Your Body is Your Temple

Your body is your temple. I don’t mean this in the Biblical sense. However, you can go with the Biblical meaning, if you’d like. Its one of the few things in the Bible that isn’t debatable. After all, you only get one.  Yes, science has allowed us to order replacement parts. It has also allowed us to cure many of the things that used to kill us. But the fact remains you only get one body.  It is for this reason that we must take care of the one we’ve got.

I try to exercise at least two days a week.  Sometimes I exceed this, most times, I don’t. Sometimes I fail, miserably, and don’t burn a single calorie through exercise. I don’t workout because I enjoy it.  In fact, I actually HATE working out.  I hate it with a passion! There are a couple of reasons why I workout. One reason is that I like to eat and I want to do so without weighing 5,000 lbs. All the old Discovery Health Channel shows on obesity fascinate me. I’ve joked that those shows were my diet plan. Just watching them will make you want to NEVER be in that position.  How humiliating it must be to have a wall removed from your home and have a crane or forklift come to your home to hoist you out of the hole in the house? I also workout because I know I should. Research tells us that watching what we eat and getting out to exercise, even if its just walking helps us to lead longer, healthier lives. Also, I’ve inherited the traits for some pretty ugly diseases that are linked to, or exacerbated by, obesity. Therefore, I’m trying to outrun heredity for as long as I can.

A few weeks ago, I met a woman who seemed to be young and healthy. After talking to her for a while, I discovered that she had recently been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Her diagnosis came about as a result of trip to the emergency room when she wasn’t feeling well. A check of her blood sugar levels revealed that her diet, and perhaps lack of exercise, had resulted in an extreme spike in her blood sugar levels that left her hospitalized for days. She’s the third young person I know to have had this sort of scare.

Most times, our bodies will tell us when it’s time for us to make changes. We get headaches, joint aches, we become nauseous, we have trouble breathing or we just don’t feel well. Other times, we don’t get any warnings at all.  I know plenty of people who either ignore their symptoms or excuse their poor diet and exercise habits by saying, “I don’t need to be skinny.”  It’s not about being skinny.  It’s about being healthy. I’ve had others say to me, “All of my vitals are good. I don’t have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. So I’m fine.” They’re right.  They are fine . . . right now.

When you’re carrying excess weight, when you’re eating any and everything that crosses your path, when you’re leading a sedentary lifestyle, you’re a ticking time bomb. It might not be today, or tomorrow or even next month, but the lifestyle will eventually catch up to you. If you’re lucky, it will catch up to you in the form of symptoms rather than sudden death. It’s happened.  I’ve seen it. Do me a favor and try not to be next.

The Tech-Cation

For the last few years, I’ve taken an annual “tech-cation.” The tech-cation is a vacation from technology, an unplugging, if you will.  During this tech-cation, I unplug from technology that isn’t specifically related to work. I cut out TV, internet, email, texts, computer . . . everything.  The only exceptions are music (which I only have on an iPod these days) and phone calls. I will allow myself 15 minutes of “news”  (TV or Internet) although many days I skip it because news tends to lean toward the TMZ-friendly story than anything Peter Jennings would’ve reported.

I use the tech-cation as a time to detach myself from a screen and try to get back to a simpler life.  A life where I wasn’t required to respond to everything RIGHT NOW. I miss being unavailable. I miss not finding out non-news until days later. Even when I avoid social media, I am still bombarded with celebrity news. It’s almost as if journalists have been replaced by bloggers.  Photo journalists have been replaced by paparazzi. And actual news, things that matter, end up at the bottom of the news feed while some Hollywood toss up’s baby is front and center. (Yes, I said “toss up” and I’m not deleting i!). My tech-cations are used catching up on my reading, practicing the guitar, making jewelry, writing, all of the things that I really enjoy but never really have time to do.

This year’s tech-cation will be a bit more difficult.  Most of my books are now on an electronic device. I don’t enjoy buying books anymore because 80% of the things I read, I don’t ever need to read again.  I don’t need to keep them for reference, and I don’t want them cluttering my shelves.  I guess I’ll buy a few books and donate them when I’m done.

