Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Life Lessons (video)

2015 was interesting and long as hell. This year felt like 3 of them jammed together with 1 Winter and 2 long Springs. This year was so odd that I decided to be sure that I captured the major moments of my own life and share them with you, my new readers.

Things I learned:
  • You can do Epic things with $350 (vacations, electronics, wardrobe refreshes)
  • There are way more free things to enjoy than people are willing to find out about (casino shuttles, first-time Ubers, concerts outside) 
  • Life is full of crazy assholes, try not to be one of them
  • I am responsible enough to own a house
  • Family is everything, good and bad...
  • God is going to always send me something to laugh at when I'm feeling blue and doesn't really care about the protocol of the given situation. Funeral, Church, School, Work... doesn't matter
    • Did you know that God was from the Land of Oz, and Jesus flew in an airplane?  I thought that I was going to have to climb in the box with my big cousin because I was getting dead weak... RIP and love you always Tyrone, you would've been rolling too.
  • Saying No, and being told No can be the best thing that ever happens to you
  • Tyson Beckford feels like he's made out of muscles and Shea Butter and has no pores or wrinkles
  • My best friend is hilarious when drunk, but even funnier freshly sober and ready to eat
  • My dog June is my spirit animal, she hates bells, and will kill or die for the noise to end 
  • My parents really love themselves and eat lots of vegetables so hopefully if I follow suit I can look like them when I'm knocking on 60's door
  • My Grandmother is amazing enough to diagnose her own illness... she made the doctors look again so they could start the treatment early, and that's just the tip of the iceberg of why I love her so much. 
  • I'm still too emotionally fragile to really experience a tourist free Gentrified New Orleans 10 years after Katrina. I love White people, but they only made up 25% of the population when I lived there... Fleurty Girl will have to serve as my stand-in Black New Orleanian. I hope she can tell me what happened to the Gumbo Man that sold to club patrons out the back of the Scion.
  • Every grown person comes with their own list of responsibilities, and if you're not careful, they'll try to sneak some over to you. Keep your eyes open and wash your own dishes. 
2015 sent me through the entire emotional spectrum and I'm a little sad to watch it come to an end. However, I am looking forward to what 2016 has to offer. 

I think it's safe to say that this was "The Year of the Dream Chaser". When we see a guy go from giving us gospel versions of "Throw That A$$ In A Circle" dressed in someones Red Hat Society regalia, to becoming the face of Patty LaBelle pies in the same year that Donald Trump is taken seriously as a Presidential candidate, we know that anything is possible. 

From all the new babies and marriages, to the near death experiences and people that we lost along the way 2015 gave us all it had to offer and I can personally say; "it don't owe me nothing" *in my old acquired New Orleans accent*.  Have a great holiday, somebody save me some Kwanzaa bread and I'll see you in 2016.

Until then, don't get caught under the mistletoe smelling funny... and remember, it's not your birthday (unless it really is) so don't worry about what you don't get, just feel the love.  

Enjoy the video of my 2015 :)


Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Activist, The Hotep and The Suit... In the Sun.



Code Switching- The term, as it relates to those of us that effortlessly dance on the balance beam across the dichotomy of what it means to be Black in America is not new, nor is it exclusive to the Black experience. There have been blog posts and articles that do a great job explaining the act. I'd like to open up the conversation and create a space to discuss how this year has created instances where the lines have blurred. 2015 has proven to be the year of the movement, and there have been plenty of times that being the only black face in the place has called on many of us to have to decide where we need to fall on the spectrum.

Disclaimer: I am making the assumption that many of us have at least a temporary Hotep persona that both inner- and overstands when it's time to let the knowledge drip like raw-vegan, organic, cold-pressed carrot juice.

So picture this scene:
Day three of five of a major event that you've been helping plan for over a year. You find out, via Shea-Butter Twitter, that a peace rally is about to jump off right outside. Why? Because the tape from one of the various heinous acts of violence towards black men this year was released this morning and The People are more than aggravated... There's you, a sea full of white people and others. The only other black person around has gone Full Corporate because they're in the middle of conducting a service/training and they also haven't heard the news. Everybody else is buzzing about what's getting ready to take place. Who do you decide to be on this day?





