Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More September Woes

I'm trying to remember what started this whirlwind of drama this month and I couldn't even begin to tell you. I'll just say that I'm awful glad that this month is more than half over. I was reading a friend's blog yesterday and she described a beautiful city scene...one that made me go out today and take a look at Baltimore with new eyes. I was appreciating the rush, the individuality, the candor. I was falling in love with what I enjoy about city living all over again. And then I was reminded of the other side of life in the heart of the city...just that quickly.

Today was hectic from the very beginning. I came into work thinking that I was making a trip to Philadelphia to have one of my newer borrowers sign paperwork. We can always send fedex, but my manager believes that when you sit down with a borrower and they can put a face to a name, it gives them a reason to send you referrals. And so far, he has been absolutely right. So, for the cause - I was driving to Philly. But then he canceled because of a "supposed" dentist appointment. Sometime between a coworker of mine passing out, the ambulance arriving, my borrower calling back to say he canceled his dentist appointment so please still come and the phone calls and faxes - I knew the day was taking me places that I wasn't quite sure I was ready for.

Now I have to go back to Sunday for a moment. My family and bff were watching the Colts pull a win over the Titans when this random man just looked in my living room window and asked for someone named Charles???? Seriously??? Who is Charles? I've lived on the block for going on two years now and never met a Charles. And since when did knocking on the door become obsolete? Regardless, we went back to watching the game, but something about his presence at my window made me incredibly uneasy. I became increasingly more concerned as I watched him walk by the window four more times. Finally, my Uncle went to the front door to let him know with some finality that he had the wrong house and he needed to move it along. I was nervous.

The week before, I went to take the garbage out and the lock on my back wooden gate was just GONE? Not broken...not bent...GONE? HUH? Who takes locks? Whatever.

Two days ago my next door neighbor was changing his locks.

I left work and stopped by my house to change my clothes and pick up driving music, I was on my way to pick up my bff who was taking the trip with me. When I got to the door my Uncle told me that the office called. Surprise, surprise..Mr. Redwine canceled again. Seriously?? OK. I'm not driving to Philadelphia tomorrow. We are fedexing the paperwork, I'm completely done with that. Since I had some time on my hands and hand't technically eaten lunch I figured Takiyah and I could run downtown (ahh city living) and grab a quick bite before I went back to the office.

Unfortunately we realized when it was too late that Babalu's was a Cuban restaurant (Takiyah hates any food with Latin or Spanish influence...especially after our accident labor day weekend - go figure!) We made the best of it, just laughed at the pictures of Ricky Ricardo on the wall and the attempt at bread pudding. It was awful!! Walking back to the car the cell phone rang. Granny. Break-In. Police. Hurry Home. Seriously??

I got back to my house to find EVERYTHING in tact. Nothing missing, no one hurt. Apparently after I left to eat my grandmother and uncle left to run errands. The person asking for Charles had been staking out my house and my neighbors (yup those same neighbors) caught him and two of his cronies on my back porch trying to break into my house. People still burglarize? Like actually take things that don't belong to them? That is so early 90's! My Uncle defending the homefront found the guilty party and put a scare into him. I don't think they'll be coming back. But these same delirious three, had the nerve to walk back through the block after being LET GO by the police. That's right. I said LET GO. Apparently, an arrest can not be made unless they are caught INSIDE the house. So, I would have to walk downstairs mid robbery and risk my life in order for someone to be prosecuted. Cute. Once again, Baltimore's finest to the rescue!

I probably shouldn't be so smug. Nothing was taken and no one was hurt. But I am growing numb at this point. And I really am much to afraid to ask what else could go wrong?! I'm just going to be thankful that the Lord is my Shepard. I'm going to keep on believing that he has all things in his care. It seems that after I acknowledged that God is in control, he is doing all he can to test me to ensure that I won't change my mind. I won't. Whatever happens, I'm still alright. Still here to tell about it. And there's always a positive. At least my Uncle was here to help, I would've been scared to pieces to be in here all by myself tonight. But the fam is here and my neighbors were there to make lots of calls to the police in time. So thank you Lord that everything ended as safely as it did, I'm definitely NOT being ungrateful.

But still, I really could stand to have a boring October...Seriously.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Happy Trails...

Let me set the scene. It's labor day weekend, I'm not flat broke and me and my best friend have just won a pretty decent game of spades. I'm feeling pretty ok. There's a little bit of drama with the neighbors. Somebody had too much to drink and she done said something out the way to somebody else and it is FUNNY! 'Cause there is nothing wrong with a little bit of drama, as long as it's not MINE. I'm working out some of the question marks in my life, not with lightening speed, but I'm seeing the gray of the silver lining. Not too much more one can ask for right about now. And then....

Just when I think I'm doing really well. I'm looking and listening and maybe doing a really great job of figuring out some of the life lessons that the Lord is trying to teach me, this happens. I am so NOT ready for this. Anything but this. I mean, I really do deserve a break here. A lot has been going on and I've been keeping my head up, not giving up, listening and learning, pushing forward..all the things that I'm supposed to be doing and THIS!!! SERIOUSLY!!! After everything else...are you sure God that you don't have me mixed up with the knucklehead across the street?

