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Archive for the month “September, 2013”

There Are Times You Just Gotta Jump

I’ve said it numerous times that as we get older, we really get comfortable with fear.

So much so, that we decide not to try things, not to get hurt, not to fail, not to endure some kind of loss that may or may not come with whatever it is we are deciding NOT to do.

It’s sad. It’s a terrible place to be and I’ve been there.

Fear can paralyze us.

It can prevent us from loving who we want to love, fighting for what we want.

It can keep us under the illusion that we are safe.

But while we are merely surviving in safety and sucking up air, eating from time to time and using the bathroom. It’s kind of like we are just waiting around to die.

Sometimes life forces us to action, whether we like it or not.

So there are some schools of thought that we should be active and proactive in our actions so we can at least have a real say in our decisions instead of life forcing us to do so at the last-minute.

There is a give and take of energy in this universe. And what we do put out there, it does come back.

I won’t lie.

I was scared of letting go of my relationship for real, but even though I was calling myself dating, I wasn’t fully open to the prospect of going all in for some other man who entered my life. I won’t say the men I’ve dated recently were the one anyway, but it wasn’t until after my last interaction with my ex, I coined the phrase, “He is unable, therefore I can’t.”

He was unable to truly love me in the way I needed most. And if he can’t do it, he can’t do it.

The realization was something that actually gave me comfort in letting go.

I opened myself up to the possibility of rebuilding our relationship, but because he was so consumed with life happening to him, and a recent job loss, he did not have room to give me what I needed, and I had decided I no longer had the time or energy to wait.

My vacation allowed me time to step away from my life that was suffocating.

I was just working everyday, but not living.
I was constantly online looking for men, secretly hoping one of them had the answers to my happiness.

I took a chance, and overspent some money, but I went to a different country. I tried new foods, I snorkeled for the first time, and jumping off of a boat into the ocean was probably one of the top things I was most scared of, despite having on a life vest and travel mates who were excellent nurses assuring me nothing would happen to me.

There was fear, the vest and the team of nurses weren’t going to be enough. If I jump off this boat, I may go all the way down. Would this be my last day because I was being reckless? I’m not the strongest swimmer.

But even with all of the coaxing, I knew deep down, I had just enough to keep me afloat. I was more comfortable with water than I had ever been in my life and that I’d regret it if I didn’t at least try.

When you do something like that and over come a fear like that, and you finally learn how to breathe through the snorkel and finally look down, the world opens up to you in a crazy way. I opened my eyes and I just looked down, I breathed easier and I found myself excited like a child seeing the circus for the first time or the ocean.

I saw fishes of all shapes and sizes and colors, I saw the coral and I was amazed that I could have such a moment.

After spending most of my mornings in deep prayer and journaling, I came home refreshed.

I ate new food and met new people. I was blessed.

So what was going to change when I got home?

Was I going to go back to the gym again after work? Was I going to go back to my tee shirts?

Was I going to really go ahead and go to school?

I found myself looking up online programs, and thanks to the pushy nature of the admissions offices and their knack for intense follow-up, I was meeting deadlines.

I was purchasing books to help me study for the GRE.

I was studying for the GRE.

And today, I paid for and scheduled my test. Nov. 17. EEEKKK Hitting the panic button.

Am I still scared, yes. But I have a renewed sense of purpose I haven’t had in a very long time.

I was telling a friend that it felt natural to make peace with the end of my career in journalism and that I was allowed to have a new calling and a new dream and it doesn’t diminish what the old career and old dream meant to me.

In fact, it is a foundation. It’s still a career that was originally rooted in service and informing the public and making a difference and improving people’s quality of life through education and knowledge. So the transition to public health isn’t a wild leap. It’s an extension of where I am in my life.

I’m not looking forward to the test, but I am looking forward to starting the study and the research and the new challenge.

An urgency for my life sprang up in me.

I was no longer a child. But I am of the age where most people get married and have children and buy houses and I’m not in that group either.

I could take two years to do this for me.

I can jump off of the boat and see my new life spread before me and I can be proud that I went ahead and tried.

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My Graduate Degree May Just Cost Less Than Starting A Family In Two Years

The decision to pursue a master’s degree in 2014 wasn’t an easy one.

All I could keep thinking about was the debt.

My father told me when I graduated from college nearly 10 years ago, that “the next one’s on you, kid.”

And I appreciate the sacrifices he and my mother made to give me an opportunity to have a fantastic education and experience that shaped my career and the rest of my life and how I was to see the world.

So this one’s on me.

