Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sherman Park: Different from Westlawn?




It's taken me a week to process and share an opinion about Sherman Park, and though I'm not a a resident of this neighborhood-I do live in Milwaukee (I think an important distinction) in a multiracial setting with those who have "made it", and those who have been left behind. I deliberately am posting here as opposed to some of the other social media platforms-because as a business owner-so much of this is about the intersection of COMMUNITY and BUSINESS. Both have equal importance. I am old enough to remember this happening in my hometown-Flint, Michigan-the feelings just don't change, even as the years go by. It seems we are doomed to repeat history.
This week though, I attended a Housing Authority City of Milwaukee (HACM), where the Mayor Barrett was present, as he is apt to be these days. What was most striking is that most of the business owners present were almost exclusively people of color and women. This was shocking because usually most of the bidder meetings I attend are lily white (e.g. Bucks arena). Westlawn is due for redevelopment-and it is a community of color-just like hopefully those who get to bid on those improvements. Before the meeting began, there was of course lots of conversation about how the "riots" hurt business. Certainly as an owner-a consideration-no one wants to see their investment go up in flames. It's that word ownership that I think has been left out of the conversation. I believe strongly in a Live-Work environment, and I am known in my neighborhood, by professionals, working class, but most important addicts, prostitutes, and what some might call "adult trouble makers". They know me because almost everyday, as part of my prayer and meditation, I pick up garbage-from empties to condoms in the alley and on the block. I do this because (1), The name of my business TransformationServices, Inc. (TSI) is on the door of the building, but because, (2) I live here. My parents did the same-and cared about our neighborhood-and I saw that. It's a cliche, but I often say I am likely the last of a generation of African-Americans where EVERYBODY who lived in the neighborhood looked just like me-so I had a multitude of role models to ascribe. The man next door was unemployed, my father worked as a welder in the shop (General Motors), and my family physician lived down the street. Many of these neighbors served as surrogate parents (even the guy next door) and reported my bad behavior. My mother did not say "Ingrid didn't do that", I was disciplined. Swiftly.

In a perfect world-we could recreate the village we had for one another from this bygone era-but we can interpret and apply in a more creative way. I'm sure those who don't live in that area have all kinds of ideas to offer-but the truth is Sherman Park should be at the forefront of "solving" this problem-and that includes the violence. Violence is just the end result of rage-and despite what the chief says the police have little or no mental health, or even multicultural training which complicates petty traffic stops (why are they still doing that)? This community denied now of its park, and community gathering place could likely police itself, needing less help. (And by help, I'm meaning the broader definition-nothing wrong with offering snacks and water to those cleaning up, or actually facilitating clean-up). Peace walks while demonstrative-are really preaching to the choir. I'm sure there are those in Sherman Park, who like me pick up trash regularly-but others who don't have any "ownership", just like in my neighborhood can't be bothered.  It's the every day, unnoticed by most, actions by a few that make a neighborhood. Not that tragedy doesn't strike-it's the reaction of the neighborhood when it does. I believe my beautification efforts are small, but impactful. In addition to conversation and garbage detail-TSI has a wellness approach to health that I share. We have a walking track (that same alley), that our students and staff plant with flowers that we give away-believing that like food for the body, flowers and herbs help the mind. We offer those residents that are interested a chance to sit freely in on our Treatment to Training sessions-you never know when a life choice seed will sprout. This is just some of the things that TSI does-but everyone has some expertise they can share-either in your face, or from afar-fearless role modeling. That issue also points to job creation-and the need to still demonstrate to others what the possibilities are not just here locally, state, nation and worldwide. Though my parents had never traveled much outside of our Avon Street neighborhood, they instilled in me that I could. The bits I post on other social media intentionally reference world events: arts, politics, sports. If we don't embrace not just our youth, but adult "trouble makers", reminding them they too can make different life choices. One mistake is not the end. The young adult who was killed-had role models-one of which was his father which did not overshadow his time at the Sherman Park Boys and Girl Club.

I'll admit that yes, my business does dovetail nicely with the needs of my community-but I'd do it anyway. Everyone can share what they do or did for a living or hobby. Undiagnosed mental illness and substance abuse-is my mantra-and I'll speak on it until I take my last breath. I'm sure that may be why some who live and work in these communities are hesitant to get "involved". But get involved with those residents we look away from-we must see them. I see them while picking up trash, and at the very least-say hello. With the Affordable Care Act and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Parity-accessing services are not perfect, but better. In this one woman's opinion-the health of this community should be left to those who actually live there to decide-and then devise a way to present and request economic opportunities for its residents which may include business ownership. And speaking of help, some of these people that are flocking to "help", likely see financial gain. I agree whole heartedly with Marjorie Rucker, Executive Director of The Business Council-who I first heard make that assertion.

