Mary Memories

Mary Mary Mary!

Today is Mary J. Blige’s birthday, and I have many memories of Mary over the years.  Like Whitney, she is the musical voice of my generation, ever since she came on the scene singing backup for Father MC (do you know him?) on his song, I’ll Do 4 U.

There’s so many memories that come to mind when I think about her first few albums, especially My Life. I was dating my first boyfriend at the time (1994/5). But the funniest memory was in the 9th grade. A boy cousin of one of my friends liked me, but I didn’t like him. She could barely contain her laughter one day at our lockers when she passed me a cassette tape of What’s the 411? (which I already had).  “He said to listen to these songs and you’ll see exactly how he feels about you.”  What the ???

As a sophomore in college, I dyed my hair blonde in the early 90’s, not realizing she, Faith and many others used weave to get that perfect platinum look. That same year, 1995, I saw her perform during the Bad Boy tour with Biggie, Faith, Total, Craig Mack, and Puffy.

Whenever people ask Mary what her favorite song of her is, I have to agree. My fave song of hers is Love No Limit.  However, to be fair, my “unfave” song of her is when she covered Soul II Soul’s Back to Life.  She’s done many great covers over the years but that was just not one of them IMO, especially when she tried to reach the same notes as Caron Wheeler in the original–it didn’t work. I also did not care for her albums No Drama nor Love and Life overall. To me, although she has hits no matter what, her first few albums were her best by far.


She’s come a long way, from domestic, sexual and drug abuse to be an empowered example of what it means to be a strong woman in the 21st century. There’s always a test before you have a testimony, and she’s using hers for good.
Happy birthday Mary!

Ladies: You Have the Right to Remain Childless

Source: UltraViolet

I am the single mother of a 9-year-old, through divorce, who never wanted to be a single parent or divorced. If you asked me as a teen or in my 20s, I’d tell you that I would NEVER have children.

As I wrote in my journal as a girl, I didn’t want to pass on/expose the negativity I felt in my life to another generation. I had different ideas of motherhood then, and couldn’t imagine what my friends who were teen moms were dealing with physically, emotionally, or mentally.

I don’t know where it comes from, but there’s a strong sentiment that something is wrong with a woman who doesn’t bear children by a certain age–or ever. Well-meaning and nosy parents and grandparents, friends and even acquaintances regularly weigh in on when a couple should have their first or subsequent children.

I know a lot of people with my situational status who find love again and start a new family, even though their present children may be in high school or college, but I don’t want to start over. Honestly, the primary reason that I consented to pregnancy and parenting is because my then-husband desperately wanted to actively raise a child of his own. We mutually agreed that I stop taking my (very effective) birth control and I got pregnant the following year. My main reasoning then–in my early 20s–was, “A wife is supposed to have children [if her husband wants them].”

We’re supposed to?

Continue reading “Ladies: You Have the Right to Remain Childless”

Announcing… Kharacter Distinction Books!

I’ve established a new publishing imprint, Kharacter Distinction Books, with the objective of publishing inspirational books to empower young and old alike. Here is the mission statement:

“Kharacter Distinction Books was established with the objective of publishing inspirational books to empower young and old alike. Our purpose is to shed light on the written works of talented authors of color that deserve attention from the readers they serve to enrich and enlighten. We strive to publish works by authors who have a unique perspective, a story to tell, and need a positive vehicle in which to drive their message home with compelling authority. We aim to establish collective conversation and theories that provoke thought. We advocate works that explain our culture; that illuminate, inspire, challenge us to pursue and draw closer to God. ”

Tagline: “Not a publishing minority”

I will soon post short videos on my new YouTube channel to summarize the various topics in my forthcoming book, “What’s Wrong With Me?,” coming in October 2011.  Please subscribe to the KharacterDistinction channel for updates!

Give Him a Chance, or Let Him Pass You By?

There are many opinions among singles about who should make the first move: should the man approach a woman first, or is it ok for a woman to express interest first? I believe the answer lies in not WHO, but HOW.

I am very proud of my friend, author and filmmaker Tomeka Winborne, who just released her first short film, “Pass Me By,” about a woman who almost lets a nice guy get away because of her attitude. Check it out and let us know what you think!

First Ladies: The Unsung Pulpit Partners (Conclusion)

Lost? This post is part 4 of a series. (Start here to catch up.)

Women Are Called to Ministry, Too

The controversy about women in the pulpit continues to pervade Christian society in America. The September 2008 issue of the Fayetteville, GA-based Gospel Today magazine featured five female pastors for its cover story, but Lifeway, a Christian bookstore affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, pulled this issue from their magazine displays. Their decision to do so is based on the scripture passage 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

Continue reading “First Ladies: The Unsung Pulpit Partners (Conclusion)”

Take Back Your Time!: How to Start Unitasking in 8 Steps

The scattered piles of books and papers on my floor, across my desks, and on top of my dressers makes it clear that I have too many things going on at once. Because I can’t process all of it in an orderly fashion, this clutter is also transferred to my mind, which leads me to procrastinate or just give up.

