Friday, January 31, 2014

Life Is Worth Living!!!

Yesterday, I saw a bunch of people saying #RIPYusef. Then I saw Rolling Out do a piece about him. I Google the gentleman to see who he was found out that he went to Hampton, was in my age group, committed suicide and was engaged to the ex-girlfriend of a friend of mine.

The world is truly small.

After being sick for more than a month,  I was in a really bad place. I didn't pray for death or do anything to harm myself, but if I shared the thoughts going through my head during that time (despite trying to be positive) you all would call an intervention.

During my sickness, I heard this sermon from my Pastor. I've been meaning to share it with you all already, but now is the definitely the time. 

Scripture Reference is 1 Peter 1:13
 
"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
 
Gird up your loins means: Get ready for work. Roll up your sleeves. Get your mind ready. To tighten up like a girdle.
 
Be sober means: Keep watch day and night. Be alert. Your enemy prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.
 
- Don't let the enemy steal your joy.
- You can leave church on Sunday with a song in your heart, and have it taken away Monday.
- Life is not fair.
- Rain comes on the just and the unjust.
- Your spiritual maturity will be the difference between your victory and your defeat.
- Life can temporarily take your song, but don't let it permanently steal your joy.
- Worship through your problems. Sometimes worshiping God is a "labor" of love. You don't want to do it, but you have to do it. You have to praise God like it's your job and that will get you through your trials.
 
Four quick points from the pastor.
 
1. Trials are short-term realities.
2. Trials can lead us to greater blessings.
3 .Trials give us proper perspective. (For this point, he referenced 2 Corinthians 2:7-9 - But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, but not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsake; cast down, but not destroyed.)
4. Trials can help us experience God's presence. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will direct your paths. In your weakness, God will make you stronger.
 
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I'd also like to add that the biggest lie we'll ever hear is that we are alone. That no one understands us. That no one has been through what we're going through. God sends people through problems SPECIFICALLY so they can help others. God sends me through things so I can help others. God may have sent you something through something so you can help someone else. But KNOW he's sent someone through ALREADY to help you. 

And if after reading all of this, I haven't convinced you that your situation is temporary, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline before taking your own life: 1-800-273-8255. 

I guarantee you it will get better.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Not My Kids

New song called 5 by Willow Smith/Jaden Smith

Chorus...

I saw the ocean when I saw you
In my sky, that’s where I climb so high to see you
(It’s all about her)
Can you see the words rolling off my tongue?
You’ve got the touch baby cause you’re the one
I can taste the smoke rollin off your lips
I inhale, see the stars and then I smell your kiss
Show me, show me your galaxy

Not my 13 year old. Hell naw.

And it's weird that her brother is doing this song. When you think about Nelly and Kelly or Jay and Bey you assume they like each other. This is just beyond weird and innappropriate.

Thanks to satellite radio for bringing this crap into my life.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fork in the Road

Ok, so I have my 19-step process done. I need to send in a copy of my car insurance and they need to check my two references, then I can get started.

Now, when I think about mentoring, I'm thinking about things that happen on the weekend and after work on weeknights. However, the mentorship coordinator was like pump your brakes. I likely won't get matched up with a girl one-on-one for another year. (Fam, who knows if I'll even be here for another 2 years).

So the way it works is that I come to the after school sessions and help with things like tutoring. If I'm consistent and someone gravitates towards me, then I go to this child's house with the mentorship coordinator, her case manager, her parents or guardian (for most of the girls in the program, it's a guardian), then I can meet with her outside of the program.

For this after-school program (program A), I need to pick if I want to be matched with a girl who's 8-12 or 13-18.

OR

I could work with the girls/teens/young women who live on-site (Program B). There are 13 of them at any given time and they are court adjudicated. (I had to look that up, but it basically means the state pays for them to be there until they make their next move, whatever it may be).

Those girls/teens/women are ages 13-20.

The mentorship coordinator mentioned that it's high drama in the house and there's high turnover. So I could gravitate to someone on Tuesday and they be gone Wednesday. OR they could be there for four years, no telling. She said these girls/teens/women are tough and sometimes hard to reach, BUT given my work like and travel schedule that may be the best for me because it's not like I have to come on a certain day at a certain time. I'm basically coming into their [group] home and working with them as a group until someone requests to be partnered with me one one one. So much pressure.

On the flip side, if I work with the girls who come to the after school program, they're likely more stable and will likely expect me to be in a certain place at a certain time.

I have to pick between program A and B, THEN if I pick A, I have to pick between the younger girls or the older girls.

I really thought they'd just match me up with one person and we can get on with it. I will say, that I'm impressed with the thoughfulness of how the program is run. But I'm am concerned with my ability to pick the correct way to go, where I can have the most impact.