Normally the tech-cation lasts a week, or so.  This year I may extend it for a bit.  Maybe I’ll just stay unplugged until I feel like coming back online. My hope is always that when the tech-cation is over, that I’ll no longer feel the need to be so connected.  But it’s addictive! Two days after the tech-cation is over, I’m right back at like I never left. My hope is that by extending the tech-cation, I won’t feel the need re-connect in the same way. I am adding a new exception to the tech-cation.  I will allow myself to post blogs.  I can use my laptop to type my blogs, while disconnected from the internet, and upload to my site.  I won’t be reading or responding to comments. I will be only be posting. I may post daily to share details of the tech-cation, but I may not. We’ll just see how it goes.

The tech-cation usually starts in October. But I’m feeling the need to disconnect sooner than that.  I may start after the holiday . . . provided I can wait that long.

When Men Were MEN!

Today I was reminded of a conversation I had with a dear friend of mine several years ago. He told me of a time when he was embarrassed about ‘needing’ to work a second job. He had a professional job, a career, but at the time he had some personal, financial goals that his professional job didn’t allow him to meet. So being the responsible adult that he was, he decided to get a second job stocking shelves at night. It wasn’t illegal or immoral, but it also wasn’t what was expected of a professional man of his caliber and career potential, so he kept it a closely guarded secret. He didn’t tell his friends or family because he didn’t want them to think less of him. He finally told a close friend after having to miss her birthday party to work. She ridiculed him for taking a job doing menial labor. After that he didn’t tell anyone else. But he continued to, quietly, work toward achieving his financial goals.

I was reminded of that conversation today while reading a story about former American Idol Justin Guarini. In one of his blogs he mentioned that he’s gone without meals to feed his children. The comment made me cringe. It’s reminiscent of the men who ‘brag’ about taking care of their kids. Um, THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO!!! If you create a child, man or woman, you’re SUPPOSED to take care of that child at all costs. If you’re raising a family and times are tough and someone has to miss a meal, it SHOULD be the dad/the head of the household. It’s not like we live in the agricultural age where the men went out and toiled away in the fields all day and needed the extra nourishment. Guarini sings for a living. He’s perfectly capable of singing on an empty stomach. I guarantee it – I’ve done a lot more with nothing in my belly.

Guarini’s story reminded me of that conversation years ago because I realized, once again, that men come in two different forms: Actual MEN and boys pretending to be men. MEN WORK. Period. A man does what he needs to do to meet his responsibilities. And they do it without seeking or needing praise. I remember telling my friend that all the men I knew had a ‘hustle.’ When I say hustle, I don’t mean anything illegal. By ‘hustle’ I mean that they used whatever skills they had to earn extra money to take care of their families. I knew men who had jobs, some white collar jobs, but could also fix cars, do carpentry work, do taxes, mow lawns, shovel snow, help people move . . . anything they could do to make sure the bills were paid and the kids had all the nice extras. It’s all I knew growing up in the working class cities of Detroit & Inkster, Michigan. I wasn’t used to a man saying he didn’t have enough money and then doing absolutely nothing about it. In fact, when I moved to Chicago in the early 2000’s I was shocked by the number of “men” I encountered who said, “I don’t make enough money on my 9 to 5.” I immediately wondered, “Well, what are you doing from 5 to 9??” It seemed to me that they had a lot of spare time that they weren’t using effectively. My motto has always been, “I don’t want to hear you complain if you’re not doing anything to fix the problem!!”

I shared my story with my friend and let him know that he hadn’t had anything to be ashamed about. Today, he’s older, more mature and is no longer ashamed of having been a responsible adult in his younger years. I told him that if more ‘men’ were like him, that our society would be in much better shape.


It’s GREAT to be a Michigan Wolverine!

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts today, “His & Hers” on ESPN Pod Center and the hosts were discussing how they chose their respective colleges.  It got me to thinking about my journey to college. While most students had a list of schools they were interested in, I really only had had one – The University of Michigan.

I’ve been a Michigan fan ever since I can remember.  Despite the fact that both my parents graduated from Eastern Michigan University, I was always a Michigan fan.  I mean, let’s face it, when you grow up in the state of Michigan, you have to choose your team early on.  And there are really only two teams to choose from – The University of Michigan and that school in East Lansing.  I’ve always been a winner, so I went with the winning team.

