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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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
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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
Like, Follow and Share @thevsoplife Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook

V.S.OP Spotlight: “Cut From A Different Cloth”

The Virtually.Seizing.Opulence (V.S.OP) team is happy to introduce to some and present to others, Mr. Tommie Lark, Jr. the Chief Executive Officer of Superego, LLC. Tommie was born and raised in Massachusetts.Some would say that the odds were stacked against him from the time of conception, as he was born to two teenage parents. Things become harder for Tommie when he was seven years old. His father was murdered, leaving his 24 year old mother with two young children to raise.

Despite the early traumatic loss that Tommie experienced, he excelled as a student and joined the Amherst Chapter of “A Better Chance” (ABC), a college preparatory program. In addition to his success in the classroom, Mr. Lark also experienced great success as an athlete. His prowess as a scholar athlete led to him being accepted into the prestigious Wesleyan University, where he served as the captain of the track team and went on to be a four-time All American Triple Jumper.

While balancing his coursework and a rigorous training schedule, Tommie found time to join the Beta Beta Chi Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated. Phi Beta Sigma is an international Fraternity founded on January 9, 1914, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC. As a member of the Fraternity, Tommie utilized the leadership skills that he gained at an early age and served as the President of his Chapter for two years. In an interview with the V.S.OP team, Tommie shares how he overcame the adversities of being born to teenage parents and losing his father to go on to become a college graduate, All-American athlete and up and coming entrepreneur.

V.S.OP: “Tell us about your journey. How did you get into the industry that you are in?”

TL: “I am someone who came from nothing, born in a society where most that looked like me would be predisposed to drugs, violence and poverty. I somehow fell into the fashion industry, but I am using my brand and movement to redefine culture and make sustainable living more accessible to underrepresented millennials.”

Tommie truly believes in the old mantra that “it takes a village to raise a child,” and he attributes much of his success, both personally and professionally, to individuals that served as mentors and role models for him.

TL: “Coming from nothing, I am grateful and know the importance of giving back. I would not be where I am today without the support and guidance of many along the way including the staff of “A Better Chance”, my coaches and the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated.”

Defining your purpose can often be difficult to do. People spend a great deal of time trying to establish who they are or to make sense of what they are placed on this earth to do. Tommie believes that he is living in his purpose and is using his craft to inspire others to achieve greatness. He also envisions himself as a barrier breaker in the fashion industry and has established lofty goals for Superego, LLC.

Coming from nothing, I am grateful and know the importance of giving back. 

 

V.S.OP: “What makes you do what you do?”

TL: “My purpose in life is to do what I do. I was given a gift, destined for greatness. It is my duty to give back and uplift our youth, paving a path for them to have a more positive future.”

V.S.OP: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

TL: “In 10 years I would like to be a successful business owner that is known for changing the very fabric of reality (making hemp the new standard for t-shirt as opposed to cotton). I would like to have concept stores around the world, connecting the dots and empowering creatives to live their dreams. I would eventually like to start my own foundation or non-profit organization to give back to youth in underprivileged areas.”

V.S.OP: “What legacy do you want to leave behind through your craft?”

TL: “(BE)lieve in (YOU)rself. I want to leave this earth knowing that I have made an impact, knowing that my children and grandchildren will be born “Cut From A Different Cloth.” I want people to feel comfortable in their own skin, knowing that life’s a journey of creating yourself. Do what makes you happy and never let anyone get in the way of your dreams.”

Success is not easily attainable and this is even more evident in companies trying to establish themselves in major industries that have been historically dominated by larger corporations. The V.S.OP team inquired as to the challenges that Mr. Lark has faced as he seeks to “change the very fabric of reality.”

(BE)lieve in (YOU)rself. I want to leave this earth knowing that I have made an impact, knowing that my children and grandchildren will be born “Cut From A Different Cloth.

V.S.OP: “What are some obstacles that you have faced in pursuit of your goals?”

TL: “I was born to lose, but built to win. Born in poverty to high school sweethearts, losing my dad to violence as a child. Raised by a single mother working 3 jobs to provide for my siblings and myself. I was able to get over all of the obstacles in my way. Currently, a major obstacle that I am facing is building a brand from the ground up and spreading awareness. As a small business, working capital is always an issue, but we continue to work with the means that we have in order to get to the next level.”

Seizing opulence is not only about achieving success, but making an impact while doing so. Those that are living the “opulent life” are individuals that intend to use their personal brands to excel within their industries while shifting the social conscience of everyone that they encounter. Mr. Lark was candid in sharing that he hopes to inspire future generations and create a better living environment for them through his company’s success.

