Monday, April 30, 2007

Beauty Secrets.... SHhhhhh!

When the crazy ladies at crazyhipblogmamas asked women to write their top 5 beauty secrets or tips, I laughed. If I stood out on the nearest public street right now every member of the fashion police would arrest me, those who weren't photographing me with a big X for their magazine that is. How is it possible to ensure that your children, your husband, your house and even some days your car is taken care of.....but not pay attention to yourself.

So, I do have beauty secrets - and I'm sure my husband believes they are a well kept secret many days of the week. Here it goes.

The Mommy Beauty Regimen:

5. Drink lots of water - an entire boat load. See, I have found when everything else is hitting the fan, some dear woman will tell me that I have the most beautiful skin and I will chuckle dearly. How is it possible to see my skin when it is well hidden under my stress and wardrobe -but it is indeed possible. Drink water, drink water and then ....drink some more water.

4. Lip tint. I am not a big consumer of lipstick, lip gloss or chapstick.... but I manage to have something of one sort or another in arms reach most days. Now, the funny thing is, American Girl lip gloss is the best kept secret in the world. And for many a spur of the moment occasion, I have used it as lip tint, eyeshadow and blusher. I should thank my 7 year old.

3. Vaseline. You can buy all of the Eucerin, Aquaphor, and Cetaphil you want....want if you have a dry skin issue - vaseline is the key. It is by far the best moisturizer, make-up remover, chafed skin reliever, all around cure for whatever ails you.

2. Arm & Hammer peroxide tooth paste. I'm sorry, there is nothing better than clean and white teeth. I have come to believe that Arm & Hammer is to the mouth exactly what it is to the refrigerator. A gently pick me up and cure all for whatever ails you. I think, when I'm at my very worst, clean teeth and fresh breath go far.

I know, there is nothing interesting and revolutionary thus far - not quite a beauty you must be thinking. Hey, every girl has to have her secret weapon. I mean, I must be spending my grocery money on something right.

My number 1 beauty secret is................

1. Prayer. If you have a quality inner life and peace, you have a tremendous outer glow. In the midst of a difficult day, situation, relationship, circumstance - if you can gather yourself long enough to take a deep breath and thank God that you exist, all will be well. For everything else - try Get Fresh, Mandarin Ginger Body Butter. It will help you remember all those other things...because you will smell just like heaven. Be well.

By the way, can writing a blog be a beauty secret???

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Little Pushes

" I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker." ~ Helen Keller

I could easily slip into a feeling of woulda and coulda today, shoulda has already been hanging out for a few days. But instead, I say, here's to the little pushes. If there is never a great and noble task completed at my hand, I will rejoice in a variety of small things that would never happen with out me.

My little pushes over the last few days include:
  • Emergency doctor for the latest ouchie for the little guy
  • A friend to someone who really needed it
  • Clean laundry for 5 people, even though they did not assist in the task
  • A mini-calligraphy lesson for the daughter of a friend who squealed w/me about a boy she likes
  • Popsicles for the next door neighbors kids and mine too
  • Collection of our library books to be returned
  • Delayed gratification in a purchase that means I saved our family money
  • Blogging with a comment left - yippee I reached someone, a READER!
  • The island in my kitchen will be all clean, after I get done typing
  • I found the sword for Leonardo the turtle
  • I contacted a client with leads for their work
  • I forwarded several leads for a friend who is a life coach
  • I walked this morning while I watched gymnastics
  • and so.........the little pushes are defined not by the great and noble tasks, but the dignity with which we do all things. Weeding my garden, conserving water as I brush my teeth, a welcoming and clean home for my family, 20 letters mailed this week to say thank you, I miss you , Happy Birthday...and everything in between.
Here is to your little pushes!

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Friend In Deed

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
~ John F. Kennedy

I was traveling this week and needed quotes for a presentation. I stumbled on this one - but I really unearthed much more.

I had a friend who helpd by playing with my 3 year old all day and keeping my spirits up through the night - so I could get ready for a presentation. When I arrived she had grilled a great dinner, the coffee was delightful, the company amazing, the kindness unforgettable. She potted flowers and herbs for us, she decorated cup cakes, she lived by the word - friend.

I was trying to think about what I could do to really let her know how overwhelmed I felt because of her generosity - and realized, I could just continue to reach the heights of being a tremendous friend.

DreamGirls....In Real Life

What is your dream job? Have you ever thought about what you were meant to be - vs. what you may be doing right now? If you have reached your dreams - please share your thoughts with my readers - I'm still a work in progress - I'm not there yet.
Join the
hipmamas with your own thoughts about the "dream job" in your life, or your pursuit of it.

