Friday, February 27, 2009

Watermelon Doesn't Equal Black

Another mind-numbing issue is the stereotypical view some folks still equate to black people. The latest is a California politician (A PUBLIC SERVANT) sending an email to a group of friends showing watermelons on the White House lawn in jest to forget the Easter egg hunt. Seriously, this was supposed to be a joke?

How dumb was this politician who's soon to resign over the watermelon fiasco to think an email couldn't be leaked out. And didn't he think that action would look wrong to some of his constituents who are African Americans?

I'm African-American and I don't remember the last time I ate watermelons (not in the past couple of years) and it has nothing to do with the stereotypical view (along with fried chicken) when it comes to people of color. Those two dishes haven't been in my regular diet for a while but I won't mind watermelons in a fruit salad.

Gosh, think, think, think . . . it is not a difficult exercise especially to those elected as public servants to be FOR THE PEOPLE!

Watermelon email

So What Michelle Wore Sleeveless

I thought the mind-numbing issues will die down after the election (ha!). But boy, was I wrong since folks seem to have a problem with the First Lady's right to bare arms.

It is no secret I love Michelle Obama's style and it's nice to see the First Lady truly have fun with fashion. But what I didn't expect was the etiquette police having a problem with Obama's penchant for baring her arms - going sleeveless.

Oh PUH-LEAZE! To the etiquette police, I say don't hate; appreciate. Appreciate you have a woman of substance who happened to have some sex appeal. Appreciate she worked hard to get those toned arms while juggling her responsibilities as a wife, mother and a professional woman.

The lady gets up at 4:30 in the morning to workout; I'm still trying to be that disciplined (consistently). Hey, it could be an example to all of us to PUT SELF FIRST.And as I heard, the White temperature is set higher than the previous administration who made the place so cold. So maybe she doesn't need to wear the proverbial jacket.

Also, didn't you guys (etiquette police) see her for two years while campaigning for her husband? You didn't notice she tend to bare her arms? Why do you expect her to change all of a sudden because she is NOW the First Lady? If you ask me, that would have been inauthentic on her part and isn't it refreshing to see someone who is comfortable in her own skin?

Tag: Sleeveless Dress

What Had Happened Was . . .

Ok you guys and gals might have noticed me MIA but it wasn't intentional. A few weeks ago I posted about my layoff experience and how I got over it. But I'm hitting the ground running with some intensive training that allows me to get home very late into the night (no complaints here). I listened to the President's first address on the radio on my drive home and caught the last 10 minutes at home - that should tell you something about my schedule.

So where do we go from here? Well for now, you'll definitely (for the most part) see a post or two from me on Fridays (as seen last week) and perhaps one more before the end of the week till I get my bearings towards normalcy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Bunch Of Musings

There have been a lot of stuff going on in the news that I've been itching to blog about but I've been out but here are my thoughts on some of the stuff:

Being "Young" Is Not An Apology: The three culprits who've been using this line are: Michael Phelps, Alex Rodriguez and Chris Brown. Phelps on the "bong" picture. Seriously, what was Phelps thinking? He was one of the most popular figures in the world last summer and something didn't click that this is a bad idea especially when he had a DUI four years prior after another Olympics. So what is the lesson here: Phelps need to find a hobby that wouldn't get him in trouble after the highs (no pun intended) of the Olympics.

The next is A-Rod who's straight up lying. He doesn't want to say the "S" (Steroids) word but he knew he's taking something as an athlete he doesn't know of for two freaking years. Come on! And when you look at the statistics of those years (2001 through 2003), A-Rod hit 20 more home runs more than the years he didn't juice. But he didn't know what he was taken . . . give me a break!

And Chris Brown, I'm just dumbfounded he'll lay a hand (allegedly) on a woman regardless of his age. Folks should stop justifying he's just 19. He needs some serious help and I'm a Christian but I don't think just speaking with a Pastor will cut it - he needs psychological help!

