How can I afford to invest?

cannot-afford.png

Some people might not think they can afford to commit to an investment program. This is understandable. The cost of living in America has been on a steady incline (even though they say there is no inflation) and wages have stayed put. Given the depth of the 2008 recession, that is still fresh in people’s minds, most people are just happy that they have a job. We get it. However there are some strategies we have implemented that can help you squeeze out more from your current budget and set aside money to invest.

Make a decision

First, you have to make the decision that you want a better life. Its one thing to say you want to invest. Its another to have a vision for what you want your life to look like 5-10 years from now. The key is to create a vision that is so large and compelling that you are willing to overcome the temporary discomfort for the larger goal. For me, this was getting through law school. I forced myself to move home to the dry inland empire where there was nothing to do but focus on school. I also stopped working and operated solely on school loans. This hurt, but its over now and the vision has come to pass.

Your goal might be to have $10,000 saved and invested. Don’t set a goal that you can achieve, set a goal that will stretch you. Set a goal so big that you have to seek out knowledge and resources to help you fulfill that goal. Otherwise even when you reach your little goal you will not be fulfilled. Make a decision that is is your duty and obligation to become financially secure, or you will spend the rest of your life making excuses for why you never became financially secure.

Create a starter fund

In order to participate in capitalism you have to have some capital. The real question is about how much should you have before you start. In my personal opinion you have to have at least $1,000. Some people say $100,000 (Grant Cardone) and some are trying to invest with $100. I think that a good number is $1,000. You wont get rich investing a grand but it provides a good base to start contributing on top of and it also gives you enough money to not be priced out of higher priced but quality stocks like Amazon and Google. Most people will never reach $100k so that goal could price you out. $100 is ridiculous because even if you hit it out the park with a 20% gain it will yield $20 which will get eaten up with the comission both in and out ($7 both ways) and leave you with a six dollar gain. Thats an uber ride. Aim for $1,000.

Once you get that starter fund, and this is important, you have to continue to contribute to that fund. Like Grant Cardone says, “success is like maintaining a garden” you cant just set it and forget about it. You have to continue to add wood to the fire that is your investment account. There are a lot of ways to get that account going even if you have a modest working income. I address this in my prior blog post “how can I afford to invest”. Check that out and if you have any questions feel free to email us.

Find ways to cut back what you have

Second, you have to look at your current situation and see places that you can cut back. While I was in law school I had to temporarily do without cable, a cell phone, new clothes and I couldn’t go to Starbucks in the morning and afternoon. An interesting thing happened though. When I cut out all the luxuries I thought I needed, I didn’t die. I was able to live without all the things I thought I couldn’t live without and I went on to accomplish my goals. I do the same thing today. I cut back on things I don’t need, I do things I hate doing all because the vision is so big that I cut back the fat. I challenge you to do the same.

For you, this might mean cutting back on going out to dinner and learning to cook. It could mean bringing lunch to work. It could mean cutting out alcohol! It could mean getting one haircut a month. Or, my favorite, not buying every pair of sneakers that comes out. Whatever it is, the means are there. I promise you. We have been led to believe that wealthy people have the newest of everything and the highest priced everything. This idea was sold to America by the same people who profit when you buy. Don’t fall for the trap.

Find cheaper alternatives

One way to maintain your standard of living and preserve your cash is to find cheaper alternatives. Keep in mind that sometimes the cheaper alternative might take you outside the norm of your peer group. But, if your peer group isn’t wealthy, why would you want to remain in step with their decisions? For some, this might mean parking your car and taking public transportation. It could mean taking lunch. It could mean changing your cell phone plan, cutting the chord on your cable. Seek out the cheaper alternative! They are out there. If your budget is made out at $3,000 per month and you squeeze out 10 and 20 dollars, per bill, here and there you have created the cash you needed to invest.

Keep in mind that without struggle there is no progress. This quote isn’t just true for civil rights it’s true for every single attempt at progression you make in life. I encourage you to struggle financially while you are getting things in order so you can progress to the next level.

As Eric Thomas says, you have to want it as bad as you want to breathe. When the student is ready the teacher will appear. So get ready! We aren’t leaving any people behind on this movement toward wealth because none of us wins if we all don’t win. It is time to make the decision that you don’t want to continue doing what you have always been doing. Choose to be great!

If you need help looking at your budget and finding those things you can cut back on our experts are here to help. Email info@capitaltodd.com for details.

Sincerely,

Todd Millionaire
“Instead of saying I can’t afford it, ask HOW CAN I afford it”

Twitter & IG: @ToddCapital
Previously posted on: www.capitaltodd.com
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The Power of Vulnerability

The Power of Vulnerability

Pull up a chair, sis. (And fellas too) This is exactly what it sounds like.  Let’s get right into it.

Vulnerability. Man, look.

The simple mention of that word is enough to make me shift my weight and squirm in discomfort.  
Allow me to explain:  I consider myself to be, pretty much, an open book. Folks know that I share my experiences online—that I can be super transparent and often use my daily situations, accomplishments and failures to both express my humanity, and to encourage myself and others on this journey called life. Even with all the perceived negatives of social media, I’ve come to find that shared experiences make one feel less alone. To know that you’re not the only one going through life’s challenges in the way that you are, can be a huge relief. At any rate, even with all of my so called “openness”, I still have the tendency to distance myself from certain situations that call for just that.  What are they? You guessed it; matters of the heart.

First, let’s look at the definition of the V word. I can barely say it without flaring up my acid reflux.
Vulnerable: adjective
susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.
 

 

Bruh. Who the HELL wants to be that?

It is simply basic human instinct to strive, at all times, to protect ourselves. Even the homie Sigmund Freud said, that “the deepest essence of human nature consists of self-preservation.”


What a mind f**k.

How in the hell am I supposed to self-preserve and seek love at the same damn time?  And that, my friends, is the question I ask myself every day.

