Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Baby is Turning Seven and I'm Bugging Out

Leilani is turning seven years old in 10 days and I am scared.

A forewarning, this post is going to be a neurotic, paranoid, projection post from a slightly neurotic mother.  

SEVEN years old! I am so proud, happy, and grateful to be able to see her turn seven. To watch her grow into the scientist and performer she is but I'm scared.

I'm scared that she is half way to 14 years old.

  • ...the age I became sexually active 
  • The age I felt lonely, alone, and depressed at times 
  • The age when I began to realize that my body was a blessing and a curse 
  • The age that I thought I knew something but in retrospect I realize I didn't know shit
  • The age that everyone is trying to tell you who you should be and not fully understanding that you are and can be the person you are and want to be
  • The age when I PERFECTED the art of fooling people about my emotions
Fourteen was a hard year for me. I think it's a hard year for many and I'm scared for my baby girl and I want to be the best mom for her that she needs and wants. 

But... it's only seven this year so I think I'll relax and enjoy it.

Don't forget our GoFundMe page to help make Leilani's birthday wishes come true. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Leilani's Birthday Celebration

Leilani's birthday is coming up on April 10th.

This year my little scientist and future Broadway star has asked for a telescope and to see The Lion King on Broadway.

Although I have been saving up for her birthday for some time now I have come to the realization that my savings are not enough and often had to be used on purchasing school supplies or metro cards instead.

I have created a GoFundMe page and so far we are close to the funding goal however, we need your support. Please visit the page, share it with your networks, and donate as well. EVERY bit counts and NO donation is too small.

Everyone has birthday wishes. Please join me and many others make Leilani's wishes come true :)


Real Teenage Families Share Your Stories

It's time teenage families tell and share the realities of being a teenage parent. 
The side society choosing to ignore. 

Real Teenage Families Project
I am sick and tired of hearing I am "the exception." I AM NOT an exception! There are thousands of other teenage families that are thriving and living healthy, happy, and responsible lives today.

As a response to society and everyone who thinks teenage parents of sub human and our families are "second class and failures" I have launched a new project that will ONLY work with YOUR help!

Members of teenage families become high school graduates, college graduates, Masters program graduates, elected officials, doctors, scientist, CEO's, managers of companies, teachers, artist, great parents, enlisted men and women who service in the armed forces, board members, business owners and SO MUCH MORE!

We are more than statistics and it's time that we share our stories!

Please visit Real Teenage to get more information about the project or email me: 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Appreciating the Support you Have and not Focusing on the Support You Don't Have

One very important lesson I learned recently is accepting the support you have received and are receiving.
Let me be clear that I am NOT talking about money! Money IS NOT everything; it is one thing. 

Before I became pregnant my relationship with my parents was not good. My mother and my relationship was more of a squatter/landlord relationship than a nurturing mother/daughter relationship and I don't fault her completely for it. My father and I were not speaking at the time- still not entirely sure why-but when I became pregnant they WERE "THERE"!

My mother-and her boyfriend- didn't kick me out.

We argued, we fought, I didn't speak to her for a while, we pissed each other off beyond belief, and she wasn't the most emotionally supportive person. However, she DID cook for me (sometimes) to make sure my diet was healthy, would drive me to some of my appointments, would do my hair to help me feel beautiful even when I felt fat and ugly, make sure that I got enough rest, and she was at my side when I gave birth; just to name a few things.

My sisters were ALWAYS there for me. ALWAYS!
Sometimes we fought, sometimes we argued, but they were ALWAYS there for me in any way they could be! They would call, my oldest sister who lived with us at the time use to come into my room while I was sleeping and wake me up because she just wanted to "make sure I was okay and/or talk to her niece or nephew." They were there to tell people to back the F-off when they would become overtly rude or judgement.

A few teachers at school would ask how I was doing, how I felt, how far a long I was, and even congratulated me on having a healthy child and returning to school so soon. Some of my teachers even helped me raise money to travel to New York City-when I lived in Florida-to sing in Carnegie Hall with the rest of my chorus class.

My bus driver was even a form of support. Her smile and compassion made riding a school bus full of annoying and typical high school students that more pleasurable.

Leilani's father-and my boyfriend at the time-was also there for me.

My pregnancy wasn't a healthy, happy, sunshines and rainbows experience all the time but I did have more support than I initially realized.

The problem was that I wasn't fully acknowledging or aware of the support because it wasn't always the support I WANTED or NEEDED but NO ONE will ever know how to support and help you the way you want them to without you TELLING them how you need to be supported and helped.

Be clear in what you need and people will make the best effort to help you with it. 
DO NOT under-mind or forget the support and help you do get. And more importantly do NOT assume people will just magically know what you need and how you need it. No one is a mind reader. 

From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU everyone that was there for me!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Take Action Against the Controversial anti-Teenage Pregnancy Campaign

A few days after the launch of the Think being a teenage parent wont cost you? campaign was released by NYCHRA and Mayor Bloomberg's office I met with a group of powerful and moving advocates, activist, and social justice leaders. We discussed how we felt about the campaign and what we could do against it.