I am the principal of ALlyd Image Solutions, a consulting firm that helps non-profit agencies reach their full potential. I started the practice shortly after my first child was born, when I decided I couldn't work 60 hr. weeks for the rest of my life. I get to address strategy, leadership, resource development and communication - and I love it. I knew that I had professional goals and dreams, but the traditional workforce didn't fit with how I wanted to raise my children. I have worked a vareity of executive and development jobs since that time, and I have continued to consult - largely full-time, in order to have the life we desired. Reality is - Somedays it feels like a dream, and others nightmare.

I get the opportunity to help non-profit agencies fulfill their mission while operating as an effective business. Somedays I get dressed from head to toe, conduct trainings and workshops, strategize and develop plans...and other days, I go to the zoo - in jeans. Flexibility is essential to my happiness, and I like to work hard and play hard. What can happen in this ideal scenario however, is the tendency to work 24 hrs. a day, instead of 8.

My day doesn't start and end at a certain time. As I balance pick-ups, drop-offs and homework - I also have little ones that demand much of my attention. I aspire to have them know that they are my first priority, and to carve out specific times when my clients can have my full attention. What can get lost in this equation is balance. So - I have developed a checklist of how to maintain my happiness in my dream job as a consultant.

1. Identify Your DreamGirls.....

Please, don't get me wrong - a portion of my dreams are fulfilled by my dreamguy, handsome geek husband of 12 years. Yet, I have dreamgirls that make life more manageable. They help me with inspiration, child care emergencies, motivation, tough talk and little reminders about what I do. They often talk my off of the ledge when I think about what could have been if I had gone to corporate America.

2. Identify What Works and What Does Not....

I used to not talk about my children in an effort to keep personal and professional life separate. I have read numerous articles that say you should distinguish those aspects of your life and eliminate any cross over. Note to self - I am my business. My clients know about my kids, the location of my office (both the real one and the laundry room for peace at times), my priorities and my plan B, plan C and plan D options. If someone wants a robot, I am not the best fit. I have learned to just be who I am and at times that means a very humble consultant with 1 contract and at other times - I can't stop thanking God for my overflow of blessings.

3. Pace Yourself

You can have it all, but you can't have it all at the same time. I can look at the grass on other lawns on an average day - but I also get the reminder to look at my own. I have made choices about the type of life I want to have, and although the pieces are a little jagged around the edges - they have been choices. I love my work. I love the time I have with my children.

4. Operate with YOUR Values

A friend of mine often asks what would I do for $1,000,000. We have extreme financial pressures at times, but what I usually can answer most effectively is what I will not do. I operate by principles and beliefs that I can live with and that has to be enough for me at the end of the day - even when the contract is lost as a result of it.

5. Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses

I am a very good consultant. I do a lot of really good work. Yet, I have blown it in the worst way at times - and I learn as much from my failures as from my successes. I am at a point in life when I can rejoice in both. My kids get to see that I am confident about my skills and humble in my weaknesses - I strive to be and do better, often.

In the movie DREAMGIRLS there are a variety of talented women who are trying to make it to the top. It is set in a different time, in a different industry and with different circumstances than my life. Yet, in real life, I'm glad that my DreamGirls play out differently. We have reached a point in our lives when we define our lives based on our goals and standards, and we work collectively and collaboratively, not at each others expense.

There is something very powerful about working with other independent women who own their own businesses, use their skills to create and define unique jobs, achieve great educational heights and build each other up. One of the best parts of my dream job may be that I get to work with amazing women often. I am reaching for my dreams, and showing my children that they have the power to do the same - defining the terms every step of the way. Now, if I could only get that $1m, while pursuing those dreams.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Cheaper to keep Her

Much to my horror, my husband has counseled several men on the "its cheaper to keep her" line of thought. I used to argue about the images that would come to any mans mind when you talked about keeping his wife, because it is, well, "cheaper." The more he would explain his concern for the emotional, spiritual and financial future of people who discarded marriage too easily - the more upset I would get that he didn't talk in terms of "love, family, covenant.........." - he's a guy.

I stumbled on these pictures over a 2 year period and I regret to say - I'm starting to fully understand my husband. With all of the media coverage focusing on "How much did Juanita Jordan get?" - I was starting to have a "it's cheaper to keep her moment." Insert new idea, "it is not cheaper for her to keep him."

I imagine that for many wives, not unlike myself, marriage can be a roller coaster ride. Early in our relationship I didn't know what to expect or how to communicate, we were 2 workaholics heading for a dangerous spiral. Twelve years and three kids later, our marriage is still a work in progress. Wonderful news is - we work and we make progress. We are a5 very blessed people over here in this household.

