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Why Anyone Wanting a Serious Relationship Needs to REALLY Listen to Kindred the Family Soul

I had the pleasure of watching “Kindred The Family Soul” do their thing at the Summer Spirit Music Festival this weekend in Maryland. And while they weren’t the headliners like Erykah Badu and Jill Scott who closed the two day festival respectively, Aja Graydon and Fantin Dantzler’s performance really stuck with me long after they took their bows and floated off the stage together.

I was introduced to Kindred in college (early 2000s) and they came out around the same time Jill Scott and India Aire did. These artists were a breath of fresh air as I was growing and learning how to be more mature. Listening to these kinds of artists was a gateway to shaping my evolving taste in music. There was something old school about them, yet fresh and relatable to me. You couldn’t ass shake all the time, and you couldn’t scream out loud aggressive raps either. At that time, me and my friends were falling in and out of love and even wondering if the relationships we were building were among the ones that would lead to marriage. It was college after all.

I was immediately drawn to Kindred’s first album, which I think hands down is their best and untouchable, “Surrender to Love.” The classics on that joint still stand the test of time, as evidenced by the reaction from the crowd when they sang a good amount of those songs in their set some 16 years later.

After to Surrender to Love, I kept my eye out for some other songs, only really connecting with a single or two here and there over the last few years. They announced they are releasing their 6th studio album, and I’m just so stuck on their first. I’m sure they wouldn’t be happy with my steadfast devotion to only Surrender to Love and neglecting their other albums, because as artists they need to and have to grow.

I was standing still and my relationships weren’t really evolving to the level of the things they were talking about.

Which is why I’m revisiting Kindred now as a 30-something who has had a few relationships under her belt, including a broken engagement and six long years of being single and now entering something new and serious and very mature.

My ears are starting to perk up to some of the other songs on their other albums and I’m hearing them with completely new ears, because I’m eager to make this thing work, and I’m finding out that deciding to really open yourself up and join with someone else and not be long distance can reveal somethings about yourself in the process. How guarded you really are, and how it takes a lot of trust to undo those protective actions you’ve been crafting so carefully over the years to protect your feelings.

One of the things I appreciate about Aja and Fantin is the very obvious love, respect and genuine affection they have for one another. They are married with six children and that bond as artists, business partners, husband and wife and parents is strong and battle-tested, but their love is genuine and you can still feel them flirting with each other during songs, and even looking on with pride when the other person hits their solo part of the show.

Through their music they lay out the good, bad, ugly and mundane but always bring it back to not wanting to do the ups and downs of life with anyone else but each other.

There have been several times as a black woman, exasperated I’ve asked my friends over drinks and brunches and dinners and international vacations, “Where is black love? What happened to it?”

Aja and Fantin were holding up the banner last night and every night they perform. And their light attracts other couples who are holding on and holding on to each other, and I saw them last night in the audience dancing, singing along, or leading each other through the crowds and keeping each other cool in the heat.

Their lyrics are loving and honest. From day one in their classic hit “Far Away” they lamented working 9-5s and wanting to hold on to that loving feeling, but having to sneak in sexy time while their baby naps.

In other songs, they discuss doing the work to stay together and grow together and that deciding to stay with someone for decades and for the rest of your life is magical, but like a great magic trick– there’s a whole lot going on that the audience will never see, to create the illusion. They ask each other to hang in and to not give up, they remind each other that it’s worth it.

And boy do we need more music like that.
There is a validity that Aja and Fantin bring to their performances that only comes from having a front row seat to each other’s lives. I’m glad they share vulnerability in their songs and remind people of their own vulnerabilities and that loving another person is indeed a risk, but one worth taking each day. One that is necessary if we are to ever truly enjoy the sweetness of life.

It’s often impolite to ask probing questions of the couples we know in real life. Most couples won’t pull back the curtain on their relationship, because it’s not always what we are seeing when folks post those “couples’ challenge” social media posts. And while most couples would be afraid to be so transparent, at least we have Aja and Fantin giving us the real and sharing their journey with us so we can all grow. They are the type of couple who seem like they’d be at the BBQ giving the younger couples the truth about love, and reminding them that it’s worth fighting for and to above all choose wisely.

The gems in Kindred’s body of work aren’t hidden. They lay it all bare. But like love, it’s all about an individual’s willingness and readiness to accept all that comes with it.

And that BBQ advice session was exactly the vibe I felt with my larger “family” of music lovers all day yesterday. Aja and Fantin held court, while I hung on to every note, listening carefully to every word.

Yup, I’m going to take a closer listen to the subsequent albums after “Surrender to Love.” Because you can’t stay in one place. You have to grow, you have to be open, you have to listen and you have to learn.

And growth certainly looks good on Aja and Fantin, and that’s worth emulating.

 

Afternoon Tea Is a Sweet Indulgence

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of tea.

I blame my mother. She’s always good for making the perfect cup and she’s passed down that preference to me.

I pride myself on the fact that I can make a great cup of tea for my guests, and I love watching their faces when they take that first sip.

I also love how having a cup of tea with someone opens the door to wonderful conversations in a relaxed environment. Time and time again, I’ve put on a pot of tea, or introduced someone to some of my fancier loose leaf teas and hours later, we’re still sitting there talking and having cup after cup.

To me, having a cup of tea is just like lighting a candle, burning incense ,or playing music. It sets a tone for relaxation and comfort. It’s something you can enjoy alone while you collect your thoughts, or do something creative, or get to work. It’s something you can share with others. My teas are not just an indulgence, it’s an act of self-care and it’s an opportunity I use to love on the people in my life.

Well, when a former co-worker of mine wanted to hang in downtown Annapolis this weekend to catch up, among the very nice places she recommended for us to have brunch, she also offered up Reynold’s Tavern, a very lovely tea house.

Since I had never had formal tea at a tea house and my collection of loose leaf teas is growing faster than I can drink it, I jumped at the chance.

I have to say, we really enjoyed ourselves and had a great conversation about the writing process and the emotional journey it takes to write, secure an editor and go into the publishing process. I haven’t gotten as far as her, (she is a brilliant historical fiction novelist) but I do know what it’s like to start a novel or a book and be parts obsessed with it and also feel completely insecure about the whole thing.

