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Archive for the month “January, 2012”

The End of Riding Raggedy

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I have been having a few revelations over the last couple of weeks. Not sure if it’s because of the self-inventory that tends to happen when a new year comes, or because I’m turning 30 in just a few short weeks.

Me and my friends have talked about who we need to be, or who we are supposed to become once we turn 30.

For some people, it’s settling down and getting more serious about a relationship. For others, it’s buying their own home, or getting a new job, or even changing careers completely.

Some of my friends said this will be the year they tell it like it is, or eliminate toxic people in their lives.

I want all of those things too, but they aren’t going to magically happen.

I’m not going to wake up more brilliant, more zen, more loveable,  more courageous and just more on Feb. 3, 2012. I’m still going to have to get out of bed and put in the work towards those things like I do everyday.

But what I have noticed is I’ve looked back at my younger self, around 24 and found inspiration. I’ve decided, I want her drive, her self-esteem, (her body) and her ability to take risks, but add the wisdom, patience and good sense I’ve managed to gain since then.

I shouldn’t be working harder, I should be working smarter.

I shouldn’t be loving harder, I should be loving the right people who work at loving me back.

When I was younger, I beat the hell out of cars. I’d drive and drive and drive and not get oil changes regularly. I wouldn’t get a new tire until one got flat. There was one time I even drove across state lines on a tire filled with fix a flat.

Youthful hubris is a trip.

I wouldn’t dare think of doing anything like that these days. God looks out for babies and fools, and clearly babies can’t drive cars.

These days I’m paranoid with each and every rattle or bump and the service department at Ford know me pretty well. Any risk I take with my car due to lack of funds is a calculated one, where I know I have a certain window to keep riding raggedy before something more inconvenient and expensive happens. Even when I’m forced to ride raggedy, I already know the clock is ticking and anything other than getting it right ASAP isn’t an option.

That’s what I think 30 is going to be for me.  The end of riding raggedy, and the beginning of being more calculated and organized in dealing with life.

I’ve gone through enough to not fly as fast and reckless as I used to, but I am still going to fly and fly high and have a full tank of gas and some great snacks.

These days I probably won’t fly with no particular destination in mind, but I will have googled my potential routes first and pick the destination with the best restaurants and shopping.

I think the 20s is an experimental decade filled with great triumphs and equally great failures. In your 20s you can afford these highs and lows because you are physically and mentally resilient. You still swear you are immortal. You just know someone is going to save you (Mom and Dad).

I think the 30s, for most of us is an age of cautious optimism. The possibilities are still endless, but you are very aware of what it takes to get what you want and you’ll have a keener sense of if you’ll actually be satisfied once you have it.

You are aware that people you love can let you down, and while it hurts, you understand you have the power to love them in spite of themselves, love em from a distance or leave them alone altogether.

Just like your cars, you can’t keep pushing your life to the limit without the proper maintanance and assume it will keep running at its best forever.

If 16 Is Sweet, 30’s Definitely Dirty

Well, it looks like things are finally starting to come together on the party planning front.

I had to make some tough decisions regarding the guest list, I had to coax some folks, but it’s going down.

Me and about 12 of my closest friends (and some significant others who I love too) will go to Medieval Times and have a rockin, joustin, wench-tippin good time.

The last time I had an official birthday party was my sweet 16. I’ve taken a poll involving people who live in other regions, and it seems no one is more obsessed with the sweet 16 than girls from Long Island in the late 90s.

I was going to parties a few times a month for about four years.

The Sweet 16 was huge amongst our set. Whether you had it in a hotel ballroom or in a backyard, you had to have one. Period. Even when my father offered me a really cheap car or the Sweet 16, without hesitation, I chose the party.

I don’t regret it.

