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6Aug/160

Our Fears Make Stories Real

A guest post by C. Hope Clark

I’ve recently become familiar with Anthony Carter, his voice, his refreshing outlook. So when he asked me to guest post for him, I found myself in a quandary. Here I am trying to blog about my latest mystery release, on a blog that digs deep into how to live a better life. So I read several of Anthony’s posts. Took me a while to connect his blog and my mysteries . . . then it hit me.

Mysteries are wrought with fear. Sensing it, fighting it, deciding whether to succumb to it. Not only in terms of fighting the bad guy, but in terms of fighting self, because nobody can brush against death and emerge unscathed.

That’s what I want my readers to feel in a character navigating a treacherous journey. The good guy, the antagonist, even the sensitive side-kick or the humorous secondary should not be in the book unless their lives change from the fear they experience in the pages. Change for the better? Maybe. Change for the worse? Depends. Change from what they were in the beginning of the book? Absolutely.

I write two series, the second being The Edisto Island Mysteries. Callie Jean Morgan, a homicide detective in Boston, once rode high and mighty, considered excellent in her field . . . until her excellence gets her husband killed when she takes down a long-pursued criminal element. Fanatically, she taps her skills to snare the killer, only to lose her job in the process. She’s left with a son to raise, her gold-plated career turned to rust, and goes home to her South Carolina Lowcountry family, and a mother she clashed with for as long as she could remember. She drinks, weathers panic attacks, and has completely lost her way. Her father hands her the keys to the family’s cottage on Edisto Beach, telling her to take the summer to get her head on straight, yet the first day she arrives, a murderer kills her childhood mentor next door. And the inexperienced six-man police force has never handled a murder before.

Now we have real fear. Callie’s fear of her inabilities, fear of disappointing her mentor, fear for her son’s safety, and fear that crime has followed her to Edisto, a place where she was supposed to hide away and figure out her screwed up self.

And the reader craves to learn how she’s supposed to carry so much fear and not fall apart.

In Anthony’s piece “Why None of Us Have Earned the Right to Let Fear Rule Our Lives,” he states when fear rears its head, it is clearly a time for self-examination. But in a quality mystery, we don’t want the main character to stop, analyze, and self-correct. In reality, we don’t always self-correct properly when our minds are frantic with worry. Instead, we knee-jerk react, discounting the right choices that our emotions aren’t willing to accept. Or we make decisions with half the facts. Or we wish for all our obstacles to vanish as we stick our heads in sand, pretending things aren’t as bad as they seem.

Those frail, human responses to fear are what make for the best storytelling.

Anthony goes on to state, If the worst has happened, and we’ve collectively survived it what else is there?

In the real world, this simple question can help us re-center. In fiction, this is the time where the author lets the character think this . . . then rains havoc for them letting down their guard. There’s always something worse, which makes for the best plots.

Why? Because as human beings, we want to see the worst of the worst on the screen or in a book’s pages. We want to see the best of people fail. We want to sense that others have it worse than we do. We want to see what it’s like to watch somebody else give up.

But then this seed sprouts inside us. Surely the bad guy can lose and the good guy can pull out all the unthinkable stops and wins.

We want to know there is hope beyond all odds. We just want to watch some other person struggle with it instead of us . . . while we secretly put ourselves in their place.

C.Hope ClarkI heaped one misery after another on Callie Morgan. Death, misunderstanding, loss of family, loss of friends. Enough self-doubt for ten people. Readers felt her pain, stomachs roiling from the fear around every corner. But by the end of the book, they wanted her to seize her compass and point it in the right direction, empowered by her losses, educated by poor decisions, and guided by a need to make life right. (Key in the orchestra swell.)

The latest book in the series is Echoes of Edisto, book three, and it releases August 5. Our heroine has returned to law enforcement, regained her footing, hopeful in the choices she’s made for her future. Yet tragedy happens on her watch, costing her an officer . . . two weeks into her role as Edisto police chief. She suspects premeditation. She allows a split-second of second-guessing allowing naysayers to propel her mentally back to a darker period. But in the meantime, a criminal element eats away at her beloved Edisto Beach. She slowly loses trust in those around her as everyone’s closeted past floats to the surface, and all she knows is not as it seems.

