Saturday, August 23, 2014

Managing Day-to-Day Stress

Your alarm goes off.  You hit the button and look at the clock.  It's 6:00 AM and Tuesday.  The first thing that hits your mind before your feet hit the floor is that you have a 1/4 tank of gas left.  You walk into the bathroom trying to wipe the sleep from your eyes.  You look in the mirror only to have your focus disrupted when your child reminds you of a field trip on Thursday.  She will need $10 for the trip.

You say, "okay" and now try to figure out what you need to do to accommodate that $10 for the field trip.  At the same time, you're trying to coordinate all of your errands on your way to work so that you can take care of it all in one trip and save gas.

You finally get dressed, grab a bite to eat for breakfast and head out the door.  As you watch your kid board the bus, you turn around and look at your car only to see that your back, left tire is on a flat.  You're almost brought to tears as you pop the trunk to get the spare.

Thirty minutes later the tire is changed and you're on your way to work a few minutes late.  Now you have to get your tire fixed on top of the $10 for the field trip and having to make it until Friday on 1/4 tank of gas.  You're going to skip lunch today because that's where your daughter's $10 for her trip will come from.

You get to work and your trifling coworker has been slacking and causing you more work.  You can't say anything to him because his uncle is the boss at your branch.  He pretty much has a lifetime immunity at the job despite the fact that he's non-productive.  You have to smile and deal with his shenanigans.  

After a full day of work, you're hungry due to skipping lunch, but it's only three minutes until quitting time.  Your day is almost over!  But, your desk phone rings.  It's an irate client and he keeps you on the phone for an additional 30 minutes after quitting time.

You finish up at work and finally head home.  Traffic is bad, but it gives you an opportunity to figure out a game plan for dinner.  Is there enough in the refrigerator to generate a decent meal or will you need to stop by the store?  You decide to head on home and cook what's there.  You've made something out of nothing before.

You arrive home, cook, eat, and finally sit down for the evening.  It's 7:30 PM and you just want to watch some TV and unwind until your daughter comes in the room with that look she gives when she's in trouble.  Her science project is due tomorrow and she needs some supplies from Office Depot.

You do everything within your power to not curse as you grab your shoes and keys to take her to the store.  You've told her time-and-time again not to wait until the last minute, but she's a kid.  That's what they do.  If you only had a spouse to help manage things it would be so much easier.  But, it's just you and your daughter.

After coming back from Office Depot and spending $27 that you really didn't have, you start her on the project and eventually make your way towards the bedroom.  It's almost 9 PM and you're exhausted.  You plop on the bed and before you know it, you're out like a light...

Your alarm goes off.  You hit the button and look at the clock.  It's 6:00 AM and Wednesday.  The first thing that hits your mind before your feet hit the floor is that you have less than a 1/4 tank of gas left.  You walk into the bathroom trying to wipe the sleep from your eyes.  You look in the mirror only to have your focus disrupted when your child reminds you of a field trip tomorrow.  You give her $10 for the trip.

You now try to figure out what you need to do to compensate for the $27 you spent on that Office Depot visit you made last night.  At the same time, you're trying to coordinate all of your errands on your way to work so that you can take care of it all in one trip and save gas

You finally get dressed, grab a bite to eat for breakfast and head out the door.  As you watch your kid board the bus, you turn around and look at your car only to see that spare tire still on the back, left of your car and it's two more days until pay day. 

Some people live a life very similar to this.  Every day is a new struggle as they wake up to take on the world.  There's not enough money being paid on jobs and corporate greed is slowly strangling a lot of American citizens.  Married couples and co-parenting appear to be a dying breed.  So, one person is taking on so much responsibility when it comes to raising kids.  Simple things like school projects, gas, car maintenance, awful co-workers, or even sitting in traffic all build pressure within our minds.

If we don't find a way to release the pressure, then our heads will explode.  You can release that pressure by having a hobby.  Read a book, play an instrument, paint, jog, go fishing see a movie, whatever.  If that's not enough then talk to a friend to vent a little.

