Man. I haven't posted here in awhile. Tons of reasons -- mostly tumblr. But I've always thought of this blog as my place of depth. Tumblr is good for those quick hits -- thoughts that are too long for twitter but not thought out enough for here.

Guess I haven't been doing a lot of deep thinking.

I have done quite a bit of learning over the last several days. Right after things initially began to happen, my first instinct was to blog about it. I have always come here to help myself process the crazy things going on in my life. I have frequently found myself searching for keywords on my own blog looking for inspiration or some advice from my own mouth (they say it's always harder to take your own advice).

But every time I sat down to write this post, I stopped. I think I was a bit embarrassed. On the one hand, I've shared some pretty personal stuff here, but on the other hand I've always been able to do so cautiously. There's no way to do that this time. There's also the issue that at this point, I don't know who reads this blog -- if anyone does anymore. I know there are people I know personally who come here. Some because I gave them the link and others because they've cyberstalked me long enough to find it.

I decided to share this because, ultimately, it's a life lesson that I hope I remember and if my mistake can help someone else -- good.

What I learned had several parts to it. The biggest was: it's ok to have strong convictions about something. Often our convictions are security blankets. They protect us from things we're not prepared to handle. Sometimes they just protect us from crazy. Just like I believe we should respect others' beliefs and convictions, we should respect our own.

I have written, previously, about a guy -- W. It's hard to describe our relationship. Over the past several years, it has been very complicated. It has involved marriage proposals, intimate conversations, lies, brave honesty and so much more. But I think I always thought that despite our missed connections and the fact that he seemed to always be unable to vulnerable enough to admit his feelings for me, we were friends. Not necessarily close, but still friends. I felt like I could call him if I ever needed anything.

W and I haven't spoken in a while. He briefly text me a few months ago -- the conversation really went nowhere and felt very pointless, but it was classic behavior for him that I read as attention-seeking so I didn't think much about it.

While home visiting my mom and family for the holidays, a friend hit me up and asked if I'd join her and her brother for drinks. Initially I declined saying I was already out and too far away, but she mentioned that W would be there and so I figured I'd make it happen because I had a feeling I wouldn't see him otherwise.

From the moment he arrived he was flirting very heavily with me, which isn't unlike him. I was mildly annoyed because he began to act a bit too possessive for my tastes, but he's always doing something out of the ordinary, so I ignored it.

After drinks, W invited me back to his place. I agreed -- it was late, and I was well aware of what I was doing and what it implied. I didn't have any specific intentions, but I figured I'd see where the night led.

I don't talk about sex very much on this blog -- and I have prefaced almost all my commentary on the subject with that same point. But what is true about me and sex is that I find it to be a very personal act. I have people in my life who would talk about it, and all of the "it" they've had until the cows come home and with no problem. While I talk freely about sex in general, talking about it as it specifically pertains to me has always been something I was less comfortable with. I've always held it in high esteem and always felt that no matter the circumstance, it should be a respected act -- I think the way people devalue it contributes negatively to a society and culture that already has a hard time dealing with sex and it's consequences (good and bad).

As a personal rule of thumb, I typically don't have sex outside of a committed relationship. That is not a hard and fast rule, but it's something I do try to work with and I think it's helped me out a lot. Including in this relationship with W. Sex has come up and it has mostly come up without coming up, but I've always felt convicted that I needed to be careful around him with that. On this night, however, for whatever reason, I didn't think about it. I just did it -- and immediately after, I knew it was the wrong thing and I felt sick about it.

I really don't know what I was thinking -- maybe I felt too comfortable with him. Maybe I felt like while we aren't in a committed relationship, he and I have been doing SOMETHING for a while and that should mean something with regards to sex. Or maybe I just wanted to so I did. I really don't know... I really don't.

As I prepared to go, I started telling him I thought he was a jerk. There was something about the way he seemed very uninterested in me as a person right after, that didn't sit right with me. I am a counselor and I do tune into the things people do unconsciously. He claimed he didn't know why so many people thought he was a jerk and he insinuated that I'd hurt his feelings, but I could read him from a mile away. I dealt with an emotionally abusive person before and I know when someone is trying to flip something around on you to make it your fault.

Eventually, to prove my point, I asserted that I knew he'd probably had meaningless sex with someone recently and he said he had. I asked him who -- thinking it would be the neighbor he'd mentioned -- but was shocked to hear him say "L" the name of the friend who'd invited me out that night.

She and I aren't close friends. We went to high school together and we've maintained connections over the years. We're cool and we certainly respect each other. She knew that W and I had a strange relationship and I knew that W had previously tried to get with her, but she'd told me then she had no interested in him and I'd been told nothing to make me think anything had changed.

Appalled, embarrassed and angry, I got up and left. I was sick about it all night and into the next day. I just didn't know what to do.

Out of nowhere, L text me to say she really needed to talk to me because she had information she needed to share. Turns out she and W had been "talking" or working on being a serious committed relationship for about a month. I felt like I'd been sucker punched. He flirted all night with me, with her sitting right there. I called another friend who'd been there and she confirmed that not only was he all over me, but that there was no indication that anything between L and W was going on.

Her story made a lot of things make sense. Like why he asked me not to tell anyone and why he blew my phone up the next day (I didn't want to talk to him because I was so upset about it). It even made me think twice about comments he made, seemingly out of the blue, about L and I.

Initially I struggled over whether or not to tell her what happened. I didn't want to get any more involved in the mess, and I was still embarrassed. I felt like I looked like an idiot. But I realized that if nothing else, she needed to know what she was dealing with and that he couldn't be trusted.

L and I are cool. She subsequently had it out with W and he of course blamed me. Claimed he'd passed out and I popped up in his bed all over him before he could say anything. Even claimed that I started talking about how bad I felt about it -- which, while I did, I never conveyed to him because I couldn't articulate why.

But now I'm left wondering why. Of all the people and all the situations, why me and why did I allow myself to do that, knowing that's not my speed, and it's not my thing.

I'm also upset that I've truly lost a friend -- or maybe I'm realizing I never had a real friend. He was motivated by selfishness through and through. And while I realized that from the jump, I never thought his selfishness would be used to purposefully hurt another person, just because he could. For me, this has felt like loss on several fronts.

But I did learn a huge lesson on convictions and now I have hard evidence that what I'm convicted about is important in terms of keeping me emotionally safe. Everyone isn't convicted about the same things. There are things in life that don't bother me; that I just don't care about that really matter to people I know. Different strokes for different folks -- and that's fine. Just as long as you know what works for you and stick with that, I think you'll always come out on top.


It Feels Good To Let It Go

One of my 8th grade girls is exceptional. She stands out from her peers because she's so smart and capable. But not just that, she acts on her potential. But she's quiet. And when I first met her, I thought she was quiet because she's shy -- and she is a little. But as I've gotten to know her, I've realized her quiet is more about taking in her surroundings. She's learned to be wary of most things so she's constantly reading and re-reading situations. Assessing how much of herself she can be in any given situation.

This year she's one of my student council members. In fact, she has a special designation even within the student council group. As such, she gets to spend the end of the day in my office helping us with stuff. An office assistant, basically. We didn't have anything for them to do today, so I spent some time talking to them. We got on the topic of what makes a good counselor and she shared that she's never felt comfortable talking to a counselor. Her reasons for why were many. Basically a combo of not trusting and adults not understanding.

As I kept asking questions to probe her thoughts on this, she started sharing bits of herself with me. But she was doing it as she was also telling me she didn't like to talk about herself with adults or people she (essentially) hasn't vetted. In the same conversation where she told me she doesn't trust anyone and doesn't have trusted adults in her life, she told me all about the friends she has who she doesn't trust. She told me about familial issues. She told me about feeling mistreated because her Nigerian aunts don't like her American mother. She even told me she doesn't say "I love you" or "I'm sorry" because she thinks they don't mean anything anymore.

I toyed with the idea of pointing all of this out to her, but I was enjoying watching her open up so I didn't. It was evident to me that while she was telling me she holds everything in, she was EAGER to get it all out. Apparently it was easier for her to feel like she was holding on to bits and pieces while she shared bits and pieces. Once she got started, though, she really couldn't stop. Another, much more vocal and verbal, student kept trying to share his experiences, but the rush of being able to share hers, wouldn't let her stop long enough for him, even with his overbearing ways, to get a word in edgewise.

I recognized what was happening to her because it's happened to me. That moment where you feel like you can finally let some stuff go in a safe space. It'll come tumbling out and you can't stop it. It just feels good to let it go. And you know, I was reminded today (not that I need a reminder) why I do what I do. For moments like those. Where a student is holding on so tightly to her identity as a put together on the outside, but falling a part on the inside individual all the while letting you see pieces of the broken parts.

She didn't show me everything. She may never show me everything. But the fact that she felt like she could do with me what she never does with anyone else... I did something right.


CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story - My Review

24 hours ago the first airing of TLC's biopic finished airing on VH1 and -- I watched most of it again as the super TLC fan (aka stan) that I am. I let it all marinate over night and I have some thoughts to share...

I think it'll be easiest to talk about the movie in terms of its' casting, pacing and how well it got the facts right.

Casting -

I didn't hear ANYBODY say that they thought the casting was good, when the three women chosen to portray Tionne, Lisa and Chilli were first announced. In fact, what I saw a lot of was "who the hell is Drew Sidora?" and "can Lil' Mama even act?" and "Keke Palmer looks nothing like Chilli!"

