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Update: Brand NEW Posts Coming Soon!!!!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Haters?





At least once a week someone posts something on my newsfeed about "haters". These people passive aggressively refereed to as haters (I say passive aggressively because haters are often invisible entities never called by their real names and identified exclusively by their alleged behavior) are often plotting against others, putting up road blocks to deter a person's success, being harsh and critical, acting jealous or envious of another person, or simply disagreeing with someone's positions or opinions. Committing any of these transgressions could have a person labeled a hater--and in many instances rightfully so.

But it is the last descriptions of a hater that I want to zoom in on: disagreeing with a
I think it's psychotic to think that people are siting
around  waiting for you to fail.
person's opinions. I once had a disagreement with someone who I used to be friends with. She had made a benign comment about something as silly as a hairstyle and I commented that I disagreed with her. Immediately she posted that I was a hater, that she has grown and evolved since the last time we communicated and that my positions were irrelevant. When I commented that I thought she was a wonderful and creative person, but that I disagreed with her present opinion--not her as a person, she wrote a nasty post in response indicating that if anyone dared to contradict her he/she would be deleted. The situation escalated fast and I soon realized that I wasn't going to gain any ground with her. The point my old friend missed and that so many other do as well is that it is wholly possible to not like something someone is doing, to not like a view point or ideology they hold to, and still genuinely love the person.

But our society has dichoomized things that do not need to be mutually exclusive. Disagreeing with homosexual marriage automatically makes you a homophobe,  believing that black lives matter somehow means that police lives do not, suggesting that you do not agree with a certain war indicates that you are against our troops, conceding to a pro-choice argument means that you are pro-death/pro-abortion and on and on and on. But this madness is completely illogical and I think we all intuitively know it; yet it is easy to become overzealous when we want to prove our point. It is also easier to label someone a hater (or any other bad word) than to appreciate a difference of opinion.

Like for real, for real. 
Yes, there are really people out there whose goals are ultimately to derails us from living up to our full potential, and we should rightfully be wary of those individuals. BUT not everyone is out to get you. My way of love is to sometimes present hard truths to people who desperately need to hear them. But if you are my girl and I see you about to fall into a hole and I stand on the sidelines and do nothing, am I really your friend? If I see someone taking a road I once took that led to misery and emptiness and I relay my experience in the hope that he chooses another road that's NOT hate. The fact is that some people aren't haters at all, they simply hold a mirror up to allow you to see some mistakes you are making, a wrong path you are going down, etc. This isn't judgmental. In my eyes being judgmental is standing back idly and criticizing others without any real intention of helping them.That's not love. Suggesting that if a person makes choice A there are going to be consequences and not wanting the person to face those consequences changes the motivation. The intention--love or harm separates the "hater" from the friend. The willingness to stand by and pick up a person even if they reject your advice changes the nature of the disagreement to one based on love and not hate or judgment.

 I hurt for folk who don't appreciate wise counsel. I feel sorry for people who too quickly hurl out epithets like "hater" to dissuade anyone from disagreeing with them. And I pity people who cannot evaluate a hard truth--or consider an unflattering picture of themselves. These people let ego and pride trump truth and lose people who care about them in the process. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Number 1 Reason I Fear Marriage




I'm a single 30 year old female so it is expected that I be obsessed with all things marriage-related. I'm supposed to be planning my wedding even though there is not spouse in sight, choosing my wedding dress, and fantasizing about my groom, but, contrary to social norms, I don't do any of that. In fact, I have (sometimes) consciously and unconscionably spent my entire life trying NOT to think about marriage. The simple reason is that marriage scares the compete heck out of me!

Let me acknowledge that there are a thousand reasons I am single which fall into any of the following categories. 1) Relationships are a numbers game. Live in a space where the numbers are better for you and you win the game. Otherwise you lose. 2) The complete dearth of quality men. 3) I'm a commitment-phobe. Reason three is the one I choose to zoom in on in this post.

One of my optimistic friends called me right after I had attended my cousin's wedding. Naturally the topic of marriage came up. I expressed to him that I did not like marriage because it concentrated on two recurring themes: unconditional love and the concept of forever. I've been on roller coasters before. Everyone knows that the time to make a decision NOT to ride is before you even get on. Once the bars are locked and the train starts making its nerve-wrecking assent up its steep incline, any second thoughts are irrelevant. You have no choice now except to stay on for the rest of the ride. I often view marriage this way. Sure some aspects of it seem fun, but once you are strapped in, and the assent is steeper then it looked when you were merely peering at it from the safety of the ground, there's not a lot you can do but ride it out. You've reached the point of no return. 