I'll pray about it. I hope I don't take too long. Which program and age group would you pick and why?

Tea's Tangents

  • I have all these unmarketable skills. Yesterday, I chopped vegetables for chili without messing up my manicure. Anyone who cooks knows that chopping can be murder on your nails. I was so proud of myself, then I was like wait... no one cares.
  • I had big plans to have someone in Pittsburgh tackle these brows this week while I'm off work. I tried to go yesterday, the salon was closed. Tried to go today and they were booked, which is a good sign, because that means they're in high demand. I was going to ask for the prayers of the saints, but God has better things to do than worry about the shape of my brows. One more day looking like Frida Kahlo and Ernie's cousin. One more day.
  • I FINALLY had my mentoring interview. Now they just need to check my references and then I can get started. Unfortunately, I have to make some tough decisions about which group I want to work with. I wish they'd just give me one person and I go from there, but I understand why they run the program the way they do. More on this later.
  • BUT ALSO, the girls program I'm working with shares a building with a boy's program. The male workers and volunteers. Man. You know I love a man that gives back... and who's fit. They weren't hard to look at either. Might find my husband while I'm volunteering. #CantLose

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Just Angry

Posted this to Facebook. Then took is down as I think this is a better forum. I have every right to be angry when I'm angry. But sometimes I feel like if I'm angry in certain forums, people only notice when I'm angry vs. all the times I was happy or funny or silly on those forums. Facebook is one of those forums, so I think over here is better.
 
I'm still pissed about the fact that...
 
Car accidents suck. Someone rear ended me in August. I got my car repaired and their insurance company charged ME for half of the rental charge claiming that I left my BRAND NEW CAR in the shop DAYS after I was contacted that it was fixed. This is just not true. Enterprise doesn't want to hear it. The car shop THAT I PURCHASED MY VEHICLE FROM won't call me back and the insurance company is washing... their hands of it. Yes, I have proof. Yes, I'm going to write letters and send them certified mail. Yes, I will take them to small claims court, if it takes all that, but this is just added stress that I do not need. #DONOTWANT How is it possible that someone can rear end me, she's sitting in her house with no problems and almost six months after the fact, I have costs, four-page letters and stress related to it. Grateful that I was not hurt. Furious that I have to deal with this right now. Moral of the story: SLOW DOWN AND PAY ATTENTION ON THE ROAD.

P.S. I'm kind of proud of the fact that I'd have two straight weeks of posts for y'all. That's what three weeks of sickness will do for you. It'll have you in the house, pensive and writing and such.  (hopefully I feel better by the time this posts).

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tea's Tangents

1. I went to this wack spa in Chicago in November. I had an appointment for a bunch of things, one of which was an eyebrow wax. They had no wax. So at that time, it'd probably been 3 weeks since I had my brows waxed. Then I had a spa appointment at the end of December in Chicago, but I had to cancel it because I was sick. It's January and I haven't arched my brows since October. I decided I'm going to let them grow in completely. I'm going to look like Ernie, then I'm going to flourish under the Brooke Shields Act. I think thick unruly brows are in now. If they're not, I'm about to bring 'em back how Solange did with dookie braids.

2. Another sickness funny. I'm pretty much allergic to spicy foods. Allergic = eyes watering, nose running, ears itching, etc. When I have mustard that is too spicy my entire face gets hot and I can't really breathe. I can't even eat Flamin' Hots. So my sinus infection clogged up my ears. Read here that there's pretty much nothing I can do about it, but I was convinced at the time that eating spicy foods was the answer. So I ate an entire raw jalepeño pepper. It tasted like lettuce. Then I ate another pepper (I don't even know what it was, but it was hotter than the jalepeño). I read that you were supposed to use gloves when reading peppers, but I don't have any gloves, so I roughed it. What I did not do was put on my contacts BEFORE cutting these peppers. Oh, the burn! So I can't really see without my contacts. So I put sandwich bags on my hands to put my contacts on. It worked. It wasn't funny at the time, but go ahead, laugh at my pain.

3. As you well know, my mom is the biggest football fan in life. I'm a Bears fan. I could take or leave all these other games. We're texting on Sunday and she's like "Are you watching this game?" I'm like nah, I'm in the house sick, hating life. She's like "Man, there are 2 black quarterbacks on TV. You better get up and get it together." If this woman had to choose me or football... man, I don't know. (She was right though. That 49ers/Carolina game was good).

Monday, January 20, 2014

Chicago Snow Removal

When I was in Chicago for the holiday it was snowing like mad. It was a few days before the Polar Vortex and everyone was commenting on how bad snow removal was under Rahm Emanuel. I actually brag and brag on how clean Chicago streets are to people from Pittsburgh.