Interestingly, though, after the movie premiered in NYC and bloggers and other journalists got their hands on advance copies of the movie, I heard a different tune. Some freely admitted they were unsure of the casting but that after seeing the movie they changed their minds. Others pretended to have had no preconceived notions and only praised the film and its actors.

I'll certainly freely admit that when I saw the cast, I had my doubts. I expected that if Lil' Mama could act, even a little bit, she'd make a great Lisa. I had all the eye rolls and heavy sighs for Keke Palmer who said in one interview that she'd always been told she looked like Chilli and I wished to see how much makeup they planned to slap on Drew to lighten her skin enough.

Now that I've seen the film, I'm singing a bit of a different tune. Lil' Mama was good. She can act and she did Left-Eye justice given what she had to work with. Of the three, I think she did the best job in her portrayal. Keke actually does look like Chilli from some angles. She had the body and the "sexy" part down pretty pat. Her dancing was adequate. There wasn't too much to complain about. Drew -- well, I think Drew had the hardest row to hoe. Not to suggest that the other two could've been portrayed by just anybody, but Tionne -- she requires a certain savoir flair... Drew had moments where she seemed to truly channel the boss (T-Boz means "Tionne is the boss") but she had just as many where I didn't know who she was supposed to be, exactly.

I'll speak to pacing in just a moment, but it (and the editing, I'm sure) certainly effected the actors' abilities to do their characters justice. The ladies have always had great charisma and been very charming and funny, especially when with each other and especially in the group's early years. I didn't see that from these actresses -- I didn't feel like these were my BFFs in my head (as I do whenever I watch a TLC interview, even now). I felt like they all got along, but I didn't feel like they had spark between them or took on that ride-or-die mentality that TLC talks about.

There were certainly high points, though. Keke Palmer did Chilli's abortion storyline justice. I think she conveyed those feelings of loss and anger very well. Drew Sidora didn't get a lot of screen time to develop Tionne's story past her sickle cell, but her hospital scenes were gut-wrenching. Especially the first. Lil' Mama had a lot of scene stealing moments. Her charisma and her ball of light was very evident in almost every scene, including the ones where we saw them audition for Pebbles the first time. This says a lot of Lil' Mama's talent. The other two ladies had the advantage of spending time with the women they were portraying. Lil' Mama had to figure hers out on her own.

However, aside from the ladies -- the rest of the casting felt off. Pebbles is the exception to that. Rochelle Aytes was a great Pebbles, I thought. But Carl Anthony Payne as LA Reid was awkward and some of the other castings were just... did you see the guy who played Puff Daddy? Probably outweighs Sean Combs by 100 lbs, easy. The guy who plays Mack 10? He probably underweighs the real Mack 10 (at the time he was portraying him) by 100 lbs. And let's don't even discuss Evan Ross as Dallas Austin, except to say Evan Ross probably comes up to Dallas Austin's chest. Seems like they got the ladies casted and said "whoever can work can have the rest of the parts."

Pacing -

This is probably my biggest sore point with the movie. It should've been a 4 hours, 2-part miniseries like all the great biopics. The Jackson 5: An American Dream and The Temptations were both 2 parters. Cramming 20 years into 2.5 hrs require that a whole lot of things get left out or smashed together.

It all started off pretty well. I felt like we were getting to know the ladies. Lisa's dad gets killed off in the first 10 - 15 minutes and we meet and then lose Crystal Jones in almost the very same scene. But once they hit the Fanmail era, the movie seems to hit warp speed. Tionne meets Mack 10, Chilli gets pregnant, has a baby and Tionne also gets pregnant, while they find a new manager and Lisa begins to take trips to Honduras, all seemingly in the same 15 minutes. You can barely keep track of what's happening with one storyline before the next one hits a bump and gets all crazy.

I was especially upset with the fly-through of Lisa's funeral. I know that's a fine line to walk. We don't want to make it a dog and pony show and we know what funerals are like, but who spoke? What was said? Who showed up? We got no glimpse and what we did see we already knew. Tionne and Chilli cried through the whole thing.

The pacing also hurt character development. We see Chilli's mom all of twice, but she's clearly been a huge part of Chilli's life. Same for T-Boz's mom. The pacing also causes the film to fail to help us understand certain plot points. For example, Lisa drinks through the whole movie. Almost from the first time we see her, she's drinking. A cursory TLC fan is probably aware that, at minimum, Lisa had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol -- but for as many times as we see her drink and we see Tionne frustrated by it, we never address it head on. What did the other two really think of it? How did the diversion center help or not help? If I weren't a TLC fan, would I really have caught that Lisa had a drinking issue from the movie? I'm not sure -- which is my point overall.

There as also Lisa wishing the other two listened to her ideas more. She mentions wanting to do futuristic things in the early part of the film, and then again when she argues against Creep as a single. Later we hear Chilli remark "we're finally doing her futuristic stuff and where the hell is she?" The pacing made it hard to keep up and understand if you didn't already know what was going to happen or what the issues were.

However, the pacing did get it right early in the film, as I mentioned. Especially around the development of Perri "Pebbles" Reid. I think some people criticize the film for spending too much time on Pebbles and how she did the girls dirty, but I argue they probably didn't spend enough time. We see the tricks she employed to keep them in the dark about their contracts as well as the tricks she used to, in a sense, cheat them out of their money. All of that is important to the story and good pacing helped bring it out.

Facts -

If you follow me on twitter -- for the hour I did get to tweet, I dropped as many TLC fact gems as I could. I knew the movie would take some artistic license, and the script writer was quick to make sure everyone knew the difference between a biopic and a documentary. Overall, the facts were pretty on (all things considered). They dramatized some things of course and skated over others as necessary.

There were little things like -- Larry. I'm convinced -- and unless Tionne or Chilli themselves tell me otherwise, this will be my opinion -- Larry was meant to represent Sean Newman. I remember when Lisa first started dating Sean. I found any picture of them together. My favorite entertainer and a fine ass man? No issue from me. But I don't recall ever hearing Sean Newman was married. Larry is though. That's the artistic license at work, and that's fine. (there is, of course, the chance that I'm just wrong, either about it being Sean or about Sean not being married, but this is my post so I"m right).

Where the facts really got iffy for me was less in actual truthiness and more in the omission of certain things. Going back to the pacing, they rushed Lisa's storyline of feeling like her group didn't listen to her. As I mentioned earlier, there were 3 references to Lisa wanting to do more futuristic type things. One occurs on the set of the Creep video. It is true that Lisa wanted to film her portions of the video with tape covering her mouth and it is true that she didn't like Creep as not only the lead single, but a single at all. What isn't shown (and to me is an issue of fact) is that Lisa disagreed with the message of Creep altogether. She recorded a rap to be added to the remixes of Creep that preaches the exact OPPOSITE message of the original song. She may have wanted to do something more futuristic, but she wanted it done to something other than Creep.

And what about poor Crystal Jones? We didn't even get to see them kick her out of her own group. At least not the way it actually happened...

But they did get some facts really right. Like with Pebbles. I know some think they made her look like a terrible person for no reason, but one thing I've never seen or heard is Pebbles deny that she had them sign contracts that put them at a serious disadvantage. She's sued and she's whined and she's made excuses but I've never heard her out and out deny it. Them facts is facts, period.

I could go on and on and on -- and I have already. Overall, I give the movie a 7.5/10. Not too shabby, but could've been better. If VH1 releases it on DVD, I want the director's cut, with all extended and deleted scenes, plus behind the scenes, interviews and makings of the MTB single as special features. That's a MUST for my collection.


Being Different

Today on Twitter, @MsMayfield asked an interesting question: "How long are you to be identified with poor choices?

I immediately thought of a recent conversation I had with my mom about one of my cousins. My mom is the youngest of 14 so the majority of my cousins are significantly older than me and it's only now that I'm truly beginning to get to know them. They have stories and lives that I don't recall or never knew about anyway.

This summer, I helped a couple of my cousins plan a "cousin's reunion." It, as things in my family usually do, came along with a lot of drama. In a family as large as mine, you can expct that at any given time there are at least 3 different feuds going on that have ripple effects. One of my cousins, the oldest in the group of us who were planning, was hoping she could convince everyone to ignore their issues for a weekend and spend time with family. Noble idea, but not gonna happen.

In any case, all this planning and back and forth and talk of feuds meant I spent a lot of time on the phone with her and in contact with her. All seemed ok until I got down to our reunion location (our parent's hometown) and my mom (who refused to attend the reunion, though our parents were invited) found out I was staying with this cousin.

Now, mama wasn't upset but she did want to make sure I knew what I was getting into. We had several conversations where she alluded to the idea that not only would I be indebted to my cousin for letting her stay with me but I should also beware of her around my stuff.

I tried to ignore the sly comments my mom would make -- she's notorious for that and it irks me; say something if you got something to say -- but eventually I just had to ask what was up. What had she done so badly that it warranted all of THIS.

She stole something. Now, mama couldn't remember when, but when I posited the idea that it was 20+ years ago, mama didn't argue she just countered with the idea that she'd also done it the last decade.

As I relayed all of this to a friend, I said, "you know, I bet when I'm 46 (my cousin's age) I'll look back on things I did as a teen or in my early 20s that I'll regret with everything in me."