And marriage is truly the point of no return. Unconditional love says that no matter what this person does, or who he becomes, or how he treats me I will remain by his side. This idea--as romantic as it might sound, promises that you will love this person not as he is now, but for who he may become in the future. That's scary stuff! So even if this sweet, mild-mannered man morphs into a drug obsessed, pornography addicted, unemployed loser you will still love him. Or more extreme if your tall dark and handsome man gains 300lbs and hoard cats like those people you see on reality shows, you will stay by his side. Or if he beats you and gamble away your savings, or uses your toothbrush, or suddenly refuses to practice basic hygiene, and farts the alphabet in public, you stay and endure. This thought disturbs me because we don't know what we will become. Our ability to predict the future is about as accurate as our ability to select a good mate. The man who shot up those marines a few months ago may have been a real swell guy at one point, we don't know, but one way or another things happened and he ended up a homicidal whack job. With all this uncertainty we stand before God and family and pledge unfailing love to a fallible human being. I can't seem to wrap my mind around that.

I do not know why anyone gets married these days. The divorce rate should be evidence that at most marriage has failed as an institution or at least we have failed at it. Romantic feelings fade fast leaving you asking the question, "why did I get married?" Biologically programmed longings, neuro-chemical highs, and hormonal drives push us down the alter, but they are not strong enough to keep us married. The vast majority of marriages tend to end in divorce or exist on the ledge between misery and apathy. However, in a world where we jump right into things. Where we follow our hearts and hormones or busy ourselves so much that we don't make time for quiet introspection, we don't consider the harsh realities. Perhaps I'm crazy for gazing up at the intimidating roller coaster of marriage from the safety of the ground, considering its ups and downs, its safety, and its practicality, before making an all or nothing commitment to riding the unknown.



Saturday, April 25, 2015

My Fashion War



I approached the MAC counter with the same caution that one would approach a strange wild animal. I glanced back at the exit doors at the rear of the Macy's. While I have never had anything against makeup, as a minimalist and a highly conscientious person, I had concerns. I worried that by wearing and buying make up I would be selling out--that somehow I would not be being true to who I am. I had concerns about buying into the superficiality of an image-driven society.

Prior to turning 30 I can literally count the times I wore make up. A few poorly applied eye-shadows in high school. A light brow pencil and mascara for Junior Prom, and a full face of make up when I was in my early twenties in order to help my makeup artist friend with her portfolio. Otherwise the idea of spending several minutes in front of a mirror to paint myself did not appeal to me.

I think I have always had a war with fashion. On the one hand I like to look nice and polished just like any other person. I like shopping (though that interests wanes as I get older), wigs, hair extensions, and hair styles. I like changing up my look and my style. But I have also had periods in my life when fashion took me to dark places.When I was a child my mother spent buckets of money trying to help me achieve "good hair" which sent me the message that the way I looked not only mattered, but that it was paramount. After all, as a child I did not care what I looked like. I just wanted to play like the little Tomboy I was. This expectation to look pretty all the time caused me to focus entirely too much on my appearance and, worst of all, to compare myself to other people. When I didn't measure up to the real or imagined ideal of how I should look I became depressed. Fashion has also caused me to waste time. I recall a time being a poor overworked graduate student wasting my precious time making exfoliants and putting peroxide and baking soda on my teeth. I remember spending 3 hours washing, blow drying, and conditioning my hair. (One of the best decisions I made was chopping all my hair off in 2008 and then in 2009.)

Then there is the money I invested in hairstyles that would inevitably fall apart that next day because I was trying to force my hair to do something God never intended it to do. Oh who can forget the acne and the stream of elixirs and fixers that were supposed to cure it. If I could somehow get back the money I spent on products, hair, and nails I would have enough to retire and live sufficiently--and I'M a minimalist! Talk about poor stewardship of the resources God had blessed me with.

In addition to irresponsible spending and time wasting, beauty and fashion also clashed with my religious rearing. All my life I have been taught that I should care about my appearance, but not really! That everything was vanity. That beauty was fleeting. That Christians are called to be peculiar people and that we really should not be trying to draw attention to our appearance. That people should not see us, but Christ in us. And yet we see examples of a beauty pageant in the Bible (book of Esther) and of Solomon waxing eloquently about the beauty of his lover in the Song of Solomon. I sometimes wonder if we have missed the point. I wonder if there is a way to spend a few minutes to look beautiful and presentable to society--if there is a time and place for shopping and fashion without losing ourselves in excess and self-idolatry. Heaven knows I do not have any answers to the question how much it too much when it comes to beauty, but I think the answer lies in simplicity.

