranchisement continues- the longstanding deprivation of rights.
Every city across the country should be shining bright lights.
A call for justice because folks are disgusted.
Yet the racial and ethnic disparities will continue,
Until you acknowledge Kelly, Wayne, Sean, Jordan, Freddie, and Gregory just to name a few. Could be your brother, father, son, or friend if you could only look past their hue.
Justice for humanity, justice for lost lives, justice for our black boys.
Where’s the justice? Where’s the justice? Where’s the justice?
Instead, life goes on, businesses thrive, while distrust and disappointment persist.
The scale is tipped in the opposition direction.
Some question the officers’ levels of force and range of discretion.
Numbness, another life loss, the unfortunate effect of social control led by those out on patrol.
Mass incarceration masks poverty and a society that is stuck
Enough is enough, but no one seems to give a f∗ck
This movement needs some funding, folks to spread the word and get involved.
Take charge and support the cause. Demand real change. Resurge. Recharge.
Emerge as a reckoning force. Become the source to change the course
Because enough is enough.
It seems as though society has changed the ways of dating, again. If you haven’t gotten the memo, it isn’t cool to date anymore; having an honest and meaningful relationship with someone is completely overrated. Instead, you must strive for one-night stands or complicated “relationships” even though you’re not technically official. Let me break it down for you: if you are “talking” with someone, you are basically dating them. These rules are as follows: they can text you whenever they want, however, if you text them, you could be categorized as clingy. They never meet your parents. They only occasionally hang out with your friends, and there are only specific times you are allowed to hang out with them (between 11 pm and 2:30 am are usually the best times… for them).
In the beginning, it seems like harmless fun; you are a young, independent woman who does not need a man. And for a while, it is empowering. You have boys messaging you from different dating apps begging to meet you. You have the “eat men for breakfast” mindset and you will call all the shots. However, let me be the one to break it to you, this will change. Ultimately, in my experience, you will find someone to have this new “relationship” with, someone who you promised you would not get attached to but in the end, someone will get attached– you both might. You will eventually admit that you want something more concrete, something more stable; someone to hold your hand in Central Park on a Sunday afternoon after brunch. But men who are using those dating sites, most likely do not want something long term, and you promised yourself you would acknowledge that. After having many talks, you both agree it will be better if you go your separate ways. So you end up exactly where you started: alone.
This is why I am swearing off all dating apps, and you should too. In society women are constantly oppressed; we are told our views do not matter as much as a man’s. We are told that we do not have the same values as men (which is depicted daily when we make 79 cents to a man’s dollar). By giving into men who do not deserve us we are, in a way, oppressing ourselves. Now please do not misunderstand what I am trying to say. I know and believe that there are men who are worthy and honorable, but they are not on Tinder– but they are out there.
Am I the only one who craves a great love story? I want a mutually loving relationship where we respect each other and make time for each other– ladies don’t forget that relationships are a two-way street. A relationship filled with trust and honesty is something I am striving for which supports my boycott of Tinder and other dating sites.
I am not writing this to discourage you; I want to empower you. You deserve better. You don’t deserve to be a booty call or someone that they turn to at the eleventh hour. You deserve someone who makes you one of their priorities. Why would you settle for anything less? Eventually, these types of relationships have a negative effect on your self-worth. Maybe you start to believe the negative words in your head, the ones that scream that you will never be pretty, skinny, or funny enough for them. This is not true. If you’re in a situation where you begin to question your self-worth, RUN. It is okay not to have someone at the moment. Your great love story will come, but it will not begin with hooking up with random people via Tinder.
Graduating from high school is a big feat for most! Now what, should everyone go to college? It’s normal to explore multiple options after high school and that’s okay because a major chapter in your life has just been completed. The opportunity to embark on a new journey and accomplish new endeavors are present. Whether someone goes to college, the military, takes a gap year or starts working depends on the individual? There is no one size fit all solution.
Still, it is important to assess the current situation and make the best choice based on the conditions. Some things to consider while choosing are grades, extracurricular activities, finances, and personal motivation. Ask yourself if you’re ready to go to college? The worst thing to do is enroll in school, not be mentally prepared, disregard classes and leave school with thousands of dollars in debt that will need to be repaid within six months of leaving school.