I have a variety of interests and personal goals. I am involved in an active set of ministries at church, work full-time, do public speaking and freelance writing and above all, am a single parent of a little one, and I’ve started a new business I’m excited about. With all I’ve got going on in my life, and without giving priorities to my tasks and goals, everything becomes an overwhelming glob of to-dos. Something has got to give.

cluttered bulletin board
Courtesy of John Lawton

When crunch time comes along, we find out what the real priorities are in our lives. We’re all so busy, but busy doing what? Saying “Yes” to too many activities and too many people leaves no room for “me” time or family priorities, and we get worn out. Are ALL of our obligations really THAT important? Do we know when to say “No”?

Don’t have to wait until you “get around to it.” Decide now, from this day forward, that you will STOP MULTITASKING.


1. Multitasking wastes time because it slows you down.

Our minds can’t handle too many demanding things simultaneously. I’m not talking about combining little tasks such as running the washing machine while you watch TV or skim a magazine, or listening to an mp3 while you exercise. I’m talking about productive, cognitive tasks that require you to concentrate and process information, whether it be reading, writing, or driving. Think about it: you really can’t check your email and do your homework at the same time. You can have both in front of you while you take turns studying, and then take breaks to read emails. Switching back and forth between tasks is not efficient. You cannot truly multitask because your brain does not process information that way.


Continue reading “Take Back Your Time!: How to Start Unitasking in 8 Steps”

Not All Popular Preachers Are Pimpin’

Are you so jaded to think that every preacher on TV is tryin’ to pimp you out of your money or your clothes? [In my Bill Cosby voice] C’mon people!

It annoys me when I read or hear comments about credible people who I have learned from, saying that they are ‘nothing but false preachers.’

Nothing but?!

Is that simple? Can you really discount everything about the person’s message (that’s what nothing but does)? Do you have inside ties or information about this person to back up what you’re saying? Even if you do, one person doesn’t qualify to give the rest–or Christianity–a bad name.

And are tithers really stupid to give their hard-earned money to a preacher? Well I don’t look at like that at all. Do you know the average pastor’s salary? I choose to tithe out of obedience to and faith in God, because I have to answer to Him–not anyone down here.

Now I can agree that there ARE false preachers out there (Matthew 7:15, 1 Timothy 1:3, 4 and chapter 4). But not every preacher on TV is necessarily a ‘prosperity preacher’. There is a balance between teaching people how to live the life Christ died to give them–a more abundant life (John 10:10; 3 John 1:2)–and being meek, humble and holy. Everyone perceives humility and holiness differently, but I don’t think you should totally discredit a preacher because s/he likes nice things. Whose to say those funds came from the church?

I worship in my local community and occasionally watch preachers on TV and read their books. Because I have read the Bible for myself, and continue to study it, I know if someone’s message is coming from God’s heart or from their own personal gospel and opinions. You have to know the Word for yourself before you can discern others’ motives. Please believe it.

What kind of fruit does this person’s ministry (and their life) produce (Luke 6:44; Matthew 21:18-19)? Is the person’s own immediate family on the up and up? Are lives being changed for the better as a result of their efforts? Are people coming to Christ and learning how to live their lives to be more like Him (their character, attitude, and integrity)?

I agree that people in positions of leadership are called to a higher standard (1 Timothy 3), but I say don’t let someone’s bankroll, clothing, or vehicle of choice dissuade you from ministers who are popular. They’re not perfect, and as humans they may stumble, but they’re not necessarily crooks trying to prey on those who are already down. Infighting only weakens our cause.

There are thousands, millions, zillions of preachers and teachers of God’s Word that are not out to get you. They really love the Lord and have committed their lives to doing His work, spreading the gospel (that is, the Good News of Jesus Christ– Matthew 28:16-20), and are active servant leaders helping their communities. Please back up off of these, my sisters and brothers in Christ who are trying to do the right thing and making a great impact.


“Touch not my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”– 1 Chronicles 16:22 and Psalm 105:15

P.S.- If you want to quickly look up the above-mentioned scriptures or any others in your favorite Bible version, go to or your favorite online Bible resource. And if I’ve missed the mark, give me some food for thought–I don’t have all the answers.

The Invisible Customer

One of my pet peeves is poor customer service.  And I wasn’t disappointed during my last trip.

modern apartment buildingRecently, while I was apartment hunting in the town of Dunwoody (Atlanta), GA, the leasing consultants made a big mistake.  They lost about $12,000 for this mistake.

All because they ignored me.

