‘Real Husbands’ is a Real Winner!

Real Husbands of Hollywood Cast

Real Husbands of Hollywood Cast

My television stopped tuning into BET many moons ago.

I can’t recall the day when I decided I couldn’t stomach another raunchy music video, or lame sitcom, or tired drama from that network’s cable signal. But when I split with BET, I never looked back.

The BET Awards couldn’t bring me back—I forget to watch them every year.  I tried watching their 2009 tribute to Michael Jackson but even that didn’t hold my attention past the second commercial break (and I love me some MJ).

I ignored BET for years…until now. I have discovered The Real Husbands of Hollywood, starring comedian Kevin Hart and his slap-happy posse of boyzaters:  Boris Kodjoe, Duane Martin, Robin Thicke, J.B. Smoove and Nick Cannon. And my DVR is set.

This show is laugh-out-loud hilarious!

Now in its first season, Real Husbands is a scripted comedy that parodies reality franchise the Real Housewives of Atlanta and Basketball Wives.  Hart, with co-creator Chris Spencer, based this series on a set of successful skits that aired during the 2011 BET Awards. Viewers wanted more, so Hart and the network responded.

Real Husbands offers a humorous peek at a small circle of Hollywood entertainers—each married to even more successful Gen X starlets—as they negotiate the real and manufactured dramas that unfold during the filming of a fictitious reality series.

Fast-moving plots peppered with envy, betrayal, irrational emotional outbursts  and a liberal sprinkling  of face slaps, drive each episode’s theme:  Hart is sometimes misunderstood, often hampered by insecurity,  and can always be counted on to stir things up with his ego.  Yet somehow, and in spite of these elements, which make so many “unscripted” reality shows tragic, the Real Husbands deliver witty with genuine class.

Watching is like eavesdropping on real-life black guys, but funnier.  

BET has finally delivered an authentic lifestyle comedy (minus the mansions, and the expensive sports cars, and the acquaintances with guest mega-stars like Jay Leno and Jack Nicholson) that won’t embarrass most African Americans…well, at least not any more than HBO’s super-funny Curb Your Enthusiasm may have raised eyebrows in the Jewish community.

Advice for the Broken-Hearted

Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined my lifestyle would revolve around the facts that I am single and I don’t have children.  But it is what it is…and today, I’m not sure I have regrets.

© Alenapohu | Dreamstime.com

I have my own place; plenty of friends; one big, fuzzy cat; and two beautiful nieces—niecey-poo and niece-a-lina—who I adore.  My schedule is my own. And in many cases, eliminating drama from my life is as easy as getting off the phone, or making a graceful exit at the first signs of trouble.

Back when I was in my 20s and 30s, my older friends and mentors would shake their heads with feigned pity while I fretted over small things, which at the time seemed like the end of my world. That was usually my signal to change the subject. But their sentiment didn’t make sense at the time.

How could any thinking, feeling human minimize the outrage I felt when Mr. Coudaben A. Contender disrespected my home by removing his shoes and scrunching his bare toes under the cushions of my white couch? Or what do you mean there will be other opportunities? I needed that promotion because my other friends get to travel for work.

Those lessons came back to me the other day when my thirty-something friend, Lettie, implied that I am selfish. After months of listening to Lettie lament about a failing relationship—patiently, I might add— I let it slip that I had grown tired of listening to the same old story, over and over again.

(OK. I probably shouldn’t have said “I don’t care” out loud. But I don’t care…well, I care about her; not about the events that brought her to this place…at least not any more.)

That doesn’t make me—

Epiphany! Finally, I see the method behind what I thought was my older sister-friends’ madness. In their gentle way, they were trying to make me see that self-confident people rarely fret over human-induced drama they cannot control.  

My delivery may have been a bit more on-the-nose, but my advice to Lettie is the same:  Be as confident in yourself as I am confident in you.  Sometimes, things are just what they are. So the time you waste worrying about who did what, and what could have been,  is time that can be better spent  focusing on your own happiness.

RTM’s Top 5 Reasons to Watch Reality TV

© Laurence Agron | Dreamstime.com

 Ice T and Coco, stars of  "Ice T Loves Coco"

OK, I’ll admit it! This morning, when I should have been working, I watched reality television…and yes, I was wearing fuzzy pink slippers, and I snacked on cookies (Pecan Sandies) while kicking back in my most comfortable living room chair.