I mainly decided to go back to school because it felt like this was the right time. I am so single it’s not funny, so I can’t blame a man for being a distraction, and I have no children to take all of my time, energy, youth and money.

Things at work have settled out, and if I can just hang on for two years, it’s all to the good. I can have my degree and get the professional change and new challenge I’ve been wanting, but just stopping short of getting with my current skill set and knowledge and experience.

Cool.

But you know how you sometimes have to talk yourself into an expensive trip or purchase and justify reasons you should do it?

Welp, I basically thought to myself, if I got married in the next two years, there are some numbers floating around the Web that report the average wedding these days would cost about $25,000.

That translates into about a year of grad school. Cool.

I’ve found other numbers that over the course of your child’s life you’ll spend about $241,000. The first two years, you’ll spend about $26,000 on your bundle of joy. Some sources like WebMd.com says, you may spend up to $15,000 just in hospital costs alone when you give birth.

So, now that I think about it. If I got married and pregnant and had a baby in the next two years, my degree (especially if I’m blessed with scholarships and grants) might actually turn out to be a bargain! Ha!

‘Make Your Own Damn Sandwich’ and Reasons Why We Can’t Surrender to Love

Man, I have been so inspired by a recent article in the New York Post.

This woman’s situation raises so many questions and thoughts and the reaction of some readers also raises thousands more.

I was particularly touched by the story because I totally know the power of sharing and showing love through cooking food for people. It just feels good, you feel good doing it, you feel good seeing and hearing the reaction and seeing a plate picked clean by your loved ones.

A few days ago I made the most awesome turkey wrap ever, and as I ate it, I thought to myself, “I’d love to make this again for my man after we’ve made love. Well, after my post-coital nap, THEN, I’ll make it.

So seeing this article today, had me beside myself in laughter, because while folks were raging on about it, I had a good laugh and I understood.

http://nypost.com/2013/09/24/i-wooed-my-man-with-a-sandwich/

Long story short, this woman happened to make her a very tasty sandwich one night and he loved it. So she started making him more awesome sandwiches and one day he blurted out that if she made 300, he’d put a ring on it.

So of course, people started tripping off of what was probably originally just a funny in-the-moment comment and began to go in on this dude, for “demanding” she make 300 sandwiches.

Homegirl took it literally and started her quest to 300. She’s somewhere around 127 and counting. I have to say after seeing some photos of these sandwiches, I like men very much, but if she was making those kinds of sandwiches for me everyday, I’d switch teams for a minute to reap the benefits. I kid.

But the sandwiches look original, creative and delicious. I actually want to try some of the recipes myself.

So I read the article from Facebook where a number of black women sounded off. Even in the article this chick is catching a bit of hell.

I’ve mentioned before I believe in feminism and I stand in solidarity with black feminism and all of its nuances and complexities. It’s some other ish, and the people I follow on twitter who are part of the black feminism movement have really educated me and gazillions of others.

Most people agreed aiming for an arbitrary number of sandwiches to get to 300 specifically just to get a ring isn’t a good idea.

And under most circumstances, looking at that idea at face value is ridiculous. What does making a great sandwich over and over have to do with marriage? Isn’t it about love and reciprocity and respect and loyalty and honor and discipline and responsibility and maturity? Yes, yes and yes.

And through this sandwich-making, this woman is actually showing all of those qualities.

If you read the description of their relationship, she says she adores him. She says he cooks amazing things for her (a perfect filet mignon), they travel together and they have been accepted and loved by both families. They live together and seem insanely happy.

So what is making a couple hundred sandwiches?

And trust, if their relationship is solid, and she really loves this man she’s got thousands of sandwiches to go. She’s not going to stop at 300, just because she’s got the ring, or 301, just to be on the safe side.

Love is built on various unselfish acts that we do for one another every single day.

But people can’t see past the sandwich, or the fact this intelligent, attractive woman is taking time from her day to do this.

I guess they want her to cure cancer or something instead.

She’s been called a Stepford Wife and accused of setting women back.

Women who attack other women for consciously wanting to reciprocate love to a man that’s treating them well, is what’s setting women back. REAL TALK.

The majority of women responding in the negative on the Facebook post were black women.

This is part of the reason why we aren’t winning. I’m not going to get on the already beaten and bludgeoned dead horse about why black women– particularly successful black women are single. But these kinds of attitudes contribute.

I’m going to add another layer to this. If you haven’t read the article, the woman featured is African-American and her boo thang is a white man.