I’ve seen it happen while in college where students became sidetracked and left school with massive debt. In reality, prior to enrolling in school, they weren’t ready mentally and lacked proper support. And guess what, they’re not alone. There is a high number of students who enroll in school with tons of loans that need to be repaid whether college is finished or not. According to the National Clearinghouse Research Center, 55% of undergraduates who matriculated in 2008 graduated within six years. Not to mention, it’s the lowest graduation rate in the developed world. These statistics aren’t often spoken about beyond the educational world, but the dropout crisis is a real problem.
As a high school teacher, I would often tell students that they were better off traveling around the world than enrolling in school, accumulating massive debt that would need to be paid regardless of income and earnings. Often chuckles and laughs would ensue, but this is a real issue. I am not here to discredit higher education, being an individual who has six degrees, a Ph.D. in criminology included, but just here to say that the person needs to be ready mentally and financially. I came from a very modest home; neither of my parents went to college. For me, I had always known since childhood that I would go to college, so it wasn’t an option. When the time came, I applied for more scholarships than anyone I had known. My high school guidance counselor said he had never seen anyone apply for so many scholarships in his 20 plus years as a counselor. I was determined and had good people behind me propelling me forward. I was also fortunate to intern at the local news times and interviewed a woman who gave me advice on how to write an amazing college essay.
She said, “Show, don’t tell.” That is exactly what I did. I had been through many trials and tribulations including going from an honor student in grade school to receiving my first F and hanging out with the wrong crowd my freshman year in high school. I told stories of my high school administrator suspending me from school and calling my mom, which became a huge eye opener. My mother couldn’t believe I was in danger of failing 9th grade and to be honest neither could I. Was I the same girl who made the honor roll every year? I was, but just very confused. I eventually pulled it together and went on to teach high school and become a motivational speaker.
It wasn’t easy, but it took motivation and the three Ds which became my motto: Desire, Determination and the Dedication to achieving in life. I was going to create a better life for myself than my parents and many family members had if I had to die trying. I came to learn that if you have the motivation and the desire to go to college, you can make it happen. If you are not a big fan of education, perhaps a trade school or background in plumbing, HVAC may be your thing. We need plumbers and service technicians in our society. Everyone plays a crucial role in this world.
College is not for everyone and many plumbers make more than college professors. I remember my sociology professor pointing out that surprising fact to me my freshman year. Perhaps a gap year may be an option for some. When is the next time you will have an opportunity to travel the world or do something extraordinary? You have your whole life to work. Take it from someone who has been working since she was 14 years old. If you take a gap year, do something instrumental such as a tour of Europe / Africa / Asia or volunteer in a foreign country. Don’t just sit home. The former will be life changing and far more informative than staying home and enhances your view of the world. If you have to work full time, be careful to not get lured away from college by making money.
Making $30,000 may sound good when you’re 18 but not at 40 while trying to support a family. Nonetheless, there are options. Make a list of the pros and cons of going to college, the military or taking a gap year and go for it. In time you will figure out your passion and future career goals. The important thing is to make a decision on your next chapter. If you asked me in a high school if I wanted to become a teacher, my response would have been no. Life took its course and I followed with the three Ds. Remember you can do anything you put your mind to…“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, he can achieve,” said the great Napoleon Hill.
Brittany Imperadeiro is a 23 year old blogger who is, unfortunately, all too familiar with the world of of autoimmune disorders; but has been newly diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. UC is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine, the colon and rectum, which causes inflammation and sores called ulcers on the lining of the large intestine. Brittany would like to encourage other chronic warriors to not give up. Read our interview with her below.
Why did you start blogging?
I created my blog to not only document my journey as I navigate through this new chapter, but to also reach out to anyone else who may be going through any chronic illnesses. Although chronic illnesses can be hard to manage, I want to remind people that you are NOT invisible and you do have a voice to fight for your body!
What do you find most challenging about your chronic illness?
When I was first diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, I was told that I was on the mild to moderate part of the spectrum, which most likely needed to be treated with steroids. Everyone, doctors included, was so optimistic controlling my illness wouldn’t be a problem, so I thought, sweet if I’m going to get sick at least I got it easy. Well the problem with autoimmune disorders is we don’t know what causes them, so it’s hard to stick to a plan of treatment. As I began my journey, we quickly realized I was a lot worse than we had thought. I went from being not sick enough to see a doctor right away to being so sick that waitlists somehow disappeared. I would have experienced potential serious side effects if we didn’t control it fast enough. It felt so overwhelming.