© Laurence Agron | Dreamstime.com
Reality TV’s “Ice loves Coco” stars
Ice T and Nicole Austin

And guess what? I don’t feel guilty. As a matter of fact, I feel energized and inspired after watching last night’s episode of  The Voice, which I missed because I worked through the evening. Thank goodness for DVRs!

Hey, what can I say? 

To those of you who are Reality TV snobs, I get it: scripted programming is much more creative. I appreciate the amount of time and talent that go into higher brow productions. I agree that the collective galaxy of reality television stars often depicts women (especially women of color) as coo-coo court jesters who bully and backstab frienemies for ratings.

But what can I say? I’m an addict…and I am a fan of Atlanta Housewife NeNe Leaks.

To my fellow Reality TV enthusiasts, it’s time to come out of the shadows! Reality TV— especially competitive shows like my favorites:  Top Chef, The Pitch and Project Runway—isn’t that bad. Actually, these shows can be good for your professional development and your soul.

Here are my best arguments in favor of  every MaeB’s right to enjoy reality TV with pride:

Watch  Reality TV, Guilt-free

1. Reality shows can be inspiring. They document how talented (and sometimes not-so-talented) people) muster their courage and go after their dreams. Reality MaeBs believe in themselves so much, they often risk everything they have, for a chance to realize their dreams. While few contestants attain the ultimate prize, every reality runner-up should get cool points just for trying.
2. Contestants achieve the unimaginable. If you’ve ever faced an impossible deadline, watching Reality TV may convince you that there’s no such thing. It’s amazing what the brain can conjure and accomplish in a matter of minutes. True, working under the pressure of a stopwatch, reality-style, may not be the ideal way to tackle your “to do” list, but setting deadlines works. And if reality contestants can produce in 15 minutes, imagine what you can accomplish in an hour.
3. TV judges remind us that we all start as beginners. While the judging portion of reality shows can be harsh and honestly, a bit much, these segments often include nuggets of encouragement. Reality judges often share that they might not perform as well as some contestants if faced with particular challenges. And at times—like when recording mega-star, Cee Lo Green, gave an impromptu singing lesson to a disappointed contestant on The Voice this week—TV judges show us that it takes more than raw talent to reach the top, and we can always learn something new that will improve our skills.
4. TV competitors show the human side of losing. Haven’t we all picked a reality personality and pegged him or her as the ultimate winner? Only to see our favorite defeated by their own silly mistake, or worse, by an unfair turn of events? Watching how these runner-ups handle the agony of defeat can offer examples on how to face disappointment with class. On the flipside, some reality contestants serve as cautionary tales, showing us exactly what not to do when things go awry.
5. Reality TV offers lessons on achieving greatness. Winners at the reality game put their best foot forward every day, in everything they do. They learn that playing it safe or saving their best for last is the fastest way to lose their place on the island. Witnessing the growth of reality contestants as they improve upon their personal bests—week after week—can serve as a blueprint for success and show everyday MaeBs that they can accomplish great things, too! 

 What if anything have you learned by watching reality TV? 

10 Surefire Confidence Boosters You Can Try Today!

© Pablocalvog | Dreamstime.com

© Pablocalvog | Dreamstime.com

Past experiences, the things people say,  even the everyday challenges of life can chip away at our ability to achieve our dreams and goals. ..unless we have confidence.

Confidence gives us the courage to visualize change and take risks necessary to get us there. But  let’s face it, every MaeB won’t feel confident about everything in every situation, every day. The good news is there are things we can do to build confidence.

I was not blessed with an invisible suit of armor that makes many MaeBs naturally fierce and invincible. I built my shield many years ago as a new reporter for a small suburban newspaper. As a  recent college graduate, I couldn’t believe my editor trusted me to enter politically heated gatherings, interview elected officials and other grown-ups, and come back with accurate stories on my own.

Because I wanted to do well, I gathered as much background information as time allowed, donned my professional best and went to work. I thrived and became a trusted source for news. More importantly, I began a process I continue to use to keep my confidence level high.

Here are some of the things I do to keep myself feeling fierce and invincible. Perhaps they will work for you, too.