After roughly two hours of discussion and brain storming we created the No Stigma No Shame! counter campaign. Below is the sign on letter we drafted and will be sending to NYC offices behind and responsible for these horrible ads.
Please read the letter and consider signing on. Your voice will be heard along with several other people who disagree with methods used in these ads. Your voice will be heard along side several national and international organizations that all agree that these ads are not the best way to reduce teenage pregnancy rates.

The following has been imported from Nicole Clark 

March 12, 2013
Dear Community,
The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice (NYC4RJ) condemns the New York City Human Resource Administration’s (HRA) use of images and messaging that attacks young people and their families. This campaign, “Think Being a Teen Parent Won’t Cost You?” shames teen parents, especially teen parents of color, and uses images of their children to blame them for conditions that are society’s responsibility to address.
The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice is a coalition of grassroots activists in New York City, working to advance the human rights of women and girls of color and LGBTQ people of color through our advocacy priority areas ofEducation, Health and Families. 
We fail as a society when we shame young people instead of teaching them what they need to know to make the best decisions about their lives. For those of us who do direct service, education and advocacy around issues of poverty, access to comprehensive sex education, contraception, family planning and addressing health disparities that have historically impacted communities of color, we are acutely aware of the budget cuts to programs and services that could address and reverse these conditions within our communities. The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice is holding HRA accountable for reinforcing negative stereotypes about the decision-making ability of young people instead of investing in programs and policies that encourage young people to thrive.
In response to this HRA campaign, the New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice asserts, teen parents need support, not shame! We are launching the NO STIGMA! NO SHAME! Campaign with the following demands:
- Public acknowledgement and apology from HRA
- Removal of all HRA campaign posters
- A meeting between the HRA and NYC4RJ leaders
- Creation of a Teen Parent Council within HRA, composed of teen parents and their advocates, to approve any future messaging around teen pregnancy prevention
In order to address teen pregnancy, the HRA and all New York City government programs must offer teen parents support, not stigmatizing messages.  “In August, according to the Department Of Education’s Sex Education website, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that beginning in the second semester of the 2011-2012 school year, New York City will require schools to include sexual health education as part of comprehensive health education.”  Teen parents need government officials to provide resources that encourage them to foster resilience instead of shaming them for creating their own families.
The New York City Coalition for Reproductive Justice calls on the HRA to dismantle this reprehensible campaign and address the real problem: lack of support for teen parents and their families.
The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice
Jasmine Burnett – Founder & Lead Organizer
Nicole Clark, MSW – No Stigma! No Shame! Campaign Leader
Here are some ways to show your support: 
1. Stand with us and sign on to our letter by contacting Jasmine Burnett, founder ofNYC4RJ, at nyc4rj[at]gmail[dot]com. Please listyour name, any academic or professional affiliations, and state. Your information will be added to this letter, and this letter will be sent to Robert Doar, commissioner of HRA’s Department of Social Services, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 
2. Join us on social media! Follow NYC4RJ on Twitter (and follow our hashtag #NoStigmaNoShame ) and like the NYC4RJ Facebook page to keep up with the latest updates on the No Stigma! No Shame! Campaign.
3. Share the opinion blogs posts from other bloggers about the HRA campaign. Check out these responses from Miriam PerezNatasha ViannaGloria MaloneNicole Clark, and Brittany Braithwaite
4. Share this blog post and the NYC4RJ No Stigma! No Shame! Campaign sign-on letter with others and encourage them contact Jasmine Burnett to sign on with their support.
This sign on letter is just the beginning. We plan to incorporate a campaign that infuses policy advocacy, arts, and education that will make sure that all teens in New York City are able to make the best decisions for their health and lives. Support us in getting the word out and pushing for a teen pregnancy prevention and parenting campaign that DOES NOT shame and blame teen parents.
Please share this information with everyone in your networks. Email, post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and all or any social media platforms you are on. I am sure we can all agree that we need to combat teenage pregnancy but these methods are not how to do it. The further disrespect young families and do very little to actually educate youth about sex, relationships, respect, and sexual health. 

Thank YOU

Thank you! 

I have to take time out to say thank you to all of you. 

This last media whirlwind week of my life has been intense, humbling, and emotional to say the least. Your support, encouragement, comments, likes, retweets, and random "you go girl!" messages are what have gotten me by. 

Encouragement and support has come from far and wide. 

A day after my New York Times Op-Ed was published I was reading some of the feedback-that has been far more positive than negative- sat back and I allowed myself to fully become present in the moment. 
As I sat there thinking about everything I was literally moved to tears. I have never felt so humbled and uplifted at the same time in my life. I sat there and cried-and fight tears as I write this-because never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would be where, who, and what I am today.

I am who I am today because of my sisters. They are and will always be the most important team of women I could have never asked for. They are the ones that told me when I was 15 and a mother that I need to become my best advocate, it would take years before I actually realized what they meant but today I do. 

I apologize for such a brief post, my brain is still over the place but I really wanted to take time out to thank you. You, your encouragement, your kind words, your feedback is amazingly overwhelming to me. I hope that I can provide you with as much love as you have shown me. 