Circling back to my HACM meeting, because most of the development in Milwaukee has been in the downtown area, (Rocky Marcoux recently had difficulty with his reappointment because of that focus) Sherman Park is now in the driver's seat to obtain any business-and I emphasize business-development plan they  desire-even though it's a residential neighborhood. They just need to ask. I was pleased to see so many minority businesses represented at the HACM-but Westlawn or any other neighborhood could be next without their faithful few. I'm hoping that from the flames a few phoenixes of Sherman Park rise.

Dr. Ingrid D. Hicks,
Clinical and Executive Director,TransformationServices, Inc.                                                 www.transformationservices.info

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Orange HAS BEEN the New Black for Women of Color

11 years and 1 month ago today, I was released from spending nearly 3 years in prison. Though I have forgotten much of my experience-some of it remains emblazoned on my mind. Going to prison for many of us-even with education and success (I was and still am a licensed Clinical Psychologist in Wisconsin), is all too common place. In fact none of this is new for women of color-or men for that matter. Incarceration for many communities is "just how it is".

Even so, I do remember a few things from prison, many of those experiences are seen and included in the book turned Netflix hit Orange is the New Black. Many, many truisms (and all of those characters) are omnipresent, as seen here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/emilyorley/memorable-moments-from-orange-is-the-new-black-season-2   

In binge watching the second season, two charcters have emerged as favorites: Sophia Burset (portrayed by Laverne Cox) who was nominated for an Emmy, as well as the first transgendered role recognized by these awards; and "Crazy Eyes" played by Uza Aduba shown as the resident mentally ill inmate. I was very pleased to see many of the disparities of  incarcerated women. For example, some women feel a need to belong to a group as does "Crazy Eyes", while other do not, as in Ms. Burset.  The theme of this second season is commerce, or how women (and men) survive in episodes like "Appropriately Sized Pots".  Everything can be bought in prison-for a price. What really happens when the supply chain is cut, or competition is introduced? It's the stuff of MBA programs.

 Jenji Kohan  the  show's creator, writer, producer and director, thankfully gave the viewer the back story of each of show's characters-how did these women end up in prison? Included in every episode the issue of their undiagnosed mental illness: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia, addictions and abuse of all kinds, most of which read like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-Fifth Edition. These issues produced some of my favorite lines from  "patient" Crazy Eyes: "I do not remember taking Lady Loxley (ode to Downton Abbey) out there" , or "I'm not crazy, I'm unique", and best of all "My therapist says yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery". "Crazy Eyes", is mentally ill undoubtedly-as she notes "She is a truth teller, she told me that". Undiagnosed mental illness is rampant not only in our nations prisons, but on our streets as well.The deinstitutionalization of our community health system 30 years ago is to blame-instead of here-they are overflowing out of our jails and prisons. Most penal facilities are ill equipped to handle this population, and consequently there has been a call to provide more services, but most of the funding goes to men. There are more of them and their supporters scream louder. I'd like to see access to health care in general improve for everyone, including incarcerated women, and decrease the imprisonment and recidivism rates across the board. This is now a reality, as greater access to care with the advent of the Affordable Care Act-many states (unfortunately-not Wisconsin) has become actively involved with enrolling ex-offenders in health care programs once they are released-so they receive the treatment they desperately need.

Since being released from prison, I have noticed more programs for re-entry and reunification such as in Bedford Hills. (Where Orange takes place). 

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/nyregion/the-sister-of-second-chances.html?_r=0
Bedford Hills has been the focus on cutting edge programs-I saw the movie "Prison Lullabies" years ago  at a film festival, but that's just one prison."Over-incareration" affects us all, and we all ultimately pay the price. As Wisconsin has the highest rate for African-American men-as James Causey editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/a-wisconsin-epidemic-imprisoning-black-men-b99306532z1-266824771.html  
It's our problem, not a "black" problem.  Education, jobs training, treatment assist the ex-offender (male or female) to become a contributing citizens. before they are released. 


