MY SON LIKES TRUCKS

My son is not quite two.  He plays the drums, the saxophone and the keyboard.  And if an ability to make a lot of noise is a measure for skill, he is gifted.  He enjoys eggs, singing Jingle Bells and chanting Mommy mommy mommy at obscene hours.  He hates when his hands are dirty.  He prefers Charlie Brown to Elmo.  He thinks fart noises are comedy gold.  And he loves, loves, loves playing with trucks.  He loves identifying trucks.  He loves saying the word ‘truck’.  His pronunciation is not so tight quite yet, so it sounds like he’s cussing but trucks are his jam.  I try my best to quiet my internal relief about that.  I never prayed that he would be drawn to blue things.  It was not my conscious desire that he be all snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.  I shrugged my shoulders when someone mistook him as a little girl in the airport. They apologized profusely as if I may have been insulted, as if I should have been insulted.  “I am so sorry!  It’s just…the braids, I thought…”  I was proud of my initial response.  I am proud of my parenting style and the way I refuse to place heavy value on some of the silly gender expectations we assign children. I looked at my beautiful baby boy and smiled.  I convinced myself that the haircut he got a month later was because I was tired of wrestling him to brush his hair and/or braid it and that it had nothing to do with people asking me when I was going to cut it and absolutely nothing to do with a stranger thinking he was a little girl.

 

I imagined myself being the type of parent who could buy their son an Easy Bake Oven and dare anybody to say anything about it.   But the truth is I am the type of parent that is relieved by their son’s interest in trucks.  I am not alarmed when he climbs the furniture and jumps off of it.  I tell him “you’re fine” when he stumbles and is trying to decide whether he should cry or keep playing. When someone says, “He is all boy ain’t he?” I am pleased.  It is my responsibility, to guide him towards being the person God has called him to be.  And I realized that I am really hoping he only stands out in ways that will make his life easier.  If he is smarter and faster and stronger than his peers, that would be better for him.  If he is the most prayerful or the most creative he could excel in ways that would benefit his life.  If he is unusual in the “wrong ways” it could make everything complicated.  He is Black and his mother is single. Those two things alone make him eligible for every negative statistic that exists.  I observed a mother describing her two year old Black son as soft when he would not stop crying.  “You soft water!  You so soft!”  I watched this same baby’s uncle snatch a guitar out of his hands and reprimand him for playing with a girl’s toy.  The guitar had pink designs on it.  In those moments I felt like I was witnessing a crime. A baby was being robbed of his right to emote and play freely.  Let’s meet up with this guy at twenty-two and see how well he manages interpersonal relationships.  Right there under the surface of my polite smile was hard judgment. I judged the entire family.  And as I traveled a little farther into myself I was able to understand.  Forgive us Father.  If fear and love are the only two motivating factors in any decision  a human can make, then fear is winning when it comes to parenting.

 

This is not an article about my son.  This is not even an article about subscribing to the Westernized ideals of femininity, masculinity and sexuality.  It is an article about being held hostage by our fears.  We are scared for our boys.   It would not be difficult for me to love my son if he wanted to wear pink and play with Barbie dolls like www.myprincessboy.com .  But it would be difficult for me to send him outside of our home knowing tolerance and understanding will not necessarily be waiting for him on the other side of the door.  It is difficult to leave him now.  Will his grandmother be as patient as I am when he throws a tantrum?  Will his daycare provider respond to his finicky eating with kindness and other options?  Will the children at the birthday party want to be his friend?  Will his teachers cater to his learning style? I want him to be favored.  I want him to be a leader.  I want him to be outstanding.  I want him to be loved.  I don’t want him to get hurt.   My “don’t wants” are so much louder. 

 

 I think I should be busy trying to create a world that is safer and more beautiful for every child instead of preparing my son for the world that actually exists.  I lean toward the latter in practice, the former in poetry.  I should do more.  I don’t know how.  Parents who discipline their sons for playing with toys that have glitter are not a part of my immediate circle.  But their children may be a part of my son’s.  I’m glad he likes trucks.  For now, it makes me feel a little less afraid.  But I promise not to ever snatch a pink guitar out of his hands.  Even if I kind of want to a little bit.

