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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! 

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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. 

Current Events, Every Day Living, Grief And Loss, Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Irma Don’t Own Me

Disclaimer: I have legit hurricane-related PTSD stemming back to Hurricane David while living in St Maarten. I was four. But I distinctly remember my dad taking me to school and him picking me up in knee deep water. We walked home. Due to roof leakage, we lost half of our family photos at that time. I lost trust in aluminum roofs. Irma came and decimated St. Maarten and there went my plans to return for our 20th anniversary trip. It would have been my first time back. Pray for the people of St. Martin/St. Maarten. 

Andrew. Enough said. The people of those communities still recall the smells and sounds. I know colleagues who just couldn’t deal with it this time around. They just left. To preserve life and peace of mind. 

Wilma swung by and found me as a fairly new homeowner trying to keep grips on my one earthly major investment. We lost a patio, replaced a roof, and watched our pockets bleed dry from an insurance company’s piracy for many years to come. 

So when Irma came around, I was as ready as could be (or so I thought). The hurricane that never was (Matthew in 2016) had me in stores buying up all the canned goods I could get. What threw me for a loop was the water thing this time around. Water was gone by Monday, Labor Day. Like even the one you were supposed to get via Walmart Grocery Pick Up or Instacart. I got nervous. But God knew best and sent an angel our way to bless us as we had just days before blessed Houston. 

Hurricanes are a part of life in these parts. And as much as we would like to prefer it not be, it just is. But there are things to mitigate the level of impact physically and emotionally. Here’s a glimpse into some things I learned along the way. 

Don’t be cheap. Invest in the canned foods, rice and beans. They last two to three years and annual review of your supplies can mean blessing a shelter or homeless program with items that may expire soon. 

Invest in some big ticket items. Invest in a generator. Homeowners, you can’t go wrong with this investment. Your perishable items will last in the fridge and you can power up your electronics with ease. Invest in a deep freezer and keep it stocked with ice and frozen water year round.  This kept our stuff cold through five days of no power. Invest in a grill and/or table top hot plates. Hot food. Every. Day. Enough said. 

Invest in a portable TV. We kept updated with relevant news during that time. The not knowing can sometimes be at a detriment to self and loved ones. We were able to pass along info to others because of this. Invest in a stand alone or window AC. Our handy man gave us this idea one day before our electricity came back on. Twenty twenty being hindsight, I still would have gotten it. Thirty minutes of set up, a line to the generator and we had a guest room where my husband and I and his mom slept in comfort. Too bad we got the idea one day before power returned. We placed the AC back in the box. No we are not returning it. Hurricanes aren’t an IF but a WHEN type of occurrence. 

I used the word INVEST several times. Something that some may find to be a foreign idea. Simply put. One pair of shoes bought at Ross is a portable TV. One Dooney and Burke purse on sale at TJ Maxx is a portable AC. A Louis Vuitton purse from Nordstrom (2016 Damier) can get you a generator, grill, deep freezer, solar powered lamps, and fully stocked food and supplies. 

So when I told people I didn’t have power, it meant I took cold showers and didn’t have AC (until my most recent investment). It meant I read a book in one day. It meant my clothes were washed from the week before. It meant I ate hot meals and planned the day’s menu with my husband and his mom. It meant my brother and dad coming over for a hot meal. It meant catching the breeze with extended family and eating more avocados than the law allows. 

Don’t let your trying times overwhelm you into inertia. Not having power does not mean you don’t have POWER. I am no expert. Just a student of life who takes copious notes and learn from my experiences and that of others. 

Manage what’s within your realm and see what God does with the rest. 

Current Events, Every Day Living

Irma and Harvey: Rude Awakenings

I got the chance to scroll through my timeline after the fact, marveling at the tenacity and wicked sense of humor that humanity has in the face of disaster. I saw coping skills that ranged from drinking to prayer to eating and back to drinking while praying (for some of you). I realized that I wasn’t a stress eater but rather a restless eater. If I’m out of things to occupy my time and mind, I will snack. Plantain chips. Lots of plantain chips. 

Irma slowed us down real good. Sent friends all over the country and kept others hunkered down for the onslaught of wind and rains. I think about those who didn’t have the option of catching a flight or preparing their own homes. Those who are half a pay check away from being without. Those whose support systems are on life support. Those who work and worship and live alongside us; grinning and bearing it as best they can. 

Irma reminded me that disasters don’t check for pay scales when they come through. They don’t check for bank account balances, overlooking those with less than others. They don’t check for status (real or imagined) and wherever the category 4 wind blows is where the wind blows. Just the other week I was sending off cases of water to Harvey survivors and planning on some hurricane service projects for local Houston schools. And literally within days, I’m the one pitching a fit because my Walgreens grocery pick up came without water. I had the means but the supplies were denied me. 

