Monthly Archives: June 2018

The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, Part Two

**Advisement prior to reading: This is a meaningful piece on foster care which also contains extremely strong language.

This is the second part of a two-part blog series on “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma.” Read “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, Part One.”

Junot Diaz, prolific writer and award winner, is also the victim of abuse. Read his beautiful writing to see how he felt, and how it impacted his life.   Here is a man who ran from life, but strived to learn, grow and rise above the challenges.

Maybe you, too, will decide to help. One of the ways is to become a CASA volunteer. Read on to be educated, inspired and to give back.   

Here’s an excerpt of Díaz’s “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma”:

“That violación. Not enough pages in the world to describe what it did to me. The whole planet could be my inkstand and it still wouldn’t be enough. That s*** cracked the planet of me in half, threw me completely out of orbit, into the lightless regions of space where life is not possible. I can say, truly, que casi me destruyó. Not only the rapes but all the sequelae: the agony, the bitterness, the self-recrimination, the asco, the desperate need to keep it hidden and silent. It f***** up my childhood. It f***** up my adolescence. It f***** up my whole life. More than being Dominican, more than being an immigrant, more, even, than being of African descent, my rape defined me. I spent more energy running from it than I did living.

[…]

And in no time at all I was failing everything. Quizzes, quarters, and then entire classes. First I got booted out of my high school’s gifted-and-talented program, then out of the honors track. I sat in class and either dozed or read Stephen King books. Eventually I stopped showing up altogether. School friends drifted away; home friends couldn’t wrap their heads around it.”

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What struck me so poignantly about this article was how much the trauma stayed and affected all Díaz’s decisions. For me, this is critical to understand and to continue to understand.  You see, one of my foster care youth was raped by a gang member in the Mission in San Francisco, in her apartment building.

It’s that vulnerable, that close to home.

His article helped me understand, to any extent that I can…

My foster care youth is very joyful; very positive.

We have never discussed it.

But how she must try to stuff it down, lock that experience away, and then put on a brave face. That’s what she’s dealing with. Trying to live life positively, and yet one of the scariest, most hurtful experiences happened to her.

What Junot Díaz talks about is that this early experience broke his world.

 

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He approached multiple relationships and ran from them.  Intimacy was broken. Trust was broken. Hiding from his truth hurt him and hurt all those around him.

Yet still here can be hope, and there are opportunities.

Díaz was low, unmotivated and undirected.  Yet Rutgers college saw something in him. They gave him an open door and accepted him to college.   They saw his talent and heart.

It’s that opportunity that so many of our youth deserve. They need that open door!

 

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Take a look at this passage, which helped me understand how trauma stayed on his brain. As Díaz was signing books as an accomplished, Pulitzer Prize winner, one of his admirers approached him, asking if he had experienced some of the trauma from the book. Díaz admits he scoffed and turned the seeker away:

“I ran the way I’ve always run. Like death itself was chasing me. For a couple of days afterward I fretted; I worried that I’d given myself away. But then the old oblivion reflex took over. I pushed it all down. Buried it all. Like always. But I never really did forget. Not our exchange or your disappointment. How you walked out of the auditorium with your shoulders hunched. I know this is years too late, but I’m sorry I didn’t answer you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the truth. I’m sorry for you, and I’m sorry for me. We both could have used that truth.”

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I love above because even if we have not been abused, **we** need to hear that truth.  It’s the truth of another’s heart. It’s the truth of transparency. To really know and honor someone, their journey, their hurt, and hopefully, their healing.

 

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As I am reading the article, my heart leaps. Will Díaz find love, and more importantly, let himself deserve it? Let himself receive it, the love?  Here he shares trying to find love:

“We clicked like crazy. Like our ancestors were rooting for us. I was the Dominican nerdo she’d always dreamed about. She actually said this. She didn’t have a clue. I fell into her family, and she fell into mine.”

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But it wasn’t to be. The mask, as he said, “got more of him than he did.”

This has helped me tremendously, for my youth has a very joyful mask and attitude. But what’s really going on?

As a CASA, we can only listen, support and be a stabilizer.  I hope someday, my foster care youth will feel safe with me and tell me her heart. I have no right to hear her story. Perhaps my only hope as a CASA, is to create safety in our time together so that she has some peace.

I hope this has given you an idea of what it means to really care about a foster care youth… and it’s understandable if you don’t feel you can volunteer.  These are heavy issues. So if you can, please support CASA today. You’ll be making a difference in a foster care youth’s life — right now.

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Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award. A graduate of Rutgers College, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the cofounder of Voices of Our Nation Workshop.”

Bio from http://www.junotdiaz.com/about/

To read the full article from Junot Díaz: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/16/the-silence-the-legacy-of-childhood-trauma

The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, Part One

This article is part one of a two-part blog series on “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma.”