And if push comes to shove then absolutely do not hesitate to speak to someone qualified to help you find ways to reduce that stress.  Call (888) 866-7561 to reach the 24 hour stress counseling support line at  E-mail counselor and a friend of mine, Brandy J. Flynn, if you want more of a personal touch.  Talk to a life coach like Veronica Cuyugan to help prioritize your life if that's what is needed.

The bottom line is this: if you don't find a way to release that pressure then it will consume you.  I guarantee you that it will.  Seeking help is not a sign of weakness.  It's a sign of strength.  What's more embarrassing: losing your mind at work and curling up in the fetal position under your desk or speaking to someone in confidence who can help you roll with the punches until you get back on your feet?

Think about it, but don't take too long.  It's not a hard decision.  No one should have to live the above story everyday like a bad "Groundhog Day" sequel.  Take charge of your life by finding a way to free your mind.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Bought A Conversation That Came With A Shoeshine

On Monday, I decided to do something that I've always wanted to do since I was a kid.  I remember seeing people doing it on TV when I watched movies with my father back in the day.  As an adult, I've seen it in some airports.  However, I've never taken the time to actually have it done.  I'm talking about getting a shoeshine.

There's something nostalgic about sitting down on a sunny afternoon and getting the shoes nice and shiny while you enjoy banter with the shoeshine person.  What's funny is that I actually have my own shoeshine kit at home that I normally use.  But, I wanted the one-on-one experience that I've seen so many people receive in the movies.  The experience that I used to have with my barber before he retired (and I went bald).

I walked up to the shoeshine station in my building's lobby.  The gentleman who works there directed me to the steps and I climbed up and placed my shoes on the platforms.  The gentleman rolled up my pants into a cuff and proceeded to wipe the dust off of my shoes.  He was a late 50-something year old black man.  His hair was gray and wavy as it appeared to be slightly slicked back.  Although he was older, he appeared to be in really good shape.  No signs of aches or stiffness as he moved around the shoeshine stand.  When he looked at you it was obvious in his eyes that he truly appreciated you giving him the opportunity to gain your business as well as your friendship.

He asked,"where are you from?"

"Here in the Jackson area," I replied.

That's all it took for the conversation to take off.  Although there was a newspaper sitting beside me and my smartphone was in my pocket, I had no interest in entertaining those items.  I just wanted to enjoy something that a lot of people miss out on these days: a simple, face-to-face conversation.  And he was definitely willing to oblige.

His told me his name was Samuel and that he was originally from Georgia.  He would look up and smile as he spoke every few seconds as he buffed and wiped.  Although he was working, he was also engaging me in conversation and learning more about me.  In the 20-25 minutes that it took for him to buff my kicks, we discussed politics, local crime, downtown infrastructure, his wife, and even video games.  Yeah, Samuel is an avid Xbox gamer.  The experience really took me back to a time where customers and businesses actually had a relationship with one another.  Business actually wanted to work hard for your patronage and customers were loyal to good work.

After he finished the shine and I stepped down from the station, I gave him a firm handshake and handed him his fee plus a 50% tip.  I told him that I appreciated the conversation and that I would definitely be back.  He told me that in the future that I could even drop off my shoes to pickup later if I didn't have time to wait.  I responded, "where's the fun in that?"

He just laughed.  As I started walking away, Samuel shouted out to me, "you didn't even look at your shoes to tell me how they look!"

I replied, "Mr. Samuel, I didn't come for the shoes."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cop Shootings in America

Another tragedy has occurred in the St. Louis, MO area.  An 18 year old black male was shot and killed by a police officer.  Regardless of who pushed the first domino to commence the event, none of this had to happen.  Just one small variation could have turned the tides on this entire ordeal.  Of course the stories vary on who did what, but the overall picture is still the same: another young, black male is dead at the hands of police.  It's time that we re-educate America and stop these senseless acts and both black people and the cops can help.

Black People

Stop teaching your kids to hate cops.  I know that all of us don't do it, but there are enough of us who teach that even if subconsciously.  Cops are to be respected for multiple reasons: they're hired to be an authoritative figure our communities and oh, yeah, they also carry guns and a license to kill.