I think that’s the biggest challengeis Adjusting. You have to adjust to your body after the diagnosis, whether you want to or not: adjust to taking millions of pills, seeing specialist after specialist, doing hours of blood work, being poked and prodded, monitoring and adjusting to your symptoms, learning your breaking point, and even just adjusting mentally. Because autoimmune diseases have no control, it happens way before you have time to adapt. Months ago I felt like I was generally a pretty healthy person. Now I fight with myself to get out of bed and start my day.
Describe your experiences with some of the people you’ve met on your journey?
When I first announced my diagnosis, I was so shocked with how many people I knew who either had the disease, knew someone who did, or had a different autoimmune disorder but knew what it was like to be where I am. It’s definitely been comforting having such an awesome support system and having people to turn to; especially because I’m still trying to figure out my road to recovery ( I am on my third treatment plan!). It’s hard to know exactly what to expect, but the people I’ve met have all been so welcoming in answering my questions and so encouraging as my journey continues.
I’ve made friends now across Canada, the United States, Spain, and even England! It’s so cool to be able to connect with so many people and just to be able to vent to someone about what you’re going through, because they get it. They’ve been there.
On the other hand doctors and I have had a “roller coaster” relationship. My journey began with being turned down by three doctors. They either simply didn’t know what was wrong with me– which wasn’t comforting, at all– and thought they couldn’t help me any further. Some doctors didn’t want to acknowledge that something was actually wrong with me in spite of my lab results that would come back perfectly normal (another reminder that everything isn’t always as it seems).
It was such a frustrating experience because I knew I was sick. I just needed someone to believe me. Luckily, someone finally did; they tried to advocate for a colonoscopy to be ordered. Because I lacked lumps or bumps, it was assumed that whatever this was, it wasn’t cancer. Therefore, I was turned down by four specialists, and the one who finally took my case couldn’t see me for another four months. Unsatisfied by this, both my doctor and I continued to search– and God Bless– our prayers were answered. My current G.I. specialist took my case immediately and within a week! It was unbelievable! Fight for your body! Eventually, you will get the answers you need.
How do you come up with material/content for your business / blog and keep ideas fresh?
My blog was initially created to help me through this process. Writing has always been something I turned to when I struggled with anything in life, it’s just something I generally like to do. My material is mostly all my personal experiences and questions I have for the world or have been asked myself and want to take the time to answer them.
It’s a place where I really let my guard down and show people exactly who I am while dealing with this illness. It’s a very vulnerable feeling, I am completely exposed. However, knowing someone else in the world is connecting with my thoughts and feelings as they go through their own similar journey is what keeps me going to keep up with my blog.
What’s the best thing a blogger can give to their readers?
Be honest. People value honest perspectives and genuine experiences. People are naturally driven by connection, and being able to empathize with someone else is really going to captivate a loyal audience.
What are some tips for people going through their new journey with chronic illness?
Expect it to get worse before it gets better. It’s only natural, especially with autoimmune disorders where your body is literally battling with itself. It’s definitely a process. Not everything works for everyone, so you definitely have to take the time to figure out what your body responds to and unfortunately, what it doesn’t respond to.
This is the time where you will have to learn how to put yourself first, and I know with families this can be really hard. You are already going through so much physically, so being at your best is really key to getting on the road to recovery. This doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon your responsibilities, but it may mean learning how to ask for help, learning your boundaries and when to say no, and learning to really listen to your body when too much is too much. People with my disease often get hospitalized not because of the disease itself, but because they didn’t listen to their bodies. A big culprit is dehydration!
What was the most challenging moment during this process and why?
If you’ve read my blog, I’m sure you could guess it- my mental health. I’ve quickly learned that when it comes to the physical changes associated with my disease and the medications, I can handle this. I can handle the fatigue, joint pains, painful poop attacks (for the most part), restless sleeps, sore jaw, the poking of needles, ect. But I’ve been challenged by my mental health. It has been almost too easy to give in and just let the signs of depression and anxiety completely consume me.
A part of this is due to the medication itself but the other part has been just learning to let go. I often find myself comparing myself to who I was months ago, which isn’t fair because I am not that person anymore, whether I like that or not. I was forced to change and in a short time, so letting go of what my “normal” self once was and accepting that I have a new “normal” has been a difficulty. I’m 23! I feel like I should be in my prime, going out, going for runs, hanging with friends, eating whatever, and traveling. Instead I get winded climbing up one set of stairs; I have to definitely watch what I eat because there are certain food items that just wreak havoc on my intestines. Plus, I can barely stay awake past 10 pm some nights, so what is going out?
I have definitely shower cried numerous amounts of time over this, which has led me to take a step back to essentially re-learn how to love myself again and figure out who I am becoming with my illness.