Some people love mysteries for their challenge in tackling conundrums and fear. Others hate them for the same reason. I deem them healthy, allowing readers to dip into their fear, safely experience the scare, and close the book energized from the voyage. And in some small way, I like to think I offer people hope that fear can be overcome, both in fiction and in life.

C.Hope ClarkBIO
C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries, with her latest release being Echoes of Edisto August 5, 2016. Hope is also a national speaker, teaching writers how to embrace their careers and earn a living at that which they love. She lives in her beloved South Carolina on the banks of Lake Murray, when she isn’t walking the sands of Edisto Beach. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

8Jul/160

Are Your Children Being Taught by Fascists?

Being bullied didn't make me hate learning, it made me hate schools and the rampant and unchecked fascism that dictated everything from what we wore to what we could watch on TV.

All of the policing changed when Roots hit the air.

All the white teachers and administrators sanctioned the consumption of this epic without any deep discussions about slavery and its present day ramifications.

Frightful and gutless individuals dictated what young black children could view and ultimately emotionally handle.

To dump something of this magnitude into the laps of young and impressionable students and not offer explanations or provide the space to discuss what we'd seen was evil.

Education at its best involves something more than silence, abject obedience and the ability to regurgitate facts and useless information.

Many black folks mistakenly believe that if someone is taking our money and allowing us into certain places there needn't be questions or any evaluation as to whether we are getting our money's worth.

Having parents who grew up amidst violent and relentless government sanctioned educational segregation, they attempted to rectify their perceived educational shortcomings by sending us to parochial schools.

This grand experiment, like so many in education, failed abysmally.

My parents, like most adults reared in an outdated school system, had no idea what education can provide or the mental landscape it can widen when it's not undergirded by fear and blind obedience.

A recent conversation with my dad highlighted the fact that much of education is not based on what students need (what is best for young people).

We agreed (which rarely occurs) that our current educational system worked when young folks who lived in an agrarian society (which many families did) needed to work in the Summer.

None of the young folks I know need to work in the Summer.

This is true for most young people in this country.

Whether it was the South Bronx, Harlem, or Compton, not one student ever told me they would be tilling the soil in the hot sun all Summer.

Everyone involved with school aged children understands this concept and yet we refuse to demand a restructuring of our educational system.

Our young people look to us for influence and instruction regarding ways of being and navigating the world.

What message gets sent when we allow failing systems to exist?

How can we trot out ridiculous slogans and tired mottos regarding "success" and "never giving up" when we as a nation have given up and consistently taught folks the fine art of learned helplessness?

A few pointed discussions about what our students are learning and why could yield marvelous results.

Post these discussions and a powerful plan that focused on a different rubric (on something that was not standardized) would give students a different focus and a way to personalize and excel in their educational pursuits.

I have worked with many students whose brilliance could not be measured on a test.

I have had students who were incredible problem solvers and natural born diplomats.

There is no way to measure or teach this skill and more testing and Summer School won't change or alter this dilemma. We should value our young charges and what they are learning.

Transforming our educational system is not strictly the job of teachers and administrators.

Teaching and learning can take place at any time in any arena.

Remember,the patrons in our barbershops and the creators of pop music spend a great deal of time instructing our children by default.

Modeling the type of behavior we want to see our children emulate is the single most powerful thing we can do.

If we want our kids to develop problem solving skills, tenacity and perseverance, do we give up (on life and its challenges) when things get uncomfortable, scary or unfamiliar?

Do we yap incessantly about success and big dreams yet keep our life visions and goals thimble sized?

Mentors and adults that dream big, take action and create results offer one type of teaching.

Adults and mentors who sit around with nothing grand to guide or inspire them send another message.

Kids are short, not stupid.

Many times I have had conversations with students about behavior and choices and felt ignored or unheard.

Some time later, I have heard my words repeated when the same student was faced with a similar challenge or wanted to inspire or encourage a friend to rethink a very familiar response.

To value education in this country, we must value people and be courageous when it comes to changing and challenging a system that is only designed for a few.

We must value our students minds and the intangible gifts each one brings to the world.

3Jul/160

The Shocking Truth About Black Male Health

Lies hurt.

When we speak of improving our health very little attention is paid to the lies we ingest. We are told lies about the importance of our health.

Black Men do not take care of their health and we pay the price via high blood pressure, diabetes, stress and a host of other maladies.