There was an extensive tea menu, we both had teas that were based on Jane Austen characters, and they were sooooo good.

There’s something extra special about drinking from a tea-cup and resting it gently on a saucer or taking the infuser out of the pot and just letting the tea rest.

In between all of these actions, there’s discussion and there’s nibbling from the three-tiered serving set.

The tea was delicious, so much so, we each purchased some to take home. I was in love with my crab and shrimp Quiche and light salad and really enjoyed the small desserts.

As I get older, I appreciate these kind of old school ways of gathering and socializing. This goes right up there with meeting with my book club and sharing ideas and feelings with other brainy people who are passionate about books, and what’s going on in the world.

In a time where it seems the ratchet is revered, it’s nice to dip away to another place in time and visit a place like Reynold’s Tavern in the heart of a historic city, and be ladies and gentlemen of leisure.

They Don’t Know About This Here…How We Backseat Judge Relationships

Relationships are fascinating.

That’s probably why as a larger society we can’t get enough of learning about the love lives and pairings of our favorite celebrities and then trying to decide how or why people are together, if we’ve already made up our minds they don’t fit.

And we’re pretty judgey about it. We are very matchy, matchy about it, knowing full darn well, we have probably dated folks who were very different from us ourselves for a variety of reasons. The number one being, we actually liked them. We liked spending time with them, they were good people. They had an ability to give us something we wanted and needed and we liked it.

We simplify this and say good looking people should be with other good looking people. Smart people should be with other smart people. We put folks in various leagues and when our faves end up with folks we didn’t expect, we actually go in on them pretty hard and we judge harshly.

Just google Birdman and Toni Braxton. Look at the hell Jesse Williams’ wife, Aryn went through being called “average” or “regular” while that man openly begs to differ and adores her as the queen she is. She was with him before he became a sex symbol and was just a regular teacher, before hitting it big on television.

We adore the power couple of President Barack Obama and his stunner and intelligent wife Michelle, and we not only love their collective impressive ass smarts, and their super gorgeous offspring, we love how they are both attractive and how their affection for each other seems really genuine and natural.

They look at each other as if the entire world literally isn’t watching. They’ve gotten used to it. It’s their world, we are just watching. They are playful with each other, they compliment and encourage, and they even make jokes about their flaws or small annoying habits.

Those two are easy to love together. And we co-sign enthusiastically.

But other relationships, be it political or even when it comes to music or movie stars, we somehow are the experts on which relationships work and which ones don’t. We somehow become invested in a very personal choice between two people. We got some nerve.

And who knows what the psychology is around that? But we don’t just limit this to folks we don’t know. We do it in our everyday lives. We size up the partners of our friends and family all of the time.

We wonder how an overweight cousin has found love with someone who we think is attractive.

We speculate how a quiet co-worker captures and keeps the attention of a partner who is confident, charismatic and charming.

We wonder how that loud ass chick with the bad sew-in, and broke down flip-flops in the grocery store has a wedding band on her finger.

We just can’t nail it down.

This week’s biggest example of how we scrutinize relationships and don’t really know the depth of people’s relationships from the outside had to be President Bill Clinton. This week we witnessed him send up a heartfelt endorsement of his wife former First Lady, New York Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in Philly.

He went into this speech knowing that the whole world knew about him getting sloppy toppy in the Oval Office from Monica Lewinsky, making Hillary the modern poster child for “standing by her man.” Hell, those actions nearly got him thrown out of office. So while it was a huge purple elephant in the room, we all knew the story. It was 20 years ago. There was no need to rehash. This was finally the moment he knew Hillary deserved.

He knew this. He knew of all of the criticisms and wild accusations about her character. He knew that her sticking with him through the years in some eyes made her seem weak, but he spoke of her inner strength, and confidence in herself that began way before they ever met, and how it was those traits along with her intelligence, and her passion for people and her ability to make things happen is what kept attracting him to her in law school.

I’m glad he gave that kind of speech that said, let it be known, she’s the catch. She’s been the catch day one. And for all the unnecessary shit you give her, and the free passes you give to me off of my charm, I have a deep respect for her. Maybe my penis didn’t a time or two, but I admire her, I’m proud of her. You’ve pulled a part her looks, questioned her womanhood, hypermasculinized her, but she is very much a woman.

I’m glad he pulled out all of the receipts to show the world his wife, the woman he chose and he chased (he had to ask her three times) was not only qualified to be president because he sat in the seat, but that her love was worth earning, and he was willing to earn it over and over from the start of their relationship even through today.

Will we see Bill and Hill share an affection that’s as sexy as Barack and Michelle’s? It may be awkward to watch at this point, and most of us wouldn’t be interested.

But their love is a love no less. It may be hard to understand, because like Sade said, “This is no ordinary love.” But unlike John Legend’s song, Bill and Hill aren’t “Ordinary People.”

There are practical lovers in this world, who operate in the mundane and the hard work of loving someone for a long time and living in true partnership and forgiveness and recognition of that special thing the rest of the world may not see. And honestly, it’s not for the rest of the world to consume.

That’s the thing about love and marriage, its between two people, to be hammered out daily, to morph and change and grow. It’s made of rules that are revised and updated and ratified. It is recovery from defeats and failures. It is the transparency that it’s not always perfect. It’s flexible, while being rooted. It can bend, but it won’t break.

R and B singer Jon B. said it best in his hit song, “They Don’t Know.”

“Don’t listen to what people say

They don’t know about, bout you and me

Put it out your mind, cuz it’s jealousy

They don’t know about this here.”

We don’t have a clue about Barack and Michelle and what they go through, we don’t have a clue about Bill and Hillary, but while there are a lot of contrast in those relationships, there are similarities too.

We’ve balked at Bobby and Whitney, Mariah and Nick, Kim and Kanye, Beyonce and Jay. And we tripped about how fine-ass Janet Jackson even considered messing with an impish Jermaine Dupri. We’ve elevated Will and Jada, and Courtney and Angela and Pauletta and Denzel but for every couple that we admire, the ones that made us say WTF, were no less real, no less honest and no less human.

We really don’t know.

Just Say No (Confidently and Politely)

Not less than 10 minutes ago, I came out of a meeting that was about 10 minutes long.