 

By: LYNNETTE JOHNSON
Twitter: @KnottyPoet IG:KnottyMama
@TheVSOPLife #AreYouVSOP

 

 

 

V.S.OP Vision Board Challenge

Virtually Seizing Opulence CHALLENGE

#VisionBoardChallenge

It took 7 days to create the world as we know it. A lifetime was spent from up high pondering the perfect plan of action. Like a game of chess, every move was strategic. Life as we know it began with a Vision. Even the great creator, whatever you may call him/her/it, executed a masterpiece that was deemed perfect, and everything was as it should be. The word VISION takes on a powerful meaning not easily gifted to random empty vessels. Webster defines the word as the ACT or POWER of IMAGINATION: UNUSUAL discernment or FORESIGHT.  Every great man or woman that has done something eventful, that impacted the world, started with a vision. All great leaders have a very POWERFUL testimony as it relates to having a VISION that they put into ACTION.  

So why are we even discussing thoughts and ideals that surround the makeup of elite visionaries?  Well it’s that time of year again. 2016 is among us, and we all share something in common as we depart the present year. Many of us typically sit back quietly and do a true evaluation of self. Personally, I always take a look at my year end review and assess where I am in life. People across the globe speak about plans for their NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION. People who know me can attest to my creative capacity. I have been told I am an innovative person that is full of ideas. One of my personal mottos is “My vision is clear, now let the journey begin.” Most of the time when I have a vision, it usually happens first thing early in the morning. I see an amazing ending to something that I would like to do. That thought alone excites me enough to pursue maximum efforts to begin working on the project. My business partners and friends get so frustrated with me often. They say that I give them ideas that are “end sighted” (yes, I just made that up).  I have been told that my vision, when presented only consists of the X-Z while A-W is lost, unclear, or not properly outlined.  

Have you ever had a dream that excited you, but you only remembered how great the ending was? When trying to tell a friend all about your dream, you get so frustrated because everything that led up to the ending remains a blur. You remain excited while they’re stuck in between a delayed chuckle or the, “I had to be there” type of awkward moment. That’s how a lot of us set goals and articulate our visions to others and, most importantly, ourselves. The disappointing fact about my ideas is simple. I leave a lot of ideas on the table because I lose sight of the vision after the initial thrill or excitement wears off. As I exit 2015 and approach 2016, I want to be sure that I eliminate this problem so that I can properly and successfully MASTER my goals. Around this time last year, I was speaking to a good friend of mine, Elijah Oliver aka Take Flyght Captain, and he mentioned something about completing his yearly vision board. Strangely enough I never really paid that concept any mind until I started writing this piece here tonight.  What is this “VISION BOARD” and how can it help me be an elite coal conqueror? Let’s take a closer look.

 

#VISIONBOARDCHALLENGE

WHAT IS A VISION BOARD?  A vision board is one of the most powerful ways to help navigate your way to help you clarify, concentrate and remain consistent towards achieving your goals. You are Picasso, Mozart, and Steven Spielberg; given a blank canvas or script for you to begin manufacturing your vision as you see it.  By gathering a list of images, words, pictures, or slogans you can orchestrate a harmonic symphony of your visual goals.

WHO IS A VISION BOARD FOR?  This vision board is for anyone that is looking for an exciting way to organize their expression of self. Vision boards can be utilized by anyone in any capacity, as a way to act as a visual reminder of what you aspire to achieve.

 

HOW DO I MAKE A VISION BOARD? The V.S.OP way is simple.

Identify the person places or things that encompass your NOUNS.

  1. Who are people/persons you want to associate with to help you with your goals?
  2. What are some places you wish to visit, travel to, or retire in life?
  3. What are things that you absolutely enjoy and make you happy? How do you reward yourself?

 

Write down ADJECTIVES that drive your personality. How would you describe yourself?

  1. Be honest with yourself. What are a few things about your personality that have delayed your goals?
  2. What are words or images that you can use to articulate positive energy that will serve as a reminder of who you are and what you excel at?

 

Finally select three VERBS to drive your why. (You why is a specific reason why your goals are important to you)

  1. Be organized and plan for success.
  2. Be action oriented and put your plan into fruition.
  3. Be motivated and resilient as obstacles present themselves.

 

WHAT MATERIALS ARE NEEDED? This project is very simple and can be completed with just a few pieces of material.