Brothers please take care of your health.

We are all very valuable.

Nobody is at their best when they are primarily responding to pain and physical discomfort.

Our pain and discomfort are often places we are encouraged to deny, overlook and allow to go unattended. I have often put myself in physical danger believing there was something to be proven to those who said they "cared". This nonsense carried over into adulthood and sexual relationships with men wherein I neglected to speak up and chose a lie over what made the most sense.

Culturally sanctioned by the larger community and supported by the smaller and highly oppressed subcultures of which I am a member, the message is clear: our health is not important.

Recently, I had major infections in two of my organs and Jaundice in my eyes.

Several individuals weighed in with their arm-chair-mother-wit diagnosis(it's work related stress) others dismissed my symptoms as cultural in an effort to lessen my concerns regarding my pure exhaustion, night sweats and chills.

Until I made the decision to address what ailed me nothing changed.

When I saw the Doctor, he freaked and immediately ordered me to an urgent care unit.

The larger question still looms: Why did I wait so long?

Why did I believe that it was ok to be sick as I told friends and family (off and on) for two weeks?

How many men do the same stupid shit and end up sicker than I was or worse yet, dead?

What can be done about it?

I will take an almost psychotic approach to maintaining my health.

I will also listen to the world's best and 24 hour available doctor, my body.

I will not allow folk to write off my thoughts and symptoms because they need me to be "ok".

My health and well being is not a burden or something to be gotten around to.

29Jun/160

Oh My God! He’s Wearing a G-String?! Introducing My Parents to Prince

At the beginning of the eighties, a new force of nature entered my home at a party for my dad, his friends and his soon to be second wife.

Prince Rogers Nelson was in my home dancing in thigh high boots, an open and freely flapping trench coat and yes, horror of horrors, a g-string.

My parents and their libertine friends were horrified.

Was this a man? A transvestite? Was he black? Mixed? On drugs?

God forbid was this creature (lean in for the whisper) gay?

All I knew was that he seemed to be enjoying himself: he let other people wrestle with labeling him and he upset my parents.

As a 13 year old, I was hooked.

I rarely saw my parents get riled up about anything.

Prince got them riled up.

Prince gave me a new definition of black male artistry and masculinity.

If a black man could be this flamboyant and talented then anything was possible.

As a young black kid struggling with identity,oppression and ongoing homophobic assaults, seeing a black male take up space and offer the world the "finger" was needed and welcomed.

Prince let me know that it was ok to be talented and different.

I would need this assurance.

Just around the corner was disease and stigma that would wipe out difference, creativity, passion and talent.

Prince let the world know that through a great hook any subject could be spoken of and to: sex, nuclear war, AIDS, love, obsession, joy.

It is not often that someone this gifted is granted the opportunity to influence the world and pop culture for thirty years.

I can vividly recall where I was and what I was going through when I listen to his catalogue.

Dirty Mind- an eight grader curious and frightened by the world and determined to seek it out anyway.

Purple Rain- I remember my best friend singing "Darling Nikki" during one of our Summer outings and I thought "wow". "Somebody is talking about masturbation on a record ?"

I also remember running to my record player and turning it down when he got to that line.

Purple Rain, the movie, caused major pandemonium when it was released.

Many of my friends bragged about having seen it 10,15 and in some truly bizarre cases, 25 times.

My parents constantly griped about why we needed to see the movie so many times and play his records repeatedly.

That is until they heard a couple of B-sides, namely "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore" and "She's Always in My Hair".

Once they got a load of those ditties, they quit asking why we were so unremittingly under his spell.

In my obsessiveness, nothing the purple one did seemed wrong or a misstep.

What I believed scared and enthralled so many people(regarding his genius) was the ability to not "give a fuck".

Black male musicians were limited to certain forms of expression.

R&B male singers were expected to be smooth, calm, sexy and not too intimidating.

They were expected to be boring and in most cases, predictable.

As an artist who wrote, produced and recorded his own music, Prince provided no predictability.

Having mastered some 40+ instruments, Prince could easily genre hop in ways that no artist has done before or since.

Whether jamming with Chaka Khan until the wee hours of the morning; performing with Miles Davis and Q-Tip from Tribe Called Quest or simply sitting on a stool with a guitar playing an acoustic medley of his and other artists' hits, here was a man that owned his life and determined what it would look like.