I try to avoid posting regularly about pop culture or issues that are disguised as news on any given day - but this whole issue of celebrity divorce is getting on my one last nerve. Marriage can take its toll. When I look at the pictures in this entry, I see a woman in transition. A woman who had to make a decision for herself what she wanted the future to look like. A woman who had lost herself in being a wife and mother, and who ultimately had to look in the mirror and decide on something new. I believe you can have everything in life - but I do not believe you can have it all at the same time. I strive for home/work/life balance - and I'm starting to like that picture of the future. Nonetheless, there is lots of work to be done.

When I hear media outlets talk about the Jordan's with the horror that Juanita might get over $150 million - my skin crawls. As a culture, we love Michael Jordan. His basketball prowess, his story of undiscovered talented done good, his work ethic, his court presence, his everything. What people seem to fail to understand is that all of the decisions in life have a price. I tend to look at "Mrs. Jordan" like I look at the wives of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Colin Powell, and others. I believe at my core that these women could have made the decision to be and do whatever they wanted to. Reality is, having a family does have its costs. When you are raising children and planning for the future - there are times when your dreams are deferred in order to prioritize first things first. This isn't a conversation about working moms vs. stay-at-home moms, this is a testament to all moms. All wives. All women. We are value added to the equation. Juanita has been working long, hard, I imagine often times alone, to do her job well.

My theory is this - Michael Jordan wouldn't be "Michael Jordan" without Juanita. His marriage didn't change his talent, but it would have changed his entire life make-up. While he was traveling, working, dreaming of higher heights - the woman by his side for that entire time was Juanita. I have no first hand knowledge of what did or didn't happen to lead to the decision for divorce, but for anyone that is a hard choice. While it may have been cheaper to keep her in his book - evidently the cost for her got to be too much. Her emotional, physical and financial well being could no longer be tied to him. I'm saddened at the prospect. I disagree with the thought that her return on investment paid well. There are children involved and a lifetime of dealing with public scrutiny - but bottom line, this is the transition of yet another marriage covenant over. Couples in general are a dying breed.

So as Forbes does its research that basically looks like of list of "women who got too much," and publishes divorce statistics like we study trends in purchasing toys - I say enough already. Evidently one morning Juanita looked in the mirror, saw the writing on the wall, and made a decision that this isn't okay anymore. What comes out of her life investment can't be summed up in facts and figures. From one woman to another I wish her and her family well - as evidently the emotional, spiritual and financial costs are sometimes not enough to make either party stay.

Marriage commitment - Over a decade
Divorce attorney - Multiple millions
Divorce settlement - $150+ million
Embracing what life has to offer, next - Priceless

There is something about transition in life. Over at crazyhipblogmamas you can catch a few others, as they talk about transition (physical, emotional, spiritual) too!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Intentional Progress Over Perfection

I don't really know where to start. I am really creative. I love to bake. I am a perfectionist in most things. (Written to the tune of "I think I can, I think I can.") I live for everything coming together and seeing every i dotted, and t crossed. Yet, motherhood has taught me a lot about my expectations in life - perfection is a fading memory.

We are on the tightest budget of our lives. We own two mortgages and not by choice. When my youngest child was approaching his 3rd birthday, I knew that we would have a small celebration. I told Drew, "Mommy will make you a birthday cake...." and that was enough for him. I, however, could only remember the multi-tier princess cake my daughter had at her 3rd birthday. This wasn't quite a fair competition. No equity whatsoever.

I don't have a problem with store purchased cakes, I just don't like them. So - I would either order directly from a wonderful stay-at-home mom that made delicious and very fancy cakes, I would rely on my best friend (the God Mommy) who does a tremendous job decorating cakes, or I would work my heart out to really create something fabulous. One year we had a trememdous Blue's Clues cake and I felt bad for every baker who has ever used stars to create the illusion of perfection. 200 stars and 4.5 hours later - I think the cake pan is still hiding from its lack of repeat use. (It has been 3 years at least....)

Drew likes rockets and mommy made a funny looking rocket cake for his birthday. It didn't have perfect letters or the "right" color icing - and I decorated it in the pan. For a woman that lives for perfection - I had failure written all over my face. I don't even have a fancy cake dish for a rectangle cake - yikes. I mean it can be hard to recover from such a missed opportunity of Martha Stewartism. Yet, the only thing that my little boy did was squeal in delight about his rocket cake. He was happy with his creation and was ready to eat it before the picture was taken. There's a lesson to be learned about "good enough" in all of this.

Sometimes I'm ready to climb heaven and earth to accomplish something that requires level C effort. The time, cost and emotional savings can then be placed into some other value added activity - like enjoying the cake with the kids. My husband said as we were preparing to ebay a few items, "How about that South Beach Book - you've stopped that right." I sunk a little bit and was ready to memoralize his insensitivity, when I thought to myself - where is the energy best used?