It was supposed to be at least a half hour, but one word really shut down the entire conversation and ended the meeting abruptly.

The discussion was around coming up with some art to promote a very large section of the website, that had several groups listed within it, that each had their own webpage.

Our goal was to create an image that was going to represent 32 different entities, and invite people to not only visit the page that explains these entities further, but to join one that best fits their discipline.

So, here I am with my boss and the graphic designer on the case. I gave two examples of how we could handle the situation. One would be to highlight each entity with a distinguishing graphic of its own and feature a group each week. The other would be something that I saw where it was a graphic image made of words (all 32 entities) that spell out our call to action “Join this group.”

Yes, I grabbed an example used from “Black Lives Matter” where the phrase was spelled out using the names of the victims in a pattern. I knew this example would have been controversial, but it really was the best visual example of what I wanted to do with all 32 names.

My boss really liked it. We thought this would be a slam dunk.

The graphic designer, basically said no. Actually it wasn’t basically. She said no, period. And was unbothered about it.

My boss tried to sell her on the idea, and the graphic designer said no again.

She wasn’t angry or mean.

She just scrunched up her face a bit and offered that we go back to another previous version of the design for us to present to the client. It was direct, it was simple, and it was clear it wasn’t up for debate.

Then she didn’t even ask if there was anything else, or she’d take our ideas into consideration to come up with a happy medium of what we’d discussed.

She thanked us for our time and bounced.

This instantly reminded me of a line from a new instant classic movie “Dope” where the character Diggy says, “I’m George Bush. I don’t give a fuck what the vote says.”

I was really shocked and amused and confused at what I just witnessed. Did I think her reaction was professional in a collaborative setting?

My boss softly said, “Well, I liked that idea. But she’s the artist.”

It’s a rare moment when I see especially other women, especially women of color (the graphic designer was Asian) just assert themselves and it wasn’t in a confrontational way, but just firmly say no, case closed.

She did it so smooth, in the moment, I couldn’t be pissed.

I feel kind of strange about it.
While I applaud her for a level of unbotherdness I’d never witnessed on the job by a non-white male (she’s only about a month or so in), I do feel as if as a new person, she missed an opportunity to be more collaborative, or even take the ideas given to her and to elevate them.

The reason my boss and I didn’t react in a pissy way, is because one, we were shocked. Two, we didn’t have the time. She said she’d send back the original she was working on and give the client that first. That was her proposal. That would be her action item. That would be her contribution. She was firm, and still pleasant. That’s why I kind of admire her swag, even though I still think she was being a bit rigid. But it made me ask myself why was I so quick to feel like she wasn’t being a team player?

Because I’m a hater. And I wouldn’t have had the guts to do what she did. I would have defaulted to trying to please everyone despite my schedule, or other projects. We’ve romanticized being a team player to the point of emotional paralysis and to the point where true team players get manipulated.

The other flipside to this is, if you are someone who is good at what you do, you know what works and what doesn’t. She also has other projects to juggle, and must prioritize her time. Her quick assessment of what was presented before her led her to a simple answer to our suggestions. No. And as non graphic designers, they were totally suggestions. We are not her supervisor. So was our expectation that she at least put some of these ideas to paper unreasonable? Were we being poor collaborators?

This chick really had me scratching my head.

So I decided to put myself in her shoes. As a professional graphic designer, what we were offering up may have seemed way below her talents and appeared uninspired and trite, but once again, I would have taken that opportunity to elevate what my colleagues offered up which is usually what our lead graphic designer does.

I’ve often said I don’t like my time being wasted. And I’ve complained about non-writers telling me how to write.

This situation revealed to me something very interesting about myself.

Usually, when I say no to something, I have to think of 50 million ways to justify it or explain it to someone. Like, I spend a considerable amount of time thinking of ways to make my no go down a lot smoother, and that I tried my best to accommodate you first before making such a tough decision.

This new graphic designer did not go through such a mental exercise.

Was it appropriate to do so? I’ll let you chew on that, but it did reinforce the concept that’s especially lost on a lot of women that no is an answer, and it’s a full sentence. By itself. No further explanations needed.

I’ll have to try it on for size and see how it works to say the word no, without hesitation, explanation or sugar on top to make it go down sweeter for the listener. In other words, I take an inordinate amount of time being worried about someone’s reaction to me telling them no, that I automatically prepare for pushback.

This was a truly teachable moment for me.

Firmly and politely saying no with no qualms and no excuses, could appear arrogant and may make you seem difficult to work with. But sometimes a well-placed, confident no, can express the value of your time and your level of skill.

I’ll have to learn how to get comfortable with the word no, just as comfortable as I am with saying my own name. No isn’t offensive. No is a choice. No is a person exercising their autonomy. This is why we have difficulty hearing it, this is why we go off on children who say it to us with confidence.

While I believe children do need to be respectful of parents, when kids say no, our inclination is to react to it as an act of defiance and disrespect instead of a child acting as a human being who has likes, dislikes and is expressing discomfort or disagreement with a situation.

We are subconsciously telling our kids that there’s always a negative consequence to telling someone no.But as a woman, and as a person of color, we struggle with asserting our autonomy because when we do, when we are absolutely justified, there is pushback.

Any sign of our defiance can cost us jobs, a professional reputation, and even our lives.

That’s just the reality.

When we are in a store, we don’t have time to analyze it, or when it’s time to go to school or go to bed, those are the nonnegotiables. Children better pretend the word “no” doesn’t exist when it comes to such matters. People of color have to teach our kids to get along and be excessively compliant to authority figures as a matter of safety.

We make jokes and remind them that children don’t pay bills in this house, which is true.But underneath it all, we’re giving them a lesson about power and where they fit in all of that. It kind of disturbs me.

But children are still small people who grow into adults who want to either have their way all the time or be chronic people-pleasers with strained sanity, hanging for dear life to the one last nerve we’ve got left. Where is the healthy middle?

But how do we raise our kids to say no at the right time, so that when they are adults they are confident decision-makers while being good people to work with? How do they stand up for their rights as tax-paying citizens without the system turning on them? How do we teach them the powerful “nos” that help them exit unhealthy relationships and uncomfortable situations?

How do we retrain ourselves as adults to be confident enough to say no when it makes sense and to know when to sacrifice for the good of others?