I still remember my champagne colored dress (My mom wanted white. We compromised.),  and the tape on my fingers from being jammed during a basketball game the previous day. I remember having a bartender serving up Shirley Temples all night, and I remember the damn dj my cousin found who didn’t have the right equipment and my best friend going home to get his own equipment to get the party started. In the meantime, the catering hall owner, played the last cd left behind from the last party. “Say you, Say Me.”  By Lionel Ritchie. God, I was embarrassed as my guests were arriving.

The colors were hunter green and champagne. The venue was a lovely spot over looking the water (we ended up having our junior prom there the following year).

I remember Will Smith’s “Gettin Jiggy With It.” I remember doing the dance to break the ice and get everyone else to dance too. Wow.

I also remember that being February, it was cold. And report cards just came out, so some of my friends couldn’t go because they were on punishment because their grades weren’t up to par.

Despite all that, it was fabulous. There was Hawaiian chicken, baked ziti (do those even go together?) and I really can’t believe I remember all of this, but we had a ball.

My dad, a masterful sheet metal craftsman, made a candle holder of my name to hold all 16 candles. The night was magic. My older sister had flown into town for the event. All of the people I loved were there and totally happy. A friend of my dad’s made special chocolate lollipops for the occasion to go in the goodie bags.

My mother was a picture of health and looked gorgeous and my family in my mind was perfect back then. That’s what makes the memory even more precious. The next year was going to set off a lot of painful things for my mother and for the rest of my family, that we are still struggling with today.

The other Long Island tradition was the Sweet 16 book. It was a specific hard cover book that was handmade at the local flea market. The cover consisted of mirrors of a particular color that spelled out sweet 16 and had your name and birthday written on it. It held pics from the event and served as a guest book where all your friends would sign and tell jokes about being able to drive. This was a must have for the pre-Facebook generation.

I still have that book and I do look at it around my birthday to laugh. I’m almost tempted to ask if someone could go to the flea market and make me a “dirty 30” book just for kicks.

I think I’m starting to get those same butterflies like I did as a teenage girl, on the brink of independence.

This time, there will be alcohol.

This time, I have my own place (afterpartay).

Ironically, it won’t be as “fancy” as the last party. My goal, as I stated in another blog is to be just the opposite.

This time poor grades and punishment will not prevent my guests from showing up.

Instead of a fancy dress, I will be wearing a cute tee shirt that says “82” and some jeans.

This time, I’m even more appreciative of the people in my life.

And this time, I know just how quickly moments like these end, so I’m going to drink it all in. Seriously. I already bought a 30 necklace with a shot glass attached a la Mardi Gras…

Preparation, Opportunity and A Reintroduction to Me

I want something badly.

This came as a surprise to me because I didn’t realize how badly I wanted this particular thing until I realized how close I am to getting it.

They say success is where preparation and opportunity meet.

Opportunity, check.

Preparation, I’m all over it and it means so much more to me than ever before.

I’ve noticed something about myself just this week. Rewind to about six to eight months ago. I found myself saying to friends and loved ones that I wasn’t me anymore.

I was no longer that driven, over-achieving, kick down a door, make it happen,  just one more no away from a yes, girl.

It made me horribly sad, because I thought I lost that girl forever. I thought I was resigned to a life of accepting the bare minimum from myself because I felt I just didn’t have much more to give. At the time, I didn’t.

I can’t go into details about what I’m obsessing over right now but trust, when it goes down, a triumphant blog is to come. (If it doesn’t work out, an introspective one will probably appear.) And the thing for which I am so passionately gunning isn’t really the point of this blog, but the feeling that I’ve derived from this desire.

Being able to even feel what I’m feeling right now is almost as exciting as the prospect of attaining my goal.

But I will say this, upon recent events, my confidence in myself has been renewed and I’m feeling good about the future and the possible new directions it may take me in. Something was finally clicking in the universe, which in turn, propelled me to snap back into some of my old (positive) ways I assumed I lost forever.