1. Vote! One of the best ways to say “I matter in the world” is to make sure your vote is counted. Regardless of your political affiliation,  your voice is important and voting gives you the power to change or preserve your way of life.
2. Dine out, alone. I tried this after watching an episode of Sex and the City. Dining solo (and enjoying your meal) in a public eatery—without reading material or the distraction of a cell phone—can be liberating. It presents opportunities to chat with people you wouldn’t necessarily meet as part of a couple or group. Plus you’ll see that you won’t always need to depend on the company of others to enjoy yourself.
3.  Buy a new shade of lipstick. Every new season offers several new must have shades of lipstick. Finding a new color that’s right for you can be a great way to keep your look fresh and in line with the hottest fashion trends.
4. Take a class. Whether you join a knitting circle at the public library or enroll in a foreign language course at the local community college, developing new skills and expanding your knowledge base can make you feel even better about all that you have to offer the world.
5. Mentor a young person. Sometimes the best way to help yourself is to help others. And with today’s teens dealing with a murder rate that in Chicago surged 27 percent this past summer, making a difference in the lives of our youth is definitely something to feel proud about. To find volunteer opportunities, check with local churches, civic groups and youth organizations.
6. Give your shoes the once-over. Buying a  new pair of shoes may not be in every MaeB’s budget this Fall. But that doesn’t mean last year’s styles can’t still make a good fashion statement. Take your shoes to your nearest shoe cobbler/repair shop for a professional polish and spruce-up any wear and tear to their soles and heels.
7. Read a classic I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when reading the final page of any novel. But nothing compares to my sense of achievement after finishing a literary classic…especially when it’s a book I was assigned to read (but didn’t complete) in high school or college. You’ll have to try this to fully understand what I mean.
8. Keep your chin up. I mean this literally and figuratively. Focus on keeping your chin parallel to the ground (rather than pointed downward) and you’ll receive greater eye contact from others, which can lead closer attention being paid to what you have to say, which can help lift your confidence. Also, practice positive thinking…exercising this mental muscle will benefit your psyche, as well.
9. Choose a favorite failure. No one is perfect, which means we can all point to at least one instance when our plans didn’t turn out as we expected. Chances are that we learned something new, strengthened our resolve or built character from these experiences. Identify one mishap or embarrassing moment (large or small) from your past. When you’re feeling less than certain, remember that time and celebrate whatever you gained…more importantly, remind yourself that you can handle whatever challenges come your way.
10. Love yourself! If you can’t feel great about yourself, then how can you expect others to see the greatness in you? Make it a habit to stand in front of your mirror, look yourself in the eye and tell your reflection “I love you because ______________.” Do this every day and fill in the blank with as many reasons as you can find.

The Downside of Down Time

Chanel

Rushing to Maybe...logoIn the cool–sometimes cruel–world of entrepreneurship, there’s a (sometimes dangerous) thing called down time.

“The hours when I’m not planning or building or otherwise thinking about my new business are few and far between. I’m working just as hard, maybe even harder, than I did when working for someone else,” says new Entrepreneur/Author Chanel Reynolds.

However today, Chanel took the time to read an interesting article tweeted by celebrity Star Jones (The American lawyer chick who is “FREE, BLACK and GROWN”). The article struck a nerve and catapulted Chanel into some well-deserved down time.

Post Day-Changing Tweet

Re-Tweeting the article to her network of followers wasn’t enough. She wanted validation. So, partly to welcome company to her unforgettable past and partly to warn her best friends (and former co-workers) that their clandestine bathroom meetings were not signs of paranoia, Chanel emailed the article to the personal accounts of Linda, Roxie and Angel… certainly, they would appreciate the journalist’s assessment that it’s difficult for a Black woman to thrive in the top ranks of corporate America’s ladder.

Roxie and Angel replied instantly, agreeing that the writer described their reality accurately. Still, that did not erase the pangs of confidence-shattering unfairness that haunted the spaces between Chanel’s thoughts from time to time.

“I was laid-off in spite of all that I brought to the company, without so much as a “thank you” for all that I sacrificed to build their business, which is still struggling, by the way. I have to say, the experience was brutal and eye-opening,” Chanel admits.

Clearly at the point of pink slip, she didn’t imagine her corporate career was over. However with each passing week that she filed for unemployment compensation–which stopped abruptly last month–and each successful interview that failed to end with a hire, she became clear that a new path would be good for her psyche as well as her pocketbook.

Minutes later, Linda responded to Chanel’s email. It simply read: “I’m having a bad day.”

Friend to the Rescue

Chanel, now that her time was her own, decided to nurture her friend with pasta–her famous recipe, reserved for Christmas Eve, July 4th and special occasions when she needed forgiveness for prioritizing work over family and friendships.