I have literally ruined great potential partnerships by my unwillingness to open up completely, in that regard. As caring of a person as I can be, when it comes to dealing with relationships with men, I have only allowed them to get but so far, until I feel myself falling. Then, I take a lap and trap myself behind this extensional, proverbial wall.

Now, this wall? It’s not like Cheeto Satan’s alleged wall, but it might be just as absurd. In my mind, it’s made of glass, so technically, I’m able to see bae on the other side, and he can see me. (hey boo!) We talk to each other, we send cute gifts and exchange texts and calls. Every now and again, I come out from behind it when it’s time to be intimate, but I always return to my side, and he’s simply not allowed to cross the line.
Not only can that make one look emotionally unstable and partially insane, it can also be truly exhausting for the other person to think for example, that he’s getting ready to play basketball, and then I show up with a hockey stick, some cleats and a relay baton, smiling.  Girl, get your life.

The truth of the matter is, in order for me to truly love and be loved, that wall must come down. This is also not just a woman thing. I recognize that male vulnerability is a unique nuanced experience, that can be beautiful and just as difficult.

So, what does it ultimately boil down to, friends?

Fear.

Jazmine Sullivan said it best:  *sings* ‘’I’m not scared, of lions and tigers, and bears, but I’m scared of loving you.”

I feel you, sis. It be’s like that. We all know that when you lend your heart to another person, you’re essentially giving them the ability to break it into a million bite sized pieces. One day, I’ll tell y’all the full story. but basically– many moons ago– a bright eyed and bushy tailed Grace entrusted her heart to someone. Needless to say, brotha man violated in the most horrific of ways, and I haven’t quite been the same since.

Therapy? Yes. I go. But a decade later, I realize that I am still subconsciously fearful of the possibility of being hurt to that degree ever again. That said, a more recent romantic situation has taught me how much I can lose if I don’t overcome this obstacle.

I’ve come to understand that you have to harness the power of the V. (no, not that V. Nasty… Although, that post may soon come) and let it work for you. Understand that:

1. Great things are on the other side.

You might get hurt, granted. That’s life. But you also might flourish and find the great love that you’ve been yearning for. Discernment is key to deciding who and what to expose yourself to, but completely guarded emotions, cannot and will not work.

2. Self-Sabotage ain’t cute.

It doesn’t look good on you. Why push yourself further away from the things and people who are beneficial for you?  As ambitious women especially, I have no doubt that we will go for the jobs, apply for the promotion– but with love, we hesitate. Emotionally blocking yourself for the sake of safety is natural, albeit. But it can also be unproductive.

3.  You’re worth it: Say it with me. Vul-ner-ability. You will literally get nowhere from behind a glass wall. In order to move forward in love and in life, you have to open yourself up. It might not always get you the answers you want, but you will have the ones you need.

Trust yourself.

If for the first time, or like me, again.  

After all, Freud also said, “out of your vulnerabilities, will come your strength.”

It’s about time for me to take his– and my own–advice.

 

By: GraceOnTheMic
Twitter & IG: @GraceOnTheMic
Previously posted on: http://www.thegraceperiod.com/
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Eat Good Feel Good – Smoothie Guide

Happy  New Year!!!

Yes, it’s the time where everyone is trying to be healthy or just lose the pounds that they’ve gained during the holiday season. When making a shake or smoothie it can be extremely difficult to find the right way to make one. Issues include, not knowing what to put into the smoothie, or having a blender that will be reliable enough for you to mix your shakes daily.  In this guide I will break down what it takes to make a great smoothie every time.

The Blender

So this is something that many people skimp on and this can be an important component to how you make shakes daily or multiple shakes throughout your day. There are many different options when it comes to blenders but I definitely will recommend that you make an investment in a good blender. Here are my recommendations:

An expensive but worthy investment

Blendtec

Blendtec is a little bit noisy but the blade on it is amazing. It also has preset controls where you literally just press one button and it will make your smoothie based on a set time and pulse pattern. It has a great warranty( 3 years Motor 1 Year Jar). Also, you could save money looking at refurbished models instead of new but you will lose out on the warranty. Click the link below if you are looking to purchase this blender.

Vitamix

The Vitamix is also an expensive but very great choice. I’ve linked their certified refurbished model where you can save some money and still have a great blender. The difference with this one is that it’s a manual control blender so you will need to pulse when blending your shakes.  This still is a great reliable blender for daily use. It comes with a 5-year warranty.

Bang For you Buck

Ninja Professional

If you are looking for a decent and pretty reliable blender the Ninja is a great bet for you. It will service you pretty well but you definitely have to be careful what you throw at it and load it well. Overall it blends pretty well and I use this as my backup blender.

Making Your Shake

So you have your blender now its time to make your shake! Below you will see an awesome infographic I first found in Men’s Health Magazine and I’ve used this as a guideline in how to make a great shake.   Below you will find the infographic and I will go in- depth with each step and finally in a separate post I will give you my personal shake recipe.

The Graphic

The Base of Your Shake

As a base for your shake. This is pretty self-explanatory. You can either go for plain yogurt, or Greek Yogurt( I use Greek myself) aim for yogurts that have low amounts of sugar. Fat you can go 0% or 2% some fat can be good depending on your goals.

When it comes to milk or nut kinds of milk (like almond milk) you can also go for the same idea as yogurt Or you can add a twist and use 100% juice. I normally use Bolthouse juice as my base.

When it comes to choosing protein there are a lot of options out there. I tend to try to use protein powders that are just that. Protein powder. Won’t go too in- depth but there are varying levels of quality and type when it comes to protein. The most widely used protein will usually be Whey Isolate. Then there are two types of protein Casein and Whey Isolates which have different properties.