1. The Activist- You can take the bold approach and assert your stance on the matter in an eloquent and unwaivering tone without falling into a debate trap. Stand firm on what you believe and take a walk outside to march in solidarity. Don't talk, just do it. You may get fired, but that's the life you live when you're not typing TPS reports and you're ok with that.


2. The Hotep- Find the most vocal person in the room and work to tear apart their argument from it's origin. Giving them just enough room to draw breath and no space to provide an opposing view until you have, at least in your mind, completely dismantled their reasoning and caused them to question their very existence in your King- or Queendom. You'll get fired, but it won't be until they've been able to build a six month case around all the times you showed up late because the healing session went too long, or when you had the whole office smelling like frankencense. They've been waiting on a moment like this to get the paperwork started on you. You however, overstand that this job is not your source, so you're ok with that.  You even dipped extra incense and renewed your vendor's license over the weekend just in case because you Stay Woke!


3. The Suit- The most uncomforatble place on Earth is being in a position of feeling like you have to explain your people when you don't really know how it's going to go yourself.  At bare minimum you have to reinforce the fact that you aren't afraid or you run the risk of being stuck in an environment where it's ok to be afraid of Black people attempting to exercise their rights to protest. You decide to go in confused as to what the fuss is about, and return with an appeal to common sense. "Hey would you go get a permit to start a riot?" *insert an uncomfortabe, acceptable negro chuckle*. Then immediately enlist a socially aware and open-minded co-worker to be your stand-in "other black employee" and release all that fake smile frustration in a remote corner of the building. As long as you chose the susbstiture wisely, you won't get fired... but how long do you plan on living like this?


 Full disclosure something like this happened to me and I chose to be The Suit. I still don't know if that's the right answer, but I do know it was the safe bet for me at the time. What would you do? Can keeping it real have it's advantages or does it usually go wrong in these circumstances?

Let's get the discussion going in the comments section, I'd like to hear which approach you'd choose and if you think my descriptions are valid/accurate.


Some Reference Articles if you'd like some explanation:
http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/04/08/176064688/how-code-switching-explains-the-world 
http://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2013/04/code-switching 

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Art, Science and Agony of Adulting


They should really stop the normal rhetoric at both high school and college graduations. Although not in my case, that is where most of the new wave of responsible people hear some motivational speech about taking risks and enjoying the ride. While many of those speeches provide the hope and optimism needed to brave this whole new lifestyle that will never end until the day that you die, they usually miss a fey key points. Today I present to you that missing piece, in the Art, Science and Agony of Adulting. 

The ART

The art is in the understanding. Social constructs are like grammar, you have to know the rules first to break them. Here is where you can know that it's polite to bring a gift to the baby shower, but bring cash instead and still be celebrated as a timely and thoughtful gift giver. This also includes knowing just how late to be for church so that for you it only lasts an hour and a half. There's no right or wrong in doing what you want to do because you're an Adult...and nobody can stop you. 



The Science.
When you're an adult, you're in charge of several things; when and what you eat and how much, what time you go to bed, how many friends you can have over at one time, how many things you can buy in the store. You are also in charge of funding, sourcing and coordinating all of the activities of your life. The science is in measuring your lifestyle with your income and the obligations required to maintain both. This is where lots of people fail. This is why there's such thing as credit and even more why people deal with "bad credit". Adulting is not cheap when you try to live a life like the music videos and reality TV shows that you grew up watching (unless you're strictly a Survivor fan) and most of the time you need a job to do half of the things. That means that you have to figure out what you need to know in order to qualify for the job that aids in creating the lifestyle you want followed by a coordinated effort to secure it through proper networking and application of the acquired knowledge. 

Yeah, I know... 
#THEAGONY
Here are some things that can happen when you do too much of one and not enough of the other between The Art & The Science:
Weight gain, Alcoholism, Homelessness, Joblessness, Drug Abuse, Loneliness, Depression and in extreme circumstances even Death. 

Heavy right? 
I remember the first time I got out of the house and out of intense supervision. I was in the Navy and even though we had fitness standards, I'd just spent over 10 weeks only eating food that was provided. When I got the chance to eat at a restaurant again it took me years to stop. I even found a way to go on a diet with restaurant food... why? Because I was grown and nobody could stop me. As I embark on this latest fitness journey, I just wish that somebody had, but that's not how Adulting works..you're supposed to just know. Why? Because you're the adult.

