Thursday, January 05, 2012

Regifting

This past Christmas, a close relative of mine gave me a holiday package. You know the kind that contain summer sausages and cheese? This one had two different kinds of summer sausage, a package of crackers, some spreadable mustard and spreadable cheese. I was delighted! I thought this is the perfect gift! My husband and I will be able to enjoy this on New Year’s eve.

I took the package home and stored it as mentioned on the directions. I actually went ahead and put it in the refrigerator.

On New Year’s Eve, I made a beautiful snack tray for my family. It is our usual New Year’s Eve tradition to enjoy snacks as we listen to music, watch comedy shows, sip champagne and wait for the ball to drop at midnight. The champagne was chilled. The candles were lit. I had sliced some lovely fruit and decided to add the summer sausage, cheese and crackers to our snack tray. I went into the refrigerator to retrieve the snack package and went to open one of the flavored summer sausages. Much to my horror, the sausage was molded! There were large areas of mold on both packages of sausage.

I searched the package to see if I could find the expiration date. Much to my amazement, the package indicated that it had expired in February 2010! The package was almost 2 years old! Disgusted, I threw the entire package into the trash can.

I called my relative and thanked him for the snack gift and I also informed him that the expiration date was almost 2 years ago. I wanted to make sure that he had not purchased an expired package. He was embarrassed and admitted that this was a re-gift. (duh!) He said that someone had given the package to him and that he had passed it on to me because he did not eat that kind of meat. Hmmmm… As I always say, there ain’t nothing like family!

Well, lesson learned here: If you are going to re-gift, make sure that your gift is appropriate and within the expiration date.

Happy New Year, y'all!

2012 in the Middle


Well, yeah, I guess this year I’m ready to accept that I am in my middle years. For some, I’m actually a senior citizen! Yeah that’s right, I can get senior citizens’ discounts and I’ve got my AARP card! So I guess that’s it. I’m literally in my middle. I have decided that for me this is going to be nothing but positive so this blog is about how I’m going to start 2012.

I decided to take 2012 and do the 31 day reset challenge featured on the Happy Black Woman blog. I’m going to do 31 days of activities and exercises that should give me the ability to create new possibilities for my life. Give me the ability to think about my goals and actually find my way to higher place in my life and that’s exactly what I want in 2012.

To get started, I completed the first challenge. I chose a mantra for myself: Think like a queen. I chose this mantra from a quote from Oprah Winfrey and although I haven’t been a really big Oprah Winfrey fan, I do respect and admire her for her accomplishments, for her perseverance, and for all the struggles that we probably don’t even know about that she had to endure to get to where she is today. Oprah’s quote says “Think like a Queen. A Queen is never afraid to fail. A Queen knows that failure is nothing but a stepping stone to greatness.”

My theme song for 2012 is the same theme song that I have had for years and that song is “I’m Every Woman”, the Chala Khan version. With all due respect to Whitney Houston, Chaka’s version has brought me through many days and tight situations so I am partial to that one.

The third thing that I did to get started on my 31 day life reset was to choose a notebook to keep my exercises and notes. An actual physical notebook although anybody that knows me knows that I’m such a techie. I have an iPad and all of that and I’m actually recording this on a dictation app for my blog but I like the idea of a physical notebook. I like the idea of an ink pen sliding over paper. So I chose a notebook that I have been using for a few months as a kind of spiritual notebook or a gratitude journal. I really like this journal and I have plenty of room in it for my 31 day challenge.

I am excited about this life reset and ask that you pray for my motivation and perseverance. If you are interested in joining me and others on the 31 Day Life Reset Challenge, check out happyblackwoman.com. Rosetta Thurman has to the whole thing laid out for us and I think it’s going to be great. I’d love to see all of us take 2012 and make it into the most wonderful, positive, powerful, productive year that we have ever had!