As a black male living in this country, musically roaming was another large "no-no" that he ripped through with abandon.

Whether discussing drug addiction, government apathy or violence among our inner city youth, Prince shared with us where we were heading if we didn't make changes.

I urge all artists to step up and be 1/10 the artist he was.

Can you imagine a conversation between Prince and James Baldwin?

While he wasn't for my parents generation, he maintained a relevance and level of productivity that younger generations should wisely adopt.

My parents generation were a group of folks overly concerned with what people thought and most importantly what they said.

My parents were always frightened of any person who brought too much attention to themselves.

Prince teased us with world straddling and caused the older generations much grief.

In my eyes, he was a hero.

Black men were not allowed to rock high heels, be uber talented and not give a shit about what people thought or said about them.

We need black males secure in their manhood who give themselves over to their gifts then self create a sustaining vision of themselves and also rock high heels.

Where are artists and men like Prince Rogers Nelson?

Where are the gutsy, ballsy not giving a fuck artists?

If I see one more nitwit talking about being an artist and then crank out the same shit as everybody else, I will lose it.

As a young closeted queen, I had no black male role models who were as fearless as the Purple One.

I've known black males who either got crushed by White Supremacy (my grandfather) or never got a handle on their genius(my uncle) which means he never fully realized it.

Prince became a symbol of black male genius in its glory- unapologetic, relentless and unrestrained.

Thank god I was introduced to this wonderful bellwether.

I would have never survived high school without his talent and music.

I want the genius with me and I want to believe that this human was more Christ like than any of us will ever know.

When he started rocking the brutally honest and historically troubling word SLAVE across his cheek, I was not yet committed to a life of creativity and the mind.

My naivete allowed me to think that since he was rich and famous and putting out his own music that there weren't people attempting to control him.

As I began producing work and releasing it to the world, his insistence on being free made sense.

Since we now live in a world that encourages us to not take a stand about anything, a man who stood for something was a welcome and invigorating entity.

20Jun/160

7 Reasons Prince will Always Rock and Rule

In the two months since his death, Prince has become more popular than ever. I have loved and admired this man and his talent for 30 years.

While people worldwide mourn his passing and scramble to find a suitable replacement(impossible), my focus is on honoring the legacy of his music and the bravery and courage he possessed.

In a world that requires your soul in exchange for any bit of recognition or attention, Prince showed us how to get and maintain attention based solely on talent and a dedication to craft.

No artist could combine sexuality, redemption, social commentary and religion like this man.

Here are seven reasons Prince will always Rock and Rule.

1. In "Controversy", he forces us to play with identity and the fluidity of how one can change, straddle worlds and do it with no self-consciousness and to a good beat. Am I black or white; am I straight or gay? Do I believe in God, do I believe in me? Some people want to die so they can be free; People call me rude; I wish we all were nude; I wish there were no black and white; I wish there were no rules.

2. "Ronnie, Talk to Russia" is an eighties plea to eliminate Nuclear weapons before we destroy the planet and one another. Ronnie, Talk to Russia- Don't you blow up my world.

3. Purple Rain- the movie, song and album confronts us with an artist struggling with both self actualization and offering a paramour care with the lyrics- I never wanted to see you cry; I only want to see you dancing in the Purple Rain.

4. On the brilliant and way ahead of its time, Around the World in a Day, Prince serves us Middle Eastern influences while urging us in the title track : Open your heart, open your mind a train is leaving all day. A wonderful trip through our time and laughter is all you pay. The entire album is wonderful romp through, sex, forgiveness, redemption and social uplift. "Pop Life" quickly and disturbingly reminds us that "everybody wants a thrill ". In "America", he states: Little sister making minimum wage living in a one-room jungle-monkey cage. Can't get over; she's almost dead. She may not be in the black but she's happy she ain't in the red.

5. "Parade" returned Prince to our movie theaters with two very different and equally sensual songs. "Kiss" brought us funk and longing with a determination to give in to a full relationship complete with surrender and a nod to building relationships beyond superficiality- "you don't have to be rich to rule my world you don't have to be cool to be my girl." "Sometimes it Snows in April" (my personal favorite) is so haunting that it breaks my heart no matter how many times I hear it. A simple arrangement with absolutely stunning vocals, this track reminds us that things in life don't always go our way and the mystery and joy of life is found in places that leave us raw, vulnerable and transformed.