Me going to the lengths I am going in preparation for the thing I want right now, would have been impossible months ago. I wouldn’t have had the strength mentally or physically. No way. Fear would have kept me in my bed with the covers over my head, I wouldn’t have dared to attempt this. I would have had a million reasons why it would never work and why it would be impossible.

Today, I see the possibilities. Even a few things associated with this dream that could be an inconvenience, I can see myself managing and eventually eliminating if I chose.

I’m paying greater attention to details, I’m refining. I’m even debating pulling an old school all-nighter fueled by Mountain Dew Code Red (getting conflicting information as to whether or not it is still sold or available) to study even more details of importance that can help me reach my goal.

All of this extra effort may or may not even be necessary, but I don’t want to look back and say I should have done more when I could have done more.

I’m a firm believer that when you are given an opportunity, you owe it to whomever gave it to you– God or human or both, to meet them half way by putting in the effort of honest, earnest preparation.

I’m not sure if I will get what it is that I want. I really hope so, but the fact I have regained the ability to feel this passionately about wanting something and to recognize this feeling and know this part of me hasn’t left for good, I’m relieved. I am emboldened.

It feels good. It feels right. It feels like me again.

Breakthrough: I’m Relieved I’m Not Married Right Now

Ok, so this is huge.

Because if things had gone to plan, I would be living in Chicago right now and um, married. Not sure how happy I would be, but I would have certainly been married and living even further away from my family and friends.

I had a moment the other night.

I was sitting on my couch, eating a yummy meal I cooked.

Save for the television blathering on in the background, it was quiet. I was wearing old sweats sitting on my couch.

I had what psychiatric professionals would call a “breakthrough”.

Without any provocation, this thought just entered my head: “I’m happy I don’t have to take care of a man, protect him, stroke his ego and turn over and give him sex when I don’t feel like it.”

After I said it, it hit me like a ton of bricks that healing has been taking place. It felt good. I had to smile.Then I broke out in laughter.

I lost who I thought was the love of my life (maybe he is), but I gained a few things between the tears and private nervous breakdowns.

I was listening to God more.

I was more creative than I had been in years. I started this blog and I’m attempting to start a business that makes me feel so good. I’ve been taking classes and plan to take more. I’ve taken more action in my professional life.

I began to be more interested in me and what I wanted and what was important to me and what made me happy. I won’t lie. I got wrapped up and I immersed myself in the preparation for being a top-notch wife. Being a wife and moving was a cop out for something else that was changing my personality and increasing my stress, probably making me seem like a completely different woman who in the beginning of the relationship was very vibrant, engaged and satisfied professionally.

I was changing. Because I was so active in my relationship, I put other things on hold for “once I got settled in Chicago.”

It’s a year later, but I can thank God now for what I went through. I can be thankful for the quiet moments in my own home, where I do what I want when I want.

It’s not to say I don’t want a great man to share my life with down the line, but I want him to fit in seamlessly. I don’t want to have to force him in with a hammer, or drastically change my life to fit into his.

I want my future husband to find me eventually, but I want him to find me happy, healthy, at my best and at a stage of my life where there is growth and abundance and all he has to do is jump in and add to it. I don’t want to offend my future husband by saying this, but I want him to know he is highly valued in my life, but not my life completely.

In church Sunday, the pastor talked about trusting God. He also said we need to stop asking God for the details about how He’s going to do what you want Him to do. Reason being, if we knew all the hardships we will have to endure to get there, we’d just change our minds and say forget it.

I haven’t been this hopeful in a long time.

It feels miraculous. It feels Golden.

Going Out Alone, It’s the Opposite of Pathetic

I realized I was starting to mature when I started going to the movies, restaurants and bars alone.

Just last year, for the very first time, I went on vacation alone and it was fantastic. I was lazy (sleeping in), I was a nerd (went to museums) and I did as I pleased when I pleased.

What sparked today’s topic is the fact I really want to see these pitiful Wizards play the new and improved New York Knicks. The Knicks haven’t been good since I was in high school and, well, I just want to see this miracle for myself.