Here’s the background: This past February, I emailed this particular apartment complex to get information, and they responded quickly with a personal message, which I took as a good sign, as well as a coupon to waive the application fee as an internet customer. I let them know that I would be coming in from out of state in April to look at a specific apartment of interest. Then a few days before my trip, I reminded them, since it had been so long since our last contact.

When I first arrived at the leasing office, there were about 8 of 10 parking spaces available, so it wasn’t busy.  I opened the door and there were two desks facing me with leasing consultants. There was also an office to the left with a door. The woman in that office saw me standing there, (I’ll call her Jackie) pleasantly asked what I needed, and told me that someone would be right with me.

The woman I had been conversing with—I’ll call her Lisa—was on the phone. I could overhear her making an appointment for a massage. It wasn’t long before I got to see why she needed one.

When Lisa got off the phone, she asked me how she could help, and I re-introduced myself to her. She had no real reaction and told me to have a seat. I told her which apartment style I wanted, then remembered that I left my driver’s license in the car. Since you’re not allowed to tour apartments without giving your ID to the leasing consultant, I told Lisa I’d be right back.

I was not parked far—I was close to the door. But when I came back, the person (a resident) who was waiting by the door when I walked out was now seated at Lisa’s desk, talking with her.  Lisa then got up, went into Jackie’s office for a few moments, and came out with a bunch of paperwork. Lisa did not look at me or acknowledge me, even though a moment ago, we were going to tour an apartment.

ticket dispenserWas I missing something? Are we playing “move your feet, lose your seat” here?

Other residents were going back and forth through the door too—and the other leasing consultant whose desk was next to Lisa’s—I’ll call her Sydney—was handling her business, too. But most of the people asked for Lisa.

So finally, when Sydney got free,  she asked me if I wanted to see an apartment. I said yes. She grabbed her keys and said, “Do you have a car?” And then she told me to follow her car. Everyone else at apartments I visited used a golf cart to take me around, but I just went ahead and followed her.

Sydney showed me two apartments that were way-deep-down-a-hill-far-away-I-was-like-where-are-we-going?!-far, but she never asked for my ID, even though I had it now. I lost “my place” to get the mandatory ID, remember?

When we returned from the tour about 10 minutes later, there was one parking space available. And you know what? Sydney took the spot.

I parked on the side in a strategic way so as not to be in anyone’s way when they left.

I don’t know what was going on that morning, but apparently, Lisa and Jackie were swamped. And what did Sydney do? She started talking to another resident on the sidewalk as soon as she got out of her car and they quickly walked inside together.

Woo-hoo!! Over here! Remember me—the person you just showed two apartments to? The one who flew in from Virginia to find a place to live? Do you want to close this sale?

I guess not.

So I left—and took their $12,000 of potential rent money with me.

Epilogue: I found my new apartment during the trip, and I’m moving in next month.

Amy Alkon, author of I See Rude People, has handled inconsiderate people in hilarious ways. How do you deal with rude people? Would you have handled my situation differently?

Why I Miss Arsenio

Comedians of color seem to do well in late night–OK, sometimes. I’m enjoying Mo’Nique’s and George Lopez’s shows. (Side note: I was enjoying Brian McKnight’s show, and I guess since he’s not a comedian, someone recently decided to add the annoying co-host, comedienne Kym Whitley and now I refuse to watch.) Then a few weeks ago, I woke up thinking about Arsenio—who knows why. But today I came across an article about Wanda Sykes’ cancelled late night talk show, so I thought I’d go ahead and pay the homage now.

The 90’s gave us a plethora of late night talk show alternatives to Carson & Letterman. People I had never heard of were getting talk shows, like radio host Rick Dees and others.

And then there was Arsenio Hall.

I only knew of him as Eddie Murphy’s BFF in Coming to America and in real life. Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy in "Coming to America" But this dude was funny, and his show didn’t disappoint me.

I was in high school so I couldn’t stay up every night to watch, but I was nice with a VCR (I never met a VCR I couldn’t program!), so I didn’t miss anything.

There had never been a talk show like The Arsenio Hall Show, which ran from January 2, 1989 to May 27, 1994. It was so different, fun, edgy, and ‘in your face’ (for that time). And so many memorable moments were captured on his show—everything from President Clinton playing the saxophone, Magic Johnson revealing his HIV President Bill Clinton playing the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall  Showstatus, and confronting Madonna on why she wanted to be Black, you saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. And who can forget that “Woo Woo Woo” barking-type applause every night with circling pumped fists?

Sometimes it was just those unique Arsenio things that had us dying laughing. Like when he’d laugh at his guest so much that he’d curl up or roll over his own chair. When he pointed his elongated finger or wore those outrageous booty pants. Arsenio made us laugh in ways that other talk shows never did, or have since.

Arsenio was a host of Star Search in the mid 2000’s, but it wasn’t the same vibe, of course. I still miss him on late night TV.