The latter should be reason enough to teach your kids how to protect themselves by respecting the law.  Teach your kids (especially sons) to remain calm at all times around the police.  There's no need to get emotional even if you're in the right.  If you get pulled over then already have your license and registration in your hand before the cop gets to your car.  Keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times.  You want them to always be visible and not move in a quick or unpredictable motion.

I know people are thinking, "why should I be forced to do that?"  The answer?  Because you want to increase your chances of getting home that night, that's why.  What's more important: how you feel or being alive?  Even if you're being harassed or unfairly targeted it's better to have your day in court than to do something that can cause a misunderstanding.  Ice Cube once famously said in a song that he'd rather be "judged by 12 (jury) than carried by six (pall bearers)."

And I agree with that 100%.


Stop assuming that all black males are dangerous.  If there is anything that is embedded in our brains in this country is that black males are to be feared.  We see things everyday that lead us to believe that they're unpredictable and have no respect for authority.  In some cases, that may be true, but you're not going to get me to believe that it represents anywhere near a majority of black males.  I know too many of them to believe that.

Here's what needs to happen: cops need training.  Badly.  Being a cop is more than just physical conditioning and gun training.  It should be more mental training than anything else.  Somehow you have to scrub their brain of every racial bias known to man and I don't think that it's as easy as one would think.  Even if you hire 500 cops, just 1% of that number can be enough to ruin the entire reputation of the police force.  That's right.  Just five people.

So, if and when a suspicious shooting does occur, it would be more beneficial for the police to treat it like a normal crime (which it is) rather than to start playing politics.  It would also give citizens more security in thinking that you are trying to protect and serve them and not just your own interests.

The police also need a change in policy.  Shooting to kill should never be the first option; it should be the last option.  Why some cops feel as if they need to empty their guns on a person is beyond me.  Especially when there are multiple cops on the scene.  Again, that goes back to training.  You can disarm a person without killing them.

Oh, I know that I only listed two things at first, but I have to add a third and it may be the most important of them all...


Often they are the root cause to the mental images we all have of black males (and sometimes the police).  Whenever there is a shooting of a black male some of the media can't wait to post the most "gangsta" of photos of the victim.  Just like with Mike Brown who was shot in Ferguson, MO.  A recent high school graduate who may or may not have been a model citizen (I won't claim to know the kid), but he should have been afforded an "innocent until proven guilty" opportunity.  What does the media do?  They post this photo of him all over from the USA Today to lesser sites.

That's right. Show a photo of him throwing what a majority of the country will consider a gang sign.  That makes the police so much more believable when they say what they said about the incident.  After all, Like Trayvon Martin, he's not here to defend himself, so there's no backlash, right?

What was wrong with using this photo below instead?

Oh, too tame, right?  We wouldn't want people thinking that black males graduate now do we?

I know that I'm starting to get cynical with all of this, but it comes from a point of frustration.  We all realize that there is a problem yet we choose to only protest a few days after an incident happens.  Then it's on with our lives until the next incident.  I'm somewhat guilty of that, too.  However, I do exercise my right to vote and makes attempts with each election to actually vote for the best candidate and not my favorite political party.  If a majority of people gave Independents a chance we could actually see a change in this county.

But, that's a blog post for another day.  As for Mike Brown and other victims, all we can do is hope for justice.  Hopefully convincing evidence will show that either Mike Brown was well within his rights and gunned down unfairly or that the cop was well within his rights to protect himself.  It doesn't matter as long as it's the truth.

The only problem is: who's willing to tell it?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Breaking the Barrier of Mental Health with @ConsultBrandy
Last Saturday, I decided to do something positive with my free time and participate in something very important.  There was a panel discussion on the importance of mental health going on in Memphis, TN and I wanted to be a part of it.  So, I made the 199 mile trip to the National College of Business & Technology venue to see what the Breaking the Barrier of Mental Health seminar was all about.

It was put together by "Mental Health Counselor to the Stars," Brandy J. Flynn.  She specializes in providing services to not just everyday people, but athletes and celebrities as well.  She was joined by Lifestyle Consultant, Jameka Jones, out of Memphis, TN and counselor, Gerald Vernell, also from Memphis, TN.