Then I go home and it was like we forgot what snow plows and salt trucks were.

I did a little research and found the following budgets.

2012 - $20 million
2013 - 16.3 million
2014 - $20 million

Chicago's fiscal year is the same as the calendar year AND the 2012-2013 winter boasted less snow than Chicago had ever seen before. The article said there were 367 days without snow (or something of the sort).

So we were right folks. Chicago had a surplus in the snow budget in 2012 because the weather was so warm (that's also when murders surged) and then in 2013, they cut the budget. Likely trying to predict the weather and hope it was as mild as 2012.

THEN on December 31, when it was snowing like crazy, they probably told mogs to stay at home and wait until January 1 to shovel the snow.

That's a mess Rahm Emanuel. A literal snowy mess.

How has snow removal gone in your neck of the woods?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Lord, Recondition My Brain

I went to my church's Sunday School Christmas program. It started at 9 a.m. in the Fellowship Hall (located in the church basement) and it preceded regular church service at 10:45 a.m. I had to go to support the kids. If kids can't find love in church, they won't find it anywhere.

I go to a small church, so there were about 10 kids dancing in the Christmas program. It was more like a Christmas Casper Slide than a praise dance, so it was co-ed and it wasn't weird at all. They were dancing to one of the songs and a little boy, he couldn't have been more than 8, was singing the song at the same time (no one else was singing).

I'm telling you he was singing his HEART out. And it touched me so. He was so young that he didn't care that he was singing a gospel song in front of a bunch of people and no one else was singing.

Here's what messed me up. He looked like a little thug. He had on a big t-shirt, baggy jeans and Nikes. Like if he was a grown man at a bbq, I would have hollered at him. How is it possible that my brain can equate an 8 year old to a thug? I was so angry that the thought crossed my mind. Then I thought about the fact that it he was a little white boy singing I would have thought he was precocious or quirky or something like that.

I got really choked up because I saw Trayvon Martin in this child. I saw a child, with a heart for God, who had no ill intent against anyone, but because he was black and dressed in urban wear I EXPECTED that he would have been one of the kids that was "too grown" or "too hip" or "tool cool" or "too gangsta" to be in the church basement singing and dancing for the Lord.

I hate that this crossed my mind in this way. And I hate that everyone wouldn't experience his heart for God and one day he may be judged by the Nikes on his feet rather than the song in his heart.

I'm sorry that the thought crossed my mind. I'm angry that even as a member of two marginalized groups in society I can still even formulate a thought that marginalizes another group.

Here's where I hope I differ from the George Zimmermans of the world. My thought, as irrational, as it was, was not an action. I did not treat this child like a thug because of how he was dressed or what his image conjured up in me. I recognized the horrible thought and did away with it. So many people won't do that: teachers, police officers, judges.

Herein lies why I'm afraid to have children. How will I protect my kids from someone else's preconceived notions about them based on race, gender or socioeconomic status. And when those notions can result in lowered expectations, jailtime, or in the case of Trayvon Martin, death, how irresponsible would it be for me to bring an entire life into a world I cannot control.

I hope to be able to recondition my brain so thoughts like "he looks like a little thug" won't ever occur to me.

I don't have a big aha here. Just something that was on my mind, that I wanted to share.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Money Update

You guys have been with me through a lot on here. Paying down thousands of dollars of credit card debt, living below my means to make it happen, finally upgrading my life, then months later being whisked away to my east coast adventures in Pittsburgh where the cost of living is cheaper, but goods and services are more expensive.

As I sat down to think about what my year is going to look like financially, I thought about all the years I spent making significantly less than I do now and STILL sacrificing to meet a financial goal. I thought about the mindset it took to do that and it was all about discipline and sacrifice. It sucked a lot saying no to things I wanted to do, but at the end of the day,  I was happy with the outcome: being credit card debt free, Amen!

So my rent went up this year by $50. That's $600 a year. When they wouldn't budge on it (you know I asked), I took a look at my budget and realized that it really didn't affect my budget to pay $50 more per month. Wayment.

I then took ANOTHER look at my budget and decided since I have a sufficient amount of emergency fund in the bank that I can afford to pay about 20% of my net pay each month to put a dent in my student loans. If I do this, get a raise every year, and use my tax refund as my vacation fund, I can pay down all of my student debt in 2 years.

Don't let me mess around and make my side hustle profitable.

What does this mean, though? This means no Netflix, no impromptu trips and no shopping. I can still dine out, but that must be kept to a minimum as well. This means acting like I don't have it when I have it. This is a bit of a mind shift.

