Monday, December 15, 2014


That's what I'm trying to say to Sallie Mae, which is now called Navient and ACS in 2015. I've never defaulted on a payment and even though, they aren't exactly breathing down my neck to pay them faster, something about the idea of paying off my debt is SO liberating and I want to do it and I want to do it NOW!

So in 2015, I'm turning in my leased vehicle. I'm saving money on a car note, insurance, gas, a yearly sticker for the city of Pittsburgh, a yearly sticker for the state of Pennsylvania, parking fees at work, parking fees at my apartment, COSTS FOR REPAIRS FOR ALL THE IDIOTS WHO HIT MY CAR, etc.  

I'll probably spend a bit of money on Zip Car or a once-a-month car rental or throwing friends a bit of gas money for coming to pick me up from the airport (or I can just hop on the bus that lets off two blocks from my house. It costs $2.50).

To accelerate my payments, I'll be adding all the money I save to my disposable income and dropping it like it's hot on my student loan payments EVERY. MONTH. next year.

This year I did that, but got a bit off budget/schedule in the summer. Lots of trips and shopping sprees and good living.

Here's what I think the difference will be. Every time I'm standing on a bus stop angry that I'm not in my warm car, I'm going to remember WHY I'm doing this. And hopefully, every time I'm in a mall or shopping online, I will remember freezing my tail off at the bus stop and remember my motto for 2015:

I don't need clothes. I need closure. It's been 10, almost 11 years since I graduated and they have gotten all the interest they're going to get out of me.

Bout to hit 'em with that NSYNC BYE! BYE! BYE!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

About Gaining Weight...

I think some of what I'm about to say may be insensitive to people who really struggle with obesity. If that's your and you're sensitive, please stop reading and just come back tomorrow.

I've been gaining weight. Living in this small town with its big portion sizes and pepperoni rolls and subpar public transportation. My love of red meat, sugar and french fries has not helped either.

For the first time in a while, I'm gaining weight and NOT really trying to lose it. I care no further. I look good! My clothes are hanging onto my body for dear life, but that's what they made malls for. So every day there's something funny [to me] that happens as it relates to gaining weight I'm usually by myself and I just laugh and laugh. Today, I'll share with you.

10. My pants rip. Bend over, squat down, drop my mail because I'm carrying groceries, my laptop and my big sack purse and SPLIT, another hole in the thigh of my jeans. Womp.

9. Speaking of jeans, I swear jump around every time I get dressed for work. I'm sitting there thinking, didn't there used to be stretch in these?

8. I get asthma. Not real asthma, but I swear my bras are trying to kill me. I've never worn so many pajamas before the sun went down in my life.

7. I take my bras off in public. Bras are stupid anyway. I was at the airport like *snap, crackle, pop*. Then I exhaled. Aaaahhh!

6. I run into stuff. Add being clumsy ALREADY to taking up more space, no picture frame is safe. (and yes, I know I went from a 6 to an 8 and not a 22 to a 24, but it's still more space and it feels different and I don't care if you call me skinny, I know I'm 8x bigger than women like Kerry Washington who wear a 0... or is that really true since 0 times anything is 0)

5. I bought stock in tank tops so I can keep wearing all my button down shirts.

4. I finish entire Chipotle burritos. I remember a time, when I was more disciplined. I would cut it in half and eat the rest later. No. 

3. I get winded walking up a flight of stairs. I still exercise, but I'm at the end of every flight of stairs expecting a butler to be there to greet me with a Coke. I know it's not just me.

2. I turned into a complete hippie because being naked is better than wearing too tight clothes. I'm militant in my head until my logic doesn't make sense anymore: "Clothes are a social construct created by God... wait."

1. My closet looks like a mix between a department store and a graveyard. Come find your size. I have ALL the sizes. So much potential. My maxi skirt collection keeps getting bigger too. Lowkey summer is the best time to gain weight. In the winter, these cozy sweaters are like cable knit jail cells.  

And no, I'm not pregnant.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Do You Exercise AND Travel?

Two short stories.

On Exercise
When I'm on top of my game, I exercise on Sunday mornings before church. When I exercise on Sunday mornings before church, I get sleepy RIGHT around the time my pastor starts preaching. You've heard how close I am to my pastor, so he's liable to call my name in service if I'm sleep and/or talk about me at dinner, which is not ok.

So I pack trail mix. It's perfect. It's crunchy, chewy, healthy and the perfect amount of blood sugar to keep me going after working out, after breakfast, but before post-church dinner.

The End.