Y’all take care. Happy new year!
Taviaz

Thursday, December 08, 2011

A few weeks ago, I got together with some of my old friends from college. You know, the kind that really know you but in spite of all that still like you. Anyway, we spent the weekend catching up with each other and remembering old times. It was amazing that so much time had passed in just a blink of an eye. Of course, someone had to pull out those old photos. There we were, the crew from Wilberforce University. We were eagerly posed for the camera, full of undergrad bluster only thinly disguising the fact that we were all just trying to find our way. I saw me staring into the camera, all those years ago. Who was that na├»ve and arguably innocent young girl? She looked back at me with such hope and anticipation of what was to come… with a youthful confidence that life was going to be good and everything would be just fine. If only I could tell her some things, I thought. If only I would warn her about the bad decisions that she would make, about the miscarriages that she would grieve over, the disappointments that she would live through, the loved ones she would lose, the opportunities that she would miss, and about all the things that would seem so important but would turn out to be just the opposite. I wanted to tell her about the people she should avoid and the people she should hold on to and to be a bit more bold and not so trusting. I felt so sad for that girl who was long gone from me. Then, it hit me. That girl had brought me through some difficult times. Her optimism was what had helped me through life’s crises and challenges. Yes, she had made mistakes but she had achieved some things too. She had had grief and setbacks, as we all will have in life, but she hadn’t let her spirit die. She had faith and passion and courage and she was a lot tougher than she looked. I enjoyed my friends that weekend. I know that from now on, I will reach out more often because time flies. But when I look at them, I see the girls that we all were and the women that we have become. The girl that I used to be was sending me a message across the years. She was saying that life was going to be good and everything would be just fine. I was proud of her… and I realized that that young girl isn’t such a bad old girl either.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Something That I Lost


I was 18 years old, in my freshman year at college and my first semester was successfully behind me. I went to a small private college a couple of states away from home so this Christmas break was my first visit back. I was looking forward to seeing my family and hanging out with my friends. I thought i was so much more mature now that I had been on my onw at college for four months.

One of the first things I did when I got home was to call up my friends and put the word out that I was back. Some of my old crew from college had also left home for school and some had remained in Kansas City, working or going to the local community college. After a few phone calls, we decided to meet that next night for drinks and dancing at a new dinner club that was new to some of us. Michelle, one of my best friends from high school, wanted to show off her brand new car so she offered to pick me up and drive. It was just as well, I didn't own a car and didn't have a drivers license.

The next night, Michelle picked me up around 9 PM. We were dressed to be cute but respectful of the below freezing temperatures and the snow and ice on the ground. The club was located in midtown, a neighborhood with an artsy mix of shops, restaurants and apartments. Midtown was surrounded by middle and upper middle class neighborhoods but wasn't suburban at all.

Michelle and I were excited, chatting, laughing, catching up on news. We arrived at the club and found the parking lot full. That didn't bother us, it just meant that the club was jumping and we were in for a good time!

We soon found a parking place on the street beside the club. Still talking and laughing, we go out of the and Michelle dropped her purse. Change, makeup, her wallet and all the other stuff we keep in purses dumped into the snow and slid under the car.

Of course, I went around to help Michelle gather up her things. A man walked by but I hardly glanced at him.

"Hey! Are you looking for a date?" he called to us.

"No!" Michelle answered. I didn’t respond as I was busy plucking Michelle’s lipstick out of the snow on the curb.

Suddenly, the man turned around and was next to Michelle in just a couple of steps.
"Don't look at me," the man commanded. "I said don't look at me! I've got a gun."
We were in shock, surprised and scared. I don't really remember what we said. I just remember seeing him grab Michelle by the arm and force her into the open car door. He pointed the gun at me and told me to get in the back seat. He jumped into the driver’s seat, pushing Michelle to climb over the gear console to the passenger side.

The robber waved the gun and growled orders at us in a threatening voice. He demanded money from our purses and our jewelry. After a few minutes, he told me to lay down in the back seat and put my coat over my head. I was scared. I just knew he was going to shoot me. I remember saying my prayers and asking God to forgive me for my sins. I prayed that my mother wouldn’t be so very sad and that she would be okay.

The gunman drove us around in the car, talking to Michelle who was clearly terrified. I don’t know if she knew where we were and I had given up counting turns and trying to figure out where he was taking us. At one time he stopped, got out of the car and walked around to the trunk. I tried to convince Michelle to open the door so we could run (the car was a 2-door) but she was so afraid that she couldn’t move. I tried to push the seat forward with her in it, then the gunman came back.
He got in the car again and started driving but this time, he had plans. We drove for what seemed like hours. The whole time, I kept thinking that I would soon be dead. I swore if I got the chance to escape again, I would take it, with or without Michelle.