The OctoMom: St. Francis says we should "seek to understand rather than being understood" and the book of Proverbs states "in all thy getting, get understanding." Can I just say this: I DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS WOMAN! I'm trying but I'm left scratching my head how a woman after six kids will have another eight without a husband or justifiable means to take care of the children. It makes absolutely no sense.

The NY Post Monkey Business: The NY post was in the wrong. I don't care if they tried to justify the cartoon about another monkey tragedy in Connecticut. If that was the case, then the cartoonist won't need to put a caption stating the stimulus bill because the reader would get it.

But the timing of this cartoon is just ill-advised considering its BLACK HISTORY MONTH and we have the first African American President. He-llo, are you guys thinking?

Also, for the cartoonist to try to justify the strange depiction by being sarcastic to ask if anyone would think he'll draw a cartoon showing the assassination of a President. Hmmm No, no one said that, we're saying you're showing a racist picture in a poignant time of history - GET THE PICTURE?

Welcome Madam Secretary: I'll end on a good note by seeing a new image on the world stage - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
What a defining and diplomatic image to show the world as Clinton exited off the plane landing in Tokyo with an Asian-inspired lining of her coat. America is BACK!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yes, I Speak English - I'm Supposed To

Ok, we have a President named Barack Obama; you would think people would have got a clue that just because a name is perceived "unique" like mine (or the President's) doesn't mean the recipient is less American.

Seriously!!! Sometimes I wonder how my parents handled ignorant perceptions as African students in America in the 70s. So here they have an American-born daughter and folks (especially those who look like her) asking stereotypical questions just because of her name like what dialect did she grow up with or act surprised if the answer is "English."

Oh "I noticed you speak English so well!" And of all places, someone in South Florida telling me I speak English so well - seriously! That was what happened to me this afternoon while taking care of some personal business. I mean South Florida where you could hear Creole, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Patua, and sometimes, English depending on what neighborhood you find yourself had the unmitigated gall to be telling me he thought I would answer "Swahili."

Ok, first of all, Swahili is one of Kenya's dialects - not the "OFFICIAL LANGUAGE" (to the surprise of the culprit) and my parents are not Kenyans. And by the way, my parents of diverse tribes (which within itself will make me write a book someday) had to get along with a common language i.e. English.

So please, next time you see my name don't assume. Well, assume I could hold my own in a communication in the English language (and a language you won't know), and I humbly say, better than most since my parents were strict on not speaking in "slangs."

Monday, February 9, 2009

51st Grammy Musings

I'm a huge music fan, so of course, I've got to make time for the biggest night in music; the Grammys. But last night's Grammy awards was pedestrian to say the least with some flashes of brilliance.

Let's start with the first picture (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) on my left: My first thought was "who's Robert Plant?" Then I got news he's the front man for Led Zepplin. OK! Led Zepplin, heavy metal kind of genre is not my cup of tea. But the two kept getting all kinds of awards and I know Krauss is a talented woman but their performance was just a snoozefest (channel changer) for me.

The next is Lil Wayne. Picture me rolling my eyes. I've had some spirited debates with some of my family members about his lyrics. What's lo-lo-lo-lollipop? And some of his lyrics make absolutely NO SENSE! But the Grammys rewarded him with eight nominations and four wins. Anyhoo, I missed his performance with one of my faves, Robin Thicke; it must have been during my channel-changing moments of the night. But then again, I'm glad I missed it. I want to keep the best part of Thicke in my precious memories.

Another thing about Lil Wayne. Can we establish some new rules: New rules, if you didn't work on the album don't come on stage to accept the award. Wayne had all these folks get on stage after he won for best rap album (why?) , that was straight up ghetto. My bad, I forgot as he told "Ms Katie" (Katie Couric), he's GANGSTA!