Here are my recommendations for protein powders:

All Natural but a Bit Expensive

Bluebonnet 100% Natural Whey Protein Isolate Powder, French Vanilla

 Dual Action(Whey Isolate/Casein) Protein Original – 2.1 lbs – Powder

Great Value Protein Powder

Optimum Nutrition Naturally Flavored Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein, Vanilla, 1.9 Pound

Fruit

Fruits are pretty self-explanatory. You definitely want a variety. When possible, use frozen fruit (unless the fruit is in season). Depending on the blender you may have to let the frozen fruit thaw. Try to stay away from very citrusy fruits other than oranges.

Vegetables

Self-explanatory here as well. Be careful when adding veggies they can drastically alter the taste of your shake. Experiment and try to find a good combo if you would like to add them.

Thickener

These can add more texture to your shake. These are optional due to the fact they can definitely alter how your shake comes out. Be careful when adding these as they could be a bit harder to blend.

Health Boost

These are some great tips just to add a health boost to your drink. I actually found a great post-workout powder that can provide a great health overall health boost. This is what I recommend it combines a ton of health boosters:  Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator, Tropical, Tub, 19oz

Additionally, I add flaxseed to my shakes. Some of the best I’ve found is the following:

Spectrum Essentials Ground Flaxseed with Mixed Berries, 12 Ounce

You can also find individual containers for some of the items listed.

Flavor Boost

Finally, when it comes to flavor boosts cinnamon, honey, and vanilla extract have been extremely great add to my shakes. I’m not sure how great maple syrup would be but experiment a bit and you may find your best taste to your shake.

Final Thoughts

For this post, I hope this has provided you with a great start to creating a great tasting and healthy shake. There are many combinations that you can create and this gives you a great guide in making an awesome shake. Check out this post with my personal shake recipe!

By: K. Ritch
Previously posted on:https://yngblkaffluent.wordpress.com/
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On Grace, Transparency, and the Fear of Keeping it Too Real

On Grace, Transparency, and the Fear of Keeping it Too Real

For some time now,  the Lord has really been convicting me about the need to be more transparent and honest with my story. I’ve been feeling the tug, and I’ve been shrugging it off, but one of my first steps to finally responding to God’s request was creating this blog. As much as I love to write, and as much as I enjoy “keeping it real”, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a lot more private (those who follow me on Facebook are probably like “girl, bye!” lol) . But in all seriousness, I reveal what I’m comfortable with revealing. My romantic life, and other very personal stuff, you will not find on social media, because……Nah. That’s mine. All mine.

When I felt God compelling me to be more open and honest about my Christian walk, I wasn’t really feeling it. To be quite frank, I know there are certain people who are itching to find out my business to use it against me, and my patience for the gossip and news carrying is at an all. time. low. I kept telling God, “This transparency stuff sounds good in theory, but chill, you’re setting me up for drama, and I just don’t have time for it.” And you know God gathered me up real good. He made it abundantly clear that He did not give me the ability and passion to write just because He thought it’d be cute. This ability, this gift, if you will,  isn’t just for my own catharsis; it serves a purpose bigger than me. God basically said, “Ashlee, get over yourself.”

Starting this blog revealed to me just how fearful I am of transparency. It’s something I’m constantly saying the church needs more of, but here I am, in true hypocrite style, perpetuating the very thing I critique most about the church.

The other day my friend shared this post on Facebook. And it made me question and challenge my fear of transparency.

Questioning and being honest about the root of my fear of transparency  has been extremely telling, and has also proven to be the first step to overcoming it. What am I so afraid of? Is it really the judgment of others? Is it really the fear of people gossiping and carrying news about me? Or… am I really just fearful of letting people see and know just how imperfect I am? Am I fearful that once my “stuff” is out there, that will instantly put me in a position to not be in any position to judge? Why do I want to be in the “position” to judge? Am I fearful that once I confirm that yes, I am spiritually fallible, I’ll forever be forced to reckon with the real me, in private and in public ? Answering those questions honestly made me realize that I am also part of the problem I so badly want to see resolved in the church.

If I want my brothers and sisters in Christ to be transparent, I need to be transparent myself. And that means I need to work out whatever it is that’s not freeing me to be as transparent as I want other Christians to be. God has been humbling me, and showing me that It’s easy to offer critique (even when it feels hard because you feel the burden of holding folks accountable)…but it takes courage to be the one to say, “I needed this” or “I am in need of this, what can I do to address this lack?” “This is wrong, what can I do to help resolve this problem?” When I critique the church, when I am attempting to hold it accountable, I cannot forget that I am very much a part of it, so I must challenge, question and critique myself.

I am grateful that God has provided safe spaces for me to be transparent, honest and candid with other young Christians. But it is unfortunate that those spaces are few and far between, and it’s even more unfortunate that I’m afraid to share those spaces with other Christians who may benefit from them, out of fear of the space no longer feeling safe with them there.

I am praying for the day when I, and other Christians can stop trying to out-Christian one another, so we can gain strength and grow from one another’s experiences, mistakes, and victories. I am praying for the day when we stop criticizing and judging someone’s struggle to make ourselves feel less guilty about our own. I am praying for the day that we realize we are not our mistakes, and once God delivers us from something, we don’t have to carry the weight of it anymore. We all have struggled. We all have fallen short in some way, and we’re all still struggling or working on something. All that really matters is that we are trying to overcome, and the truth is, we’d be more successful trying to overcome together than we’d be trying to overcome “safely”. If sharing my story costs me my “good girl” image, but encourages another sister or brother, and helps them realize they’re not alone in their struggles, then so be it. I’m not a girl anymore anyways (lol) so who cares about that label? I’m grown. I’m a woman. A grown woman who’s still growing in her faith, and who’s very imperfect, but loves the Lord with all her heart, with all her soul and with all her mind. I’ve counted the cost, and souls are much more valuable to me than maintaining an image of a person I already know I’m not.