So what do you think? While people do have a right to say no, and in a lot of cases we don’t say no enough, should we be more willing to compromise especially at work? Or have we been groomed as a society to accommodate first, then say no?

Job Hunting On a Deadline Is Emotionally Draining

Hey folks.

Not long ago, I found myself trying to coach and encourage my cousin visiting from the south about jumping in, getting a job and grinding like hell to achieve his goals.

I told him to be prepared for obstacles: some of which he had no control, and some of which may have been created by old choices or lack of planning and preparation.

As I enter my last month of employment in a few days, and still have bills to pay, so far, I’ve had one promising interview, and I’ve been putting in several applications all over the place.

I do believe that things are going to work out, and it’s never based on my sense of timing. And God hasn’t let me down before, even if things appeared to be down to the wire.

But my anxiety is ramping up. Especially after doing an electronic application for a job I know I was qualified for, but got a lightning quick rejection. Like immediate. LOL.

Me thinks my salary requirement got me bounced immediately. Which, probably is a good thing. There’s no point in even having a great interview if the salary they are offering is too low.

But see, everything is making me feel edgy and uncertain and in a kind of ho-hum mood.

I’ve been virtually silent at work, really just trying to get through the day and my tasks.

It’s nearly impossible for me to concentrate on the statistics class I’ve been “supposed” to be working so diligently on over the summer so I can return to my grad school program in good standing. Progress is at a standstill on that front. I get lumps in my throat thinking about it. It’s hard to move forward on a self-paced course. How sad is that?

So, per the usual, I’ve been not even looking for the silver lining, I’ve been looking for the golden lesson. The what is this preparing me for? What am I supposed to gain from feeling how I feel, and willing myself to put out just one more application?

Am I applying blindly out of fear? Or wisely out of purpose and true interest in the job?

Fear and uncertainty makes us scramble. It sounds a lot like our current presidential election.

We have a serious problem with discomfort. Fear makes us rationalize behaviors or ideas, that when we are otherwise calm and confident, we’d never consider.

It’s not limited to our votes, it extends to the partners we choose to stick with for fear of being alone, it extends to not expressing how we feel for fear of backlash or being unaccepted, it extends to every type of fear that holds us back.

So now, I have to speak myself out of the fear.

I am dwelling in the unknown. But I have family, I have friends, I have love, I have skills and talents. These are things that I know. I’ve lived in places I never thought I would and I’ve survived.

I had people tell me that I wasn’t good enough and I knew it was a lie, and I survived.

I thought the end of a relationship was the end of me ever being happy again, and six years later, I know it to be a lie.

The old church folks love to say “The Devil is a Lie.” And it’s very tempting to try to correct their grammar, and say isn’t it “The Devil is a liar?”

It’s both. Everything about the devil and all that comes with him is a lie. He works through very real things and very specific details in our lives to thwart us from our divine purpose he uses lies to get in our heads. He uses lies as agents of fear, because fear makes us move, it drives us to action.

I’m not a biblical scholar by any means, but now I get why there are so many scriptures that say things like “Fear not.” Or, “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.”

Other verses mention love casting out fear. I gravitate to the idea of the power of a sound mind the most. The challenge is to maintain a sound mind when our natural impulse would be to fear. Our bodies react to all kinds of situations: we sweat, we want to run and hide, we get weak stomachs, we pass out, we fight.

But how do we calm ourselves in the face of fear? How do we accept what is and what will be?

Having fear is a natural human flaw that attempts to protect us from pain and threats.

However pushing beyond our fears draws us closer to our supernatural, interior selves.

Even self-help folks, and motivational speakers talk over and over again about conquering fear, about drowning out voices of self-doubt.

It’s very easy to be fearful in the world we live in, and some days, staying under the covers is the solution. But there comes a time when we must act. When we must do our part, do our best in the face of fear and trust our Creator will do the rest.

 

 

Pain and Possibility: Finding Our Way Through Difficult Times

I’ve been really weary with all of the things that have been going on in the world.

The violence and unrest and waking up to the next awful thing unfolding on the news and on social media is wearing me out. I can’t help but to be hurt, I can’t help but to care.

I can’t help but to be angry and helpless all at the same time. I’m mad because as a former journalist, I’m seeing a lot of irresponsible things happening with words, images and sounds.

I’m questioning everything, I’m mad about situations that are well within our control as a society and the things we’ve allowed to be out of control.

There are discussions of accountability and change, and I listened to a very interesting message given passionately by the pastor at church yesterday, how starting change with us as an individual is extremely difficult, so when we expect governments, institutions and entire systems to just do it overnight we’re reaching.

He didn’t say change wouldn’t happen, he just said that it does take time. I took something from that. We curse the pace of change and we get frustrated with those who don’t get it and don’t help us move fast enough, especially if we have the means to.

The second thing that kind of hit me was, usually we don’t have a problem with other people changing something we’ve pointed out is a flaw. And we may even recognize areas where we need to change. We may have a list of things some are easy, but there’s usually ONE thing that’s required of us, that may be a large sacrifice, inconvenience or act of faith and we say “I’ll do anything, but I won’t or can’t do that.”

The pastor continued to say how pain is often involved with change and usually serves as the catalyst for change to happen. The discomfort of our pain drives us to do what it takes to seek relief.

I’m awful at swallowing large pills. But it seems the times that I’ve been very sick, or in a lot of pain, I’ve managed to get them down if they were directly involved with even the slightest improvement.

But this is a human issue. It’s something we all have to look at and deal with.

I have a cousin who is in town. And I’ve been analyzing a lot of things about him, his choices, the hopes he has. And upon further discovery unpeeling other layers about his world living in a southern town with not a lot of options and how our lives are so different, based on decisions our mothers made respectively.

Where you live, where you go to school, who is your advocate and how powerful your advocates are dictate where you’ll go. It is unfair, because countless people who were brilliant and wonderful and could give something to the world may have lived and died in poverty in some far off place we’ve never heard of, or right around the corner in a community that is overlooked and looked down upon.

There’s fate, there’s belief in hard work and timing. There’s figuring out it’s all in who you know, which has contributed to most of my most amazing opportunities and experiences hands down. It was up to me to prepare myself for the experiences, but I had to somehow get connected. I had to express my need, and that if given the chance I could take it and run with it.