So, some black women may be up in arms about this educated, attractive sister making sandwiches to “earn” a ring from a white man (who has clearly shown that he’s probably going to marry her anyway), but already planning “Scandal” parties for next week, making sandwiches for their girls, drooling while a married, white president Fitz, fabulously sexes down the brilliant and gorgeous Olivia Pope.

American black women can be a little touchy about relationships with American white men, due to our horrible history together in this country through sex and slavery.

The venom is misplaced.

I think there’s some hate and jealousy in the mix. This woman is getting what she wants. She wants to be loved, she wants to share her life with someone who appreciates her.

And isn’t that the goal? They share a lovely home together, they travel, he cooks. Like he really cooks. Shiiiit. 300 sandwiches ain’t nothing. If Idris Elba asked a black woman to do it, she’d do it in a heartbeat.

We have parameters on who we love, and a dysfunctional sense that if we consistently do something nice for a man like cook or clean or iron or sew a button, we have demeaned ourselves. We’ve made ourselves lesser.

I’ve told you all the story about my sister bringing my brother-in-law his dinner, on a tray to his man cave. The younger me hated it. And I thought she was being weak and a Stepford. But that was her style of giving love and making him happy and making him feel like the man of his house. I know my brother-in-law to be a very hard worker, often working two jobs to support the family and give them everything they need. He adores my sister and you can feel it the way they laugh and joke and play with each other.

In order to enjoy mature love, both sides have to be vulnerable and show a lot more humility and not be afraid to do so. Many of the black women I know, we want to be in control, we want to know what’s going to happen in the future and we want an established record of good behavior from a man in order for us to completely give ourselves over.

But it seems us expecting love to work that way is not working FOR us. That attitude is working against us. We should be cautious and discerning when we pick our partners. Yes, but we have to trust we’ve done a good enough job in the selection process, that we should want to show love in ways others might see as domestic servitude.

We want men to fix things for us, to get up in the middle of the night with a baseball bat against a potential gun if there is a home invader. We want men to lay down expensive blazers in a puddle and or get rained on so we don’t get our hair wet; we want them to kill bugs and remove critters and dispose of garbage— things that an educated man could scoff at, just as educated women could scoff at cooking and cleaning and declare as things a man can “do his damn self” — but would we do all of those things our damn self, if we had a good man who doesn’t have to do it, but chooses to make us feel safe and loved and appreciated?

It’s something to think about.

If I know that I have a great man who loves me, I want to want to do things he likes for him even if it may inconvenience me from time to time, because I know he’s doing the same for me. I’m not going to keep score and with hold my love or positive loving actions because I’m waiting for him to do something for me that I consider equal or greater to my action. That’s not love.

Soon as I get home from work. Babyface

People hated Cater to You by Destiny’s Child. But basically this is the point of today’s blog. If you grown, you get it.

Am I 20 Pounds Away From Mr. Right?

I had a startling thought as a handsome guy on Plenty of Fish straight up told me I wasn’t his type.

The first thought was damn homie.

The second thought was in some kind of way or another, I’ve rejected others just as harshly, despite trying my best to let them down as humanely as possible. I’ve hurt others who didn’t fit into my box and I justified it.

A friend told me online dating is an exercise in the superficial.

He’s right.

But it really made me think about my package and presentation. I think I’m a good-looking person, but in recent years I’ve struggled with my weight. As I get older, and as we use online dating more and more and people focus on photos as a hook, even though I get compliments from men I don’t find attractive, I’m getting fewer compliments from the ones I do.

In my college years and early years in the workforce when I was constantly on the run, I could hardly go anywhere without getting some attention. Now, it’s almost like I’m invisible.

I told a friend that I’d be really pissed if I drop a few pounds all of a sudden the wall will lift, the levees will break and here come the men. That would upset me deeply, because inside, I’d still have the same sense of humor, the same passion, the same smarts, accomplishments, same eyes.

Let’s get it right. I don’t want to lose weight for what I think may be a better pick of men who would be attracted to me. I do want to lose weight to look better, feel better and boost my confidence and wear what the hell I want without having to think twice about my stomach or thighs.

I’ve noticed I don’t take a lot of photos of myself these days, because I feel like most of them are unflattering. It’s interesting to see how things connect.

I’m hoping that going back to grad school will also help me lose weight from stress and just being busy and having to really compartmentalize my schedule and force me to prioritize. Isn’t that terrible?

But just like going back to school and not wanting to take the GRE but having to do it anyway, that example reminds me of getting back on a better fitness and eating regimen. I don’t want to do it, but I have to do it and I have to be consistent to get the things I want.

I think about how I used to be and how I fought for things.