 

By: A. Wisdom
Twitter: @ashleewisdom
Previously posted on: http://www.GrowingIntoWisdom.squarespace.com
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5…

 

On July 31, 2011, I embarked on a journey with a woman that I was in love with…madly in love with.  When I woke up that morning, the sun was shining bright and I had time to reflect as all of my groomsmen were recovering from the night before. I decided to take a walk through downtown Hartford to clear my head, reflect on my past, and focus on my future. I understood the gravity of the step that I was about to take and I accepted that with an open mind and open heart. I received a text from Orsella Cooper-Hughes, the Officiant of our wedding, who is a trusted family member and spiritual advisor. Her message to me was simple, “keep God first little cuz, today will be a great day”, and that it was! The fine details of the wedding went as planned. It was one of the hottest days of the summer, but it was an epic event and truly one of the greatest days of my life. When the party was over, the last vendor paid, the last rounds of toasts made, and the last of the guests departed. There remained my beautiful bride and me, left to start our journey with each other and God. That day was the beginning of us as husband and wife; the start of a marriage that has faced many ups and downs, heartache and happiness, challenges and triumphs. The past five years have been full of experiences and a wide range of emotions. It has tested our faith in God, our belief in ourselves and our belief in one another.

Sacrifice is one of the first thoughts that come to mind when I consider the first five years. Sacrifice is defined by Webster Dictionary as “the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone.” Our first year of marriage was defined by sacrificing comfort, money and time in order to solidify a better future for ourselves and our family. Throughout that period of sacrifice, there were experiences and stressors that we faced that have done a lot of other relationships in. Fortunately, we were blessed to have a good foundation established by our pre-marital counseling, a strong faith in our relationship, a real friendship that was formulated prior to intimacy and God as our guide. Oh and one other big thing, we did not allow others to “peek into our blinds” by taking to social media with our issues. We were and continue to be selective in what we choose to share with the rest of the world, some things simply aren’t for everyone to see. When the times have gotten rough, we put down the electronic devices, draw closer to one another and our trusted few.

Acceptance and support have been huge in our union. When Melissa walked down that aisle, she walked into the arms of a very flawed man who was and remains a work in progress. She knew what she was getting herself into, as did I. We have accepted one another for who we are, what we bring to the table and what we lack. Though there has been a ton of acceptance, there has been very little settling. Though we have accepted the fact that the other person has flaws, we do not settle for anything but the best from one another. That means that there are difficult conversations that need to be had and many “GET IN THE CAR” moments (that’s an insider that a few of you will understand). Another aspect of acceptance is accepting the dreams of the person that you devote yourself to and supporting them in every endeavor. Anybody that knows me knows that I am an extremely active person with big dreams and lots of goals. My dreams and goals come with a price and that price is usually time. I thank God that I have someone by my side that supports my endeavors, listens to my dreams and helps me to make sense out of the best way to achieve them. As our lives have grown, so has the list of dreams, projects, and endeavors that my wife has taken on. I have tried my hardest to be intentional about reciprocating the support and encouragement that she has given to me. The balance of being each other’s biggest fan is important and necessary.

Fun is extremely important to have with your partner. Make time for one another to do the things that make you happy. Whether it’s a date night once a month, spending time with a group of friends that you both enjoy or simply finding a babysitter and having dinner without interruptions from the little ones in your life, enjoying one another’s company is helpful. It reminds you of the “magic” that led you to commit to forever with one another, it helps you to remember that in the midst of all of the curve balls that life throws, you have one another. It also provides a very necessary balance to the grind of building and securing the future of your family.

Lastly, love one another and love unconditionally. There will be good days and there will be bad. There will be disagreements, rolled eyes, raised voices and moments of “I can’t stand you right now”. During those moments, remember to love. In the midst of financial turmoil, choose love. When the doctor gives a bad report, choose love. When there’s a loss of loved ones and other forms of heartache, choose love. When your pride tells you to try to get the last word, choose love. No matter what the situation or circumstance….choose love. In order to choose love, you must remember to focus on love and what it is about the person across from you that made you fall in love. Be intentional about telling them what they do that makes you fall in love all over again and focus on making those things happen for your partner.

Remember that there will be times in which choosing love does not seem like the answer, during those times….choose to PRAY for the person that you love. I am a man that is far from perfect and what works for my relationship may not work for you. This is MY view on what has sustained the first five years of my marriage. I am blessed to have an amazing wife who has taught me what love, acceptance, support, and encouragement is. I truly cannot imagine what my life would be like without my wife. She is an amazing wife, mother, step-mother, and friend. She is goal oriented, driven and did I mention –she is drop dead gorgeous! I look forward to many more milestones with her and the growth of my family. I believe in love because of her and I believe that love always wins when you want it to.

Happy Anniversary to the most amazing woman in the world and cheers to forever!

 

Tai D. Richardson
#AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
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Having Trouble At Work?

 

Having trouble at work? So was I.

I started at this company 2.5 years ago, when I was on the heels of a divorce and I moved 30 min. away from my core group of people. I took this job in transportation, an industry I had no experience in. Needless to say, my 1st year was miserable. People questioned me, my skills, and even my writing abilities – as a journalist, I was insulted. I had a horrible review. I had never felt so unfavored in any position.

Every day I imagined myself getting a new job and boastfully slamming a resignation letter on my boss’s desk, but that never happened. Every opportunity that was offered to me fell through for some reason – budget, resources, timing etc. So I ended up staying in this position because I needed the money.

I changed my prayers from finding a new job to changing my circumstances at my current job. I asked the people in my Bible study group to pray for me and with me. Slowly, but surely, things started to turn around.

My biggest critics were taken off my projects, and my attitude about my job started to change. I found reasons to be grateful for my job, and I started working on the things people criticized me for. My next review was amazing. It was a complete turnaround from the first one. As things got better, I continued praying. I didn’t want to go backwards.

