Health, Love

Steps for Crohn’s & colitis + bravery lessons

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Some kids are braver than adults.

Insert 11-year-old Dyllan Lovero, who, along with his mom, Rachael, recently shared insight regarding Dyllan’s life as a champion.

While many pre-adolescents’ concerns include I-gadgets, locker combinations and hormonal imbalances, others face grown-up realities.

Dyllan, an honor student who enjoys watching wrestling and wants to be a doctor, has Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease. He also has colitis, which is inflammation of the large intestine. He was diagnosed four years ago.

Day-to-day life can be a struggle.

“I have more tough days than I would like,” he said.

Rachael shared that many of his health concerns trigger domino effects of pain.  He reports feeling like his bones are being crushed.

From January until early March of this year Dyllan was unable to walk or stand up because of his inflamed intestine.

Despite all of that, when asked about his goals, he replied without missing a beat: He doesn’t want to miss too much school.

And with As and Bs in his courses despite being unable to physically attend school last year, the self-proclaimed “smartypants” is a testament to a focused mind. Dyllan’s favorite subjects are mathematics and writing, personal narratives in particular.

The baby faced preteen spoke with the wisdom of someone who’s been here before.

He continuously referenced close friends and family who support him.

That support system extends beyond his familial and friendly relationships.

After being hospitalized twice (once in 2010 and once last year), he, his teachers and his family moved to a technological approach for his education.

His teachers Skyped him from school to keep him abreast of his studies.

“My teachers were amazing,” he said.

He and Rachael talked about how included Dyllan was. He was up to speed because of his teachers’ technological approach. Skype lessons not only kept him academically in the loop, but also socially. His classmates interacted with and frequently Skyped him during lunch.

He said that he appreciated the communication. Appreciation was central to his discussion as he said that his days can be pretty emotional, but he is grateful to have parents who care about him because not everyone has the same.

Of parental guidance, Dyllan continued.

“They love. They push you.”

His mother also pushed for him to participate in Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis, a walk/fundraiser for digestive diseases. This year’s walk will be held Sunday, October 14 in Prospect Park. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) sponsors the walk.

When Dyllan first attended he was sad to see so many other people who go through what he goes through, but was glad to be around people who understood.

According to the Take Steps website, 1.4 million American adults and children are affected by digestive diseases. The site also reported that the walk supports patient programs, education, research for a cure and has raised nearly $32 million to further its mission.

CCFA has 40 local chapters.

Rachael said that when friends and family attended the walk with him, Dyllan realized he is not alone.

He said, “I never knew there were so many people that loved me.”

Check out Dyllan’s Take Steps page. http://online.ccfa.org/site/TR/2012TakeStepsWalk/Chapter-GreaterNewYork?team_id=110086&pg=team&fr_id=3242

Academia, Freedom, Joy, Love, Peace, Prejudice, Relationships

Embrace summertime, not pervasive personal questions

As the sun beams, wind blows, tan lines surface and memories accumulate, remember caution, especially when addressing recent graduates and upwardly mobile peeps.

Some stuff is not your business. This is a mighty revelation for some because nosy people feel entitled to everyone’s business. Because other people’s business underscores universal issues, right?

Your finances, proclivities and politics belong to all. It’s social commentary, not nosiness, right?

Child boo.

Add prevailing notions of a woeful romantic climate for women (especially of color), abysmal job market for all, and the prevalence of Facebook notifications, that yes, even they are engaged now, and the stage is set for pervasive post-grad personal questions.

I graduated in December, but recurring interrogatives often confront me. Spring graduates, prepare. You will develop nosiness spidey-senses.

You know the type. They occur as visions, when one knows that an individual who may not have taken as keen an interest in your professional and academic pursuits, is about to hit a recent graduate with the flex.

Who cares about community service? Let’s discuss carnality. Internships? So, what’s your boyfriend’s name?

It’s the pressure that causes women to hide their relationship statuses on Facebook, hashtag #him on Twitter or take to blogsites of anonymity to express the desires of their hearts without rampant judgment and assumptions.

Breezily dropping questions in speech does not change the fact that some questions are not necessary.

Too many people are team Mind Everyone Else’s Business (MEEB). And what many MEEBs fail to realize is that technological advances and instant gratification do not trump manners.

We live in an era of hyper-connectivity with key words and paparazzi creating facades of access when most people do not owe us anything.

If a celebrity, or heck, even friend of a friend, decides to put something out in the public domain, there is a strong correlation between its existence in that space and the likelihood of people commenting on and noticing it.

Fair enough.