  1. A pen and paper to brainstorm your Nouns, Adjectives, & Verbs
  2. A poster board, scissors, glue
  3. Magazines, internet printings of images

 

WHEN DO I BEGIN? Well there is just only one question. #AreYouVSOPIf you are reading this BLOG, you have already begun. The challenge is on. You have now been chosen to participate in the vision board challenge.  I challenge you to send this blog to 7 people on your social media and give them 7 days to post pictures and videos of their vision board on social media. Organize vision board parties with your peers and start 2016 off with a bang. No Goals Left Behind!  Join the members of V.S.OP with The VISION BOARD CHALLENGE. The journey is on. #AreYouVSOP #VisionBoardChallenge

 

 

Mr. Nice Guy Signing Off

@thevsoplife

Happy New Year

Feature Image from http://ethnicskinaficionado.com/vision-boards/

A Part of Me Died with Sandra Bland 

Last week I watched the police dash-cam footage of Sandra Bland’s traffic stop. As I watched the horrific interaction unfold, a slow numbness took over my body, followed by fear and panic. I felt like a toddler who lost their parents in a department store. I was scared and confused. Why was she stopped in the first place? Why was she asked to get out of her car? And why was Sandra arrested?
Trying to tweet the hurt away, I took to twitter to vent out my frustrations, but that did not help. My tweets were met with Internet trolls. While I responded and scrolled through the #SandraBland hashtag I saw words like combative, attitude, belligerent and insubordinate to justify her arrest and consequently her death.

 

I sat up in bed overwhelmed with emotion. Sandra was a brave and bold woman. She was a black, educated, millennial, young professional who moved to a new city to mobilize her career and pursue her passion. The more I thought about Sandra, the more I saw myself. I looked up at the ceiling and felt this feeling I can’t explain with words.

 

I usually pray at night before bed and that night was no different. But when I knelt down to pray, the words didn’t come out. I was at a complete loss of words. As warm tears rolled down my face, I knew a piece of me died with Sandra Bland. My friends would describe me as articulate. My parents would describe me as outspoken. My supervisor would describe me as stern and just. But if I were found dead in a jail cell, what would my media narrative be? How would my personality translate in a police report? I wept. My shirt was drenched in tears and the words still didn’t come. I simply didn’t know what to say. I wept some more.

 

Then I said the names of my friends one at a time. Then my sisters. My cousins. My mentors. My neighbors. My classmates. My aunts. I wept harder. I was completely distraught at the thought of such amazing women; such amazing people; being one self-advocacy moment away from a justice hashtag. Any of them could’ve been Sandra Bland. I wiped my face with my shirt and sat at the edge of my bed. A part of me died with Sandra Bland. I pray I get it back.

V.S.OP Spotlight: Slay Washington The Voice of CT

The Opulent Corner would like to introduce to some and present to others, Mr. Avery “Slay” Washington. In 2007 while attending a party at his Alma Mater, Tuskeege University, “Slay” took a risk and asked the DJ if he could get on the microphone; eight years later, he reigns as one of the hottest names on the Connecticut event and party scene as he is rapidly gaining notoriety throughout the Northeast and beyond.

Avery was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and moved to New Haven, Connecticut as a young child.  The son of a Social Worker and an Administrator in Higher Education, academic excellence has always been at the forefront of Avery’s mind.  Through focus and determination, Avery obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in 2011. Though he worked hard in the classroom, Avery made sure to maintain balance and have fun.  In an interview with VSOP, Avery shared that his initial draw to becoming a host was the ability to improve people’s experience.

VSOP: “What drew you into your craft?”

AW: “I saw that people had great ideas for events but they were bland and missing the energy and hype elements. I felt that I was the missing link to an event being successful. Before I knew it, I was hosting the majority of the parties at the student union as well as at local clubs in the surrounding area.”

Public speaking and performing in front of large groups of people can be a nerve wracking experience. However, Avery got his start early on in life.  As a lifelong member of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Avery would often be called to lead the opening prayer or to serve as Worship Leader for Men’s Day Celebration and other church observances. It was evident early on that Avery had a special gift to connect with others, but more importantly, he enjoys the process of interacting with his audience.

AW: “My craft is my passion, I truly enjoy hosting events and seeing other people happy or laughing because I have enhanced the event experience.”

In addition to being extremely personable and professional, Avery has a reputation for putting his best foot forward at all times. He is not bashful in sharing that he seeks to stand out as the best in his field.

