Friday, April 2, 2010

Precious Star to Host Saturday Night Live

The announcement was made recently that Gabourey Sidibe, the star of the movie Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, will be hosting the late-night show Saturday Night Live later this month.  This turn at comedy will be quite the departure from the dramatic role she had as an abused, illiterate, teenager in her Academy Award-nominated performance.  Many in the entertainment industry are already waiting with anticipation to see how she does in this new genre.

For those who have seen the movie Precious, you know that it is a powerful story that largely focuses on a mother and daughter relationship.  Precious' mother, Mary (who is played by Oscar winner Mo'Nique), is dysfunctional and abusive in every way possible.  She takes out much of her life's frustrations on her lonely daughter, even passing on that abuse to her own grandchild. 

The book and the subsequent movie that was created share extreme examples of domestic abuse--physical, emotional, mental, and sexual--that most of us cannot comprehend. 

Where does the hate originate that causes one person to act in such a way to their own flesh and blood?  What role does the community (teachers, church leaders, social workers, etc) play in getting involved when violence such as that depicted in Precious is occurring?  What are your thoughts?

In my book Kendra's Pearl, I offer another example of the long-term consequences when the relationship between a mother and daughter is shattered or at least bruised.  If you haven't yet, I hope you will read my book.  I would love your feedback!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Welcome, Spring!

I would like to officially welcome Spring to the United States!  After what seemed like an endless winter during which snow fell on almost every single state and below freezing temperatures were the norm, the sun is shining and the birds are singing.

This time of year, one of renewal and birth, is one that always gets me to reflect on changes I would like to make in my own life.  Maybe the first day of spring is a more appropriate date than January 1 for all of us to make resolutions!  After all, isn't this time that we open the windows in our home and do the best cleaning of the year?  Aren't we more likely to exercise when it's not so cold that all we want to do is curl up under a blanket on the couch?  This is also the perfect season to try the resolution of learning a new skill, like gardening, jogging, or becomes a master with the backyard grill. 

Does the start of spring renew your desire to make some improvements in your life?

Spring also brings back memories of the games I used to love as a child.  This was back in the day when you didn't come inside until the street lights came on.  I spent hours playing hopscotch, riding bikes, or just using my imagination while sitting on the front porch with friends.  We all couldn't wait until it was warm enough to escape our homes and experience from freedom outside, even if it was just around the block.

Do you have certain childhood memories that you associate with spring?

In my book, Kendra's Pearl, I like to think the title character gets to experience some of the happiness that spring brings.  She lives with a mom who resents her and who makes her the focus of every regret in life.  And, she is surrounded by extended family who often want to help but are dealing with their own flaws and struggles.  On sunny days, I bet that a quiet porch step was one of the best places that Kendra could imagine spending her time.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Parents Who Take Out Life's Regrets on Their Children

In my book Kendra's Pearl, my title character is raised by a mother who take out her life's regrets on her children.  Instead of wanting her daughter to have a better life than she had experienced, she sees Kendra as representing the many possibilities she no longer has for herself.  Through no fault of her own, Kendra becomes the victim of years of psychological abuse and emotional neglect.

Unfortunately, we see this type of immature and resentful behavior played out by parents all the time.  How about the dad who was never able to make the varsity squad and now gets just a little bit jealous when his son is the starting quarterback at a Division I school.  Or, there is the mom who stands and cheers when her daughter is announced as Homecoming Queen but, in the back of her mind, can't help but think about her own lonely days in high school.  These parents are still happy for their kids and support all of their endeavors, which is more supportive of a relationship than Kendra ever experienced, but the jealousy is still there.

Of course, we all want every child to be born into an environment in which she is encouraged and nurtured, but this ideal home is often not the case.  There are plenty of moms (and dads) who, for one reason or another, are unable to provide unconditional love to their children.  This lack of security at a young age can affect kids well into adulthood.

Have you ever observed obvious cases of parents who take out their unhappiness with life on their children?  What were the circumstances?  What do you think caused the mom or dad to use their children as emotional punching bags for their own shortcomings?  Please share if you feel you can.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Who's Your Favorite TV Mom?

While we were growing up, I imagine that most of us had a television mother who we occasioned wished would come into our homes.  Even if we lived in what seemed to be a great home, the kids on the TV always seemed to have it better.  And, if our own moms perhaps did not provide the love and security that we needed, those fictional women became even more of a draw.