The event was a great experience! I enjoyed the interaction with the panel of experts and how they articulated their feedback. Although mental health is a serious topic, they kept things lively and engaging for the audience.

Brandy was a wonderful hostess and did a masterful job of providing segues for each of the topics. You could feel the passion for what she does as she spoke. The same can be said for her panel of experts. My only regret is that I missed the first event held back in May.  However, I definitely plan on attending the next one in October and hopefully bringing some people with me.

On one of the topics there was something Jameka mentioned that stuck with me.  It was how people not having dinner together can prevent the opportunities for outward expressions.  Back in the day, people sat at the dinner table and discussed what was going on in their lives.  The kids talked about school.  The parents talked about work and/or community issues.  But, not any more.

Quality time with family is rare these days due to work schedules or just plain disinterest.  A lot of us would rather watch TV as we eat or put in our ear buds.  That causes a lack of communication which could lead to a suppression of feelings.  And without that aforementioned outward expression, where is the outlet to help cope with a potential underlying issue?

That is just one of the many examples given during the 120+ minute seminar that left everyone much more educated on the importance of mental health awareness.  I recommend that all of you click the link under Brandy's photo and follow her blog.  It will change your perspective on life, but only if you're truly paying attention to what you're reading and if you really want a change in your life.

Let's not sweep mental health concerns under the rug.  There are a lot of people out there who need our help and some are family members and friends.  We can no longer ignore people when we suspect that something could be happening to them.  And also keep in mind that counselors like Brandy aren't only for helping you through issues they are also for helping you prevent issues.  You don't have to be in a bad state of mental health before you see someone.

Treat mental health like you do your physical health and get a regular check up.  You'd be crazy not to do so.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Nice Guys Do Finish Last

Yes, it's absolutely true 9 times out of 10.  I've been saying this since my high school days.  I said it through my college days.  And I'm saying it again today.  "Nice guys do finish last."

I listened to a podcast of a friend of mine named Crystal.  The Crystal Show is a wonderful talk show that discusses a lot of interesting topics and this particular one was on women who date jerks.  I listened as the ladies on this show talked about how nice guys can be boring.  I listened to them laugh as they told stories about nice guys who just didn't cut the mustard when it came to keeping their interests.

Being a nice guy is rarely going to bring you success when it comes to women.

Like everything else in life there has to be a balance.  You sometimes have to maintain the right amount of gentleman and the right amount of caveman.  Every guy has it in them, but some forget to express it at times and it can be a turn-off for women.  I'm not saying that a man can't be sensitive and caring, but those are traditionally feminine qualities.  Most women want someone who is different from them not just like them.  That's why so many nice guys end up in "The Friend Zone" instead of "The End Zone."  Heck, I've had to even give myself a wake up call on it.

I consider myself a nice guy.  Because of that I'm sure to some ladies I've come off as a pushover or a "softie" and that's my mistake if that has occurred.  If anyone has ever thought that of me then that means that I let my guard down and got caught slippin'.  I'm a huge James Bond fan and the one thing Bond always does well is balance smooth with rough.

Relationships are all about balance.  There's no such thing as "you complete me."  That's garbage we picked up from the "Jerry Maguire" movie.  You compliment someone, but you don't "complete" them.  And to compliment someone you sometimes have to add something to the mix that they don't have.

That means that we nice guys have to gain or reclaim our swagger.  Our edge.  The thing that lets every heterosexual woman in the room know that we're a man.  That doesn't mean throw away the nice guy.  It just means not to lead with it.  That's something a woman should discover about you.  Don't put it out there on a silver platter from Day One.  Maintain that balance.  Be Bond.

The bottom line is this: you can be the kind of man who has an edge without being a jerk.  You can be the type that has a kind heart without being a chump.  

Find your middle and stick to it.  Make it a part of your life and stick to it.  Being nice can get you a woman, but it's not necessarily going to keep her.  She will get bored.

Just like you crave the softness of a woman, give her the toughness of her man.  And do it before something nice walks out of your life.

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