Monday, April 24, 2017

Who are you? And who's riding with you?

I spoke to a group of women at a fun heath conference/expo Saturday and asked them a very simple question…. Who are you? Right now, in this moment….Who are you?

There were many answers that you may expect. I’m a mom. I am a wife. A sister. A mentor. A daughter. Ok, ok. Great. 
One sister bravely raised her hand and her answer silenced the room. It was as if many people were thinking it, but none wanted to say it out loud. I wasn’t surprised at all. I let the silence linger. Finally, after that heavy, heavy pause, I repeated her answer: 
“I am 41 years old and I really don’t know who I am.” 
Heads started nodding. Shout outs and clapping for the not knowing. So many of us there hadn't even considered the question. 

For as long as I can remember the women in my life defined themselves by how they were seen by other people. And sadly, when those roles ended they were strangers to themselves. Kids move? Adrift. Divorced? Hurt and stuck. Job eliminated? Confused. 
Unable to say, even to your own self, who am I? Clearly this was the norm for the folks in my session and for so many of us who are so much to everyone else!
The good news for my group and for anyone reading this is that the question can be like a map. The starting point is just in asking the question. Then, the mental push ups and thought work of who you really are and what part of that is already in evidence? What part is aspirational? What part have you outgrown?

We started on a mind changing, thought shifting conversation. If you cannot find the words to describe who you are, how can you put action behind actually being that person?
What edits or shifts do you need to make to journey closer to your self-definition? Who in your life can remove obstacles and cheer you on as you journey closer? Who’s riding with you but constantly keeping you off course? It may be time for them to get out of your car!!

The group started the conversation on transformation and affirmation! It was wonderful to witness. When we declare who we are and endeavor toward it, we take all of our power and write our own chapters.
Make no mistake, I love my husband and my children and my friends, but when it comes to who I really am…..I get to declare that! And if I am all of who I want to be….they get to benefit from it. Real talk.
So……here we go…..WHO ARE YOU? 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Tween Talk!! How to win at kid conversations in the land where Texting is king!!

A few years ago while running a corporate training event we had our participants do quick chats using conversation starter cards as cues. The results were great and it’s a staple for work meetings.
As is often the case I practice on my kids prior to work to gage the flow and effectiveness of the activity.My kids and husband were not amused. Ha! "Corny!", they said!  Too bad. This is mom’s job on the line. Play along. So they did. And something magical happened. Amidst the nay saying, some fantastic and insightful conversations occurred. We made it a habit and it has been a winning tool in my parenting war chest.

At the same time I began my completely unscientific and nosey study on conversations. A call it my Target Shopping Cart study. Because most of my eavesdropping occurred while pushing a cart buying things I didn’t know I needed at target.  It works like this…..listen to how people talk to their kids in Target. (walmart, Kroger, Costco….store doesn’t matter)
What I found shocked and saddened me. More often than not my peers were talking AT their children, not with them. Lots of directives: Sit down. Be quiet. Don’t move. 

Some were harsh: don’t ask for shit. Can’t you see I’m on the phone? Bring your ass here. Yikes….I say to myself, don’t make eye contact. I don’t want none of that. 
But I was sad that this was the interaction.

Occasionally I would hear something completely different, intriguing, in fact. These conversations snips included phrases like, how does that make you feel? How would you fix that? What would you…… Whoa, completely different. And I wondered why. 

My hypothesis is that mom’s talk with their children the way they were talked to by their own mom. Exhibit #1? Me!! I was raised in the “stay out of grown folks” business era…the “don’t speak unless spoken to” genre! And I wore my old school mom badge like a cloak of armor. 

Prior to the cue cards I was asking very little and telling very much. And, what I know now is that I could do better. It is so easy to know everything about your toddler and preschool child. Even in the early grades….got it covered. But how much do you really know about the lil person that comes home after school, devours all of the snacks, has a phone….more like window into who knows what….and shuts their door? YIKES! 
Great news! It’s not too late. While they may balk, YOU are the boss, (oh my, there’s that old school mom coming out)  a little Q&A may be just what the universe ordered!!
Here’s the challenge: Try it! Use the questions below to pull out those unknown facts about the most important person in your life. Oh, and while you are at it……you don’t have to tell anyone, but the next time you’re in Target….ears open! :-)

As for me, this spring I am going to take my questions to the street: Well, at least to the park. 
My 1st annual  Walk and Talk. Yup! Dedicated time to just….walk and talk. I’ve invited a community of women of all ages and flavors to dedicate 3 hours to bring their favorite girl (daughter, niece, neighbor, friend) to the park to show them our undivided attention.  Cue cards will be provided!
If you are in the Atlantic City area on Saturday, May 7th, join us for what we are calling HAPPY STEPS!
Not able to attend? Click the link for information on sponsoring a girl.