Stealing is a huge no-no in my family. Not to say that's a big deal or noteworthy but there's a lot my family will tolerate in the way of poor decision making. Stealing, especially from family (as my cousin is accused of doing) is absolutely not tolerated and I'm beginning to see not ever truly forgiven.

I did a post a really long time ago about being allowed to be different. About giving people space to grow and learn and change. I don't feel like we do that enough. You make one bad move and you're marred for life with it. People do dumb stuff all the time -- what do you have to do or say before people let you move on? How much has to be done to proven you've learned the err of your ways?

I certainly don't want to make excuses for a grown woman stealing -- and my cousin is accused of stealing as a grown woman -- but I do want to make room for her to grow. Maybe even in her 30s she didn't know any better (and "knowing better" isn't just about knowing that what you're doing is wrong -- I know, sounds crazy, but I posit this: a person may know what they're doing is incorrect but if they don't know the correct way isn't that just like not knowing any better?).

So I'm taking my mother's words under advisement. If she does come to visit me and she stays with me, I won't leave anything out to tempt her to take. But I also won't refuse her access to my home based on accusations that are a decade (maybe even two decades!) old. I need to experience her for myself. Not in a dumb way, but in a way that keeps me safe and lets her be a better person if that's where she is in life.


Growing Apart

I'm not sure I've ever used the phrase "I think we're growing apart." It feels like what is mostly said is "we grew apart." It's one of those things that happens before you know it's happened. Kind of like falling in love, or out of love for that matter.

Christmas of 2009 I was at home visiting my mother. I still lived in DC at the time and so trips back home were still a big deal. Not only did I need to spend time with my mother, but I also had to make time for various friends -- especially the ones from high school.

I vividly remember sitting in a friend's living room watching 6-7 people pass around a blunt and it suddenly hitting me like a ton of bricks: we've grown apart.

It wasn't so much that they were smoking weed. I don't have a problem with that, I've done it, several of my friends do it. But it was that that particular night marked 3 nights in a row that I sat in one spot and watched the same 6-7 people get high. Their lives and my life just weren't on the same wavelength and it hurt to realize that.

These were people that I spent my formative years with. I started to learn who I was while I knew them. I got in trouble with them. I made lifelong memories with them. A few in the room were people that I thought I'd always know and would always be apart of my life. When I imagined my wedding day (back when I still thought I wanted to have one) some of those faces were faces I anticipated seeing in my bridal party.

And then suddenly I knew, just like I knew my name and date of birth, that it wouldn't be. And it had nothing to do with us being cool. We just weren't on the same page in life and it sucked.

Around that same time I saw a friend who told me I thought I was better than everybody else. It hurt because I've always prided myself on NOT being that person. On knowing that I was smart, but not being an asshole about it. At first I took her comment to mean that I hadn't been as good at being inclusive as I thought, but after I processed what she said and the context in which she said it, I realized that her words had very little to do with me and so much to do with her. But even still, it was strong evidence of our growth apart. When she saw me, she saw failure in herself -- and how could I be friends with someone in that place?

If you've never experienced this, trust that you will. Growth is certainly what makes life, life and people just grow differently -- and sometimes that differently means away from one another. It is a painful experience when it happens with someone or people that you've grown to love and expected would always be around. But eventually you realize it has a purpose. Some people have to move out of the way so new people can come in and be great for you at the right time.

My 10 year high school reunion is next year and I'm eagerly anticipating reuniting and reminiscing. But I also know that once the reunion is over, we'll all go back to our present lives with our present people. We'll hang up our friendships until the next reunion and I'm ok with that.



This morning I re-posted a photo with the following quote:
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better.
Initially I read it and kept scrolling, but something brought me back -- and then, truly, the last sentence really spoke to me.

I started blogging back in 2003/2004. Several of my friends jumped on the livejournal/xanga bandwagon really quickly, but I always wondered "who cares what's happening in your life and why do you want to put it on the internet, anyway?"

But the idea of keeping my thoughts and feelings about what was going on in my life spoke to me, and I eventually gave in. I've linked my first blog here, before, and talked about it in detail; it was certainly a labor of love. I held pretty tightly to the idea that ultimately, no one really cared to read my daily goings ons, but I didn't write to entertain. I wanted a record of my experiences and a place to be 100% honest.

By 2005, most of my friends knew about the blog and would read it every now and again. My boyfriend, at the time, knew about the blog as well. I'm not sure if it never occurred to me that he might read it or if I didn't think it would matter to him, but I began frequently posting about our relationship. Its' ups, its' downs -- mostly downs.

One night, he called me and we had one of the nastiest fights we ever had. There are things I realize now that I didn't realize then (like what it was that we were really fighting about) but I know that at the time, in the moment where we were arguing and calling each other nasty names and yelling, I was absolutely shocked that he was so angry.

I just didn't understand what would make him that upset when all I did was write down what we both knew had happened. I didn't quite grasp what was so jarring -- it wasn't as if he hadn't been there; it wasn't as if he was experiencing it for the first time or just becoming aware. I suppose, whether I knew it or not at the time, I truly learned that words mean things; words give power to things. For him, my explanation (and at this point, I no longer remember of what) of what happened made it real and it was that realness he wasn't ready for.

Over the years, I've found that trait of mine -- naming things -- to be a thing that most people come to hate about me. I don't do it to piss people off, I just know that words mean things and words have power (shoutout to @crissles for the inspo on that). Well I know that now in a very conscious way. I don't know that I knew that then -- back when I was running into this problem frequently -- in an above ground way. I think that at that time, I sorta looked at it like "it's not real until someone speaks about it."

It was and isn't about embarrassing someone. But words shine lights and give understanding to things and places that might not otherwise be understood. At the end of it, I'm really just trying to understand why people do what they do -- so I name what I see and look for feedback.

Just the other day I rubbed a friend the wrong way because I called her out on often wanting things to happen or be planned, but not wanting to plan them and then backing out when they've been planned. I didn't do it to embarrass her, but I felt like we'd beat around that bush long enough and it was just time to call a thing a thing.

However, if I'm truthful about it all, I admit that what's really happened is I've learned to censor myself. I save those "call a thing a thing" moments for when I don't see another way to make sense of something. I don't write about my friends very specifically as much as I used to. There are some friends (though they are so few -- fewer than I'd like) who don't know about this blog. I can't really hold on to that because all of my online lives have crossed paths in one way or another and anyone who wants to find where I spend my online time, can.

So I resist the urge to blog in detail about terrible decisions I've recently made (it's always easier to call a thing a thing for someone else than it is yourself), and I choose not to use words to breathe life into recent conflicts.

But maybe that will change again. It's true. These are MY stories and if people wanted better characterizations, then maybe they should've presented themselves differently in the first place; made different decisions.


Playing How You Practice

Have you ever heard the saying you play how you practice? Sure you have. We all have. Even if we haven't played a sport. That's because it's an idea that holds true even in non-athletic arenas.

Whatever you prepare for, however you prepare for it is how you will execute it. Even if/when things don't go the way you practiced. Unfortunately, life tends to always go exactly opposite of how you practice.

So I've found myself in a bit of a situation. I'm not ready to divulge deets, but suffice it to say it's one I've generally always thought I would never end up in, but always knew exactly how I would deal with, should it ever come up.

Except I was in the situation, needing to say all the things I imagined saying, before I realized it. I expected, basically, for the situation to knock on my door and say, "hello. I'm that situation you thought would never come, but now I'm here. Tell me what you think." And then I would say, "oh great! I've been waiting for you in the recesses of my mind," and then proceed to deliver my well-thought out lines with ease and grace.

Instead, I got bowled over by it and am now trying to get up off the ground, brush myself off and tell it what I think. Of course what I think (i.e. what I thought I'd say) is irrelevant now, because it's here!

It's like in football. Imagine you're a running back. There's this new play you've been practicing with your teammates for a week. In short, the linebackers open up a hole on the left side, you run through and save the day with your touchdown and victory dance. Every day for a week you practice this play. You can do the damn thing in your sleep. Game day comes, you're ready and sure enough coach calls the play. You get out there, you line up, the Quarterback hands you the ball and you run to the left just like you practiced, only to get knocked down (and almost out) by the crafty defensive lineman who read the play, stopped the hole and jackknifed you.

The athletes who excel would've seen the hole not opening up and come up with another plan... but the majority of us would be on the ground seeing the birdies fly round their head.

That's how I feel. Absolutely unprepared to be here and having absolutely no idea what to do to get out of it.

But the crazier thing is... as not cool as this situation in (and please trust, it is NOT cool)... I kinda like what I'm getting out of it. :(

I'm headed back to the drawing board...


Tyler Perry's Temptation

Warning: This post may contain spoilers, but given that this movie is in its 2nd weekend, I'm assuming most folks who plan to see it, have already.

I've only done one other Tyler Perry movie review. I usually save my comments on movies for twitter as I'm not movie reviewer or even a movie lover (the kind that sees them regularly, at least).

And, it's worth noting that generally, I don't rag on Tyler Perry. I have generally supported him since I became aware of him via his stage plays in 2004 or so. It's probably safe to say I've seen all of his movies and almost all of his stage plays. Not necessarily because I think he's some great writer/director/producer (I don't) but because... well... I find what he produces entertaining in some way, usually. Plus his movies make for good group outings if only for the conversation they spark afterwards.