We're sitting at a red light on my way to drop my bff off...in Coors (her Silver Infinit I35 - yes it's sweet), see I'm keeping the car tonight..carpooling...isn't it wonderful. And I would love to tell you that we're carpooling to save money on gas because we are just that economically conscience but the truth is we're carpooling because Hope (my indigo blue Passat) is sitting in a garage in Rockville waiting for me to finish paying for the new ENGINE it needs and Coors is my designated ride these days. So, all things considered - the state of the industry, the state of my car, and the state of my savings, I am doing all I can to stay festive. Back to the story.

We are sitting at a red light when I hear this screeching noise that sent my neighbors (still in mid drama) running around the corner to our red light. Takiyah saw it before I did because she was driving and the vehicle approached on her side. Before we could do anything about it a dark blue pick up truck was sitting on top of our bumper. We realized too late obviously that the truck had zoomed around the corner ran into the car in front of us and not taking his foot off the gas crashed into us second. Lovely. I looked over at her and realizing that she wasn't hurt got completely pissed. We slowly got out of the car to figure out the state of the other drivers and our damaged machine-run babies. The drivers of the truck in front of us were shaken, but ok. Immediately and at the same time all of our attention turned to the reckless driver of the truck still sitting basically on top of our bumper. The front of the truck was leaking fluid (I'm not even gonna pretend to know which one) and my initial fear was to back up because his truck might blow (I know too much tv). But as I looked harder in the driver's side window at the driver it became all too clear that he was HEAVILY intoxicated. This man was RIDICULOUSLY INEBRIATED..DRUNK beyond measure and I would be all too surprised if he even spoke Engligh. Not to mention his use of an out of state tag strongly indicated that his extended stay in the US was probably not very legal.

He started to turn the key in the ignition to get the car to start, but his engine sputtered and spattered with no luck. He put his head down and then tried again with all his might. I looked at Takiyah confused at why he was so bent on starting the engine, it hadn't yet dawned on me that he was attempting a getaway. As he lowered his head and arm I backed away not sure what he was reaching for and not wanting to find out. I backed up and his engine started, he backed up and sped off. Sped off with one tire almost completely on it's side. As we speechlessly watched him bend the corner we all just looked at one another amazed, like we needed the expressions on the other faces to confirm for us that the craziness that our eyes had just seen was not a deceptive trick. My neighbors came running around the corner to make sure that we were alright and then handed us a cell phone to call the police.

Now. I would love to tell you that we were so concerned for each other's safety and happy to be alive that the last thing on our minds were the vehicles. I would love to tell you that I was Christian enough for my first sentence to be..." Thank God no one was hurt..."...nope. My first sentence was something like..."*&^%...a hit and run...SERIOUSLY!!!!". I was completely angry, not grateful, ANGRY. This is the only car that WE have right now and money had just been put into the car for a previous crisis. We didn't have money for this...RIGHT NOW??? We begrudgingly waited the hour for Baltimore's finest to come take the report as I recited the tag number over and over in my mind. I was upset, but I was no dummy. Your girl was of course smart enough to catch the tag number as he sped away. THAT DRUNK MEXICAN WAS GOING DOWN!!!!

Always the optimist, I had hope. I just knew that once the BCPD arrived, everything would be straightened out. I would give them the tag number and they would speed away to find the injured vehicle that obviously couldn't have gotten far so that we would have our justice. Wrapped up and tied with a bow, just like that. Even having watched a few episodes of The Wire I was still naively convinced that officers of the law would pat me on the shoulder for my "detective instincts" and adamantly pursue an arrest. HA!!

The officer arrived, scribbled a report, told us more than likely NOT to expect the driver to be found and basically sent us on our way. And that's it. That was our justice. SERIOUSLY!!

My reason for telling this story tonight is a little different. You see I am the queen of happy trails, outcomes or lessons that make the experience worthwhile. Not always welcome, just eventually tolerable. This happened last Saturday night and I didn't share then because I was waiting for my lesson. I figured, I have been through SOOO much else, this must have an incredibly deep and spiritual meaning, I just have to wait for it. I waited - no meaning, no lesson. I'm at a loss. I was sure that there was something deeper. I have to be missing something. Am I just ungrateful? Should the lesson be, "Life is short don't take it for granted.." or "Friends don't let friends drive drunk.."...or....what.. I don't get it this time. I guess I just have to wait. Or maybe sometimes life just SUCKS...

Nevertheless, the only happy trail that I have tonight is to the dark blue pick-up truck with Kansas tag XRU 636 who will more than likely never be caught. And that just really sucks.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Are you there God, It's Me...

I had the privilege of reading someone else's blog yesterday. Perusing her thoughts and experiencing life through her eyes. It was such a refreshing reminder that our journey is not one that was meant for us to experience alone. As I read her confessions I realized that at some point I had felt the emotions she was writing about and a lot of them were feelings and ideas that I was experiencing in my present.