VSOP: “What does opulence mean to you?”

AW: “Opulence is being the absolute best at what you do. Opulence is when your worth is your wealth.”

VSOP: “Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?”

AW: “In ten years, I see myself on a major television network or radio station daily hosting a show or program.”

When thinking of a word to describe “Slay,” the first one that comes to mind is versatile. Not only can he hold down the mic at a club blazing the latest in R&B, hip hop and reggae, he can also serve as the Master of Ceremonies for a fundraising gala, fashion show, wedding or a black tie affair.

Slay doesn’t only seek opulence as a small business owner, he also excels at his full time job as an educator in the New Haven Public School system.  When he is not hosting events or spending extra time with students, Slay can be found serving his community as a proud member of the Chi Omicron Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.

 

VSOP: “Tell us about Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.”

AW: “Omega Psi Phi is a brotherhood that is well respected in the New Haven community and all over the world for our service and uplifting African American males. We are celebrating 104 years of brotherhood.”

Avery has dedicated his life to improving the conditions of others.  Whether it be through community service or by him making an event come to life with his uncanny ability to use wit, humor and charisma to get the crowd to “turn up”. Avery is a firm believer that iron sharpens iron and suggested that up and coming event hosts seek out professionals in the field as mentors.

VSOP:”If there was one piece of advice that you could give to someone looking to get into your industry, what would it be?”

AW: “Find the person that is most popular or the best at what you are interested in. Follow that person and their art form. Also, seek a conversation with that individual in order to understand their motives and ideas.”

The road to success is not always navigated through a straight path. When seeking opulence, one must have faith, determination and a love for the grind. Slay Washington exemplifies all of these traits and more; as an educator, community activist and one of the hottest names of the hosting scene, he is truly living the opulent life. We salute Slay Washington for who you were, who you are and who you will become!

 

 

Slay Washington can be reached at:

Website: www.slaywashington.com
Instagram: @SlayWashington

Now there’s only one question to ask, #AreYouVSOP?

#OpulentBeats: FNX for the Culture

FNX is Like a Knight of the Golden Era Transported in Time to Save Hip-hop From Non-lyricism” -Kool G Rap

 

Everyone has their own struggles to deal with and to eventually learn from. However, it’s being able to rise from it all with confidence, poise, and grace that sets FNX (formerly known as ‘Symon Feenixxx’) apart from others. Hailing from Norwalk, CT FNX is not your ordinary rapper that you hear today. While today’s rap artists promote the status quo – rapping about money and jewelry – FNX is a blend of social consciousness, lyrical bravado, and a mixture of that same urban grittiness.

“Music inspired me to persevere. Persevere and self-educate myself. When I was going through it, the thing that held me down was my walk-man and tape deck. That’s why I’m so loyal to the cause and loyal to the culture. I feel like I owe it to hip-hop to do the best I can”

Inspired by the likes of Nas, Tupac, and Eminem, FNX displays a range of lyrical content not popular amongst modern day rappers. From songs discussing mental illness, ‘Monsters’, to songs about strippers, ‘Private Dance’, FNX holds one thing constant in his music – bars.

FNX has big time potential, and it is easy to tell that he is well on his way. Despite such, it’s more than just the music for him. It’s not about becoming a huge star in the hip-hop game, but just inspiring those along the way through educating and motivating.

“I see me and my team making an impact with our music but passing the blessings I received from Hip-hop forward.”

FNX currently has out “Blue Moon” and his most recent project the “Who Am I” EP which delves deeper into his unique vision of life in the future and how his music has led to a higher knowledge of self. FNX says FNX Vol. 1 the mixtape is coming out soon as well. FNX continues to make moves and an impact while doing it. You don’t come across too many artists who are actually doing music for the love of the culture, not for the money and fame. In his last words in the interview FNX said it best, “Make sure you do it for the love of the art and love of the culture. And if you’re not, you need to find something else.”

 

Check out FNX‘s Marching Prod. by Kenny Ca$h, from the “Who Am I” EP

 

 

FNX Links:

http://www.fnxmusic.com/
www.soundcloud.com/fnxmusic1
https://www.facebook.com/Fnxmusic1
https://twitter.com/Fnxmusic1

 

Fatherhood Is More Than You Think

Father: A man who has begotten a child. The definition so simple but yet the concept is so complex. First off, Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers reading this right now. Your job is one of a warrior who constantly goes into battle for the love of his country but seldom accept or receive proper gratitude for all you do. For your humility, I salute you.