And, I've been bothered by some of the things people say about Tyler and his characters. My usual response has been, "just because you don't know people like the ones he writes, doesn't mean they don't exist..." and I stand by that; but I'm getting to the place where I'm wondering if Tyler knows any other types of people...

I agree with most of the critiques I read of the movie. Most of them were the usual critiques of Tyler Perry. Lots of soap-operaish writing, poorly developed characters, requiring suspension of disbelief, etc... I loved one sentence in Mark Olsen's LA Times review of the movie: "Perry's ongoing disinterest in improving as a filmmaker is now seemingly part of his unshakable belief in himself, his insistence on doing his thing his way."

This is of course my chief issue with Tyler. He's established himself as a powerhouse in Hollywood (at least where films with majority black casts are concerned) and yet his films, over the last 8 years, have only gotten moderately better. His dialogue is less painful, he's using new settings (all his movies used to be set in Atlanta, we didn't even have an Atlanta reference in this movie, though there was one made of GA) and the actors continue to be relatively top notch (he's had Angela Basset, Cicely Tyson, Kimberly Elise and now Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who I heart). Yet I left this movie feeling... icky.

First what I liked: I liked that it was set in DC and not Atlanta. I liked the dialogue -- his non-Madea movies tend to be less elementary which is appreciated. There were no light-skinned saviors, which was appreciated. I liked the way the movie started, until the counselor (who we learn is Judith) begins telling her story about her sister. Cardinal counselor rule number one: try not to make a session about you.

And Tyler goes on to make a lot of other faux-pas with his fake counselor. She talks with her husband about wondering how it is she has a Master's degree and still isn't a marriage counselor. Probably because you need a doctorate to be a marriage counselor (at least most of the top programs are doctorate programs). She references not having a license... also cause for concern as she's the in-house therapist at her current job. Working as a non-licensed therapist? Um. No. Def illegal. As a school counselor, heavily trained in human development, my professional sensibilities were irked.

Then there were the moments that required suspension of disbelief. Like Judith's one day transformation from straight-laced good Christian girl to someone who loves wine (and later does coke). First, ain't nobody getting into alcohol THAT fast, and secondly why couldn't she have been drinking before, anyway? The ones that irked me the most involved Lance Gross. Lance Gross (Brice) is standing in front of you crying, begging you to come home and you don't go? WHAT REALITY IS THAT?! (ok, maybe that's not suspension of disbelief... MAYBE).

There was something about Judith that was unsettling from the beginning. Something about trying too hard to be a goody two shoes and then suddenly letting loose. Seems to me Tyler would want us to sympathize with Judith in some way but at every turn he makes her insufferable. She's unsure of everything even when she tries to be (see her annoying, but ongoing, conversations with Ava (Kim Kardashian) about her work attire). She plays victim instead of asking for what she wants -- which Tyler writes in such a way that is annoying (her husband forgets her birthday, she's crushed, but plays the passive aggressive thing, leaving a lone cupcake and card on the table), but then punishes her for going after what she wants in the end.

Many have documented Tyler's "issue" with educated women. His writing makes him seem like King of the "your degrees won't keep you warm at night" club. There is such little requirement of the men to take responsibility for their roles that it's sickening. Even when he TRIES to take responsibility for taking her for granted and being inattentive, Brandy's character Melanie/Karen says that even IF he did do those things as a husband, he's still not at fault because her cheating outweighs what he did, definitely. And I suppose I'm supposed to see Harley as getting his comeuppance when Brice slams him through a window (in the middle of the house?). While I was here for Brice's extreme testosterone-driven jackknife move, that wasn't enough to make up for Harley's actions.

Ever since Tyler hipped (chuckle) us to the 80/20 rule in Why Did I Get Married, he's been obsessed with making it part of all his story lines involving couples. Judith's unhappy in a marriage, and somehow as a wannabe marriage counselor fails to consider that she finds Harley attractive because he is everything her husband is not? She has to get her ass beat before she realizes maybe that's not the man for her? What is Tyler trying to say, anyway? Don't you dare, you educated woman you, want your husband to fulfill your needs. DON'T YOU DARE. You be happy someone wants to tolerate your degree-having, ambitious ass. That's what you do.

Lots of folks have talked about the possible rape scene in the movie. It certainly was uncomfortable watching Judith say "no" and "stop" and push his hands away only to have him disregard her wishes by saying "ok, now you can say you resisted..." and we wonder where rape culture comes from; how it starts. I guess I fail to understand why, using TP logic, then it wasn't Judith's fault that she cheated, but that's another post.

I was intrigued with the way Tyler treats Christianity in this movie. Judith is written as stuck up and holier than thou until she gets herself a little of the sex and a little of the coke. When Harley inquires why she doesn't include questions about sex in her compatibility survey, Judith is quick to say there's no reason to as she is a Christian and doesn't believe in premarital sex. Aside from breaking cardinal counselor rule #2 (this ain't about you, and what you believe) I was irritated with the way her views on premarital sex are demonized and used to show how suck up and unrelateable she is.

I let Tyler make it a lot of the time. I look past most of his failures as a writer/director/producer. Even now, I won't say I hated this movie, but it does rank down there at the bottom of the list with "Meet the Browns" (God I couldn't STAND that damn movie). Just one time I want him to write me a nice, well-educated woman who has some issue other than "can't find a good man because she's too damn picky/needy/ridiculous." No more icky rape scenes, Tyler. NO MORE. And the men in your movies need to start taking some dadgum responsibility ou'chea. This mess is getting ridiculous.



I originally posted this on my tumblr. I didn't expect it to resonate with anyone, because I often feel like (and am told) that it's an experience that doesn't make any sense. I'm bringing it here, and making a couple of edits. Click here for the original version

Imagine you meet someone and the two of you click quickly. You take the next few years and you spend a LOT of time together. You get to know each other pretty well, inside and out. They’re like your best friend, but maybe something else.

And we all have had a something else. A relationship you can’t quite explain. It’s not sexual at all, but it’s intimate. People wonder about it, the bold ones will ask you about it and you might pretend like you don’t know why they’re making such a big deal out of it, but the truth is you don’t really get it either and you can’t explain so you feign ignorance.

Nothing truly inappropriate ever happens betwixt the two of you, but you always remain close. Maybe there was a hand that lingered too long or a hug that was a little too tight, but the two of you are close like that and it’s whatever. Plus, in the time the two of you know each other you both have your own other complicated-by-sex-and-other-feelings relationships (some people call those dating relationships, but whatever…) so that’s DEFINITELY not what’s going on between you.

And then one day your friend — your dear friend — who’s sometimes like a sibling, sometimes like a bestie, sometimes like a… something more — meets someone who falls head over heels in love with them. This person is enamored by them in every way and as they make their own moves, it quickly becomes apparent that you come along with the package.

At first your friend doesn’t really let on to what’s happening. Why would they? It’s not like it’s the first time this has occurred. Plus, at first, even they don’t see the signs. But that other person? That blinded by love person? They have a master plan and they’ve got to figure out how you fit into it all.

It becomes very clear to you that this other person is confused. They see you as a threat. They don’t want to mess up a good thing by making you the enemy, finding that your influence surpasses their own, but they have got to figure out how to lessen your influence. They have to find a way in.

And as they begin to get to know you — maybe to find your weaknesses, maybe to figure out what’s so great about you — they find they kinda like you too. Truth is, the two of you are a lot alike and that's what draws your mutual friend to each of you. Plus, it can’t hurt to befriend you since it’s clear you’re not going anywhere, right? And you know your friend likes this person, you want your friend to be happy so you are on your best behavior. Being friends is the best move, and it's easy.

And then you and that person create your own friendship separate from the original relationship you had. The two of you speak about things that don't concern your close friend, you do things with each other that don't include your close friend and it all feels good -- like this trio might work. Sure, it's complicated and yes it can be tricky navigating being friends with two people in a relationship, but you're making it work.

Fast forward a handful of years and you and your once close friend aren’t all that close. Time, space and distance have concerted to create a gap. And that new person isn’t new anymore. They now have more influence. And you’re not upset about that; things change and that’s for the best sometimes. Your close friend seems happy, and that's what you want.

There was a time where the former duo felt like a trio. You knew your place and you felt you respected what they had, just like what you had with each of them individually was respected. Now, however, you know something is really different. You start to feel like you’re viewed as a threat and you begin to think that maybe, just maybe, you have been viewed as this all along.

You know your friendship is being monitored. The closeness the two of you shared that never seemed to bother either one of you, is suddenly taboo when that other person is in the room. And you can pinpoint in your mind exactly when it all shifted. When it became inappropriate to sit too close to you, to have a private conversation, to have secrets with each other. When the respect for your previous friendship seemed to dissipate. And what's absolutely insane is that you can feel them pulling you closer while simultaneously pushing you away. Wanting to see you, but not wanting to spend time with you. Wanting to spend time with you but on their terms only. Dangling a carrot and then taking it back.

That, my friends, is my life. Well one part of my life. A part of my life that I've taken to pretending isn’t in existence. A part I’ve tried to rid myself of, but I guess that closeness makes it hard. I guess this must be what it’s like to be friends with a conjoined twin or something.