The star of Orange Piper Kerman (played by Taylor Schilling) has too taken up activism
http://piperkerman.com/videos 

and while it's a good thing-it's not a new thing for women of color to be incarcerated, and I don't see many women of color speaking out on the issue-even after 14 years-it's about time.

I can confidently say I would not be the Clinical and Executive Director of my company TransformationServices, Inc (TSI), had I not gone to prison.  The mission and vision of (TSI) is to provide Substance Abuse Training. The program focuses on the unemployed, underemployed, employees, and business owners. One of our company goals is to offer mental health and substance abuse care to everyone with a focus on minority communities and in doing so increase the number of minority providers in this subspeciality. The issue affects these communities disproportionately. TSI also offers AODA training for the Prevention Specialist/in Training, as well as the advanced licenses Clinical/Substance Abuse Counselors, Intermediate Clinical Supervisor, Independent Clinical Supervisor, as well as sub-specialty substance abuse education and supervision for the Mental Health- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). We hire our students, and/or provide on-site job referrals. TSI functions as a consortium; our therapists have a wide range of expertise and backgrounds. Our facility GreenCircle offers a growing environment that also supports a Social Entrepreneurship Incubator for Professionals and Professionals to Be. We feel very strongly that the peer to peer approach works-and we are active in re-entry efforts for ex-offenders, especially women. www.transformationservices.info


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Black History Month, Women's History Month, Academy Awards: Venn Diagram?


Yes, I too am going to watch the Academy Awards-along with a billion others around the world. So I was particularly pleased that there were so many good movies this year that spotlighted people, and more importantly women of color: The Butler, Black Nativity, Fruitvale Station, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, 20 Feet from Stardom and of course 12 Years a Slave. Despite the diverse lot-only two-12 Years and 20 Feet were nominated. This reminded me of my last post-about the compelling and for me, life altering movie Beasts of the Southern Wild-and it's young starlet Quevenzhane Wallis. Miss Wallis was in 12 Years as well, playing Solomon's daughter Margaret. Also a standout was Lupita Nyong'o.

12 Years a Slave

 I hope to see much more of her work in the years to come. Because so much of the topic material, and timing seems to intersect-Ms. Wallis has gone on to star in her next movie due out December, 2014-Annie. I hope Lupita Nyong'o will also be in a new role this time next year. She is wonderfully diverse-Kenyan, but raised in Mexico.

Last, I was also pleased to see Darlene Love finally get her due in a best documentary nomination   20 Feet From Stardom. about a great background singer thrust front and center and what a difficult a journey even that 20 feet that can be-cleaning notwithstanding.

Asian women's life journeys and stories were also represented wonderfully as well. Cutie and the Boxer, was also nominated for best documentary (Love the art form, and of course all of the flower references). Cutie knows her worth, even married to an emotionally abusive alcoholic-she continues to flourish.


For all of the nominees, winners-and host Ellen DeGeneres-I'm looking forward to a great show.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild-Have You Seen It? You should!




I have seen the movie "Beasts of the Southern Wild" now three times. I fully expect to see it at least that many times more. Each viewing I discover something more to love about it, and its heroine Quevenzhane'  Wallis. It is a difficult movie to watch:but that is what makes it so very magical and a must see. To an outsider-questionable parenting-in fact from a Clinical Psychologists' vantage point-even abusive. 6 year old "Hush Puppy" really raises herself, her mom leaving her to be parented by her alcoholic father, Wink (Dwight Henry) who is dying from some unknown illness. It doesn't matter what the illness is-the fact is he is dying, and his daughter will have to fin for herself-and have to learn to do so in a hurry. So in his last days he teaches her how to catch and make food, find shelter, attend school, and live among a community of outsiders in "The Bathtub".  Add a haunting score, unforgettable images-this is a movie that stays with you for a lifetime. Even more astonishing is that the two main characters are not professional actors.

The Bathtub is also a source of distress for outsiders looking in. It recalls the disasters of Katrina, but this community lives constantly with the challenges of coping with a volatile environment that you are wholly dependent on for food and shelter. The average viewer might initially be horrified at such abject poverty-but these Delta dwellers love their lives and each other.  They can think of no better place to call home. In fact, their worst fear is to be cared for by social services.

