Monday, November 24, 2014

I Got Got

PSA: When you rent a car and you bring it back, take a photo of every angle of the outside of the video. If you do not, you have no proof that you did not damage the vehicle because your word is not enough.

Budget said I got in a car accident and damaged a car. I didn't. State Farm asked if I had photos and if I walked around the car WITH the agent while I was at the airport. I didn't.

State Farm is now paying Budget $437 out of my $500 rental coverage allowance. This costs me nothing, but I'm pissed about it.

It's definitely a scam and I don't want people to scam State Farm just like I don't want them to scam my grandma. It's easier for State Farm to pay it than to go to court without my photo evidence (a defense).

So now, I'm THAT CHICK at every airport, taking photos, writing down notes about the smallest scratches, not signing anything until I do a thorough walk-around.

You live and you learn.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

More on Mentoring

I knew the day that someone I was close with leaving the group home would come. The volunteer coordinator (VC) told me that if/when that happens, I could ask to formally keep in touch with whoever the girl is. I had no idea two girls would leave on the same day. It's kind of crazy.

I asked the formal questions, but the VC didn't get back to me until AFTER I saw the girls for the last time. Good news: I can definitely keep in touch with one of them. We just have to do some paper work with the foster care agency and I'm in there! The other one is a bit tougher because it's a different foster care agency and they don't know me and I have all these approvals to go through, so hopefully that will pan out.

The VC then tells me since I have a formal mentee, that I don't have to come to the group home anymore. They don't want to stretch me too thin. So at that point, I'm conflicted because there are other girls at the group home that I've built relationships with. THEN I remember I didn't really MEAN to be mentoring 13 girls at a time. But the way it's set up, if they just attach you to one mentee and she can't stand you, it's not really going to go well.

I've essentially been doing a test run to find one mentee for nine months. 

AND, I don't think I've blogged about this, but I'm practicing say no. These past 3-6 months have been bananas for work and outside commitments. I just can't live like that anymore. Saying no is going very well. I had agreed to do something and found out I didn't have the time and instead connected my contact to another woman to help get it done. I've said no to like 10 things in the past two months, but still have lots of lingering commitments.

ALSO, I'm letting the lease on my car go on 12/31//14, so I had a bit of anxiety about how I was going to get the group home every week sans vehicle.

As I'm struggling with this conundrum of how to honor my commitments and honor myself, 2 of my girls get moved out of the group home and an opportunity to ease up on my weekly commitment presents itself. Knowing that I've already poured so much into the girls that are there (and so many who have left), I feel really good about saying December 10th will be my last day visiting the group home weekly and I'll still be mentoring at least one girl, as I'd originally planned.

Praise God! While I'm trying to figure it out, He already worked it out!!!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Update on Mentoring

So I've been an official Gwen's Girls mentor since March of 2014. If you recall, I wanted to get connected to one girl, but that's not the set-up. So I go every Wednesday and work with all of the girls (up to 13 at a time). Just like in real life, I'm the engineer of fun. I let them use my wifi hotspot [sometimes], I play games with them and I take them to fun experiences (Usually sports games or cultural events.)

About a week ago, two of the girls that I'm closest with told me they were getting put into foster homes. When I found out they were leaving I cried like a baby... in the parking lot though, not in front of them. The reaction came out of left field and I analyzed it and realized I had so many things going on. I knew that I loved my girls, but I didn't realize how concerned I would be with their outcomes. I really want to make sure that they make it. High school, college, families of their own, I want them to be afforded every opportunity and if they are not within the parameters of the group home, then I don't have access to their outcomes.

I also was dealing with some self-doubt. My love language is spending time [or quality time, whatever]. That's how I show my love for these girls, or my friends, or my family or a significant other. I'm not the words of affirmation "you mean so much to me, let me tell you all about it" person. Sometimes I feel like that's a handicap and in not being able to express myself verbally to the girls [or anyone really], I was concerned that they wouldn't truly understand how much I care and that they would just leave and I'd never see them again.