But, even when people make something known, a notion prevails that MEEBs can ask whatever, whenever in whichever capacity the almighty collective schnoz deems appropriate.

No.

There are real opportunities to help and frequently in less invasive ways. We must remember time and place. As we embrace summer we must acknowledge that this is a transition period for scores of people, especially young women.

And transition points are tough. They are marked by reflection, trial, triumph and reassessment. All of that is not breaking news nor should it be.

Transitions do not have to occur under a microscope by obsessive observers who ought to channel their investigative gifts into self-actualization more than dirt digging.

Obviously I’m not addressing everyone. Some people have relationships of trust, love and expertise, which make their interactions meaningful opportunities to learn and grow. Every inquisitive soul is not a MEEB.

But, sometimes sexism is a little too blatant as some situations expose how little unfortunate minds think of women on their own, independent of their romantic relationships or decision to express certain personal choices on a plethora of platforms.

As recent graduates collect photos, funds and memories, many begin planning and working toward the next phase of their lives. Support them. Sponsor something. Connect them with viable professionals. Love them. Help if you can.

But, a bargain for exchange should not be access to the whos, whats, and whens of their bedrooms, date nights and black books, especially if you’re not dating, pursuing or remotely close to them.

As the temperatures rise, don’t catch MEEBer fever.

Beauty ideals, Color, Freedom, Journalism

Virginity, public figures and women’s worth

Who doesn’t love an endearing Olympian, one with a story of overcome obstacles and inevitable success? Add to the mix a self-deprecating, green-eyed hottie with a six-pack, cascading chestnut hair and refreshing sexual candor.

The media loves Lolo Jones. And with her work ethic, talent, good looks and smarts, this is rightfully so.

But for some journalists and bloggers, her personal decision to abstain from sex eclipses all the other things that make her rad, namely athletic prowess and openness about a range of topics.

Jones was the leader in the gold medal final of women’s hurdles in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics, but she hit a hurdle and finished seventh in the race.

That unforeseen occurrence will likely serve as motivation as she works toward the Olympics in London.

The track and field runner’s likability stems not only from people cheering her on in hopes of a UK win, but also because of her willingness to share different aspects of her life.

She acknowledged childhood trials and said that she could have been a “professional shoplifter”, not because she wanted the latest duds and coordinating accessories, but because she wanted to help feed her family.

That candidness spilled over into her personal life as she took to Twitter about her life as a virgin. She has said that the decision was difficult and, essentially, that it complicates and/or obstructs her dating life.

Jones decided that she would not have sex until marriage and said that she wants the experience to be a gift for her husband.

The choice is commendable, yet universal fixation with her decision to wait can underscore a climate of crotch-watching judgment of women who do not, have not, might not, or were robbed of their opportunity.

The conversation is appropriate in this instance because Jones opened up the lines of dialogue, but there is a fine line between celebrating people who live up to normative goals and making things awkward and judgmental for those who differ.

This includes everything from household composition to economic expectation and worship habits.

Family and relationship dynamics are disproportionately attributed to women, their sexualities and their inherently linked worthiness. Oftentimes women carry babies to term and burdens of patriarchy and sexism for life.

Even so, we know about Jones’ virginity in the same culture that also publicized Tim Tebow’s. One time for journalistic balance.

Be clear: It is not about taking anything from Tebow or Jones for allowing their convictions to mitigate against their carnality. It takes strength and comfort in one’s individuality to do so.

But, it is also cool when people who descend from substance abusers avoid vices, when dropouts birth college graduates, when abuse victims peace out, and when people deviate from a predetermined route that could be easier to trek. Defying negative statistics is made of win.

Yes, there is a case for rarity.

Legitimate virginity (not newfangled this-not-that or s/he-was-actually-a-rough-draft stuff) is an increasingly abandoned choice in a society of notable sexual risk and/or reward—teen pregnancy, general pregnancy, STDs, connections, recreation, enjoyment.

Jones should be championed for being different and because of her capacity to become a  model of perseverance and hard work. (She worked at Home Depot and as a hostess while studying at LSU.)

Critical thinkers have to make sure that celebrating one does not slight the other. Honest questions should be asked.

Would people take as keen an interest in her sexuality if she did not fit beauty ideals? What if she were of mixed gender, not race? How high will the pedestal created for her other aspects of life be now? Will people remember that her life is hers, regardless of her ascension to public figure status?

People are complex. Societies are complex. With diversity and enough intelligence to appreciate variety, we should celebrate respect, honesty, autonomy and selectivity in healthful sexual practices.