If someone was interested in blogging or starting a business, what would be a few things you would suggest?
If you want to blog about your own health journey, make sure you really are doing it for yourself. It’s what is going to keep you motivated to continue writing and updating your blog; it’s going to be where a lot of your blog ideas will come from. I don’t see my blog as something I need to do, I want to do it. I genuinely enjoy writing on my blog and if someone reads and enjoys it too then I consider it a bonus!
Again, be honest and true. People respect honesty so much, and that has contributed to getting so many loyal followers in such a short period of time. They want to know more about your journey, they might see a part of themselves in your writing or know someone who is going through a similar situation.
I definitely post factual posts, such as: understanding what steroids are or information about autoimmune disorders. Therefore, it’s not all just about my experience, but definitely a mix! And I make sure that when I am creating a factual post, I cite my references! It’s important to avoid any legal mix ups the best that you can.
Thanks for stopping by this week for #FeatureThursday!
Going gluten free seems to be a trend today for many but it’s my reality and life saver. Although I don’t have Celiac Disease, where the gluten protein (found in rye, wheat, and barley) causes devastating effects on the body, gluten sill wreaks havoc on my digestive system and causes severe inflammation and joint pain. Getting out of the bed in the morning is a struggle due to pain and extreme fatigue. Since I’ve gone gluten free about four years ago, my stomach no longer aches nor do I have the dull pain that resided in my lower back all day.
I remember going to see several Gastroenterologists and describing an aching stomach and an aching low back. They would look at me, chuckle, and remind me where I was. I knew the pain was related but not until years later did another doctor explain that females tend to have more back pain with stomach discomfort due to our anatomy and hormonal differences. When I finally went gluten and diary free, the constant dull back ache subsided. I still have intermittent back pain due to two herniated discs located in my lower back between the ll4 and l5 vertebrae diagnosed about 10 years ago (another story).
One year the stomach pain was so excruciating, I could barely walk. I was hospitalized in 2002 for five days with no diagnosis. I entered my doctor’s office with piercing pain and was immediately hospitalized. At the hospital I was asked about my meal the night before to find the culprit. I had my favorite Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Chicken and Broccoli. After running numerous tests and not being able to figure out what was wrong, I was told not to eat broccoli anymore. Really? I now get the gluten free version minus the broccoli as a treat on occasion. Thank God for Penne gluten free pasta and lactaid supplements. I also take HCl Betaine to help with digestion. I pop pills all day long (for that post click here).
Years of doctor visits, countless tests including lactose intolerance and Celiac Disease and no diagnosis. All negative, how could that be? One doctor later explained that although I didn’t test positive for gluten and diary intolerance, I could still have a sensitivity. He told me to try a gluten free and diary free diet. I swear it was the hardest thing ever. I enjoyed burgers with buns and gluten is in everything. Read the back of labels to see. I once bought beef jerky only to find out mid bite that it had gluten in it after inadvertently looking at the wrapper. How, it was ALL meat? So, I relapsed a couple of times. Then over time, I got better and so did the stores with the Gluten-Free sections. I’ve got it down to a science now and don’t have to spend much time reading labels. I must admit, the holidays are hard. Sometimes I buy myself a gluten free cake or cookies. I’ve learned that Betty Crocker’s gluten free chocolate chip cookies (my favorite) and yellow cake (another favorite) taste good and allow me to enjoy a dessert on occasion.
Thankfully, I don’t have a big sweet tooth. I’ve been gluten free since the fall of 2012. On occasion, Thanksgiving or Christmas I cheat and by cheating I mean eating a tiny piece of sweet potato pie. When I do, I take HCl Betaine a digestive enzyme and usually am okay if I only do it once or twice that day. I always have my enzymes with me and will take them before I have an occasional bite. An occasional hiccup is not life threatening because I don’t have Celiac Disease but if I try to enjoy too many gluten or diary enriched foods, my body responds with pain. My joints ache. Hence, I stick to my diet. I buy gluten free Udi’s bread, gluten free pizza by Fresca or Trader Joe’s brand, oats, gluten free crackers by Trader Joe’s. My store of choice is Trader Joe’s and the staff is super helpful. I buy gluten free pasta, pancakes, goat cheese, almond and rice milk. My cabinets are all gluten free. For more on gluten free living click here. Living gluten free is my lifestyle now and like muscle memory: I don’t even have to think about it.
