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.

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


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.