A commentary on life like only momma can give.

A New Year A New Me/What A Procrasinator Learned In 2013

It’s 2014…HAPPY NEW YEAR! So what did you learn in 2013? This past year has been interesting and it marks one year since I last blogged. I didn’t just walk away from the blog…I must have started about 20+ posts but I didn’t complete one. I thought about the blog constantly (I had some good stuff too!) but something always stopped me and by something, I mean life and by life…I mean ME! From January through August, everything that could go wrong did and I decided to have my own personal pity party/adult tantrum, you name it and I took it out on the blog, which of course, effected no one but me.

In August, having hit the proverbial bottom, I decided to make a change and really go for what I wanted. For far too long, I have been the person who dreamed big but talked myself out of my blessings. I was great at cheering everyone else on to success but for some reason, I wouldn’t let it happen to me. It’s been 2 1/2 years since I was fired and as I’ve written before, I always knew that I wasn’t going back into banking but the question was, “What was I going to do?” I started blogging because writing had been on my mind for a while but as I began to write, I realized that for me, I was going to need to do more than just blog to have my career go the direction I wanted it to go so I began taking a course to become certified as a Life and Business Coach and it was in one of my classes that I learned what my biggest issue is and why I have been stagnate for so long.

I’ve always been a HUGE procrastinator but as long as I worked for someone else, I was able to keep it in check. It wasn’t until I decided to go out on my own that I realized if I didn’t get a hold of this disease (Yes, I’m calling it a disease!), I would be paralyzed for the rest of my life never having fully accomplished what God put me on this earth to accomplish. So I confronted my issue head on and for the first time, spoke it in to existence outside of my head and what I learned was this:

1. My procrastination hid the real problem…I was an undercover perfectionist. If it wasn’t what I felt was “perfect”, I wouldn’t release or complete the project thus holding myself back.

2. I thought I did my best work when I was under the gun but I did my best work when I did the damn work! (I learned that from a recovering perfectionist!)

3. Procrastinating was nothing more than my own personal drama being carried out in my head.

4. Talking to others about my procrastination brought a sense of relief I didn’t even know I needed.

5. If I planned to be successful on my own, I was going to have to find a way to overcome my procrastinating ways. This has led me to begin writing things down in advance and making myself follow through on my commitments whether they are perfect or not.

So going forward, I now consider myself a recovering procrastinator/perfectionist! Everyone knows the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem and I am boldly coming forward and admitting my struggle. Being accountable to myself is going to be tough but it is the only way I will be able to move forward and accomplish the goals that I have for both myself and my new business. So CHEERS to all of the recovering procrastinators with perfectionist tendencies! Let’s make 2014 the year of RECOVERY and PROSPERITY!

BET’s Inability To Grow Quality Programming Leaves TJ Holmes On The Job Hunt

This past weekend, I caught TJ Holmes back in the anchor chair, moonlighting as a substitute anchor on MSNBC and I have to say, he looked WAY more comfortable then he’s looked on his new show Don’t Sleep on BET.  I watched Don’t Sleep and from the beginning, I new that something was off. The content was great and the meaning was there but it sat between two worlds and didn’t seem to have its own identity other than it was a show that focused on the African American community. Was it funny, serious…both? Whatever it was, it wasn’t clicking with viewers and BET hit the panic button.

I’ve been a fan of TJ’s since his days on the SF Bay Area news affiliate, KNTV. While serious, he was able to have fun delivering the nightly news and was a big reason many of us tuned in to his newscast. When he moved on to CNN, I was glad to see that his style of journalism was being seen by a broader audience because he made you want to watch the news. When I learned about him moving over to BET, I wasn’t as optimistic.

I was excited because it was TJ but knowing that BET, who for so long had pushed quality programming aside for the quick dollar that ratchet television brings was involved, I hoped for the best and like everyone else tuned in to the first episode. I got the premise of the show but knew right away that something was missing. The writing was strong but the show was missing that “Je ne sais quois” and for me it was boring. It was obvious, as the show progressed and the viewership went down, that I wasn’t the only one who noticed that the show just wasn’t working.