Most of us have been there at some point. Dated someone to find out we’re not the only one. It’s one thing if you have a mutual agreement, but it’s a whole different story when you find out your boo is living a double life with a wife and children. You’re devastated by the ordeal and leave. Good for you if you get away that quickly. His response may be to try to get back with you or begin his seduction on the next victim. Why?
According to science, human beings are not meant to be monogamous. So why settle down and get hitched. Humans conform to monogamy for social and financial reasons. We’ve all heard, “It’s cheaper to keep her.” It’s sad but true. Ninety-five percent of men feel the need to spread their seeds; only five percent remain faithful.
Nearly five percent of over 4,000 species of mammals remain faithful and the ones to form lifelong monogamous bonds are surprisingly not humans, but beavers, wolves, goose, and some bats.
The great Freud contends that civilization thrives off the repression of instincts….so is there hope for the human race? Is a man just a man? Are females any better?
Are we picking the wrong mate? Should we lower our standards?
Some say yes; others no. I refuse to believe that there are no good ones left, but I do think they are few and far between. Being on the dating scene can definitely be a jading experience. Still yet as a hopeless romantic, I cannot give up hope on my Mr. Right.
Are there any good men out there? What about faithful females? Fellas chime in too.
Having a baby is a very joyous experience and frightening at the same time. Some mothers report being afraid to be left alone with their new baby, me being one of them. My sentiments were more worrisome. It’s only normal, but a colicky baby who cried and cried is a whole different story I soon learned. Some new mothers are lucky to have an experienced mother or family member stay with them for the first couple of days to a couple of weeks to ease the transition. Others like myself did not have this luxury. Being a single mother on top of this made it that much harder. I remember the day we left the hospital like yesterday. It was a beautiful day in July. I struggled to fit her in her car seat and remembered my sister laughing as we were getting ready to leave the hospital. I put her in the car seat but because I did not know about the cushiony inserts that secure the baby, my poor Aria slid down.
I quickly picked her up and my sister assisted. She had some experience with her godson who was born two years prior. Not to mention, my sister was not doped up on dilaudid from having a C-Section. What an experience! I remember mothers sharing one major thing that you lose when you become a parent: sleep. Who knew how much sleep would be lost? Coupled with an autoimmune illness, a genetic mutation, and single motherhood to a new colicky baby, I forgot what sleep was. I remembered being delirious ALL DAY LONG. I soon discovered ways to soothe her but wished I knew them from day one.
My daughter cried so hard that she screamed and appeared to be in agony. She would scream and then pause for a breath and then start all over again. Poor baby and poor mama. I felt helpless. What do I do? As most new mothers, I asked around to those more seasoned and called the doctor. She had approximately six doctor visits within her first three weeks of life and was eventually diagnosed with colic, where an otherwise healthy baby cries excessively for more than three hours, three days, and three weeks in a row. Before the colic diagnosis, the doctor ordered the works: an ultrasound of her spine, blood work at Yale Children’s Hospital to see if she was afflicted with my genetic mutation, and a visit to the gastroenterologist to name a few.
The gastroenterologist prescribed Ranitidine and when that wasn’t working a low dose of Nexium. Of course, I didn’t want to give her acid reducing drugs, but was desperate for relief and sleep. Her crying was piercing and she appeared to be in agony. So, I tried the medication. The Nexium seemed to help a little or maybe it was just a placebo effect. I started reading different articles and found a natural recipe that worked wonders.
Aria Malia a couple days old.
Aria crying at about two months. She cried all the time.
My munchkin a couple days old.
1. Homemade Gripe Water.I boiled water for several minutes, steeped two bags of ginger tea and one bag of either Chamomile or Peppermint tea in 4 cups of water along with one tablespoon of fennel seeds and one teaspoon of all natural, organic cane sugar. I let this sit for approximately 30-45 minutes covered. I strained the mix to remove the fennel seeds.
I transferred the gripe water to several small bottles and froze about ten 60 ml bottles and refrigerated one to two. Before each feeding, I would give her about 5ml. If she wasn’t given the gripe water first, she would refuse a feeding and if you didn’t know better you wouldn’t know why she was crying. I quickly realized it was working and started getting more smiles from my pumpkin. I started doing this when she was about 3 months and the crying ceased.
She became a happy baby. By about 6 months her need for the gripe water faded. Today she is a thriving 20 month old happy baby. FYI: this remedy is much more cost effective than buying a small bottle of gripe water for $10 that would only last a couple of days. I also gave her diluted chamomile and peppermint tea in the morning and the evening. One bag for 16 ounces of water and 1 teaspoon of organic cane sugar. She would get a four to five ounce bottle.