I grew up in a single parent home with my mom serving as both the father and the mother; a narrative far too common for millennials from a low socioeconomic background. Despite being in a single mother household the void of my biological father wasn’t great. As I reflect on my upbringing, there were consistent male figure in my life who saw me through each phase of manhood.
The myth of having to procreate to be a father is truly just that, a myth. A father is someone who takes care of a child in need, with hopes that someone would take care of their child in his absence. My mother had me as a young adolescent and my earliest memories are those of my uncle teaching me how to draw, write and multiply. Not only did he teach me lessons I would never forget, he also role modeled drive, discipline and ambition. Characteristics that I took on in my own life. As time went by and I progressed in my journey in becoming a man, I attended church with my mom. Those who identify with “church-going” mothers, know the church routine. Sunday (formal church service), Monday (prayer), Tuesday (choir rehearsal), Wednesday (bible study), Thursday (choir rehearsal), Friday (youth services) and Saturday off unless there’s a convention. Through church I gained great friends, some with fathers and some without. My best friend was the son of the organist, his wife also was a good friend of my mom. My mom was in the choir and developed a group of married couples friends who all had children around my age. We all grew up together, so close  that  I call their moms and dads, my aunts and uncles in exchange for the formal greetings. Each of the fathers of my friends played an integral role in my life. My best friend’s dad taught me the basics of playing piano, another father taught me the meaning of hard work by paying me to rake the leaves and cutting the grass, while another father taught me the importance of being presentable and teaching me how to tie a perfect double windsor knot. Each of these gentleman stayed with me as I grew up into a young man. When I played sports they offered me advice on improving my game and even attended my games. When I was a knucklehead, they even expressed their disappointment in my actions and told me that’s not the way men behave. Each of them simultaneously dropping jewels of wisdom that I carry with me to this day. These lessons of being a man all came from men who biologically weren’t my father, but I revered them with the same admiration. Those lessons of being a man that they taught me, I also passed along to my friends. Holding them to these principles told to me and used as a guideline to growing up in a fatherless home.

As an adult, I watch my friends interact with their children and it brings me joy to the point where it moves me to tears (internally lol) . As I stare in awe at the constant balance of being stern but approachable in their handling of their children they display tactics I hope to use with my own children one day. But why wait until then? My community raised me. The men who took the time out to coach, teach, and mentor me were my fathers. These were men of many backgrounds who invest in the youth of today in hopes of creating a better tomorrow. So can’t I do the same?
Often time as a community we get caught up with “I” syndrome, but life is about giving back and making sure those after us have better. You don’t have to be a biological father to change a person’s life. You never know who you’re impacting through your everyday life. The way you hold yourself as a man and the way you preserve trials are all testimonies that can be shared with those who come after you and who look up to you. It truly takes a village to raise a child and if it wasn’t for my village I wouldn’t be where I am today. So thank you to all the father’s who took me in as their own and to you I say Happy Father’s Day.

An Open Letter To Rachel Dolezal

Dear Rachel Dolezal,

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t waiting for an apology. Not because you can’t identify as a black woman or can’t feel particularly vested in black culture, but because it is likely that your actions and decisions have hurt and offended people of color, specifically women of color. The gall of you to finally make a statement and then disgorge responses that  were clearly homegrown on a farm of entitlement and white privilege. Let’s get a few things clear Rachel. Although you are a scholar and professor, you seem to have conveniently confused racial indeterminacy, the understanding that individuals can have multiple racial identities and race is not a fixed variable, and racial misrepresentation. Rachel, racial misrepresentation is theft; cultural theft to be exact.

It took no time at all for the good people of twitter to talk about black privilege, noting that black privilege must exist since you decided to become a black woman. I’m convinced that black privilege is a myth and I could be wrong, but I know that white privilege is alive and well. It is white privilege that helped you, as a white woman to feel entitled and empowered to claim blackness as your identity. You appropriate from black culture, and pose as a black woman fighting for the oppressed, while gaining access to prominence.