Suddenly I realized that my local female friends wouldn’t really have much interest (Other than meeting men but they would automatically be considered wack because they’d be sitting in the cheap seats with us too. “And why do we have to sit waaay up here???”) and I have very few male friends out here to just simply hang out with.

Going alone to the game may work out well considering I want to buy the $10 nosebleed seats just to get out and have a little fun. I’ve had pretty darn close- to-the-floor seats before and it’s fantastic. But just to check out what this new New York squad is all about (I don’t even care at all about the Wizards), I’m not down to make that kind of investment.

All of your life, you are told–especially females– if you go someplace, take a buddy. Before you call my father, yes, for safety reasons, it is usually a good idea to have folks with you. However, you can have a good, safe time alone if you act with caution and common sense.

In high school, you tended to hang in groups and in freshman year of college it wasn’t uncommon to see massive herds of 20 heading out for a movie or a meal.

Some people (mostly women) balk at the idea of going to a movie alone. I’d rather go alone when I go see a documentary or an independent film that most people I know may not be interested in.

The toughest places to go alone for me were definitely restaurants and bars.

I’m at the point now where there are benefits and tricks to getting the experience you want as a woman at a restaurant or bar alone (including free drinks and meals). There are two experiences; wanting to just be out and not be bothered or wanting to be out and be social.

If you want to go out to eat, but you don’t want to be bothered:

Get a table. Do not sit at the bar.

Bring a book.

Play with your phone.

Wear flats.

Don’t wear makeup.

Wear glasses.

Don’t smile.

If you want to go out to eat, but be entertained and have people to talk to:

Sit at the bar.

Talk to the bartenders and people sitting around you, male and female, singles or couples. (Most people sitting at a bar understand the bar community rules and won’t be mad if you do talk, but feel them out. Listen, but don’t butt in on really personal convos.)

Don’t bring a book.

Don’t play with your phone.

Wear makeup.

Wear flattering clothes that make you feel good.

Smile.

When you go out alone and are comfortable with it, you are in control of your social destiny. You come and go as you please, you don’t have to hear other people complain, and you aren’t waiting around for someone else to make a decision that you may not like and will have to suffer through anyway.

With the proper attitude, you may even meet new people and make new friends because you appear open, confident and approachable.

Suit Yourself: The Professional Woman’s Clothing Conundrum

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When it comes to women’s suits, there aren’t many options. But what’s out in the marketplace surely says a lot about how professional women are perceived.

You can either look like a broke-ass Hillary Clinton, a flight attendant, church first lady (usually shiny, or with a print), or in the case of Victoria’s Secret suit collection, an executive level seductress.

The one most amazing suit I ever owned, I purchased in college.  I considered it an investment and spent a pretty penny on a lovely pin striped number  from United Colors of Benetton. It was amazing because it was flattering for women who have small waists, but a nice round bootay. I wore that suit out for years.

But now, that I’m older and have gained eh, about 30 pounds since then, that suit is long gone unless I get on the Jennifer Hudson plan.

I mourn the loss because that suit saw me through a few interviews and professional conventions. It wasn’t just a suit, it was a lucky suit. I was confident, I made the right connections, and obviously, I made the right impression and landed some great opportunities.

Lately, I’ve been fudging it by wearing blazers over dresses, or doing the separates thing. While that’s cool, and as much as I hate the idea of a suit, I still feel the need to have a new one in my closet that fits properly, but isn’t wack.

In my opinion, none of the suits out there represent me or reflect my true style.

Most of them are boxy and unflattering, regardless of the price point. I’ve seen $500+ suits that make me want to slap the designers personally. Psychologically, maybe that’s the point. Maybe suits are supposed to be drab and unflattering so women can go into professional situations without being looked at as intellectually inferior, sexual objects and the men and women we are brokering deals with can actually concentrate on our ideas and not our ta tas.