6. "Sign of the Times" is his absolute best. Perfection. Each track on this double slice of heaven was pure magic. Did I mention that like Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life" was a double album. There is no way you can listen to this double disc and not hear the prophetic call that would be the 80's and beyond. Released in 1987 with an accompanying concert video, it begins with the title track- In France a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name. As if this was not enough in the same song he points out that our government can send people to the moon but we can't figure out how to have enough for everyone to eat. He adds a wink to lust and the chance at monogamy when he tells a paramour in "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man"- that he may be qualified for a one night affair but he could never take the place of her man. What about his usual blend of sensuality, sexuality and religion- "Adore": If God struck me blind your beauty I'd still see.

7. "He believed young people could change the world." This statement was given by Van Jones the co-founder of the YesWeCode initiative (an organization dedicated to ensuring that 100,000 low income youth learn to write code). Prince began supporting this initiative in an effort to create a generation of self sufficient youth ready to lead and create in the 21st century.

28May/161

Three Secrets to a Successful Relationship Part 3 (Learning)

Yesterday, my man beat me...Again. In Scrabble.

The final portion of creating a successful relationship is the ability to learn from each other daily.

Many couples meet and silently agree that neither will change no matter the amount of time spent together or the circumstances that would invite and encourage change.

If you want the relationship to breathe and have life then it is imperative that you each learn and teach one another daily.

The lessons needn't be huge, life changing or mind boggling. Small bits of learning can have the same effect over long periods of time as gigantic paradigm shifting insights.

Whenever there is a showdown in my house via the Scrabble board, I learn a better more strategic way of playing and at least two new words.

Many times I have had conversations with friends that resulted in learning something about myself and also gave me a fresh perspective on how I think.

This comes in handy when taken back to the primary love relationship and utilized as a means to bring a richer more insightful you into the fold.

Being mentally and intellectually challenged is a great aphrodisiac and often leads to greater intimacy both sexually and otherwise.

When the brain is stimulated because it is taking in new information and processing it, the body generally follows.

When I incorporate something new, I often get an electric spine-tingling surge of energy.

When I am presented with something new, I often get a psychological gut punch which lets me know something new is happening.

As a young queer, I often longed for the teaching of an older, wiser paramour.

In my 40's, I often stated : no man has anything to teach me; older doesn't mean wiser and I hope when I'm in my 40's and beyond that I have utilized my mind and years well and have something to share.

While arrogance and pure idiocy kept me alive, it didn't do much for my learning curve (books and great films took care of that).

Part of the arrogance was based in the reality that I didn't know to look for this attribute in men and didn't know how to make it a part of my "must have" list.

At 31, a surge leading to a case of happy pants was enough to get the party started.

At 40, it came to me: you love conversation and learning. Find someone who is a sparkling conversationalist and brilliant.

Not a buffoon full of hot air who likes to hear himself speak.

I used this self knowledge to seek an individual interested in both an exchange of ideas and what someone else's viewpoint might entail.

How do you find this very elusive and tantalizing attribute ?

Look for a man who is committed to growth.

If you have the same conversation more than once does he provide a slightly evolved point of view ?

Is he willing to try something that may or may not work ?

Does he welcome ideas and innovative ideas that are not his ?

Does he invite you to disagree ?

15May/160

Three Secrets to a Successful Relationship Part 2 (Laughter)

Does he still make you laugh ? I haven't seen him naked lately... Dorothy Zbornak, The Golden Girls

More than a year ago, I wrote about my insane need for comedy and laughter and even wrote a formal invitation for the brilliant Margaret Cho to marry me (Cho you missed out; I'm hitched).

After writing this post and continuing with my insane obsession with what makes love work, I stumbled upon a great insight.

Laughter.

I looked at my most fulfilling and uplifting relationships and realized this is one area that consistently presented itself.

Much like the primary secret of successful relationships (shared values), comedy and the ability to find humor in things as a couple is what is needed. Like values, comedy is individual and personal. What I am referring to here is the ability as a couple to create shared joy via comedic interaction with the environment.

Couples often design their own comedy "bits" based on what they find mutually amusing and downright hysterical.