Fast forward to this past Wednesday, the last day, I'd see them in the group home [and potentially ever again]. I got them both cards and photo frames with pictures of us at one girl's first Steelers game the other girls' first Pirates game. I hugged them and gave them all my contact info, since there was no way to know if I'd see them again. They LOVED the gifts.One girl told me no one had ever given her a photo in a frame before. [that broke my heart, but then reinforced what I knew. What I'm doing is important and you never know the large impact your small contribution can have on someone's life.]

It was at that moment that I decided to let this "you need to be more verbally intimate" notion go. [My therapist said] I beat myself up so many times for everything I'm not and rarely give myself credit for everything I am. I complete an accomplishment and forget I completed it and then get mad about everything I haven't done.

I digress.

I showed my love by taking them to games and leaving work on time [no small feat] every Wednesday to hang with them. And what I left them with, a photo of those good times, is something that's way more impactful than any string of awkward words I could put together to "say" that I care.

So, all of that to say: 1. Mentoring is going well. AND 2. Who I am right now, without fixes or changes or improvements, is enough. I am enough.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Solo Adventures in Vegas

My solo weekend in Vegas was amazing. It's actually so popular to travel to Vegas by yourself that there's an entire website devoted to it: www.vegassolo.com.

I spent a fair bit of time just maxin' and relaxin', which is what I like to do on vacation anyway. Here's the rest of what I did:

SHOPPING: Oh, the malls and outlets malls in Vegas. I busted out my grocery list (yes, I have clothes on my grocery list) and proceeded to find and purchase everything on it. Talk about being a task master.

Pool time at Ceasar's: I was staying at a low budget hotel at the end of the strip trying to save money, so their pool wasn't exactly the hot spot. Also, I'm not doing that anymore. That's not who I am. I can't stay at cheap hotels any further. Either, it's going to be nice or I'm not going. I digress.

In November, a lot of the pools are closed anyway. So I had to find a pool that was year round AND that allowed outside guests. Ceasar's was it. To my surprise, however, they didn't charge anything to get in or for towels.

Apparently in November the high is typically 50 degrees and while I was there it was like 80, so it was unseasonably warm. They weren't even serving food at the pool. The waitresses were wearing velour hoodies on top of their bathing suits and they were running out of liquor. I guess 80 degrees isn't 110 and they weren't restocking the bar until next summer.

The Linq - I went on the largest observation deck in the world. 550 feet in the air, by myself and my phone died. Ah well, I have to rely on my brain for the memories and it was quite dope. It's a 30 minute ride, costs about $24.95, but I got on for free.99 with a coupon from the [nice] hotel I stayed in earlier in the week. They have a whole community with things like Sprinkles (cupcakes, ice cream AND cookies and you know I smashed), Brooklyn Bowl and this brewery from Cali with 180 beers on tap. Vegas always looks so crowded, but somehow they managed to fit a new hotel and entire community of shops and a ferris wheel across the street from Ceasar's and I loved checking it out.

Supporting Women Chefs - I searched high and low and only found three women executive chefs at Giada's at the Cromwell (couldn't get a reservation), Border Grill in MGM and BurGR in Planet Hollywood. I made a 7:30 reservation for Border Grill, then bought tickets for the 9:30 Michael Jackson One by Cirque De Soleil. What had happened was... my hotel was at the end of the strip, I had to re-do my hair, I kept popping out of my shirt and leather leggings and the bus took forever to come... So I didn't make it to dinner.

Michael Jackson - One by Cirque De Soleil. When I tell you I was in there singing and dancing solo dolo, aw man, it was GREAT! I also paid the 5 for the souvenir photo because... I could AND there was no one else to take a picture of me AND to remind me when I'm old and married that I was a fun, happy, risk-taking single woman.