On the flip side, Victoria’s secret is on to something in terms of recognizing a woman’s curves, but they really emphasize selling yourself… literally. Their suits are just too damn tight and overtly sexy.

I honestly don’t know anyone who has purchased a Victoria’s Secret suit, and if they did, I’m guessing they were wearing it for their man when they were playing “naughty executive assistant”, “naughty intern”, “naughty accountant”, yeah you get the drift.

Ugly ass suits are not only a necessary evil for the professional woman, they are the driving force that fuels our obsession with shoes and handbags.

I Sense a Pattern: The Friends I’ve Had to Let Go

Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Throughout a number of phases in a woman’s life, girlfriends come and go. We have beefs big and small. Sometimes we make up, sometimes we breakup, and then there are the occasions when you know a friendship has ended for good.

Whether it happens in grade school, or high school, or even when you are “grown,” it still hurts when you come to the realization that you have come to the end of the road with someone you shared a lot with. I think it hurts more when you are grown, because you assume that you both should know better and know how to not hurt people.

Girlfriend breakups are particularly tough, because even if we are madly in love with a boyfriend, we expect that most romantic relationships have an expiration date, but not the bond we share with our girls.

“Friends are the family you choose” and I think we all may tend to hold our close friends to a higher standard than our own families when it comes to giving and expecting their support. We may even extend more patience to them when we feel they are being selfish, because friendship is an at will relationship– either side can choose to terminate at any time. There is something that attracted you to that person as a friend, and that same thing causes you to want to keep their respect and love.

There are some friends you can have a fight with every six months and be the best of buddies after a few days or weeks of a cool down. After one genuine and sometimes teary heart-to-heart, and both parties are back on track.

Some friends you hardly, if ever “fight” with because somehow you’ve become so in tune with each other’s moods and eccentricities, you know when to leave the other person alone, and you both appreciate it greatly.

Then there are other friends, where it seems like whatever has gone down between you can’t be repaired, and to continue the friendship would seem phony. Your encounters are no longer relaxed, but feel awkward and contrived.

Girlfriends breakup for a number of reasons, but the main reason I’ve seen over and over again in my life and in the life of other women I know (and the ones on t.v. and movies) is someone feels shorted and thinks the other person is being selfish.

There’s been a pattern for me when it comes to my terminated friendships.

These types of women were highly intelligent and super driven. They grabbed attention everywhere they went, and produced a certain image of having it all together.

They also thrived on appointing themselves as mother figures to people who they deemed needed their guidance and help. They always had advice and seemed to get validation from fixing other people’s messes. The bigger the mess, the greater the self-esteem.

They always had to be in control of everything. People had to be reminded of how important and smart they were. It wasn’t unusual to hear them mention their accomplishments in various conversations.

I served as their side kick in public and their confidant in private. My low-key, non-confrontational personality served them well, and did wonders for their egos.

I surmise that these types of people gravitate to me, because I exude a certain kind of confidence and come to the table with accolades of my own, but I don’t try to compete with them. I’ve got the credibility to be good enough to be associated with them, but I don’t care to outshine them.

These women will appear to have a lot of friends, but these friends usually “can’t be trusted,” or “they are jealous” and must be kept at a distance.

These types like to confide in me, and then I turn into a receptacle for all of their problems and baggage.

Yet when I have a problem, they minimize it, expect me to get over it immediately and resume focus on everything going on in their world.

These types of people never ask me what’s wrong or if I’m alright. These people find a way to make an issue I have be about them. These people compare their problems to my problem and say because I’m not going through what they are going through, I shouldn’t be as upset or stressed.

These same women have been bossy and sometimes talked to me like a child or made demands that I move when they say move. They keep mental running tabs on what they’ve done for people in case those folks have to be put in check later.

These people want me to be the first in line to drop everything when drama or disaster strikes.

The day that I don’t, to them, I’m the most horrible person ever, and all of the other times I’ve gone out of my way to support them have been permanently erased from their memory.