I had to establish a track record with people where they’d want to vouch for me.

Sometimes I feel small and insignificant. I think a lot of us feel that way these days.

I’ve been in deep conversations with the people I love talking about what we’re supposed to do about all of this trouble in the world.

I’ve tried to comfort and fire myself up by reminding myself that we all have a lane.

We all have gifts and talents and we can’t confine ourselves to fit into the one thing that a whole bunch of people deem is the one or two or even three possible ways to solve a problem.

You have to go with what fits, you have to go with something that you’ll want to be consistent with.

So if you are a writer, I say, write. Write about your pain. Then write about possibilities. This blog helps me.

If you are a doctor or medical professional, don’t dismiss your work as a service to the community because you do it everyday and get paid for it. You have a talent and a skill to heal people, that’s your lane.

If you love to cook, cook for people who need it. A good meal from the heart means a lot to people.

If you are a good listener, listen to people who are hurting. Sometimes people just need to vent and feel like they have been heard.

Do you play sports? Round up some folks and play a game.

Like kids, help your friends who have kids and babysit.

Give money to an organization that does things that you support and believe in.

Sit down with someone and share knowledge if they are up for it.

We limit ourselves, and we judge others based on what we think they are doing or not doing. We judge people about how aware we think they should be. We judge and judge and judge but we never have all of the information.

I continue to be really weary and anxious. I’m trying to keep grasp of a faith I often question, trying to map out the difference between what I truly believe from what I’ve been told to believe and reconciling what’s in between and if that is my truest belief and if that’s what God really wants me to find and connect to at the end of the day.

It doesn’t help that I’m on the hunt for a new job, with a very specific deadline.

I seriously wish I could take a week or two to simply rest and get my life together (preferably someplace tropical). But I don’t have that luxury. I have so many thoughts in my head and heart. I want to be better. But I have so many questions. And I wonder if what I have will be enough. And as one person, maybe I’m not supposed to be enough. I’m stardust in a vast unlimited sky. But if we all at least try, with real intention and from a place of honesty and humility, we’ll fill in the gaps together and where one falls short, it won’t matter.

I know I’m not the only one.

Cleaning House, Letting Go: Emotional Hoarding Is a Thing

I have a real difficulty with letting things go.

This struggle isn’t only limited to my emotional baggage, but crap I’ve collected over the years.

The times that I’ve let things go, it’s usually because I was forced to. I could literally go no further until I dropped whatever baggage, hurt feelings, ego and fear and let go.

It wouldn’t happen until I came to the realization that the things I was holding on to may have been ridiculously outdated, didn’t fit, represented or reminded me of a compulsion or obsession of the moment.

I’ve been reading the “Art of Tidying Up.” And while I’d be proud of small victories like cleaning out my closets, and donating old clothes and other items, I knew there were old boxes tucked away in closets, and loads and load of old junk mail hidden in all sorts of places in my house as I’d make a mad dash to clear it out of the way to hide from visitors.

I’d always say, I’d return, focus and get rid of it all someday, but I’d either forget about those hiding places, or ignore them altogether dreading doing the work to make good on the promise I’d made myself.

Clearing the crap out of your life is a necessary thing. It feels good once you’ve completed the task, and there’s a momentary high and a paranoia about keeping your home, workspace, clutter-free and not ever letting things get that bad ever again.

But old habits die hard.

We get tired. We collect the mail and throw it on a table and it just takes a string of dog-tired or tough days to throw us on track, and then visitors are coming. You have to hide them somewhere until they leave, and you’ll deal with it on the 48-hour Saturday, you keep telling yourself you’ll eventually have.

A therapist told me long ago, I have compartmentalized all of my issues, pains, problems in fantastic looking boxes. I also collect bags and tend to keep the “good bags” that come from nice stores to remind me that I bought something from such a place.

I had to laugh at myself while trying to clean out all of those good bags. I’m so terrible that I decided to rank the good bags and keep a few of the best ones. With the sturdy handles, that were large enough to carry gifts or clothes to take to good will.

In my mind, while these bags originally served a purpose, I’m still holding on because they appear to be in good shape and in my mind they can and will serve another purpose and when that day comes, that great shopping bag will be PERFECT! I will be right for holding on, proving everyone wrong who said it was just junk. My desire is to be right and to silence those voices real and imagined. This was worth saving. I told you.

Holding on to it via some system in my mind that I set up to put a value on it, a value that would make no sense to anyone else but me, that’s an extension of something deeper.

I was thinking about holding on, because I’m mourning having to let go of a project once again that I put my heart and soul into. The success of the project is growing and I’m very proud that I was instrumental in it. But this is the second time a project that I’ve put so much into I can’t participate in its evolution, this is where I get off. I feel like I’ve been used and discarded by my contract not being renewed after all of this excellent work.

It’s hard.

There have been seasons where I felt like I stayed in one place for a very, very long time. I kept saying I was ready to move on and yet nothing moved into place to allow me to do that. I had to stay exactly where I was.

In other posts, I said staying in the valley was a time for rest, organization, restoration and preparation. I still believe that.

But now, I feel like I’m dealing with the complete opposite.

As soon as I establish a groove, gain confidence, respect and get something going, there is an abrupt stop. I’m forced to move in a new direction when I still think there’s more work to be done and I have so much more to give.

But maybe this time, albiet short was just the amount of time I needed to be where I was and it’s not about the length. It’s easier to wrap my head around the valley period in retrospect of being at a job for 7 years, than it is for me to understand that I could have gained just what I needed working on a project for a year and a half or simply just 9 months. I also have to understand and accept that what I was able to produce and give to my clients in such short periods of time, the hard work, the level of detail and care that I gave, it has value. It means something. The people that I’ve met, I was able to form relationships and learn from them as they learned from me, and that can happen in a short season.

This is what I have to tell myself. Because as more good news and accolades come in, instead of celebrating I found myself sulking.

If the product was that great, why wasn’t my contract extended despite budget cuts why did you not see value in what I brought to allow me to stay?

But it’s not about that.

If the season is over, and the skills I’ve gained will take me to the next project, and the next challenge and I can do bigger and better things, I cannot limit myself based on the fact that I got comfortable and I got used to something.