V.S.OP: “What does your craft mean to you?”

TL: “My craft is everything to me, as I am set out to literally change the very fabric of reality. I am introducing a sustainable alternative to the very wasteful fashion industry in a way that makes it ‘cool’. I want to appeal to the youth, educating and empowering them to make conscientious decisions that impact their everyday lives. Through our clothing we are empowering society, the environment, and in turn, our economy.

V.S.OP: “If there is one piece of advice that you could give a young person looking to get into your industry, what would it be?”

TL: “One piece of advice that I would give to a young person looking to get into any industry would be to study the greats and become greater. Complete your goals and value the process. Be patient and persevere through it all! Hard work pays off, so work hard and never give up!”

The V.S.OP team is happy to share that at the time of the interview with Mr. Lark, his company had recently launched a kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000. The campaign was a major success and Superego, LLC met their goal! Mr. Tommie Lark is the epitome of resilience, perseverance and creativity. He is an up and coming leader in the fashion industry and is certainly living the “opulent lifestyle”. Tommie Lark, we salute you for all that you represent and for being “Cut From A Different Cloth!”

For information on Tommie Lark, Jr. and Superego LLC, please see below:

Superego: www.superegoclothiers.com
Twitter/Facebook/Instagram: @SuperegoWorld
Personal Twitter: @TommieCFADC
Personal Instagram: @T_Larkington
Email: TLark@SuperegoClothiers.com

Written By: Tai D. Richardson

It Only Took A Pen & A Phone

Write or not to write….that is the question???

Are you questioning if you should journal for fear of having record of this tumultuous time in your life? Are you struggling with getting your thoughts together? Or is “writing” something you just don’t do?

Whatever may be holding you back, I think journal-ing is a great option for a person facing transition in their lives.

 

One thing I must say, journal-ing and writing down what I was going through while dealing with my separation, divorce and even now, post-divorce it still helps! It wasn’t the easiest of decisions to make honestly, because as much as I like to write, I like to read too. So I knew that documenting the hurt, the struggles, the triumphs and even the drama all in a journal (or several journals to be exact), I would at some point go back and read some of these entries. Do you have that same problem, or fear you will do the same thing?

Well, listen, the truth is I did. I did go back and read and in the beginning, it was painful to read. But we are not exempt from pain or disappointment; what we do have power over is how we deal with the trials we will face in life. You can either live in fear and worry about what you “will do” or you can live now and focus on getting through this moment in your life. I decided to continue to journal and vent via writing, drawing, painting, being creative in anyway I felt comfortable. It turned out to be a great decision and an emotional one all at the same time. I really really struggled with some entries versus others. However; when reflecting on what I wrote, I got a sense of peace, knowing though I faced such turmoil and such heartache…I MADE IT.

No one can take that from you. No man, woman, or child. So why not you? START TODAY! Start writing, venting, scribbling, writing poems, collaging, taking selfies. Whatever you have to do to manage all the emotion; do it that. If you have a hard time figuring that out. Start with things that you enjoy doing and do it often. Use that energy to heal: release that stress, anxiousness, pain, and anger.It will be tough some days, but push through!  

Taking ‪#‎Selfies‬ helped me to witness change through my transition seeing my mood, expression and even my hair color/weight change. But seeing the entries from the beginning of my journey until now gives me another reason to smile and rejoice. Once I was able to jot down all the anger and disappointment of what was “happening to me”, I was able to move from the victim-hood mentality and move closer to forgiveness and gratefulness.

So, naturally, my entries turned from angry rants to soothing words of gratitude and delight. Writing what I was grateful for changed my view tremendously. It helped to remind me that I was not where I started and I definitely was growing and evolving! Praise the Lord! Because he knows, none of this is easy. But hard doesn’t mean impossible! With him it is possible. His grace is enough. Follow me on this journey of gratitude and forgiveness.

Order your “Action Speaks” journal today @ http://www.chelamora.com! Start journal-ing and taking your selfies. Remember to follow me @chelamora and @lamoracheheart on Instagram and when you start your selfies use the hashtags #selfie and #selfiechronicles. This is your journey, take hold and be of great courage, you are not alone. Much love.