My energy nowadays is used to write, to play with a messy kid who likes funny looking cakes, to sleep late, to look out the window instead of cleaning it. As a result of this decision - I only promise two things anymore: a clean bathroom and clean dishes, so that you can go potty at my house with dignity, and so that you can have water without fearing for your life. IPOP is my theme of the year - Intentional Progress Over Perfection. So, while I may need to go back over to that beach....I will spend my time soaking up my sons, and my little princess too.

When you are tempted to think that your efforts aren't really good enough - think again. Motherhood is filled with moments to reach the highest heights - but its also filled with wisdom to realize that Betty, Duncan and Dough Boy who came before us can help us to cherish our priorities. Celebrate "Good Enough" and enjoy the day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Spring Cometh....I think!

I am a firm believer that Fall is one of the best seasons that exists. I like the colors, the eye candy of the leaves, the no-jacket weather with long pants, it is my time of the year. It precedes some of my favorite holidays in addition to the birthday season of the majority of my family. But today, I wondering along with other mamas, where is Spring?

One of my favorite flowers is the tulip and they are no where to be seen. I look forward to the tulip and daffodil competition that frames so many homes, driveways and flower beds. I'm convinced that tulips are one of the most infectious flowers - easily able to make you smile, when you know they will stay but for a short time.

I'm also looking forward to Spring because of the forced weight loss plan. Let's face it - today I had carrot cake (very good Tea's Me cake) and I'm eyeing left over girl scout cookies. In just a few short weeks I'll give up all the carbs for the vanity of losing some weight and hopefully getting back on track. After I lost 40 lbs. I got a little too friendly with the stress of transition and relocation - and I've found a few things I never wanted to see again. I look forward to Spring because salads, iced tea and bottled water will overwhelm my desire for things I don't need.

Spring also offers a sense of renewal. I shared my "tea friend experience" and in the last few weeks I've met new women who are expanding my circle of connection. The women I have met have been diverse, interesting, S.M.A.R.T., professional, successful, motivated....and each one in our conversations talked about the "potential of the next phase of life." I think Spring makes everyone think about the potential of life, and with the first quarter of the year over we know that the clock is ticking to reach our fullest potential.

We are in the midst of a thunderstorm, the rain is falling, my kids are a little concerned about tornadoes - and I'm blogging about Spring. Spring is also a bit unpredictable - kind of like weather in general, our feelings, the future. In a life of unpredictable actions and reactions, the hope of Spring is that good things are to come. Jeremiah 29:11 speaks to what the future holds and God's plan for us all. When I think about Spring I think about an expected end, and I know that God has wonderful things just waiting for us.

My daughter prayed that daddy would come home safe and he did. Today I could have blogged about anything - Imus, S.M.A.R.T. Women, being a consultant, Barack, Fundraising, marriage, friendship - but it seems right to talk about something as simple as Spring and the hope it brings.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Gotta Go To Heaven

I won't win any wife awards today - surprise to regular readers right? (All 3 of you I know, I know.) I was inspired to get over my temporary short comings as a spouse by embracing the mama in me. I've got a much better chance of getting some positive feedback about those traits - I'm hoping. So, when I went to Crazy Hip Blog Mamas and encountered the opportunity to say why all mamas go to heaven, I'm all in. Evidently there are some well meaning folks who promote this concept on a regular basis: All Moms Go To Heaven - and today I'm going to tell you why....

In my view all moms go to heaven because:

10. There must be a place of rest somehow, some place , some way - surely we aren't meant to live on so little sleep.

9. We're gonna have someone to praise other than those who stayed dry, flushed and washed.

8. Our children's therapists who blame us are going to the other place.
(Mary J. Blige's "You Goin' Down...... comes on in my head. They are going down.)

7. We have been calling on God to help us since they came out the womb.
(Knee Mail is what I'm talking about - email has nothing on that.)

6. Childbirth. Stitches. Hemorrhoid's. Hemorrhoids. Hemorhoid. However you spell it, the Preparation H Inspirers......

5. We must have an opportunity to look good in a bikini somewhere. Please.
(I mean really - if we get a perfect body up there, no sickness, no disease....doesn't that mean no belly fat too.)

4. We're going to have hot meals up there - no more cutting, blowing, prepping, refilling, doctoring, etc. before we even sit down.

3. Jesus loves the little children...and we've been acting like the children since we figured we couldn't win the war any other way.

2. There has to be a light at the end of the tunnel - we haven't had a toy with our meals in decades.

1. God is gonna tell each and every one of us - "you done good girl, you done good!" Because the fact that we wake up every day, aspire to be the best that we can be, and invest more in their future than the baggage of our past - I can see God now just letting us know, we done good.