After a few turn, our kidnapper stopped the car and began talking to Michelle about whether or not she had a boyfriend. He kept on that topic until he just came out and said that he wanted to have sex with her before he let us go. Michelle bargained with him, trying to get him to say with certainty that he would let us go if she allowed him to rape her. He said yes. So she did it.

He did finally let us go. He stopped the car not far from where he kidnapped us. He tried to lock us in the trunk of the car but luckily didn’t realize he didn’t have a trunk key. He told us to stay in the car for 15 minutes after he got out but I climbed over the seat and got out as soon as I heard him running away. We ran from door to door in this upscale neighborhood trying to get someone to call the police or let us use the phone. After trying at 3 houses, a gay couple finally let us in to call the police.

Michelle didn’t want to tell that she had been raped. We did though, after the police told her that she wouldn’t be identified. The next day, there was a small item in the paper that didn’t name her but talked about a girl who lived on her block who was kidnapped and raped. Michelle called me, furious, hurt and feeling betrayed. That was the last time I talked to her. After that, she never answered or returned my calls. Once, when I called her, her mother answered and asked if I was the girl Michelle was with that night. I said yes.

“Okay. I’ll tell her you called,” she said.

I hardly ever talk about that night. If I do have to talk about it, I just kind of skim over parts of it as I have done here. But when I think of things I have lost, I think about that night. The night I lost my innocence and most of all the night I lost my friend.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Help


One of the few things that I do for myself is that I have a woman to come in and clean for me twice a month. Molly (not her real names) has been with me for about 15years off and on. Molly cleans pretty well and doesnt charge me a lot but she does have issues.

First of all, Molly doesn't drive. She does her cleaning during the morning hours and works at a nursing home in the evenings while depending on her customers and her family members for transportation. It is kind of inconvenient for me, a spoiled woman who is not necessarily known to be a morning person, to get up earlier than usual to drop my kid off at school, pick up Molly, take her back to my house, then head off to my office. My usual morning routine is that I get up with just enough time to get dressed, rush my child out the door to school just beating (most of the time) the tardy signal and then off to work. Luckily, Molly doesn't live too far from me so I have to just bite it and pick her up on the days she cleans for me.

Secondly, while Molly has a great personality, she isn't a rocket scientist. I don't think I have ever seen her read or write anything. I have given up leaving her notes and have resigned myself to the fact that I will have to give her the same instructions over and over again.

Now, that doesn't mean Molly isn't smart. Over the years, I have observed that Molly is a very savvy negotiator and has great planning skills. She will only accept cash for payment (hmmm.....) and will never give you a specific amount that she charges. She says that you can just pay her what you think the cleaning is worth. She will however ask for any clothing, appliances or household items that you might be thinking of getting rid of. Or even if you aren't planning to get rid of something, Molly will ask anyway just to get her bid in. She used to tell me that she had a family member (usually a sister) who had lost everything in a fire and needed _________________ (fill in the blank with clothing, shoes, dishes, computer, etc.). After many years, many sisters, and many fires, I found out that Molly sells the stuff in a booth at a local flea market on the weekends.

So, on to the last and probably most annoying issue. Molly drinks. When she is at my house, she drinks my husbands liquor... his good liquor. I am talking Gentleman Jack, Wild Turkey Special Edition, and Crown Royal. The last few times Molly cleaned for me, I have found one of the plastic cocktail cups we use for entertaining left on the back deck... sometimes with melting ice and a cigarette butt or two. This last time, when I picked up Molly, she seemed a little...off. Her appearance was kind of disheveled. Her skin was very oily and her hair didn't seem to have been combed. I was surprised but Molly explained that she was off that day and was going right back home after helping me. Ok..... I dropped Molly off as usual and went off to work.

When I returned that evening, I found that one of my champagne flutes (I put them out in preparation for the holidays) had been broken. One of my son's bath towels had been ruined with bleach stains. Molly had used one of my son's favorite t-shirts as a cleaning rag and... my husband's Gentleman Jack bottle was almost empty. Of course, further investigation revealed one of the plastic coctail cups on the back deck next to another cup holding cigarette butts. It seems that Molly works hard to finish her cleaning early so that she can relax with a smoke and a drink before her ride comes to pick her up.