It is this delicate balance of the environment that "Hush Puppy" has to navigate that is so tear provoking for me. She believes that she has broken all that is near and dear to her-Wink included that is so sad. I love that at such an early age she has realized that she is a little piece of the universe, and she wants to preserve this way of life for those that come after her. It is difficult to bury a parent at any age-but as a child-mind boggling. Even more impressive she understands at this young age there is a circle of life, one she must pass on. We have all become more "green" in our day to day lives, but we would all do well to see the world as diverse and wonderful as she does. In her world, it doesn't take more than caring for her animals, a pile of seafood, a shed for shelter, and those that love her (especially her daddy) nearby to make her happy.

In the end, Hush Puppy ultimately faces her fears which take the form of "aurochs" a pere-historic beast that she envisions as tipping the delicate balance of nature, and contributing to the death of her dad. In fact, it is her that assists with his transition-and as he promised-she becomes the leader of this tight knit community. She knows somehow you always lose the one "that made you". Poetically told and heartfelt-it will leave you glad and sad all at the same time. It has been years since a movie has stirred such emotion in me-and perhaps because it is at a time when so much about my life and business has grown in such unexpected ways. To build a house is one thing, a workspace is another, but combining the two-so that you can create a life for yourself, family and create jobs for your community-is a painstaking labor of love. After seeing this movie-we believe we are on right track. My company TransformationServices, Inc uses a holistic approach to counseling: incorporating a healthier physical, emotional, and spiritual lifestyle.This "green" and growing environment also supports a Social Entrepreneurship Incubator for Professionals and "Professionals to Be" that are, or want to be Substance Abuse or Mental Health Counselors. Like Hush Puppy, "The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right".

I would love to hear from others who have seen it, what the movie meant to them-according to the director and producer-it means something different to everyone. I recently got my DNA tests back (Fula/Mende-Temme, Kru) found from Sierra Leone to Liberia) which may also have contributed to my wonderment and appreciation of "Beasts", where we all question the legacy of where we come from, and what we wish to leave behind. According to the end of the film, "I'm recording my story for the scientists in the future. In a million years when kids go to school they are going to know that once there was a Hush Puppy, and she lived with her daddy in the bathtub".

Saturday, November 13, 2010

For Colored Girls:Revisted

















Now that the dust has settled, and the pundits have had their say. I'd like to revisit the recent Tyler Perry "remake" of For Colored Girls. I hesitate to use that term, because Mr. Perry chose to add two characters to the cast that Nztonge Shange created in her award winning play. I think it is worth mentioning that Ms. Shange suffers from Bipolar disorder (further explored in Liliane), and has battled back from a stroke a few years ago. Even so she looms large as a literary figure still-I just read her Some Sing, Some Cry written with her sister. Revisiting this play allowed me to go back and re-read some other Shange favorites, as well as discover new ones like her poem-pictorial with Romare Bearden.

Much of the criticism of the movie was related to the harsh portrayal of African-American men that Shange tells through her 7 characters.African-American columnists had clever titles for their opinion pieces-perhaps most notable For colored men who have considered suicide who have to sit through another Tyler Perry movie. In his defense Mr. Perry notes that he couldn't make a movie in which there was no positive black male. I guess he's not including many of his other characters from Meet the Browns, House of Payne, and of course the Madea movies. The centerpiece of the Shange production is the A nite with beau willie brown-which in the movie also takes center stage, but ties the other characters stories together midway.
Understandable, but a definite departure from the play. While appreciated Mr. Perry's admittance that this was based on the play, (and hence the shortened title), for me the movie was less about those changes than it was to hear that searing choreopoem once again-which is why I posted a readily available version of the play above. For colored girls, who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf was the very first play I had seen-at the McCree Theater in Flint, Michigan-I was 19. And thus began my love affair with live performance. From that moment on, I went to every play that came to town-even though I was a psychology major, I took a theater class. Extra credit was offered for seeing more than the required performances. Elizabeth the 1st, Waiting for Godot-nothing was off limits for me. A few years later, while in graduate school, my grandmother sent me some money, which I used to go to New York City to see Dream Girls (nothing like the movie by the way). These experiences broadened to other genres-live classical and jazz, art exhibits by Georgia O'Keefe, Monet, Romare Bearden, ManRay at the Art Institute MOMA, LACMA, dance by Alvin Ailey, American Ballet Theater, Opera at the Met, it was an insatiable desire. I've even traveled to different countries to see performances- jazz vocalist DeeDee Bridgewater (actually from Flint) is a regular in Europe. As I've gotten older, my artistic interests have become more experimental, and I am more interested in the story behind the work. It is not unusual for me and my husband to fly to a city just for some opening.