There is a video by Keke Palmer on Radio Disney. She's the Spelling Bee queen and Jump In star with the infectious smile. She sings the lyrics (with young teen enthusiasm) "We're gonna make it....Where all my girls at.... Don't give up" and every time I dance with my daughter I secretly believe the words are written for me. So for all the mama's out there......where are my girls at?

We're gonna go to heaven because we're going to make it.
Don't give up!

On Barack: An Open Letter

A friend forwarded me an open letter on Barack, written by a female black professor. My hat goes off to B.L. Jackson - I appreciate her clear statement that captures so many of my own thoughts. I've posted about Tavis Smiley before. In summary, I appreciate his voice but I have no respect or appreciation for his hypocritical digs at many "worthy of respect" true leaders. Can we skip the Al and Jesse discussion please.

B.L. Jackson ends her letter with the following feedback:

"The best thing Barack can do for us is to win, not show up at yet
another black forum simply to prove he's one of us by placating the egos who believe Barack should clear his calendar for their "ultimate black" event! There are plenty of other candidates (and so-called leaders) who warrant our scrutiny and skepticism - not to mention a host of misogynistic lyricists, child molesting musicians, and other unaccountable black-community-made millionaires. Barack, however, has proven with his excellence, his achievements, his commitments, and his life's work that he warrants our support.

Rather than using his credentials and connections to build his personal wealth, Obama chose to pursue careers like providing job training for residents of poor neighborhoods, directing voter registration drives and fighting for civil rights. Unlike other candidates in the race, Obama has been consistent in speaking against sending our black babies to murder, and to be murdered by, brown people in the Mesopotamia for the sake of multinational corporate interests. He has successfully forged coalitions with people across racial and political lines to introduce a host of legislation that would, among other things, get guns off our streets, reduce greenhouse emissions, and limit the influence of special interest lobbyist on Capital Hill.

As for whether Barack's black enough, let us not forget that race exists in America not in our biology, genetic code or even our phenotype, but rather by the institutionalization of the economic and social construct of chattel slavery and its vicious offshoots. Under that regime, "a dab'll do ya." Whiteness equates to economic and social privilege and that privilege fades as it traverses the racial spectrum. Anyone who has any black ancestry living in this country, whether for a day or for generations, will experience the vestiges of slavery and the consequences of white privilege, making the question of whether one is descended from enslaved Africans or colonized and oppressed Africans irrelevant. It is not simply the experience of that oppression, however, that demonstrates loyalty to our community and that deserves our community's loyalty, but rather recognition of the injustice of it and actions taken to dismantle it. Clearly, Obama has met this test!

Let the record of each candidate speak for itself. But, for the sake of our ancestors and, more importantly, our descendants, do not inadvertently become a pawn of white privilege by demanding that Obama's record be scrutinized more closely and meet a higher standard than his white counterparts simply because some narcissistic crab in a barrel didn't find himself at the top.


B.L. Jackson

A Sister Who Unequivocably And Without Apology to Hillary, Bill or Al Supports Barack Obama for President And Invites Other Thoughtful Brothers and Sisters To Do the Same

And on that note, I will just add, I am thankful that I do not reflect and wonder in vain. How can we talk about the future and think like the past? Barack Obama is not the second coming, but I surely believe he has the potential to change the face of this country and his time is long overdue. If he can hasten my research, investigation and action in politics - in many ways he has served to create a new landscape not before seen. Barack is a credible threat to politics as usual - without the establishment obligations to be the next public joke . Give him a chance already. Haven't we already seen what Hillary has to offer.

Black Women and Barack

It doesn't surprise me that black women vote in greater numbers than the general public. It does surprise me that at this stage of the political campaign process CNN, NPR and the likes have started reporting on the leaning of black women. In a CNN article about Clinton's standing among Black Women on the line...I was surprised at the quick references about the number of devoted Clinton supporters vs. those considering Barack. People, we are not supporting "the Clinton" Whitehouse, it is Hillary Clinton that is running for office. Bill is not.

To be fair, I only caught the tail end of the NPR story. I listened to black women who sound nothing like the black women in my peer group talk about why they are supporting Hillary. "She can get elected they said." If you give her your vote, most assuredly she has that potential. So, it isn't rocket science to understand, if you give Barack your vote, he has that same potential. Skip the lecture about white male voters, I was sitting with them at the last Barack event I attended.

I'm generally conservative. I'm that "stupid black people who voted for Bush" unknown factor - that surprises people to this day. Not every black woman is signed up on the Democratic party line waiting for the next savior of health care, education, social security and the like. I wouldn't be allowed in some circles because I don't have all of my accepted identification in tact - NAACP current membership, die hard liberal bumper sticker, by any means necessary support of anyone to get the Republicans out of office.

