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Sistah Take A Seat: Where Are Your Receipts?

I shared the Mother’s Day message with my home church this year entitled “Who Is On Your Couch?” In a conversation with someone the other day, she shared how important it was to find a space in every city she moved to where she can be herself. That space is on both the couch of a therapist and then the couch of a friend. I’ll talk about the former comment in a later blog: how to choose a therapist.

Naturally, this led me to reflecting on who was on my couch, what role they played and how did they enrich, challenge, and benefit my wellbeing. Wisdom, Accountability and Friendship were the three values I felt were necessary to keep my couch balanced. So as I chop up this speaking series into written form, allow me the license that speakers don’t necessarily have; to delve a little deeper. That’s why writing is my primary go to. There’s no timer included.

Let’s unpack this whole wisdom thing. The word wisdom is losing it’s appeal as the years advance. We live in a time where people want quick fixes and they’re not interested in the process of marinating in information, testing it out and then applying it. Heck! Half the time they’re not even interested in hearing the information to begin with! I encounter people who only want to hear the first minute of what you have to say and tune out thereafter.

It’s happened to me on the receiving end. If it’s in person, they start fidgeting with their phone, their eyes glaze over and it’s a wrap. If it’s over the phone, they ask you a question to break up your conversation in the middle of what you’re saying. Subtle hints that you didn’t give them what they needed in 59 seconds or less. Warning, if you don’t like to read anything with potential for added value to your life and you don’t care to read this, stop right here and go back to living your life business as usual.

Job 12:12 reminded me that wisdom is found among our elders and that living a long life brings with it understanding. We’ve lost that concept along the way. We think our contemporaries have the answers and we neglect the counsel of the (aging) wise. We’ve ditched mentorship for tolerance and ill advised behavior. I remember when one of my mentors and I were talking about homeownership and the cost of everything going up. It wasn’t too long after the housing crash. As new homeowners, hubby and I were skating on some tough times financially so she mentioned the concept of amortization and making bi-weekly payments. She also mentioned NACA (do your research) I had never heard of it and if I was that person who let things go in one ear and have it ooze out the other, I would have missed out on some wise counsel. We refinanced for the sake of our interest rate and it was the best advice she could ever give me. She’s my go to person on all things financial. From her I learned about creating a trust. It’s something I need to get around to doing and I can never say she didn’t tell me and that she doesn’t have the proof that she knows what she’s talking about.

Which leads me to the title of this blog. Where are the receipts? When people tell me something, I do this mental chewing of sorts. Earlier in Job 12, it says and I paraphrase, “Aren’t you testing out first what you hear? Aren’t you taste testing first what you eat?” Or are you the one that gobbles down the food without a thought and wonder why you end up with heartburn? So yeah…I chew on what’s shared with me. I look for the wisdom in it, the practical application in it. This particular mentor owns multiple properties, isn’t afraid to continue investing even in her advancing years and isn’t afraid to take risks. See, she has receipts. Her receipts read to me like this: she’s been in this game of life for several minutes more than me, she has loved and lost and loved again, she’s made mistakes and learned from them and she’s mindful of her financial prowess.

So yeah… I need to see that when somebody opens their mouth to speak on anything, they are backed up with facts. When the college student does a literature review, the professor is not looking for opinions, they are looking for facts from journals not what some YouTube vlogger is trying to sell.

How do you check receipts? Line them up with the Word of God—The Bible. Yeah, I guess you expected me to get all progressive on you and keep it PG. Welp! Nope. I read and learn from a lot of books. But the one book that stands heads taller than them all continues to be the infallible Word of God. Enough said.

How do you check receipts? By actually sitting with people and get this—conversing with them. What a novel idea!!! This whole mentorship via YouTube and Instagram or Facebook is a farce! A farce I say! I follow people I admire on the Gram but I can’t call them when I’m in a bind. I’m lucky to get them to even notice when I tag them! Lol! It’s a sad state of existence when we think that just watching people live life is going to be enough to infer on how to live ours.