When I got the job in Pittsburgh, I think I was off work for about two weeks before I started. And then it was likely another two weeks before I got paid, etc.,, etc. Well, I lived off of my savings/emergency fund during that time and the funny thing about an emergency fund is I don't budget with it the way I budget a fixed income. So I pretty much did what I wanted with the money. Fast forward, a month after that, I make more and spend less in Pittsburgh. Again, it's like give me all the things. Further, I didn't know anyone and I was lonely. So it was like I want premium cable, give me a 2013 vehicle, let me buy what I want because I'm not going to be bored and a bum. That was my thinking.

Well, now that I have friends in Pittsburgh, I need to find my way back to a sacrificial mindset AND gently remind myself that for YEARS I lived a life of saying no to meet financial goals.

I'm writing all of this to help me be accountable. Yesterday was the best day of the year and I really did spend 20% of my take home pay on student loans. I wanted shoes. I really wanted shoes.

If you want to share any financial goals with me, please do. If not, I ain't trying to be all in your business like that. Thanks for reading and helping me to stay accountable.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fitness Update

Happy actual birthday to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.!!!
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I haven't talked about fitness on here in a while. Let me catch you up. This time last year, I didn't want to go on a diet, but I tried to think of a lifestyle change that would help me keep a bikini body year round.

As it turns out, I like to indulge. I couldn't come up with anything that I would do consistently that would keep the pounds off.

So I gained weight. I probably have gained about 10 pounds since I moved to Pittsburgh. I typically shed those pounds for an outfit (crop top on my 29th birthday) or a vacation (Dominican Republic a few months later), but in 2013, I went on vacation with a belly. I just was out there under the no photos in a bikini act.

As one of my big boned male friends told me: fat people go vacation all the time. You need to just let go and have fun. LOL!

That said, I don't want to fall off just because I can and I really don't want to buy new clothes. I have other money priorities this year. (More on that tomorrow).

Semi-related to the money piece, I'm trying to get back into the habit of sacrifice. That said, in January I'm doing no bread, no baked goods, no candy. These are things that I really don't NEED in my diet and they are the hardest to burn off.

I've been wearing dress pants all winter because they have more give than my jeans. I literally had one pair of jeans that fit because they're like stretchy jeans (but not jeggings, don't judge me.)

After just 10 days of this sacrificial eating plan (and no exercise because I'm sick as a dog), I was able to get back into my jeans. YAY GOD!

I'm toying with the idea of giving up SOMETHING every month. So not necessarily the same thing, but the same number of calories. This keeps me in the sacrificial mindset and hopefully keeps my jeans on my booty (and money for new clothes in my pocket).

I think I could give up bread for like, but that's a no go for baked goods and candy. I live for cake during baby shower, birthday and wedding season. I love, love, love cake!

How am I ending a fitness post with talk about cake? Anywho, how's your 2014 fitness plan coming along?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Perspective

As 2013 came to a close, I had a cloud of sickness over me. I was staying in my little brother's old room that's cluttered with stuff and my big plan to clean it out was foiled by my low energy. It felt like the world was closing in on my and to make matters worse, I wasn't exactly dying to get back to Pittsburgh to go to work.

If I wasn't careful, I could start to think that 2013 was a miserable, cluttered, mediocre year. I tend to do this. I tend to make whatever horrible situation I'm going through the biggest, baddest, worst possible thing and let it overshadow everything else.

I made sure to go to church on New Year's Eve (a favorite tradition of mine) and to be surrounded by people I love (a surefire way to set up the year right).

And in looking back, 2013 was an amazing year. I came into my own in a new city, making new friends, becoming a volunteer and joining a young professionals wedding. I witnessed three sets of friends pledge their love to each other in holy matrimony in Pittsburgh, Chicago and North Carolina. I paid all my bills on time, saved what I said I was going to save and still had money left over. I shopped, I traveled, I dined out, I indulged, I prayed. I even had a couple of boothangs in the midst of all of that.

And EVEN in all of my sickness at the end of the year, I was surrounded by my loving mother who doted on me, lots of friends and family who called, stopped by or e-checked in on me.

One of my goals in 2014 is to keep things in perspective. If I get a review and there are 14 sections and 2 of them include negative marks, it's important that I look at the entire review, not the two bad marks.

If I date a lot of people and only one is a jerk, I have to pat myself on the back for making good decisions - whether or not we're compatible is another story.

If I eat right Monday through Friday and have cake all weekend long, I have to think about how I made good choices 71% of the time.

So yes, I've been sick for 3 weeks. But for 49 other weeks, I wasn't sick. How awesome is that?

Keeping life in perspective is going to be critical to my happiness in 2014 and beyond.