I’ve always wondered, if these kinds of friends ever saw me. Or saw who I really was. Did they notice that I can be sensitive too? Moody? And that because I don’t want to deal with your problems right now and all of the time, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about you.

I was one of the few people not asking these overachievers for anything. I knew they were good people at the core, and they had traits that I admired.

I guess me not asking them for anything meant to them that I could and would accept everything.

Sadly, the people like this whom I’ve let go in the past don’t change much when I cross paths with them again later on.

They bombard you with tales of what great things they’re doing and how busy they are, and still never ask you how you’re doing. And when the awkward exchange is through, I laugh. I am comforted to know that it was perfectly alright to let that person go.

The Week of Poverty

Daniel St. Pierre/freedigitalphotos.net

If you aren’t a member of the 1%, and you work hard and pay all your bills (most of them on time), you know exactly what the “Week of Poverty” is.

This is a safe place, be real.

This week is your “Week of Poverty” too isn’t it?

It is usually that week after you have paid your rent (which may or may not be above the suggested max 30% of your income) and you still got one, maybe even two weeks to go before your next paycheck.

This is the week you prepare all of your meals. You don’t eat out and you make sure you have enough money for gas or public transportation fare so you can get back and forth to work.

I’m talking bare necessities people.

During this week, when friends ask me to go out, I have to turn them down. I tell them I am temporarily on austerity.

I learned the meaning of that word around the fourth grade.

Our school district fell on hard times because a bunch of old folks with no school-aged kids rocked the hell out of the vote during a local election and decided the budgets needed to be slashed for a semester or so and the words on everyone’s lips was “austerity.”

The district canceled their contract with the bus company and everyone had to walk or be driven to school, a number of activities were given the axe, including field trips.

So anytime us kids said, “Why can’t we?”

A loving adult would simply say, “austerity.”

I’m dying for my favorite sushi happy hour, but my pockets are saying sushi will not get you to work through next Thursday.

Damn.

The most incredible thing about the “Week of Poverty” for me, is the fact that I am forced to be amazingly disciplined with my money, and I come up with new recipes made with whatever is in my kitchen. So in theory, I should be able to do the same when I have a few pennies in my pocket right? That’s what grown people in their 30s do, don’t they? LOL.

During the “Week of Poverty,” I have mastered greek salad, pasta salad, turkey chilli, chicken pho, and homemade soups. Most of which can last an entire week or longer. It’s just tough to stay the course when you are eating this stuff everyday for lunch and dinner.

Too bad all of the discipline goes out the window on payday and the *hood rich mentality sets in for me (rewarding ones self by purchasing items or experiences that are far above your means at the expense of neglecting necessities and mandatory obligations because of a feeling of low self-esteem associated the feeling of being deprived).

“You were deprived for the last two weeks! You should get those shoes! Yes, you should eat out at the hottest restaurants! You deserve it, especially after eating that chilli ALL WEEK LONG!”

*I describe my temporary mentality upon payday as hood rich, but I do handle my business… that’s why it’s a week of poverty, because I did pay everything I was supposed to. I just didn’t have a whole lot left over! LOL.

I really need to find a balance so the “Week of Poverty” could just be a regular week. No deprivation, no overspending. A little thrift, a little splurge, with some money left over.

Wait, it’s called saving, isn’t it?

Goodbye, “Literal, Lazy, Sexy.” Hello, “Subtle, Sexy, Chic.”

As you may have read earlier, I had a great New Year’s Eve, during which I wore a scandalous yellow dress with a plunging neckline that required boob tape.

But was still tasteful.

Upon seeing the few photos circulating on Facebook, a friend sent the following text: “I see you, J. Lo.”

To which I responded, “I had to do it while I was still in my twenties.”

It’s true.

While our favorite starlets like the infamous J. Lo and Halle Berry are now into their 40s, had babies and still have amazing bodies and can still probably rock their most talked about frocks, I am fully aware that I am a regular woman in transition.