I haven’t the faintest idea what to do. I leave every interaction with them drained and frustrated. I mull over every word, every conversation, every action, every inaction for weeks. I draw conclusions, I tell my friends, I write blog posts.

I keep trying to leave it but no one will let me go.


Being Shy Is Ok

I had a conversation with @Traycee30 on twitter a couple of weeks ago about being shy. She requested this post, so here we are. :)

I'm a shy individual. Large groups of unfamiliar people stress me out. I'm not the person who will show up alone at a party where I'm sure to know no one but the host. I'm not the girl who joins one of those "common interest" groups that meet up in person and do whatever they have in common. I can be stand-offish and quiet... until you get to know me.

Many of my now close friends that I made in grad school probably don't at all remember that for the first month, I didn't really talk to any of them. Partially because I wasn't interested in making friends, but also because my shyness makes that sort of thing a big more difficult. Yes, me. The one who can be the loudest in the room, the one who isn't afraid, necessarily, to talk in front of a large group of people. I'm shy. I've just learned to work around it.

My go to technique is to just get over myself. I spent several years in high school attempting and sometimes conquering high ropes courses and the one thing that I came back to time and time again was to just let go. Jump. Fall. And I would tell myself "come what may..." Figuring I'd deal with whatever bad thing happened if it happened because contemplating all the possibilities made my head hurt.

In a room full of strange people, if I can find one person to strike up a conversation with first -- I'm usually golden. I'm funny and engaging, but moreso on a one-on-one basis. If I get one person on my side, we can usually find a third and so on and so on. Oh, but what to talk about? It's usually not terribly difficult to find something to make a random comment on.

Shyness, like introvertedness is not a made up thing or even a thing to overcome. It's real. It's legit. It's ok. If you're not shy, help your shy friends out. Not by throwing them to the wolves, but introduce them to a few people at a party and let them be great. There's nothing wrong with being shy, dammit. Beyonce's shy and look at her. Oprah and Michelle Obama love her... maybe being shy is actually something we should aspire to...


Life Lesson 19: Nothing Good is Happening at 4am

Yesterday: Life Lesson 18: Forgiveness Comes Easier Than Permission (sometimes)
Today: Nothing Good is Happening at 4am
Nothing good happens after 4 a.m. Besides blowjobs.

I'll be honest: I've never understood this. What is this assumption that the wee-am hours are only bootycall hours? Who started this?

And even further, why is this something people like to highlight? The first time I heard this was in some "important information" one of my mom's friend's gave me as I headed to college. I supposed she wanted me to remember to keep my head in the books and off of boys? *eye roll*. Or maybe she wanted me to know that she knew? Or maybe she wanted to hip me to game in case I ever wondered whether or not to take that phone call at 3:30am.

Anyway, I suppose the only reason this is a life lesson is so you can make an educated decision. It's 4:30am, your phone is ringing. Unless a pre-set call time, the person on the other end is either in dire straits or has something a bit more carnal on their mind. Answer at your own risk.

That's it, folks. The end of the 19 life lessons you should've already learned by now. I hope there was one or two in here that gave you some clarity!


Life Lesson 18: Forgiveness Comes Easier Than Permission (sometimes)

Yesterday: Everyone Has A Guilty Pleasure
Today: Forgiveness Comes Easier Than Permission (sometimes)
Sometimes it’s better to act first and apologize later.

"It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission," goes the old adage. Basically, there are times when we just have to do something and plan to beg for forgiveness if it doesn't work out rather than wait for someone to give you permission.

I maybe operate too much in this line of thinking. I'm always doing something first and asking questions later. I just don't always care to convince someone to let me do what's right. Unless it's spelled out that I MUST ask first, I probably won't.

Sometimes the person who has to give you the permission won't fully understand what you're trying to do. Or maybe they just can't know. We all had the experience of wanting to go somewhere that we just KNEW our parents wouldn't approve of. Maybe it's because of who would be there or what would go on. So we bent the truth a little and got our way. And maybe we got busted -- but maybe we didn't. But it's the motivation for the lying that I'm talking about. As an adult, lying to our bosses or our friends or our significant others is just... ugh (not to imply people don't). Sometimes they just can't know why, they just need to say yes.

Of course not EVERYTHING you want to do that might get a no works. You could end up looking like a jackass, with no reprieve and no possibility of forgiveness. I always look at it like this: if this situation is one of those "if things work out the way I hope, then I won't need to explain a damn thing" situations, then go ahead. Otherwise, I probably just need to go back to the drawing board and drum up a bomb ass explanation.

Tomorrow: Nothing Good is Happening at 4AM


Life Lesson 17: Everyone Has A Guilty Pleasure

Yesterday: Learn to Hold Your Liquor
Today: Everyone Has A Guilty Pleasure
There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Own your bad taste!

What is a guilty pleasure, anyway? The thing you like that you shouldn't? And why shouldn't you?

These days, reality tv is often cited as a guilty pleasure for a lot of people. Myself, included. I've missed very few original airings of the Real Housewives of Atlanta all the way from its first season. I watched the entire first and second seasons of Basketball Wives. I'm a proud fan of Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta. I know that maybe I shouldn't watch these shows. I recognize that they show black women in a less than wonderful light. I realize they are negatively influencing our young girls (I DEFINITELY realize that seeing as I work with young girls). But there's something about the ratchetness that draws me in. I can't explain it, except to say that it's a guilty pleasure.

And I guess when I call something a guilty pleasure, I'm saying: This is something I enjoy that I realize is damaging in one way or another, but I plan to keep enjoying it. *shrug*

There are probably some limits to this (like murder can't be a guilty pleasure) but for the most part, I don't know that there's anything really wrong with indulging yourself in something that maybe you shouldn't. We probably shouldn't do a lot of things, but hell, life's risky -- might as well have some fun. Might as well do one or two things that you shouldn't but you have fun doing (as long as they're not, like, you know, murdering people).

And yeah, maybe if I and all the other folks who consider ratchet reality tv a guilty pleasure quit watching, these shows would go off and magically our young girls would stop looking to television for role models. Then again, maybe if parents parented and schools taught and we got serious about alleviating poverty in our country, young girls wouldn't look to the television for role models either, right?

Tomorrow: Forgiveness Comes Easier Than Permission (sometimes)


Life Lesson 16: Learn to Hold Your Liquor!

Friday: Scared Money Don't Make Money
Today: Learn To Hold Your Liquor
Don’t drink a shitload of alcohol when you haven’t eaten anything, you dummy!

There are a ton of rules of thumb people like to use when drinking. Stuff like: "liquor before beer, you're in the clear; beer before liquor, never been sicker. Dark liquor gets you drunk faster. Mixing liquors will mess you up. Etc... And all these may be some varying level of true, but the one I've found to actually be true is: eat before you drink.

My friends and I like to call this coating the stomach. I'm sure if I tried I could drum up some article or research that shows that eating food prior to a heavy night of drinking is a good idea, but I'm telling you from first hand experience. My worst morning afters have almost universally come from drinking on an empty stomach.

There's math to this as well. Obviously a heavy breakfast will do you no good if you ate it at 10am and begin drinking at 10pm. There's also what you eat. A salad won't "coat your stomach" the way a good burger will.

But you know what? Drinking responsibly is just an adult thing to do. I told a friend of mine recently that I'm a binge drinker. *gasp* I know -- that sounds terrible. But on the whole, I don't drink. I don't keep a bottle in my freezer, or up in the cabinet to relax with after work. Don't usually do that with wine, either. But when I do go out and I do drink, it's usually one right after the other until I'm feeling "right" and because my tolerance has some weight to it, that could be several drinks.

The CDC defines binge drinking as consuming 4 or more drinks in 2 hours or less (for women). 4 drinks in an hour? If I'm out with my friends and we're going hard, try 4 drinks in ONE hour. Easy.

These days I don't binge drink often. I always try to prepare myself with a nice heavy meal beforehand and I also try to cut myself off (you know, show some adult self control). Nobody likes the girl who drinks too much and then spends the rest of the night doing annoying things like drunk texting and spouting off useless and embarrassing personal information. But aside from that, I gotta function EVERY day of my week. I don't bounce back from a hangover like I used to. Knowing all of that causes me to make better decisions about my drinking.

Like when I was over my friend's house this past week. She told me to bring an overnight bag and prepare to get drunk, but it was mid-week, I have to work (with attention-deprived kids, no less). I couldn't do that. So I had one drink and I went home.

Learn to hold your liquor, and learn some self control.

Tomorrow: Everybody has a guilty pleasure


Life Lesson 15: Scared Money Don't Make Money

Yesterday: I Call Bullshit
Today: Scared Money Don't Make Money
Nothing risked, nothing gained. If you find yourself feeling miserable about something like your job, JUST QUIT. You will make it work for yourself. You will unleash your inner-hustler.

Everything is a risk these days. Go outside, you might get shot or run over by a car. Walking around your house, you might stub your toe, or catch your favorite sweater on the edge of the table and rip it. Life's just one big risk.

So if everything's risky anyway, a little extra risk that might catapult you to somewhere great can't be too bad of a thing, right? The trick here is a calculated risk. You hate your job, quit. But have a plan. What will you do? How will you do it? What resources do you need? Who can help you? This isn't just a wake up tomorrow and tell your boss to shove it kind of plan. As awesome as it might feel to do that, what do you do next?