There was a certain point in time I’d either get comfortable or tired and I stopped fighting. Then came the weight, then came the lower self-esteem. Then came the not taking care of myself and finding it easier to do nothing than to fight off that urge to do nothing and do something.

My life is on me. Period. What’s on the outside does count. What I’m doing to feel good and feel productive matters.

Back from Vacation… Back to School?

Hey folks.

I’m feeling refreshed, brand new, beautiful, and did I say refreshed?

Spending the last six days on the lovely island of Curacao was exactly what I needed. Seriously. Having a real vacation will open your eyes. Usually, I’m always trying to add a day or two to a weekend, thinking that’s going to really do something.

WRONG.

A real vacay is basically a week. Gotta take that time. It is essential. Our culture has it so twisted. We work and work and we think it’s honorable to work ourselves into the ground. But we mistake hard work ethic and spending hours and hours at work and staying late with being better and a good worker, but we have terrible health.

We don’t know how to relax and enjoy our lives.

What are we working for?

Every morning I’d wake up and go to my balcony to pray and thank God for being there and having such a wonderful opportunity. I asked for clarity and direction in my life and to find the same peace and happiness when I returned home. I prayed for the ability to see the beauty in my everyday life and live it.

So that led me to thinking about things that I’ve loved to do and things I enjoy. Projects I’ve temporarily abandoned, things I’m scared to do, things I thought I’d be doing. Things that will feed my soul.

So I’ve come to a few conclusions.

The T-shirt company has been left undone.

My novel. But I don’t want to finish. I’d rather write about something else now.

And a master’s degree in public health. It comes to me every six months, this urge to go back and pour myself into study, education and learning.

I do not want the debt, but at the same time, there’s this part of me that feels like studying public health will lead me to my greater goal of becoming a mental health advocate and combining my skills in communications with that.

USC has an online program and it may be worth looking into. It’s among the top MPH online programs. It’s only two years of my life, and when I think about what I’d been doing with the last two years, well. Yeah. I probably should have thrown myself into a program two years ago. LOL.

Every fall it seems like I go through the dance of should I go back to school.

I think now is the time.

I’m not married, I don’t have any kids. It’s really time to pour myself into something hardcore and have a large goal to accomplish. It’s time. I’m scared, I don’t want the debt, but it’s time to open myself up and really push to another level.

Welp, I’ve already gotten return calls from admissions offices at USC and George Washington U. Looks like I’ll be studying for the GRE…

Oh boy.

I promise to do a more in depth review of my vacation. I just got distracted by this life-changing school decision stuff…

On VACATION and Keeping It Simple

Simplicity. Simplicity.

I’ve been trying to apply this to my upcoming trip to Curacao TOMORROW!!! Yes, yes, yall.

Your girl is finally taking a relaxing 5-day getaway and I haven’t had a trip like this since 2008. So this is nuts.

Anyway, I was packing last night, determined to get everything into just one carry-on bag and one large tote.

I’ll admit it, when my friend said, “You’re only taking a carry-on? It’s an international flight we don’t get charged extra.”

I told her after being the long distance queen, I used to be able to pack a carry on like a pro and I don’t want to be bogged down with luggage. It felt cumbersome when I went to New Orleans with two bags and I was angry standing in long lines to have my bag checked and nearly missing my flight with the mass exodus leaving New Orleans after EssenceFest that Monday morning. Also, I hate standing around staring at bags circling the carousel that look just like mine and knowing it’s not mine yet and jockeying for position to grab it as quickly as possible.

Nope. I want to keep this trip simple. So much so, I added my own cornrow extensions last night. They don’t look professional, but they aren’t completely terrible. I can live with it. But I don’t have to do my hair or bring extra products to tame it.

Simple.

Simplicity. The first day of my trip I have no choice. I’m poor. My paycheck doesn’t arrive into my account until Friday so I got to make a little bit of money last.

I realized instead of lugging my awesome Coach tote that I love and live by, I would take a much larger, pink recyclable tote I got from the National Book Fair last year and carry a bunch of crap and not worry about it getting lost or stolen or sand in it.

Simple.

I’m still bringing five swimsuits. (In case I feel really fat and bloated) Oh well.

I picked up a cool pad of sheets that say “I tried It.” I think it’s a good idea to bring it along and just jot down new things I attempt to try during my trip and will encourage my travelmates to do the same. I think it will be fun. On the sheets of paper, it even has a space to check off and talk about how you felt after you tried that new thing and whether or not you’ll do it again.

I’m strongly considering trying snorkeling.