A gospel songwriter summed it up PERFECTLY.

I've had some good days
I've had some hills to climb
I've had some weary days
I've had some weary nights
But when I look around
And think things over
All of my good days
They outweigh my bad days
So I won't complain.

(ooh wee, that's my jam. I'm crying right now singing it. God is so good.)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tips for treating a cold

Treat it like it's serious. If I had it to do over again, I would attack this thing full force at the onset of the first symptom.

Ask everything. I would have asked more questions at the doctor's office. By the time I made it to my third doctor's visit, I knew the questions they were going to ask me and I knew WHY they were going to ask me. So when the doctor asked if my sinus passages hurt, I said, no, but I likely have a high tolerance for pain. And that helped him get to the sinus infection diagnosis.

Ask about side effects. I should have also asked what the side effects were for the drugs I was getting and what I should eat while taking said drugs to prevent those symptoms. I will definitely ask those question the next time I'm at the doctor's office.

Use a neti pot. This little disgusting contraption is way cheaper than all the nasal decongestants I had. It feels like you're drowning yourself when you use it and all of the things coming out of your nose make you feel like no man is ever going to kiss you again, but my nasal passages have never been clearer.

Take a day or two. I didn't take any days off work over the break because I didn't plan well and my job doesn't have sick days. If you're sick, you work from home. So it's like I was already planning on working from home over the break and this time I just worked from home sick. I should have taken a full vacation day and logged out and just focused on getting better.

Take a spa day. My biggest barrier to rest is my brain. It's always racing. Even when I wasn't working, I was sitting on the couch thinking about all the work I had to do. The next time I get sick, I'm going to have to figure out a way to lay my burdens down. A spa is usually the best place to do that.

Keep a sense of humor. I always have this. Being sick is funny. All the disgusting things coming out of my body and I'm this prim and proper diva. I cough every time I laugh. If you watch someone do this, it's kind of funny. It's also funny trying to figure out what's wrong with me. I start with AIDS, then Cancer, then go from there. Those things are not funny, but the fact that a cough or sinus headache makes me feel like I could possibly be terminally ill is funny when you sit down and think about it. Life is funny. I laugh it up.

Keep a sense of gratitude. When I got the chicken pox for the second time, I was beyond miserable. I was a 12 year old who hated life and everything involved with it. My mother, bless her heart, read Job to me. If Job wasn't going to curse God and die the way his wife suggested, how could I? It's all about perspective...

More on this tomorrow.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I don't remember that

Why is it when I'm sick, I don't remember anything about the last time I was sick. My memory is already shot because I think too much about the future and I drink a lot (which causes memory loss). I think I also have the ability to suppress bad memories and everytime I get sick, it's a horribly bad memory.

When I have kids, I'm going to have to keep a journal that says "What to do when *insert child's name* gets sick." Otherwise, I will most certainly forget.

So I thought I had the flu. I Googled and read that if you have the flu, you get popsicles. So my mom went out and got me popsicles.

I didn't have the flu. I had a fever. And you get a fever at the onset of a cold. I'm sure I've had a cold before, why didn't I remember that?

Rest. Why didn't I remember that you absolutely MUST sit down when you're sick. Why didn't I remember that my version of sitting down is still doing too much because I do the most. Where is the part of my brain that keeps me safe by remembering to do things I haven't done before. I probably forgot it too. Blame it on the Goose.

Fluids. Why didn't I remember to drink like a fish at the ONSET of any cold symptoms. Feel a cough, drink a gallon of water, juice, Gatorade, tea, whatever. Just drink drown that thang.

Hot toddies. Man why didn't remember to have a hot toddy at the onset of a cold. I think I could have nipped this thing in the bud at the beginning if I treated it like a big problem vs. a small cough.

Vick's. One night Vick's was a savior. It was the only thing that kept me from coughing nonstop. Why didn't I remember the wonderful might power of Vick's?

More on cold remedies tomorrow.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sickness...

I've been sick since December 23rd, 2013. It's January 10th, 2014. That's too much. Let me tell you about it. It gets pretty gross at the end, so skip this post if you don't want to hear it.

Week 1.
It started off as a tickle in my throat, then a horrible cough, then a fever. On Christmas Day, I slept until 2 o'clock in the afternoon because it hurt too much to be awake. Then I drugged myself to death with over the counter meds. Drowned myself to death with liquids and slept myself to death with sleep (and watching the Breaking Bad marathon on my mama's couch). After a week and the symptoms not waning, I go to urgent care. They say, it's just a cold, it's not the flu. You've been taking all the right stuff. Gave me some tesin (sp) pearls for the cough (didn't work) and antibiotics in case I got a fever. I never got a fever. Never took the antibiotics. 