What truly makes a hustler a hustler is that they always have a plan. They have a plan for their plans. They have contingency plans. They have little plans and big plans. What if plans. How to plans. If it's gotta happen, the hustler has a plan. It's all a risk, but to the hustler, a plan is the best insurance policy to have.

You can't be afraid to try something new, especially if what you're doing right now doesn't work for you. Make a plan. Take some risks in the plan. Change your life.

Scared money won't ever make money. At least no money you want to write home about.

Monday: Learn how to hold your liquor!


Life Lesson 14: I Call Bullshit

Yesterday: You Always Have You
Today: I Call Bullshit
You need to be called out on your bullshit from time to time. It’s healthy!

The only people who can afford to be told their shit don't stank are high-powered, highly paid, very wealthy celebrities and even THEY need to be told every once in a while that they too are actually human.

If you can't think of one person in the world you trust to tell you when you've messed up, you need new people. There's got to be at least one individual who can tell you that you actually do look terrible when you wear that dress, or that no, your new idea isn't as awesome as you think it is, or hey -- you have snot hanging out of your nose, and you not get mad. At least not "end the relationship" mad.

Why? Because we all make mistakes. And if you're surrounded only by people who will let you believe the delusion that you're not making mistakes, you won't grow. WE GROW FROM OUR MISTAKES! It's true. The whole reason you make mistakes is so you can learn not to do that again. The best is when you can call yourself out on bullshit. When you can do something outrageous and look at it, shrug and say "my bad" and then do better the next time.

Don't be afraid of all that. Doesn't make you less awesome, it makes you more awesome, it puts you oh so close to getting everything. Mistakes make the best stories, anyway.

Tomorrow: Scared Money Don't Make Money


Life Lesson 13: You Always Have You

Yesterday: Find Yourself Some Work Ethic
Today: You Always Have You
Moving cities does not cure unhappiness. Most of the time.

Check in the mirror my friend,
No lies will be told then...
You cannot run, for you can't hide from you

When I heard this song the first time, it was during Christmas break of my 6th grade year. It changed my little 11 yr old life.

What I'm getting at might not seem obvious right away, so go with me.

There are two possible centers of control. External and internal. Those who operate exclusively from an external locus of control are the ones who believe that there is only fate. In the end, you have no choices, who you are, where you are, what you do are all pre-determined and though you may think you decided, for example, to go back to school, the universe (or something else) actually worked together to make sure you'd make that decision.

Those who operate exclusively from an internal locus of control, believe you and only you determine how things will turn out. There are no external factors. If you want it, you can have it and if you don't have it it's because you didn't work hard enough.

Healthy folks will fall somewhere in the middle understanding that we have to play the cards we're dealt, but that doesn't mean that when you're dealt a bad hand you give up and throw in the towel.

Sometimes, it's just time to go. You've lived in a city for too long. I left Washington, DC 2.5 yrs ago, a city many people would love to live and work in, because it was just time to go. I didn't want to be there anymore. That was it. Maybe you don't see room for growth for yourself or you're no longer enjoying the city. Maybe everything about the city reminds you of bad things. You're having a hard time making friends. Or, maybe, you just want to see and experience something different. In and of itself, wanting to move is not a bad thing.

If we tried, we could come up with several scenarios where moving cures unhappiness. Like, moving to a city to be with a significant other. Separation can create unhappiness and obviously moving cures that right up. But that's obvious and that sort of unhappiness is situational. The true unhappiness? The kind that starts in your soul and won't leave you alone? That's personal and it will follow you because it's a part of you.

Happiness is such a fickle thing. You have it and then you don't. Try as you might, it can be hard to determine exactly what it is and how you can keep it (though, once you have it -- really have it -- you won't lose it). While fresh starts can be the jolt to your life you need, happiness isn't a thing to be found as much as it's a thing to be created.

Happiness is something you have to find in yourself, for yourself. If you're unhappy with yourself, it doesn't matter where you go or where you live or what job you take -- changing unhappiness starts in yourself. If you're unhappy because you don't like who you are or what you're doing, you probably won't like those things when you move to a new city, either. Why? You can't run from you. You are the one person who will always be with you. It is why, as I said before, you have to be your own best cheerleader.

If you want to move, do it. But take stock of why, exactly and be honest. Yes, maybe the new city will have more dating options for you or yes, maybe the new city will have new job options for you. Sure, the new city might offer you opportunities that your current city could never. But will you be unhappy if not? Is it the city that needs to change or is it your life? Yeah, maybe a move will be the change your life needs but know that before you pack up everything and start all over. Fresh starts aren't as easy as they sound.

I don't want to come off as if to say, "make sure you have a damn good reason to move" because you DON'T HAVE TO HAVE ONE. Risk is a part of life. Sometimes, the only answer is to just jump. This isn't about knowing the end before you begin, it's about making sure your risks are calculated and have purpose; if you've determined that you're unhappy AND you think the best thing to do is move, make sure that there is truly a tangible reason why a new city would fix what is usually an internal issue. Otherwise, look for ways to make that change first. There's nothing worse than being miserable in a brand new city with no one to call.

Tomorrow: I Call Bullshit


Life Lesson 12: Find Yourself Some Work Ethic

Yesterday: The World Owes You Nothing
Today: Find Yourself Some Work Ethic
Hard work is necessary to achieve anything in this life. If you’re wondering why you’re not where you want to be in life, you should consider examining your work habits.
My mom likes to tell me that when she moved from the small town she grew up in, her oldest brother told her that if she ever needed anything at all, all she had to do was call. It was, for the most part, the classic "you can always come home" pep talk. However, my mom likes to tell me this story because of the caveat he gave: unless you're in jail for stealing.

Your work ethic, in my family, is one of the most important things to build up. When I think about the family members that the matriarchs and patriarchs don't particularly care for, the ones I like to say don't make the "golden" list, it's all the ones who everybody has decided doesn't have a work ethic quite up to par. Why? Because to have anything you have to work hard for it, as we discussed yesterday and as far as my family is concerned, if you're not willing to work for something, you're a suspicious and not to be trusted individual. He who won't work, won't eat and all that other jazz.

Make no mistake about it, all the things we've discussed so far is work. Goal setting, having ambition, finding motivation... all these things take work, they take time, they take thought, they take effort. Work does not always look like a 9-5. It isn't always done at a desk from a computer screen. But no matter what form it takes, work is always evident.

That's why when, 10 years post high school, you have nothing to show for the last 10 years, people wonder why. It may be easy to blame a whole host of situations for why you haven't achieved much. Maybe the primary one is that in the grand scheme of things, 10 years isn't a long time to do anything. But you just gotta question the work ethic of someone who has 3650 days to do something and doesn't do anything. It's not really a judgement as much as it's a simple question. If you had a goal and after 10 years are no closer to it, then what were you doing?

That's what I think about several people I know who have been swearing they're going to have and achieve x and y things but after years of talk are still in the very same position they were before. It's why one of my criteria for my future mate is someone with ambition; someone who has a goal and is constantly doing something to put themselves closer to that goal. Your work ethic speaks volumes about you as a person. People who expect everything to come to them can't be trusted.

Or as my family might say, if you won't work, you probably will steal.

Tomorrow: You Always Have You


Life Lesson 11: The World Owes You Nothing

Friday: Maybe You're the Common Denominator
Today: The World Owes You Nothing
You can’t go into this world thinking you’re owed something. If you do, you’re going to be permanently unhappy.
One of my all time favorite quotes comes from the great American writer Mark Twain: "...the world owes you nothing; it was here first."

I think one of the fastest ways to get yourself into a jam is to have an unwarranted sense of entitlement. To think that just because you are, you will receive. For the vast majority of us, there is little we will get without having worked for it in some fashion. Even those for who it seems everything is given and nothing is expected, I assure you there is some sacrifice somewhere in their life to have and maintain whatever it is. Nothing, my friends, is free.

And if you're walking around thinking that everything you want will just fall from the sky, the disappointment you're going to feel when you get to the end of that walk with nothing to show for it may, in fact, be insurmountable and indescribable. Trying to find the shortcut, expecting someone else to work for you and hand you all of the benefits... that just won't ever work. Do the work, earn your keep.

I hate the bootstraps meme that is so popular and has been so popular in American rhetoric, especially political rhetoric. I hate it because it's not true. Very few people have or will ever accomplish anything great (or even not so great) with no help at all. That's just not how us humans are wired, to do things all alone. However, there is something magical about the idea -- and this idea is why, though it may in fact be literally and figuratively killing us, our country will hold on to Capitalism until it is pried from our cold, dead hands -- that if you just work hard, you can have anything you want. If that's all it takes, then the possibilities are endless, which is an intoxicatingly exciting thought, if you ask me.

While you will need help, your bootstraps won't be enough, you can work hard enough to achieve just about anything. You can have whatever you want, including happiness, you just can't think that it is owed to you simply because you breathe. Anything worth having is worth working for, if only to be able to say, on the back end, I earned this.

Tomorrow: Find Yourself Some Work Ethic


Life Lesson 10: Maybe You're The Common Denominator

Yesterday: Respect Yourself
Today: Maybe You're the Common Denominator
If you find yourself losing jobs, losing friends, and losing relationships constantly, maybe it’s time to consider the possibility that you could be the problem.