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) are ad-litem guardians for Foster Care Youth. In addition to being a mentor and someone to walk through life with side by side, we are also advocates. Educational advocates, nutrition and food advocates, apply-for-and-get-job and show-up-to-work advocates. In the best sense of the word, we’re stabilizers. We’re here to be that additional supporting hand, shoulder or word of encouragement for foster care youth that are desperately trying to make a life for themselves.

How hard is that?

Really hard.

 

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In 2015, the number of children in foster care was totaled to 427,901. Of that number, 55,983 were in California. As of September 30, 2016, the number of total children in foster care rose to 437,465.

So what does this look like in the day-to-day? The average length of time a child spends in foster care in 2015 was 20 months nationwide; for California, the average was higher at 23 months. In fact, the percent of children in foster care for five or more years in California was 8%—nationwide, this statistic was 6%.

As a CASA, you have responsibilities; this isn’t just volunteer and “maybe I don’t feel like showing up day.”  This is serious volunteer work. Volunteer work that helps fill out part of a young person’s life that is missing.

 

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So what do you do to help? You meet with your youth at least once per week, and work with attorneys, social workers, after school programs, job programs, food assistance programs, government leaders to help your youth access to the resources he or she needs.

 

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With that, you have to stay on top of Continuing Ed (CE). It makes sure you stay current, and compassionate. This New Yorker article by Junot Díaz, which was an option for continuing ed, struck me. He’s a Pulitzer prize winner, creative writing professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and fiction editor at the Boston Review… and yet an early, traumatic experience, shaped his life.

We’re fortunate his talent still continued to survive. Stay tuned tomorrow to find out more about how to be a CASA — and find out how someone took crime in his life, processed it, and became one of the best writers we have today.

This article is part one of a two-part blog series on “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma.” Read “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, Part Two” tomorrow.

Dear Pamela: Do you have advice for how to keep pursuing your passions while keeping the door open for potential collaborations?

Dear Pamela,

Do you have any advice on the best way to let a corporate employer know that you won’t be coming to work with them and instead need to keep pursuing your passions while keeping the door open for potential collaboration in the future?

Destroy Your Limitations: Live Life Abundantly
Uzoma Ayogu
Founder & CTO | Releaf
uzo@releaf.ng | (832) 544-6006
Skype – uzo_ego | LinkedIn

 

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Dear Uzo — what a wonderful opportunities you have ahead of you!

1- Reassess a Reasonable Start Date. Are you sure September will really be your start date at Microsoft? 🙂 In this case, most parties value transparency.  Take a good look at your project and how much time you really want to invest. Explore joining them in 6 months or a year.   First, see if this is possible.

 

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2- Are New, Additional Job Opportunities Available?  Ask your Microsoft manager if other positions are open in one year from now. Maybe they will be flexible.  If your current position won’t be open, would they open other positions for you? That would be helpful to know that future and different job opportunities exist for you there.

Before you ask that, truly ask yourself:  Do you need perhaps 2 years? 🙂 One year gets so little traction for startup. Statistics show that 66 percent of millennials want to start their own businesses; in fact, 54 percent of millennials “would quit their job and start a business in the next six months if they had the tools and resources needed.” You’re just creating the vision and there’s a lot, lot more to build.

3- Engage Your Prospective Employer.  Every employer is different, but you might want to share your project.  When you make this request to defer employment, assess the situation. Do they appreciate you and take a holistic view of your and your life? You could include all the momentum with Releaf and get your manager excited. You might even be able to carve out extra time off to go back and visit Releaf in Nigeria.

4- Pull out parts of Releaf that can help Microsoft. To better the above, pull out assets that can help Microsoft. What might they consider valuable? Diligence on the investment climate in Nigeria?  Possible investment opportunities? You can ask them.

5- Don’t forget you. Financially, how are you doing? You must think about investing in your company’s future…. and your future! Have a clear plan for the next 1-2 years that is modest, and a greater long range plan. Passion is excellent, and, needs to be married with self-care.

 

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Uzo, these are great questions which encourage you to understand your values and priorities. We are learning from you, too! Come back and share.

You’re Doing Great,

Pamela

A Statistic That Will Make Your Heart Drop

This stat made my heart drop:

“death of a baby was simply a fact of life, and babies died so often that parents avoided naming their children before their first birthdays. The United States began keeping records of infant mortality by race. That year [1850], the reported black infant-mortality rate was 340 per 1,000; the white rate was 217 per 1,000. Continue reading “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis…”

How can we ever get over that?

How can I as a white person ever understand it?

It erased any confidence that I could have empathy — I haven’t lived this.

But I could have compassion. I could have a HIGHER sense of justice to take a stand against the injustices people of color face — and not just African Americans.

It swept my whole mind to think of how discrimination happens every minute, for different reasons, for each person of a different, stunning, and beautiful color.

 

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Look at Simone Landrum… she was a mom affected by these statistics. Her daughter?

“A few hours later, a nurse brought Harmony, who had been delivered stillborn via C-section, to her. Wrapped in a hospital blanket, her hair thick and black, the baby looked peaceful, as if she were dozing.”