For years, I stated that my closest allies made me laugh and learn something in every conversation.

With humor as my guide, I began searching for different types of love.

My man needs to be funny as hell. Period.

Living in this country and in this world can be scary, frustrating and at times downright fucked (up). You better have a "ride or die" soldier at your side who can point out things that are ridiculous and comical.

My man does incredible characters and voices (Brooklyn hood rat, British society maven, Irish brogue, Maine and everything in between) there is never a shortage of character driven humor and insight in my home.

By constructing the ability to delight one another, we have made a place to retreat when things occur that leave us frustrated.

Having been in relationships that had no humor taught me that this is not the type of interaction that I either require nor can accept.

As a black man who dates white men and has to deal with classism, racism both internal and external, community upset and social interaction on a daily basis, it is wise to have something that will allow for safe and ongoing navigation.

A shared sense of humor is one thing that will allow for continual victory when facing the aforementioned destructive variables.

So what do you and your man joke about ? Find hysterical and ridiculous ?

11Apr/160

Three Secrets to a Successful Relationship

Many gay men wrongly assume that sexual attraction means relationship (material).

What is not understood is how to create wonderful relationships.

Often times those of us who have created something wonderful go underground.

We make it difficult to provide tangible, visible proof of what two men who are in love the right way can create. Most of us not only don't know how to date but also bring these simplistic types of interaction to our attempts to design relationships.

When we are limited to less than stellar relationship resources, we can only recreate more of what doesn't work.

Spending damn near three decades and unmentionable failures trying to make love work, there are three things that repeatedly show up when successful relationships are the topic.

Incidentally, these are the same three things that can be utilized in developing incredible friendships.

For a very long time, it was a goal of mine to be in a loving relationship that would assuage all past mishaps.

While I had no idea how to do this, it never was clear until a friend pointed it out, that nothing substantial could be created without a similar /identical set of values.

Like many of my misguided brothers, my assumption was sexual attraction equals relationship (see the wonderful Bethany Marshall for a clearer understanding of the limited thinking this provides). When these colossal flops presented themselves one time too many, my focus became finding a man with similar values.

Often times you can ask a person directly what they find important and although many either don't know or feign ignorance, simply watching a potential paramour will yield some honest and clear indicators.

My brilliant acting coach Colette Duvall always taught us that the subconscious always reads.

Another way to view this philosophy : watch what a person gives their time and attention to.

If your date claims exclusivity but is spending a whole lot of time at the bathhouse, it is time to rethink the relationship if your goal is monogamy.

If you are interested in saving money and the new paramour finds ways to not only refuse to look for work but finds ways to spend the agreed upon mutual savings, he is not interested in honoring you or your finances.

After agreeing to support your decision to attend school, does the "potential" mate find ways to create chaos when you should be preparing for a major exam ?

If so, take a look at your values and determine if this is the man for you.

You can't really get anyone to change their values or necessarily adopt yours.

In the same fashion, you've both shared the desire to protect the relationship and the home you share and as a result neither of you invite psychos into your home for any reason this is also a shared value.

If the term "values" seems to airy fairy or clinical think : what does this person find important and what do I find important ? If there is a match differences can and should be examined and worked through.

Do you know the values of your latest love interest ? Do you have an agreed upon definition of monogamy ? Open relationship ? The way you spend your time ?

Here are few wonderful insights from the aforementioned Dr. Bethany Marshall which should be memorized when we are attempting to fall in love and want to desperately build a lasting successful relationship.

Healthy relationships are founded on mutuality (both of you are equally invested in the relationship), honesty(you never walk away from a conversation feeling confused) and generativity (each conversation generates a new experience, a new understanding and a new way of being with each other).

If these factors are there, then consider falling in love !

31Mar/160

How to Eliminate the Good/Bad Parent Hoax

Most of my young life, I dreamt of a large family with many children screaming, playfully terrorizing one another and basically providing loads of love and energy in a semi large contained space.

There were only two problems : I am gay and I could not find another suitable individual who had done the emotional and psychological work that would allow us to co-parent from a position of love and guidance and not neediness.

The more I longed for young ones and fought to become and stay emotionally healthy, the fewer men I encountered who were healthy enough to raise or consider guiding young people.

I have always loved and valued children.