Here are a few of the TV moms who I always thought would be great to have around:

Claire Huxtable -- She was a successful attorney who always found time to listen to her kids' problems, support their interests, and discipline them when necessary.  She taught her girls that they could do anything the boys did.

Elyse Keaton -- This mom came of age in the liberal 1960s, but she still respected and embraced the diverse opinions of her kids.  And, she showed them that it was OK to engage in displays of affection with your husband after many years of marriage!

Ann Romano -- This mom, from the 1970s show One Day at a Time, was an example of a strong, single mom for her two teenage girls.  On the program, this family tackled some tough issues that had not been seen a lot on TV before.  Through it all, Ms. Romano always let her girls know they were loved.

Florida Evans -- The matriarch on Good Times kept her family together through her strength, compassion, and hard work.  Even though times were tough, she kept her focus on raising kids with values and a strong education.  She was a no-nonsense woman, but you knew that she had a fierce love for her family.

These are just a few of the many TV mothers who quickly come to mind.  I'm sure that you can offer your own examples. 

In my book Kendra's Pearl, my title character grows up with a mom who likely did not make Kendra the envy of the other kids in the neighborhood.  Kendra's mom was emotionally abusive, when she wasn't altogether distant, and took out her life's regrets on her daughter.  While not the idealized TV mom, perhaps it's a reality to which more of us can relate.

Who was your favorite TV mom?  What about this woman made her such a great mom?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Redefining "Family" to Help Our Children

My novel Kendra's Pearl is a testament to the concept that "it takes a village" to raise a child in our society.  The title character in my book is raised by a mother who comes to resent her and who, at her best, is emotionally distant.  Kendra's father is tragically killed in a motorcycle accident when she is still a young child, so she loses her other parent before much a relationship can even be formed. 

However, throughout the book, readers will meet many other adults who played important roles in Kendra's development, from aunts and grandmothers to teachers and neighbors.  Some offered examples of behaviors and choices that Kendra simply wanted to avoid repeating, while others simply provided the unconditional love that she desperately needed.

Kendra's situation is not uncommon.  More than 35% of the divorces that take place in our country involve children.  And, in 2007, around 40% of the children born in the United States came into this world with an unmarried mother.  The dynamics of what we have traditionally known as a "family" are changing.  I am not making a judgment on this trend as a positive or negative development, but instead stating it as reality ... a reality that we must acknowledge and study in terms of how to help our children.

What are your thoughts on the dramatic increase of children born into single parent homes?  With many of these births occurring among women in their 20s and 30s, they run counter to the stereotype of the teenage mom.  Does this make a difference in how you view the situation?

Please share your thoughts! 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Promising Young Scholar and Athlete Shot Dead in Case of Domestic Violence

If you just open any newspaper or visit any popular news website, you cannot miss the headlines that focus on the violence that occurs within a family.  Just today, some of the articles on included, "Mom stole dead child's ID," "Mom guilty of arming teen," and "Drown baby called 'suspicious'."  While may automatically assume, or find it easier to believe, that most of violence are committed by strangers, the reality is that assailants are people often known to us.  Sadly, it is not unusual for the crimes to be done by those who are supposed to love us the most.

Rajaan Bennett was a young man from Powder Springs, Georgia, who had just received a full scholarship to play football at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  He was an honors students who was liked and respected by his peers.  On February 18, he was shot dead by his mother's ex-boyfriend, Clifton Steger, while trying to protect his mom and other family members.  Steger was upset about the relationship with Bennett's mom coming to an end, and decided to share his grief through the violence of a horrific murder/suicide.

So, that's it.  A grown man who was depressed over losing his girlfriend cut short the life of a promising young man who hoped to use his football skills as a way of earning a degree and becoming an architect. 

The homicide of Rajaan Bennett reveals a disturbing trend.  While initial statistics show a 10% drop in homicides for 2009, the number of homicides occurring in the home seem to be on the rise.  Many believe this increase can be linked to our slow economy.  People become desperate when they cannot afford to care for the family for which they are responsible.  Or, perhaps the support agencies can no longer pay the salaries of enough staff members to care for women who call in a moment of crisis.

Whatever the root cause may be, there is no justification for this senseless homicide.  Still, I would like to hear your thoughts.  How do tough times in the economy affect family relationships and maybe even lead to family violence?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments so that we can learn from one another.