The best articles identify black women as a powerful group. They understand that we are all different and we are making many assessments about who to support. All I know is the power of my own circle. PhD's, MBA's, MEds, students, wives, mothers and frankly, we are ALL supporting Barack. Those that haven't made up their mind, we are working on them too. Maybe the good thing is, we are not just talking about it, we are actually working on the campaign, organizing fundraisers, meeting on Saturday's to discuss the latest moves, and inviting our other SISTERS to join us. Yep, go ahead all you want and tell the front page story of the black women who support "the Clinton's."

Meanwhile, will all the sisters (women with common thoughts and ideas, who enjoy politics and conversation about education and the spa all at the same time) that I know, and those I don't, put your energy into your next donation, next story, next blog, next email, next something to support the power of being audacious and hopeful. I'm becoming both. The only other person that I hear even mentioned in the presidential race among my friends is a guy from New York, who cheated on his wife, kicked her out of the home, brought his girlfriend into the public eye, and then subsequently missed the next few years of his children's lives. From a conservative, moral high ground for any Republican candidate has long been over. As a wife, I'm just not clicking a button for someone who doesn't give less than a D#$% about the institution of marriage - I have no doubt that he'll have a hard time defending something he doesn't believe in.

Here are a few headlines for you:

Barack supporters cross all color barriers
Barack supporters cross all economic lines
Barack supporters cross all education levels
Black, Brown, Purple, Yellow, Green people support Barack
White women, men, youth, college students, first tie voters support Barack
Women support Barack
Men support Barack
Conservatives invest in future of Barack
Wives overwhelming support Barack
The Mommy Factor and the overwhelming support of Barack

and hey, just for the heck of it "Barack takes the primary in an unprecedented landslide...."

This black woman is sure that the story that captures it all is yet to be written. Donate today. Barack Obama has the potential to win, he just needs your support to do it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Barack Raises Donations & Development Awareness

The New York Post captures what fundraisers know about the reality of the dollars as it relates to Barack Obama's campaign. Obama Built Donor Network From The Ground Up speaks to what community organizers, central city churches, start up non-profits and effective entities have long realized - the little guys and gals really are important.

I started my community organizer training at the Center for Third World Organizing in Oakland, California. I will probably never qualify as their typical graduate or the featured alumni, as I was thinking about getting out of organizing very soon after getting fully into it. The work was hard, exhausting even, and I couldn't see how I'd ever pay my student loans with this wonderful work that I loved in many ways. The pay was low, the days were long, and with the many lessons that I learned - effective fundraising was the methodology for social justice movements, not for organizers aspiring to the American dream. I imagine no one at CTWO is surprised at Barack's strategy either. He's raising resources from real people who are engaged and committed to his audacious hope for the future.

I didn't learn about non-profit work at Purdue University, it wasn't on the minds of the office that helped graduates plot their life course. The Organizational Leadership and Supervision (OLS) program did however offer me hope for my future in the midst of indecision. Learning the role of leadership in a technology driven world made me view the future with hope - as a leader I believed, I had the potential to change my world.

I didn't quite know what I wanted to do - I was certain however that I wanted to bridge mission driven work with business practices that made sense. Years later, as an organizational and development consultant, I reflect on the principles that have guided my career. Never underestimate your audience is a lesson taken straight from my Summer at the Minority Activists Apprenticeship Program (MAAP) at CTWO. Those $5, $10, $25 donors surely matter.

I, just like any of my fundraising counterparts, would happily take $1,000,000 from anyone who would like to donate it. I can write grants with the best of them and any campaign without large donors is incredibly unbalanced as well. Yet, if I attend one more meeting, one more board training, one more volunteer function where people submit the idea that we will just get the "money people" to write large checks - I'll just cry. If it was that easy and if the money was just falling out of the trees, then there would be no need for effective strategic resource development professionals. Effective being the operative word. In this lack luster economy however, you can identify a number of Development Officer positions ripe with a salary of under $75,000. People simply don't get it. If you have to work that hard to do the job, you should at the very least be able to live comfortably in the work that you do. That is another post.

An effective development staff person realizes that a diverse fundraising strategy must compliment a solid infrastructure that can handle real resource development. If there is the perception that small donations don't matter or that the money is falling from the trees - everyone should just run. It doesn't work that way. Raising money isn't about the money at all. It is about connecting people to the mission and work that motivates them at some core level. CTWO realized that and they taught me to think bigger and broader about the hard work of funding a movement. Barack Obama is in it for the long haul, he gets that. Send your $25 today.