Having my own issues and questions about how this thing called life is supposed to go is difficult sometimes. It's a good reminder that there are others who strive for greatness experiencing what we are. And it is even more rewarding to be reminded by someone else's hand of the mark of excellence that we strive for daily.

You see this week, I've been questiong AGAIN whether I am supposed to stick this mortgage slump out. It's been grueling and I think surely God does not want me to be this broke... And then I remember that when things were doing extremely well, I counted it a blessing to have found a career that was rewarding both monetarily and in seeing the fruits of my labor. So why then have I been doubting that this is not what I'm supposed to be doing. Surely, I knew when I began this journey that money could not be the sole benefit, because I was fully aware of the fluctuating income...feast or famine in this business. Sometimes a perk, sometimes a pain. I've been getting emails from friends who are moving on with their careers...some leaving the mortgage industry (even if temporarily) to find financial relief in the protection of a 9-5. And I've had mixed emotions. Sometimes thinking that it would be smart to jump ship, I'm still young..I could find something new and exciting and rewarding. But I'm not a quitter. I always end up feeling like I would ultimately be a failure for throwing away the almost 5 years that I've invested into this business. And I haven't come this far to give up now, declining subrpime market or not. So, there in lies my dilemma.

I've prayed and asked God to give me direction, to order my steps so that I am not foolishly staying in too long or hastily making a rash decision. I know where MY heart is, but I yearn to follow HIS heart..his perfect will for my life. While pondering what I think is the hugest and most urgent decision of my life, I am quietly reminded by the thoughts of others. That one, we are not in this alone and two, sometimes I need to be still and know that He is God. The answers I seek, he wishes for me to have. But after I pray I jump right up and expect I guess to be offered the next day an Exclusive Position with the United States Government that only I can fill with a ridiculously lucrative salary. RIGHT! Maybe I just need to be still and wait on the Lord. He will direct my path.

"time to not look back - to throw off any and everything that hinders and to run with all that I have toward that for which I have been created, called, and pre-destined.
time to chase the wind.

this storm... Jesus speaks and He says: Peace. Be still.
And there is stillness - even in motion. And there is peace, even in the knowledge of things to come."
-Finally Defined

When I read this yesterday I was comforted. Reminded by her words that our steps are ordained. That I need not be weary or faint, the Lord knows my heart and he will guide me in the direction that he wants me to take. Regardless of what is happening around me, of the jobs that others are taking or not, of the industry that economists say will take months to recuperate. I am privileged enough to have a Father who will ensure that I am ok. He promised me. I just have to believe in that promise.

I was reminded yesterday that we are all connected somehow, and God uses us as vessels to uplift each other. What a great responsibility we have to Him and to one another.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Secret

Last Saturday seemed as if it were going to be kind of regular..me working extra hard to get everything done before the new work week. I came into the office for a brief moment to make some calls, and received an unexpected but very welcome call from one of my best friends. When she started talking I could tell immediately that something wasn't right. After quick hello's, she told me that she had something to tell me. Her husband of over ten years had passed away unexpectedly. Only 36 years old and with a new lease on life, I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I listened to the first couple of sentences and then my mind went completely blank. It felt completely surreal as I listened to her, my mind immediately went back to the last time that I saw him (they threw a sleepover together for all their friends a couple of months back), and my heart ached.

I was there, I watched them grow. Watched them go through the ups and downs that couples do, but more importantly watched them decide as a couple to work things out and make it happen. I always told her that they were the perfect example of a young couple. She was patient with him while he got himself together, he was consistent with how much he loved her through the years. All of her friends knew that they would be together forever. It made no sense at all to me that he was gone, I thought God had made a mistake.

As I sat in the funeral on Thursday morning, I have to be honest, I was a little angry with God. I couldn't understand why my friend was going through this. She had already been so strong through so much, and here was a woman who had been determined to do the right thing. Someone who had been positive and persistent, I knew that Christel didn't deserve this. As I listened to Pastor Wilson tell everyone that Andre' had recently rededicated his life this past Easter my heart was lifted, because I knew he was in a better place but it did nothing really to ease what I was feeling for my friend. I watched her be strong for her family and even her friends, she pushed through even though I knew what she was feeling inside. I couldn't believe that God would allow someone so young to be taken. It made me feel hopeless and helpless and like building love or a life for that matter held no value.

After I woke up when I left the funeral, I sat on the side of my bed for a moment trying to get my emotions together. I bowed my head to say a prayer for Christel and her family and to ask for strength for myself, it seemed that I had lost my zest for a moment. And I knew that if I felt this drained that Christel's emotion was probably a thousand times more intense. I left my head bowed and thanked God for the gift of life, I thanked him for what Andre' had brought to Christel's life. I prayed that she would get to a point where cherishing those memories would not be painful for her. I remembered what my grandmother told me when I called to give her the news, she listened to me cry and then said, "We don't know what God has in store for Christel, it may not feel like it but God is still in control..." And although I didn't really process it when she said it, I knew sitting on the side of my bed on Thursday that it was so true.