An awakening from my slumber. It isn’t my first hurricane rodeo and I gather it may not be my last. But having the means and being denied is a humbling experience. Outright scary to be honest.  But to have zero means to buy a flight, buy enough gas or buy the extra food needed, that’s an entirely different matter. Businesses are wiped out. Clients are scattered about. Schools are closed. Money isn’t being made. All dominoe effects that will cause fear to grip like a steel vise around one’s heart and mind. 

Rude awakenings aren’t meant to be shoved back in the drawer in hopes that this isn’t something one has to deal with ever again. It’s a pause to take self inventory of where priorities lie. Simply stated, my love of shoes couldn’t feed me or keep me hydrated. It couldn’t pay my bills before or after the storm. It couldn’t turn the lights on. All those clear boxes neatly stacked in my garage sat pretty while my Florida room gathered water from the incessant pounding of rains in that one direction. 

Rude awakenings are meant to bring  a great spiritual and mental pause. To relinquish control to God whose omniscience saw this day and knew I was built for it. To ask questions of oneself. To lay bare one’s failures. To admit to one’s short sightedness. The last major hurricane I went through, I was a school board employee who got paid regardless of whether kids were in school or not. This time around I am a private contractor enjoying the flexibility of a new type of lifestyle. The kind where pay isn’t tied to a union contract. The kind where if I’m not there, I don’t get paid.  Real talk. 

So after I call my insurance agent about that leak, after I run to Walmart for that table top grill (cause inclement weather and outdoor grilling doesn’t go hand in hand), after I exale enough conditioned air in my recently powered home and after I share one last hurricane meal with my brother before he goes back to his overnight shift, I will be calling my CPA, an attorney and a business colleague to shore up some loose ends that Irma gave me time to think about. 

Rude awakenings should be aha moments. Don’t let them be uh-oh moments. Nothing to fear but certainly something to act upon. The world is still spinning on its axis. Question is will you be off kilter barely trying to hang on, or are you as ready as you should be next time a storm (real or otherwise) comes your way. We will never be in full control of our future. But managing what is within our power is key in addressing the rude awakenings that life throws our way. 

PS- My shoes survived the storm. 

Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Don’t Settle 

On a long overdue phone check in with one of my mentors, she dropped a boulder sized piece of wisdom in my spirit. We were fleshing out the whole making poor choices in life thing. “We just choose to settle instead of being selective,” she said. So after I told her I was stealing that for my next blog, I spent another week chewing on this notion that yeah, women do spend quite a bit of time making allowances in their lives. The casualties of those decisions are usually at the expense of self. I thought about the many ways we tend to settle as women not just in the obvious ways but in the subtle, soul-stealing instances where inch by inch we find ourselves trading in our very essence for emptiness. 

Settling in the workplace. If you know your worth and you know your skill sets, there’s no reason why you should dim your light to make the next person look or feel good. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for collaboration and teamwork in an organization. After all, it’s the driving force for the better of the collective. But if I could go back and undue each time I bit my tongue rather than spea up for myself, I just know my success in some work spaces would have been more meaningful. Taking one from the team is settling. Covering up for someone else’s mistake is settling. Pretending you don’t know just so you won’t offend anyone in the room is settling. Opting not to show your true talents is settling. If they don’t appreciate what your bring to the table, bide your time, build your network base and bounce! 

Settling in your quality of life. I won’t waste the characters needed to prove our roles as women is INDISPENSABLE. Our aging parents know it. Our children know it. Our significant others (better) know it. So when we habitually fade out when it’s time to care for self, just know that it’s detrimental to the survival of self and ultimately our loved ones. I can’t tell you how many women I encounter who think of self as dead last. The therapist in me goes on red alert when I hear and see moms who don’t remember the last time they went somewhere alone. Daughters, caring for parents who have not breathed in some air in total silence. Wives who have not allowed themselves the space to step away if for just one moment. You settle when quiet time/mediation/time alone isn’t part of your routine. You settle when an exercise routine isn’t part of your regimen. You settle when you can’t remember the last trip you took to someplace without the word Disney in it. You settle when you feel guilty for wanting to be self-involved; even if it’s for a finite and brief moment in time. Call your village. Plan ahead. Carve out some time for yourself. 

Settling in your relationships. So I know you may have preferred a whole blog on “settling for the wrong man” but that horse is deader than dead. Again. Not enough characters. Relationships, be they amorous, platonic, your clique, your crew, your whatever, can either serve to bring added value or drain you. Remember those middle school spats? The “he say, she say” drama-filled issues that lasted all year long? The ones where no one even remembers how it started? Well…we’re all “growed” up and the spats have evolved into epic shade and truly petty behavior. When people tell me their “friend” have been causing them all types of stress for some years now, I tend to wonder how far we have come from the real definition of friendship. Friends don’t ignore your boundaries and violate your trust. Friends don’t leave you defenseless when others attack. Friends don’t let you go out looking any kinda way. Okay. That last one I had to throw in there. But you get my point. You settle when you accept disappointment without change. You settle when you ignore the red flags and refuse to speak up. You settle when you accept poor behavior and don’t expect change. You settle when you don’t allow time and space for crucial conversations. Speak your piece. Identify your non-negotiables. Exit stage left when you’ve done all you could. 