My commitment to children is also a commitment to community.

As a young boy, I had the distinct and memorable experience of being raised in many intergenerational situations.

Whether it was an uncle teaching us the latest dance steps or an aunt sneaking us into Richard Pryor's concert film and performing Macbeth in the living room, we had many and varied influences who all influenced and loved us in very different ways.

When my parents could not tolerate my daydreams and basement, standing room only performances, my sister and I would head down the street to an always eager audience (our grandparents).

When raising children certain realities will present themselves.

At some point, adults lose their patience. They will say or do something stupid or insensitive.

Bad parenting and making a bad choice are not one in the same.

Many parents, including my own, are obsessively concerned with being perceived as a good or bad parent.

The parenting gestapo is not concerned with supporting parents and communities dedicated to rearing children.

When parents accept the good/bad parent title, they've lost the parenting battle and have limited their ability to think and make amends.

We all get seduced into the lies that say everyone is more capable, organized and loving than we are.

When the silent voice of defeat constantly whispers we are losers and have no business raising children, many of us react by criticizing, controlling and frantically attempting to dominate every aspect of our children's young lives.

We no longer do what's best for our children.

We do what's best for us and hope that this lack of thought and future planning will not cause any severe and psychological upset.

The trick to creating new parenting strategies is not focusing on whether a parent is good or bad.

Using our community as a source of support, tough love and inumerable ways to interact with young people, we are able to create new strategies for loving and guiding our young people and give up the concept of good/bad parenting.

27Mar/160

Are You Relying on Victoria’s Secret or Viagra to Save Your Relationship?

When couples want to improve their relationships, the concept of communication along with fair fighting gets dusted off and revisited.

If that fails to create the desired results, we are then told to take on the other's view point; walk a mile or two in someone else's loafers.

While these things may get the party started they don't sustain and they are only part of the equation.

We often get communication very confused.

When someone says that another person doesn't communicate, it usually means a person is not responding a particular way or an expectation has gone unmet.

Behavior is communication.

When whining, coercion, bullying and ultimatum giving cease to work, we throw our hands to the heavens and angrily start creating an exit strategy.

What if the reasons we move our relationship forward have nothing to do with all of the Cosmo tips, eye contact, seeking to understand before being understood and a host of other tips that only sell magazines but provide no hope or lasting solutions.

What if keeping your primary intimate relationship has nothing to do with new sexual positions, roses, candlelight or romantic music.

The solution to boredom and deepening relationships is trust and without accountability there is no trust.

We all make agreements in every relationship.

When we want to create better relationships, we must make better agreements.

Nothing improves the communication and intimacy, trust and accountability like facing a challenge together and becoming victorious in the process.

I refer to this concept as a shared victory.

Shared victory is the systematic and unrelenting pursuit of a goal that all involved parties find exciting and worthwhile.

My life partner and I are very different people.

Race, age, upbringing, and education have greatly influenced how we see things, problem solve and make decisions.

While we have yet to face a challenge that can't be handled and won over, I know that life and the universe will periodically give you a swift kick in the groceries just so you know you're alive and should stay awake.

We have made decisions regarding money, housing and how to make sure that the other is taken care of when the time comes for one of us to kick the bucket.

We have had and continue to create and implement plans that allow for "shared victories". This is the key to having a highly sensual and powerful relationship.

When trouble or conflict come knocking, we collectively gather our strengths and turn towards each other with a heartfelt: What are we gonna do ?

The wise partnership will allow each party to handle what they do best.

In John Maxwell's How Successful People Think, he points out that most people are either strategic or intuitive.

My husband is strategic.

Many times planning something as much as three to four weeks out.

I am intuitive.

I work towards things with the end in mind but am very flexible on how I get there.

Recently, we both started wearing glasses and for very different reasons.

I cannot see far away and he cannot see things close up.

We have a system that works.

I write out the checks and he drives.

Shared Victories are also very sexy because according to Esther Perel in Mating in Captivity, we are often the most turned on when we see the sight of our beloved doing what they do best and are born to do with passion.

Ditch the Viagra,sexy outfits and role play and find something (a common goal) that excites you both and go after it like a couple of beasts.

Trust me it will be far more rewarding than sitting around date night discussing the shit you could discuss at home without wasting gas or looking for a parking spot.

 

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