Eating like a fat cat - I went to a bunch of great restaurants while I was there. The one's I remember are Citizen's at MGM, The Palms at Ceasar's and Tom Colicchio's Heritage Steak House at the Mirage.

Have you ever taken a trip by yourself? What was your favorite thing to do?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Small Churches

I go to a small church. And you always hear: The Black church is a pillar in the community. The black church is a traditional, etc., etc. But never before have I experienced a community organization like I'm experiencing now going to a small church.

We had a business meeting after church and my Pastor told everyone to bring a dish. It wasn't a coordinated effort. There wasn't a budget for the culinary ministry.

It was just like, you were going to cook this at home anyway, bring it in to the church. All of the churches I've ever gone to are run more like corporations than families. The large masses of people who go to the church put on programs for the community, but they don't necessary seem like a PART of the community.

I have no problem with a church operating like a business or church members being community benefactors rather than community members.

But it is refreshing and enlightening to have new experiences with a small church and feeling like a part of a church "family" is a new experience for me.

Do you prefer smaller or larger churches?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Groceries are a problem...



I think to the naked eye, it would seem that my priorities are screwed up because this weekend [Read: the weekend I wrote this, but forgot to publish it] I got a mani/pedi, got my brows threaded, got a new iPhone (PRAISE! THE! LORD! My battery life struggle was realer than rap), did nonprofit work, partied, went to church and went to work, but I didn't go grocery shopping.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Women in Vegas...

Being solo is Vegas isn't all that bad. Being a woman, in Vegas, however, is a pretty dire situation. Since I'm out here by myself and looking to spend some money, I figured that I would try to find a restaurant with a female executive chef and support the cause.

There are only three restaurant in all of Vegas that have this:

Gordon Ramsey's BurGR, Christina Wilson, head chef. - You won't be surprised that when I said I wanted to spend some money, I meant on a steak and not on a burger, so I didn't pursue this option.

Giada's at the Cromwell Hotel - No open reservations, not even for one person. Sad face. (She probably isn't even the executive chef though, but let me cook.)

Border Grill, Executive Chefs, Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger - I was able to book a reservation for Saturday.

It should also be noted that the Cromwell Hotel is the only hotel in Las Vegas with an all-female executive team. That's by design as hotels in Vegas are looking to differentiate. It's in the same vein as the Vdara or the Cosmopolitan (both of which, I love).

Then it occurred to me that Vegas is ran by the old boys network. This is why all the conventions are here. This is why it takes 20 women to every one man in the club. This is why there are nude bars on every corner and those people on the street with those business cards with naked girls on them. None of this is a coincidence and I all of a sudden feel dirty and ridiculous for wanting to party here.

It's not empowering and sexually freeing, it's demeaning. (If there were women in high power positions that didn't include poles, it'd be a bit easier to stomach).

Finding out there are no women chefs in Vegas is like finding out there aren't any black people that work at Twitter. These things just don't make sense.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

When Did We Get Old?

I'm in Vegas for work right now. At 5 p.m., I'll be here on personal time at my own personal expense. Usually when things like this happens, I can get a squad (or at least 1 person) to join me for the weekend. Here are the reasons folks could not join me:

10. I'm budgeting to buy a house next year and I can't go on any unexpected trips.
9. I have a wedding next year and I can't go on any unexpected trips.
8. I live in a dumb city and the flight prices are too high and have too many connections to warrant me paying that much for a two-day trip.
7. I'm nursing my newborn.
6. I'm a stay-at-home mom and we can't secure child care that quickly.
5. My girlfriend won't let me.*
4. My wife won't let me.*
3. I have to work that weekend.
2. Oprah's Life You Want to Live Tour is coming to my city that weekend.
1. Just plain no. 

When did we get so old? When we were 21-25 (and not budgeting and/or not owning homes, having babies and planning weddings), it would've been 13 people here with me in the blink of an eye.