There’s this weird-looking local slimy dish, that I probably should try, but eh. I’m not so sure about that.

Either way, I’ve decided one bag. I’m keeping it simple. I should have everything I could possibly need in one bag and I’m not going to make myself nuts about shoes and bulky things like that. I don’t want to spend my time trying to decide what to wear. I want to spend time on the beach, in or by the pool, exploring the island and trying new things.

I’m beyond excited! It’s going to be an adventure!!! Can’t wait to tell you all about it upon my return. In fact, I picked up a small journal so I can jot down and share my thoughts. Super happy!!

 

 

 

 

 

Love Your Enemies and Grow Like Heck

I’m about to have a God is awesome moment on the blog. If you aren’t religious, you may want to stick around anyway because what I’m about to share is just general good karma/doing the right thing kind of stuff. And if you are interested in generally being a good person, whether you are religious or not, this still can apply.

I’ve mentioned on this blog a number of times a person at work who over the years has done a number of things to make my work life difficult and about two years of hell dealing with her and her nasty ways.

I’ve also mentioned that recently she’s been having a very bad year, bad health in her family, deaths, and difficulties at work. I’ve said I take no joy in her having such a tough time, and my prayer has been to see her humanity and put the past behind me.

Well I had that opportunity. I noticed she’s been out of the office a lot and I stopped by her office to tell her about a new food truck she’d probably like. Well she told me she just returned from a funeral of a loved one and she is drained. The work she left behind for those who were supposed to help her wasn’t done and she basically has to start all over and is several days behind.

She looked tired, and haggard and defeated.

I told her that I was really sorry for such a loss in her family and that usually word gets around the office and that I hadn’t heard anything at all. She said that she felt slighted that no one really offered any support or rallied around her the way others have been treated in similar situations.

While I felt bad for her, in my mind, I knew what it was. Her past behavior, her disregard for other people’s feelings, her negative attitude and unnecessary cattiness and delight in other’s misfortunes turned a lot of people off and now people’s inaction and indifference toward her, during her difficult times is speaking volumes.

So there’s me.

I’ve probably suffered at her hands more than anyone in the entire place.

But as someone who identifies as a Christian (yes, I do. I have A LOT OF WORK), this person being in my life has been a real test. A huge one. God has used this person to stretch me beyond belief. God used this person to make me fight for myself and stand up for myself and show that humility and patience and favor is a very real thing. And as long as I didn’t lower myself, the people who mattered would see and do the right thing at the right time.

And since our troubles, I’ve been promoted twice and when we all had our salaries cut, I was one of the few people able to negotiate to get my money back some months later. God was positioning me. He blessed me to have a great schedule and be able to work from home. He was working on something greater in the midst of a really tough struggle. But folks around me saw that I didn’t have to lower myself, or put her down. My actions and how I chose to react to hers spoke for the both of us.

But the truly amazing thing about God is when he wants to teach us a lesson, he doesn’t stop at one point. He keeps it going.

When I talked to that co-worker yesterday, something in my heart said, get her a card and a little gift. It doesn’t have to be anything big.

So I went to one store and didn’t see anything.

Then I went to Target. I bought a cheap card and carefully looked at the wording. One of the cards, I laughed and said, “Now I’d be lying, so let’s keep this simple.”

Then I looked around for something simple. And found a cute little box of chocolates in the clearance. Between the card and the chocolates I spent less than $5 dollars.

I got to her office before she arrived and left the chocolates and card on her desk.

About an hour or so later I got an email of her thanking me and saying she cried.

That touched me. Because I knew it wasn’t me, it was God using me to bless someone else. And it doesn’t take much, because even though I was being led and pulled to go get a card and some candy, and I obeyed that, I was also saying, “Lord, I know you are leading me, but this ain’t gonna be expensive. I ain’t spending but x amount on her. You brought me a long way, but nah. I ain’t make it that far.”

Her reaction today made me think about God’s love and mercy toward me. He really leaves the past in the past and does not hold my ugliness against me, but still continues to give to me and bless me when I don’t even deserve it, and when I neglect doing what I’m supposed to do for him. We do jerky things, we can treat each other terribly and tear one another down with harsh words. But we wake up to new mercies everyday, with a chance to start over. We have homes, food, clothing, health and family and friends.

I’m blessed. I’m about to spend five days in Curacao next week and celebrate a dear friend’s birthday. I know people who didn’t live to see 31. I know people who have never left where they are from to see something new and me and my friends this summer have been able to visit great places all over this world and try new things. I have an education and a brain and an opportunity to work in an industry that has been hit hard over, and over and over again.

