Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Coffee and Gratitude

Years ago when I was a practicing therapist there was a ritual I followed every morning.  Part of my ritual was to sit down at my kitchen table with my first cup of coffee and write a gratitude list.  I believe that when we have an appreciation for our gifts the quality of our life can improve.  There is science to support my theory.  Positive Psychology tells us that practicing thankfulness can combat negative situations.
During the span of time that I was truly diligent about writing my Gratitude List I was living in a rural small town about 20 miles outside of Houston.  I had a small vegetable garden in my back yard.  I grew potatoes, onions, leafy greens, yellow squash, tomatoes and jalapenos… nothing extravagant, just the things I wanted to eat.  I made my own strawberry and apple jam.  My office was exactly 8 minutes from my driveway, that’s if every traffic light was red.  I’m wandering a little, but it’s to illustrate a point. 
My life was simpler then.  I was able to take the time out of each day to reflect on my life and pay attention to all of the things in my life for which I am grateful.  Effective today I am reinstituting that part of my morning ritual.  I have started my Gratitude List.  I encourage you to join with me and start your own Gratitude List.  Let me give you a few words of warning before you decide to join me.  Gratitude does not come as easily as complaining.  Start slowly. Learn to be grateful for both the obvious things like waking up and the things you may take for granted, like the ability to walk to your car.

I wish now that I still had those lists I made so many years ago when my child was still young and I would look out of my kitchen window and watch the birds at the bird feeder, the spring flowers billowing in the wind and an occasional deer creeping through the woods.  I plan to hold on the new list so that I can reflect in one year, five years or even in ten years.  As we move forward in life it’s always interesting to stop and take stock of how far we’ve travelled on our journey.
How often do you stop to acknowledge the things for which you are grateful?

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Photo Courtesy of Huff Post

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Graduations and New Beginnings

Please enjoy this repost that remains relevant today.
I am from a large family.  May and June of every year is a time for graduations and new beginnings.  Each year I can expect at least two or three family members to graduate from something.  Kindergarten, middle school, high school, undergraduate college, graduate school…there is always a graduation.

This year with the economy in its current state, I can’t help but wonder what will come of the graduates in my family and in yours.  Gone are the days when a person could graduate from college and have 5 or 6 really good job offers to consider. Many traditional college graduates (those that graduate on time, in four years) are seeking internships in lieu of seeking jobs.  It is the hope of many that the internship will lead to a more permanent job opportunity.  For the class of 2013 the future is not necessarily bright.

According to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. employers added 165,000 workers to non-farm payrolls in April, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent from 7.6 percent.  That is the lowest unemployment rate we have seen since December 2008. Yet we are still faced with millions of people in the U.S. who are among the ranks of the long-term unemployed.  How does this fresh new crop of eager, ready and educated graduates impact their ability to find work?

I was always told that the key to ensuring a successful and secure future was education.  Life has taught me that education is only a good, solid start.  I will always be a strong proponent for education.  Yet I want the class of 2013 to understand that they must work hard to ensure their own futures.  While it is great to get a job with a top tier company, don’t rest on your laurels.  Learn what you can from every job opportunity you have. Figure out how you can contribute to the American landscape.  Think about entrepreneurship. 

When I reflect on my freshman year of college I think of how certain I was about my future.  Now I see how much I have moved away from the vision I had for my life so many years ago. Class of 2013, here is my message for you“The only thing constant is change.  Always be prepared for change.”

Graduation is only the beginning.  Now is the time to start the real work. 

Are you doing now what you expected to do when you were 18 or 22?

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Are Black People Better Off?

Today I am concerned about the state of mind of Clive Bundy and his supporters. It is disheartening to know that Clive has lived his life filled with such hate and misinformation.  I am saddened that he never opened his mind and his heart to learn more about a race that appears to have caused him to be consumed with hate.  
Clive Bundy initially gained notoriety because he has allowed his cattle to graze on government owned land since 1993 and refused to pay the more than $1 million he owes in grazing fees.  When government officials approached him about the money owed, Bundy and his supporters armed themselves with weapons in response.  Bundy successfully changed the focus from the millions owed to the government to an ongoing American social concern.

With the eye of the media on him, Bundy took the opportunity to share his thoughts on the "Negro":

"I'm wondering if they're better off under a government subsidy and their young women are having the abortions and their young men are in jail and their older women and children are sitting out on the cement porch without nothing to do.
I'm wondering: Are they happier now under this government subsidy system than they were when they were when they were slaves and they was able to their family structure together and the chickens and the garden and the people have something to do.
So in my mind, are they better off being slaves in that sense or better off being slaves to the United States government in the sense of the subsidy. I'm wondering. The statement was right. I am wondering."
I challenge you Clive to open your eyes, open your heart and open your mind to the life experiences of those who live in the government subsidized housing you described.  I encourage you to chose one child, one adult, or one family and get to know them.  Become intimate with the challenges they face on a daily basis.  