Week 2
Go back to Pittsburgh. Go back into the office. Had the cough from hell. Then the thing moved from my chest to my throat. Hacking cough, sore throat, losing my voice. Just a miserable, miserable existence. Saturday THAT week, I go back to urgent care. Nothing serious. Still just a cold. They told me to switch from Mucinex DM to Mucinex D. Then they said take Benadryl to go to bed (didn't work) or cough syrup with Codeine in it (gave me nightmares).

Week 3
The Mucinex D gave cleared my nose and my chest, but upset my sinuses. Here were are at Friday, I'm still feeling like crap. I go to my primary care physician in Pittsburgh. Actually, her counterpart because she was out due to a death in the family. The doctor says I have a sinus infection. It seems all the medicine I was taking as a nasal decongestant upset my sinuses. He told me to take antiobiotics (the ones I already got 2 weeks ago) and take Sudafed and use a neti pot and I should be good to go.

THEN a friend on Facebook tells me to be sure I take probiotics because the antibiotics could interfere with my healthy bacteria and cause diarrhea or yeast infections. Man, what the what?

So, here's my issue:

1. Why didn't the first doctor (it was urgent care so it was a physician's assistant) why didn't she ask me if I was taking Mucinex or Mucinex DM. When I get to 2nd doctor (PA actually) she told me that it matters and I'd been taking the wrong thing.

2. Why didn't the second doctor tell me that with more than a week of cold drippings swirling around in my head, I'm ripe for a sinus infection and here are 3 things I should do to not get one.

3. Why didn't the doctor today (real doctor, not a PA) tell me that antibiotics could upset my bacteria. Who wants bubble guts and our yeasty goodies just to clear up sinuses? I don't.

The reason I'm so frustrated is that the side effects of the medicines I'm taking to fix the symptoms I have will inevitably give me another symptom.

This must have something to do with old age. I don't remember this being a problem when I've been sick before. More on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wednesday Morning Prayer Call

Prayer is so real y'all. I don't talk about it nearly as much as I should, but my goal is to pray daily. I'm about 80/20 with that. My days are better when I pray. My life is better when I pray. My problems are smaller when I pray. Prayer is an integral part of my life.

A friend of mine had an idea to do a weekly morning prayer and it's been a big hit for our friends. I say friends, but honestly, I don't even know who's on the call.

I thought it'd be a good idea to share with you all.

Every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. CT there's about a 10 minute prayer. They start with a Word, then a prayer. It's truly refreshing.

Conference Dial-In Number: (712) 432-1500
Participant Access Code: 357504#

Let me know if you want the official calendar invite.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Just Grateful

I woke up this morning with such an attitude of gratitude. I have to go to work early because there isn't enough time in an eight hour day to deliver everything that's on my plate. I'm grateful for a job, the responsibility I have at that job, the opportunity to log in early and my ability to go above and beyond what is required.

It's also bitter cold almost everywhere in the country. I'm grateful for my fluffy blanket I crawled from under this morning. I'm grateful that the hot water in the shower worked. I'm grateful that no matter what temperature it is outside (it's -8 with a wind chill of -30 in Pittsburgh right now), it's a balmy 77 degrees in my home this winter. I'm grateful for the means to be able to pay the heat bill. I'm thankful for budget billing, which ensures my bill is a reasonable price each month, no matter how much heat or A/C I over-indulge in.

I'm thankful for a closet full of clothes that I can layer up in. No matter how much more I think I need, I always find something to wear each day of the week (and weekends) and for that I am grateful.

I'm not driving to work today, but I'm thankful for a late-model car, which hasn't had to brave many winters. I'm thankful for covered, valet parking. So even if I did have to drive it, there wouldn't be any snow to remove and someone else will have heated it up for me.

I'm thankful for my buscard and that it's funded with pre-tax money. Less work for me to do on my taxes on the back end AND less taxes for me to have to pay.

I'm still sick [are you praying for me?], but I'm thankful for the activity of my limbs, so that I CAN walk to the train station. I'm thankful that I only live two train stops from my job.

I'm thankful for the building I walk through between my house and the train stations. It cuts about 1 block off of my walk and will provide some much needed warmth on a day like today.

And to bring it full circle, I am thankful that someone is expecting me to be at work today and counting on my to deliver greatness and counting on me to manage my direct reports and counting on me to move their marketing business forward.