So for me the re-telling of For Colored Girls is long overdue. I missed seeing Somebody almost walked off wid alla of my stuff, I'm Sorry, No Assistance, I used to live in a world, My love is, and of course, A layin on of hands. I'm not sure if a younger generation would have seen it-especially as a play-though powerful-it is not performed often. Had I not been exposed to this art form, I might not have bothered with August Wilson-many African-Americans have never heard of him. I'm no fan of Madea, but as a businesswoman even I can see one of the things that make Mr. Perry a marketing genius-is that he tapped an ignored market, gave them the same product again, again and again. This is why he is the 2nd highest earning man in Hollywood by Forbes magazine. Perhaps Mr. Perry will continue to bring serious drama to the stage and screen-he and Oprah did produce Push by Sapphire into Precious. (Oscar winner, Monique is slated to announce the Academy Awards January 25th, with the awards being broadcast February 27th-during black history month). He now has the financial and artistic freedom to bring his largely female audience along to experience the arts in a broader sense. To whom much is given much is expected. African-Americans often are the creators of these art forms, and it is a shame that more of us don't support the arts as a whole. Halle Berry has won, and may be nominated again this year. We now have the chance to support her by going to see Frankie & Alice, a true story of a woman with multiple personality disorder. This is usually the type of movie we as a group avoid, even though undiagnosed mental illness is rampant in our community. Like Tyler Perry, how about expanding your horizons?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Who is Superman ?






















Waiting for Superman is the title of a popular (and by the way great) movie. The premise is that we are all waiting on superman to change our educational system. Taken more broadly, it could be said that we are also "Waiting on Superman" for a variety of social ills besides education. As in my last blog, Milwaukee continues to dominate the news with negative statistics. Our city is now fourth in poverty in the nation. Was there an outcry from the most affected-African-Americans Latino, and other people of color? Of course not. This statistic primarily reflects how families with children are suffering-in this especially post election season. The politician rhetoric from the right and the left is jobs, jobs, jobs. President Obama believes the democratic party took a "shellacking" in the midterms because he lost his connection with the electorate. I'd say that the electorate is not ready for living in the 21st century. I want to examine this from a different perspective-I wonder if as a community we became less dependent on government, in this scenario "Superman", if we would find ourselves in this same predicament.

Let me explain. There was a time in the not to distant past-African-Americans could not depend on the government-even for the most basic protections. All of the strides that the Civil Rights Movement have given us of late are not being fully utilized. Voting, and education are far less important, so consequently whether our elected officials even bother to provide us with the tools to become a functioning taxpayer is debatable. Our education system is a perfect example-does it develop marketable skills, or encourage higher education, which ultimately leads to a satisfying career? For the most part no-graduation rates in Milwaukee still hover between 60 and 70%. Yes, there are high profile success stories, but why are they high profile? They should be the norm. It should still be expected that our children further their education, settle in a career, marry and have children-in that order. Nearly 20 years after the publication of my first book, I am still preaching largely the same message-education, education, education. Better still become a lifelong learner in whatever your field. Continue to respond to innovations, and there will always be a market for your skill. I continue to improve on my credentials, so that I can compete in the health care system. Next on my horizon is increasing my EAP practice through telemedicine, and on-line training for those in the health care field.


We need to revisit the mindset of the days when no one owed us anything, and we had to get it for ourselves. A plethora of $25.00 an hour manufacturing jobs are never coming back, nor is the certainty of 'working for the government and retiring". We need to plan our futures accordingly-that means putting education first once again. As President Obama noted the best job plan is an education plan. While "Waiting for Superman" rightfully points out some of the inadequacies of many school systems-they are not totally to blame-much of the blame falls on the parents. I am still appalled at the lack of parenting skills I see on a daily basis. Because the village has largely disappeared, today's' parents have no one to emulate, model, or learn from-many of us that have "made it", are hesitant because of the responses of parents that don't know any better. No one likes to be cussed out.