Feeling proud of herself, and somewhat Harriet Tubman-esque, for escaping the shackles of believing she needed a middleman to broker her livelihood, Chanel called it a day and went to the nearest supermarket (owned by her former employer) to buy ingredients for the soul-comforting dinner she planned to soothe her friend’s rough day.

Channel had not patronized this place–the entity that drained and squandered her talents in more or less the same fashion as the two, higher-ranking African-American women who preceded her–since her departure. (One day, she will write about that dynamic duo that now directs the proverbial boot that continuously stomps the corporation that once antagonized them…thanks to omitted non-compete clauses in their contracts).

In the name of friendship (and her secret ingredient, anchovy paste), Chanel ventured back into her old territory.

To her delight, a familiar face spotted her in the Produce aisle: an old colleague. Chanel could see pride swell in this middle manager’s eyes when she congratulated him on his recent promotion. He beamed when she said she could see new sparkle (shining through the store’s customary dinge) due to his efforts. Not wanting to keep such praise to himself, the middle manager signaled two of his assistant managers to join their conversation.

“Guys, this is someone from Corporate you need to know. Do you know who this is? When you see her–“  the middle manager exclaimed.

“Oh, no. I’m not with the company anymore,” Chanel interrupted.

“What?”

“I left over a year ago. I sent an email…”

“You know it’s impossible to read all the email we get,” the middle manager laughed. “Which company are you with, now?”

“I’m working for myself…started my own PR business,” Chanel replied.

“Hmm…well that’s OK,” he offered in a pity-filled tone which, without being rude, clearly communicated that Chanel’s honor had diminished with her departure from Corporate America.

Dinner Between Friends

Over the dinner meant to comfort Linda—who wanted her PR-savvy friend to critique her strategy for preventing a know-it-all manager trainee from disrupting her award-winning department, without vexing the green bean’s big-wig, corporate mentors—Chanel lamented about her standing in the world.

“I mean, what was [the middle manager] trying to say? I have clients. Couldn’t he see how happy I am?  Couldn’t he tell I’m different…more confident?” Chanel fretted.  “It all makes me wonder, am I making the right decision to stay out of corporate?”

Both ladies shrugged and finished their bottle of Prosseco.

Linda slept on Chanel’s sofa that night. At 5 a.m. she showered and headed straight to the office wearing a borrowed, conservative pant suit—a rarely-worn relic from Chanel’s corporate days. Emergency staff meeting at 7 a.m. and Linda needed to prepare.

Chanel dressed and went to her computer at 7:30 a.m.  She worked her usual nine-hour day with no down time.

Entrepreneur Scores With Sorority Chic

Janece Kerr, owner of The Couture Soror

If you want something done right, then it just might pay to do it yourself.

That’s what entrepreneur Janece Kerr discovered in 2010 when she launched The Couture Soror, her thriving apparel company, which specializes in high-fashion sorority garments for members of the Divine Nine Greek letter organizations.

In less than two years—and despite the prevailing, challenged economy—she took her business from concept to sought-after brand by satisfying and staying true to her own demands for sophisticated, sexy style.

The Journey Begins

It’s interesting how things came together to give this fashion Mae B.her start….

Janece Kerr, owner of The Couture Soror

Kerr, who dreamed of becoming a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. since childhood, was initiated into the organization in 2008. And though many of her relatives (also AKAs) showered her with the typical gifts most new members are thrilled to receive (pink and green t-shirts, jackets and other clothing bearing her sorority’s letters), Kerr made little use of those items.

“Everything was so cookie-cutter and unlike what I wanted to wear,” she said. “I don’t wear big, boxy shirts and I don’t wear a lot of pants, so I needed something I could wear with a cute skirt. ”

Kerr said she searched and searched for fitted, feminine Greek gear. Yet she couldn’t find what she wanted.  So she put pencil to paper and designed several t-shirts—including her signature long sleeved,  off-the-shoulder look—for her wardrobe. And while many of her sorority sisters admired her unique shirt designs, the thought of building a business around them wasn’t (at that time) on her mind.

Pursuing the Straight-Job-Thing

Right out of college, Kerr joined the working world as a tour manager for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, then later as a general manager for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park and Family Entertainment Center. Both assignments helped Kerr sharpen her marketing and management skills. Both assignments fueled her entrepreneurial spirit. And both assignments ended with her being laid-off due to the economic downturn.