Readjust.

It’s totally confusing, to be honest. I’ve literally changed two jobs in two years and about to change again. I wasn’t that person. I once thrived on consistency and stability until I felt like it was suffocating me. I was frustrated that I slipped into the sidelines and didn’t take risks.

The grass is always greener.

Now, that I’m living in a contractor world, the uncertainty and the constant change and reminder that no matter how good you are at what you do, you really have no control, that high risk equals a high reward until it doesn’t, it’s leaving me wondering about recalibrating myself. The holding on the letting go. How to balance. How to have peace about the future and confidence in my abilities to make things happen, and faith that it will work out and I will land where I belong for how long I’m supposed to. I’ve had to learn how to prioritize and how to deal with conflicts and contradictions in my heart and mind, and how to examine the things I said I wanted a year or even 6 months ago, and trying to figure out how that fits in my life right now and in my future.

I think about the things I fear, and how to face them down and not be overwhelmed with anxiety.

I think about what makes me happy, brings me joy and what interests me, and sets me on fire where I can’t stop talking about it.

There is an answer in taking the time to sift through the junk in my house, in my heart and in my head.

I have to be brave enough not to just drag it out in the open, but deal with it piece-by-piece, thanking each item for what it brought to my life and simply letting it go. Not moving it to another place in my house and heart to be forgotten and eventually dealt with “someday.”

How Howard U Helped Me Personalize Familiar Fashions From Mass Retailers

It was one of those days.

I was mentally drained as we put the finishing touches on a complicated, months-long project and I wanted a decent lunch. I wanted to take an actual full lunch hour away from my desk, where I could eat and digest my food uninterrupted, walk the streets of DC on a non-stifling hot day, and even, gasp, browse a large H&M nearby.

Well, I made the executive decision to take that hour of self-care, and managed to slide into H&M while a great sale was taking place. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to any of the other floors. (I eventually had to go back to work. Tick, tick. Sniff, sniff.)

There was plenty of wonderful merchandise that caught my eye including shorts with beautiful African-inspired prints, (I’m a sucker for that, and I’m heading to the African-American Festival in Baltimore this weekend, so I simultaneously honor the ancestors and slay.) breezy, flowy dresses, cute tops and lightweight summer jackets I rationalized that I’ll need in freezing offices and on airplanes.

Like myself, I saw other women, with a leisurely, yet purposeful stroll through the racks, eyeing and pawing at the clothing. We’d each hold up items we were interested in, giving it a quick assessment and making yes, no decisions in a matter of seconds, well, cuz, we had to go back to work. Even while making these decisions, there was a general sense of calm.

We were all in our happy place. Shopping. Surrounded by sales.

But while we were all different shapes, sizes, ethnicities, ages, etc., I noticed something while standing in the swiftly moving line (Shout out to the store at 17th and K).

We were all buying the same things.

The same, exact items.

This is the nature of shopping at fast fashion spots like H&M or Zara, or even Target (especially when they do those collaborations with major fashion designers). Someone you know, or don’t know, like the cute girl standing at the end of the train platform who seems familiar, is. Not because you may know her, or she’s a friend of a friend you met once, it’s simply because you both bought the same clothes.

As a Howard grad, I can recall this happening on a regular basis as the Howard girls flocked to all of the same stores in Georgetown and Pentagon City (my crew purposely made treks out to other shopping malls in Virginia or Maryland to avoid this problem), or even around the corner on Georgia Ave with the quick, cheap club gear at Susan Fashion. If you had a bit more disposable income, you could hit Up Against the Wall, for the hottest, more expensive brand names in early 2000s Hip-Hop fashion.

Because of this inevitability, most Howard girls didn’t sweat it. It was no secret we all liked shopping at the same places. However, rather than having a meltdown and trying to exit unnoticed, or trying to accidentally ruin someone’s outfit, we chose a more civilized and creative solution. A solution that would actually serve us well throughout life and emphasize individuality and confidence.

We tailored the outfit to our personality and developing style. We all didn’t have the money to keep buying more clothes, or more exclusive clothes, so we were forced to work with what we had and gained some insight into our own style to stand out in a sea of other beautiful women.

Thinking back, it was a who wore it best before that became an actual thing. But, to me, the wide variety of interpretations was more inspiring than competitive.

It wasn’t unusual to see a tomboy from a big city rock the same top as a southern, small-town debutante. Maybe the tomboy would cut it up a little and wear it with sports bra, sweatpants and Jordans, while the debutante rocked it with a skirt, blazer and pearls.The bohemian soul sista would rock hip-hugging jeans, and a headscarf, with beautiful wooden earrings hanging from her ears. Maybe she’d tie her shirt to show off her bellyring. SAME SHIRT THO!

So as I scanned the other fashionable DC worker bees checking out, or standing in line with some of the same items I held in my hands, I issued myself a challenge. I reminded myself of my good ol college days where it was expected that you’d spot several girls on your dorm floor, at the game, in your classes and on the yard rocking the same fits from Express, Forever 21, Gap, Aeropostale. And you simply had to do you and be confident in doing so.

I also hope that the women who bought the same items that I did today and the gazillions of other H & M stores worldwide and online, rock them with confidence and that it reflects their personal style. I know I will. I’m excited.

Instead of running for the hills, when I see another woman wearing the same outfit, if she’s within arm’s reach, I like to compliment her and admire her twist on it. Usually, it turns out well, and we compliment each other.

And in this spirit, I share with you the tricks I honed from my Howard sisters that have helped me stand out today.

ACCESSORIES: For me, I strategize around accessories. Accessories always elevate my outfit, and tend to earn me compliments. Simply putting on a belt to cinch that waist, will change the game. Throw on a scarf, and folks will swear you are Clair Huxtable and Kate Middleton rolled up into one. And it’s pretty easy to throw on a great necklace or a couple of bracelets, and look pulled together. From the fashionistas rocking the Chanel jewelry and the Louis Vuitton handbags, to the around the way girls who copped their accessories bargaining at a flea market, to the chicks who make their own, accessories do make an outfit sing even if they are all wearing an H&M jumpsuit.

BOLD LIP: Folks tend to notice me more when I rock a red, or a pink lip. I usually like browns, beiges and deep plum colors.