You can’t identify counterfeit receipts unless you’re up close and personal with others. You need to be able to take a pen to their 100 dollar bills of values and principles to see if it’s the real deal or if it’s fake. It takes a lot of work to identify the real versus the counterfeit. Yeah, you can start by looking at patterns and behaviors, but unless you have studied and work in the fields human behavior and psychology and call out a fake a mile away (fringe benefit of my profession and Godly discernment) you have to take the risk to get to know who can pour into your life and who can’t.

I get paid to mentor people in the mental health profession. I automatically bring my best to the experience. But the fact that they are a consumer reminds me I owe it to my interns to be more than my personal best. Mentorship is not a paid experience. For each person you check receipts from, they have to demonstrate that they have cleared the path you’re trying to get on.

You looking for marriage mentors? Check receipts for years of marriage, transparency in conversations and the fruits yielded from their relationship with each other. One of my mentors was married and divorced and remarried to her husband again! Now she’s got receipts of all sorts from which I have learned from. You looking for professional mentors? Check receipts that include their resume, their line of work, their endurance in the profession, their level of ambition. You looking for a mentor period? Check their receipts for values, principals, integrity, relationships with others in the community, testimonials from other mentees. Above all, pray and ask God to lead you to the right person. I did. And He did.

Checking receipts makes you realize what and who you can then accept counsel from. There’s a right fit for everyone. I realized a long time ago, can’t just anybody handle my sauce! Some find it too spicy. I can be direct. Some find it too bland. I can be methodical. Some find it too rich. I can be altruistic (or use big words like altruistic). Lol! The one with cleared receipts is not going to change who they are to accommodate the one checking receipts. Like relationships, there is someone for everyone out there. If you don’t like what they’re selling, move on to the next person. Just. One. Thing. Though. Don’t allow your pride, your insecurities or your fears to be the reason why you missed out on sitting at someone’s feet.

Your homework (should you be brave to accept it):

Identify three real life people that you know and admire (work, church, organization, etc.) Invite them out for a meal. Be intentional in speaking to them about this season in your life and if the Holy Spirit is leading, ask the one you feel led to ask to be your mentor. Be specific in what you are looking for in a mentor and what you feel they can offer in the way of counsel, advice and challenges.

Now I know some of us have some deep rooted issues with rejection. It may not be the right time for that person or they know it may not be a good fit. But you won’t know unless you ask. People are not mind readers. It’s not fair for anyone to know they were your “pretend” mentor when you never gave them the opportunity to apply for the job. There is a level of intimacy in the mentor/mentee relationship that isn’t all roses and tulips. It may not be the right timing for them, but don’t look at it as a form of rejection. Rather receive it as you doing something fearless on your way to personal growth.

So go out there! Be brave. Check receipts and take the next steps to becoming a transformed and evolved version of you.

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Blogger’s Block

I’m a firm believer that if I don’t have anything to blog about, I won’t blog. New followers on the site won’t hype me up. Which got me wondering who are these new people and how did they find me? Introvert writer’s issues… A casual comment about my absence on WordPress won’t wake the sleeping dragon either. So yeah… there’s something percolating in my mind right now. It’s around the concept of mentorship, women in leadership roles, sisterhood. But I’m asking the Holy Spirit to show me some other things before I put fingers to typing.

In the mean time, do what I do. Read some of the old stuff, let it sit in your spirit for a few. Read a book. I’m like on five. One on spiritual awakening. One on how not to be a wife to a boyfriend. So yeah I’m married but there’s a summer book club that literally morphed into something unexpected. That’s usually God doing his thing. Who knows? I might get hyped after that! Lol!

Sometimes my own words come back to encourage (or haunt) me from a past season in my life. May is a tough month emotionally for me, so I go back and read the grief and loss blogs because I’d like to check my emotional pulse and see where I am with the whole missing my mom thing. There’s no getting around this month. So I might as well bulldoze through it.

Sooo much has gone on of late in my life. Some material for the blog and some for this book I really need to get back into writing. It’s true what they say. Summer bodies are made in the winter. Started on this quest for fitness again and I like the way I feel and look.