Unbury yourself from compromising and losing who you are, all for the sake of keeping the peace or maintaining the status quo. You’re better than that. You deserve better than that. 

How have you settled in life? What are some steps you’re taking right now to turn the tide on that?



Sistah Take A Seat

Sistah Take A Seat: Traveling While Noire-Saving Your Coins

On the last post I griped about the side eyes and juju dolls being created cause you like to catch stamps and collect sky miles. This post will walk you through some steps to make your imagination become a reality. Your pockets and your wanderlust do not have to be a mutually exclusive thing. Practical things can jump start or even restart your traveling lifestyle. 

Start somewhere. I live in Florida so there is tons to do and see right here at home. So yeah I joked about Disney World on my last post. But part of my honeymoon was spent at Universal Studios. I know Irlo Bronson Highway like I know my own street. These days Orlando seems like right around the corner. I remember when it used to seem like millions of miles away. Start close to home and venture out. You will find there will be times you need a quick weekender and nearby locations serve a great purpose for that. Tampa, Naples, Port St Lucie are all great places to visit. St. Augustine is all history. Sanibel has the best beaches. Florida can be traveled in just under 12 hours. Take the time to explore your home base. You’d be surprised in what you discover. 

Create a savings plan. If you have the discipline to save on your own, create a vacation account. Look for the deals. More on that later. Look at your budget and be realistic about what you can set aside every pay week. Travel agents also accept installment payments. My annual vacations start getting paid on the Fall before. So that’s about ten months of setting aside already in play. Tithe on your traveling budget and see how much you can save. It means one less pair of shoes. It means less Christmas gifts for the entire family. It means buckling down and remembering you have a trip to save for and some things and people will just have to wait. 

Travel with like minded people. All my girls only trips and trips with couples have generally been about spending time with people I wanted to spend time with. I’m not paying gobs of my hard earned money to travel with anyone I’m going to be grinding my teeth about the entire time. Not happening. Travel with people who enhance the experience of discovering our world. Travel with people who will split the bill evenly with no questions asked. We all gonna eat good, sleep in nice hotels and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Travel with people who vibe like you do and who understand your quirks. If you’re on Oxford Street in London and you want to drop some cash on a pair of shoes, you don’t need anyone picking up their jaws from the ground and texting the world about your adventures. Your travel buddies have to know you and accept you in all of your bad and boujee self. 

Read more. So I don’t think some would expect this to be part of the plan. You want to travel but if I say Saint Petersburg, The Vatican, Christ The Redeemer, Stonehenge, Golden Gate Bridge, The Colliseum, Kimberley Diamond Mines, The Biltmore . . . and you can’t click with at least two of those locations, you really need to read up on your geography, history, and travel landmarks. Most of my knowledge initially came from reading Danielle Steele and Norah Roberts novels. Real talk. Don’t judge me. When I buried myself in my encyclopedias as a teen it was to discover a world without borders. Imagine reading about “New York, New York” all your life and finally seeing it for yourself at age 41. Times Square was once in my mind and twice in reality. Seeing Lady Liberty across the river was like . . . yeah, no words. The novels I had read about Ellis Island all flooding back. Visiting Martha’s Vineyard and seeing the Kennedy compound and learning about The Inkwell. Yeah . . .  Tighten up on your reading. 

Step out your comfort zone. Travel with friends. Travel with a mission driven group. Travel with organizations. Travel by yourself. However way you get to pack your bags and go, don’t hesitate to make it happen. On our way to Hawaii, there was a medical emergency. So I did my due diligence to get up and inform the flight attendance that a friend in my group was a medical professional.  As I proceeded to tell her where we were seated, she quickly interjected and said “Oh, I know where you’re seated.” Puzzled by her comment I returned to my seat. While I walked back, it dawned on on me, well yeah, she would know where I and my friends were seated. We were the only MELANIN POPPIN’ ON THE WHOLE PLANE!!!  A sea of white and Asian and Hispanic and everything else. And six Haitian girls from humble beginnings interrupting the status quo. That felt hella good. 

I laugh and I cry about that though. In 2017, you can count us like odd balls on the planes, the excursions and the seats. I always say my Haitian parents didn’t travel far from their home and work so damned hard all their lives only to have me sit in some self imposed prison of fear. 

Save. Plan. Travel. 

What other tips would you leave for our traveling sistahs? Leave them in the comment section. Bon Voyage!