Guess I will have to have a talk with the help.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

For Colored Girls -- My Two Cents

I had heard a while ago that Tyler Perry was going to produce For Colored Girls and I was not happy. I mean, this work of art was an icon of my very young adult hood. The play and its characters meant something to me. I knew them and they were me.  I had read the prose poem until I knew parts of it verbatim. So, when I heard that Tyler Perry was going to do the movie, I had issues.

I know that TPS can do more than the Madea movies. I have always believed that. And, I have always believed that Tyler Perry is working toward becoming a great teller of the stories of African American people. My first concern, though was that this particular story was over his head.

There was a rumor (and I dont know if it is true or not) that Beyonce would have a role. I swore that if Beyonce was in this movie, I would not see it. I know that any of the characters would be beyond Beyonce’s fledgling acting talent. Sorry, Bey, but I gotta call it like I see it.

Anyway, there was no Beyonce role but I still had my reservations about Tyler Perry. I did, however, go to see the movie on opening night. I went with a group of 4 high school and college aged girls that I mentor and a friend from work. The younger girls were not really familiar with Ntozake Shange, the original play or prose poem. So we got our tickets, popcorn and diet colas and seated ourselves in the theater to watch the movie.

First, let me tell you. The entire theater felt like a Circle of My Sisters meeting. There were women of all ages from high school to good and retired. Everyone seemed to come with their ‘girls’. I saw groups of sorors from different Greek organizations, Eastern Stars, groups of two and three BFFs, a bridge club, a couple of bookclubs, and some crews of ride or die homegirls. It was fabulous and felt good to see all of us black girls there representing.

So the movie starts and it was on. Ok, there was a little more commentary and nervous laughter than I really care for. And the movie? It was good. The cast and the acting was excellent. I could not have asked for better. I felt a connection to the stories and even recognized some of the poem in the dialogue. I enjoyed it more after I got over the fact that it wasn’t really the movie version of the play that I was hoping for. Tyler modernized and screenplayed with the original and that wasn’t what I was looking for. He took artistic license and added in a couple of characters. I believe that he wanted to ensure that there was at least one image of a positive black man in the movie. I am not mad at that but that is still a departure from the original.

Yet, I am hoping for a revival of the original play. Hoping to, again, feel that story move me with the emotion and passion that I felt 35 years ago when I discovered For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow was Enuf. In my most honest moments, I admit that I am pouty about the fact that For Colored Girls is about me and us as black women. So why is a man telling our story? I believe that the treatment would have been different if it had been done by a woman. There, I said it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Recession Budget Diva


The recession. The news that people are losing their jobs, their homes and their retirement has us all on edge and given us new reasons to evaluate our spending and saving habits. For a fly, fashionable, medium maintenance diva like me, the recession has me doing a double take.

I mean, before this particular recession (this is not the first recession I have lived through, remember 1994?), I had a shopping habit. Some of you might call me a shopaholic but I don’t think I was quite that bad. Maybe I am in denial since I always try to be kind to myself but I really do know some shopaholics and I am not even in their league. Nevertheless, I probably spent too much and bought more than I really needed in the way of clothes, shoes, accessories, makeup, perfume and other girly stuff.


I am a fanatic for a certain kind of department store cosmetic brand that is a bit on the pricey side. For a long time, I used that brand exclusively and turned my nose up at other less expensive brands. This particular brand was a kind of status symbol that made me feel like I was pampering and taking good care of myself. My favorite scent is expensive too. I have to order it from a well-known department store since the department stores in my small southern town don’t even carry it. I kept bi-weekly spa appointments for a mani, pedi, and waxing. I always brought my own high-priced nail polish to the spa even though the spa used the exact same brand.


In my defense, I have always prided myself on being a bargain shopper. I love good quality clothing, jewelry and cosmetics but I don’t want to have to pay a lot for them. My eyes light up when I see a sale sign or find a clearance rack. I could rack up frequent flyer miles at the off-price stores and websites. Even when I bought that expensive nail polish, I always shopped the selection from the previous season so that I could save a couple of bucks.


But in a tough economy, even a good bargain is difficult to justify. Should I go ahead and buy the $200 shoes on sale for $80 or put that money in the emergency fund? Is the $30 for a silk designer blouse a valid purchase or should I put that money in the hard times grocery jar? How does a diva with a slight shopping habit still look good on a low budget?