Oh yeah! I cut my sisterlocks. It’s this asymmetrical bob thingy. No I’m not going through a crisis. I just got up one day, didn’t tell anyone and just went to the barber. Now I have to get used to people staring at me when I first meet them after this hair cut. Introvert issues…sigh.

Enough about me. Do enjoy this spring, mom, grads and dad season. I know I plan to! Make new memories along the way.

Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Black Does Crack

I’m a month shy of another birthday and I still get the “well you don’t look it” comments followed by a quick side eye. Not sure if it’s my stature, face or choice in clothes that lead people to say what they say, but I take it with a grain of salt. Flattery gets you nowhere with me. A young client said she looked me up on Psychology Today and her friend asked “Well how old is she?” My client’s response was “You know Black women. Their black don’t crack. She can be anywhere between twenty and eighty years old for all I know!” That made me laugh. Close enough. I’ll be forty-three and proud of it.

But it got me to thinking. For the most part, they’re right. Black does not crack. Women of other cultures (albeit reluctantly) agree that there’s something about our skin that belies our age. Our energy speaks to that of younger years. We’ve got that “go getter” aura about us. No wilting flowers here! What we project to others lead many to think we will one day be just like Elijah, where God will simply pluck us up from the earth in a blaze and carry us to glory.

But our black does crack. There are cracks in our collective spirits as women of color that go unseen. Our husbands and children are oblivious to it. Our parents have no clue. Our closest friends would be shocked to see the leakage taking place in our lives.

Yes our black does crack. Each time you have to over advocate at the doctor’s office for a mammogram a few years earlier than your insurance requires, a crack is created. You fill each cancer question with a yes and they still want to deny you the biopsy because “you’re not old enough”. You come in with twenty questions about your health and damned if only two get answered! The minute you start “WebMD-ing” your health care provider, their eyes glaze over and you stop because your mama raised you to be polite and not cuss.

Yes our black does crack. Each time we have to overcompensate in leadership positions. There’s that impatience from others when we speak. We are too intense, too serious, too angry. What do we know? We’ve only been educated and qualified to do our jobs. The suppressed looks of surprise when we talk through doors for the first time and our voices don’t match the locs/hair weaves/or mountains of curls on our head. Bill collectors voice meets Black skin and the world screeches to a sudden halt.

Yes our black does crack. Each time we have to teach our children how to protect themselves from the evils of this world; to know the difference between overt and subliminal attempts to demean them. Each time our Black husbands come home with yet another story of how he was passed over for something or other and you can’t help but wonder why. Where you have to be his number one cheerleader each and every day because the media and society (as the slave masters before them believed) say he should be good for nothing but breeding and breaking his back in the fields.

Yes our black does crack. When we’ve committed to living in our communities but the health food store is way out yonder. You drive and see everything that can be fried is just a few dollars within reach and everything that’s broiled or baked is not. Knowing that just one generation before, your ancestors plucked what they needed from the earth and needed no modern medicine to heal them. Fast forward to now and everything’s suddenly become “holistic” and suddenly out of reach. Them same leaves grandma used to mash up in the bowl before she boiled and gave to you now cost a pretty penny sitting in pretty bottles–in the store.

As our faces continue to age backwards, our body, mind and soul continues to come under attack. There is nothing easy about being a Sistah in a world that loves you via appropriation of your natural beauty. Your hair looked like Medusa when you were growing out your baby locs; it now looks like something cute and fashionable on someone else. Nostrils and lips that were once parodies in cartoons are now the number one requests at the plastic surgeon’s office. The derrières of our mothers which were (honestly) earned from heavy lifting and hard work are now what sends many in droves to the gym! All poor and lackluster attempts at seeking the eternal youth they believe we possess.

Where are the cracks in your life? Is your soul barren? Is your health compromised? Is your spirit suffering from the silence that’s threatening to snuff it out? Don’t spend your lifetime perpetuating a lie.