Lately my entire life has been revolving around school and work. I have to literally schedule and budget fun. The stinking trick is, that's not really how fun works. You can plan a trip to Vegas, but it's the spontaneous decision to sit through the timeshare presentation that gets you free tickets to see Tyson Beckford naked.

 But bills and future money take precedence over right now fun because that's the formula that we've all been taught that keeps us from sleeping on the park bench. So the Agony is in knowing that even though you are totally in control of what you actually do, nobody is going to stop you and also nobody is going to bail you out. It's a tough pill to swallow this whole Adult thing, and just think, it lasts the rest of your life.


Until next time... may your coloring not rely on the placement of the lines. 

This post is dedicated to my Sister Kristol who's Birthday I'm missing tomorrow because Grown-Up... 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Good Man's Guide To Becoming A Successful Cheater (Book Review)

http://amzn.com/B018WRJG8Y
The end of this past week I took some time to see which new books were released by new authors and I came across this book. My natural curiosity and recognition of the author as someone that I knew in the Navy caused me to 1-click purchase and proceed to get my entire life.

First let's get into the title. I haven't had a title grab my nosey bone and shake it around since "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" and that left me in a ball sobbing uncontrollably. As much of a freelance part-time private investigator as I like to be, this not only felt like a good piece of information to have, but essential reading for the job.

I sincerely enjoyed every chapter of this book. There were moments that caused me to pause and evaluate whether or not I've witnessed any of the behavior described. Fortunately, I haven't seen anything lately, but I surely hope that my ex-husband has stepped his game up because this book doesn't pull any punches when it comes to calling out the missed steps that so many men make.


It also caused me to wonder whether or not I'm one of those women that believes that all men cheat. Granted I've seen a lot of things over the years, I think I've still maintained just enough goofy little girl to not become completely jaded. I think that's the key to not ending up the cat lady... or in my case the dog lady, in the housecoat all alone in a cavernous house eating microwaveable turkey pot pies.

This book is an excellent read for the woman that's like me and holding on to that lat bit of optimism that keeps the frown lines away. While there's lots of useful information that can aid in the cornering of your potential suspect (for all my fellow Private I's), there's a great overall message. It's also a quick read, that way you won't spend too much time agonizing over the details.

Click on the link just below cover photo and grab your copy today. it's actually free if you subscribe to the Kindle Unlimited service and come back so we can talk about it. I feel like I need to dish with someone, and calling the author just won't satisfy this itch. I know this feels like a plug, but I plan on coming back with a book that I found to be trash, and they'll get the same amount of publicity.

Until next time...



Sunday, November 29, 2015

Now What Craig?

Over the past week a very dear friend of mine lost his job. He'd put lots of time and energy in school to learn how to be a great employee, and even with all that, they still found a reason to let him go.
http://action.citizen.org/t/6693/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=1823


This story has happened to several of my friends at various points in their careers and lives and I find myself holding the exact same conversation with former fry cooks to former Executives... Now what?

There seems to be a social programming of sorts that tells us that every cent of our income should be tied to a work product that we generate in the service of others. What I find the most interesting is that this concept is held the highest among my friends with higher salaries. My underpaid friends tend to understand that they can't depend on just one thing. Which I find mind boggling because when you look at which one has higher stakes, you'd think that the higher the salary the more diversified their income would be. It's just not the case.

That's the first obstacle that I felt he needed to surmount in order to avoid finding himself in the same position of playing the "Please like me" game. I am a firm believer in having full command of what it is that you offer to others as a service and never find yourself in a position too bashful to do those same things for yourself. It feels like that dynamic is the most difficult for people to grasp. Especially people that grew up as the cool kids.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of growing up as a combination of an outsider and a nerd, I grew out of seeking for others to tolerate me, to working on positioning myself in a manner that causes those that would appreciate what I have to offer to come and find me. That also requires me keeping myself marketable so that when they finally do locate me, it's worth the search. In the meanwhile, I'll hustle and lean on other talents and skills. My friend on the other hand was a star athlete and is the type of person that doesn't have a lot of friends by choice.

My pep talk to him, went a little like this;

Sometimes in life, you will find that there are people that just don't like you... F#&k Them! If you know that you've been your best self, and they still aren't feeling you, don't you dare waste one single extraneous moment on trying to make them find your value. Don't subscribe to their program, create your own! There is someone looking for exactly what it is that you do or who you are, but you'll never find those people running behind the ones that hate you or even worse pay you no attention. 