We should be careful not to allow women’s bodies, and preconceived notions about how they look and how they’re used, to trump conversations of a more universal and inclusive nature, aka stuff that is actually other people’s business.

We should unpack biases whenever they involve others’ liberties to be whom and how they are—without harming others.

Regardless of notches on one’s belt or the absence thereof, in matters as sacred as one’s body, people are not entitled to more than they are offered.

Sexuality, as with many aspects of humanity, does not exist only in extremes with alienated virgin on one end and walking grab bag on the other.

Freedom, Health, Joy, Love, Self-help

Oh, boy. She chooses joy. ;-)

Full disclosure: In between my usual  fashion, national, global and marginalized community reads, I am also into self-help, Law of Attraction, Handel Method style goodies, and the occasional uplifting Bible verse.

With that being said, it is always something. A friend, a foe, a romantic interest, a bill, a familial issue, a misunderstanding.

There is always a reason to choose chaotic interpretations of life. There will always be something, and that fact is neither a negation nor an excuse.

Sometimes it is an opportunity to take more time for and with oneself. Other times it’s a wakeup call. Sometimes it seems like a quintessential sucky situation that only makes sense a few life markers later. Even with our troubles we can choose joy.

The alternative: philosophical plate tectonics. Mad shifty, yo.

Figure out what works for you. For some, conceptualizing the temporary experience of life in terms of a larger, collective body is helpful. Feeling kept by a power greater than our understanding provides solace for many. Others believe that such is scientifically unproven hogwash.

And that’s fine. Everyone should not believe in God, although doing so suits me. Humanity is not helped by advocates of monolithic understanding, worship and/or existence. Free will keeps our kind spicy.

I’m pretty proud that a series of recent occurrences reminded me that I control my happiness, destiny and decisions more than any other force, voice or noise.

People throw shade. Life reroutes ships. We question the waters. Still we sail.

Taking offense to ideological differences is not helpful because people bring their frame of reference, which includes experiential knowledge, privilege, biases, successes and shortcomings to everything that they encounter. It is far less about us and more about them.

Owning other people’s issues is inappropriate. And applying one’s own logic to a dissimilar individual rarely begets peace or understanding.

Baby steps. Sometimes backwards. Sometimes away from the chaos. Sometimes to the mirror. Sometimes three hops this time. Reverse!

Life will not always be  quality conversation, eel and avocado rolls, good wine, room for dessert and tan lines (or your version of happiness), but if we actively seek, appreciate and revel in joy, perhaps, it won’t seem so evasive.

It is an exciting time. Do things loom or bloom? Your choice.

 

Beauty ideals, Color, Freedom, Prejudice

Vaginal bleaching? Why, world?

I’m bronze, and I have a vagina. If I lived in India, I might be taught to bleach it.

Indian women face advertisements suggesting that they, in much of their brown-skinned beauty and glory, do just that to be more attractive and supposedly cleaner.

Most of us know the associations made between lightness and darkness with the former representing worthiness, cleanliness, and godliness. Maybe we will discuss white Jesus in another post.

Many communities of color deal with internalized racism and colorism’s residue. An African American friend told me that her cousin bought skin lightening cream, and although the (risky) process took months, she was able to bring her cocoa complexion to a more café au lait locale.

I dated an East Asian guy who told me I was beautiful, but admitted that he wished his honey complexion was “a wee bit lighter.”

It is amazing that as the globe browns the media employs multiculturalism, multiracialism and multiple hues in advertisement. But, it is also apparent that with progress made regarding inclusivity, whiteness is still property in the world.

Apparently reverence for recessive traits including light hair, eyes, limbs and faces is not stifling enough. The intimate bleaching market is now making headlines.

I learned about Clean And Dry Intimate Wash late last week on Jezebel. If you want your skin to crawl, read this: http://jezebel.com/5900928/your-vagina-isnt-just-too-big-too-floppy-and-too-hairyits-also-too-brown?tag=vaginas

One could use the euphemistically termed language of executives pushing these products or call this foolishness out for what it is:  an oppressive and inflammatory attack on women, and especially women of color.

Bollywood films put undue pressure on Indian women to conform to a Eurocentric aesthetic. Many of the women selected for roles in these films are not light skinned Indians. They are white British actresses who could not find work in their hometowns, and benefit from the skewed perceptions of some Indian audiences.

Telenovelas are not known to cast Afro-Latinas and darker skinned indigenous Latinas as objects of affection.

Criticisms of rap music videos have been similar. Although the video model industry is readily deemed déclassé after popular video models admitted that their jobs were oftentimes the result of their looks and for-hire sexual proclivities, in the early 2000s the video girl was the standard of beauty for many black women.