So then there is me now. I have accepted that acne and eye baggies happens, that curly hair tangles, that I do not and cannot look good everyday--I'm not even sure that it is a valid expectation and it certainly isn't a healthy one. In my race to be to work on time I do not have time to stand in front of the mirror and paint my face or style my hair elaborately. Nor do I literally want to lose sleep over it. I spend a few minutes shaving once a week or every other week--let the stubble come where it may. I get my hair "did" every three weeks or less, Eyebrows plucked once a month. The only products that I use regularly are those products necessary for personal hygiene (think toothpastes and soap). I wear make up only on weekends or days off and rarely a full face then. My wardrobe is nice enough to earn the occasional compliment, but simple enough for me to grab any shirt, any pair of jeans, and any pair of shoes and run out the door to live life, instead of fashion. And I certainly do not endorse or read any fashion magazines or give any particular thought to what's "in". If I like it, I wear it. End of story.   And you know what? I'm happy that way. I wouldn't change it if I could.


Simply me. No make up or hair extensions 
or fancy photography


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Not My Kind of Empire



"We watch it and we call it entertainment and everything's ok, as long as somebody's gettin paid"--India Arie

On January 7, 2015 a hit new show blazed onto America's televisions screens capturing the attention of millions and becoming FOX's highest ranking debut in years. The show, about a drug-dealer turned music mogul, features an ensemble of highly talented African American actors and guest stars some of the hottest names in the entertainment business. I caught a glimpse of the show a few weeks ago, and while I certainly understand the show's almost hypnotic appeal, I had difficulty stomaching the drama's amoral worldview and excessive stereotypes.

As a person who does not regularly watch television, I often feel like an alien during those rare times I actually catch a peek at a popular show. I grapple with genuinely wanting a show to be moral, and clean, and fresh, as well as entertaining, only to be seriously disillusioned when it unloads a barrage of bad language, flaunts all kinds of sexual impropriety, and regurgitates the same lame stereotypes. This disillusionment is especially acute when it comes to media that showcase the talents of people who look like me. On the one hand, I am old enough to remember when it was pretty rare for a show starring an all black cast to gain the same attention and prominence as a comparable white show. There has never been a level playing field between black media and white media, but now entertainment starring and even produced by black people is on the rise; and it has major crossover appeal.


 Each week my Facebook news feed explodes with status updates about hit shows like Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, The Haves and the Have Nots, Being Mary Jane, and of course, Empire. All these shows prominently feature beautiful, talented, and alluring black characters, and yet not one has much to offer in the way of morality. What we are seeing is an empire of media about black people in powerful roles; media not just targeted to blacks, but to mainstream audiences. For the first time there are several televisions shows depicting black attorneys, black music tycoons, black millionaires, and other black professionals, and yet as seductive as it is for me to see these images on the screen, I remain conflicted. I cannot in good conscience consume media that contradicts everything I claim to stand for. In other words, this new empire of popular black shows is not my kind of empire.

Just to summarize my brief experience watching Empire, in only a few clips I witnessed a gorgeous black woman viciously attack another gorgeous black woman (the black women are aggressors stereotype), a gay man nearly toss another man off a high-rise building (because, of course, the only way to portray masculinity according to television is through violence (stereotype)), a black woman cursing out a black man (ghetto black woman stereotype), and worst of all, the star of the drama, Lucious Lyon, posing the question to his son, "lets see who's more powerful-- your God or your dad?" Did you catch that? A character whose name means light blaspheming against God--much too reminiscent of another character whose name means light and who is described as a lion (1 Peter 1:8) blaspheming against God (Isaish 14). To quote the author from Plugged In, a Christian webzine that publishes reviews on popular media, "Empire ...asks viewers to drink down a tall glass of sex, language and violence—practically must-have requisites for prestige dramas these days."

And as if Empire's language problem is not bad enough, star of the show, Terrance Howard would like to add more profanity to it in the form of a racial slur! According to Howard, the only way to challenge bigotry is to use the words derived from bigots themselves--thus mainstreaming racially charged words!




(If video won't play see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUTL9a_E3x8)

Ultimately, media makers would not produce this kind of content if folk, yes, even Christian folk, did not consume it by the millions. If we want to see better content on television, and more fair depictions of black people, we cannot continue to support the status quo. Yes, every time you turn on your TV you are essentially cosigning to the values and worldviews presented in that media. This blind assent to morally questionable content has psychological and spiritual ramifications. You are what you watch! The next time you pick up your remote control or log onto your computer remember the words of the psalmist who courageously declared, "I will set no wicked thing before my eyes" (Psalms 101:3)--not even a seductively packaged, but ultimately Godless Empire!









Sunday, February 8, 2015

Paint Night

 Last month I did something I've never done before: I went to a paint and sip event. Turns out these events are a big deal and several companies have launched all over the nation to meet the demand of folk like me who enjoy them. Paint and sip is exactly what it sounds like. You go to a venue--typically a restaurant or bar, where there is an art instructor, paint supplies, and of course a drink menu. (You can really order whatever you want because purchases from the restaurant are not usually included. I don't drink and I don't endorse drinking).