BET noticed, as well, and immediately panicked cutting the show to once a week for an hour instead of the four days a week originally scheduled and The President of BET, Debra Lee, came out swinging telling us that the shows ratings proved that the African American community didn’t want quality programming. Huh? I laughed hard at that one! We wanted quality programming but it seemed that BET forgot not only how to provide quality programming…they also forgot what quality programming looked like.

TJ as the host of Don’t Sleep didn’t seem to be connecting with the viewers the way he did as an anchor and the format while good on paper, wasn’t exactly what “we” as viewers were looking for in an all about “us” show. A show like Don’t Sleep needs time to find its voice and instead of hitting the panic button a month in, what BET should have done was give the show the time needed and the right people to tweak it instead of cutting it and declaring that the reason they don’t put out quality shows is because the viewers won’t support.

Seeing that TJ is making moves says that something is coming down the pipeline and while I want his show to succeed, I’m not mad at him for exercising his options.

The Pity Party

It has been a few weeks since I’ve blogged because I was having my own personal pity party. I would visit my blog and even jot down notes but I couldn’t put my thoughts in order. As time went on, I also became upset with myself for not being able to formulate a sentence let alone a paragraph and so I avoided the blog altogether! It wasn’t until I was on Twitter and saw a tweet that requested that we reach out to a fellow blogger who had been contemplating suicide, that I found my own voice again.

As I left a comment on her site giving my two cents and trying to help her see the value in her life, I had no choice but to listen to my own words. At the end of my post I told her that it was time to pull up her boot straps and remember who she was before the stresses of marriage, kids and life took over. Funny how I could so clearly see how to “Fix” her but was in the midst of my own pity party where I had forgotten who I was and wanted to be before those very similar stresses had me running from myself.

It was so easy for me to tell someone else they were valuable and yet so easy for me to forget how valuable I was. For so long whether it was right or wrong, my “Worth” was attached to my work. I was a banker. I worked for a well known Community Bank and when I was announced anywhere, it was always as “Kirsten Upshaw, Manager of XYZ Bank.”  So when I lost my job, I went through an identity crisis. All of a sudden, I was no longer who I had become known as and suddenly I felt lost. I was also embarrassed at myself because I had drunk the Kool-Aid and began to define myself through the eyes of my employer and once I lost my job, I, for a minute, looked at myself through their eyes and I felt like a failure.

Never mind that my “Failure” was brought about by decisions that were out of my control by people who never believed in me in the first place so you have to wonder why I or anyone would put much stock into an opinion that’s sole purpose was to do exactly what it did which was destroy. It took me a few weeks to come to grips with my new title of “Kirsten Upshaw” and a lot of soul searching because suddenly I had to figure out who I was without a corporate title. And just like when I lost my title of “Wife” after my divorce, I realized that being me makes me happy and anytime I have tried to please anyone and stepped outside of myself, I have ended up unhappy and trying to figure out how I got there.

So many times we follow and act how others tell us we should act knowing full well that it is a decision that will lead us directly where we ended up…starting over. Recognizing your worth and demanding that others do as well, is very important to your overall happiness. Just remember, giving yourself wholly to anything or anyone other than God, will never make a situation better so arm yourself with that knowledge and happily live your life the way you want to…not how they think you should. You are allowed to have your pity party but like my momma used to say–”You can’t wallow in self-pity forever.” At some point you have to get over it, pull yourself up and do what the Lord put you on this earth to do.