-Che’

The Medium

According to dictionary.com, the definition of “medium” is as follows: 1. A middle state or condition; mean. 2.Something intermediate in nature or degree. There are about sixteen definitions for this word, but let’s focus on the first two as it applies to African American males in these United States of America. By now you’re probably wondering where could this possibly go, or what points are being brought up. Often times we as society tend to overlook or subconsciously not acknowledge the multiple identities of a person or a group of people. Society subconsciously or consciously, depending on who you’re talking to, depicts the African American experience in this country with only struggle/despair or living the lavish life of an entertainer/athlete, leaving no room for a “medium”. To go even further, society/media portrays the African American male experience as presented in two different lights; the successful athlete/entertainer or the drug dealer/gang-banger. Let’s categorize those “light” descriptions as “highs” and “lows”. The “high” would of course be the athlete/entertainer that promotes the lifestyle of money, sex, and drugs. Then it’s the “low” drug dealer/gang-banger  that lives the life of violence on their quest to money, sex, and drugs. But there has to be more to a black man’s life in America, right? Constantly, society feeds this dichotomous image of all black men that is absolutely inaccurate. If you are asking what are the inaccuracies, one would possible say the easier question is which one should we highlight first? (Yes, there are many.)

For the sake of an argument let’s start with examining the black man and the “medium” that is rarely highlighted for us. The images created by the media leaves those who are not familiar, or have limited interactions with black males in America as a “black” or “white,” good and bad perspective of these men. What about the gray area? There has to be some in between, right? As we examine the “medium,” a few questions come to mind. Mainly, where is the “medium”  for this African American man? What does that medium look like, and why doesn’t he have a voice?The “medium” black man is often forgotten in America. Rarely is there any recognition for his accomplishments or empathy for his struggles. However, there is constant attention given to his counterparts. Whether it’s the black male athlete/entertainer who is idolized for their glitz and glamour, or the drug dealer/gang banger that’s constantly in the newspaper or community doing something wrong.

When these are the two images that are constantly recognized by society rightly or wrongfully so, the idea of the “medium” tends to fade. Who is this “medium” black man you ask? The answer is quite simple. The medium black man is the man who wakes up every day and goes to work to provide for his family. The medium black man is the man who not only goes to college, but graduates. He is our pastor, lawyer, doctor, corrections officer, policeman, fireman, banker, social worker, teacher, principal and the successful business man all in our midst to be acknowledged. However, we rarely acknowledge him! Instead we constantly micro-aggressively compare him to his “high” and “low” counterparts. If he has an athletic stature we ask him why he isn’t playing a professional sport, or if he has a nice car, we automatically assume that he’s selling drugs or participating in illegal activities. Society loves to silence the medium black man and when he reacts we label him as angry. But why shouldn’t he be angry? He’s human too. He thinks, feels, and reacts the same way you do. Although the voice of the “medium” black man tends to be silenced at times, one could also say that he also allows his voice to be silenced. He chooses not to speak up due to the fear of being labeled. Instead he bottles it up inside and continues fighting the labels like the warrior he is. With everything that’s going on in society today, the voice of the “medium” black man is needed more than ever before.

Think about it, society fears you simply because they only know both extremes. Better yet, society knows the “highs” and are very familiar with them because of their fame. Society also knows that the “high”s have too much to lose. Which leaves society with what the media feeds them about the description of the “lows” and that’s who society fears. Because of your silence society  does not look at you for your degrees, they immediately lump you in with the “lows”. You have to speak up, make your presence felt. Let the world know that you exist and that this image they paint of you is false. Speak out on what you feel is wrong; don’t be defined by the transgressions of your counterparts. You are not a mythical creature that only exists in theory. You are real and you are in abundance. For the sake of the future, speak up because lives depend on it.

Love Triangles : The Truth Behind Cheating Part I

Okay, picture this:

A popular couple named Mary and John are in a long-term, committed relationship. To onlookers, it seems that Mary and John are happy. Friends and associates often witness public displays of affection from each partner, banter, and innocent flirting. Occasionally, Mary and John will even declare their love for one another on social media for the world to bear witness. So needless to say, it is obvious that these two individuals are in a monogamous relationship. In fact, those friends within the social circle idealize their union. That said, the fact remains that what is shown publicly is not always a true representation of what happens behind closed doors. What if I told you that despite the illusion of this great relationship, that a number of problems occur in Mary and John’s relationship? What if the reality was that John has been cheating with a woman we will call Jessica–a sexual relationship that predates Mary and John as a couple?And not surprisingly, Mary is unaware of Jessica’s identity….but oddly enough, she knows that her boo is unfaithful and may have had several affairs outside the relationship. To make matters more interesting, Jessica is very much aware that John is in a relationship, but continues on as his secret lover. Well John, Mary, and Jessica are members in love triangle.