In October, I had the unique opportunity to take a position in NYC doing exactly what I wanted to do – public relations, and I really had an opportunity to shine. To my disappointment, the assignment ended abruptly, and I feared going back to my regular assignments and having to work with the naysayers again.

I just knew my “winning” streak had ended a couple weeks ago, when I was working on a report that took me twice as long as I anticipated. When the project manager called me, I just knew he was going to let me have it, but instead he told me I did a “phenomenal” job.

I called my boss to let her know that someone actually used the word “phenomenal” on a report I worked on. To my surprise, again, she told me that she had good news too – my promotion!

I’m still growing, but prayer works and God’s grace is real. I hope this helps someone.

Stacy.

*Previously Posted on Proccessingpain.com *
Twitter:
@StacyGrahamHunt Ig:@stacyreports
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LIFE IS TOO SHORT AND ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.

Have you ever received some news that catches you by surprise? You’re caught off guard and many thoughts begin to fly through your head. Then you pause. Everything goes silent and you feel numb. You slowly begin to hear the raindrops falling outside. You snap out of it and now you’re back to focusing on your thoughts… You begin to unscramble them. With the news that you just received there are a lot of emotions and thoughts that you’re trying to process. The final thought becomes, “wow, today can be anyone’s last day on earth.”

Today I heard the news that a gentleman that I met last year passed away. All I could think of was “wow, I knew him;, He’s young, joyful, humble, genuine, motivated, successful and positive.” He had this amazing energy that you immediately felt while in his presence. He was the type of person that I personally love the most; the ones that you can have deep, intellectual conversations with. He was the type of person that instills motivation in you. He was the type of person that provided a friendship that instilled personal growth.

 

I could not fathom what I had heard, so I proceeded to check his Facebook page. To my dismay, it was true. In complete shock and confusion I started reading some of the comments on his page. Many people were sharing many of the same positive things I mentioned above. Some were sharing memories and pictures, anything that could make this reality feel real. Overall I knew that everyone felt like they were blessed to have shared the same space with him. I began to think about how I felt about him. How the positive comments that I shared above, I never conveyed to him. (Because what it might have been awkward?) How I had ideas I wanted to ask him about and never did. How I was intrigued by his life and would have loved to learn more. Many things that if I knew this day would come, I would HAVE ACTED on.

 

The following thoughts flashed through my head as I continued to think about life in general…  We have positive comments to say to one another, but we don’t. How we become angry with one another and easily toss friendships away. How holding grudges towards one another does not serve us a purpose but rather hinders us. How being in an unhappy environment is pointless; choose to walk away. How we let excuses comfort us. How we build walls in fear of being hurt. How we try to avoid love so things don’t get “complicated”. How we seek validation from others instead of trusting the most important person, ourselves. How we dismiss our intuition. How we let ourselves drown in friendships/behaviors that will not benefit our lives. How we forget to believe in ourselves. How we spend more time working on other individuals rather than ourselves. How we put others first at the cost of our own health. How sometimes we have to cut ties even in the most difficult situations. How we forget that we are STRONG! How comfort keeps us from seeking more in life. How we limit ourselves due to fear of something “not working out.” How we “save something for later” to avoid the task…. I could go on and on! You get where I am going with this. It’s so sad that an event such as a DEATH can instantly alter how you think and feel for a few moments. Depending on how close you are to the individual or how deep your relationship was, the impact may last longer. After the life altering event occurs and the “awakening” moment passes, we tend to forget the impact of this loss. After we are told about a loss, most of us think, “Wow, life is unexpected. Anything can happen to anyone. I should tell these people I love them. I should ignore the bullshit and focus on myself. That’s it I’m making changes.” We proceed to go about life with a different mindset. But then life itself happens. You know, it’s the moment when you snap out of this “mindset.” This usually happens after a mishap situation where we become frustrated with life and are reminded that life isn’t always this happy place and things do not always go as planned. So then we resort back to comfort. Shit gets back to normal and we get back to our regular everyday life. We move on and forget about the way of life we WANTED to follow after hearing about a loss and saying, “LIFE IS TOO SHORT AND ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.”

 

Not quite sure if anyone is STILL reading this post. If you are, thank you. The Kayla before hearing this news would have tried VALIDATING this essay with my best friend. I would have asked, “does this make sense, do you see grammar errors, who even cares about reading this, why am I ever sharing this, it’s too long, right?” This Kayla says screw what others think, this is my page, this is my platform to say what I CHOOSE to SAY, how I choose to FEEL and what I choose to SHARE! I believe that I decided to share these random thoughts for a few reasons. One is that this allowed me to vent in a healthy way about what I am feeling after hearing this news. Another reason is that it feels good to share ideas and meet others that might think/feel like I do. Lastly, I am tired of not living up to my highest potential KNOWING that I am CAPABLE of it. I would love it if my peers would join me in striving to achieve personal/spiritual growth at a different level. The type of change where you look back 12 months and say, “wow, that’s where I was, look where I am, look how I’m doing, I could never have imagined being here now.” That type of change. Sometimes when we think of huge change people imagine large projects such as starting a business or making a huge investment. No, everyone’s idea of success /happiness is different. It’s all about making changes that will in the end benefit you! It’s about beginning. It’s about having the final outcome in mind BUT focusing on the present. The image of that final outcome may always change. Always remember to take steps or you’ll go nowhere…. Next time I think of something that I want to do, I know that fear will try to creep in to convince me otherwise. But my response will be, “Why, not?” We all have the POWER to CREATE our OWN HAPPINESS. Now, it’s up to you to decide how and when.