“I understood [the lay-offs] were business decisions and they weren’t personal. But it was hard not to take  them personally because I spent so much time and energy building their businesses and achieving their goals,” she said. After her second lay-off, Kerr said her outlook changed. “At that time it clicked…maybe I wasn’t supposed to be in Corporate America.”

Resolved to take control of her destiny, Kerr set a deadline and challenged herself to formulate an idea for a viable business. Meanwhile, to make some quick cash during her unemployment, she decided to sell three of her t-shirt designs as a vendor at her sorority’s four-day regional conference.

Driven by Demand

“I still wasn’t sold on the idea of starting an apparel line. I literally printed the shirts, said [to her assistants] this is what we’re going to do, and showed up,” she said.

The Couture Soror’s chic, understated designs were an instant hit. Before the close of business on day one, Kerr sold out of one style and had to rush order additional inventory to meet demands. By the end of the conference, she was completely out of stock, and in business for herself.

From there, Kerr’s business has experienced a snowball effect. Over the past 2 ½ years she’ has tripled her business. She now travels across the country selling her designs at sorority conferences and collegiate events like the upcoming Circle City Classic.  Kerr said she will soon expand her Haute Frat brand to include more designs for members of the Divine Nine fraternities; also a shoe line for larger women’s sizes is on her horizon.

No Big Surprise

In retrospect, Kerr’s journey into entrepreneurship makes sense.

“I’ve been out there hustling since I was a child,” she recalled. In fact, her first business ventures involved selling hand-made doll dresses and decorative pillows to family and friends.

Today, with a successful business that combines her loves for fashion, creativity and her active sorority lifestyle, this fashion Mae B., believes there are no limits on her entrepreneurial future. As long as she offers the types of fashions she (like her target customer) wants to wear,  Kerr is confident that her efforts will continue to pay off.

Change Your Eating Habits in 7 Days

© Hongqi Zhang | Dreamstime.com

© Hongqi Zhang | Dreamstime.com

“I’m  thinking about becoming a vegetarian.”

I’ve heard it countless times from friends, family members, associates and acquaintances looking for motivation to eat right and conquer the diet portion of the healthy lifestyle equation. (Let’s chat about the other half of this equation, exercise, a little later…I can be a major procrastinator in this areaJ).

A Flirtation with Vegetarianism

In October 2008, as I approached my annual 34th birthday, I noticed that the back pleat of my three-quarter length, black, suede trench coat wasn’t lying perfectly flat.  At first, I blamed it on my dry cleaner.

If you’ve ever dry cleaned suede, you know why I considered tossing the jacket and buying a replacement, instead of paying such a high bill to refresh an older piece. But I loved that coat and decided to pay the price. So you can imagine my disappointment with what seemed to be a less-than-perfect job, which is perfectly uncharacteristic of my dry cleaner.

Upon further inspection, my accusing finger pointed back at me, or to be more accurate, my expanding behind. After nearly two years sitting in a corporate cube, working 12-hour days—taking very few breaks yet eating lots of high calorie snacks—my then size 6 frame was creeping toward size 8.

Not the end of the world, I know, but alarming to me, all the same. On the following Saturday my journey into Pescatarianism began.

The Skinny Bitches Changed My Life  

It has to be said that I started my journey by reading The Skinny Bitch Diet by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. Those ladies turned off my desire to eat land animals, including my favorite Harold’s Fried Chicken, which caused my rear expansion, in the first place.

{Eventually, I veered off the vegan path because I sometimes like being able to choose a fish entree and avoid the whole diet conversation-thing when dining with my meat-eating friends (a real downer in my opinionJ).

Within one week of starting my new skinny eating habits, I felt a dramatic difference. I was less sluggish, found it easier to wake up in the morning and I actually lost a little weight.  In just seven days, I made a lasting change that took very little of my time to make because I made one small change every day.

