She wants to lead the glamorous life!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How to Successfully Plan Time with Your Girlfriends When You've Got Shit to Do

Spending time with your friends is an integral part of living a well-rounded life. With all the racial and violent mess going on, it makes me feel extremely battle fatigued. My good friends give me peace in an uncertain world. Busy schedules, family obligations, work and the time needed to decompress from it all, make scheduling (and keeping) girlfriend dates difficult. So here are some tips for staying committed to your friends, when you got so much shit to do.

Make the damn plans. This is the first suggestion, because hell, it's the obvious one. But if it were easy, you wouldn't be reading this. Instead of thing about making plans, or constantly saying "yeah girl, we need to get together", actually make the plans. In fact, when you run into that girlfriend you haven't hung out with in a while or receive the holiday or birthday text, just make the plans then. Pivot from, "yes, we should" to "what's your schedule like next week?" Lock in a date and time then. The likelihood of you going on with your day and making the plans is slim, if not, you would have already hung out with the person. S go ahead and put something on the calendar.

Plan activities on weekdays. We tend to plan dates on the weekends, but the problem is we also schedule everything else on the weekends as well- laundry, working out grocery shopping romantic dates, everything. If you have kids, forget about it. Your weekend is shot! So why not plan to meet up with your girl after work? Meet at a convenient location for both parties. If one, or both of you, work in your city's business district, where there tends to be bars and restaurants, why commute one extra day during the weekend to a place you already spend at least five days of each week anyway?

Don't just meet for food and drinks. Pick an activity you both will enjoy and something you really want to do. This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. That art exhibit you've been wanting to see? Go...with you girl! It's easy to get in the habit of eating and drinking for every get-together, but there are cheaper and healthier ways to spend time. How many of us are trying to eat healthier? And how many of us let all that healthy stuff fall by the waist-side when we get around our friends? I know I am guilty of it. So think of things to do that involve pulling away from the table or bar. In fact, go to an exercise class together or take a long walk or jog. It's simple and cheap.

Phone calls count. Call your girlfriends! Actually pick up the phone and call your friends. This is not the same as hanging out in person obviously, but we spend so much time texting and e-mailing that we avoid calling each other. I know I am dating myself, but I remember marathon phone conversations that lasted and lasted, sometimes to the wee hours of the morning. These days, I am an early bird, who is more likely to call you before 8am, but I enjoy catching up with my friends and hearing their voices and real, audible laughter, not just seeing a typed 'LOL'. This is especially helpful for long distance girlfriends. I have had 3 hour-long conversations that consisted of laughter, cursing, gossip, crying and prayer. Talk to your friends. That's the best tenet of friendship- the stimulating conversation.

Entertain at home. This could have definitely been included with No. 3, but I think this is so important it is a stand-alone tip. When you are a woman of a certain age (I like saying that, because, really what does it mean?), i.e. a grown woman, your home, whether it be an apartment, house, owned, rented, leased, sub-leased, whatever, should be your personal sanctuary. To me, part of creating a sanctuary for yourself, is having a living space that is inviting to others. Not all others, but the select few you enjoy having around. This does not mean you have to have a fully furnished home, or that you have to live lavishly. What this means is you should have the essentials for entertaining:  at least 4 wine glasses, a large serving bowl (they are just useful as hell), ice on hand at all times and music. It is always good to keep one adult beverage stocked as part of your cocktail started kit or in case of emergencies. If your cabinets are dry, let your guests know so they can bring something. Put music on, or a good show and just chill. Some of my best times are just me at one of friends' home hanging out, no agenda, no plans. Utilize your (their) home. Note:  this means your home needs to always be, not necessarily "company ready", but good friends ready. It doesn't have to be spotless, but comfortable for you and them. You shouldn't have to clean your entire house every time your girl comes over.

Stop being a flake! This the last time and it's just important as No. 1. Stop making, then breaking plans. It's annoying and no one benefits from it. Reduce arbitrarily saying, "year, what are you doing next week?", then never following up next week. Your friends have their own lives and don't need you jerking their time around. They may have moved some plans around for you and to cancel it because of some random shit or ridiculous reason, (or because you're being lazy) is not cool. Also, if you don't want to meet or do not have the time, make that clear, or stop making empty promises and plans.