Try the questions. Would love to hear out it goes. Now, that’s a whole lot of RealTalk!!

10 to get you started:

1.  What problem do you want to solve when you get out of school?
2. What do you think is better, having tons of friends or one best friend? Why?
3. Super hero strength….what would you choose and why?
4. If I could make dinner for your class what would you want me to make?
5. You have $100 but you have to give it away to help someone else. What would you do with it?6. Where is a place you want to visit?
      7.  Favorite day of your life so far?
      8. You have to pitch why your class should win a prize…what would you say?
      9. What is a good argument for school uniforms? (even if you don’t like them)
    10.  What is your top quality? 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Colored People Salad: Friendship and how real people talk about race

You know it's summer in our house when that 1st Saturday comes and the macaroni salad is in the fridge waiting for the boys to come and get it. It's a summer Saturday staple. From Memorial Day to Labor can count on it.

As I stood at the island making it this week I found myself thinking back to an incident where my traditional tuna macaroni summer salad told us everything you need to know about how to talk about race. With love and laughter.

We were heading out on our family vacation, a 12 hour road trip from NJ to Disney. Cell phones weren't a big deal then but we were fancy with walkie talkies in each car.

After about 3 hours we decided to hit the rest stop and have some lunch. My best friend, who is white, had packed a beautiful basket of cold cuts and breads. My kids ran to her basket and made sandwiches.

I had a cooler filled with my tuna and macaroni and while we eat healthy most of the time....I had fried up some chicken for the road.

Of course, her family jumped on it and all was well. Full, we got back on the road.

5 minutes down 95 we get the call on the walkie. "Pull over up ahead".
"OK. Sure thing. What's wrong?" we replied.

My bestie's husband says, "Nothing's wrong! I need some more of that CPS!"

Confused, we pull over. After having a bite he had dubbed his fav food now forever "colored people salad. CPS for short.

He explained his family had never put tuna in macaroni salad and that he couldn't believe he had been deprived of this culinary delight his whole life. He was convinced this was a delight only to be had in the black kitchen. I assured him it was widely available.

His humor was often colorful and eyebrow raising but it was from love. No one was offended and oh how we laughed and laughed that day.

He passed away suddenly 2 years ago. We miss him terribly. We ponder on what off color comment he would have in some of life's crazier moments. We remember him often....especially in the summer when we have our CPS. Want some for yourself? Try my recipe below! Love while you never know how long you get. Real talk.

CPS- Better known as:Macaroni and Tuna Summer Salad
1 box elbow pasta
1 small jar sweet relish
1 small onion chopped small
1 green pepper chopped small
4 cans tuna
3 squirts mustard
1 cup mayo
2 spoons celery seed
1 sprinkle sugar

Boil pasta, drain, and rinse with cold water
Mix ingredients with well washed hands.....go 'head and get in there......
Eat. Share. Laugh. Worry about the carbs later. ENJOY!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Parents: There are no winners in the Shame Game

The Shame Game: An Internet Sensation
Starring the one you say you love the best: Your wanna- be thug son….or perhaps your puberty passionate daughter.
The plot is the same whoever plays the game: Child acts up and you show off on video and prove to the world you aren’t having no mess….not in your house. No way. You will give an old man’s hair cut…beat some ass with a cord, berate and announce new found sexuality….all for the internet fans!
The cast: You, the parent, must prove you are the star. Those likes and retweets give you life! The comments are like ratings and the more “go heads, I know that’s right” you get….the better you feel.
The co-stars … know the ones that did the deed….broke a rule…went off course, otherwise known as your child. They must show full remorse, head bowed, crying….oh now we are talking. Crying is proof of full embarrassment.
That rage and despondence and brokenness displayed….will the world ever know if that is remorse for a rule broken or calculation for "the get away" from the craziness the “star” is willing to go to for ratings.
The aftermath: This is the story that never makes the ‘net.  After the likes and the comments….maybe even an interview or 2….the co-star must go on living in whatever life brought them to the initial behavior in the 1st place. Yeah, the behavior that got all of the attention. 
You don’t get 1 million likes on the drop-outs or the runaways. Hell, some man in another state that hit like is now soliciting the young girl through her new named page.  The bullying, it got worse. Now the kids have even more to come at your co –stars with. 
 And finally, the suicides: Those fans with all the comments and cheering of how you went off….they don’t miss work, or sit bedside, or answer the knock on the door from the police when the game is tragically over.
Raising children is hard. They do foolish things. They make us angry.  Instead of shame…shower them with praise, cloak them with love, surround them with support.  Be a star in the PARENTING game. This Shame Game…it’s fun while you’re playing. It can be deadly when it’s done. Real talk. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