I say apply this to relationships, careers, artistry, trades because it's always true. Surround yourself, at all times, with love and light. Anyone that seeks to dim either one is not worth continuing to feed with energy... so be glad when horrible people invite you to leave.

Greater is ahead.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

"I'm Black... but I'm here" (Video)

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

This year I was given the task of making the secondary staple of the table, the Mac & Cheese. On my Facebook page I expressed some frustration in creating this dish because I don't have a tangible recipe. We've already discussed that dilemma. 

What I  didn't discuss is why it was so importan that I come correct on the Macaroni & Cheese.  The dish itself makes me think of my Granny (Ellen). I miss her so much, it's been a decade but I can still go to pieces about it. My mom took me to a restaurant for my birthday back in 2008 (OK Cafe in Atlanta off I-75) and their Mac was so much like Granny's, I dropped real tears at the table. 

I tasted what I made last night and it took me back to sitting in her room wishing somebody would make a way to rewind a VHS faster so I could watch The Color Purple again. 

Some of you know that I haven't watched the whole movie since she died,  but I woke up thinking about what I'm grateful for and the scene below came to mind. There's nothing that you can't escape,  nothing you can't overcome and it's never too late to start a brand new life.

I'm thankful that I learned this lesson at 8... but I'm mostly thankful that I finally reached the point in life that I don't feel like jumping in the trunk and riding off... as often as I have in the past. I'm thankful that after several years of moving all around and working my way to a new life that I have a place of my own to call home and no need to put a three fingered curse on the people around me.

My Granny used to tell me "Find you some strangers, they'll do you better than family." and with each passing year I find great new strangers that accept me as I am and always have a spot in their trunk for me... just in case. :) 

Enjoy! 


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Authentic" Down Home Recipes

It's that time of year again. People are dusting off the old recipe books that they've either been given or bought from some Baptist church, all in an effort to prepare a down home meal worth posting on the Gram.



Here's a little known secret that all cooks with TRUE Southern roots have known for a while.

DON'T BELIEVE THAT!

Sure the title says "Aunt Myrtle's Famous Southern Fried______" but what probably happened is Aunt Myrtle got backed down into the corner by the Usher Board to submit an entry for the fundraiser or commit to buying a minimum and she wasn't on coughing up that cash... (paprika, cayenne pepper...same color right?) fast-forward to your naive self in your kitchen trusting the words on the page, looking like a fool with too spicy deviled eggs, pound cake thick as a brick, and chicken that tastes like wood. (S/o to The Sugarhill Gang)

WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS?

I have a few theories , and I'd like to put out, and I'd love to talk it out with some of you. Perhaps you've held the same suspicions.

1. If food is the key to a man's heart, then the recipe is the locksmith.
Maybe back in the day Hattie May knew that her husband was all about her hot buttered rolls, and Anna Lee down the road was always trying to get Herschel to try her version but she could never get it right. Hattie May would write out the recipe in code so whenever Anna Lee came to the house for Circle Meeting, Hattie didn't have to worry about her being all in her kitchen.

 That recipe code gets verbally passed down, but the writing stays the same.

2. Who will come and visit when I'm old and mean?
Perhaps the reason that Nana ain't coming up off that casserole recipe is because that's the only time that she can get all her family in one place at the same time because her mouth is crazy and nobody can stand to sit through that without something good to eat.

She didn't write that recipe down at all, the only way you're getting that is if you actually go and spend time with her and watch her do it. Those recipes are more art than science to even attempting to take notes will lead you down the wrong path... you're going to have to Daniel Son this one...

Muscle memory and the EYE are the only things that get you to the promised land on those dishes.

3. They just remix the store bough and you never knew it.
Martha Ann is just a flat out lie. You've been eating Stove Top stuffing with celery salt your entire life and all this time you had a picture of your dear sweet Auntie slaving away getting every ingredient just right, when the truth is half of the work was done when she opened up the packet.

She always cooks at 2am after all the drunks and kids are sleep so the only way you're catching that is if you take naps throughout the day and plan a sneak attack. You think you can just go through the trash don't you? Wrong, your Uncle Otis has been trained to make a late night store run every Holiday Eve with the main task being to get rid of all evidence. Yes your Uncle Otis sweeps in like a Gladiator and Handles her dirty little lie every year just so that your Aunt Shirley's green beans get shade.