Now go and set up a date with your homegirl! Nourish good friendships, they're important to your well-being, and feed your soul.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Task Complete: How I Pushed Through When All I Wanted to Do Was Walk Away and Crawl Under the Covers

I did it! Yep, I’m done. You know how you sign up for something and quickly realize it is a bad idea? Well this is what happened to me. I was in a women’s service organization for about 4.5 or 5.5 years (I lost count after about month 8th). I decided to take a leadership position, because I thought that would make my experience better than it had been. I was wrong. It made it worse! I was annoyed, frustrated and angry from the onset. But that part of the story isn’t as important as this one- I finished! As of this past Wednesday, June 1st, I finished my task and honored my commitment. The organization’s schedule runs from June to May essentially and so last week marked the end. I had resigned my membership in February. I had a few loose ends to tie up before being completely done. On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, I took time out to e-mail the participants of the committee I oversaw and thanked them, collected my year-end survey results, reached out to the head of my council and scheduled a transition meeting with the two women who will be taking over after me. (Yes, it was realized that this should not be a one person job.) When I tell you I felt accomplished, honey, listen!

It was during my very own transition meeting conference call last year, that I knew this was going to be a long assignment. With me working by myself, I only had my friends, both in and outside of the organization to vent to. I spent a lot of time trying to figure things out on my own or to good friends who would instruct me to “not send that letter”. I have had e-mails proofed and heavily edited by friends at work to keep from unleashing my condescending tone to someone I thought deserved it. But I made it. Through all of the many micro-aggressions, the rude comments and the long-ass meetings, I made it. The back and forth e-mails to answer questions I deemed obvious, I made it. I am proud of myself for holding my tongue, when my mind wanted to let loose. I pat myself on the back for staying gracious in the face of constant second-guessing. 

I learned a lot about leadership in this particular role. The title does not make people instantly respect you, it’s your actions and how you handle yourself. Then there are some people who still won’t. But I marched on. When I had low attendance to the events I hosted, I did not take it personally, I just thanked those who showed. I started choosing dates and times that worked best for me, instead of trying to please the entire group at large. I started supporting my own decisions. Even if it meant not showing up to every single meeting I was invited to, in order to show favoritism to my priorities and things I actually enjoyed. I sent out holiday cards instead of pouting. I ended every e-mail with an “Enjoy your day!” or “I hope everyone has a great holiday!”, instead of rolling my eyes. I kept things positive. I responded to requests on time. I apologized for oversights or mistakes, taking full responsibility for things that were by no means a big deal. I helped out when I could. And I made it. I did well. I spent so much time thinking I was in over my head, but the truth is, sometimes that’s what leadership feels like. It is not always easy. It just simply is. I am glad I pushed myself. And most importantly, I finished. I completed the task!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Translation Please: My Love Language

This morning I was talking to one of my girlfriends about an incident that took place yesterday evening that had me upset and annoyed. It involved a man, mixed signals and Shake Shack. Don’t worry, the Shake Shack part was all good; I split some cheese fries and had a Chicken Shack with cheese if you’re curious. The food was better than fine. It was the company I kept that had me calling my girl to recap all the foolishness. In between my cursing and her completely agreeing with me, she asked:  “what’s your ‘love language’? Is it receiving gifts or words of affirmation?” I had taken Gary Chapman’s ‘The 5 Love Languages’ test years ago, but could not remember how I tested. I thought those two sounded good, but honestly did not know. It occurred to me that taking the test again, now that some years have past, wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Then I thought back to the conversation I had with my dad even earlier this morning, before the call with my girl. As my phone buzzed in my hand with John Coltrane’s Impressions (his unique ringtone) coming through the speaker, I already knew it was him before seeing Daddy on the screen. “MJ, you sad about Prince hunh?”, to which I sadly replied, “yeah”. “I’m gonna try to find that Chipotle coupon for a free burrito bowl. You want a bowl?” he asked. “Yes.” He said he would call me when he was on his way downtown and that I could “do the order” for him. It occurred to me, that is my love language. My dad speaks my love language. He acknowledged and predicted I would be shook up about Prince and gave me my due respect for crafting a mean burrito bowl. No translation needed.

After posting this I will take the test and see what my “language” is. If you want to test yourself, click here and share your results.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Can You See Me?

Hello, I'm MJ.  I am a Black woman with naturally kinky-curly hair.  What that means for me is, I can do all kinds of badass things with my hair:  braid it (with or without extensions), straighten it (with or without chemicals), wear a weave (long or short), lock it, fro, twist or coil it out amongst other things.  What that means for you, and when I say 'you' I mean White people, is you get to not say a gotdamn thing about it.  The problem is, a great deal of you have somehow missed this memo and feel you must comment on EVERY fucking thing I do with MY hair.  If it was coming from a place of genuine respect and admiration, fine.  But if you're asking or commenting based on your own personal feelings or (lacking) knowledge of the curious nature of Black folk, I'm not with it.  Confused?  Let me help you out.