If professional fundraisers and development staff were surrounded by people who got it - then turnover in development offices would not resemble a revolving door. True development takes time, investment, understanding and a true mission and cause that people can get behind. The hours are long, the work is hard and the end result provides resources to create change. That is the power of those $25 donations. People underestimate the additional benefits of building a donor database in the same way that you build a beautiful home - with a vision from the ground up. I am more heartened to support Barack Obama each day. The lack of understanding about fundraising has long been a pet peeve of mine, now its a criteria for political candidates to gain my support. Don't underestimate those of us that can only give $25 today....tomorrow it will indeed be more. Non-profit organizations should take a page from this book - and let the investment in ideas for the average person begin.

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Refined Art of Tea

You simply have to love anything that has lasted for centuries and includes the word refined. I mean really, how many refined activities can you point to in today's society. So...when I learned that a local Tea Shop was going to host a Saturday Tea Tasting, I was all in! Tea's Me Cafe is a local tea house on 22nd street in Indianapolis. I learned about them through a friend who knows beyond a shadow of a doubt - I'm a Starbuck's enthusiast. I gave up coffee for Lent, and thus the story begins.....about an evening of refined Tea Tasting.

My girlfriend was visiting from Michigan and I hadn't seen her in months. We spend a fair amount of time talking via email and phone, but I was reminded about the power of being in person. I was thrilled that she was here, excited we would share this experience together - since she knows her tea, and I was anxious to show her my new "work in progress" blessing of a home. I on the other hand have been wanting a Venti, Sugar-Free Hazelnut, non-fat latte w/2 Splenda for - um.....3 weeks, 2 days, 16 hours and 32 minutes. And instead, I was going out for tea.

We took the kids to the Indianapolis Children's Museum that afternoon, ran sprints outside and ate junk food in the car. Nothing, I mean nothing about the day had been refined. So, when the clock said 6:00 I knew it was time to change, and at 6:30 when I ate bean dip I knew I was not getting in the refined momentum, then at 7:00 when I had planned to leave I was ironing.....well, I could tell that trouble was a lurking. I had been on an emotional roller coaster when for a moment I thought we weren't going to have enough tickets, and I'm struggling with the reality of early evening fatigue. The sight of my kitchen could have drained the life out of me too, but at about 7:30 (right when the festivities were due to begin....) we departed. The cost analysis of giving away $50+ for tickets we didn't use was too much to bare. Out of character I put on R and B Thump and Bump as we drove to the tea house - two married jean wearing mommy's joining an SBL friend. (Single But Looking - or at least I try to tell her to keep on looking and looking until we have a ring and a date - but I digress.)

Who wears jeans to a tea tasting? I wondered if I was out of order - but they were CBJ's (cute booty jeans as Ms. PhD calls them) and we were fully accented and accessorized - and what could be worse; being dressed wrong or being 30 minutes late? When we arrived the owner was already speaking and the fashionably late aura was not my strong suit. Yet, my friend was confident and cool and we slid into our first tea experience at a sold out event where it was impossible not to be seen. If you had a desire for white gloves, hats, quiet conversation - all of those myths should now be exposed.

Seated at the table were 3 women who I could only imagine were together and timely. I tried to sip the first tea - get into the experience and walaaaaa - I see it, PLASTIC CUTLERY. I am immediately at ease - I may be late, have on jeans, and be out of the know.....but on a beautifully set table I see plastic and I am ripe with the many contrasts. The refined experience is almost out of reach. I believe we had a herbal and green tea to start....followed by a full bodied black tea. Within moments, however, we diagnose that humor is a much needed addition to our table and lady like chatter is out of the window.

Soooooooooooo, what is your name and what do you do? The name piece is easy and we answer enthusiastically until that issue of jobs comes up. For a moment I wish I had an easy answer, but I don't. I'm a non-profit consultant in the areas of organizational and resource development, a mother of 3 and I recently relocated. I find a need to explain what I do because most people don't understand and I have 2 degrees to justify. Low and behold - the unknown ladies are involved in non-profit work and education and a match has been made. Collectively, we have a non-profit consultant, a life coach, a PhD student preparing for comps, a teacher with passion and insight, a museum and education guru, and a museum exec with sassy one-liners. That museum thing scared me until she talks about going to the Jazz Kitchen and I hear in her voice that she too has a story to tell. We are ripe with contrasts, but SCORE - we have a match. Regardless of culture, we have embraced the truth about tea; it is the woman who makes the experience.