I should also admit that some of the people who could have made the trip are folks I can no longer stand for more than 3 to 4 hours at a time. So I'm getting old too.  

Ah, well. When I write my memoir, I can talk about all the things I did by myself and how they make me amazing. Or whatever.

*I didn't seriously ask my male friends with wives and girlfriends to come. Can you imagine a single woman asking your sigfig to join her in Vegas? It just sounds bad. This reasons are what I imagined they would say if I asked.

Friday, November 7, 2014

#ThatAwkwardMoment

When you start doing the Jamaican dance by yourself @ the gym

When you realize Tinder is a hook up site (it really depends on where you live and how old you are. For college students, yes. For people over 30 - not so much). It sucks as much as the next dating site though, but I tried it.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Quotables

"Honesty is a very expensive gift. Don't expect it from cheap people." - The 3rd Richest Man in the World

I stole this from a friend on Facebook. I don't know who the third richest man in the world is, but I know he has some tshirt-worthy quotes. I know that.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Weigh In!!!

Ok, I've seen this video circulate a few times and finally got a chance to watch it.



It's only about 10 people that read this blog and I seriously want to hear from all of you, what is your reaction to this video? I have so many.

Disclaimers: I don't have kids, I'm not meant to be a teacher, my opinions are my own and not that of my company, my church, my mother or the Lord Jesus himself and finally, just because I find something funny doesn't mean I'm making fun of a serious situation.

Ok, ready.

1. The big student breaking up the fight must be on the basketball team because you hear another student say "don't get injured before basketball season starts." I feel him so hard. Look, this ain't your fight. You need to stay healthy to do your job. *cough* Carlos Boozer *cough*
2. There is definitely a Chris Tucker-Ice Cube "DAYUM" in there. Actually, quite a few. I don't care what you say, that's funny.
3. The student must have done something to get kicked out of the room because at the time the video starts the teacher is ALREADY out of her shoes.
4. If she had on flat shoes, what about taking your shoes off, makes you more able to fight? She looks like a cavewoman.
5. If she had on heels, nevermind trying to answer #4.
6. Everyone's not supposed to be a teacher. If you know you will f*** a student up, maybe just work at the post office or DMV or something.
7. At the same time, if these kids don't know they could get f***** up, they might not respect the teachers.
8. Did you see the student's grandma's lacefront on the Fox clip (not pictured here)? All on the evening news. smh.
9. The Fox clip had a typo in it. I expect better from my journalist friends.
10. I'm so glad I'm not a parent yet. I have so many things to be concerned about. This type of foolishness isn't one of them. 


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Can I Bill My Weekends?

If you work in client services, you may know a thing or two about billing hours. Sometimes, I don't feel like I'm done anything unless I've billed the hour. Sometimes when I do personal work (nonprofit, blogging, personal branding) on the weekends, I feel like I should have somewhere to bill it.

Well, this weekend was a bunch of hours that belonged to other people and that has got to stop. I'm also coming down with a cold and that's a direct result of not taking a break, which is what the weekend should be a break.

If you figure the weekend is 60 hours from the time you leave work on Friday at 6 p.m. until the time you wake up at 6 a.m. on Monday morning to go back towork, here's how I spent my weekend:

26 hours - Sleeping
10 hours - Volunteering
7 hours - At work
4 hours - Church and dinner with the Church fam
3 hours - Watching Bey& Jay
2 hours - On the phone with State Farm.
8 hours - I have no idea where 8 of my hours went. I would assume getting to and from all of the places I went and maybe showering.

Next weekend I want it to look like this.

30 hours - Sleeping
30 hours - Chillin'

#WillNeverHappen, but I'ma try.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

About Ray Rice...

So Alex asked me on Facebook, how I would "spin" the "Ray Rice Situation." First, a bit of education.