So yes, even in the midst of a polar vortex, I am grateful! What are you grateful for today?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mentoring

I wanted to give you all an update on mentoring. The last thing I have to do is get an FBI clearance. I swear I sent my cashier's check and background information in about two months ago. I haven't gotten anything back yet. :(

I can't believe I've been gathering all of the paperwork it takes to do this since May. I'm still excited about mentoring. I'm still very much looking forward to giving back. I wish the process could have gone a bit quicker. And I truly hope my FBI clearance didn't get lost in the mail. I have no way of finding out since it was a Cashier's Check and not a regular check.

I hope I didn't just get got for $40 by a federal agency.

Are you volunteering anywhere new this year or same ol', same ol? Share your volunteer ops with me!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Change A Life

I read the best article in the December issue of Essence about what New Orleans is doing to curb gun violence and save the lives of young black men and boys. It was written by Jeannine Amber and details how New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Amazing quotes from the Mayor in that piece include:

Landrieu, a staunch advocate for criminal justice reform, swept into the office in 2010, becoming the first White mayor of New Orleans since his father left the post in 1978. "This is something no one wants to talk about," Landrieu says of the 175 homicides New Orleans recorded the year he took office. "But as Mike Nutter, the mayor of Philadelphia, said, if 200 White boys were getting killed, the world would stop. Thank can only mean one thing: We don't value the lives of African-American men, and that's wrong. This is a moral issue and may be the civil rights issue of our time. I will consider myself a failure if I don't figure this out."

The program they have is "Call-In" and it includes men who are at-risk for violence and brings in everyone. The mayor, ATF, mothers of slain boys/men, and finally resources they need to get them on the right track. The first part details the exact order of the law that will come down if they don't straighten up and fly right. They show them surveillance the police already have of them. They show them dead bodies and gunshots wounds. The list goes on.

The second part links them to a case worker who will help them with everything from education to job training to job placement. But not just with a paper-pushing, clock-punching employee. With the love and care of people who really care. The article says:

"Behind the might and force of the Mayor's big guns there is this: a woman who takes a wayward young man and treats him like a son. It is these gestures of care that experts say may hold the most transformative power of all."

Then, the part of the article that struck me the most was that it works:

"In the year since New Orleans' GVRS went into effect, there has been a 25 percent decrease in murders compared with the same period the year before."

Chicago must implement this program or one like it. I don't live in Illinois, so I can't reach out to any legislators about it, but I urge voting citizens to reach out to the Mayor, Rahm Emanuel and suggest this program. It is the conglomeration of a bunch of things (science of those at risk, the different state and local agencies willing to participate, the compassion of the people who will follow up with the at-risk men and boys) that makes it work. It can't be JUST increasing the police force. Or JUST increasing the school day. Chicago needs to attack this from all angles and I think this proven solution may be the answer.

This is the first time, in a long time, that I've been hopeful about actually curbing violence in Chicago. Will you ask Mayor Emanuel about the Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS)?

Be sure to pick up the December issue of Essence and read the entire article too as my recap of it doesn't do justice to all the real life solutions put forward.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Pittsburgh - The Ugly

To close out the series on how I feel about Pittsburgh after living here for about a year, it's time to talk about the ugly things about Pittsburgh. Racism and Poverty. I wanted to make these things separate posts, but they are inextricably linked. And this post isn't pretty. I can't get my thoughts into well formulated, bulleted points. It's all over the place.

Since I've been here, I've had two racially-motivated encounters. In 2013, people could argue that they were just bad experiences and had nothing at all to do with my race. The good thing about living in this country is that I could argue back. What happened isn't important, so much as the fact that it happened made me feel isolated because there are so few people here who could relate.

Pittsburgh lacks a thriving black middle class. Clearly there are SOME black people in the middle class, but the poverty of those who are not is eye-opening. And perhaps that's why I'm so uncomfortable here.
  • I don't understand why more African-Americans haven't achieved middle class status by now. My assumption and the stories that I've been told about how Pittsburgh was just 10 years ago is that there is a set of circumstances, which have been racially motivated that have not allowed that to happen.
  • I don't understand how anyone is ok with leaving an entire population of people to live in such impoverished ways. Again, based on what I've heard about how Pittsburgh "used to be" this is by design and it's disgusting.   
  • Unfortunately, here being black can be synonymous with being poor. Further, people do not treat poor people with respect (also disgusting). As such, people expect me as a black woman to act like I have no home training OR to be especially wealthy. Neither is my reality.
It's like I'm "other." You know the comment "You don't act like other black people." It feels like that everyday here.

And successful black people FROM Pittsburgh are USED to being the ONLY black person or only minority in the room. In the conversations I've had with them, it's not disconcerting to them. Yes, I went to U of I. Yes, I've been in classes where I was the only black person. Yes, I work in marketing. A field where only 5% of the workforce is minority... not black, minority. But there were more shimmers of hope in Chicago and Illinois. We only made up 6.5% of U of I, but that was 2,000 folks. When I left class, I had an entire network of people who shared my experiences and my hope and my success.