Now onto ColdPlay. Can I just say this? Even after watching lastnight's 60 Minutes piece about the group, I STILL DON'T GET THEM! They are touted as U-2 lite but I like U-2; I guess I'm not into quirky performances. And what was up with the outfits as if I'm stuck in a broadway production of Joseph and the technicolor coats. Ugh! I heard this morning that I missed Coldplay's front man Chris Martin with Jay-Z's performance - I say THANK GOODNESS!

I did say there were flashes of brilliance. So I do have some good news. I HEART the Rev. Al Green and Justin Timberlake's performance accompanied by Boys 2 Men as backup and Keith Urban (one of the "country" guys I like) on guitar.
Isn't it great that no matter how many times I've heard Green's iconic hit "let's stay together," it still sounds new when the Reverend sings it. And to think they were not scheduled to perform at the event but only practiced for two hours after Chris Brown and Rihanna pulled out for some alleged domestic dispute. Wow! I say Bravo to Green, JT, Urban and Boys 2 Men.

Who else? Oh Jennifer Hudson, even this cynic had a tear in her eye after she got the award from Whitney Houston (looking good, crack is truly whack - great to see her off it) and her performance was amazing.

Ok I saw the "Rat Pack" performance and to be honest I couldn't concentrate on the lyrics with the spectacle before me. But I knew M.I.A's lyrics already and I think she's amazing but hmmm, what was up with Mickey Mouse sheer outfit on her VERY PREGNANT (due last night) frame. Then Kanye West with the trapped in the 80s haircut. But knowing Kanye, he thinks he's the best looking of the bunch - nay, of everyone!

Another performance that was cool was the country group "Sugarland." But I must say, after being a fan of the group with uplifting songs as "I Ain't Settling," it was weird to hear the lady (Jennifer Nettles) whaling "stay" to a long gone boyfriend who's cheating on her and saying she's down on her knees, and tired of being lonely and begging please . . . gosh, I have a hard time typing those words. Where's the female empowerment? The brother should be the one who in the words of the Temptations : "ain't too proud to beg" . . . I'm just saying. That was one giant step backwards for feminists!

One more gripe: Please Grammy folks, don't ever put the genius of Stevie Wonder with the Jonas Brothers. OMG! I know you want to corner a certain (tween) demographic to watch the show, then you shouldn't be so old with the way you give the awards (Seriously, Plant and Krauss?). Leave Stevie to perform ALONE! Or if you wanted to pair him with more contemporaries, put him with Robin Thicke or Not some Jonas Brothers jumping all round trying to relate.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sign Of The Times: Jeans

There was a time when you were told to wear your "Sunday's best" when going to Church but what if the parishioners of today are really wearing their "Friday or Saturday's best," that is, the old dependable jeans.

That is what I noticed today after service, a typical Sunday when most ladies bolt for the ladies room and while standing I noticed all the eight ladies (including yours truly)save one in skirt were in all kinds of jeans - boot cut, straight leg, trouser-form and the skinny jeans.

I wondered if this trend reflects the sign of the times (the lean times) and when folks crave something familiar or simple, in this case jeans. Then I thought of the history of this wardrobe staple when the trend was started by farmers who needed something comfortable to wear while they toiled. Far from the "designer labels" the jeans have become. I mean there are $700 jeans. The horror!

During 2007 thanksgiving, I remembered spending time with a matriarch of the family who was fascinated by us young folks wearing jeans everywhere but yet so fashionable. She was one of the first (in her day) to be hired by companies as image consultants for the workplace. The jeans have crept into the workplace too (to my delight).

As a young girl seeing my Dad in his usual uniform - the suit and tie, I told him I hope when I get to the workplace things will be a bit lax and not that stuffy. Well, it did- - a little bit. It was during the time I got to college the term "business casual" started being a buzz word. But sometimes you still have to wear that "uniform" called the suit.