Hiding Behind ‘Stand Your Ground’

It is time for the state of Florida to recognize that its residents are hiding behind the  ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. ‘Stand Your Ground’ has  become the “go to” excuse to shoot first and then say–”I felt threatened.” In the Trayvon Martin case, George Zimmerman felt “threatened” by Trayvon because he reacted to Zimmerman’s “stalking” of him…and he stalked him because he fit the “profile”. The profile being a young black male walking along and minding his business. There are people who would and have said that Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty but those are people who haven’t had to worry about their boys simply walking to the corner market and coming home in a body bag.

The stories are endless of young black men being gunned down for simply being young black men and when I wrote the post The Responsibility Of Raising A Black Boy, I expressed my concern as a pregnant mother finding out the child I was carrying was a baby boy. Knowing how the world viewed him and the lengths to which they would go to discourage his success, including murder, sent my already stressed mind reeling.

The day I went to the hospital to find out the sex of my son, we were sitting in the waiting room and on the television, they were discussing the very controversial comments conservative William J. Bennett made on his talk show September 29th, 2005 in which he stated–”if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose — you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” Bennett quickly added that such an idea would be “an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do.” But, he said, “your crime rate would go down.”

We both sat there and shook our heads, incredulous at what we’d heard and as the host of the show debated with her guests about how insensitive and wrong his comments were, my name was called to go find out what I was having. As we stood up, I looked at my boyfriend and said–”They are trying to exterminate y’all!”

William Bennett’s comments are nothing knew to the black community and neither is having to deal with the possibility of losing our young men to violence for no other reason than the color of their skin.

The recent use of the ‘Stand Your Ground Law‘ hasn’t been about standing your ground so much as it has been about using it as a smokescreen to hide the deep seeded hatred that has been bred for generations in this country. We are supposed to believe that seventeen year old young men who were buying junk food and listening to elevated music (things all seventeen year olds do) and until harassed, were unaware these men even existed, were somehow so dangerous that both Zimmerman and Dunn even saw phantom weapons which, they claim, is why they made the decision to shoot.

We tell our children to stay away from drugs and tell them to steer clear of the wrong crowd and now we have to tell them that even after doing ALL of that, there is still a chance that you will be shot and/or killed… so as a parent, what am I supposed to tell my son to help him avoid that? Would you know what to tell yours?

Raising children is already a hard enough job without having to worry and be constantly reminded that at any moment your child’s life could be taken based on a “feeling”. Enacting laws that allow for a person to act before they think has already been proven detrimental and two families are now dealing with having lost their sons to senseless, unprovoked violence with this law being used as the excuse for their deaths.

Gone are the days when we had to sit back and accept our children being harmed and with the recent campaign to end this controversial law gaining momentum, there is hope that the ineffectiveness of this law will be exposed and ultimately repealed. If nothing else, we owe it to the memory of those who died to have it taken off the books.

Measuring Your Success Through Roadblocks

Road Closed

Road Closed (Photo credit: Zahlm)

My last year of employment with the company I’d worked for for the past 10  years, was probably my most successful. I had learned how to find my niche in a market where big banks ruled, I’d learned how to market myself as the go-to person for community banking and the  money the office had on deposit was more than it had ever had since its inception. All of this despite the fact that I had been going through the most tumultuous times with upper management who upon taking over, had decided that I had to go and that I didn’t know how to effectively run my office even though none of them had ever worked outside of a traditional banking environment and had no clue what was involved in running a bank located inside of a supermarket.

Add to their ignorance of how things operated, they quickly realized that my employees were some of the best trained and began to use me like a Major League Baseball farm team and move my fully trained employees to their favorite offices giving me what they thought were problem employees but were just employees that didn’t fit their mold or were people they were unable to “control”. I called them on it more than once even going as far as to use the “Farm Team” analogy just so they knew that I knew what was going on. It wasn’t until  we went head to head on a lie…and they lost, that management backed off.