People end up receiving government subsidies for any number of reasons... Death of a major bread winner, lay off, illness, un-educated or under educated... the stories are countless, especially in today's economy.  
I don't know a single person who would choose to live in government subsidized housing if they had viable alternatives.  Do you? 

Please leave your comments below.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Guns Everywhere

Photo courtesy of Washington Post
By signing into law the most liberal (pun intended) gun rights bill, Gov. Nathan Deal has in effect allowed Georgians to carry their Guns Everywhere.  

With this new bill, those who are licensed gun owners may carry their guns into places that I believe may create problems that could be avoided.

What reason would a thinking person have for bringing a loaded gun into a bar?  Not only is it possible that the licensed gun owner is drinking, but patrons at the bar may be drinking alcohol as well.  Either or both could make an alcohol induced decision that might result in a tragedy.

Some may argue that bringing a loaded gun onto a school campus may have avoided some of the recent school shooting we have experienced here in America.  I am wary of allowing loaded guns on any school campus even if the gun owners is licensed.  If you look at the statistics, most of the school shooters don't have history that would have precluded them from obtaining a legal license.

Georgia's  Safe Carry Protection Act allows licensed gun owners to bring loaded guns into public places, including bars, nightclubs, schools, churches and government buildings.

This is not a trend that I'd like to see spreading throughout America.

What are your thoughts?

I'd love to read your comments.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bound No Longer: In Celebration of African America History Month

Originally posted February 2013

Guest Post:
In celebration of African American History Month join This Woman's Words in welcoming Los Angeles based composer, musician, lyricist and performer John McConnell of ProLyric Productions and John McConnell Music as our guest today.  Please leave your comments below:

Every time I think about ‘Black History Month’, I consider why there is such a thing.  For a long while I thought it was counter-productive – a form of reverse discrimination for people of color to perpetuate the individuality of setting aside an entire month to say, “Hey –focus on our accomplishments”.  The image I’ve always associated with this month is one of enslaved black people in chains and fetters. As an African American I’ve grown to understand just how significant and necessary this month really is.  As we share with the world the many reasons why we’re valuable, we simultaneously rid ourselves of slave clothes (negative labels).  To have an inferiority complex derives from every word, image, and practice that makes one feel that being truly happy is not a right they should enjoy.  Such bondage can and has caused many people to live out an existence of saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, but never forging ahead as trailblazers.

I moved to Los Angeles from HoustonTexas ... to follow a passion I’ve had in my heart for many years.  I am a singer/songwriter who enjoys being on stage, but even bigger – for many years now, it’s been my dream for my songs to be in movies.  I’ve always loved how producers use songs to help a dramatic scene become truly dramatic.  Everyday, I purpose to write a new song that inspires all the positive things in life (love, joy, friendship, etc.).  I never run out of words, because that’s the beauty of being human – our words.  But how does a forty-five year old man break into an industry that is completely foreign to him and experience the success of watching feature films with his songs playing as the credits are rolling?  He defies anything poised as a barrier, and yes that includes every negative stereotype concerning his culture.

It’s not just a “black thing” to be told you’re not good enough.  People will always be in competition with each other.  I celebrate victory already, because I’m on the path.  Talking about the path is one thing, but to actually walk it out is what I call victory.  This journey may not be quick, but for me it’s necessary.  I no longer live by labels attached to me, but each day I decide for myself who I am.  If my example can give young black kids an excuse to defy the odds and follow their passions, then by all means I think it’s ok for me to say, Hey – focus on my accomplishments”.

John McConnell is an expert singer/songwriter.  His music weaves R&B, modern rock, hip-hop, pop jazz, and traditional gospel into a seamless fabric.  John founded ProLyric Productions in 2000—a songwriting company of positive, pro-social lyrics. In December of 2007, God impressed upon John to commit to writing an entire song everyday.  John has remained consistent and faithful to this task, and now (almost five years later) has catalogued over 1,600 songs.  ProLyric Productions submits songs for a variety of occasions, all across the United States.  The goal of this venture is for recording artists of all genres to record music written by John McConnell, and for that music to flood the airwaves EVERYWHERE.  It is John’s desire to receive  film and television licensing opportunities for his songs.
John moved to Hollywood, CA to pursue his passion more intently.  You can view at least 114 of Johns songs on You Tube by subscribing to his music channel: ‘John McConnell Music’.  You can also learn more about him by visiting
Contact John McConnell at
Follow John McConnell on Twitter: @ProLyricMusic
Connect on Facebook: ProLyric Productions
Subscribe to YouTube: John McConnell Music