 

K. Cortes M.S.W
#AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
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Your Infant Doesn’t Give a Sh!t About the NBA Finals… But Your Toddler Might (and some other cool history stuff)

VSoP! What’s up people?! It’s Doug again, the guy who used to be a parent of a stationary cute kid, but is now the parent of a mobile, independent cute kid. And it’s that GLORIOUS time of year again: The NBA Finals! Now I know that this year’s playoffs haven’t been as entertaining as year’s past, but who cares. It’s still the greatest sports series in the world and we’re all watching, so we will deal with it.

Anyway, you loyal VSOP readers might or might not remember from last year, that I had some problems during last year’s finals. My son was a mess, so naturally I wasn’t looking forward to this year’s finals as heavily as I did last year, but again, it’s still the finals and I shall be watching. This year the Finals started on Thursday, June 2nd. I happened to be down in the Big Easy on Thursday June 2nd. A friend was getting married and my wife and I decided to accept his invitation to watch his nuptials in person. With us? Our son, my parents, her brother and his girlfriend. JACKPOT! So many hands, so much help!

Well the wedding was on Friday, so Thursday we had all day to do everything and nothing. I would like for everyone reading to understand that all day Thursday felt like Christmas Eve. I knew goodness was happening at 8pm CST and I just had to get through the day to get to my NBA Finals presents. Luckily, on vacation, time goes by a bit (a lot) quicker than sitting at the work desk all day.

We started out the day at The Court of Two Sisters. Apparently this is a New Orleans staple. I highly suggest it. I ate way too much and enjoyed every forkful. And like every other place in the French Quarter, there was live music. Music and food and food and music; I kinda love New Orleans. Our next adventure was to drive about 50 minutes away to Evergreen Plantation in Edgard, Louisiana. Evergreen is a sugarcane plantation, and it is the most intact plantation complex in the south. It has 22 original slave cabins and 37 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Basically there were a bunch of slaves and racists on the plantation. It was where they filmed Django Unchained, Roots, and scenes from King Bey’s Lemonade. We walked through the (small) big house (seriously, it was 3 rooms wide and one room back), we saw the kitchen (hot at HELL), we learned about the whistle walk (those racist fuqs who owned slaves made them whistle while they walked the food from the kitchen to the big house to make sure they didn’t eat bit of it), we learned a bit about the Creole culture, we learned about the story of the plantation. I think the tour guide meant well, but he wasn’t exactly forthcoming with just how difficult the slaves had it. Still a great and chilling experience. After the plantation tour, we took a left out of the gates (which for me sent a chill up my spine thinking about the fact that my ancestors couldn’t do the same) and headed to the Whitney plantation. We went on a whim, but it was an excellent decision. We missed the last tour, but we spoke to two great and knowledgeable tour guides who answered all our unanswered and half-ass answered questions that the last plantation couldn’t. I will be going back down to New Orleans and taking the real tour of Whitney Plantation. You all should too. The history of slavery, no matter how disgraceful, is important. It’s the beginning of Black American history. That’s what I have to say about that.

Anyway, after the history lesson, we made our way back to New Orleans and headed to Mannings, which is Archie, Peyton, and Eli’s restaurant. I’m sure the other Manning’s have their hand in it too, but the quarterbacks who played in the NFL are who are important here. Mannings has a legit theater in the back of the bar, with leather seats that you can reserve. It has an outdoor projection screen. It has more TVs per square foot than Buffalo Wild Wings. It has an arcade basketball hoop to shoot at for a dollar. It has pictures of Peyton and Eli everywhere. It’s dope!

Okay, 7:25 we make it to the restaurant. Its packed – dammit! I put our name on the list for 6 and a half and we find a place in the bar area to sit down and watch the pre-game. The wait is supposed to be 30 minutes, but it ends up being 25. We’re ready to be seated right after John Legend slayed the national anthem. BTW, he has been the best part of the Final’s so far, but you ain’t hear that from me. We sit down and I’m getting nervous. Why? They sat my son’s high chair right next to me, like he ain’t a terror with the Finals on. But whatever, big boy pants are on, let’s do this Reece!

7:58 – “AAAAHHHHHHHHHHH” Reece

7:59 – “AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” Reece as he drops his toy.

8:00 – Orders taken, tip off soon. The whole place is buzzing. Greg Monroe came in with a buffet style selection of women to take up the theater in the bar. My son shuts up and looks. *daps*

Tip-off time – Reece is quiet. He’s watching. He’s attentive. He’s clapping. He’s cheering for both teams and all 3 refs. He’s paying attention and smiling and laughing. THIS IS HAPPENING!

The joy that was in me for the rest of the game until it started to suck was incredible. I forgot how bad the game was because my son was loving it. He was eating his food (kinda… half of it ended up on the floor. I think as a parent of a toddler, it’s a requirement to tip well), he was attentive, he wasn’t acting up, he didn’t cry, he was the perfect loud in a bar baby ever.

Cavs lost. They’ll probably lose the series. The Warriors are super sayins. Draymond’s breath is bad (c’mon, you know it is). My son loves basketball.

My toddler gives a shit about the NBA Finals, and my GOD that makes me happy!

 

By: D. Rubenstein
Twitter:@wildmanjones
AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
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WE ARE DONALD TRUMP

WE ARE DONALD TRUMP

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in order to form a-more-perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA….???

Donald Trump graced Connecticut with his presence and I decided for myself not to watch on television. I chose to see what the devil and his minions looks like up close and personal. Yes, I was there in the audience to hear him say absolutely nothing. I was in line with the protesters staring into the eyes of a population of Connecticut that I never saw before. At this rally, I witnessed and observed the looks in the eyes of the Trump Followers. I know what they mean when they say “Make America Great Again”. Take me to their leader.

Are you all awake yet? Is this still a laughing matter? Or are we upset that this country continues to reap what we sow? Now that I asked a bunch of questions that you probably have contemplated a few times the past couple months, how do you feel about the answer that you came up with? Matter fact, forget your answer because it doesn’t really matter when the truth remains as an open wound that we have been asked to place Mickey Mouse band-aids to cover the laceration.  