Now, if you had a reaction of disgust towards Jessica in her role within this affair, you more than likely share the reaction of mainstream society. After all, the mistress, for one reason or another, is typically the one deemed most accountable in situations like the one described above. And more often than not, we relate with Mary, label John a “2 timing jerk,” and refer to Jessica as a “home wrecker,” or a “hoe.” And let’s face it, John is usually forgiven and given a clean slate, even after repeated offenses. Meanwhile, the”other girl’s” image is tarnished and she is devalued by both men and women alike. Being that this is a controversial topic, the voice of the “side chick” often goes unheard, in fear that she will be shamed and judged for her lack of self control. An experience far too taboo to address, leaving the mistress silenced from expressing her viewpoints and conveniently protecting the cheater’s reputation.

Love triangles are known as interactions between three individuals within a relationship system, by which each member carries out a pattern of behaviors that create an unhealthy relationship cycle. Love triangles can serve a few functions. In most systems, it is used to alleviate stress within a primary love relationship. The 3rd person in this case is used as a distraction to provide temporary relief from relationship conflicts. In other cases, the unfaithful partner may pull in a 3rd person when feeling insecure in the primary relationship (i.e.: suspicions that their partner may be cheating and therefore he or she must beat partner to the punch). The security provided by the 3rd person may also compensate for some voids within the primary love relationship. In this dynamic, the unfaithful partner may place the 3rd person on reserve as an alternate love interest (just in case the main partner breaks up with him/her). Some cheaters tend to also gain a sense of power and control through cheating. Cheating, for these people, provides a feeling of empowerment– it allows the cheater to make up for relationship failures by feeling successful in other areas of his/her life. However, simply put, cheating can be viewed as a red flag for low self esteem; a need to be desired by others as a means of gaining approval. Those individuals who cheat, even in secure relationships, utilize cheating as a way to build self-confidence. The acceptance provided by the 3rd person tells the cheater that he/she is wanted. In all, for the cheater, admiration seeking becomes addictive; a hunger that is never fully satisfied.

Now given the details of this “love” pattern, we can now ask the obvious question. Why, would a “side piece”, continue “creeping?” Here are some answers. Jessica similarly to Mary, has a co-dependent personality. A co-dependent in any unhealthy relationship, will place lower priority on his/her personal needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of the dependent. In fact, co-dependents indirectly encourage cheaters to continue cheating! Prioritizing the needs of others and neglecting the self is not at all uncommon in co-dependent individuals. But what the co-dependent may not be aware of is how his/her “selfless” acts empower a person who may likely crave control, and who has become masterful at the art of manipulation. Other factors to consider are what makes the co-dependent more prone to this personality trait. Arguably, one may consider nature vs nurture; the idea that personality is formed by environmental or biological causes. In short, one develops co-dependency via their social environment (home, school, media, etc). Those individuals who have been exposed to domestic abuse, not exclusive to physical abuse, but also including mental and emotional abuse, are most vulnerable. Although, some may say that co-dependence is just natural in some personalities. Co-dependency also plays a major role in self-esteem and self-worth, as the overly selfless often learn from their environments that they are undeserving, and therefore unworthy of healthy love relationships. This trait is found at the root of all obsessive lovers and explains why co-dependents stay in love triangles. So basically, co-dependents remain as a side piece because their main objective is to keep their ‘lover’ happy by any means, perhaps in hopes that they will at some point become the main lover. This thinking is sometimes driven by manipulations of the cheater, who may give the co-dependent false hope for a future. In terms of morality however, the co-dependent becomes  ‘numb’ after having been involved in cheating cycles for so long.

To conclude, love triangles are clearly very unhealthy. They hinder growth in love relationships and cause considerable emotional damage. And cheating problems seen in love triangles are far more complicated than uncontrollable lust–they are driven by complex emotional, behavioral, and social issues.

 In the follow-up blogs, we will take a further look at the profiles of the cheater and the main partner.

Disclaimer: The statements outlined in this blog do not define all situations seen in cheating dynamics, but rather discusses a basic overview on the principles of infidelity, and factors that may contribute to such relationship systems. Furthermore, the character names used in this blog are fictional. Any connection to real life events or actual persons is purely coincidental.

By: Saylor C Brook

Disclaimer: The statements outlined in this blog do not define all situations seen in cheating dynamics, but rather discusses a basic overview on the principles of infidelity, and factors that may contribute to such relationship systems. Furthermore, the character names used in this blog are fictional. Any connection to real life events or actual persons is purely coincidental.