It didn't feel right to me that Christel be a widow so young. It wasn't fair that Andre' didn't have a chance to live until a ripe old age of 90 or 100. It was bad timing when it seemed that everyone seemed to already be going through so much. I didn't understand God's judgement or timing or sensitivity. But I remembered that he doesn't give us more than we can bear. And it made me know that all of the struggles that I've had recently and the hardships that some of us have faced, they are only for a time. God is teaching me something and Christel something. We are learning first hand that it may not seem like it, but he is always in control, he and only he will see us through.

I was reading a book last week called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I saw it on Oprah (of course), and the book is basically a teaching that we are the masters of our own destinies. That we can think things into existence, we can literally will ourselves into a destiny of wealth and constant comfort. Although the book sounded good and it was easy and wonderful to believe, something was amiss. I wanted to believe that I could do it all on my own. Provide for myself like the book says, attract positive things into my life by thinking positve thoughts. It seemed to me that the author and all the doctors who had come together to write this book had simply attempted to rewrite the Bible leaving God out. They attempted to teach us that we were self-sufficient, a race who needed only be good to ourselves and the universe in order to prosper.

I know all too well however, not just from what I've read but from experience that I am not able to take care of myself. Even with job security and ambition, all of those things crumble to dust, if he simply speaks the words. We are nothing without God. He takes care of us better than we take care of ourselves. We need to worship him and be good to each other, not ourselves, in order to see him move in our lives. Self-sufficiency is important to teach but only really understood when we believe and acknowledge that it is only God who cares for us. Believe me I know that there is a God who provides for me, who looks after me and picks me up when I fall on my face. There is a God who breathes the breath of life into me every morning and gives me the opportunity of another day. A God who chooses when to give life and when to take it away. I am in control of nothing, I can only trust that God will see me through. And we can only trust that God had his reason for bringing Andre' home.

So you see, I know the secret already. It was written long before this book ever surfaced. I don't need philosophers and free thinkers to tell me what I know from experiece to be true. The real secret is that God is in control.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Living Space

I know its gonna sound like I'm talking about work and in a way I am, but I'm really not. I promise I have a bigger point. I was watching Oprah the other day and she had guests on the show who live in what most would consider extremely small spaces. She had her main man Nathan on the show helping people open up their tiny spaces. There were of course your Manhattan renters who pay lots of dough to stay in studios and those who have chosen the life of the village to raise a family. Even those who moved to smaller spaces so that they weren't living "house poor". But the man that caught my attention was a man who lived in a house that was literally no bigger than a room. He paid no mortgage and had very few other expenses. He said that he chose to live in that small house so that he could have fewer bills and really use the money that he did make to ENJOY LIFE. That statement really got me thinking, since when did the number of square feet you owned determine your quality of life?

Oprah as well as the others seemed extremely captivated with those who were much more concerned with living than how big their living spaces were. It seems today people are more impressed with how large your house is, what seems to be forgotten is that in most cases with a large house comes a large mortgage. I am not saying that is wrong to live in a big open space with lavish furniture, remarkably high cathedral ceilings and tubs and closets the size of rooms. But do we really need these things? And can we really afford them? I realized that while there are a vast majority who determine wealth with how much stuff you can accumulate there are the wiser few who remember that the more you concentrate on what you have it only leaves little time for you to develop and enjoy who you are.

As you look at these large houses with grand pianos that collect dust, and furniture that people arent allowed to sit on it makes you think are people really ENJOYING these homes. I work in an industry that is supposed to help people purchase homes. But often I come across single parents who have worked on a job for 10 years with steady incomes and decent savings and are still unfortunately not able to afford to purchase a house on their own. Houses appreciated at almost 17-25% a couple of years ago. Someone could buy a house for 150,000 and in six months when they were ready to refi the house would appraise for 225,000. That is insane!! I thought to myself when is this going to backfire. When are we going to pay for all this rapid growth? And now, now the subprime market has practically deteriorated. The guidelines that lenders are changing are becoming more strict by the day and programs are being cut so that only those with healthy incomes and strong credit scores have the luxury of home ownership.

All things ebb and flow. While we enjoyed an extreme growth in the mortgage industry over the last 4 years it is now time for the market to slow down and catch up with itself (if you will). Its time for a house to be worth pretty close to what you bought it for six months earlier. Time for those who have only been on a job for 6 months to get a little more stability before they are eligible for homeownership. Unfortunately, we have experienced more foreclosure recently than in years previous put together. And the real estate market directly affects our job market and economy as a whole. While I know things are looking bleak, I know that it will clear itself up. I know that things will turn around.

It is extremely important to have a home for your family. But isnt it more important to have one that we can afford? The biggest doesnt always mean the best. When we go to the market do we look for the food that is in our budget. HMMM I know I can get those crackers for 1.50 but my income says I can afford 3.00 so I'm gonna pay double. Thats absurd, most of us look for the lowest price. Its the same thing with a house. Get the most for your dollar. Really research the amount of space that you'll need and dont pay for extra space. Trust me I had to learn that the hardway. I was in a house where I was only using two of the rooms, never went in the basement and was hardly ever downstairs. And finally I thought, why am I paying for all this extra space...for who, Jinxi. My cat has the biggest playground ever. And I could be saving myself so much money. So Welcome Granny, Darren and Dakota. Nice to have you share my space.