1st project of 2015! Introducing Pretty Patty! My Pottery Barn Wanna Be!

I'm so excited to introduce Pretty Patty to you all! She is my 1st project of 2015 and I am in LOVE!
I'm gonna tell ya how I did it....but 1st....real quick..... let me tell you why!
More and more I found myself putting things off because they were too expensive....too much trouble....tooo all sorts of things. And when you go without small pleasures you can become a bit snarky. Snarky is not in my personality wardrobe. (I don't think)
Still....I want what I want. Solid wood, not particle board. Dovetail drawer, none of those plastic side pieces. Had to have nice lines.....and FEET! (I really think FEET make the piece....doesn't date it and makes it look....sorta, hmmmm.....SEXY! )
And well....I found all of that and of course....$1000 plus. So my one other requirement? Had to be under $100 complete! I know.....STOP. PLAYING!
So Pretty Patty like many of my other pieces came to me in another iteration. And that's why I love her. I can get close to what I want and not be worried about the price or if it gets used or broken....and I do it myself. There's some good satisfaction in that! WOOP!
Here is what I started with :
Quick text to my delivery guy (aka husband) to see if I could get a pickup and it was on!
Now for the negotiations.....will you take $75? Yep! SOLD!! WOOP!
Got her home and did my prep and inspection.....all good. Clean. Solid. On drawer pull missing. Top piece was not gonna work for me so.......get ready.....put that right on my local online yardsale. $20! Woop! SOLD in 5 minutes! So my total for the buffet is now at $55! (insert picture of me doing the running man right here!!)

I cleaned her up real good with my Clorox wipes. Did a quick sanding with my $5 sander (bought her from a junk sale) and mixed my chalk paint concoction using Valspar Antique Black. You can check out step by step of my Chalk Paint recipe here:
The paint was $15 at Lowes. I had the Plaster of Paris on hand. (you will too......this stuff lasts forever) I also bought 2 pulls for $3.16 each and 1 can of
Rustolium SprayPaint in brushed nickel for $7. 
To save money I painted the existing hardware. I actually liked the look just not the color. And the Rustolium spray paint sticks to anything! So...I cleaned them with a baking soda pasted and then scrubbed with a brillo. Dried with paper towel and sprayed twice on each side in my Spraypaint box. ( that would be any old box you have laying around! Just sounds good like you have a special box....heehee)

Two coats chalkpaint......dry overnight. 2 quick coats semi gloss poly. Add hardware and.....
wait....let me tell you the price....
So....$83.....COMPLETE! OMG.....I can't stand it! Yep.......$83 and this is Pretty Patty! She's a Pottery Barn wanna be but that's all right with me! GET IT PATTY!!!!

What y'all think? She's cute right? I need to dress her up but I must wait 2 weeks to "cure" or....dry really good so stuff doesn't stick to the top. lol
Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Go ahead and share or pin!
And....this new year...start DOING! Real talk!!

Monday, September 29, 2014

That's NOT so Ghetto!

Did you ever find yourself using a word that if someone else used it you would be offended?

Oh…..not that word! My family long ago admonished the use of the N word in any type of fashion. Just not happening. So, why then was it so easy for me to drop the word "Ghetto". You know like, that’s so GHETTO, or…”girl, you know he’s ghetto.” It’s all good and funny when it was popping out of my mouth. I could use that word because… know, it doesn’t describe me.

Until it did.

And it will go down as one of the worse pains in my professional career.