SHOE GAME PROPER: Got a great summer dress from H&M? Are you rocking cowboy boots or some old school chucks? Attention will be paid for you thinking beyond heels or sandals. Do you have shoes that have a cool print, or a bold, solid color?

MIX N’ MATCH: Michelle Obama has taught us long ago the art of mixing high-end clothing with more affordable brands to present an effortless and always-on-point ensemble. I’ve been thinking about how great my solid color tees, or bodysuits would look with my print heavy shorts, or how the lightweight African print jacket I bought would work nicely with one of my long, solid sundresses, sunglasses and a great statement necklace. The options are really endless!

Sometimes You Just Can’t Live Up to Other’s Expectations, And It’s Perfectly Fine

I was living my life and enjoying a lovely day while hanging out with a friend. This is a similar friend who I’ve blogged about where we’ve had our ups and downs, and while this person may struggle with some issues, including mild narcissism which I came to this conclusion twice in the same day, I’ve decided to just accept this person as they are and do me.

So we’re hanging out, and all of a sudden she tells me she has to get something off her chest.

I knew where this was going. After spending a lot of emotional energy trying to help her get through some tough times last winter, which included cooking for her and staying at her home, we had an argument over something small.

It’s always something small, that sets me off. So I told her she has a short memory and comes at me for stupid things, yet she has other friends who she won’t hold accountable at all and that with the exception of one or two, I think they are all fake. And her crew goes round and round just being fake to each other and I can’t subscribe to that.

Well during this latest encounter, she wants to go back to that argument to chide me about not talking shit about her friends. I fight rolling my eyes.
Basically, this wasn’t really supposed to be a two-way conversation. And as she talked about me not being there for her, I realized I was in the presence of someone who needed more help and more attention than I’m qualified for.

I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, because I knew what I could give as a friend and what I couldn’t. All I heard was I need, I need and you didn’t and you weren’t there.

As usual, this person expected me to apologize and fall all over myself. I didn’t. I simply said, you need more support than I can give. I feel that you tend to deem your problems more severe than my own and while you may have gone through some very terrible things this year, I supported you as best I could, while navigating my own challenges. I did the very best I could. Do you have a mental health plan in place, because you need other people besides me.

I realized I was in a love languages situation. This person is most certainly a quality time person and thrives on being surrounded by family and friends all the time, while for me, I like physical touch.

At this point I knew I had to be somewhat special, because I do believe I have been doing my best, even though there are times where I get tired of people. I want to spend time alone to gather my thoughts and simply rest.

I’m used to loving a lot of people from a distance because geographically they aren’t close. I’m used to the people in my life having an understanding that I love them and will do what I can for them.

Can I improve? Yes. But I think there is a line, there are some people who expect way too much and can’t see how one person can’t handle and take on all of the other person’s problems. When I asked her what she needed from me specifically, she couldn’t say. She just felt like I wasn’t there.

Sometimes I’m awful at checking up on people. I get wrapped up in the things I’m doing, or I think of people, but I’m way too tired to have a conversation where I’m truly present. That’s why when I do finally have conversations with folks on the phone, it can go to two hours easily. I want to be present. But maybe people really only need 10 or 15 minutes of me when they need me. It’s something I wrangle with.

I don’t like feeling guilty about whether or not I’m giving enough of myself to people, because I feel like it’s in direct competition with giving myself the self-care I need. I hate to see people in pain. My mind immediately goes to thinking of ways to solve a friend’s problem or figuring out the right thing to say. But it’s exhausting.

I’m not sure what the right answer is. But there are times, emotionally where I feel like I need to put my oxygen mask on first, and friends like the one I’ve mentioned seem to feel like me doing that is disrespectful or neglectful to their needs.

I’ve decided in terms of that friendship, I have to be ok with where I am with certain friendships. I already decided a long time ago, that I accept this person and I can’t imagine them not in my life, but sometimes keeping a distance works best for me, but it doesn’t work so well for her. I told that person, that by now they should know me and that my intentions are always good, and I am always concerned, and always want the best for her, but I cannot keep vigil over them 24 hours a day and I can’t be expected to drop everything in my life, for every crisis this person may have everyday. It’s unfair to have that expectation. And this is where other support has to come in, and professional support.

I worry about the boundary lines of where her responsibility lies within herself, and where I’m supposed to come in with support. I feel no person should feel like they are alone, but there are times we all feel that way. We have to spread the responsibility of support around to those who love us. We cannot offload the lion’s share of our worries, pain and neuroses on just one person. But we do have to think of constructive ways to tackle our internal issues and do the work. We won’t grow if we get our fix of having someone just be there to distract us from what’s really eating us. And I think primarily, she likes the distraction and to feel like someone will drop everything for her to feel valued. And that’s a false sense of security, which leads her right back to where she started as soon as someone can’t keep that up. And I think that’s even true of romantic relationships. You can’t drain your human resources just as you would any other resource.

We have to figure out ways to improve our self-care techniques with outside support as a companion to a multi-pronged approach to our emotional well-being. And that may be really challenging, but I think it has to be done.

I love my friends, but I should be allowed to have the space to speak up and say I have limitations. I may disappoint you sometimes, as you may disappoint me. May we not have short memories for the times we offered our support in just the right way, may we have the strength to offer the best support possible when our friends need us most.

10 Ways to Meet Your Mate More Socially Acceptable than Online

I became privy to an interesting conversation recently.
Guy and girl meet online. They chat, the chatting upgrades to phone calls, the phone calls upgrade to meeting in person, several dates and a few months later, these two are an item.
They are getting along famously. Guy asks girl to meet his folks, and girl says yes.
She meets the folks, it all goes great and they discuss the verdict coming in from guy’s family.
She passes with flying colors. Even with Guy’s mom.
But there’s a catch. The Aunties have given their blessing, and in the excitement of it all asked guy where he met girl. He casually responds online, and the aunties’ faces fall. They begin to worry, and exchange tales of woe, failed marriages and stolen organs sold on the black market.
And hence the online meeting versus meeting someone in person age-old debate began. Which led to the even deeper question of regardless of how you met, how well do you really know the people you choose to date, or anyone for that matter?
So, in honor of the aunties and all who side eye online dating, I would like to introduce to you all, 10 Ways to Meet Your Mate, More Socially Acceptable than Online. Now, some of these are old favorites, and others I’ve thrown in to be a complete smart ass.