Example 1
Try saying:  Hey MJ, your hair looks nice.
Instead of:  OH MY GOD!  Look at your hair!!  You changed it.  Every day you change your hair.  I can't keep up.  Now what's this?  (coming close to inspect my hair) I like this.  The other way you wear it, is okay, but this, I like this.  You should keep it like this.  THIS is cute.
My mental commentary:  bitch I didn't ask you!

Example 2
Try saying:  Hey MJ, your hair looks nice.
Instead of:  You really wear that well.  See I can't do that with my hair.  You're lucky.  You have cool hair.  I just have this hair.
My mental commentary:  you're being patronizing.  Get out my face.

Example 3
Try saying:  Hey MJ, your hair looks nice.
Instead of:  Now, how did you do that?  Did you do it yourself, or did someone else do that for you? That's interesting.
My mental commentary:  No my hair is not "interesting", my hair is wonderful.

Example 4
Try saying:  Hey MJ, your hair looks nice.
Instead of:  Oh, you changed your hair.  Do you like it?
Instead of:  Now which hairstyle do you like the best?
My mental commentary:  bitch, yes I like my hair, that's why I'm wearing it this way!  I like ALL of my hairstyles, that's why I wear them!

Example 5
Try saying:  Hey MJ, your hair looks nice.
Instead of:  Is that all your hair?
My mental commentary:  that's rude as hell, and it's none of your damn business, you uncouth son of a bitch.  Furthermore, yes it is!  

These are real conversations, that tend to happen to me at work (a lot).  There are people who I can pass on the street or smile and wave to at the nearest Starbucks, who will look at me strange, divert their eyes without speaking and then ask me to do something in the office 15 minutes later.  I have worked with people who will pass my desk several times in a week, but see them outside the office and they look surprised when I tell them where I work.  "Oh, you're the one with the hair."  Yeah bitch, that's me.  Last night I went to a party and a girl who I was on a committee with for an entire year, re-introduced herself (as always) like she had never seen me before.  I chuckled and told her, "yes, I know, you have introduced yourself to me a THOUSAND times.  Every time I see you, you introduce yourself."  She awkwardly laughed it off and was like, "well I only came to like, four meetings."  I'm thinking, and I came to all but one, so again, we've met.  I sometimes get the, "I didn't recognize you, you changed your hair."  Yes, the hair may be different, but the face is still the same.  Are you just looking at me, instead of SEEING me?  Seeing the person I am.  As opposed to the caricature you have in your head.

It may sound like I'm overreaching, but the truth is, this is how racism and stereotypes are perpetuated.  The reason some cops are regularly harassing and KILLING young black men, is because they don't SEE these men.  They can't imagine they have mothers, or wives, family or friends.  They can't fathom they could be upstanding citizens or that someone would care about whether they live or died.  It's the reason people get upset to see brothas burn down a local drugstore, but don't understand that the anger resulted from the fact that a young man's spine was damn-near detached.  As a culture, you don't know anything about us.  Why are you so curious with Black hair?  You don't have any Black friends?  You have never been close enough to a Black woman to ask curious, yet thoughtful questions about the history of our styling and hair regimens?  If that's the case, it's fine, but don't embarrass me by shouting over the filing cabinet, a stupid question or comment.  Don't bring your friends over to comment on my hair, like I'm not standing/sitting right here.  I'm not a museum exhibit or a zoo animal.  Utilize Big Sister Google and investigate on your on time.

Scientists have traced the entire human race back to one Black woman in Africa.  We, Black people - Black women, have shared this planet with you all since the beginning of time.  Why are you still so intrigued by us?  My advice is to get off your high horse and stop looking and start seeing.  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

I'm Late to the Party: Why I'm Just Now Seeing 'Empire'

Ya'll know I like to be fashionably late to most, if not all, episodic TV parties.  So, with that said, I finally watched Fox's Empire - the entire first season and I love it!  Here's the thing, I binge watch TV, even the best shows because I'm...basically greedy.  And impatient.  I hate to wait to see what happens next.  I want to know now.  The problem is, my ass tends to be late to the pop culture conversation.  By the time I've watched whatever show that everybody was talking about, no one is as interested or cares as much.  So I usually pull my bestie into some conversation where he essentially has to keep saying "umhm, keep watching" and "yeah, girl".  Because he can't tell me too much and I hate spoilers.  The problem is that I miss out on the show's buzz.  It's bad because I could at least add my two cents about the episode at the same time as everyone else.  Plus, most of the noise on Facebook is either foolish, doesn't make much sense (in an effort to not spoil the episode) or, I find if a show is good, you can spoil it and I will still appreciate and enjoy watching what happens.