Your dishonesty devalues and erodes the experiences of those who actually did struggle growing up as people of color. You missed your calling to be an ally; correction, you declined your calling to be an ally. Instead, you used your privilege to assimilate and appropriate black culture. Growing up with black friends and adopted siblings does not constitute as growing up black.  You did not look this way as a child and you cannot recall genuine memories and experiences growing up black. You lied to propel your career forward and in doing so you occupied the platforms for REAL black women to share their authentic stories. Stories like mine. Tell me Rachel, how often did your peers accuse you of “acting white”? And unlike Jeff Humphrey, “I don’t understand the question.” will not suffice as an answer for me. I have spent much of my life defending my blackness. The label of “acting white” has been a social and academic mobility barrier for black people all over the US. If I speak in an educated and eloquent way I am “acting white.” So tell me Rachel, growing up how often was your intelligence and academic ambition a wager of cultural and racial exile?

You can identify as you please but also recognize that your actions minimize and trivialize the experiences of black women.  To add another layer to chaos, #transracial was trending on twitter and some began to erroneously equate the transracial experience with that of transgender. Yup, conservative commentators found themselves “caping” for you, claiming hypocrisy, since there was large acceptance of Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but not for you as a black woman. Please note how your actions have distorted and regress identities that are already marginalized. I could go on and on about this but I won’t. I’m patiently waiting for you to “clarify that with the black community.”

Sincerely,

A legitimate African American (or as you prefer, black woman)

Your Newborn Doesn’t Give A SH!T Bout The NBA Finals

Merry Sports Christmas, ladies and gentlemen. Yesterday was the first day of the NBA finals. Now I understand that basketball is the number 2 sport in our hearts, and that the NFL is the juggernaut in the United States, but the Superbowl is only one game. The Superbowl is Thanksgiving and the 7 game series that makes up the NBA finals is the 12 days of Christmas.  The first day was incredible, right?! We saw 48 minutes if phenomenal basketball that had us at the edge of our lay-z-boys (then a bull shit extra 5 minutes where the Cavs looked like they ran up the 5 interstate from LA to Oakland, and the Warriors looked like they took a stroll around Lake Merritt, but that’s besides the point). Lebron gave a King-like performance. Curry gave a Chef-like performance. Tristan Thompson was saying go-go gadget arms on the offensive glass. Klay Thompson was locked in from 3. Kyrie had the Golden State defense on skates. Draymond Green screamed. A lot. It was incredible to watch!

So let’s backtrack. If you have followed my earlier posts, you would know that I have a newborn. Reece Austin Rubenstein is 12 weeks old today. He’s getting bigger and cuter by the day. It’s an amazing experience watching him literally grow in front of my eyes. I fall in love with him more every day. Seriously. I’m sure the parents reading this understand, and the non-parents will when you have kids. I promise.

So, my wife’s niece was staying with us for a couple weeks before she moved into her apartment for the summer. Last night my wife took her to that apartment so she could move in, so it was just my son and me in the house. Thus, I did what every great father does, I put him up on game. We talked about women, we talked about being a good person, we talked about his (my) aspirations for him; we were the homies for the night. It was about 8:17pm eastern standard time, and I got everything ready. I changed his diaper, I set up my bowl of chips and my drink, and I turned it on ABC to watch the pre-game for the first game of the NBA Finals. Everything was perfect. I sat him on my lap and gave him my finger to hold. He was happy. I told him that this is the game that has shaped my life to this point. This is the pinnacle of the highest level of basketball, and he needs to appreciate it. I told him who each player was and what they can do. He responded with drool, laughter, and incoherent speech, that sounded like a mix between “no” and “damn dad, you’re so awesome in every way, thanks for making me and showing me all this cool stuff”. Probably closer to “no” though. Whatever.

So it’s about 8:54pm and it happened; the first whine. Ah, but I know how to mitigate that. Threw the pacifier in his mouth with swift speed, made sure he was comfortable, and continued to watch the pre-game. 8:57pm he spit that out and gave a bit of a cry. Nothing too serious though. I threw the pacifier back in his mouth, picked him up and started carrying him back and forth in the living room. But the crying got louder, the head was thrown back, and we were at full fledged problem stage. It happened so quickly! We went from male bonding to panic mode within a 4 minute span. Seriously, his face went from this (smiling pic) to this (screaming pic). I couldn’t believe it. I turned him on his stomach because he likes that, but NOPE, still screaming. 9:03pm. I took him to his changing table and checked his diaper – it’s clean. 9:05 pm. I’m still carrying him around the apartment, and I see it! His swing! Let’s use that. I placed him in the swing, I threw on the classical music he loves, turned on the vibration, and I threw that bitch on level 6! Success! Silence! 9:07pm. Louder screams. I’m certain my neighbors can hear. I’m dejected. I picked him up and carried him some more. Did some swinging with him. Nothing was working. 9:10pm. I missed tip off. I pleaded with Reece, “Please son, this is important to us!” He had no respect for me, my eardrums, or my basketball watching aspirations.