Every Day Living, Life Coach, Sistah Take A Seat

The Best Version of Me

Those who know me the longest know that even when I was a “skinty” chick, I never welcomed the attention of others from compliments about my body. I was never athletic so I was what I called “skinny for no reason”. I grew up in a time where black girls didn’t focus much on their body images. Lipstick and makeup was something you invested in during prom season and brought out only for special occasions. Lots have changed since then. Including my weight.

I was 118 pounds exactly twenty years ago this month. I remember getting a check up and hearing the doctor mention it. It was the first time that I made note of my weight and I have been tracking it ever since. Marriage brought on another twenty pounds. My Bongo jean wearing thighs made room for bootleg jeans that were a bit more roomier. Back then jeans didn’t have as much stretch as they do now. I suspect if jeans were made the same way, many of us would not be where we are today with our weight. But I digress.

It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s did I realize I really couldn’t just sit there and let life happen. Photos of my mom in her younger years revealed a small waist, skinny armed, thick thighs, hip-rich Haitian young woman. I always knew I would be built like her. There’s one caveat though. I didn’t have her height. Let’s be real. Any woman under 5’4” runs the risk of looking like a little people extra from the Wizard of Oz if she so much as gains ten pounds. I kept wearing heels to off set the issue. And then I made a lifestyle change.

Workout became my norm and routine. Healthy eating did too. I chucked a dairy rich diet and amped up my vegetable intake. When I walked in for a myomectomy one month and a hysteroscopy (look it up) a few months later, the come back from that was superb! My body thanked me for putting it on a regimen and my healing process was a smooth one. I kept this up for about two or three years thereafter and when my trainer left for another state I kinda fell off the wheel.

Long and short of it, I tried the gym. I tried other trainers and I tried different boot camps. Working out is one area in my life where I need someone telling me what to do, when to do it and how to do it. I don’t ask why. I moan and complain but I never ask why. I tried some plans and they would work but the discipline wasn’t there. I got complacent and was facing 3 pounds short of 150 at my worst.

In comes my old trainer and I give him a lot of credit for getting me back on the righteous path of healthy living. I’m not where I want to be but I suspect that I’m headed in the right direction. Five days a week workouts. Weighing your food. Watching your water intake. No sugar. No cream in my coffee. Well not most days anyway! No soda. More veggies. Confession, those protein drinks are the nastiest ever! But I do what I gotta do. Drink fast don’t breathe. More time spent at night meal prepping on Sundays. There’s a group of us. We struggle together. Crab about this experience together. Celebrate the wins. Console during setbacks and kick each other back in the game.

This year will be exactly ten years since I started down this journey towards a healthier lifestyle. It’s been a gradual shedding of bad habits. There was a time you couldn’t pay me to eat egg whites. Now I make the meanest egg white omelets with some good turkey bacon on the side. My palate is changed and even on the “cheat days” my taste buds and stomach usually rebel when I introduce something I had not had in a while. I’m traveling in a few days to a city where food is king! I’m thinking already of healthy options to choose from, activity level and the like. When you have sacrificed time, energy and sanity to something, you want to preserve the work.

I joke to my coach that I’m convinced we are his Miami Experiments. That the unimaginable things he’s asking us to eat and do isn’t reasonable or sane. That only a mad scientist would expect me to eat five times a day, work out five days a week and weigh my food! Ugghhh!!!!!! Have I been a saint? Nope. There were days I did not post because frankly I was somewhere doing what I had no business doing. I paid for it in spades though.

We end our 12 week run and start back in a another week. Unlike the last time, I am looking forward to the challenge of reaching a second set of goals. I am turning 43 next month. This body is responding differently than it did 10 years ago. I ache a little more after an intense workout. My breathing is a bit erratic at times. But there is this pudge I need to eliminate and these thighs to tone.

Let’s be clear. I’m doing what I feel like I need to do for me. When the doctor comes back and says you’re borderline diabetic or anemic, and when you have a history of cancer in your family–life hits you like a ton of bricks and the day of reckoning is REAL. So I do what works for me.