However, the Church is normally the place that seems to be behind the times when it comes to traditions. So imagine my surprise after leaving the ladies room and getting into the lobby, the trend was at least one in two individuals including the guys. Yes, there were the traditional types who still wore their "Sunday's best" but it's nice to see most folks don't have to feel pressured on what to wear and could follow that old creed to come as they are.

Friday, February 6, 2009

How I Got Over . . . A Layoff

This morning the country's job report came out and the news was the worst job loss since 1974. I felt deeply humbled by the news because it also happened to be the week I got an offer for a job. A couple of days ago, a friend of mine encouraged me to write about my experience. I already thought of doing so but wasn't sure how to approach the post (surprised huh!).

You see I was already unemployed for over a month (for the first time in my adult life) when I started this blog but I didn't want my blog to be about job loss (not my style) but things I found more fascinating - like the election season we were having. In less than two weeks, I'll start my new adventure with the company I've had as a dream to work for. Funny, that date (my start date) will be a day to almost a year (11 months to be exact) when I got the devastating news. Here are some tips I've learned along the way:

It's Not About You: One of the few things that makes me laugh is when I hear or read folks telling people "how to recession-proof your job." Seriously, I was one of the few being a finance geek who knew we were in a recession long before anyone will admit to saying the "r" word. And as we entered the year 2008, I tightened my budget and worked harder and longer than most people (to later a point of exhaustion as I found out later). But I got laid off anyway. Now if you were slacking; then it is "about you." But you could always learn from your mistakes. Either way (whether you did everything right or a bit wrong), you don't gain anything by blaming yourself.

Allow Yourself To Grieve: At the start of this year, a friend of mine commented how "at peace" I sounded and good to see my spirits up. Without missing a beat, I told her I've gone through my five stages of grief - which made her laughed so hard. She also said it was good I kept my sense of humor. But actually, I was serious and didn't mean the comment to sound funny. Yes, I went through denial (wouldn't you after working over 13 years and never being unemployed?), the anger, and finally the acceptance. I got to the point of saying "so what!" Now when I look back, I'm glad it happened. It will help you as you look for the next step - either getting another job or starting a new venture.

Embrace The Simple Life: America is such a country of excess. And I as one of her citizens have fallen a few times to the lavish temptation. No, I never kept up with the Joneses, but I know a rush of pleasure when I see a phat boots and I've bought a few things out of sheer impulse. This is NOT the time. This is the time to do what Henry David Thoreau said: "Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives." Or the Apostle Paul: I've learned to abound and when to abase. It's time to do the latter.

I didn't spend over 10 months with my bills current if some stuff didn't have to fall by the way side. We need food, shelter, clothing. The last one had to fall. I learned how to be the "recessionista." For those of you who are not hip to the lingo, it's still being a fashionista in the time of recession. I only bought one pair of shoes all last year and it wasn't from my money but a gift card from my birthday. I remembered some of the childhood words said to me when I couldn't get my way: "You'll live." The same should be said on how ruthless you should be when it comes to your budget and what to do away with - "you'll live."

Brace Yourself For the long haul: I thought I'll be back to the job of my dreams in two months tops. Ha! After going through all the checkups - dental, eye, and medical, I'll rest for a month (doctor's orders) then in a month, pound the pavement and voila, the job would appear. After all, I was highly educated and experienced (to the surprise of many when they see me). Boy, was I WAY OFF!

In October, I was at a network event and a lady who works as an executive in a major company told me before she got the job at her company, she was unemployed for 15 months and to keep myself motivated. Before that, I met an older guy volunteering who has been unemployed for 10 months. I thought to myself "I'm NOT waiting that long. . ." but to be honest, experts have said that the average amount of unemployment is six months (I read that after my seventh month; now I knew).

Network: If there was one thing I regretted after my layoff was being so busy at my job, I forgot about my contacts with my associations. I wasn't going to the meetings, and thus, I couldn't form new relationships. You need to network! Half of the jobs available are not advertised. That's a fact! They are passed along by word of mouth, referrals, or filled internally. The two places I worked for over a decade, I never applied for the position . . . that settles that point.