One of the realest conversations I ever had with the BiFF was one that ended by him saying "I don't know, Ashley. Maybe it's you. You're the common factor in all this..." I was complaining, as had become common, about all the drama I was in. For years people asked me, how is it you stay in drama but it's never "your fault"? When he said that to me, I had to admit that while maybe I didn't cause the drama, I didn't do much to try to stay out of it either. I was complicit in the mess and I had to own up to that.

I see people complain and commiserate on facebook all the time. Life sucks, nothing's going right, but let them tell it -- it's the universe who hates them, not their messed up, backwards decision making. Sometimes, sometimes, it's just you. It's not the world, it's not this guy over here... it's you. You are the reason YOU can't get ahead. Which, really, is kinda awesome. That means that YOU are in control of when you'll start winning and stop losing.

Even if you're not completely to blame, you share some of it. It never hurts when things are going (or have gone) awry to ask yourself if there was anything at all you could've done differently. The answer is rarely going to be "no" and if it is often "no," that's gonna be a good sign you have a hard time being objective. Ask a friend to help.

Learning to accept responsibility for your actions is part of growing up. You should have it mastered by, oh, age 10. Those over age 10 who still can't say "yup, that was me... I screwed up..." are doing it wrong and are very frustrating people to deal with. Those tend to be the same people who have a hard time apologizing. Fact is, we all make mistakes. It's not a bad thing to be sorry for making a mistake. It's not a bad thing to admit you messed up and it's not a bad thing to admit that the reason everything around you is on fire is because you set it on fire.

Stop dating the same kind of people if those kind of people never work out. Stop going after the same job if you never get a callback. Stop. Making. The. Same. Dumb. Decisions. Over. And. Over. It's really that simple. Take control of your life and see don't it change your life.

Monday: The World Owes You Nothing; It Was Here First


Life Lesson 9: Respect Yourself

Yesterday: Turn Jealousy into Ambition
Today: Respect Yourself
Self-respect is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give yourself but it’s also one of the hardest things to obtain.

The really bad things we do to ourselves like, pick bad people to let into our lives, stay in messed up relationships, work shitty jobs (without looking for other employment), drink too much too often, eat bad food, etc... is all because we don't think we deserve better; we don't respect ourselves.

It is HARD to respect yourself all the time. I don't care what anyone says. Doubt will always creep in, someone will always do or say something to make you think you're not worthy of only the best. It is constant work. You do not achieve self respect and then always have it. Each day you make conscious decisions to uplift your spirit, to do your best work, to respect yourself.

I've read people who suggest the fake it till you make it plan. Act as if you believe in yourself until you do. That might work.

But personally, I've found remembering all the wonderful things about myself works just as well. Surely anyone with all these great qualities is deserving of the utmost respect, especially from herself.

I'm not there with the self-respect. I still have the disease to please (as Mama O put it) and that can sometimes overtake my efforts at self-respect. Sometimes I put people ahead of myself who do not deserve to be there. But it's a work in progress and I am trying, I do see the goal and I reward myself with small wins when I do it successfully.

Give yourself your best every day. It's only right.

Tomorrow: Maybe You're The Common Denominator


Life Lesson 8: Turn Jealousy into Ambition

Yesterday: Guilt Is A Dish Best Not Served
Today: Turn Jealousy into Ambition
Turn your jealousy about your peers’ success into ambition.

This life lesson is the other side of the "let your haters be your motivators" coin. Let your own hate motivate? I don't know, we can find a catchy phrase for it later.

Jealousy is such an easy emotion or culmination of emotions. It's petty, too -- petty because it's such a useless emotion in and of itself. I'm not saying you can't be jealous, but know that you shouldn't stay in that too long. All that time you waste wishing you had someone else's life or money or relationship or education or job or fame or WHATEVER you could be working to have your own.

Instead of being jealous you could be asking them questions about how they have what they have. Or you could be taking notes on what they do or you could be taking notes out of a book. Hell. Who knows. But every minute wasted wishing is a minute not used to have. See what I did there?

I'm not saying copy them. In fact, please don't. Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery but it's annoying and disgusting all the same. What I am saying is find out what they did right. What were all their little wins? How did they manage to work hard and achieve despite all the things life has out there to keep you down and out?

Sometimes we don't have to turn jealousy into ambition as much as we need to turn it into perspective. Focusing on everything someone else has that you don't can make it really hard to see all the things you do have. Sure, your best friend has a great job and makes more money than you. But you have a family and a full life. Not to say she doesn't or is less than you if she doesn't, but the point is, that's something you have that many wish they did.

Kill the jealousy. It's a waste of time. Instead, see others having what you want as proof that you too can have it with some hard work and attention to detail

Tomorrow: Respect Yourself


Life Lesson 7: Guilt Is A Dish Best Not Served

Yesterday: Choose Your Motivation Wisely
Today: Guilt Is A Dish Best Not Served.
Constantly feeling guilt and shame about the “bad” things you’ve done only insures that you’ll do them again.

Guilt usually holds its' roots in unfinished business. We most often feel worst about things we didn't handle well and now can't handle at all. True enough, no one has created a time machine outside of tv and movie land so we can't ever go back and undo or redo what we've messed up, but that's not the only way to handle things. Sometimes, a simple conversation seeking forgiveness will help assuage that.

But asking for and oftentimes giving forgiveness is very hard. So we sit around and we mope about over an issue that we can't change and don't want to handle. But if you don't take the time an do the work of getting over whatever it is that you're feeling guilty over, how do you learn from your mistakes? If you can't understand why you did something because you refuse to consider the choices that led to the mistake, how do you know you won't do it again?

I mentioned forgiveness earlier. I think it's something that is incredibly hard to do; in fact, right now I'm working on how to forgive for myself. Have you ever sat and really thought about what forgiveness looks like? How you know you've given it or received it? Right now I'm working from the basis that forgiveness is deciding to, despite what a person has done, treat them as if they haven't done that thing (while never forgetting that they did). Put another way: I'm trying to work on forgiving someone for misusing my friendship and for acting entitled to me and what I offer. I could treat her a certain way because of that -- I could deny her my friendship, I could significantly change the way I relate to her in this friendship -- but if I truly forgive her, I won't necessarily do those things out of spite or anger; I may only do them to keep myself safe, if I do them at all. I would stop harboring ill feelings toward her and stop looking for ways to make her pay, I would let bygones be bygones and, as safely as I can, treat her just as I had before I was wronged. I can do that and still not give her my friendship back or even my trust or time. There are plenty of people I am very kind to who are not my friends. Until I decided to define forgiveness in that way, I thought I had forgiven her (even though she never asked for it) but those angry feelings kept creeping up; I had to realize that perhaps I hadn't let go, perhaps I hadn't forgiven.

And larger, I felt some guilt about how everything had gone down. How I'd allowed her into my space and not taken better care to protect myself from the hurt. How, when I'd finally had enough, I still allowed her callousness to make me do and say things I never intended to. In turn, I allowed that guilt to influence me to let her back in my space even when everything about that decision felt wrong and bad. The guilt was the louder voice though -- I had to, I had messed up and this was the only way to make it right.

When guilt is the loudest voice in the room, you're guaranteed to make a mistake. You can't think or see the situation clearly as guilt acts like a fog. Forgive yourself for whatever you've done, and THEN make a decision. And if you're really doing the work of forgiving yourself, prepare for it to take awhile. Luckily for you, the only thing time will bring in such a situation is more information and more clarity.

Tomorrow: Turn jealousy into ambition


Life Lesson 6: Choose Your Motivation Wisely

Friday: It's Ok to Have Boundaries
Today: Choose Your Motivation Wisely
If you buy a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit you and plan to use it as inspiration to lose weight, you will never end up wearing it.

I'm interested in motivation. Always. Ask me a question and the first thought I have is, "why do they want to know?" It will often influence my answer. I'm especially interested in how to help people change what motivates them because I'm discovering that skill will be the cornerstone in my career. Working with, essentially, at-risk youth (which is code for poor and minority, usually black, but increasingly Hispanic), trying to help them find intrinsic motivation is tricky. Theory says you start with extrinsic motivation, like McDonald's for every week of good behavior and then help them to see how good behavior is helpful to them in other ways. You slowly remove the extrinsic motivator as their intrinsic motivation increases and wa-la you have a student ready to tackle the world. Or so says theory.

Sometimes I think we choose motivating factors that aren't actually motivating. That too small pair of pants in the closet -- are you really going to lose weight just to wear them? When you were cleaning out your closet and set them to the side, did you really think that would work or were you hoping? I have to confess, I have several "too-small" items in my closet that when I was cleaning I set to the side telling myself that one day soon I'd fit in them, but I think I really set them aside hoping they would magically increase in size more than I thought I'd actually do the work of losing the weight.

Perhaps we do this to ourselves because it's easier. A silent pair of too-small pants in the closet is a lot easier to deal with than a personal trainer. Maybe because the silent pair of pants isn't actually supposed to be a motivator, but a reward. In working with my kids I've found that you have to reward them in short-run instances and slowly work your way up. In other words, it's not as simple as two weeks of rewarding them with McDonald's and they suddenly get intrinsic motivation. On the contrary, it could take months. And the first time, you can't ask a child who's been misbehaving badly in class to go a whole week with good behavior so they can get McDonald's. Even those addictive fries aren't reason enough. Instead, you let them earn smaller rewards faster. One day of good behavior might get them free time at the end of the day. Three days earns them some candy. And then bam -- they've made it a week and they get that McDonald's. You give them small wins so that they slowly learn they can win.