There is the thought that if I'm not watching a show, I have something against it.  On the contrary, I don't, but I also don't need to run to the well of TV water, because everyone is drinking from it.  I was at a birthday dinner once and the look on the women's faces when I said I had never watched Scandal was priceless.  I mean there was actual shock and awe.  I had to explain that me not watching, doesn't mean that I am not a "believer".  It just means I haven't gotten to it yet.  It was on my "to watch" list that I like to stockpile for lonely nights, evenings after a hard day at work and frigid, grey winter weekends.  (Rest easy.  I have since caught up to the present season of Scandal.)  I like to make the calculated leap into a new show, carefully choosing what I'm in the mood for.  It's how I watched Breaking Bad,  True Detectives, DexterMad Men, Downton Abbey just to name a few.  Recently while sitting and getting my hair braided for hours, with long extensions, my girl and I tackled the first season of Game of Thrones (so good!)The Shield, The Wire or Deadwood until years after they were off the air.
.  I didn't watch

So yes, I'm behind as hell, but you know what?  I'm okay with that.  I love good TV, but I don't want to schedule my life around a primetime TV schedule.  That's what my DVR, Netflix subscription and On Demand are for.  The good thing about good TV, is it really stands the test of time.  The Wire was just as impactful when I watched it several years after it originally aired.  It didn't lose its luster.  It's a damn good show!  Just like Empire is no less entertaining having watched it a couple of weeks after its freshman season finale.  That's why I'm loving TV now!  There are so many great scripted television shows.  The average, busy city girl such as myself, doesn't have time to watch all of them at once.  So you all keep clattering about what's a must watch program and I'll be sure to add it to my list.

What are you watching now?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Art of Being Alone

It's a fine line between being alone and feeling lonely.  I have found that there is an art to being alone.  Sometimes aloneness can feel perfectly natural and good, and at other times, absolutely depressing. What I used to define as a lack of activities and energy, I now see as more of a lack of esteem and confidence.  I have found that the more I become unconditionally comfortable with myself, the more I enjoy being by myself.  And I don't mean that as a "I can do bad by my damn self" type of sentiment, but rather, I really enjoy my own company and spending time alone.  In years past, I could do this from time to time, but it either took a lot of effort, or the feeling would be fleeting.  I would try to schedule all kinds of activities and appointments with friends and family.  I wanted someone by my side a lot of the time.  I felt like I needed it.  Truthfully, I didn't then and I don't now.

Don't get me wrong, I love my friends and family and I love spending time with them.  It's just that now, I look forward to being at home.  In her book Why You're Not Married...Yet, author Tracy McMillan writes about "coming home to [insert your name here]".  That's what I have been doing, coming home to myself.  I view my home and time alone as a respite.  It rejuvenates me.  And when I have had enough of the outside world, I know I have a place to come home to.  But catch this:  home is not the building, home is ME.  Just like "home" is YOU.  I feel like the more I look to myself as a place of shelter, the less I seek out others to fill the "voids" I may see myself as having.  Whether binge-watching my favorite shows, having a cocktail to cap off my day, journaling, meditating, trying out a new recipe or a long soak in the tub with a book, I treat myself well by allowing myself to just be.

What are some of the things you like to do alone?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

All Up in My Feelings

I am a feeler.  I feel strongly.  No matter if it's sadness, joy, anger- it comes strong, frequent and pure. What I used to be annoyed and embarrassed by when it came to my sad feelings, I now embrace.  Because in my wisdom, I now know that what my uncontrollable tears mean, or my anger suggests is that I am not good.  My discomfort signals that it is time to slow down and evaluate where I am and where I want to be. Lately, I've noticed in an effort to be "mature" (I guess), and in control of my feelings, I have been suppressing me and messages God is trying to convey to me.  My body doesn't like it.  Twice in eight months a small patch of hair has fallen out.  My cravings for chocolate go beyond good chocolate, but move to drugstore finds.  My dreams are more aggressive and I am angry or moody.  But when I talk, I cry and when I cry there is release.  So I have been talking lately.  A lot.  My friends have provided advice.  An attentive ear.  And suggestions.  I have greedily taken each.  It's not the best feeling when your eyes start to leak at inopportune moments, but it lets me know there is something deeper to observe.  And that is the time to listen...and learn.

How do you release tension when you're feeling stressed, sad, emotional?