But Work At Finding a Job As Work: After not blaming yourself and giving yourself time to grieve, get to work - the job of finding a job. And I must tell you, it takes more effort than just working. Plan your day as if you're on the job: Applications (too many to count), interviews, career fairs, reading/training, network/volunteer. At one point it seemed as if I was busier unemployed. Figure that out.

Take Care of Yourself: I'm still a student with this part of my life. I think women need a constant lesson on putting ourselves first on the list - like put your own oxygen mask on first before helping somebody else. So even with the depressing news daily, get your butt off the couch to the gym and try to eat healthy. This is not the time to just let yourself go - you need to show yourself refreshed even if this is your thirtieth interview. For this position I got, I was interviewed five times plus an online assessment (with various scenarios). At one point, I was thinking I was running out of suits to wear so as not to repeat myself in the same venue :-)

Gotta Have Faith: It is no secret I'm a person of faith even with my analytical mind. I don't think I would have stayed motivated if I wasn't convinced that "this too shall pass." Yes there were times I couldn't believe after two months I was still unemployed but I grew more in my faith during these times than ever before. I got to see what I was really made of.

There were times I had to separate myself from negative people and thinking. A few of my loved ones have come to see that the crazier things become outside of me, the quieter (and more focused) I become. It got on some of their nerves since I didn't follow all kinds of their advice (one person I respected wrote me a few weeks ago to leave the U.S as if this wasn't a global crisis). Yes you may feel some stumbles - I was disappointed some months ago when it was down to two candidates (me and somebody else) after a couple of interviews, a certain company chose someone else. It was a kick to the guts. But then I got up, and reminded myself that this too shall pass.

Tags: Layoff, Job loss

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Don't Be Alarmed, We're Negroes

I said the title of this post under my breath (for the ears of the person walking beside me) sometime last year. This companion was an African American friend and neighbor and the situation that brought about my reaction was some new neighbors who were looking around their new neighborhood as we were walking out.

One of the new neighbors stopped dead (not literally) in his tracks when he saw both of us and just stared at us if he wasn't expecting some "chocolate" in the sea of milk. So I said "don't be alarmed, we're Negroes" and my friend who noticed what I meant laughed out loud (which confused the onlooker since he wasn't in on the joke).

What I didn't expect was thinking that to myself in my place of worship last Sunday. Last Sunday was also the day I "officially" joined the church as a member. After the service, I was in the lady's room touching up with three other Caucasian ladies - one senior citizen, two teenagers (who seem to be friends).

I guess the teenagers felt the ladies room was the only quiet place they could have a discussion, so one of them started telling her "adventure" to her friend. I'll call this girl "Jane." So Jane started telling her friend about a community service she needed for her volunteer hours in her high school.

This was how it went: "OMG! (Think Valley Girl) I was the only white person at this place, and I was soooo afraid . . . It was like so ghetto and I don't know like how I'm going to finish my hours, like . . ."She kept on with some of the most stereotypical things I've heard about black people. But I guess she thought I was "non-threatening" or not the "ghetto" kind so she could say whatever she wanted about my race.

These girls were behind me in the mirror and I was thinking to myself "welcome to the house of God! What a day to join the church! " The white senior citizen who was beside me at the other sink kept glancing at me with the uncomfortable conversation happening behind us before she left and I guess Jane's friend noticed the weirdness of the situation (by glancing in my eye), so she took Jane's arm and walked her out of the lady's room.

I was left alone and I kept wondering how I should have reacted to the situation. I went out to ask some info about a function at a booth when I saw the two teenagers at a wall (no doubt still talking about the black people at Jane's volunteer program). Then I thought I should confront the situation.

Me: Hello, I'm M_, I'm quite new here and I couldn't help listening to your conversation about your volunteer program. I just want to say that was a very uncomfortable moment and if ...