In 1960, the United States was ranked 12th among developed countries in infant mortality. Since then, with its rate largely driven by the deaths of black babies, the United States has fallen behind and now ranks 32nd out of the 35 wealthiest nations. Low birth weight is a key factor in infant death, and a new report released in March by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin suggests that the number of low-birth-weight babies born in the United States — also driven by the data for black babies — has inched up for the first time in a decade.

Just as I thought I was starting to understand — I understood how much I don’t understand.

Another heart-stopping statistic:

“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data —
a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850.”

 

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The discrimination has gotten worse?

Yes.

And it’s even sicker seeing that we are in Silicon Valley.

The fact that the trends have reversed, and we are nearly 200 years behind again, shows how entrenched we are in rampant discrimination and blocked opportunity.

And so we read from the Center for Disease Control which:

“mined a database of close to a million previously unavailable linked birth and death certificates and found that infants born to college-educated black parents were twice as likely to die as infants born to similarly educated white parents. In 72 percent of the cases, low birth weight was to blame. … No one knows. … but this might have something to do with stress.”

 

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A light came for me at the end of the article, in which doulas seemed to be a sort of CASA. Just as we take a stand for rights for our foster youth, and provide a sense of safety and solace and uprightness and almost a law of reasonability, and just as we advocate — so do the doulas.  Doulas are not just here to provide the birth and shepherd in a naturalized way of birth life. They are also here to advocate for the mothers. They ensure strong medical support, personability in meeting the technicians and doctors and that records, the process and the relationships are more intact, providing this whole process of giving life greater dignity, grace and health for the baby and all concerned.

 

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So that was a great takeaway for me — how can I be a “Doula CASA?”  CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for abused and neglected children; in many cases, CASA volunteers are the one constant adult presence in the children’s lives. CASA volunteers stay with the children until they are in a safe and permanent home.

How, in each part of the process with my youth, can I provide access to rights, to education, to protection, to housing, to food, to stability, so that this process of life is more stable and comforting?  If we can provide that greater nurturance, support network and kind community, then births will be more healthy both physically and spiritually. And if we can do that for our CASA youth throughout their lives, then we will help them be positive, capable and supportive youth, then adults.

Be a CASA today. If you can’t volunteer, support them so more foster youth can have a CASA adult.

Dear Pamela: I want to be an entrepreneur, but I also want to be open to collaboration. How do I do this?

Q: Dear Pamela, I want to be an entrepreneur, but I also want to be open to collaboration. How do I do this?

 

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A: Dear Susann, thank you for a very insightful question!

We always want to be open to collaboration in many different ways. Collaboration can mean a partnership; collaboration can mean joining someone else’s idea, and collaboration can mean an actual merger.

 

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Often when we have entrepreneurial ideas, they might not quite have germinated.  We might not have the resources, or we might not have the right team — yet. So, we don’t want to drop that passion, but we also don’t want to miss a good opportunity to be involved in another great idea.

Here are some quick ideas on how you can do both:

1.  Network and improve on your entrepreneurial idea.

One of the areas as an entrepreneur you want to cultivate is being at events that are related to your product, your company, and your industry. Therefore, you can think about those times as serving both the needs of your entrepreneurial ideas and collaboration in an industry that you are passionate about.

2.  It’s good to be open.

I congratulate you for being open! Often, we get wedded to our own ideas without realizing that there may be another pathway. That divergent pathway may lead us to our idea.

We might meet future team members, future board members, or connections that would help us advance our business. Further, even if we have a great idea, we’re not always ready; or, we don’t have the skills to launch it. Being open to collaborations helps you attain those skills and meet those people who can be a part of your current and future teams. Therefore, keep attending events of all types that are of interest to you, and not just related to your business.

 

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3.  Slack Channels.

Slack channels are a great, low-investment-of-time that allow you to explore. You don’t have to go in person; you don’t even have to comment. You can simply visit Slack channels and see what people are talking about. If it is something of interest, chime in and be a strong contributor. To deepen the relationships, take it offline and offer to meet with people.

4.  Collaboration for the long-term.

By collaboration, you may mean merging an already existing business idea that you have with another organization. That’s very intentional and serious. In this case, we  want to be open to different opportunities with organizations. But, you don’t want to be distracted by it.

 

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A merger — and any conversation around this topic — is a big deal. Look at the values of the company with whom you want to work and meet with the founders or heads in an informal setting or at their office. Explore business mindsets; discuss values. Meet members of their team; look at their partnerships.

What you’re trying to do is to assess if these are people with whom you would like to partner. Will they advance your vision? Will you be able to do it together with similar values? If you listen inside, you’re going to have a strong instinct as to whether this is a partner that you would really want.

 

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I look forward to seeing whom you decide to meet with and collaborate with. People and team are most important in any successful, authentic venture!

 

​Please check back in and give an update.

I’d always love to hear,

Pamela