7 Easy Steps

Now, just to be clear, I’m no dietitian. But I took steps similar to the ones below. Perhaps they can work for you:

Day 1: Make Food Network.com your friend. Pescatarian/vegetarian eating does not mean boring. Vegetables taste amazing when they are seasoned with olive oil, garlic and herbs. On this day, visit the website and find five easy vegetarian dishes and five easy seafood dishes that you want to try. Print them out and file them in your kitchen.
Day 2: Make your shopping list. Now that you have identified several new dishes you can look forward to eating, make the list of ingredients you will need to whip them up. Look at all 10 recipes and see which ones include ingredients that are already in your pantry (stick to those without animal by-products). You can save money, and make the next step less traumatic, by focusing only on the five recipes you plan to cook this week. Be sure to put your grocery list in your purse when you finish writing so you’ll have it the next day.
Day 3:   Clean out your refrigerator.Get rid of any land meat products you have in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Either donate these products to your local food bank, or cook everything and host one last meat feast, or toss these products. The point is, if you don’t have them handy, you can’t whip them up.Easy for me to say because I’m single, right? Well, while some members of your household may not want to change their eating habits initially, they might change their way of thinking. The idea behind this process is to ease into this new lifestyle. If the change is painless and gradual, your family just might surprise you.
Day 4: Go grocery shopping.Replace all of your meat-based products with fresh and healthy selections like fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh and frozen uncooked fish, extra virgin olive oil and spices to make everything taste great.  Today, eat frozen meals or Chinese take-out with vegetables and seafood. Save any leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
Day 5 Pack your lunch.Brown bagging it is a great way to stay on your path to change. It’s easy to grab a burger or a deli sandwich when you’re pressed for time…and a meatless, cheese-less garden salad may not satisfy stress-induced cravings, if that’s what you’re used to.  A frozen meal or last night’s leftovers and a piece of fruit should keep you satisfied.Cook a simple dinner. OK, I said one small change per day, but you have to eat. This evening, bake, roast or broil your fish of choice. Serve that with a small salad and one of the easy vegetable recipes you downloaded on Day 1. (If you can oven roast the veggies that can make this task even easier).
Day 6 Have almond milk or soy milk with your breakfast.  If you’re not already a fan of these products because you haven’t worked up the nerve to try them, this is the day for you to join the bandwagon. Unsweetened almond milk tastes soooo much better than cow’s milk, especially in my cereal. (Those of you with nut allergies may want to try vanilla flavored soy milk).
Day 7 Have dinner at a fast food restaurant. Here’s the deal: avoiding the burger temptations at lunch is a good idea because at work, we’re only accountable for our own food choices. However, away from the office, our food choices are easily influenced by our spouses, children and significant others.On this day reward your daily dinner companions for supporting your change by offering them the option of choosing anything on the menu.  You, on the other hand, have done so well all week, you’ll want to select a vegetable or seafood item. This is your chance to prove to yourself that your new eating habits won’t necessarily bring dramatic change to your lifestyle…unless that’s what you want!

After Day Seven, repeat and continue the process with a focus on lower calorie counts and healthy choices. Keep in mind that this process is not a diet. Eating fast food and take-out can be a source of weight gain, if you consistently choose high-calorie foods.

Now if I can just stay away from cakes, pies and cookies….

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Does it Pay to be an Angel?

Angel

Meet Angel Stevenson. Thirty-five years ago, just seconds after her birth–which happened after exactly 30 minutes of labor and two long pushes–Angel’s mother took one look at the swirl of fine curls on top of the newborn’s head and knew she had been blessed with the task of raising someone special.

In Pursuit of Perfection

Only the best would do for little Angel.  Private schools.  Fancy vacations (so what if the family survived mostly on Ramen noodles the remainder of the year).  A closet full of the latest fashion trends.  And lots of accessories to highlight Angel’s beautiful, bouncy curls.  Most other children might have fallen into the brat trap as a result of such maternal doting. But not Angel.  She gladly accepted the responsibility of being the pride and joy of her mother’s life and aims to live up to her name…even if it kills her.

So it’s no surprise that today Angel is a marketing director (teetering on the edge of a vice presidency) at a conservative corporation and she is happily married with two tween-aged children who are little angels in their own rights. Angel often includes her mother on her family’s fancy vacations (which she and hubby, Steve, can easily afford) as well as the many shopping sprees that keep her closet stocked with every season’s must have classic pieces.

“Staying in fashion and looking my best…that’s crucial to my livelihood. No one wants to trust the image of their brand to a marketing professional who isn’t able to promote themselves as a savvy, polished professional. In this field, what you see is usually what you get, so personal appearance is everything,” Angel says.

On the Plus Side

Lately, Angel’s shopping trips have been less fun.  The size of her fabulous fashions have been inching upward over the past year , and during her last trip to the mall (much to her own disappointment and in spite of efforts to maintain her weight) Angel realized that her body has graduated to the Plus sizes.