I don’t have a trainer, a chef, or a glam squad.

I have spanx, I make a good salad, I have a few MAC products, a mirror and good sense. I’ve got to work with what I’ve got.

Fashionwise, as a grown woman, there are just things I’m going to have to leave behind in my second decade.

I won’t be wearing large logos on my clothes or accessories. Example. In college, I had a pair of jeans with Enyce in large blue stitching across my behind. No mas. I used to love Guess purses, but their logos are too loud and gaudy for my taste now.

I will not let my bra straps or panties show. I have invested in those bra clasp thingies and have a variety of strapless or convertible bras to accommodate various styles of clothing I have.

I will no longer wear low-rise jeans. I gave them up a couple of years ago this will prevent the visible panty situation.

I won’t expose my midriff. A snug tee, I’m down for, but outside of a banging two-piece to rock beachside, no dice.

I can’t wear novelty shirts with cherries on them or saying I’m a golddigger, hustler, or slut, or naughty kitten. I’ll let my suitors find that kind of information out on their own.

Even my beloved Carrie Bradshaw, of Sex and the City, told her homegirl Samantha in an episode in season 6, that there comes a time where even the edgiest of fashionistas mature and don’t dress with “naked” as their default setting, as they once did in their youth.

As a grown woman, you want to always be sexy, but also taken seriously. Ask any human resources director and they’ll tell you, nothing sends your credibility down the drain faster than an inappropriate ensemble, no matter how brilliant you may actually be.

We judge older women harshly. Look no further than reality show hip-hop mothers like Frankie (Keyshia Cole’s mom) or Mama Jones (rapper Jim Jones mother and self-proclaimed “psychotic bitch”) who wear skinny jeans and midriff exposing tee shirts. Their antics as well as their clothes often make you wonder if their grown children are more mature than they are.

I’m not saying they should be school marms, but there are grown women doing the damn thing the right way. I call it “subtle, sexy, chic.” This type of style is more thought out. It’s strategic, and when done correctly, it still brings the boys to the yard, and keeps em there. Yes, it takes time, practice and finding your own personal style mentor to help you get it right.

As the headline of this blog says, the literal interpretation of what’s sexy, tends to be lazy and mainly includes showing skin and doing not much else.

However, the “subtle, sexy, chic” women don’t hit you over the head with the breasts and booty as soon as they enter the room, but they also don’t shy away from playing up their best assets with well-tailored clothing on and off the red carpet. Women who dress “subtle, sexy, chic” allow you to see other sexy traits that aren’t as obvious and that grown women play up very well: hair, eyes, smiles, the decolletage.

Meet my celebrity style mentors:

Michelle Obama. There’s a reason President Obama hasn’t cussed out the entire free world yet, dropped the mic and walked off the stage like the lead singer from “Sexual Chocolate”. He has a fine woman at home. Michelle is the epitome of class and she rarely gets it wrong. Whether she is jump-roping, gardening, entertaining world leaders, or encouraging military families, her hair, makeup and clothing choices are always appropriate and she pulls it off wonderfully.

Princess Kate Middleton. (She’s turning 30 next week! Kate dresses the part as modern young royalty in a way that’s classic, but still fashion forward.) I think Kate has done a wonderful job since she’s been in the spotlight as Prince William’s boo. From jeans to evening wear, she is a strategic dresser and knows she can’t embarrass head grandma in charge, the Queen. She doesn’t try to dress older than what she is, but she manages to get it right and represent respectfully. This young lady is going to be one to watch and emulate for years to come.

Tracee Ellis Ross. I decided to throw one celeb in here, considering wives of world leaders have another level of pressure and decorum to adhere to that the rest of us don’t. Tracee wowed us as Joan Clayton on the television show “Girlfriends” and she gushes all the time about taking her famous mom, Diana Ross’ clothes. She’s got the big, gorgeous signature hair (also from her mama) and she’s another one who makes a trip to Trader Joe’s look like an effortless jaunt down Fifth Ave. She’s creative but takes calculated risks that end up winners.