Get a house that suits your needs. One that fits your family and your lifestyle comfortably. And make it yours. Decorate it so that it says so much about your family unit and about who you are. And use your extra money to really live. Not in the house. Go places. Outside. Do things, things that cost money. Enjoy your life. Wordly possessions are just that, wordly possessions, yes even the house.


See: http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bal-te.bz.mortgage07aug07,0,7864476.story

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My favorite quote

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortune of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding the way it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. - Max Ehrmann, 1927

I keep a list of some of my favorite quotes, its fun to go back and peruse through the wise one-liners that give timeless advice. One of my absolute favorites however is certainly not a one liner. The first time I read this quote I was in high school, and although I appreciated the way it read, ya know the beautiful language and the make sense truths about life, I didn't really see it for it's wisdom. For instance..."Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans..." when you are seventeen plans are many and achievements are few. I understood but didn't really know the beauty of making sure the journey is as enjoyable as the end result.

I hadn't thought about this quote for years and then recently I came across it again. When I read it again this time I was overwhelmed at how much valuable information is in this one paragraph. I said to myself, if you could tell your child how to live their life in a paragraph...wouldn't this be what you would read to them. Make them memorize. If I had followed just a few of these lines over the course of my life, I would've certainly created simpler paths for myself.

It inadvertently makes me think of all the mistakes that I've made. Mistakes that could have been avoided, people that I've hurt and things that I have said and done that were not a representation of the person that I have become. There have surely been fears and insecurities over the years that have developed in my own heart from fatigue and loneliness. Max reminds us however, that at the end of the day we have all made mistakes, so ...."beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself...." because if I can't forgive me, then no one can. And despite my mistakes, I have been blessed with a wondeful life and an amazing select few who see past my faults and choose to know me and love me for who I am. That is priceless.

It's also very interesting that although this quote is from 1927 it still speaks to many of us today. I guess it's true that history repeats itself, the values that held steadfast then are the same ones that we embrace today. This quote is uplifting, it gives me hope. Even when things are not exactly where I want them to be, I remember that it is still a beautiful world, and I am still happy to be in it. So I will remain cheerful and continue to be happy.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Girlfriends...

As we all watched Joan finally get her man, FINALLY, I think women everywhere were saddened by the ending that we all knew came far too soon. As happy as I was for Joan, I was disappointed that the finale didn't embody the true essence of what the show really meant to so many of us - The importance of sisterhood. The female bond. The friendship between a woman and her girls.

Much as we like Monica and the new flare that she adds, we all know that its just not quite the same without trifelin' Toni Childs. And yes, we were all FED UP with Joan's new uppity attitude when Toni was going through the whole custody battle and we knew that it was high time that Joan messed up since Toni had messed up SOOOO many times before...but didn't we all expect them to become friends again. I mean no one truly thought that it would remain like this...seasons later and Toni is STILL in NY....it's impossible. Joan will NOT be a part of Morgan's life...REALLY!!! I just knew that after a few episodes w/out her they would bring Toni back for a teary reunion show that would remind us all that no matter how much our friends mess up, they are still our GIRLS...

There's the code, you know sisterhood is blood..and blood is thicker than EVERYTHING. And yes, there are things that we in the real world say are unforgivable...like the age old "she slept with my man"...but Toni and Joan were even able to reconcile that situation. Amazing. We didn't think there was anything that their relationship couldn't make it through.

I didn't realize just how many women were rooting for Mya, Lynn, Joan and Toni. They were a group of friends that we all somehow could relate to. We all have a friend that reminds us of one of them, and we see so much of ourselves in another one. I realized not too long ago how many of my own friends love the show. Watching these women become each other's life lines was what made me and a lot of other appreciative women tune in (or tivo, should one be working late) every Monday night.

I was on the phone with two really good friends last week and while we caught up my friend Kris made a statement that we all know to be true (And Kelsey you can use this one in the reunion show)... We are all extremely independent and have rigorous schedules, but we have reached an understanding, a simple truth in our hearts that no matter the distance or time between us we remain close. And that is so true...when I think of my invaluable group of friends, the list of my ace chicks are not ones that I talk to everyday. They are strong women who have been there for me during one point in my life or another. Women that I could look to for advice, assistance, support or just to throw one back with. Women with shoulders of steel.

The point is we all know the extreme pricelessness of our girlfriends...how much we love them, need them, depend on them. Even if it's just to tell them a "girl, guess what happened...." story, your day seems brighter after you've had your dose of sisterhood. The forwards you get from them at work (Tenille), the phone calls when they are on their way home to pick up the baby (Cheryl), the emails of the upcoming shopping trips (Christel). The scriptures on your email (Contessa), the hey girl what're we doing this weekend (Crystal), the pics of the cutest nephew on the planet from the other side of the world (Ruthi). The ones who will give up t-shirts and their own bed when you come for a surprise visit (Kelli). The ones who you don't make a move unless you call them first (Takiyah). All of these are time-dated proof positives of the love that I share with my friends.