1. If your parents hooked you up. It’s really a parent’s dream to actually vet and choose the right person for their child because they want their kids to be happy and not make mistakes. It goes back to you being a baby and them baby proofing your house and making sure you don’t hurt yourself. It still applies in your 30s. While some parents may have a more laid back or hands off approach, there are some parents who are actively involved in the process whether they culturally subscribe to arranged marriages for real, for real, or not. FYI, this would probably be the number one answer for parents, and not really anyone else. But they size up your partner with the most scrutiny.

1A. Your family or friends hooked you up. Now, this could be a blind date situation, this could be a set up via a backyard barbecue, wedding, baby christening, Nay Nay’s graduation party, but there’s nothing like actually clicking with who were co-signed by your loved ones. They’ll never let you live it down, they’ll take all the credit if it’s successful and they’ll fade into the bushes like the Homer Simpson meme, if yall crash and burn. It’s a super-socially acceptable way to meet people that is probably the REAL number one. But, parents, tho…

2. Your place of worship. If you are the religious type, this highly socially acceptable meeting place will resonate with you. It will reinforce that God totally brought you two together, and that you likely share the same values that will help you navigate life and a future family together. It’s a good deal if that’s your lifestyle.

3. The Gym. For some people, this is number 1. If you met the love of your life while working out, it means once again you share an appreciation for fitness, health, breathable clothing and meal prepping. It’s one of the more sexy places to meet people, because folks who may not even have a genuine love for working out will go there to meet someone they find attractive. Actually, it may be a bad place to start something real if everyone’s intentions aren’t honest. Nevertheless, people love those #couplegoals #fitness photos and hashtags with fit people doing impossible stuff that less fit people would just look silly doing, but God bless them for trying.

4. Club or Bar. Once again, you’d think with the loud music and the drinking and lewd dancing, how can you really tell a person’s true character upon first meeting? But, clubs and bars are totally socially acceptable places to meet a future mate, says society and movies and clubs and bars that want your money.

5. Volunteer event. Actually, in my opinion, this should be number one, if you were asking ME. But we’re not. We’re talking about the general public and the stereotypical places, society thinks we should be finding our true loves. But, I think a volunteer event is an awesome place to not only meet your mate, but find your tribe in a new city. When you find out what people are passionate about and willing to give up their personal time for, you can get a good insight into what they are about and their core values. You get to see it in action and you see how they balance those things with their lives.

6. Grocery Stores. Now, I’ve seen sexy guys at the grocery store, I have but I really haven’t ever had one approach me nor have I approached them. Maybe this is because I hate the grocery store, I hate how they are set up and I know despite having only a few items I’m still going to spend no less than 20-30 minutes there. I don’t think many people like grocery shopping either, but it’s a necessary evil. So, I’m really confused as to how people keep saying you’ll meet someone fabulous in the produce aisle. And it’s ALWAYS the produce aisle. Most of the time, after you’ve checked someone out, you’ve checked their cart to judge them or realize compared to them, you eat a lot of crap and you eliminate yourself and grab Talenti 2-for-1.

7. Bookstore or Library. I really don’t know how often this happens anymore because, Kindles. However, I love books and I love bookstores. So, if there is a fine man wandering the aisles and we exchange glances, there’s something romantic about bibliophiles finding love in this digital world. So go head, get you some. But, on the flip side, as a student, I think it is feasible for folks to find love in study groups hammering out projects in a library, so I won’t count it all the way out. The intensity of debate and striving for an A, can get folks all hot and bothered.

8. Work. I kind of put this low on the list, but PLENTY of people have met their significant others at work, or on their way to and from work. I have a strong belief in the don’t crap where you eat, but once again, there are a lot of successful relationships that brewed hotter than the kitchen keurig and they managed to keep folks out of their business. Gold star for them. I’m not a hater.

9. Dog Parks. This is probably an ideal place to meet for dog lovers. I know quite a few people who said if their dog don’t like you, you’re basically dunzo. So, I’m sure society will agree a match made in the dog park will probably bode well especially if the pooches get along.

10. Alumni Mixers. Ok, so this one kind of goes hand-in-hand with volunteering, but if you’re like me and you LOOOOOVE your alma mater, meeting your boo-to-be at one of these events can be pretty dope. Have you attended a sporting event against a rival school? Most schools put the playful drama to the side at a tailgate or after party, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself starring in a West Side Story…

Hmmm, I actually named 10 really legitimate places to meet people other than the internet. I was supposed to add in a few funny ones just to illustrate how ridiculous it is to judge people who meet on the internet, so let me pull a few out that are insane.

1. Competitive Hot Dog eating contest. This just seems gross. But these folks are committed. And men may be turned on by female competitors’ gag reflex…
2. Nudist beach. I’m just going to leave that right there. But at least you know what you’re getting. Rock on.
3. Lamaze class. If you know anyone who met and fell in love at a Lamaze class, please send me a message. That’s just amazing.
4. Prison. It totally happens.
5. Jury Duty. That would actually be a bomb ass story.
6. Target. Actually, meeting the love of your life at Target sounds pretty dope. They DO have everything!
7. Divorce Court. I recently heard about a person posting on facebook that her ex-husband got engaged to her divorce lawyer. Another person jumped on the post to correct her, and that it wasn’t her divorce lawyer, just the paralegal. LOL Burn.
8. Dentist office. That’s right up there with Jury Duty. If you can find love there, I salute you.
9. Department of Motor Vehicles. Since we’re going down the list of places we hate, wouldn’t it be great to at least find the love of your life, even if your Driver’s license photo looks awful?
10. Ikea. If you are a single person in Ikea and you aren’t shopping with your parents for a new bunkbed or dorm furniture, seeing all of the couples miserable or not, kind of reminds you of how alone your ass really is, and that you will be assembling that difficult ass furniture alone. But God is a good God, and would have truly shown up and shown out if he sends you a love to call your own, on your way to get that cheap soft serve ice cream. You won’t just get help putting together that complicated ass bed, you’ll get help breaking it in…

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