Jane: Oh I'm not racist or prejudice (why do white folks think that when you confront them about a subject of race?)

Me: I didn't say that . . .

Jane: It will be like if you were the only black person in a company . . .(can someone tell Jane she has a knack for interrupting, so I decided to play her game)

Me: I have (her shock was written all over her face and it seemed to silence her for once), but I don't have a problem with it unless my white counterpacts want to keep bringing my skin color up. You see I was raised in a home with a father that had a very unique job which exposed me to all kinds of nationalities. From a young age, I knew not to judge a person by the color of his/her skin.

Jane: I'm really not racist (I detected some sincerity in her voice), it's just that this place I'm supposed to have my community hours . . .(her voice trailed off), they look at me funny you know.

Me: I don't think you are (a racist). I believe you're a great person actually (relief washed over her features) but maybe those students of yours might also be afraid of you (like prejudging them) and it might help if you could start by showing the kind person you are; they'll come around.

Jane: Ok

Me: Nice meeting you. (And I made my way out to prepare to hang out with friends and family for the Superbowl).

Jane: You too.

Render Unto Caesar PLEASE

Public servants, hear me roar: PAY YOUR FREAKING TAXES!!! I'm sick and tired of hearing another one of you (i.e. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Tom Daschle, and Nancy Killefer) being derailed by another tax issues. The last two had to withdraw their nominations for Health and Human Services Secretary and Chief Performance Officer respectively.

Here's what I didn't get about Geithner (though I'm highly impressed with his qualifications for the job): If he was over the New York State Treasury, you would think he would lead by example by paying his back income taxes and oh, don't dare do them on TurboTax. Leave that software to ordinary private citizens like us.

Another thing: Why Daschle, Why? I really like him but $128K for back taxes, OMG! And this at a time when the nation in crisis cannot afford not to have all the nominated (that should have been confirmed by now) participants in each department to hit the ground running, the new administration finds itself stumped.

Tag: Tax Issues

Monday, February 2, 2009

"Blogger" Format Driving Me Nuts

Hello Readers,

Sometimes you notice I edit a few times after "posting." That is because the "preview" format is not what I see after it gets posted on my blog (which drives me nuts). Today is no different with me seeing letter(s) of a word interlopping to the next line. Instead of wasting my time trying to be "perfect," I've decided to let it go - afterall, the blog should be the "informal" side of me. But that doesn't mean I still don't have a part of me gnawing at the mistake of the format. . .

Superbowl XLIII Musings

The Game: Oh well, the team (Arizona Cardinals) I was pulling for didn't win but hey, congratulations to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Why did I pull for the Cardinals? They were the underdogs and I've been known to have a soft spot for the underdog - it's a better story. Besides, I like Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald is one of the few guys in sports who don't make me wince when they open their mouths. The brother can put SENTENCES TOGETHER! And the readers of this blog know how I love that. Also, he's the antithesis of a "dumb jock."

About Jennifer Hudson: Great to see her back on the scene after the horrific tragedy with her family. And a spellbinding rendition of the National Anthem. Was it as great as Whitney's? Nah! In my books, Whitney holds the record for the Star-spangled banner just like Ray Charles will always hold the special place in my heart for "America, the beautiful." But Hudson is close (a close second) to Whitney.

The Boss' Performance: Loved his performance at the half-time show but was disappointed he didn't play "Born in the USA" and "the Rising" (My personal fave of Bruce Springsteen's).

And can I just say, I can't believe that guy is about to be 60 - old enough to be my dad! The energy was contagious; did you see how he sled down the stage on his knees. Whoa!

Anyhoo, as much as the Boss was great, he still doesn't top a certain "Prince." Prince's 2007 half-time show will still remain numero uno in my heart (until Michael Jackson decides to stop being crazy and perform like the best entertainer he is). Prince rocked in purple rain and partied like it was 1999. LOVE HIM.

Tag: Superbowl XLIII,