On Travel 
I travel a lot. I have a lot of zip-top 3-quart bags and I rarely pack them before I leave the house. They're just all over my purse. On my last trip... maybe second to last trip, but who's counting, I had so much lotion and hand sanitizer. Fortunately for me, I had ample zip-top plastic bags. I plopped my liquids, gels and aerosols into one of said bags and let it creep into the bowels of my purse. I did not get stopped by security. I passed go. I collected $200.

The End.

But not really...

This Sunday, I reach in my bag to get some trail mix. I'm like almonds, sunflower seeds, cranberries and pistachios SHALL BE MINE. Until I realized I dropped the hand sanitizer and lotion into the same bag with my trail mix. I laughed so hard in church at a time where it was inappropriate to laugh at church.

I crack myself up.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Let's Talk About It

I don't think I've talked about police brutality here. I don't think I've had the words to succinctly sum up what I'm feeling or what I'm watching or what these last 100+ days since Mike Brown was killed have felt like. They haven't felt any different from the days when Trayvon Martin was killed or when Derrion Albert was killed or when Hadiya Pendleton was killed.

But there is an uprising. My feelings coupled with the feelings of millions of Americans nationwide is that we will not stand for injustice and we will not standby while injustice is being served and my heart is pleased with the reaction.

I saw this poster on Facebook and it so succinctly sums up what I've been thinking and feeling about police violence, in particular (I hate all violence).

There's something about self-defense or watching a lifetime of Bad Boys-like movies that makes us think killing the bad guy is ok. Then layer that with people thinking everyone who is black is a bad guy and black people having the responsibility of managing other people's fears. I've never seen so many laws on the books that let you kill a person because of your fear. How can I manage another person's misperceived notions about me?

Some of us have to pay for this with bad annual reviews (and subsequently subpar pay raises) from our workplaces because while our work quality is stellar, white people are "afraid to talk to us" or think we're too "abrasive." Economic disenfranchisement much? Others of us pay for this mentality with the ultimate price of our lives. Slavery mentality [just like rape culture] affects us all and I'm happy the nation is rising up against it.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How Did I Get Here?

A lot of days I find myself reflecting on situations and thinking about how I got here. Usually, I'm sitting in skinny street traffic on some God-forsaken cobblestone road trying to get to the one mall in the suburbs of Pittsburgh that has a reputable Indian woman to thread my eyebrows, trying to figure out what happened to my much more convenient, fabulous, big-city, metropolitan life of years past.

Currently, it's 4 a.m. on a Thursday morning and I'm sitting in my apartment writing banner ad copy. I'm a public relations professional. I don't write banner ad copy. Copywriters write banner ad copy. It's like 20 words or less and it's giving me the heebie jeebies.

But... I'm a public relations professional, which means I do everything. I make Starbucks runs. I plan client dinners. I write strategies for top brands. I manage people, places and things. I make news when most people just watch it and my well-respected journalists friends just report it.

AND... I do things that are out of my comfort zone [and outside of my job description] to meet deadlines, which today equals writing banner ad copy from my living room at 4 a.m. because sleep and sensibility all went out of the door when I chose this profession.

Would't trade it for the world.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Low Places

There's something about taking public transportation that messes with my self-esteem. Sitting there waiting for a bus or a train for an extended period of time with no control whatsoever of whether it's coming or not makes me wonder am I really where I want to be in life. And not to mention all of the free time makes me extremely introspective and it turns my crazy switch right on.

This Thanksgiving weekend I didn't have a schedule and I didn't rent a car. If you know me, that would be shocking. I got in Wednesday night and the moment I opened the passenger door in my parent's garage my mom goes: are you about to get dressed and go out? I'm like no, I have no desire to be in these streets.

I saw some people. I missed A LOT of people.Then I skipped the Posh party and my close girlfriends throw that party, so I felt like crap about it. So while I'm waiting on the 146 after picking up books from Luvvie (and getting a much needed mani/pedi and these brows threaded for the gods), I'm thinking, am I a horrible friend? Is my life over because I'd rather play with my friend's two year old than go to a day party.

Have I made such despicable decisions in life that lead me to standing in the cold, sober with a bag full of books on a Saturday night when my peers are either spending time with their husbands and children OR standing on tables? How did I get here and is it ok?

Well, thank God for church and a word from the man of God. On Sunday, Pastor Hannah preached about how Abram got kicked out of Egypt because he had too much stuff. (Longer story. Genesis 13. Read it.) He made the parallel to how the devil will bring you down, but when he sees no matter what happens to you (sickness, losing a job, depression, loss of a loved one), you still give God the praise, he'll throw you out of [Egypt] whatever horrifying situation he catapulted you into because you are of no use to him. Even where you're low, you're still only of use to God.

Man that spoke to me. I was like let me turn this frown upside down. My life is amazing. Riding the CTA for four straight days almost had me thinking otherwise. If we're being honest car traffic is much worse. I read books on those train rides.