Like Toni and Joan, there are some of us that don't make it all the way through life's journey on the same path. There were still memories and lessons learned that no disagreement can ever take from us. The meaning and the importance of the bond that we shared at one point as friends is still essential, whether we are still thick as thieves or can't stand to be near one another. Whether we cross the finish line at the same point or miles apart, the fact that you've helped me through and I you at one point or another is still a valid reason as to why were both able to cross.

To all MY Girlfriends, my sisters, my friends, past and present, thank you for seeing me through. Thank you for the voicemail, the emails, the blogs, the texts and the stories of humanity and heroism. The smiles, the tears and everything else we have shared. My life wouldn't be the same without you all and I hope I have touched you ladies too. If I mentioned you or if I didn't, you spirited females are my circle. My support group, my AA cohorts and my celebrity gossip columnists. You never cease to amaze me with what you've accomplished, the kids that you make, the wonderful mates you choose and the strength that you all possess. I am a better woman having called you friend. All of you. Thanks for being my Girlfriends.

And Kelsey please bring Toni back for the final reconciliation, you have a million women who would love a happy ending with the WHOLE CREW....just a suggestion...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Best Me

As most of you know my birthday was last Sunday June 10th and I crossed that "nother year" mark hopefully with a clearer head and goals that are closer to obtainable. I have long ago decided that 30 was the year that was going to mark my real START of living. I had a conversation with a very close confidante of mine who confirmed that the 20's are the decade of profundity (yes, I had to look it up too..even after figuring out the root word, thanks to 6th and 7th grade Latin with Mr. Beretta) and once you make all the foolish mistakes that you are prone to make, then you will really start living in the 30's. (so thank you Candace, that really hit home with me, after all these years it still resonates in my spirit).

After that revelation however, ironically, I decided to go on vacation. Let me start from the beginning. Those that I've kept in close contact with me know that I constantly say that I'm working. And I fear that people think that I say that because I don't want to really discuss the "other" things going on in my life. (haha as if there are OTHER things going on in my life right now)...and THAT my friend, is the problem. If and when I have contact with friends or family members that I haven't seen in quite a while they ask the age old "what have you been up to" and the quickest and most truthful response that I can muster is...WORK.

And its the truth. I have been working from 10 am to 8 or 9 pm for about 4 months straight now. And although I know it will pay off and I know that it's time to work hard...sometimes I feel like I'm losing the rest of me. My career is something that is extremely important to me...I don't want to lose out on family (close relationships) or interests or hobbies that I haven't pursued yet..(cooking classes, I always said that I would get my great-grandmother to teach me how to knit and I want to take up the guitar/piano and Italian and maybe go scuba diving)...Or lose out on places that I'd like to go because I spend my whole life working. It is indeed respectable work and work that makes me feel like an integral part of society, but it's work none the less. I want to be a well-rounded me. Someone who has the opportunity to LIVE, not just work.

So when I decided to take this vacation it was a big decision, it was spontaneous but also well thought out. It was the first break I'd had in a VERY LONG TIME. Not only was it well deserved but it was timely. I'm glad that I took a moment to step back and remember the other things that were important to me. And when I speak of the best me, sure it means the loan officer that closes the most loans and the one who is the most consistent but it also means being the happiest me. The me who can be even more supportive to those who have been good to me. The me who wants to adopt a kid and move to a bigger city (DC, I have wanted to relocate there for a while now and explore that gorgeous and historic city) and buy a small vacation home not too far from there. The best me is smart and decisive, frugal and consistent, supportive and altruistic. I needed that break to recognize ALL my goals. Even the ones that get hidden sometimes in the long work hours.

I guess my message tonight is whatever you imagined that you could do, you STILL CAN. I turned 28 and I decided that I'm not waiting for 30 to live. 30 has always the been that magic number for me. The year when I REALLY LIVE (whatever that means)...as if I'm not living now. I'm gonna do whatever it takes today to move my life forward, whether it be a vacation, or signing up for culinary school (not because I can't cook, but because I enjoy it when I actually have time to do it) or actually filling out the adoption application or paying off those last few student loans on my credit report that need to be taken care of. I am ready TO LIVE. TODAY. AT 28. I'm ready to be THE BEST ME.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Personal Rules...

Ok, so I've apparently been tagged by one of my fellow bloggies and it is now my job to list the things that make me tick. I have been thinking long and hard about these things since yesterday morning and I've found that as easy going as I thought I was there really are a lot of things that seriously get on my nerves. I have selected the ones that I can share:

1. While taking care of my pertinent BI, I absolutely hate to be asked to hold for more than two minutes. If the automated voice tells me that I'll hold any longer than that I consider it an insult to my time....which I already have very little of. Wouldn't it instead be much nicer to advise the caller that the lines are extremely busy and it may be beneficial to call back at a later date...or assign certain accounts to cerain reps so that I always have someone to reach directly. I don't mind leaving a message, that rep can then just return my call after they have resolved my issue.