Well, I will tell you, but first let me tell you a story. Not long ago, I visited a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in a long time (I will call her Anna). Anna and I caught up with each other over a dinner. While we chatted, Anna reminded me of how we used to take care of all of our beauty maintenance needs for less than $20 a payday. She recalled that we used to do each others hair and do our own manis and pedis while chatting on the phone with each other. The thing we used to look forward to the most was shopping in the local drug store for nail polish, lipstick and eyeshadows. We purchased name brand shoes, clothing and perfumes from TJMaxx and Marshall’s. We would even have our own private contests to see who could put together an entire outfit, including shoes, handbag and accessories from TJMaxx. But then, we started moving up in our careers, making more money and discovering that we could afford to purchase more expensive stuff.

How do I maintain my medium maintenance diva status, even in this economy? I had to go back to those skills I learned when I didn’t have much money to spend but was still able to look like a fashionista. I started by doing some online research. I found out that there is a whole culture of money conscious shoppers out there.

I consulted the fashion and beauty gurus on Youtube and other websites, many of whom are on limited budgets also. One of the things I discovered is something called “dupes.” In the world of cosmetics, a dupe is an item similar to another item from a different brand. Often a dupe is an inexpensive alternative or substitute to a high end item. There are dupes everywhere. That expensive brand of cosmetics I love so much has a lot of competition from less expensive brands, including those found in the drugstore. That means that usually I can find makeup of very similar color and good consistency for a much lower cost. There are dupes for fragrances too!


I started reading labels on products like shampoo and conditioners, body butters and lotions. There are certain ingredients I have learned to look for or avoid. Some manufacturers make salon products that you can find in beauty supply stores. There are products whose names are not so familiar but that deliver great results. I’ve gone back to doing my own manicures and the results are really good!


While I still love to shop for shoes and clothes, now I take the time to look for deals online as well as in the store. It is easier to comparison shop and I have reduced my impulse buying tremendously. I rediscovered off-price stores and outlets. How could I have ever forgotten about the deals you can find there on clothing, shoes and accessories!


So now, I feel like my free wheeling spending days have come to an abrupt and screeching halt. But I still want to look good and I still love to shop. And I have learned how to do both in this economy with a little research, a good budget, an inventory of what I already own and a bit of willpower. You can do it too!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Promises of a New Year


I know that a lot of folks made resolutions at the beginning of the year. So, here we are about six weeks into the new year and most of those resolutions have been broken or forgotten already. A few years ago, I stopped making resolutions. Resolutions seemed useless and frivolous to me. They were like bad promises that I dont think I ever really intended to keep.

Then, I read an article that changed the way I looked at New Year's Resolutions. I don't remember the title of the article but the gist of it was to not make resolutions. Rather, the author suggested that one should set a few realistic, achievable goals for the year. That made so much more sense to me. I understand goals much better than I have every understood resolutions and I believed that I could actually achieve them.

See, goals are something that you work toward whereas, it seemed to me, resolutions were something that needed to happen immediately. When I set a goal, I immediately create a plan to reach it. Sometimes those plans are very detailed and comprehensive and sometimes not. I try to set goals in different areas of my life. For example, I might make a goal in the areas of health, career, finance, relationships or personal development. Sometimes it is a simple as trying a new hobby or taking a trip to a certain place. It could be a personal acheivement like finishing a project or taking a class. A couple of years ago, I decided to locate and develop a closer relationship with some relatives who live far away and to whom I hadn't communicated for a while.

The important thing is to not just make up goals in your head and leave them there. You have got to write down your goal, timeframe it and figure out what steps you need to take to achieve your goal. Give yourself enough flexibility to recognize and take advantage of opportunities as they come to you throughout the year. Get your support network of friends and family on board to help coach you when you need it. Periodically check your progress, say monthly or biweekly, to help keep yourself on track. Lastly, make sure you congratulate yourself and celebrate successful steps toward your goal. If something doesnt work like you think it should, don't give up. Try a different approach. Again, that is where your support network can be helpful.

The good thing about setting goals rather than making resolutions is that you can set goals for yourself at any time. I have set three simple goals for myself this year in the areas of career, finance, and personal development. I have a plan and have made some progress. I will let you know how it goes.

If you have given up on your resolutions or if you just want to try goal setting instead, let me know how it goes for you.