During the application process, I briefly entertained the idea of attending Duke University.  Their brochure quickly extinguished that idea.  My parents didn’t have anywhere near $80K to send me to school.  Also, I wasn’t quite as adventurous then as I am now. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be that far away from home all alone. So I saved the $45 application fee and moved right along. I applied to three schools: University of Michigan, Wayne State University (I knew my grades and test scores would guarantee me a Presidential Scholarship) and one HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities). During my sophomore & junior years in high school, I attended the annual HBCU College Tour.  Despite my high GPA and standardized test scores, I received extremely negative feedback from the only two HBCUs I might have considered attending.  Meanwhile, I had a private school in Illinois, which I’d never heard of, recruit me because of the same. But I digress. The one HBCU I actually applied to was one I’d never considered attending.  The only reason I applied was because I was attending an HBCU fair with some friends and one of my friends stopped at their booth to apply.  All evening, I’d been standing idly by as my friends completed applications.  I completed this application because the admissions counselor was very friendly.  He also waived our application fees because we were completing the applications on-site.  The school requested our transcripts from our high school, after we’d signed agreeing to the release, and the admissions process was underway.  I’d actually forgotten that I applied until the day I received a letter from them in the mail.  It was a rejection letter.  My feelings were hurt.  Here I was an almost straight A student, salutatorian of my class and college student at the University of Michigan – Dearborn (yes, I attended high school and college simultaneously) and this school had rejected me.  To add insult to injury, the school had struggled with accreditation and was certainly no academic powerhouse.  To make matters even worse, the friend who applied with me was accepted. This student’s GPA was almost a full 2 points lower than mine. My mother tried to console me by telling me, “They know you have other options. They can’t risk allowing you to block a space, when you’re most likely not going to attend, when there are students who can’t get in anyplace else, who need that spot.” Nice try, Mom!

Then there were two.  Wayne State University accepted me pretty quickly and I received a Presidential Scholarship which provided for full tuition.  Wayne State, while an excellent school, is no Michigan.  But then again, no place is Michigan. I applied to Wayne State for four reasons: 1) I knew I’d get in, 2) I knew I’d get a full ride, or very close to it, 3) The University of Michigan is HIGHLY competitive and I wasn’t quite sure I’d make the cut, and 4) Michigan was #1 . . . as in at the time, they were the most expensive public school in the country. I said earlier that my parents didn’t have $80K to send me to school.  Well, Michigan wasn’t much cheaper at around $60K and my parents didn’t have that either. They had, or came up with, about a third of that. Because I stayed in-state, I received a scholarship from the state, based on my standardized test scores, that earned me 10 semesters of (partial) tuition. I had several other smaller scholarships.  I chipped in a third of my college costs through scholarships I’d earned.  My parents had their third. And grants & loans made up the final third. I was all set.  All I needed was an acceptance letter.

Although the acceptance letter came relatively quickly, it seemed like years between the time I mailed my application and the time I received the letter.   As the holidays approached, I hadn’t heard back.  I knew that once the holidays were in full swing, it would probably be February, or later, before I heard anything. I’ve never checked the mail so much in my life as I did during those couple of months.  Finally, I received an envelope with the University of Michigan seal on it.  It was a big envelope.  I immediately knew what that meant.

I have absolutely no idea what I got for Christmas that year.  I don’t remember who came to our annual Christmas dinner (although I can probably guess). I don’t even remember what I got for my birthday that year.  All I remember is that I officially became a Wolverine on Friday, December 24, 1993.

GO BLUE!!!!!

You Talk Like a White Girl

[Throwback Piece]