Now I am not going to pretend or act like I am an expert in analyzing political tactics or infrastructure. However, I have been a registered voter since the Bush/Kerry Election and have been an advocate of fulfilling my civic duty as an United States citizen, who has been afforded the right to cast my vote for the leader of the free world. Needless to say, I never thought that I would live to see the day that this country would allow an African American man to win the presidency. BUT IT HAPPENED; and President Obama asked for one thing from the people and that one thing was to CHANGE. Ironically, over the past eight years, my political awareness has increased. I am a father now, a husband and community leader that advocates for the progression of African Americans. With that being said, my understanding of politics has to shift. I hold myself accountable for the future of the next generation. Being mindful of whom we allow we elect in the seats of political power is the beginning of that accountability.

Now that I’ve done my best to provide a soft introduction to an extremely controversial subject matter, let me be frank; No More Mr. Nice Guy. The fact that DONALD TRUMP is the front-runner in this presidential election shouldn’t surprise anyone. Our great Constitution had to be rewritten just to amend the basic rights for everyone regardless of race, skin color, ethnicity or religion; and yet it still began with WE THE PEOPLE. Well, who are these PEOPLE? The United States of America was built on the backs of bondage, blood, sweat and tears. Where an institution of racism scribed it’s way into laws, legislation and into the hearts of the wealthy majority. Patrick Henry declared give me Liberty or Death. An old Negro spiritual songs before I am a slave I’d be buried in my grave. To understand that part of American History directly reinforces why people shouldn’t be surprised at the fact that there is a sleeping GIANT that has been waiting to emerge in this country.

We, the Black masses, don’t want these leaders who seek our support coming to us representing a certain political party. They must come to us today as Black Leaders representing the welfare of Black people. We won’t follow any leader today who comes on the basis of political party. Both parties (Democrat and Republican) are controlled by the same people who have abused our rights, and who have deceived us with false promises every time an election rolls around.” Malcolm X

Donald Trump is having success because whether we like to admit it or not, his actions and tactics represent the likes of so many individuals. Who is a presidential candidate without voters and followers? This is what happens when a man who has the color, capital and connections to be able to be controversial. Watch me prove this theory.  Let’s Play A Game… Ready? Let’s pretend President Obama is getting ready to run for president of the United States of America and his opening speech goes something like this. I want to make America Great. Let’s get rid of the Jewish and Italian immigrants that are buying up all the property and establishing businesses. Let’s stop allowing foreigners to move into this country and opening up businesses in African American communities. George Bush was an idiot that did nothing for this country for the past 8 years because nobody in Washington knows what they are doing. Let’s also give him an angry approach to how he wants to focus primarily on African American issues, racism, injustice and breaking down racial political barriers. If you are having a hard time smelling what I am cooking, simply replace Obama’s campaign with Trump’s campaign and you tell me if Obama would be leading anything anywhere? We all know the answer to this question and we all know why.

When I watch Trump go on national television and say some of the things that he says, I can almost appreciate it in a weird sarcastic way. Simply because I prefer to know what the devil himself looks like than to be bitten by a snake in the grass. Politicians are great at securing votes. Their primary focus is to win elections and win the trust of the people. We all know how elections and campaigns are won and filled with so many empty action items to feed the emotions of the people. Well there is a lot of HUNGRY IGNORANT RACIST out there dying to be fed and they have a mouth piece in Donald Trump. When I turn on the television, social media, listen to music, read blogs, read memes , view certain comments on twitter/facebook, hell even while playing video games online, there is one consistent problem that I cannot escape. RACISM IS EVERYWHERE. I get called a nigger everyday while playing Call of Duty online on my Xbox. You would think by 2016 where everyone is so liberal, free spirited and every class of people are climbing the ladder to fight for equality that we would have dealt with race relations along time ago. Quite frankly this is not the case. The country that we live in his filled with a lot of Hatred and Evil stemming from racism. From mass incarceration, to gun violence/mass shootings, thriving KKK rallies, and random acts of terrorism. So is it ironic and silly to contemplate the fact that an entertainer could possibly be the face of a country that is driven by trending, controversial entertainment? These are the people we empower to program the hearts and minds of our young people.

We live in a society where everyone wants to be and has to practice political correctness. Why should we expect our president to have some sort of filter when they are speaking when we as people want the right to exercise our first amendment right? We have no problem hiring analyst, journalist and giving celebrities, entertainers, athletes and others a platform to say what they want whenever they want and we are all supposed to be free of judgment right? So why do we expect anything different from the leader that is supposed to represent the people. Truth of the matter is whether you all want to hear or accept this or not, there are a lot of racist, prejudice and socially ignorant people that feel they have to watch what they say because of fear of having a public opinion. I remember feeling like Obama really never really spoke out on certain issues, not because he didn’t want to but because he couldn’t. He played it safe and read the prompter like a good president. We all had moments where we really wanted Obama to unbutton his color and speak emotionally and “keep it real.”  Ask yourself this, do you feel comfortable speaking up and out about topics that can be extremely sensitive to public opinion?  

So while we are upset that Trump is leading the Republican Party, please understand one thing; we ARE DONALD TRUMP. The hypocrisy, racism and tyranny that corrupt this system are a direct reflection of the racist political infrastructure that still disgustingly exists. Let the record show that I am in no way endorsing Trump nor would I ever vote for Donald Trump to be my president, but I do appreciate his non political correctness and affording me the awareness to know EXACTLY what I will be getting myself into should he become president. Until we address white privilege, race relations, and we answer the call to CHANGE the wheels on the bus will continue to go round and round. So do yourself a favor and stop acting so surprised that Donald Trump could possibly be the next President of the United States like the Terminator didn’t win an election.