At my agency in Chicago, I was bold about diversity. I spearheaded our efforts in making sure that the workforce is not racially homogenous. There was hope!

I guess living in a city that's 55% non-white afforded me opportunities to see more black people than most people in our country are used to seeing on a daily basis. And it likely afforded me to seeing more black success stories that most people are used to seeing on a daily basis. And it allowed me to embrace the diversity of black people in our country. We are not all poor. We are not all middle class. We are not all rags-to-riches stories like President and Mrs. Obama. In places like Chicago, we are afforded the same thing that white people are afforded - an opportunity to be individuals.

I talked to another African-American woman who's from Pittsburgh, but had also lived in Chicago. She said moving to Chicago and moving back made her upset about being the only black person in any given professional setting at a time, but before she moved to Chicago, she had never thought about it.

Perhaps, I was living a lie thinking that my children could go to black doctors, and optometrists, and dentists and orthodontists - because I did. Perhaps, I was living a lie thinking that I could support black accountants and financial planners and therapists and career consultants - because I did. It's like Chicago is the promised land and after seeing the promised land, why would I ever want to go back to going without.

There is the argument that if people like me continue to leave the city, the black children won't have anyone to look up to. My argument is that NO ONE has to stay here. We can all leave. I feel like Harriet Tubman. I want everyone to go to Canada, but everyone doesn't want to leave.

And it's silly of me to think that people are just going to up and leave because life isn't perfect here. Our ancestors thrived with much less. I am a descendant of slaves. People laugh when I say that because there are black immigrants and children of black immigrants, but that's not my history. My history includes slavery.

I come from a long line of strong people. I come from a family who came up in the great migration to Chicago from Mississippi because we would not deal with the racism of the south. My mother's family moved from the projects to the suburbs when she was a child because they were tired of staring poverty in the face and acting like it was ok. My people chase opportunity and my attitudes about what's acceptable and what's not are a product of my generations of searching for better.

I will not tarnish that legacy, that history, by living in a place where people are satisfied with poverty (personal responsibility) and policies are not put in place to move my people forward (systemic racism).

I can see from re-reading this that I'm more passionate about what I'm saying that I realized, but I believe I am in Pittsburgh on assignment. I will finish my assignment. I will volunteer. I will give back. I will mentor. I will give fully of myself while I am here, but I do not plan to stay here [note that God likely laughs at my plans since I didn't PLAN to come here.] I do not plan to raise my kids in a place where it seems like black success is an anomaly.

*whispers* Unless I find a man who wants to stay here. The right man change you entire perspective on everything.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013... Canceled

Did you know that canceled and cancelled are both accepted spellings. Sort of like grey and grey. It's just the American English vs. British English versions.

That's not the point though.

The point is, this year my holiday was canceled, thanks to the flu.

It started with a tickle in my throat at a going away party in Pittsburgh on Monday night. Then hacking cough Monday night. Full-blown sickness with fever on Tuesday and Wednesday (yes, this was Christmas and Christmas Eve), then shivers, body aches, congested nose, tight chest and the worst lingering cough in life.

  • Cooking mac n cheese for the family on Christmas... canceled.
  • Breakfast with a dear friend... canceled.
  • Dinner with my homeboy... canceled.
  • Working from the Chicago office... canceled. (I actually carried my tail to work in 0 degree weather and suffered through a Friday morning conference call before deciding that my brain was medicine mush and going home and going to bed)
  • Friday night catch-up with high school friends... canceled.
  • Cheerleader reunion (yes, we still do this. The bond is strong.)... canceled.
  • Posh Day Party... canceled.
  • 4th quarter of the Bears/Packers game... canceled. (I actually went to urgent care during this time because the nurse helpline said it sounded like I had a bacterial infection instead of just a flu virus. She was wrong, thank God, but you can never be too safe.)
  • And my good friend had the stomach flu yesterday, so Dre & J House party with her, also... canceled.
I'm grateful that I was able to suffer in my mother's home. The food was plentiful and her care was needed. I also got to spend Sunday with my cousin who invited me to church, cooked me brunch and took me to urgent care... while the Bears game was on. I'm also grateful for a flexible place of employment. I planned to work from home ANYWAY, but being sick made it that much more necessary. I'm grateful they offer that type of flexibility.

I guess if I have to think of a theme for Christmas 2013 it would be The flu sucks, family over everything and by God, I made it. I was down and out, but I made it.

With a final week of 2013 like that, I'm so happy to see 2014. Bring on the Vitamin C and the flu shots!