So as I turn the big 3-0, I keep these women in mind as I’m shopping and getting dressed.

As for the yellow dress and a few other items in my closet…

They are officially retired.

The Power of an Encounter

As I was thinking about reconnecting with old friends,  mentors or relatives by just simply reaching out and saying hello and happy new year (not with a mass text) one person really stuck out in my mind.

I met this friend last summer, when I decided to vacation alone for a few days in Myrtle Beach.

The goal of my trip was to get away, spend some time by myself and be badass enough to go on vacation alone.

It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I slept in when I wanted to, I got up early and had breakfast when I wanted to, if I wanted breakfast at all. I laid on the beach in the late afternoons and then I went to the pool or hot tub whenever I liked.

One afternoon after my dolphin tour, I went for lunch at a new restaurant. I had a great conversation with the restaurant owner who was intrigued I was vacationing alone.  In walks an energetic food critic who is reviewing the restaurant and was chatting up the restaurant owner.

She asks for my opinion for her column and I share it. But I warn her I’m part of the media too. As more information is exchanged, we both found that we went to the same university and shared the same beloved professors. We exchanged information and she offered to take me out on the town during my trip and I looked forward to it.

I ended up seeing her sooner than I expected, but under not so great circumstances.

My car broke down at one of the tourist traps later that night, and alone and about 500 miles from home I needed someone else to call besides emergency roadside assistance.

I took the chance and called her. Do you know she came, she waited with me and followed the tow and dropped me off to my hotel? She also knew of a reliable mechanic who wouldn’t try to take advantage and we were set.

The next day, she picked me up to check on the car, and I was disappointed that I couldn’t visit a local museum to see a particular exhibit. She called the director, told her she’d be dropping me off and arranged for the director to drop me off at the hotel when I was done with my visit.

We hung out the entire trip (when she wasn’t at work) and we shared a lot of deep things– things I never would have thought I’d share with someone I’d just met the day before.

Maybe that was even better; she didn’t have a history of me to judge me by or be able to say, “I told you so.” We were two kindred spirits with a lot in common and we talked and talked and laughed and laughed.  It was refreshing and beautiful. We both often mentioned how wild and amazing and pleasant such an experience was and that it was truly meant to be for some reason.

It was what I like to call a “sisterfriend connection” and besides just laying out in the sun and listening to the crashing waves and having no schedule whatsoever, I needed to meet her. I was supposed to meet her and share all those things bottled up in me.

It was almost as magical as finding a romantic relationship on vacation, but way more fulfilling and way more honest.

I told her about part of the reason for my impromptu trip, all of the pain I was going through and how just physically and emotionally tired I was.

When we said good-bye, we hugged one another, crying for a good amount of time.

It was another moment that I knew for sure there was a God and he was listening.

To have the right people placed in your life when you need them most, even when they seem to be at first glance– just strangers passing along on this road, or in my case, a food critic asking me what I thought of the ox tails, is indeed a miracle.

Sometimes we have to hear from strangers what we can’t seem to grasp from the people in our everyday lives.  The kindness they show to you is even more powerful because there really is nothing in it for them– the recipient could be an ungrateful jerk or their next best ally for years to come, or they could just be the angel you needed right in the nick of time, never to be heard from or seen again.

Maybe the memory of what that stranger was to you was the point.

Maybe that memory will stop you from making a bad decision or compel you to make a good one. It will compel you to open up to someone new or help someone you really didn’t have to.

Those moments in Myrtle Beach reminded me that life is so unpredictable and full of good surprises, just as much as it is filled with inconvenient, ugly and difficult circumstances.

I sent my friend a text today, wishing her a happy new year and that I am still touched by the power of our encounter. She texted me back, full of joy and offering me the same well wishes and said that she was just as touched by our experience too.

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