I'm a public relations professional. As such, I am entrusted with the reputation management of my clients. I, am not, however, a liar. Most PR people are not liars, like most accountants are not liars, or most doctors are not liars, but some are... not because they work in PR, but because they are not ethical human being. Unethical human beings exist in every profession.

Generally, I have a client who is good at their craft, their art, their profession, but not so good at telling the world about their specialty. If they make floor tiles, they truly believe their floor tiles are the best and it's my job to show passion to the world. If there is a floor tile recall, it's my job to make sure all sides of the story are told - positive AND negative. PR people are diplomats, really. Because most people want to believe that the world is black OR white. That people are good OR bad. It's our job to proactively showcase all the good you don't know and in times of crisis, reactively show all sides of the story.

Now, that you don't think I'm a total scumbag, let me share one of my favorite quotes with you: "If you want people to respect your brand, HAVE A RESPECTABLE BRAND."

As a PR person, I stand on this philosophy. I cannot "spin" the "Ray Rice situation" because from what I can tell, he doesn't have a respectable brand. I can't make him look any better, because the facts are STARING in your face. There's nothing else to say. He messed up. He needs to move to Montana, finish his college degree and get a regular job like a regular person.

HOWEVER, as a PR person, I can't help but point out some facts that MAY make you think about the situation differently. And if Ray Rice WAS my client, here would be some of my key points to share with the media and the general public.

DISCLAIMER: These are not my thoughts. These are how I would counsel a client in talking points, IF I had a publicity client in the NFL who made a mistake, which I do not. 

1. It is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE for the media to play the Ray Rice video in its entirety over and over again. Imagine the worst thing that ever happened to you, in your life, now imagine CNN had that footage and showed it on a 24-hour loop, back-to-back? 

As a victim of domestic violence, there is no reason for Janay Rice to have to relive day-in and day-out the media's scrutiny of her decision to keep her family together OR witness the violence that endured firsthand on her TV screens. If news stations won't show injuries of sports players, due to their graphic nature, the women of America should be given the same respect. Our society should be ashamed of how it treats victims of domestic violence and impedes their ability to heal.

2. Ray Rice has admitted fault, he has apologized, he has served the sentence that was given to him by a United States court of law and he is seeking to reform himself and put his family back together, privately. Opening the wounds that he inflicted on his family more than three months ago will not help him, nor will it help any other domestic violence victims or families trying to heal from similar ordeals. 

3. The American justice system and governing bodies in sports (NFL, NBA, MLB) are extremely inconsistent in their punishment of players and that is what the public should be upset about. When a top quarterback in the NFL has settled a lawsuit of sexual abuse neither admitting or denying fault, one wonders if these bodies really hold their players to the high standard they claim to or if they, instead, take every opportunity possible to eliminate lesser-paid, lower-value scapegoats to change the conversation about what is and isn't acceptable in professional sports leagues. While Ray Rice has admitted his mistakes and paid for them with his job, the NFL and other professional sports leagues carry on like they haven't ignored player transgressions in the past. This culture of cover-ups must change. Our professional athletes must be excellent on- and off the field. This is what Americans should care about.

So... would you hire me?    

Monday, September 1, 2014

Tea's Tangents: Labor Day Edition

I am currently writing this blog post in order to procrastinate from doing the work that I have due at 9 p.m. What's worse, my coworker who's collaborating on this presentation with me just texted like: hey, I'll call you in 45 minutes to an hour. I'm like what can I do that takes about that long.