If you would like to join me and several others in taking action against these ads please visit and/or join the No Stigma No Shame campaign page.
Thank you!

Friday, March 8, 2013

New York City Teenage Pregnancy Ads

By now I am sure you have seen or at least heard about the new New York City teenage pregnancy ads (if not click here). 

To put it simply, these ads are a waste of resources and will not work. 

My first response upon seeing this ads was, why? Why of all things did the majors office and New York City agencies decide to put so much money into telling teen parents that they aren't shit, will never be shit, and are going to live a life of doom and gloom? 

The problem with these ads besides the fact that they are 
egregious, shame and blame driven is that they will not reach their target audience and stop teens from having sex. The mission of this ad campaign will not reach these teen because these teens aren't thinking about daycare cost and how their hypothetical future children will fare in school before having sex. If they had a pregnant teen saying I didn't think it would happen to me, call 1-800 to get information on how to protect yourself THAT would work more and it wouldn't further isolate young parents.

All teens think teenage pregnancy will not happen to them. Every. Single. One.

So until we start addressing that belief with comprehensive sex education and informing teens about how to engage in safe sex when they choose to have sex or the power of saying no and sticking to it when you feel pressured to have sex, NYC and the country is once again failing to meet the needs of its youth

And to all the people that say "truth hurts" please know that you can not tell me-as a teen mom- and all of my teenage parent peers our truth. You don't know and you won't ever know it by isolating us with such awful ads. 

Please know that the truth is:

The truth is older generations are failing to meet the needs of my generation and our blaming my generation in the process. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Getting More Free Time During the Weekend.

Cleaning during the week is a MUST! Usually we put off cleaning until the weekend however, in doing this we are adding more and more to do during the weekend which leads to less time to relax and more stress.

I try to clean the house throughout the week to help make the weekend as relaxing as I can. Some of the things I do during the week can range from less demanding house work to more demanding house work.

For example I'll put a few loads of laundry into the washer while Leilani is doing homework or while I'm cooking dinner. By the time she's done with her homework so is the washer and one more thing checked off my To-Do List. Other times I'll simply sweep the floor or wipe the sink down the bathroom after brushing my teeth in the morning when I have an extra minute.

If cleaning during the week is a new idea to you try easing into it by doing one of the following this week.

  • Laundry
  • Cleaning the stove
  • Mop the floors in the whole house or two of the rooms
  • Clean the bathroom.

The trick is to do the cleaning in parts so that it's not too demanding during the week but just enough to help reduce the cleaning list over the weekend.

Do you clean during the week? Let me know below.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Traveling is an Educational and Enlightening Experience

I guess I can say that I travel quite a bit. In 2012 I- and sometimes Leilani- traveled somewhere every month until about May/June.Seriously! It was great!

I went cliff/rock jumping at the location on the top
left, Lake Michigan on the bottom, and me trying to
learn how to unicycle. 
We traveled to Boston, New Hampshire, Philadelphia, Virginia Beach, and Florida.

However, as much as I enjoy traveling and will continue to do so as long as I can. I have learned that the best part about traveling is the places that traveling can take you personally. Every time I travel somewhere it’s like therapy. I learn more about myself, I gain a new sense of confidence, a new sense of direction, and a huge boost of confidence!

As a child I would also say that I was going to live and work in D.C; so going to D.C with NLIRH was a dream come true! As was I there I experienced an extreme sense of “This is what I am meant to do,” my major is the right major, and I’m on the right track I just have to keep my head up and keep working hard.

When I went back to D.C as a One Voicers with SIECUS,Advocates for Youth, and The Sirrea Club I met some AMAZING youth advocates from all over the world. They helped me realize that we are all working together, now, to create the world we want to live in.

Leilani and I took a little walking tour all around Boston the first time we went.

When I was in Boston for the  MA Alliance On Teenage Pregnancy conference I had the most powerful personal travel experience to date. There at my good friendAlex’s house- another teen mom rocking life out- I realized: I am AMAZING and NO ONE can take that from me. When I realized that I wrote this post and that’swhen something inside of me changed and opened a whole new world of professional opportunities and ideas come to me.

Downtown Philly.
The Left is the City Hall Building- GORGEOUS!  Then the temporary capital of the United States before D.C was created.  
When I went to Philadelphia with my two great friends and then Virginia Beach I felt like a “normal” young adult. Not a mom young adult,not a single teen mom college student, nothing but an average college student on a trip with her friends. Sure I called Leilani often, said good night to her and good morning but I was just me!

In fact the moment I realized that I could us my blog as away to help other teen and young moms was on vacation in Michigan. After biking a few miles and jumping into the icy cold waters of Lake Michigan, I came up out of the water shivering and cold but I figured “it” out.

There are times when I’m here in the city, blocks away from my house and I realize that that moment right there on the smelly, nasty, loud subway is amazing because it is!

It’s not about the physical destination that a trip takes you to, but the personal journey you embark on while you are there.  So get out and explore! Explore your very own neighborhood! 

If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be? 
Let me know in the comments below