Tradition holds that the new year brings out all the wanna be workout junkies. And those who have been in the game tend to wait them out. Will you be a flash in the pan health nut or will you be that person who says I got some things I need to do to live a little bit more healthier. You got kids to chase around. You got a business to run. You got a gazillion community involvement type things you are planning and your health needs to be at optimum to do it. I heard someone say she lost 150 pounds in a year. She started by walking ten minutes a day.

I still hate being on the receiving end of attention. That’s not changing but I own my accomplishment in this. My clothes fit different. My confidence level (yes 40+ women have confidence issues too) has improved. God created a masterpiece when he created me. I gotta remember it’s my responsibility to keep up the good work he has so graciously begun in me.

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Sistah Take A Seat: Surviving Christmas

Yes, I was the one up at 3am, in line by 4am waiting for the Black Friday madness to consume me. Only to realize there were only five of those items I wanted in the store and they actually wanted me to walk around and buy up stuff that I really didn’t need. I’ve since given up those antics and haven’t seen a Black Friday event in some time.  No judgment to those who still enjoy the high of that type of stuff. I can certainly understand.  This year I got myself hyped for Cyber Monday and didn’t buy a damned thing. I didn’t need anything. Besides, when you shop year round and gift year round, the holidays become less about the giving and more about the being. 

And that’s been it for me these past few years. Finding ways to create moments with people. Losing a mother kinda does that to you. All I can think about are the times I spent with her on those doctors visits. The silence that usually enveloped us when I sat in her room just being there with her. It all came down to the time I spent with her. Not the stuff I bought for her. 

So I survive Christmas by decorating my home, inviting folks over to enjoy the whole “Currier and Ives” experience of eating from real plates and not having to worry about dishes. We put on some music. We play games. We eat good food. And we enjoy the “being” of our existence in each other’s lives. 

My extrovert husband starts looking at me real strange again this time of year. He knows it gets kinda rough for me missing my mom. But then I’m turning around to let him know I’m hosting something or other at our home. The male brain can sometimes get confused by the female brain’s intensions. But that’s for another blog. He’s just happy he doesn’t have to scrape me off the bedroom floor, because as long as I’m planning something, he knows I’m in my zone and I am going to be okay. 

You may not have lost someone but you may have lost something and the holidays simply suck. You’d rather the first of January be tomorrow so you can skip all of this fete mentality. Try finding those few things that bring meaning to your life. Do those few things that have depth and leave you feeling at peace. Whether it is service to others, traveling and creating new traditions, whatever it is . . . make it intentional and a point to carry them out. 

How do you survive Christmas? What’s that one thing you do each year to overcome the holiday blues? Share in the comment section. I’d like to hear from you! 

Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: When Friendships Don’t Grow 

Your friends in grade school are the ones you swear you will have for life. After all, they were there for many of the “firsts”.  They fought the fights, cried the tears and kept your secrets. Then you graduated and the simplicity of life soon gave way to college, work, distance and other interests. Some effort is made to glue it all back together but only a few from those years in school manage to stay on as friends. 

Then workplace friends, colleagues and network building begins. Common interests cause a natural gravitational tug towards others. After all, you see these people more than you see your family sometimes. Out of those relationships come real gems of friendships that manage to carry on well past the time you told that job to kick rocks and die. I like those kind of relationships because if workplace gossip is no longer the common denominator, you really know then that this connection is built on more than that. 

Then there is that friendship that’s been there for a minute but now it’s taken on the semblance of some crusty old bread.  You know the bread that managed to fall to the bottom of the toaster and you leave it there out of guilt. You’ve known this person for quite a while. You have similar interests. Your circle of friends are pretty much the same. People always expect to see the two of you in a crowd not too far apart. But the truth of the matter is, the distance you feel has less to do with actual miles and more to do with loss of connection. 

Nothing like closing out a year to cause one to do a friendship inventory. I know I do it every year. And every year I earn new friendships while I let some go. Some I take full responsibility for. Some I don’t. Some I meant to prune and others . . . well . . . life happened and it just wasn’t working out. 