“To go from a size 10 to a 16 in the course of a year is an awful pill to swallow,” Angel says. “I’ve always been able to keep the weight off. I lost the baby weight after both of my children. But now, no matter how hard I try, I keep gaining weight.”

Of course, in Angel’s love-filled world, she’s the only person who seems to mind (or perhaps notice) that there’s much more of her to go around. Steven brings his Angel fresh flowers and Pixies to show appreciation for her six figure paycheck, her home cooked meals (prepared every Sunday for the week), her Saturday carpooling duties with their kids and her earnest interest in his work.  And while she knows the candies fuel her sugar addiction, which she desperately needs to break, she opts to enjoy the confections–usually in one sitting–instead of rejecting her hubby’s affectionate gesture.

Wake Up Call

And while Angel continues to master the art of pleasing most people in her universe, she continuously underwhelms one very important man in her life:  her physician, who seven months ago told Angel she has Diabetes.

Since her diagnosis, Angel has struggled with bringing her diet under control. She ordered the new Hip Hop Abs exercise program from a late-night television infomercial, but the package remains unopened and hidden in the back of her guest bedroom closet. Moreover, she hasn’t mentioned the D-word to anyone in her family.

“They don’t need to worry about my health drama,” Angel says. “I know I need to do better about exercising and eating right, but I don’t have time for that right now. As soon as I finish this major project for work and get the kids settled into their school year, I’ll be able to do better.”

What do you do to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Please share your tips for jumpstarting good eating habits and adding exercise into your busy schedule by replying below.

Working Late Presents an Impossible Choice

© Ekaterina Panina | Dreamstime.com 

 © Ekaterina  Panina  | Dreamstime.com
Title:

© Ekaterina Panina | Dreamstime.com 

 © Ekaterina  Panina  | Dreamstime.com
Title:

 © Ekaterina  Panina  | Dreamstime.com

Rushing to Maybe...logoThe moment of truth arrived in what seemed like warped speed. Roxie had already clicked the snooze button on her computer’s calendar twice, but she knew it would be another hour before she could leave the office.

Her morning started like most other days of the week. Roxie woke at 5 a.m., after exactly five hours of sleep. She sat on the side of the bed for 15 minutes, ready to make an early morning swirl if her hubby, Andrew, felt frisky. Andy snored. The tips of his graying curls peeked from beneath the bedcovers…odd because he usually complained that Roxie kept the house too warm. Roxie placed a gentle kiss on the blanket covering his shoulder and shuffled to the laundry room in her bathrobe and slippers.

Just like clockwork

© Ekaterina Panina | Dreamstime.com

Roxie folded the load of whites that completed their dry cycle in the wee hours of the morning after she fell asleep. Next, she transferred a load of dirty clothes from an awaiting basket into the washer, and headed to the kitchen, where she ground the coffee beans she premeasured the night before, and started her morning brew.

“Early morning—the half hour right before my family gets up—is the one part of my life I can control,” Roxie said. “I like being able to take care of the laundry. And I feel good about packing my kids’ lunches (usually pre-packaged cold cuts with crackers) and making Andy’s coffee every morning.”

The McLaughton family was well trained. The moment Roxie’s French manicured toes stepped out of the shower, she called out:  “Up and at ‘em!”  Seconds later, Andy and her 8 year-old twin boys (from a previous marriage) were out of bed and into the motions of getting dressed for the day.

“Our mornings run like clockwork…they have to. It’s a 20 minute drive to my Mom’s house where I drop-off the boys before school. Then I drive another 45 minutes in the opposite direction to work.” She added “I like to be at my desk by 7:15 a.m.  I don’t want to be seen as a slacker, like the folks who stroll into the office after 7:30.”

The Final Notice

Nearly 45 minutes after waking, Andy leaned against the kitchen counter sipping coffee and scrolling through the emails on his Blackberry. Roxie scurried in, right behind the twins. She handed each boy a lunch and a backpack, opened the back door and watched them sprint toward the car port. Roxie planted a juicy peck on Andy’s lips and grabbed her coffee for the road.

“Love you, boo,” she called over her shoulder while dashing through the door.

“Not so fast. Don’t forget to tell your mother we’ll be late picking-up the boys, tonight.”

“Took care of that yesterday,” Roxie cooed.