Maui, 17 months
2. Holding her up high with her head near my shoulders.She liked to be held up high so that she can see what was going on. Until this day, she wants to see what you are doing. Quite the inquisitive child.
3. Standing and walking with her.We would go for walks outside and around the house to change the scenery. The baby holder worked better than the stroller. She would cry hysterically in the stroller most days. Sometimes she would cooperate, but most days she wanted to be close to hear my heartbeat and to take in my smell.
4. Talking to her believe it or not.My paternal aunt and cousin were visiting one day and she just cried and cried. My aunt started talking to her and she stopped. I was in shock.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what to say, just talk about the day, what you are doing, anything. You can describe the room. To make it realistic for me, I would ask her, “What’s wrong baby? Why are you crying? Tell mommy what’s wrong.” Before I knew it, the crying would cease and she would just look at me. It was a great bonding moment.
I hope some of these will help soothe your little one. As a new mother, there is no handbook. We learn as we go and it can be quite a relief when someone else already figured it out and can help steer you in the right direction. These remedies are not meant to replace the advice of medical doctors. When in doubt, seek help. I tried these when the doctors could not figure out what was wrong and told me she would just cry like this for months. I was told to put her in her room and let her cry. I asked for how long and was told to try twenty minutes. One night before I discovered my gripe water solution, she had cried for an hour straight. I didn’t know what to do. I put her in her bassinet in her room and shut the door. I timed it. I felt horrible. I would go near her room but I didn’t take her out. At about the ten minute mark, I went to get her and she was shaking. I never did that again. Sometimes doctors don’t know. You have to take action after you have sought several medical opinions.
It’s cold outside! Brrrr! Cold weather tends to make our noses run. When a runny nose, sneezing and coughing commence, before we know it- we’re sick. Over the years as the seasons changed, I’ve learned tried and true methods to stay one step ahead. Some remedies I’ve read about, while others were shared through word of mouth. Although reluctant to try some, I have found success with all of them. I had to do something, I was sick every other month with a horrific runny nose. So the next time, you feel that tickle in your throat or nose run, try one of these to solutions.
1. Mince ginger: cut up small pieces of ginger and chew on it. If you have a sore throat, you will feel instant relief. FYI: this is not a remedy for strep throat.
2. Drink a small shot of apple cider vinegar with a water (about 2-3 ounces). You could start with two capfuls in an ounce or two of water. I will do this several times a day if I am not feeling well or I feel a cold coming. Some people doctor up the apple cider vinegar with honey and cinnamon, but not me. Get your Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar here.:3. Coconut oil: I love this oil. I keep a container in the kitchen and a separate one in my bedroom to moisturize my skin and my daughter’s. Recently, I’ve started coconut oil coffee. One to two teaspons in a cup of coffee with a spoon of organic cane sugar in a blender or NutriBullet eliminates the need for creamer, creates a latte like coffee and powerful health benefits. Coconut oil contains Lauric acid which is found in breast milk. Need I say more. It also is a medium-chain fatty acid that translates into a powerful fat burner, anti-fungal, and healer. For more benefits of coconut oil, click here.
4. Tea: Chamomile, Peppermint, or Ginger. Steep two bags in hot water, cover the cup for several minutes and drink. If you need to add a sweetener, add a teaspoon of honey, organic brown cane sugar, or agave.
5. Aromatherapy: I diffuse oils all the time and apply them topically after diluting with a carrier oil, such as coconut. Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, and Oregano oils are superb for colds or sinus issues and opens your nasal passages. I apply them to my chest or bottom of my feet. I also apply them to my daughter, Aria, as well when she’s sick (I use a couple drops and dilute it well). Lavendar oil helps her settle for bed at night too.
I have even taken a couple of drops of therapeutic Oregano oil under the tongue with coconut oil to help with bacterial or viral (flu-like) infections. I just bought empty veggie caps to drop in the therapeutic and coconut oils. It allows the oil to reach the small intestines better and help with digestion.
There you have it: 5 natural ways to stay healthy as the seasons change. I am not against real medication either. Sometimes we need a powerful punch. One time while on vacation in Montreal, my nose would not stop running. It was a nuisance and embarrassing. I was there visiting with a cutie. After a day of non-stop running, I went to the pharmacy was directed to Chlorpheniramine / (Chlor-Trimeton). Thanks to my natural remedies, I no longer rely on Chlor-Trimeton but when in need I will take one for a severe runny nose.