2. When going out for a cocktail I think it extremely rude to be handed a glass without the option of a straw...even if the beverage is a brew. Have you ever seen how they "wash" dishes in a restaurant, especially at the bar...the tender simply dumps the glasses in soapy water and then dumps them again in warm water. Not hardly what I would consider clean.

3. Because I work with borrowers all over the country it is very important that I am accessible by phone most all times so that my clients can reach me. With that being said, when I make a phone appointment, it is exactly that, an appointment. Nothing enrages me more than taking a lengthy application from someone who really does need a loan and then go back to call them to talk about numbers and they have decided to either be late for our conversation or simply skip it altogether. It takes diligence and research to find the necessary products and programs for those interested in refinancing or buying homes. If I make it my business to do the research FOR YOU, then please make it yours to keep the appointment.

4. Belching is only a compliment in China. Please don't burp at my American table without excusing yourself.

5. Powertrippers are at the absolute bottom of the totem pole.

6. Making out in public is so unnecessary...ever heard of the term "behind closed doors"..and can you please tell me why holding hands is not affection enough. I believe that those who do all that heavy showing off in public have the absolute dryest sex lives in private. It's true.

7. If you own a business it does not give your children free reign to run through the establishment as though they are home. I wish my nail lady read this. PROFESSIONALISM, is it dead people?

8. Music, like food, is a matter of preference not cultural loyalty. If an artist and I have the same skin color, it does not require me to buy his album.

9. Extremely long fingernails went out with SWV.

10. I absolutely do love my elders but I am a firm believer that they should only drive between the hours of 10am and 2pm. I am not about to quote an age limit but if the only errands that you have are the pharmacy and the grocery store...then please do that while I'm at work so that I dont have to drive behind you as you take the scenic route on the highway after I've been working all day. And I say that with the utmost respect.

And Finally, Barnes and Noble is a haven. Kids, please wait for the movie to start someplace else, like maybe the arcade or the ice cream parlor. Since when did middle school kids start drinking Mocha Frapaccino. And College Kids, buy your textbooks and keep it moving...its not a hang out. You've taken over everywhere else. I am putting a flag up at the book store....this one belongs to the adults. (Not that I don't encourage youngsters to read...just can you go to the library??)

Wow that felt good. I'll stop here, but the funny thing is I really could go on. I'm a very positive person, but this really has started the wheels turning.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Wild Fire

I am reading the newest book by Nelson DeMille called Wild Fire. I really enjoy his books for a variety of reasons. I initially became hooked with one of his earlier books titled Night Fall. Even though a slower read, it was food for thought in the area of politics and government organizations. Wild Fire is a brilliant read about an ATTF detective and his special agent wife who are hot on the trail of an extremely right wing social group of businessman/former US soldiers who have their own ideas about how to end the reign of terror by certain Islamic Groups.

This book made me remember the anxiety that I acquired in my younger years around Russians in grade school. Of course at the time I didn't realize that my nervousness around them was a direct result of negative media attention due to the Cold War and all the talk back in the 80's about Russians possessing nuclear weapons. Some over-zealous anchor had me convinced that I needed to be extremely fearful of these people who were the first foreign faces of doom to my family and country that I had been exposed to. I don't at all mean to make it sound as if the fear was not warranted. The threat was real. As far as we as a country knew, we were in danger of being nuked. A term that has come to mean so much more than "microwaved".

It dawned on me halfway through this book that the same thing may be happening to a new generation as a result of 9/11. Although nothing physically happened during the Cold War, the fear that these threats invoke is real whether the danger has been manifested or not. Whether tragedy concludes or escapes, the fear is present regardless.

As the author made jokes about the inhabitants of "sandland", and expressed a certain disdain for their culture and beliefs, I wondered if it was ever possible for us to rid ourselves of prejudice with such strong indication from our media and society that these fears are not only accepted, but expected.

It seems every generation has a new face of fear. Our government officials, in an effort to keep us safe I'm sure, have allowed the American people to grow suspicious of anyone who doesn't look "American" by birth. And although "American" has grown to incorporate a lot of ethnic backgrounds, we are now refusing to accept those of Middle Eastern descent.
Christ teaches us to love one another. Point Blank. The Bible doesn't include a passage stating that you can choose NOT to love those whom you BELIEVE may cause you harm due to crimes that people of their same origin have committed. If LOVE was conditional that way, no race, or human for that matter would qualify.

I am not saying not to be careful of those that we believe may cause us harm, I am saying, that we should give all people the same respect. That skin color should not be an excuse to ignore, belittle or avoid. As African Americans many of us know what it is like to be expected to be something, or not, because of the color of our skin. Not smart, a good athlete, someone who can't speak articulately or write eloquently. We have all been stereotyped, no matter what color. Whether the stereotype suggest that we be ignorant or dangerous simply by outer appearance, it is usually inaccurate. They help to mislead others into judging us or believing that we are something that we have not PROVEN ourselves to be.