Give up there's nothing left for you to do. That whole dinner is a lie. Next year just go to the casino buffet and save on running up Big Momma's light bill.

My advice, come up with your own recipe remixes, and while I encourage you to not be afraid to make mistakes, I also admonish you to refrain from serving your family some foolishness because they'll never let you hear the end of it.

Good Luck!!



Side Note:
In the time between Turkey day and NYE I hope to bring #MeetTheHockers to this space and share a bit of my lovely family's holiday fun with you.

Until then... Let all the food brought forth be nourishing and not fattening and allow us to go out into the world and do good works.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

You Ain't Got the Answers

Show me the person that definitively knows what they want to be when they grow up and I'll show you a possible con-artist. Some of the most well rounded individuals that I know still have unfulfilled dreams. I think that's just part of life's quest, constantly redefining goals and seeking new levels of "making it".

This journey becomes more apparently the further away from 28  one ascends in life. One day, you're killin' it among people in your age bracket, you get the job, the house, the car and suddenly you're hit with a brand new wave of "you ain't shit...". 

Don't you just love self-doubt? 

Not only will it keep you up in the wee hours of the night just to put the finishing touches on any given project that you plan for others to see, it will also in the same swift kick to the inner thigh, make you tape your finger to the backspace button until there's no possible trace of the drivel that you just wrote. There's no way that there's such thing as a well adjusted 30 something, not with all the pressure to succeed in your career, be in a solid committed relationship and at least be actively working on developing a family; while also starting a business and finishing a graduate degree. 

Who the hell is walking around with that much time and getting it all right? 

I'm convinced the whole thing is a scam by the credit card companies to make you think that your crap furniture from Ikea and the Thrift Store isn't adequate for "Entertaining" and in order to be the best host possible and not be seen as a social pariah, one MUST invest in the latest, cutlery, appliances, furniture and wall decor. I remember my couch from when I was 23 and damn it I miss it. Granted it was not a cheap couch, but I paid cash for it because I was enlisted military balling and could afford to spend my entire half-month salary on things because when it got bad enough I could go buy groceries tax-free. 

I'm just saying. People like to post crap online and make you think that you're sucking at life and that you need to kick it all up to 1000, but the truth of the matter is, nobody out here knows what the hell they are doing. We all hate where our careers have taken us, unless we're actually actively fulfilling all of our dreams, it boils down to.... Everybody is trying to DO BETTER.

 So perhaps that's enough encouragement to help take the pressure off. I hope it lets you feel like you can breathe long enough to just keep going and not worry about what's happening in anyone else's race.

If not, here's a shot... it's OK to not have all the answers. 


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hello... it's M.E.

Many of you know me from my hair blog www.OohMyHair.com , and some of you may have been reading my work since that fateful summer in 2008 when I first began to blog about my life justmarri.blogspot.com .

 Well I'm all grown up and lots of things are different now, from who I'm with to what I'm doing for a living. I have created this space to be my hideaway much like my first blog that I'm surprised to find that people are still reading.

Let me set the proper expectations:

First off, I'm finishing my MBA (August 2016) so there may be some times that I just can't post on a schedule, but if I'm gone for a long time I will come back with a recap.

Secondly, I'm exploring entrepreneurship again and I hope to share some things that I pick up along the way. While this blog is not about business... let's face it, we're talking about M.E. and EVERYTHING is about business so it is my desire to bring you some helpful hints amidst the rest of my posts.

Thirdly, I enjoy reading and writing as my primary form of communication so I expect comments, I welcome them and most of all I appreciate them. So keep them coming. That's what pushes me to continue to write.

Fourth and Final Point, I'm putting my life out here. I am a black, female, Veteran (US Navy) MBA candidate Nerd; with a dog, male domestic partner, an affinity for hair, fashion and writing about smut... and my name is Margaret Ellen. I have yet to live out a full boring day as many of you have come to learn, but to my brand new readers... I love the fact that despite the many labels that can be applied to my life, I live outside of expectations. I have been blessed with a name and nickname that affords some pretty interesting reactions and interactions and I hope to share this journey that is my crazy life.