The young man was tired. I ended up getting him to sleep around 9:23pm. The Cavs were winning. Lebron already had 5 points. I missed the beginning of Christmas.

My wife came home around 9:40. I handed Reece to her and explained what happened. She consoled me. She’s a good wife. I watched the rest of the game. I loved it. It was everything I hoped it to be, and more. Honestly, I haven’t had as much fun watching an NBA game in my adult life. In complete silence. No cheering allowed. With my son sleeping between my wife and me. Because your newborn doesn’t give a SHIT about the NBA Finals.

By: D. Rubenstein
@wildmanjones
#TheVSOPLife

#OpulentBeats: LeVarsity-By Any Means

Black Monk Ent. Artist LeVarsity

Hailing from Brooklyn, Black Monk Ent. rapper LeVarsity is bringing us some early Summer heat with his track “By Any Means” off his first EP 4Play. The 23 year SUNY Cortland grad received his BA in Communications last May afterwards, deciding to fully commit his energy into perfecting his craft in rapping which, began all the way back in the 5th grade. LeVarsity credits Kanye West as having a major influence on his musical style and also pays homage to the contemporary hip hop icons J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar & the timeless Jigga Man.

If you’re truly about the VSOP life this cut speaks volumes and needs to be added to your daily playlist with it’s authentic concrete jungle of NYC feel throughout. Check out the visual for By Any Means directed by BrannDannArt  below with LeVarsity showing off his spoken word prowess offering some of the realest insight on whats holding most millennials back from truly taking control of their lives and seizing the opulence that they conceptualized for themselves.

Its like you know you got the talent
but fear of getting smacked by your reality
is probably the reason that you haven’t
dropped out of school yet
venture on a new quest
forget all the consequences
man you taking huge steps.
But you ain’t tryna be a failure
in your mother eyes
your dreams could be reality
fear makes you think otherwise”

You can listen to and download the 4 Play EP here which features a sample from classic Eminem film 8 Mile on the track “kingpin” and bit of flexing for the ladies on “that song”. According to LeVarsity he has MANY ideas and projects to come, best believe VSOP will be supporting him all the way and keeping you informed. #AreYouVSOP?

V.S.OP Spotlight: “The BARMAIDE”

Joiah “The BarMaide” Ladson

Its a pleasure to have our first of many Opulent Spotlights to be a close friend to the VSOP fam, Ms. Joiah Ladson. You might remember her as one of the best mixologists in the tri-state area, but now she can be found mixing it up as she ascends the fitness circuit traveling with the BarStarrz and matching the most effective workout regimens for her clients as a personal trainer.

Joiah was born and raised in Queens, New York, and was an active child as her parents ensured that she was engaged in organized sports. She left New York to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Science with a concentration in Biology which she received in 2011 from the University of New Haven. While attending UNH, Joiah participated in many clubs and activities, but according to her own admission, her favorite activity was drinking. She shared that though she had amazing nights while under the influence, it took a toll on her well being.   In an interview with the VSOP Team, Joiah shares how she overcame her bout with alcohol and transformed from bar waitress to the “Barmaide.”

VSOP: “Tell us about your journey. How did you get into the industry that you are in?”
JL: “For years I struggled with alcoholism, it was taking a toll on my life and the people around me. I was spending too much money on alcohol and neglecting my bills. When I wasn’t drinking at my bartending job, I was drinking at home or at some other Happy Hour. In addition to drinking, I also had terrible eating habits. These habits included Doritos, fried chicken, Chinese food, daily trips to McDonald’s, bar food and non stop snacking. Within a few months I was at my heaviest weight, my stress levels had skyrocketed, bills piled up and I determined that it was time for a serious change. At this time I stopped making excuses for myself, signed up for a gym, cleaned up my eating habits and reached out to a few of my personal trainer friends that could help me get my life together.”