If the tea had been bad, we would have still managed to have a good time. Thank goodness - the tea was overall pretty great. The light green water was lost on me, but I tried to clean up my act when the owner asked what I thought. "Well - it's not a match for me. " Why he asks...."Well, I was underwhelmed by the taste. Not enough taste for me." I learn that green tea has lots of health benefits, that you can't over seep it, and that if you put enough natural sweetener in anything, you can get a refreshing pick me up. Nonetheless, the stuff looked like loose grass seed and I simply wasn't feeling it. Tea coupled with dainty desserts - you have a comedy routine in store.

We are out for the first time in months, together, sugar addicted - and we keep getting light peach pastries instead of German chocolate, pound or red velvet cake with a side of peach cobbler. Does refined have to be nasty? Can we have refined tea with real sweets? I mean, the first time I asked for splenda at the tea house I had already learned my lesson - there are evidently better, healthier or at the very least more refined options. The music, jazz music, set such a beautiful stage for the experience - I hated to contribute to the detriment of the refined art. Yet, when I realized that our table had more personality in store....why not unearth it.

My friend is a life coach and author. Explain what a life coach is in 10 minutes or less - and someone believes you are somehow a fruitcake therapist. My friend begins to share with our new table mates the difference between a real life coach and the many people who masquerade in the field. My friend is big into accountability and at that point we are all on board for quick life lessons. Marriage, dating, motherhood, the art of tea, transition - we all want to be coached through it. I am distracted though, I want someone to coach me through reusing the same fork for 3 different desserts. I get stuck on the details. I know I was late, I wore jeans, I am used to fixing food for 4 people before I ever taste my own .... but I was anticipating fine art. The melodious lessons that come from the owner may be the only thing that qualifies as refined - as I learn that Africa is a new entry into tea production I'm intrigued. I learn about leaves, seeping, the time difference for a fuller body tea and all of that is pretty interesting - even though I think the local Country Kitchen restaurant should replace the dainty desserts. Fuller bodies deserve fuller experiences - I'm angry at the nasty desserts. That peach layered sour cream thing in clear gelatin is downright scary. I too am fuller bodied, and I need something else to accent my tea for sure.

The life lessons fly:

- Every married woman should know how to work a pole (Yes, this was from 2 Christian women)
- Marry a GEEK, polish is a good thing, and geeks rule the world ( I have a lot of advice for singles)
- You can tell a lot about a woman from her handbag (The Author is carrying her life in the bag)
- Lingerie is appropriate tea conversation - and is featured a local museums too (The quiet ones, you gotta watch them.)
- Private vs. Public School which really equates to the quality of teacher wherever you find 'em
- The Power of Vocabulary (The PhD one makes me laugh because her studies compile more $12 words than should be allowed - and my 4 year old can bring her to her knees. Auntie, he'll say - where is your husband, as he tries to identify his whereabouts or take the job himself. We are all educated women having a real good time. )

We begin laughing hysterically about men, bosoms, lingerie, spanxs, education, politics and I have a few belly laughs that we can talk about anything. I would be safe knowing we'll never see each other again - but I hope we do. Who needs refined? Other tables stare - but I am now told we are seated with a Corporate Partner for the tea house - it is fitting that she should have so much fun. The looks from the other guest make me think I should direct them to the museum for their refined experience, we are here to have fun. With all of the health benefits, tradition, pretty cups and kettles..... what has to happen to make tea profitable is that it has to attract the unrefined too. I am thinking of business opportunities for the owner as I laugh - he should have extended hours to prolong this experience.

Don't get me wrong. I can talk about European trips and the etiquette of a lady with the best of them, but it is not a priority on the one night I'm not with my children. They surely come up, but I am delighted to experience being a woman again. Not once did I have to warn anyone about the temperature of the teapot, the lit candle, the breakable glass or to be kind to their neighbor. Although we don't know each other one might have thought we'd had a little Long Island Iced Tea....when joy was simply our drug of choice. We talk about getting together again for the great music, tremendous conversation, laughter and even tea. After learning you can decaf your own tea I become committed to savoring the first 40 seconds of any tea cup more than ever - full bodied is what I desire. I smell leaves, I watch the color explode, I dissect the taste on my palate, and I am sure of what I like. Refined does not equate with being learned at tea - I believe you either have it or you do not. Fuller bodied = Richer Life.

The evening comes to a close and I think about the possibilities. I have some overly simple idea of the American Dream being fulfilled by women who connect over tea and know as much about the art as they do about an effective strip tease for your husband. I think it is great that our unrefined conversation was so much fun. I regret I didn't get the card of the musician and I warn the ladies that I will write about them. I think journals should be at least as entertaining as blogs and I assure them that I'll be kind. I won't talk about the snorts, bra adjustments, figure envy, and the dating status of those at the table - that would be inappropriate. I know in my mind I'll write about the power of possibilities when good people unite over the refined art of tea.