AND I wasn't a complete old fart. I went to a 90s party at Beauty Bar that night. There was no line, cheap cover, cheap coat check, cheap drinks and I wore flat shoes. It was a low stress, high reward partying experience. It was so lowkey, I might as well have been in Pittsburgh and I loved it. Wait.

Monday, December 1, 2014

You Dropped a Bomb on Me

So Thanksgiving's happening. I leave my mom's house to make a couple of stops with the other side of the family. Ah yes, the burden of the child who has two sides of the family when the parent does not. It's big fun, I assure you.

When I left my mom all of the sides were done. As far as I knew, the turkey was done. We're waiting on a couple of guests to show up and putting the table settings together. I get back 2 hours later. No one has eaten. Man, COME ON!

My stepdad has two homeboys that are eating with us. One is there, the other ran to the gas station. And by ran, I mean he walked. But then the one he went to was closed. So he went to another one, and we waited. Chile, we waited.

So he gets back and we go around the room and say what we're thankful for.

My mother, and her chipper behind, drops a bomb that she's thankful for health screenings and prescreenings offered by her employer (she works at a hospital). She had a procedure done and they found a polyp that was precancerous and they removed it and she doesn't have cancer and praise the Lord. Next.

NEXT?!?!?!?!?!?! MA! Seriously? How are we supposed to process that before the cornbread? I just acted like I didn't hear her and thanked God. That's too much. And the fact that she went through it without telling anyone... Maybe she told her husband.

Then my aunt says she's happy for a job. She's been unemployed for XYZ time and starts her new gig tomorrow. I had no idea. Heavy.

THEN my stepdad's friend says he had two broken legs, a broken rib, was in a coma for 7 months and they thought he was going to die, but God. Heavier. (Maybe he was in a car accident, maybe he was beat up. I don't know. No one asked. I didn't ask.)

I did not cry around that circle, a miracle among all the other miracles we discussed. I think we need to start having testimony service early in the day. Give us time to praise, worship, mourn and weep, then we can eat later. I just wasn't ready that close to the ham and potato salad. 

Also, if you know my mom, can you maybe NOT mention this post to her. She doesn't read this blog or really know remember it exists. If she can't even tell her firstborn child she's going through a procedure, imagine the scolding I'm going to get that I shared her testimony with the internets. Ex-honey said she didn't want to worry me and I should be happy because there was nothing to worry about. Ex-honey is right. I talk to ex-honey. Sue me.

I am truly happy for all the blessings around that dinner table circle and my family and our dysfunctional communication. God is good, anyhow.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

From Our Thanksgiving Kitchen

The holidays are the most wonderful times of the year... or whatever. I spent the majority of my holiday group chatting with friends I couldn't spend as much time with about how crazy my family is.

A couple of funnies from the weekend.

- We do this every year. Every year dinner is late. It doesn't matter what the issue is. This year it was my stepfather doing a bunch of household projects that were uncompleted. Then my mom and I get in from the airport and have to clean up a dusty kitchen vs. actually cooking. And when I say from the airport, I mean I took the train from Midway to Forest Park because my mom wasn't done grocery shopping when my plane landed and therefore couldn't pick me up from the airport. And when I say "we" cleaned the kitchen, I mean, my mom did it and I went to sleep.

- My stepfather ended up frying turkeys (why isn't this spelled turkies?) like every year. Three funny stories here:

1. He was frying up turkeys for everyone in the neighborhood, so despite the sides being ready on time (I made mac n cheese and candied yams this year. Next year, dressing. If I keep this up, I'll just cook the whole damn meal myself and let my mom off the hook. [Never going to happen, but it sounds good.])

2. The process is oil the turkey with olive oil. Rub it in the rub, then stick it on the pole. Convo:

Stepdad *looks at dry ass turkey*: How much olive oil did you put on this?
Mom to me under her breath: Oops, I forgot.
Mom to stepdad: Um... not too much. Do I need to do more?

bwhahahahah. She eventually told him she forgot, but I was already in tears in the kitchen.

3. This year he had a rub and injections for our turkeys. Fried turkey tastes good without any seasoning, but he got excited. Bought some stuff online and was all hyped about it. My mom didn't want to do it, so she let him at it. Talking about he should be in the kitchen more often. Until it was done. Apparently, it's not a rub, it's a seasoning. You rub rubs. You sprinkle seasonings. He overdid. Anyone remember mom NOT wanting to do it. Then when the skin tastes like salt on a stick she goes: That's why men need to stay out of the kitchen. They think they know what they're doing, but they don't.

Ah, Thanksgiving!

More tomorrow. 

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:

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.