In in the DMV area there are two paint and sip companies that I know of: Paint Nite and Pub and Paint. I did Paint Nite for my girlfriend's birthday and it was a blast. Now let me tell you that I am the least artistic person God has ever made. I mean I can't even color! Of course I thought this was going to be a disaster, but to my surprise I found myself really getting into it. Just take your time and don't be afraid of making mistakes. No one expects you to be Picasso. It's all for fun. 



The venue is typically set up with individual work stations containing a canvass, a cup of water, paintbrushes, and plates for paint and mixing paint. 

My brother

 Me trying to look as artsy as possible


The artist will explain step by step what you need to do.


Paint plate 



My girlfriend and my brother 


I felt so proud of myself. I painted a moon!!!!!!


See how basic they make it. The picture evolves a little bit at a time. The artist tells you exactly what brush to use, how to hold your brush, how much paint to put on it. etc. 

My tree looks pregnant.  



I got compliments on my branches. I'm a branch-painting genius!



And then add the little blooms 


My brother was so anal about his tree. 



The artist's painting

Mine.   Not bad. Now I have this whole new interest in art I never had before. 


See how each picture is similar but unique. Each artists brings something special to his/her painting

My advice it so show up on time! The painting starts promptly as scheduled. If you miss the beginning you miss important instructions essential to your success. Also wear something you don't mind spilling paint on. And lastly don't drink the water--seriously at least one person usually ends up drinks from the paintbrush cleaning cup. Acrylic paint does not taste good. Oh and I forgot to mention, the event last about 2 hours.

Overall, I loved Paint Nite. I loved the atmosphere, the instructor was knowledgeable and funny, and the servers were on point. My only point of criticism would be the price. At just over $46, I recommend shopping Groupon for a discount--which is what we did. We ended up spending $25 a piece which is a lot more reasonable. Hey, you're not taking a college class, your just doing some recreational painting. I plan to do another Paint Nite later this month. Thanks to my girl Diamond for introducing me to this soon-to-be new hobby. 




A Beautiful Failure

I bet you thought I was gone! Nope, as I said before I don't plan on taking any more two year hiatuses. Unfortunately, my New Year was tough. I ended up sick a good portion of January and then I was busy with life and all its busy-ness. But it sure feels good to type a blog again.

Now without further ado...

On yesterday I made one of the most beautiful cakes I've baked in my life: a moist, rich, sweet, pineapple upside-down cake. All from scratch of course


See how pretty it looks


And here's a close up

Now do you see the problem?

When I went to flip the cake out of the pan and onto a platter, it slipped and landed on the island instead. I ended up with sticky glaze everywhere! Keep in mind that with a pineapple upside-down cake you have only a short window to flip it, otherwise the glaze hardens and you have a cake that is impossible to invert. Now I had a cake that was slowly welding itself to my island.

I tried to shimmy wax paper underneath of it. No good. I tried using my hands. Nope. Fell apart. Completely.  I had another baking failure on my hands.

So I should back up and explain my baking process so that you can better understand my devastation. With any new recipe I spend a lot of time planning. I scour youtube for the best videos and techniques, I read several recipes, I collect information from food blogs, and then I determine if the product is something I can reasonably make. Do I have the ingredients home? Do I need a specialty ingredient/pan/baking tray. This is time consuming, but I do not consider it laborious because I enjoy baking. Then I find a recipe I think I can work with and make it to exact specifications--I mean I'm anal about this sort of thing. After tasting the final product, I decide if I want to continue to use this recipe or add my own touches to it, or start from scratch. I went through my process with this cake. Researching, reading recipe reviews etc. I went to two groceries stores looking for canned pineapples  (first one was out) and two stores looking for maraschino cherries. Then I spent 2 hours prepping and baking a cake. All to have it slip from my grasp and land inches away from the platter and onto my counter top.  It was a very beautiful failure :-( I wanted to beat holes in the wall with my fists. Then I took a step back.

In the end, it really wasn't that important. So I screw up a cake. Not like I can't make it again--and next time I can make a better one because I know what I'm doing. I cleaned up my mess, did the best I could with the remaining cake, and went on to baking peanut butter cookies.

In life we have to prioritize. We have to decide which things are worth getting upset about and which things to shrug our shoulders and move on about. In a world filled with student loans, ever-present plumbing issues*, and demanding jobs, is it really worth crying over spilled cake?



 Peanut butter cookies.

The pineapple upside-down cake wasn't my first baking disaster and it will not be my last--especially because I am still learning to bake. Like my cake, we are all beautiful failures. Some of us are in the process of having our sticky mess removed, or having ourselves scraped back together. We sometimes end up in places we never wanted to be or in spaces we were never intended for.....

Recognize failure, Determine what you need to do to change. And then move on. The peanut butter cookies were delicious, by the way.


Happy 2015 Everybody!!!! See you next week.

*I should dedicate a blog to this topic as I always seem to have some kind of plumbing problem.