I’m convinced that being black, and “successful,” in America means being at least a little schizophrenic. I consider myself to be black, and “successful,” in America. Yeah, I know. That probably means I’m a little schizophrenic.
My “mental condition” was first brought to my attention back in my early twenties. I was volunteering for an organization that helps under-employed and unemployed 18 to 24 year olds find gainful employment. Volunteers helped youth write resumes, practice interviews and conduct productive job searches. Did I mention that while I was doing this I was just 24 years old? I was teaching my peers.
I volunteered during my lunch hour so I was often dressed in a business suit when I met with the students. One day while conducting a seminar on “Interviewing and Networking” I was interrupted by a brash 22 year old who took pride in informing me that “[I] talk like a white girl!!” Without skipping a beat, and with a decidedly “urban flair,” I responded, “And I make money like a white girl too!” What followed was a short stare down. Chrissy is the champion of the stare down. My record remained intact that day.
The classroom that had been only half listening up to that point was now at full attention. Without me having to specifically address black schizophrenia, they got it. They got that while I was able to speak like them, I was also able to master “The King’s English” in a way that allowed me to maneuver through mainstream America in an attempt to obtain the American Dream. Here I was, the same age as them, dressed well, with an education and a “good job” in corporate America. The typical volunteer with this agency was middle-aged and white. Now they were receiving the message from someone who not only looked like them but was also the same age as them. One student later told me that hearing me deliver the message made it feel like the American Dream was something she could achieve. She even gave me props for being able to “switch it up” when I needed to.
I had just about forgotten about this “schizophrenic” episode until early this morning. I was on the phone, like a teenager, talking into the wee hours of the morning when the person on the other end said, “Damn, what did I do to deserve the ‘corporate voice?'” I hadn’t even realized that I’d slipped into “work speak.” At first I was a little embarrassed. I take pride in being able to switch it up at the drop of a dime. But this had been unintentional. Then I felt stupid for being embarrassed. Why should I be embarrassed that I have a firm grasp of the King’s English? That is after all what my parents taught me. That is after all what helped make me a “success,” right? So here’s to being black, successful and “schizophrenic” in America.


I sometimes wish ending a friendship in real life were as simple as it is on Facebook.

[Click: “Unfriend”]

[Are you sure you want to unfriend _______? YES or NO}

[Click: YES!!!]

[ _______ has been unfriended.]

Wouldn’t that be awesome? Two simple clicks and you’re rid of the person you no longer want to engage you in conversations you don’t want to have. They will no longer be able to send you invitations to events you don’t want to attend (at least not with them). You won’t have to run into them at your friends’ place. It’s just over!

That’d be great!

Normally when I’m ready for a friendship to be over, I simply “Fade to Black.”(FTB) With the FTB, there’s never any drama. There are never any harsh words that you two can’t come back from. There are no hurt feelings (well, maybe there are, but you’re not around to see them). It’s just over and everyone moves on. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Every now and again, the FTB doesn’t work. The person you’re trying to shake, just won’t go away. They seem not to pick up on the non-verbal cues that you are no longer interested in their company. The fact that you no longer respond to their phone calls, texts and emails seems to be lost on them. The fact that you’ve declined all of their invitations to hangout seems meaningless to them. The fact that you (still) won’t accept their Facebook Friend Request somehow goes right over their heads. And the worst part is when they ask “Did I do something?” You want to respond, “Yes, as a matter of fact you did. You ignored my Fade to Black!!”

I’m not sure who said it, but people often credit Oprah with the quote “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I believe them. And once I’m a believer, if I don’t like what I’ve seen, I remove myself from the situation. Sometimes I FTB because I catch someone in a lie. Not the kind where it’s possible they were mistaken or misspoke. I’m talking the kind of bold, unsolicited lie that makes your skin crawl. Sometimes I FTB because I think the person is a gossip “A dog that will bring a bone will carry a bone.” (My momma) Again, I’m not talking about an innocent sharing of information, but rather sharing with me intimate details of someone else’s life that would devastate the person if they knew I knew. Sometimes I FTB because the person is too clingy. If you know me, you know that I move like a lone wolf. I know lots of people and I have a good deal of people that I call friends. Yet and still, I am very comfortable all by my lonesome. As such, I’m a little unnerved by people who expect me to become their Siamese twin. Not interested!

So, after the FTB fails and I’m forced to address the situation head on, someone ends up with hurt feelings. And I’m always blamed for the hurt feelings. Sure, by the time I realize my FTB has failed, what little patience and tact I possess has been exhausted. This leads to a harsher than necessary explanation of why I no longer wish to be in the company of the offending party. This leads to the offending party being offended. They usually share their hurt with others and, hence, Chrissy is the bad guy. However, had they just left me alone when I attempted to disappear, all of this could have been avoided.

The moral of the story, kids, is that “When someone shows you who they are, believe them!” When I show you that I’m no longer interested in your friendship, believe me!