“Our reservations are for 7:30 tonight,” Andy said. “This is it. I mean it. If you can’t make time to celebrate our anniversary, then I’m out. No more rain checks.”

“I know we’ve had to postpone—“

“You’ve cancelled,” Andy quipped.

I’ve had to postpone our celebration a few times. I had to work, I couldn’t help it…but that’s not going to happen, tonight. I’m all caught up and nothing will keep me from meeting you at Geja’s Cafe  by 7:30 tonight.”

The Moment of Truth

Roxie arrived at work on schedule. She sailed through her daily “to-do” list, and by 1 p.m., she pondered leaving early to buy a belated anniversary gift for Andy. But that was a pipedream. Later that afternoon, her company found itself in a legal crisis and Roxie was the only labor attorney left on the payroll after the last wave of cutbacks (besides her supervisor who is now on maternity leave).

By 7:15 that evening—after clicking her computer’s snooze button twice—Roxie knew she would have to make the phone call she didn’t expect she’d have to make. Once again, she would have to cancel her anniversary celebration with her husband…she couldn’t leave the office without finishing her responsibilities and keep her job.

“I guess I’m going to have to call and let Andy know it will be another hour before I can meet him. I don’t know what else to do.  I need to keep my job,” Roxie said. “He is going to be so upset…I’m pretty sure this will mean divorce,” she said.

What would you do, if faced with Roxie”s situation? Please share your thoughts by replying below.

Chicago Jazz Vocalist Launches Debut CD

Tracye Smith's CD is available at www.tracyesmith.com

For jazz vocal stylist Tracye Smith, discovering her life’s delight was easy.

“Singing has always been my passion. My first performance was at 8 years old,” she said.

Since then, Smith found herself singing (and loving the attention performing brings) at informal gatherings, and weddings, and political fundraisers, and with the Trinity United Church of Christ Women’s Chorus. Yet the idea of earning a living with her vocal talent was never a serious consideration…until recently.

Preparation is Key

In 2011, Smith–who has enjoyed much success in high-powered corporate roles–decided to transform the singing hobby she loved into a professional career.

“After my divorce, I decided that I was going to do what I wanted to do. And if I was going to do this [launch a singing career], I needed to start taking steps in that direction,” she recalled.

Smith invested in a year-long jazz vocalist training program, sharpened her stage presence and started learning the ins and outs of show business. Soon after, she took her new career by the reins and booked performances at a variety of Chicago venues, including The ETA Theatre, The Jazz in the Grazz Music Festival and the Hollywood Casino in Joliet, Ill.

A Labor of Love

And, like most bona fide professional singers, Smith went to work on her debut CD, Love’s Journey—a silky smooth compilation of eight classic and R&B-inspired jazz tunes for the Grown and Classy crowd. Smith will officially launch her new CD in September 2012, just in time for the romantic fireside chats, candlelit dinners and intimate gatherings the Fall season tends to bring.

“I’m super-duper, ridiculously excited about my CD. I’m so proud of it,” Smith said, adding that she selected each of the covered songs to reflect her personal stops and discoveries along her own unique path toward love.

From managing the creative direction of her new CD, to booking her own shows, to interacting with her audiences, Smith enjoys every facet of her singing career. By far, she said, her greatest challenge has been shifting her thinking so that she identifies herself as a professional singer, rather than by her corporate credentials, only.

“Now, I introduce myself as a jazz artist [when meeting new people,]” she said. “When I started doing that, things really began to open up for me.”

Keeping the Faith

For example, when the associates at Smith’s day job (where she is a member of the corporate sales team) discovered her singing talents, the jazz singer was invited to represent both her company and her music genre in U.S. Cellular’s Call Someone Who Cares national customer satisfaction campaign. As a result, Smith is expanding her audience and winning new fans by the hundreds via YouTube and Twitter.

“This is it for me. [Singing] is definitely not a hobby. It is something I plan to have as my final career,” Smith said. “I can’t express the joy I feel when I’m performing or even in rehearsal.”

And to other Mae Bs. looking to find the same career satisfaction and joy, Smith suggests leveraging your special gifts and tapping into the things that interest you most. “If you have courage and faith, you can get back to that thing that drives you…and you’ll know it’s your gift by how people respond to you.”

Have you noticed positive changes in your life after changing your mindset or tapping into your unique talents? Please share your examples by replying below.  

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