The real reason those too-small pants (or shirt, or skirt, or whatever) aren't motivating isn't really because they're silent. It's because they're a reward for the 30 lbs line -- the end of the line in fact. What's the motivation for losing pound 1? The pants are the McDonald's. What's the free time at the end of the day or the candy? Where are your small wins? You see, the small wins are what motivates you -- things that motivate you convince you to keep going, to keep trying. A reward that comes at the end is just a reward; the rewards in the middle? Those are motivators.

I keep talking about this in terms of weight loss, but you can truly apply it to anything. You have to choose your motivation wisely and you have to give yourself small wins. Many of us are adept at intrinsic motivation and we know that hard work pays off in the long run but there are sometimes those things that require a lot of run; choose your motivation in such a way that you have a reason to keep going even when you can't make out the light at the end of the tunnel. Small wins keep the spirit high.

Tomorrow: Guilt Is A Dish Best Not Served


Life Lesson 5: It's Ok To Have Boundaries

Yesterday: People Love You, Then They Don't
Today: It's Ok To Love From A Distance.
You are not obligated to be close to a family member. If any kind of relationship in your life is toxic, it’s in your best interest to establish boundaries.

Establishing boundaries is one of the hardest things to learn how to do, if you're not already one of those people who can set boundaries in your sleep. Chalk it up to your zodiac sign, your gender, your age, your race, your sexual orientation, your attachment style... whatever you want. Some of us can, some of us have to learn how. I'm in the latter group.

I'm actually a boundary pusher. I'm always looking for the line and the limits; the out of bounds. In turn, it can make it difficult for me to set boundaries with people I love. Yes, even the toxic ones. Hell, ESPECIALLY the toxic ones.

Framing this conversation around family makes a brutal point: everyone -- EVERYONE -- needs boundaries. Even your family. Facebook, twitter, tumblr, instagram and all the other wonderful forms of social media we love to enjoy have only served to make boundary setting that much harder. You know the struggle: the people who want to vent on facebook about their relationships but then get mad when they hear folks are talking about their relationships.

Boundaries really do keep you safe; they establish norms and rules. My mom always tells me, you show people how to treat you and boundary-setting is one of the tools you have to show people how to treat you. From what time is ok to call you, to how to speak to you -- let me tell you from experience: don't assume people have common sense and will apply it to your relationship. They don't, they won't and it'll be you with egg on your face.

I'll never forget: someone I really admired got into a serious relationship and posted several things about it on facebook (this was awhile ago, back when this sort of thing didn't seem to happen as frequently). She broke up with this guy and obviously had to change her relationship status. I thought she and I had a pretty good relationship, so I didn't think anything of commenting on her wall that I was disappointed to see she had broken up with him as I had gathered from facebook, she was really into him.

Shortly after my post, she sent me a SCATHING facebook message admonishing me for my post. She said angrily, "this is why I hate Facebook. Everyone thinks they can comment." Aside from hurting my feelings she confused me. What boundary had I crossed? That changed our friendship -- we didn't speak for awhile and when we did, she acted as if nothing happened which only furthered my assumption that she attacked me out of anger with her situation, not necessarily with me.

Boundaries are important because they give both people a set of rules to operate from. But you have to be careful about your implied boundaries. In the previously mentioned relationship, from my perspective, AND the fact that she had posted frequently on her relationship on Facebook, I assumed it wasn't a big deal for me to make my comment. Turns out, it was.

Toxic people can often be the hardest to set boundaries with. Sometimes that's precisely what makes them toxic. So far, the only method I've found that works is to take everything away and give it back a little at a time. The one time I didn't do that -- when I needed to set boundaries with someone who wasn't good for me -- they took advantage of the small openings I left and it just created more mess. They felt entitled to things they weren't entitled to and I ended up having to cut off contact ANYWAY just to make the solid point that I wasn't playing around. It's so much easier when you make the point on the front end instead of the back end.

Set boundaries because they're healthy, helpful and important. Respect other people's boundaries because it's the right thing to do and they have a right to have them. Remember, you don't have to understand AND agree to support something.

Monday: Choose your motivation wisely


Life Lesson 4: People Love You, Then They Don't

Yesterday: Be Your Own Best Cheerleader
Today: People Love You, Then They Don't
Human beings are fickle. We go to bed in love and wake up feeling trapped. Sometimes a relationship ending has nothing to do with you. Sometimes it has everything. Either way, it’s a waste of time to feel unlovable afterwards because chances are you will fall in love again. The main thing standing in your way is not your perceived shortcomings but fear.
Right on time for Valentine's Day, eh?

While writing these, I came across a draft of a post that I start by saying "I probably am not ready to post this..." I go on to talk about feelings of inadequacy at the end of a relationship. The repetition of defeat. Sometimes looking back on a failed relationship and seeing all that I did wrong and kicking myself for it, while other times looking back and realizing that I did all I knew to do and hopefully next time I'll do better.

Fear drives so much of what we do. It's not something to learn to get rid of, necessarily, as much as it's something to learn to keep in check. Fear certainly cannot rule your life, but it can remind you to be cautious and to make better decisions. The trick is learning the difference. Fear runs your life when you think in absolutes. You can be aware of your fears, consider how to mitigate them and still move forward. You don't have to feel sure about every choice you make -- some of the best outcomes were born of unsure decisions.

Relationships, romantic, friendship, familial even, fail all the time. We fall in love, we fall out of love we fall back in love. Sometimes with the same person over and over, other times with different people. It happens. It's hard. It sucks. We learn and we get back on that horse. But what you cannot waste your time on is a whole lot of "I'm not good enoughs" and those are easy to fall into. If you're anything like me, casual dating just isn't your style. Not because there's anything wrong with casual dating but because, again if you're like me, you go balls to the wall in any relationship that matters. When you put that much of you out there and into something only to have it fail, it is so easy to think that it's you. And maybe it is, but you know what? Dwelling on what you can't change leaves no time to fix what you can and get ready for the next opportunity.

When I have those moments of clarity -- looking back on a relationship and seeing how hard I tried, it can actually be a bit uplifting. No one likes to fail but knowing you failed while trying your hardest can bring some relief. If you let fear run your love choices, you'll never be happy and you will ALWAYS (this is a guarantee) be thinking back on all the things you could've, should've, would've done differently.

And one more thing: it does take 2 to tango, but relationships end all the time simply because one person just didn't want to anymore. It takes two yeses and one no, that's 7 days a week, 365 days a year. So don't feel like the end is all your fault. If it looks like it wasn't, then maybe it wasn't. Learn your lessons and keep it moving. Whoever that person was that left you hanging will be back. They always come back and when they do, let it serve as a reminder that the only person's choices you control is yours.

Tomorrow: It's Ok To Have Boundaries


Life Lesson 3: Be Your Own Best Cheerleader

Yesterday: Your Happiness is YOUR Happiness
Today: Be Your Own Best Cheerleader
You have to advocate for yourself because this world is full of shitheads who will take advantage of you. No one can afford to be helpless. You have to learn how to be a (polite) pain in the ass to get what you want.
I don't remember where I first heard this idea of being your own best cheerleader, maybe it was Oprah who taught it to me, but it took me awhile to get it.

I mean I got it right away. No one will cheer for you, laud your successes, highlight your greatness, as well as you do. Not even your mama, and for many of us, that's saying something. You're the one who really knows how hard you work, how smart you are, how fast you can go. Just you. You're the only one with you all the time, every day. Others may see potential where you don't, but you're the only person who can really get yourself to your potential.

It's often said that for women, this particular life advice can be hard to learn. We are often conditioned to let others take the spotlight. In fact, in the interview for the job I now have, when asked what one of my weaknesses is, I admitted that I often will allow others to take credit for my work in the interest of getting a job done or making the team look good. I've been blessed to now work with people who often remind me to take credit for my work; however in the past, I've worked with people who were more than happy to take credit for my ideas and thoughts.

Even now, I watch people I know and love copy the things that I say and do, and pass them off as their own original thought. I don't usually say anything because why? What's the point? The point is, we live in a world where people always want to know your value. Even in personal situations, people want to know why they should keep you around and if you are talking about you, who else can you trust to do it?

Yeah, I know, you don't wanna be that kid. The self-important, self-aggrandizing kid everyone hates. That's not what this life lesson is about. There's a difference between making people think you can do something you can't and making sure people know that that great thing that happened just now was because of you. It's important to remind people of your worth because it only serves to remind yourself. Ultimately, getting recognition for being great is 1 part being great and 2 parts talking about said greatness. It's uncomfortable, it's awkward, for some it's annoying as hell but it's NECESSARY when you want something. Closed mouths don't get fed, the squeaky wheel gets the grease and all those other adages we know and say but have a hard time putting into practice.

At church, our pastor often says "you are valuable, your dreams are valuable, your mind is valuable, your body is valuable." We make jokes about that line from The Help where Aibileen tells the little girl in her care "you is kind, you is smart, you is important" but these are the things that are important to remember about ourselves and most of us don't have an Aibileen in our lives to tell us that every day and make us repeat it so we have to be our own Aibileens, our own cheerleaders.

Tomorrow: People Love You, Then They Don't.