I’m reminded that friendships don’t just grow on their own and they certainly aren’t sustained by pieces of tape and cheap glue. There’s a lot that goes into maintaining healthy female friendships. Accountability, transparency, humor, common values, similar drive in attaining goals—the recipe involves more than a girls night out and matching bracelets. It’s going through the muck of our respective lives. The joys of seeing each other succeed. The grief when our lives take a turn for the worse. The brutal honesty that’s needed to unscramble the chaos we find ourselves in. The in ya  face, cuss you out cause you my friend and friends don’t let friends fail at life. The  tenderness to sit in silence when all else fails. 

These all serve as nutrients to our friendship tree over the years. Frankly, not everyone is cut out to do it. Not everyone is cut out to be that friend to you.  Heck! Are you cut out to be that friend? Maybe your expectations were set too high for the wrong people in your life. Maybe God didn’t send them to fill those shoes for you. Maybe you need to think about the type of friend you’ve been and see if this is a reflection of how others see and treat you. 

There is no hard and fast rule to how you make and keep friends. I truly believe divine intervention created all of mine. There’s no logical reason why a shy and quiet girl turned introvert adult should have cultivated as many friendships over the years all on her own. I never had the wherewithal to make that happen on my own. My social awkwardness has ultimately made way for Him lead the way on how I treat others. Once God placed these people in my lives, I knew it was my responsibility to breathe life into these relationships. The texts. The random cards. The funny memes. The group chats. The “at the house” dinners. The early morning calls (and yes I do call people and speak on the phone). The conversations that should never make the cover of the newspaper. All make for beautiful memories. All make for great reasons to fight for your friendships. All make for great reasons why friendships grow. 

Distance, kids, marriage, jobs—-don’t use those as an excuse for letting your friendship tree grow brittle. Make the time. Make the effort. Make it why your friendships stay growing. 

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Give Thanks: A Time Well Spent

Someone wondered if people were pillaging the malls for Black Friday like usual. Well if social media is a truth teller, 🤨, I ‘d like to think most were out and about doing other things. I saw a lot of “we at the house” activities. Lots of games were played. Lots of food was consumed. And the drinks. Well you already know …

Are folks slowly disrobing from the materialism that tends to take hold this time of year? Are the pockets thinner so that our choices become emaciated too? Are we just savvier shoppers these days, where we can spot a fake sale like a bad case of fake news? Or are we lazy and would rather just let our fingers do the walking? I’d like to say it’s a combination of all of the above. 

I can’t tell you how many white platters I dug through to pack for our family’s dinner. That was clue number ten that I needed to call a truce between myself and the lure of all things that looked like it was white dish related. My coins are more carefully counted these days for other things I’ve got lined up in life. IRA’s, business ventures and vacations don’t just pay for themselves. Priorities. I get so called “sales” stuff in my Gmail promotions inbox on a regular enough to know that those pair of boots will be on sale come January. South Florida doesn’t  see cold but two days a year so I pack patience and wait for the discount color codes to go into effect. And if it’s not there come that time…🤷🏾‍♀️. 

Online shopping has become my fave pastime. Amazon got me clicking speed checkout on a regular. So when you ask me to drive through five communities, circle around to find parking, lose my sanity and religion fighting the traffic to return home, I’m like who? Not me!  I’m a better human being in front of the laptop.  I now choose to scroll rather than stroll for my purchases as much as possible. I can compare prices, I can ask a friend a quick question, they can send me a link and I’m done. 

I didn’t “Black Friday” this year. Hadn’t done it in earnest for some time now truth be told. I love to shop. It is no secret. I’m just better at it than I used to be. I did some Small Business shopping and popped into some boutiques and bookstores instead. I spent time walking near the marshes, in the sunshine and viewing nature from the eyes of the enslaved ancestors. I spent time holding hands with children tugging me into the “snow bubbles” and basking in the carefree moment.  I spent it rekindling my love of jig saw puzzles and realizing the eyes ain’t what they used to be. I spent it tripping over puppies and toddlers. 

If I never stand in another 4am line haggling for a TV, I’m gonna be just fine.