  • I just balanced my checkbook and I missed an entire trip to Chicago's worth of expenses. Sprinkles, Sweet Maple Cafe, Harold's, Gas for a rental car (or my car or my mama's car, I can't remember). Just a mess.
  • I stayed in Pittsburgh for Labor Day and it was a good time. Not a "I put up with this because I live here" good time. But legitimate fun was had. I went to two bbqs (free food for the win!), a wine bar in a hipster neighborhood (to kick it with my student boos who can never go out because they're always in the library) 2 club parties (at the same 2 clubs I always go to, but there were out of town people, so it was a better time) and a boat party (with a pregame with free food and drank). 
  • Except for two event, most of what I went to was for the Ques weekend. Shout out to my connect for the free tickets. He put me and four of my girls on. AND this was the most drama-free set of Greek events I have ever experienced. It was like going to a family reunion and all your cousins or uncles are Ques. If you want to visit me, Labor Day would be a good time to do it. 
  • Separate, but related, it's so cheap here. Went to the bar with a bootential and he bought two drinks and the bartender's like: $13. He's not from here, he was like wait... for real? LOL! Now that I know people come in from out of town, I may spend more holidays here. It's cheaper and more relaxing. 
  • This weather is disrespectful. It's ALWAYS raining in Pittsburgh. Now, I know you all think I exaggerate, so I have some numbers. *Phaedra Parks voice* Everybody knows it rains a lot in Portland, Oregon, Right? Well, on average, Portland gets 153 days of rain per year. Pittsburgh gets 152. This weather doesn't believe in seasons. It's like yeah, I'm going to rain every month, no matter what the season. 
  • Speaking of weather, I had a pumpkin spice latte today. On September 1, the unofficial last day of summer. I'm disrespectful too. 
  • Speaking of disrespectful, why are people wearing leather calf and knee high boots already? I swear, I JUST put my boots up. I'm trying to flip flop it out until it's less than 50 degrees outside. Oh, how I love summer.
  • Off to do work now... How was your Labor Day Weekend? Anyone do Made in America in Philly? Yacht week (wherever that was)? Concerts? Clubs? BBQs? Family Reunions? I know I'm not the only one who spent a better part of today working and checking email to make sure I'm not behind tomorrow. I can't be the only one living this life.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Story Behind the Neurosis

My [Chicago] friends know that I'm extremely punctual. I'm always early to the party, such that I'm helping with cooking and decorations. I'm not ashamed of it. It's who I am.

I got stood up for a date tonight. It's the second time this has happened in two months. Getting stood up in 2014 isn't like I'm sitting at a restaurant waiting for a date and no one shows up (though that has happened. Shout out to dating. It's so fun.) Getting stood up in 2014, is like we talked on Friday and said we'd meet on Saturday at 7, then you didn't call or text to say WHERE to meet... or answer my calls or text to answer that question.

This sucks. It sucks for anyone, but it sucks for me because it opens up historical wounds. My biological father has a substance abuse problem. If you ever know anyone with that problem, you know that they make promises they can't keep and they lie a lot.

When I was a little girl, he used to say he was coming a lot and never did. He would tell me things he was going to buy me for Christmas or my birthday and he, of course, never delivered.

My mom's first husband (my "dad" who passed away when I was nine) would talk to me like an adult when I couldn't have been more than 6 or 7 and say things like "Do you really think he's coming?" I was an intelligent, precocious child, but my cognitive abilities weren't that sharp yet. OF COURSE, he's coming. He said he was coming. Why would anyone say they were going to do something they're not going to do?

So, as an adult, I work to be upfront and honest (sometimes bluntly honest, sorry, y'all.) If I say I'm coming to your birthday party, I'll be there. If I have a deadline at work, I'll meet it. And to make sure no one is ever waiting for me to show up for hours on end and feeling abandoned like I did as a toddler, I arrive to things early.

So, yes, arriving to social events is crazy. Living my life by my calendar is crazy. Expecting people to do what they say they're going to do is crazy (or is it really). And maybe cutting a guy off who could produce a perfectly good story about how/why he couldn't make an appointment that we scheduled is harsh, but one never quite heals from being lied to as a child and I would rather not deal with all of the feelings that come up each and evey time this happens to me as an adult.

So the moral of this story is, when people seem strange, odd or even crazy to you, know that they are that way for a reason and try to empathize with the fact that you don't know their story. BUT, ALSO don't stand people up. :-)