In the time that I was granted a reprieve, I was able to focus on my office and do exactly what was needed to make myself and the office successful. I become a more community minded member of the business community but my community involvement was strategic and specific to the needs of the office. Knowing that I did not have the flexibility to promote my office the way a traditional Office Manager did, I took to becoming very involved with the local Chamber of Commerce. I positioned myself to become their go to person to promote/sponsor events in conjunction with my office and strategically sponsored community events, school events and the local college. Within three years the office went from having, as low as, $6 million on deposit to having $20 million on deposit- a feat never before accomplished by any Office Manager at that particular office. Oh and did I mention that most of this was accomplished while working with a staff of two people? Half of what the office should have had working in it to run efficiently.

All of this success, while marginally recognized, meant nothing to upper management. After months of  being undermined and not receiving the support that was not only needed but considered mandatory, by said management, finally caught up to the office and as the head of that office me-the hammer dropped and when questions about who was ultimately responsible for the issues the office had (which were mostly due to having insufficient staff) the answer started to become clear that there were decisions made above my pay grade that contributed to the office’s failures. It became obvious, very quickly, that in order to save face, someone had to go and that someone became me.

Even though I was fired and more importantly, ready to go, I am glad that I can look back on my work with pride. While I was unable to see my vision through to completion, I am able to say that despite the setbacks and the underhandedness, my office was more successful than it had ever been and I was able to walk away with with the knowledge and the know-how that can be applied to any future endeavor and it was all a result of my hard work and dedication–a feat that no one can ever take away.

Obama: He Hath Done What He Could

Barack Obama

Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)

When I was about 3 years old, my father made a tape (I’m dating myself) of me learning memory verses for Sabbath School ( the Seventh-Day Adventist version of Sunday school) and the one verse that I still here my 3 year old self quoting is Mark 14:8–”She hath done what she could”. When I think about the 4 years that president Obama has had and the trials and tribulations he has had to endure, it is no wonder that he became emotional while speaking at his last stop in Iowa before returning to his home in Chicago to find out if Americans can move “Forward” and continue the work that was started November 4th, 2008.

For the last 4 years, it has been well documented how the Republican Party has openly undermined Obama’s presidency regardless of how it affected our country  and two days after Obama’s inauguration, Rush Limbaugh stated that he– “Wanted  President Obama to fail”. That statement alone let all of America know that no matter how he and we may be able to help you, we are going to, as my momma used to say, “Cut off our nose to spite our face” and sit back and watch the show.

Unfortunately for them, they really did sit back and watch a show and the show was that of a man on a mission and it looked as if the mission was heaven sent because despite the roadblocks that were thrown his way, he managed to accomplish the following as listed on http://obamaachievements.org:

  • Obama has overhauled the food safety system
  • Advanced women’s rights in the work place
  • Ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) in our military
  • Stopped defending DOMA in court.
  • Passed the Hate Crimes bill.
  • Appointed two pro-choice women to the Supreme Court.
  • Expanded access to medical care and provided subsidies for people who can’t afford it.
  • Expanded the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Fixed the preexisting conditions travesty [and rescissions] in health insurance.
  • Invested in clean energy.
  • Overhauled the credit card industry, making it much more consumer-friendly.
  • While Dodd-Frank bill was weak in many respects, it was still an extremely worthwhile start at re-regulating the financial sector.
  • He created a Elizabeth Warren’s dream agency: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • He’s done a lot for veterans
  • He got help for people whose health was injured during the clean-up after the 9/11 attacks.
  • He’s killed Osama Bin Laden
  • Eliminated several other Al-Qaeda leaders
  • Ended the War in Iraq
  • Begun the drawdown of forces from Afghanistan
  • End-run Republican obstructionism by recess-appointing Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Board.

If there is anyone out there who has ever been undermined at work when all you tried to do was show up and do your job, go back and read this list of accomplishments as a reminder of what a thankless job looks like. This list is the result of hard work and the kind of work expected of an american president so as we wake up today ready to cast our vote, let’s all remember what President Obama has accomplished in the face of adversity and if anyone asks what he’s done…just tell him–”He hath done what he could” and now it’s our turn.