I went to a "mediocre at best" Flint Public School System for all 12 years of primary education, my mother was an involved parent as any other-nothing special. If she suspected something was a miss at school, she went up there-she didn't need a PTA meeting, and in most cases the teacher was usually right. The difference was that my mother made sure I went and graduated because it was expected-nothing else was acceptable. Barbara had extraordinary expectations from my ordinary performance. No one rises to mediocricty. Was I challenged in college because of this so-so primary learning environment?Absolutely! Did I quit? Not a chance, because I had been taught that a higher education was the key to financial freedom. I just had to work a little harder. I got my PhD in Clinical Psychology, and I have never been sorry.

And you know what? It has been the best choice I could have made. I don't worry at night about whether social security will be around, because I am not dependent on the government for my living-or to take care of me. I have not suffered in this economic downturn, because I own my own business-not just seeing clients, but consulting, as well as educating the disenfranchised (who heavily depend on government) to become Substance Abuse Counselors (whom we will never have enough) to own their own practices. My goal is not to retire, and certainly hope if I plan well enough, that if illness should befall, hopefully I'll be prepared. (That topic is for the next blog-our desire to live beyond our means). That is the mindset that we need to return-less dependent on government, and more dependent on our own abilities. We can rely on ourselves more, and the government less. WE CAN provide more for the least amongst us. Perhaps we are who we have been waiting for-just maybe WE ARE SUPERMAN?!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It STILL Takes a Village





















I am strong and brave.
I wonder who and what.
I hear the heartbeat of nature.
I see the rough waves of life.
I want war to stop.
I am a leader.
I feel my family beside me.
I touch my life and feel alive.
I worry too much.
I cry tears of joy.
I understand school.
I say what I feel.
I dream the world is a good place.
I try to go beyond what I can do.
I hope a better world.
I am me.
Ryan T. Wynn 3/17/10








































I am obviously quite proud of my nieces. They have high aspirations for themselves, but none higher than the village that supports them. Their parents-my sister Jill and my brother-in-law Roderick, have done an excellent job of putting them on the right track by emphasizing the necessity of education. I recently informed Ryan that she was to become an attorney-because of her strong sense of self and argumentative nature. Her sister Sydney was told that she was to become a doctor because of her love of helping and thinking of others, but more so her love of math and reading. Now they have some say in their final destination, but not much. Why? because they have always had high expectations from their village of family, friends and loved ones.





A recent statistic reported that in Milwaukee, African-American students in the 4th grade read at a lower rate than every other state of the union and the District of Columbia. While everyone is rightfully horrified, we can not point at any one reason for this problem: other states spend less money on education, have a higher rate of unemployment, and more single parent homes than we do. Further, Wisconsin seems to be the first on many lists: highest rate of African-American males incarcerated, near the top in teen age pregnancies, and now this. While it is true that African-American boys have a different and more active learning style, this is no excuse not to read at all. Our children exercise their minds and bodies less and less. I remember very well when Sydney Alexandria, a serious student already, learned to read-her mother called me on the phone, and let me here her read out loud. Needless to say I was thrilled, and she has been reading voraciously ever since-I can't keep up with her! Ryan Taylor, artistic, setting her own style, choosing what she reads, has a definite love of all things green-will soon make the connection between education, hard work, and success (or as she says fame, fortune, and the red carpet). There was a time when education was more valued in our community-we owned our own businesses, homes, and expected our children to do better than we did, moving away from the village-and yes this has been said umpteen times before, but we apparently need reminding again.





I can remember growing up in a nearly all black community-910 S. Avon Street-the family next door was on welfare, our family physician lived down the street, and my father worked in the shop. All role models from which to choose-and become somebody. And yes, my neighborhood wasn't that unusual. My parents were like many others-when we got in trouble, those parents called my parents, and they had permission to chastise me as well. The message to me was I had a number of parents, all who had my well being in mind (no, it didn't feel that way at the time). Most important was the instillation of my own self-worth. I'm not sure if my mother knew it at the time, but I can never thank her enough, for teaching me my importance and giving me the desire to KNOW. Moreover, DO your best, BE the best. I had expectations.


Ryan seems to be facing similar challenges in school theses days, and her village is speaking to her loud and clear. Sydney loves school, (and the color orange) and is harder on herself than any of her village ever could be-her expectations are of her own making. As Mother's Day, Father's Day and summer vacation rapidly approaches, we need to continue the educational lessons of the school year. Learning does not stop because the classrooms are closed. Read to a child-have them read to you. Read TOGETHER (I am reading The 39 Clues with Ryan). Be a parent, whether you have children or not. We have a responsibility, and they are counting on us-more now than ever.