God has protected me and provided for me. I can live independently and pay my own bills every month. My needs are supplied.

I feel great joy today for my blessings and just knowing you can do something small and it can make a difference to someone else. God used me to send a message to my co-worker and I’m proud of that.

It isn’t about her and it isn’t about me.

So if you feel compelled in your heart to reach out and do something for someone, don’t even start making the list of things they’ve done to you or for you. See the hurting heart. Understand that you needed and appreciated a blessing no matter where it came from, you just knew you needed it. If you really feel a pull at your heart to do something for someone, even a person who was against you and treated you poorly, you do it. God is working on YOU by working THROUGH you. He’s helping you grow through that moment of obeying what’s in your spirit and going beyond yourself and your limited sense of human justice and karma.

That’s the end. Do some good today, yall. It can be the tiniest thing that makes a huge difference. Spread love.

 

Look At Him, Now Look At Me…

Most of us have an overinflated ego when it comes to what we desire in a partner.

Should we settle? Heck no, but for all of the people who want very specific things or they want their partner to look a certain way, or have a certain level of intelligence or wealth or whatever, you need to break it down in the most simple way.

I use this as an example.

Say you are at a party of a mutual friend and your dream man/woman walks in.

Now you have an opportunity to chat with them and get them to find you at least interesting. What will you say to spark their interest?

Let’s help you out and say that this dream person already finds you physically attractive. But how do you really seal the deal? What do you have to say? What inspires you? What kinds of experiences have you had? What makes you happy? What are you good at? What do you care about?

Now let’s think about your dream person. What do you expect them to do for a living?

Now what do you do for a living? Do both of you enjoy what you do? Do you feel a sense of purpose? Are you both just chasing money?

What does that person look like? Are they well-dressed? Are they healthy and in good shape?

Hold up the mirror. Are you taking care of your body? Your hair, your skin? Do you feel good when you leave the house?

What is your dream person’s passions? What inspires them? What are their dreams and goals?

Now you. Do you have dreams and goals?

Does your dream person make things happen? Or does your dream person wait on others and just expect things to happen?

Do you make things happen?

Is your dream person a hard worker?

Are you a hard worker?

Does your dream person complain regularly?

Do you complain a lot?

Do you expect your dream person to be perfect everyday?

Can you be a perfect partner to your dream person everyday?

Will your dream person accept you for who you are on the days and nights you aren’t so dreamy?

And can you accept when your dream person acts like a nightmare sometimes?

You want your partner to be fiscally responsible, but are you?

Is your ideal person a loyal friend, honest, sympathetic?

Are you a loyal friend, honest, sympathetic?

You want a socially conscious and educated person, but what are you doing to expand your mind and how are you serving the community?

So my point is, the longer your list is for your potential partner, the longer your list needs your own self-improvement list needs to be.

One light cannot shine for two lights. But when two lights shine together the room is without a doubt brighter.

Everyone wants to be with someone they can be proud of. And for those of you swinging for the fences, if you met your ideal dream person today, be honest…

You as you are right now, could you even get their number?

And I love this song and I think it’s fitting. Mirrors. Justin Timberlake

People Don’t Dress Up Anymore, All They Do Is This…

I just read an awesome article from the Huffington Post titled, “7 Ways Your Grandmother Dressed Better Than You.” It was so freaking on point and so true.

The list basically talks about how our foremothers were serious about the proper undergarments and proper fit of their clothing. It also discussed how because clothes were so expensive for everyone, knowing how to sew was a must among most American women of that generation. (Do they even have home economics anymore?)

That is totally a thing of the past unless a child has the fashion bug, and wants to be a designer and seeks out their very first sewing machine on their own. As an 80s baby, I had an Easy Bake Oven and I had a for real operational kid’s sewing machine. I feel like my generation was the last to be made to go to home economics, but honestly, when I can hem my pants or sew buttons for a boyfriend, it makes me feel like a hot commodity.

I actually want to take sewing lessons and learn how to make some things myself. It wasn’t uncommon back in the day for the older women of the neighborhood or some older person in your family to make a new baby a blanket, a christening outfit, prom dress or wedding dress.

The way things are now, I bet for most young women the first time they’ve ever worn tailored clothing is if they are a bride’s maid in someone’s wedding. There was a friend of mine a short thang who said she always had to get her pants and jeans tailored.

Tailoring! I had forgotten all about it. So when my jeans that fit right everyplace else but were too long and dragging on the ground, I realized, stupid, you can get these tailored!!!