Good Manners Are Always En Vogue

I’m no Emily Post.  I’m not even close. But if there’s one thing I learned growing up is that good manners are always en vogue.  I learned that while I might not always have the fanciest or most expensive clothes, what I could always have – good manners.  I assumed all people learned this lesson growing up. And even though I now know that isn’t true, I’m still always shocked when I watch people stumble through life unintentionally committing the occasional etiquette faux pas and, almost always, offending someone. Since I’ve seen this so many times, I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks to successfully navigating the basics of etiquette.

  • When invited into someone’s home as a guest, properly thank the host:
    • Dinner Guest – When you’re a dinner guest in someone’s home, you should always bring something for the host. Even if the host tells you “Just bring your appetite!” bring something anyway.  You don’t go to a restaurant and not leave anything so don’t show up to anyone’s home without leaving something. Bringing a small gift says “I’m appreciative of the invitation,” “Thank you for putting dinner together,” “I was ‘raised right’ so I’m bringing something so I don’t look like Caveman raised by Wooly Mammoths.” It’s just the right thing to do. The gift doesn’t have to be extravagant.  A nice bottle of wine or champagne is always a good choice (unless you’re visiting a teetotaler).  Even if the host doesn’t drink regularly, the wine can be served at other dinner parties.  It’s also a great re-gift gift. If the host is attending a dinner party at someone else’s home, they can always take the bottle of wine. It just works. If you’re on a bit of a budget, a nice handwritten thank you card with a $5 gift card to their favorite coffee shop works too.  Your friends usually know, and understand, your financial situation. The point is not to outdo any of the other guests, the point is to properly express your gratitude for the invitation.
      • If you do bring something edible as a gift to the host, you are NOT allowed to consume it or set it out for general consumption during the event.  The gift is to be left for the host.  If the host decides to open the bottle of wine or serve the box of chocolates during the party, fine. However, under no circumstances are you allowed to open the item or suggest that the item be opened.  It’s just tacky.  You brought it for the host, so let the host decide what to do with it.
      • If you decide to “bring what you drink,” make sure to still bring something for the host and make sure they know that you’ve brought something for them AND something for yourself.  You don’t want to appear accidentally tacky when you crack open your favorite bottle of wine, sit it between you and your plus one and drink the entire bottle by yourselves.
    • Overnight Guest – If someone is gracious enough to allow you to rest your head in their home overnight, say ‘Thank you’ by taking the host out for a meal or, if you’re on a budget, preparing a meal (with groceries you bought). Also, make sure you keep your accommodations tidy. Make the bed and tidy up the bathroom before you leave.  Don’t be the guest who doesn’t get invited back because s/he was ungrateful and sloppy.
  • Text Messages are almost NEVER a proper thank you. If someone buys you a gift, does something nice for you or gets you out of a jam, you should send a handwritten thank you note.  (Sidenote: Keep stationary on hand. I personally have a variety of stationary, some custom, some off the shelf, but all appropriate for writing a ‘Thank You’ note). If someone sends you a gift and you send a text message to say thank you, you’ve almost certainly guaranteed that you will never get another gift from that person.
    • Dating – Just about the only time it’s appropriate to send a ‘Thank you’ text message is following a date. If someone takes you on a date and buys you food or drinks or pays for an activity, you should follow it up with a proper Thank You.  Even if you didn’t like the person and have no intentions of going out with him/her again, sending a simple “Thank you” text shows that you appreciate the effort the other person put into the outing. No one owes you a date.  No one owes you dinner, drinks or activities. It’s a rough economy. Show your gratitude for someone spending their hard earned money on you when they didn’t have to.
  • Cell Phones – Put them away at the dinner table.  It’s one thing to fetch a ringing phone from your pocket to answer it.  It’s another to scan Facebook, Twitter or other social media while dining.  1) You’re not that important; and 2) You’re being rude. If the text, email, tweet or status update is that important, you should have stayed at home so you don’t miss it. In the event that you’re expecting an important call, text or email, inform your company ahead of time so that they know upfront that you’re not being rude for the sake of being rude.

These are just a few of the etiquette transgressions I witness on a daily basis. I’m sure there are hundreds more that you can think of.  Feel free to add them to the comments.


Footnote: If you think you’ve offending me by breaking one of these ‘rules,’ don’t apologize.  Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.  But, by all means, do better next time . . . if you get another chance.