With the intimate bleaching market being relatively new, one can only imagine the adverse effects supporters of these products might experience.

The colonized mind that could give one the ok to strive for a more Aryan vagina needs affirmation and validation. What the user might get is a lighter genital region from products that contain sodium hydroxide, which is used in septic tank cleansers and drain declogging. Nothing like treating private areas like a sewage treatment system.

As if there isn’t enough shame perpetuated in communities seeking to control the autonomy and self-actualization of women, women and girls are socialized to believe that how they were born is not good enough for their partners, who undoubtedly are a reflection of their worthiness as individuals.

Maybe if your lady bits aren’t brown, your man will stick around.

Abuse, Freedom

It-gadgets and illegal trade

A Chinese news agency, Xinhua, broke the story of a teen whose decision to sell his kidney for about $3,500 last April, is now costing him his health.

The Chinese youngster is experiencing “renal insufficiency”, and his condition is worsening.

Five people were charged with illegal organ trading in connection to the case. Xinhua reported that the entire deal netted about $35,000. Of the five people charged, one is a surgeon.

The young man’s mother was alarmed when she noticed the iPAD and iPhone that he purchased. From there he told her about how he got the money for the items.

This case comes on the heels of controversy after an Apple audit revealed wage violations including unpaid hours, excessive overtime, and abysmal salaries for workers in China.

It is not about blaming Apple for the teen’s choice, but a matter of highlighting when products are put before people. This case highlights what many label increasing materialism in Communist China.

Through the Internet and its inherent global flattening via limitless communication and advertising, conspicuous consumerism cannot be isolated to certain regions.

But, as a young person can work with individuals reprehensible enough to help him sell  a vital organ for it-gadgets, many wonder about checks and balances.

How much of producing quality products involves exploitation? How does one arrive at materialistic pressure such that one decides to engage in a life altering black market?

This teen believed that he could do without his kidney, an organ that processes blood and separates waste, to benefit from his new toys. But, what about the adults who made the trade possible? Professional ethics? Humanity?

Teaching people to value themselves more than their belongings is a start.

Most people appreciate the conveniences afforded by modern technology, and in many instances, Apple is on the cutting edge with its products and services.

Because of advances made by the company, the world became more accessible to millions of people. Yet how does one juxtapose possession pressure with that which is priceless?

The Chinese Ministry of Health’s statistics report that more than 1 million people in China need transplants, although only about 10,000 annual transplants are performed. The resultant illegal market is troubling.

What’s your bargain for exchange?

Freedom, Journalism, Joy, Media responsibility, Peace

Finding peace, pulling pieces and seeking justice

A lot happened  in the past few days.  My goddaughter was dedicated to God. My baby bro is Dunk Master Flex. I have about five new freckles on my face.

Ok, in all seriousness, my previous post “Putting the BIG in bigotry” garnered more views than anything else on my blog.  It also nearly sent my poor Blackberry into cardiac arrest with all the notifications. I was definitely getting the red light special all through the night. 

The post went viral, especially for an indie blog created a few months ago, with the support of hundreds of people on Facebook and Twitter, through email and search engines. For additional eyes on the thoughts and words that I labor over, I am eternally grateful.

The experience highlighted commonality in people of various backgrounds and with diverse life experiences.

Friends, associates and strangers from the Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University and northern Louisiana community expressed concerns about the need for sensitivity in our dealings with one another. We didn’t shy away from troubling issues of race, responsibility and equality.

The piece was shared in other regions, too, which solidified that staying up in the middle of the night and hammering out a counter-narrative was worth the following day’s exhaustion and post-response euphoria.

This was a teachable moment.

As such, Louisiana Tech responded with a statement addressing freedom of speech, prior review, and why they ultimately pulled the piece from editor-in-chief Rebecca Spence in the online edition of their publication, The Tech Talk.  http://www.thetechtalk.org/?p=5159

The largest issue is the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s death. Recently, voice analysis experts determined that screams heard at the crime scene could not have been from George Zimmerman.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/31/trayvon-martin-shooting-911-call-screams_n_1394224.html

Also, change.org’s petition for justice in Martin’s case is the largest petition in the site’s history.

http://www.change.org/petitions/prosecute-the-killer-of-our-son-17-year-old-trayvon-martin

That’s pretty impressive considering that the site boasts more than 100,000 petitions. All of these events highlight the need for timely engagement from various constituents. The impact of an engaged audience and society cannot be undermined.