So let's choose to love by proving to our politicians, media and most importantly children that we refuse to fear or judge someone based solely on the color of their skin. I am in NO WAY belittling September 11th and those who lost their lives in that tragic event. I am simply stating that it would have been a tragedy regardless of whether the monsters were Black, White, Hispanic or Middle Eastern. A crime is a crime. Every race commits them and during certain periods of history some people of some races more than others.

I am also in no way suggesting that our officials should not use EVERY METHOD POSSIBLE to keep us safe, just mentioning that by keeping tabs of what race commits the most crimes against humanity we doom ourselves to fear one another indefinitely.

So for those of us who have an understanding of what LOVE should be, let us be an example through our everyday living that we can inter racially coexist. Not an easy task, but one that I hope will be accomplished in my lifetime.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Insanity

I've heard now on more than one occasion that the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different outcome. And while I see how that makes perfect sense I at times believe that this goes directly against the age old...if at first you dont succeed try, try again. Something I was spoon fed in school at home and in church.

Maybe I shouldn't be confused by these contradictory statements. Becoming an adult has meant practicing and deciphering when these simple truths should take precedence in my life. I should know as a grown woman when I should give something a little more effort and when I need to learn to let go. I'll be the first to admit however, that this is a lesson that I not only struggle with, but sometimes dread. I have come to appreciate constants in my life. My career, my core group of friends, my love. However, it has become imperative for me to learn that change is not only necessary, it is required.

In order to grow into the woman that I know God wants me to be, I have to allow myself to change. And the relationships that I make constant need to be with people who allow me to be someone who has the flexibility to grow. I don't mean that the core of you should change, but actions, behaviors, people and places are all quite naturally and sometimes easily outgrown. We hold on to these things and try to make them constants instead of accepting that they may not be ours to keep.

So while I do believe it imperative to never give up on your loved ones or your dreams, know when you are driving yourself insane. Don't be afraid to be the part of the equation that changes. You may be surprised at how tweeking something as small as your own attitude can result in exactly the outcome you were aiming for.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Family... Immediate or Not... is Still Family

I think this is a pretty strange first blog to have. I know people normally start with an overview like "this is my first time blogging..." or "I dont usually do this but thought it might be fun...". All things considered, I figured the easiest way to jump into this blogging thing was to frankly write exactly what was on my mind. I have been inspired by a friend of mine that I havent seen in a very long time and I decided the easiest way to share my thoughts....is to share my thoughts. So here goes....

I chose family today as a topic because it's a touchy one for me. I'm not talking about the family that you choose yourself, I'm talking about the ones that you stay away from on purpose and then talk to for a couple of months...and then stay away from again cause they made you mad... Yeah those people...

While "myspacing" recently, (don't you love how that's become a verb), I got an interesting message from a cousin that I havent seen or talked to since I was a kid. Actually we've only met once in our entire lives. But the message explained that she would be surprised if I remembered her (but we live states away and never really knew one another). She had already reached out to some of my other cousins that live less than 15 minutes away from me and truthfully knew more about whats been going on in their lives than I did. She asked me for information about other family members and seemed excited to be in touch. As I responded back to her I was really impressed and happy that she reached out to me, it made me remember that I have the same blood running through my veins with more people than just mom, dad, brothers and grandma. I have connections with family that I dont often see or think about. And I thought what a tragedy it would be to let any more of our lives go by and not share with each other what we have learned and loved.

I have always been unfortunately quick to say that I'm not very close with a lot of the members of my family. But my cousin from South Carolina made me realize that firstly, I have more family members than the ones I'm not close with, and secondly, if we're not close I may be a part of that problem.

So to the family that I don't see as often as I should and the family that I dont necessarily get along with, we're still family. Whether we like it or not. So I love you all very much, whether you want to hear it or not. It is very much true. Some family members may find it more amicable to speak through email than to actually visit. But regardless, we are family and we'll always be.

So Uncle William, thanks for coming by .... you know just to stop by. You made me feel special and loved.
And Aaron, regardless of what we have been through, I am your sister and I love you and your family. And I'll do whatever I need to do to make it right. I was wrong.
Dad, thanks for being my Dad. Whether you knew how to or not. We dont come with instructions and I love you for always loving me.
Alexandria, whether we speak or not, I'm still your sister and you cant stop me from loving you.
Aunt Doris, thank you for calling to pray with me. No matter where I am or what I'm doing I gladly stop to hear you admonish me with love. You make me remeber that God doesn't stop loving me when I mess up.

And Granny, no words can ever express how much you mean to me. You have done more for me, than I think I've done for myself and I love you. I've told you before and I'll tell you again, I love you and dont give up on me...cause one day I'm gonna hit it really BIG, and you're gonna live your older years like Oprah!!!! Ok, well maybe not that big...but you get what I'm saying.

So .... Jordana this is dedicated to you, I love you and thank you for making me remember the importance of family ..... Near and Far.