It doesn’t even cross one’s mind and that’s sad. But as the article points out, what is the point of a good tailoring job if the fabrics are cheap and practically disposable anyway?

I didn’t realize how much we as a society, in America don’t dress up until a few years ago, my dad, who is quite stylish, visited me and we went out to dinner. He had on a button up shirt, slacks and blazer. I wore a dress. But all around us, people were wearing jeans.

My dad shook his head. To him dining out was an experience, therefore you dress up. I agree with him, although I eat out with my friends ALOT and I tend to be a jeans wearer, a lot of times, I do like to turn it up a notch and look like it’s a special occasion.

Then the last few times I’ve gone to the Kennedy Center for performances, I noticed that there were old school folks who dressed to the nines, like myself and others in….jeans.

In my opinion, the Kennedy Center is too beautiful to not show up looking your best. It’s one of my favorite places to go, because it feels so grand. But I guess the general consensus is you are sitting in the dark and no one will see you any way or you aren’t the one on stage.

We’ve gotten way too casual and it’s sad. I do think people feel better about themselves and hold themselves to a higher standard when they dress up for certain events and are expected to. There’s an increased level of civility. I know I walk with my head higher, I have better posture. What’s even worse is when you do go out for an event and everyone says, “Wow, you’re really dressed up.”

Actually, you’re way too casual. I love looking at blogs with street style in Europe and seeing how people in Milan and Paris turn everyday places into runways with a certain style and sophistication.

But here in the land of the free, home of the hamburger, we’ve gotten sloppy and slutty.

I’ll admit, I have moments I pull out a freakum dress or short shorts, but every occasion doesn’t call for that. I’ve been to weddings where people wore flip-flops (they are acceptable and smart during the reception only) and funerals where people wore jeans and tee shirts. (At hood funerals if said tee-shirt has a photo of the deceased, I’ll allow it).

Why can’t we even honor those moments with being well-dressed. We’ve gotten lazy as a society. “Clothes don’t represent who I am.” “I shouldn’t be judged by what I wear.” “People should accept me for who I am.”

I’m old school. I think people should dress nicely for church and I rarely wear pants to church, and if I do they are dress slacks, because that’s how I was raised. It’s not about showing off, or acting like wearing the best clothes is a status symbol or I want to be seen, but I want to respect myself and the occasion. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that or it makes me a dinosaur.

So hell yes, our grandparents dressed better. People may have been poorer or had less education, but they had way more class and self-respect. They had expectations and because they knew how to stretch pennies and make things happen, they knew how to cook and sew and fix things, we benefitted greatly, but it made us lazy.

Eartha Kitt photographed by Gordon Parks as she was being fitted for a dress by a woman who I am 99.9% sure is none other than the pioneering fashion designer Zelda Wynn Valdes in 1952.

Photo from blackvintageglamour.tumblr.com The amazing Eartha Kitt and her almighty seamstress.

Percy Verwayne (1895-1968) was the original Sportin’ Life in the 1927 Broadway DuBose and Dorothy Heyward play, “Porgy,” the precursor to the iconic 1935 George Gershwin opera “Porgy and Bess.” Mr. Verwayne was born in British Guiana (now Guyana) and appeared on Broadway, on radio and in several films for at least thirty years, but he was best known in his day for originating the role of Sportin’ Life. He was also a former athlete and that came in handy in 1941 when he was robbed of 75 cents by a very unwise 18-year-old within two blocks of his Harlem home at 400 West 128th street. The incident was gleefully reported in the New York Amsterdam News on August 9, 1941 under the headline, “Mugger Gets Wrong Victim.” According to the paper, when the mugger tried to run away, “Verwayne chased him for a block, grabbed him by the seat of his trousers and socked him into submission. When the cops arrived, Verwayne was in complete control of the situation.” I’ll bet he was… haha! Photo: New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theater Collection.

Now that’s bespoke. Photo from blackvintageglamour.tumblr.com

And now this is what we have today…

Rihanna Getty Images via Huffington Post.

So, I think deep down we want to dress awesomely. Aside from the storylines, people LIVE for the fashion of shows like “Mad Men,” “Sex and the City,” and most recently, “Scandal” because of the clothes, and the fit of the clothes. I am among a whole lot of people who created pinterest boards based on the fabulous Olivia Pope.

Folks aren’t just salivating over her steamy love scenes, but whilst live tweeting, you see folks going crazy over her coats, and amazingly chic clothing she wears sitting on the couch with her red wine.

http://scandalmoments.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/oliviapopefashionallsaintsepisode5scandalseason2.png?w=620

Photo from scandalmoments.com Please see the wonder that is Olivia Pope in all of her fashionable glory. God, this show.