“If we expect the leader of the free world (that is supposed to represent the thoughts, minds and hearts of the people) to conduct himself with dignity, class and respect then the people have to CHANGE so our Leader reflects who we are.”  -MR NICE GUY

 

By Mr. NiceGuy
Twitter: MrNiceGuyVSOP
IG: Trev.s.op
AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
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Give Her That D.I.C.K

Give Her that D.I.C.K

The sweetest woman in the world could be the meanest woman in the world. If you make her that way.  You keep hurting her, she’ll keep being quiet. She might be holding something inside, that’ll really really hurt you one day.

On your first DATE you wore your best clothing. You went to the barber shop that day just so you can look and feel like a million bucks. We all know how we feel once we leave that barbershop chair, with that fresh razor straight edge up. You sprayed your body with your finest cologne. Your car was clean from head to toe, with a hint of that new car smell, that you sprayed as you were leaving the car wash.  You actively searched Google for places that were somewhat outside the box of your normal thinking; somewhere you can dine for the evening. You both were equally excited as you stared into each other’s eyes, talking, listening, flirting, charming, laughing, smiling, eating with hopes to end your night staring at your phone waiting for that “I had a good time text.” Ten years later, you look back and wonder what happened to that feeling as you lay in bed on a Friday or Saturday night next to your significant other, watching them fall asleep after a long exhausting work week. Fellas, are you forgetting to DATE your woman? She needs a night out with you where she can get all dressed up. She wants to laugh with you. She wants to you to take her places since you always have a big issue with her going out on the weekends with her friends.

WWE superstar Kurt Angle used to have an expression that went something like this: Intensity, INTEGRITY Intelligence, the 3 I’s as he often referred to it. When it comes to the mind, body and soul of a woman, she tends to focus on one thing as it relates to a man. INTEGRITY. What are you doing, who are you doing it with, why are you doing it, when are you doing it and how are you doing it? Matter of fact, think about that good morning text or afternoon call. Does this sound familiar? Hey wassup? What you doing? How you doing? What you doing later? What time will you be home? I’m actually laughing hysterically thinking about my own circumstances and how frequent these questions come. At the end of the day a lot of women struggle with trusting the integrity of man. If you are spending half of your conversations addressing your social media behavior, the mysterious text messages that you frequently get with no saved names, or your late night disappearing acts with delayed dry text messaging responses, you are raising red flags that will derail any easing on down the yellow brick road when you are seeking satisfaction. In the words of Ice Cube and R. Kelly, check yourself before you wreck yourself, cause when a  woman’s fed up, there ain’t nothing you can do about it. It’s like running out of luck. And it’s too late to talk about it. INTEGRITY.

It’s 5:30pm in the afternoon. You just got off work and your body is screaming for the following: sleep, food or the gym. You have to pick up the kids, go home, and figure out how to do all of the above before your body simultaneously agrees to shut it down. You walk into the house to observe your wife, girlfriend, significant other or whatever you call her stretched out on the couch getting caught up on her favorite reality show. As your nostrils intensely search for  just a hint of something jerked, curried, fried, baked, broiled, barbequed, microwaved, shaked or baked, your brain has come to realization that it was just your imagination. As an amateur you blatantly cry out, “Baby you ain’t cook nothing?”  Ignorantly failing to realize that one question alone dried up the river of life ceasing any possible advancement to wade in the water later in the evening. Fellas let me help you out with something for a second. Big momma and ’em are gone and don’t appear to be returning anytime soon. Women are educated, career empowered, mothers and community leaders, equally if not more busy than their male counterparts. NO way am I saying that women don’t know how to cook nowadays, but the expectation and frequency of this skill set is what I am addressing.  When speaking in a certain love language ask yourself this question:  When was the last time you baked a bean, mashed a potato,  filleted a fish, oodled a noodle? Nothing is more sensual to a woman than watching her man cater to her for a change by setting the dinner table and engaging in a CONVERSATION (that you actually LISTEN to) over something that you have prepared for her, making your quest for Camelot more rewarding. If dinner wasn’t such a powerful tool, then why did you take her out to eat on your first 5 dates when courting her??? Cook her some dinner…

Cleaning is the new form of communication. When a man cleans up after himself, his children and after dinner it expresses a few different things. Watch me work and don’t miss this point. I learned that simply cleaning bottles without being asked or told can really make a woman smile. It expresses to her that you are willing to make the same sacrifices she makes daily. Simple task right? But easily forsaken when the Knicks or Eagles are playing. Waking up and changing diapers in the middle of night is also a shared, silent form of communication. This next example is a big one. After she cooks, you get up and say don’t worry about the dishes you’ll take care of it. Cleaning is a shared responsibility. It eliminates the gender role complex that most modern women in this generation want to HULK SMASH, and it can express a form of appreciation. It took me a while to grasp this concept. All I have to do now is master the art of laundry and I’m golden. You can’t make love on top of a bed full of dirty clothing. CATER to your woman.

When was the last time you really KISSED your woman? She is dying for you touch her soul with your lips in ways that you used to. The touch from your partner is extremely important. It’s not always about sexual intercourse. A kiss good morning, a kiss good night, and kissing while engaging in sexual intercourse can go a long way. I believe that most women enjoy the passion that comes with kissing. Think back to when you both first started dating…

Moral of the story, gentlemen, is simple. You are complaining that your woman has decreased in her wild sexual nature, but you stopped speaking to her needs. The hot, lusty, passionate chemistry that you all shared when you were steaming up the back seat of cars is gone. You need to stimulate her in ways that don’t require sexual advancement. Watch how she responds. While you are looking for SEX from her, she really wants, needs and responds to the D….

Don’t debate me and give her the D.I.C.K… (DATE, INTEGRITY, CATER, KISS)

 

By Mr. NiceGuy
Twitter: MrNiceGuyVSOP
IG: Trev.s.op
AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
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