Divorce And Its Continuing Effects On Children Of The Second Family

Divorce Child, a work by Javad Alizadeh, Irani...

Divorce Child, a work by Javad Alizadeh, Iranian artist. A first prize winner cartoon at Ankara cartoon festival,2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You never hear how divorce effects children from the second family. There is a lot of information on how divorce effects the children of the divorced family but what about the new family? Does anyone realize that the effects of the first divorce are far-reaching and continue to affect families affiliated with the children whose parents are divorced? I learned first hand how my divorce from my daughter‘s father was still effecting my family and it wasn’t my daughter who was struggling but my son who was from a new relationship.

When my ex-husband and I divorced, my daughter was 20 months old. While initially, she was affected by our divorce, as she got older, her memories of us being a family faded and her memories of her father and I have always been as divorced parents. When she was six, I got pregnant with my son and while his father and I chose not to marry, we’ve lived together since he was born so all he has ever known was a two parent home. As he got older and became more aware of our family dynamic, I noticed early how he was effected by his sister leaving for her weekend and summer visits to her fathers home.

The first time he noticeably reacted to her absence was when he was a year old and she’d been gone for her summer visit. He was very mobile so we kept her bedroom door shut but what no one realized is that by keeping her room closed, he thought she was locked in the room and one night he walked by her room and knocked on the door. We laughed and told him she wasn’t there but of course he didn’t understand . As he learned to talk and understand that “Sissy” was leaving for the weekend, he would question where she was and try and understand this every other weekend phenomena of his sister leaving him but it was a struggle.

By age three, he reacted to her leaving by crying and constantly asking–”Where’s Sissy?” or confirming what we told him about her whereabouts by saying– “Sissy’s at Renzo’s?” (his name for her father). There was constant discussion of where his sister was because he just didn’t understand. He didn’t understand that I used to be married to another man and he was confused that he and his sister had different fathers. It was at this point that I really started to understand how my actions were affecting not only the child of divorce but the child who loved the child of divorce.

When he turned four it was obvious that he had abandonment issues. He had anxiety about her leaving and he would leave the room so that we couldn’t see the tears in his eyes. Talking to her on the phone made him sad and when she left for her six week visit with her father, he acquired an eating disorder. Yes I said a four year old had an eating disorder and the disorder was he wouldn’t eat! Everyone told me that it was a phase he was going through and that it would blow over but no matter how they tried to convince me that everything would be alright, the stress of trying to make him eat anything other than cereal was wearing on the entire family.

I even had a breakdown when he was crying about his sister being gone and I flashed and told him to basically “suck it up!” I got so upset I started to cry and it was at that moment that I saw how the fallout from my divorce had reached all the way to my new family. It hadn’t crossed my mind to worry about how he might feel because honestly, my focus was on my daughter. She was the one whose family had been broken up and she had never complained so him having such visible reactions to my daughter’s situation was alarming.

I began to recognize that his “eating disorder”was his way of maintaining some semblance of control in his life. I had watched my 20 month old daughter have a similar reaction when she and I moved and she had to start staying with her great-grandparents while I worked but she transitioned easier than he did. He was and still is very adverse to change and it wasn’t until he went to pre-school and began to have his own life outside of the home that he finally calmed down.

Being around other children helped him and slowly he let go of his “eating disorder”. By the time his sister went away for her summer visit, he was so engulfed in his pre-school “social life” and his impending year as a Kindergartner that he was able to let go and have fun. One year later, he has made great strides in overcoming his abandonment issues and he has taken control of his own social calendar by setting up outings with his grandparents by and for himself.

Raising my son has taught me that the effects of divorce are continuous no matter the affiliation the child has with the divorcing parents. I have learned that a broken family is a broken family and it is paramount that people realize that decisions made today will most certainly effect the generations of tomorrow.


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