One of my personal faves. Grandmother would be proud, Liv.

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Photo: Scandalmoments.com

We Are Honestly More Crazy Than Sane

On Facebook today, I was touched to say something like this.

If someone comes to you and shares something difficult, deep or painful, honor that moment. They chose you, they felt safe enough to be vulnerable and share something with you. I don’t take that for granted, I honor them, I honor the moment. Because it takes courage to share something that may be difficult or painful. You don’t know how people will react to it, so it does take a certain level of courage to put yourself out there like that. So whether or not they are my closest friends, a new friend or a complete stranger, I do not take those moments of disclosure lightly.

I don’t know if there’s something about me as a person, or being a journalist that prompts people to sometimes have these really deep moments of disclosure.

I know a big piece of it comes from me giving up a little something too. And usually the floodgates open, when I discuss my mother. My whole body language changes. You can read on my face I’m trying to figure out how to explain it, depending on the person I’m talking to.

I was asked about my mother last night and made reference to the fact that she stopped working, “when she got sick.”

Some people leave it alone. And I allow them to assume whatever illness.

The person last night pressed me, and I hesitated. He told me it was perfectly fine if I didn’t want to discuss it, and then I did. So the first layer is to give the simple, canned answer. “My mother had a mental breakdown when I was 16, and has never been the same. She suffers from extreme paranoia and is a recluse. My father takes care of her.”

Once that is said, folks tend to look lost, like they have no possible words to comfort me, which isn’t what I was looking for, or they open up.

They come forward and they share a story about a sister, an old girlfriend or boyfriend, or cousin or uncle or even their own mother too and every time, I am floored. Because it reminds me that so many people live in silence and shame and they are waiting for someone to tell them they are not alone and this isn’t abnormal by any means.

But when my dinner companion spoke last night, I wasn’t prepared for his family’s story. There was pain, there was honesty, there was bravado and the sense that he had no choice but to get through it all. As he told a vivid story of a close relative who committed suicide, I could hardly breathe. I fought back tears. I thought of other friends that I gave support to who lost loved ones to suicide, or struggling with mental illness.

As I get older, as we all get older and really connect with other people, you realize you are surrounded by survivors.

We all have different battles and scars and wounds, but when you really look into someone’s story, if they didn’t decide to take their life, if they woke up today they survived.

My dinner companion said something that will stick with me.

“There’s no such thing as a completely sane person. It’s impossible. We don’t live in a sane world. There are things happening all the time that make no sense and that are horrible and unfair and we have to react to those things. These things can’t happen to you and you be completely sane. You have to have a part of you that is a little bit crazy, just to survive in this world.”

I totally agree. I’ve often said that I think when mental illness fully takes people over, it’s because the sane part of that person did get tired and weak and sometimes it’s almost easier to check out completely than to face the harsh realities of this life. Sometimes you don’t have the strength being sane requires. It takes a lot, because the world is unfair and filled with ugliness. Finding the goodness in it all takes a lot of work and energy. It’s something you have to do day in and day out and it is exhausting.

There are times I can tell when people don’t talk about their pain very often or at all, because when they tell me, it comes like a flood and they don’t leave out any details. It’s very honest. Knowing how I feel about my story, my mother’s story, my family’s story, I can sense it in other people once they start talking.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been floored if someone discloses to me that they have been abused, or they saw abuse in their own home, or taking the long ride from the abortion clinic alone, or going to bed hungry or having to steal food, or spend a few nights in jail after being racially profiled. But I remained stoic. Sometimes I wanted to reach out and hug these people as they told their stories. But I’d listen with sad eyes, disgusted at whomever caused the pain offering my support non-verbally.

One thing that also amazes me about the people who eventually share.

They are not asking for my pity. I will not give them that, because I can’t. Instead, I’m honored they chose me and I’m proud of how they’ve managed to maintain that little piece of sanity that we all attempt to hold on to everyday.

The human experience is difficult. It really is.

The most beautiful parts of the human experience is when we reach outside ourselves, genuinely, to hold the hands of others, to support them and to lift them up. People have supported me and lifted me up.

I asked my dinner companion what made him happy.

He said he had never really thought about it. And he laughed about never really thinking about it.

So I asked him was there ever a moment where you were right in the moment and you knew then in there you were just happy and you knew you wanted to hold on to it?

And he said sure.

I said that was enough. You don’t need a specific list as long as you can identify it as it is happening.

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