Alcoholism is a serious issue to face, and it controls many people’s lives. It is not uncommon for alcoholism to lead to bouts of depression and other life altering conditions. Joiah was able to replace the bottle with an outlet that not only improved her health, but also, her well being and her wealth.
JL: “I saved about $400 per month by eliminating alcohol purchases, and I gained an amazing body in return.  After about six months of working out on my own and with friends, I hired a personal trainer for some extra fitness advice. My personal trainer saw my drive and dedication which led us both to believe that I had a career in personal training. I decided to get into training because I realized the joys that fitness brought into my life. I knew I’d be able to connect with my clients on multiple levels because of what I had been through. I wanted to let people know that happiness and longevity are just a workout away. Exercise and healthy eating have the same addictive qualities as alcohol and drug use, except the results are much more rewarding.”

 

Many people would be satisfied with facing and conquering their demons, but this is only the beginning for “The Barmaide”.  Just as anyone who is seeking opulence in their lives, Joiah has goals and big goals at that.

VSOP: “Where do you see yourself at in the next 10 years?”
JL: “In ten years I see myself still involved in health and wellness, but more so as a brand.  I want to produce literature, digital apps, clothing and do motivational speaking that help promote my message.”

VSOP: “In regard to your message, what legacy do you seek to leave behind through your craft?”
JL:  “The legacy that I’d like to leave behind is that everyone struggles but that shouldn’t deter us from seeking better. You don’t have to be a product of a negative environment because life is so much easier when you’re happy. When you’re in a negative mind state, opportunity knocks but you’re too busy sulking that you won’t get up to answer. Once you change to a positive outlook on life, opportunity just walks right in.”

 

Opportunity is what many are waiting for, but just as Joiah stated, if you are not ready it will pass you by. As you continue to grind toward your goals and aspirations, remember that obstacles and barriers are meant to teach us lessons.  The road from bartender to “The Barmaide” has been riddled with obstacles, but Joiah has faced each challenge head on with intensity, and she has learned from what she has endured to get to where she is.

JL: “Throughout this journey I’ve faced some health and financial obstacles that slowed my process but never stopped me. Participating in Spartan Races taught me that obstacles are meant to be overcome. I’ve been in the hospital for severe dehydration and starvation, ruptured ovarian cysts and emergency wisdom tooth extraction. Unexpected car/medical issues that I didn’t budget for would take away from my grocery and gym membership funds but I always found a way to pull through. Besides the medical and financial issues I was still battling my addiction. For the first few months into the journey I had to really convince myself that I did not NEED alcohol. I embrace everything I’ve been through because it lets me know that I can overcome challenges. If I had to do one thing all over again I would alter my spending habits and budget more wisely.”

VSOP: “What advice would you give a young person looking to get into your industry?”
JL: “ To the young person looking to get into personal training and all around wellness I recommend that you do your research. When I started working out I wasn’t familiar with the science behind it. I currently hold three different certifications which allow me to better assist my clients in reaching their goals (Certified Personal Training, Performance Enhancement Specialist and Corrective Exercise Specialist). Use your resources and understand that even after studying the science portion you’re still not the smartest person in the world. There is a constant exchange of knowledge in this field that will allow you to excel. Practice what you preach. On a number of occasions I’ve seen trainers advise certain workout and meal regimens but they’re overweight with poor eating habits. Just like the airline oxygen mask principle, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Let it be understood that your body is your business card and your lifestyle is your resume.”

VSOP: “In your opinion what is opulence?”
JL: “Opulence is health, because health is wealth. The greatest luxury I can ever obtain is a fit and healthy body that can perform the way a body should.”

 

Life is an ever changing path with many twists and turns. One that “The Barmaide” herself has traversed and is still progressing along with a far more positive outlook. With her drive, passion, perseverance and know-how, Joiah has defined her opulence and is certainly seizing it, truly living the VSOP Life. Salute to “The Barmaide” for who you were, who you are, and who you are becoming!

Now there’s only one question to ask, #AreYouVSOP?

Joiah “The BarMaide” Ladson

IG: @The_Barmaide
Twitter: @MamaJ_UrHiness
Email: jlads19@gmail.com