Me. You know. Good me. Accepted everywhere. All audiences. The “you are all right” girl in every conversation. Professional and straight laced in and out of the office. I don’t play, and have no time for foolishness. Being trifling was and is an assault to our family and my mother was not having it! So I damn sure ain’t ghetto.

Until I was.

Yep. After working for months on a project that was my own from before it ever hit a page to the day it was delivered to over 200 people it was my baby. I was excited and proud of it. When I stepped out front in my new jacket with my hair freshly “did” I felt more ready to share and teach than ever before. My audience struggled. And that was the point. The material wasn’t meant to be easy. It was meant to push and challenge and ultimately allow for GROWTH. For most people it did. But for some…. The entire experience caused a small outrage.

Who is this person (only minority woman in the meeting……not uncommon for me but helpful, perhaps for you to picture the scene) to tell us how to do things…..what needs to change……

My straight forward and everyman language must have really annoyed. That night the insults rang through the conference rooms and gossip ranks. She was no good. Who does she think she is?

 She GHETTO-ized that whole program.

What? Wait! I did what?

Let’s be clear on how bad the insult really is…….not only is the person making a “style” insult…..they also are making no connection to the ability of a black woman to create from inception, a finished product. Surely it had to be someone else’s work that I took and yup….you read it…Ghetto-ized! Take a minute and let that sink in.......

I saw red. I am not ashamed to say…I cried. I was so friggin angry. OUTRAGED. I wanted to show then what GHETTO really looked like.......right?

Wrong. I turned the mirror on my own self: A difficult, but necessary task. While my colleagues were wrong in so many ways for their reaction, the bigger learning for me in the end is my own behavior.

How often had I used this term loosely to describe something or someone? So casual was I with this term that I gave little thought to how hurtful it may be....... and inaccurate.

I am not suggesting every word we utter is going to be politically correct or without error.

But I am clear that we cannot be shocked when the very judgments we are so quick to make comes flying right back at us full speed.
Shortly after this incident I left the organization where this insult occurred. At that same time….I left the word ghetto out of my vocabulary too! Real talk! Be the change you want to see the change!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Ode to my Goddaughter......

If you know me in any capacity you probably know that I am obsessed with happy girls!! I am particularly fond of seeing brown girls that are happy because they are not commonly seen in the media.

And just to be clear....I don't think girls should walk around all Stepford wifey with fake smiles all the time. I mean....happy with one self..carefree....comfortable in your skin....confident enough to give away a smile!

I am so very fortunate to have tons of girls in many different ages and many different hues that fit this description. I view it as one of my many blessings. Topping my list tonight is my goddaughter Sydney. Tomorrow I will celebrate with her and her little friends for another big bash celebration.

But tonight.......well tonight I am tired, and covered with glitter.......and my heart is full.

In the nine years since Sydney was born my own daughter has finished her PhD, and med school and is happily performing surgery. I feel like I know a lil bit about what happy, strong girls can do.
So I take this Godmother responsibility seriously.

My daughter can tell  you of the strict, focused mom who loved and raised her. Serious, is a word I have heard her use. So different is this whole Godmother gig.....

When discussing careers in school my Sydney proudly announced that her godmother was a Bird Watcher. Subject of race a hot topic...she shares with the group that her Aunt Nicole is white. (data we have since corrected) School project? Why settle for a plain down to Aunt Nicole's and we can make it pop with a string of Christmas lights. Food....we grow it! Books....we read them, write them, make them! Meteor showers? We set the alarm and watch em. It's always an adventure!!

Birthdays and celebrations are our thing. This year.....right on cue! Outrageous invite? Check! Glitter and sparkles...check, check! Everything is in place for a wonderful time. But something is different.

This year....when I wrote my sparkly card....I was a lil choked up. She is getting bigger and more lovely each day. Soon a transformation from lil girl to tween will happen and I know she may not always be excited about a loud and crafty godmother. So, inside the  basket of special gifts I put together for her is a promise.....she can't see it but I am sure she will know: I will be right here. Ready to listen. Ready to help. Natasha can tell you that  I can be serious and firm but I'll always be ready for an adventure. Yep.....happy girls aren't just born. They're loved beyond reason, and pushed to do more, and cheered for, and worried over.....and it doesn't hurt to have someone doing all of these things that is ok with being covered in glitter! real talk.

Aunt Nicole....Can you do this. Me: Ummmm, of course I can. (Where is the bengay??)