Application for Diversity

A month ago, my daughter introduced me to a new app as she routinely does. What typically happens is I notice her playing something incessantly and download it to see what it is. I then obsess over it for a few days until I reach some awful level that I can’t beat and I give up. This time, however, has been different.

Sandbox

Quite possibly the best time wasting app I have ever come across. I have yet to figure out how the name relates to the app. It’s a color by number app. That’s it. No levels. No time limits. Only constraint is you have to pay for access to more detailed pictures, which I promptly did to color in order to color this lotus flower.

It also does this awesome time lapse video after you fill it in.

So there are all sorts of pictures you can color. Flowers, cars, cartoons, people, cartoon people in cars holding flowers. Okay maybe not that one but anything is possible.

The other day, however, I noticed something when a picture popped up. I had been coloring in very detailed and beautiful pictures of white women. Pictures like this.

And this

And I just want to throw out this picture of a tiger in here, because it’s awesome

There were also some really cool cartoon white people as well

But after playing for almost a month this was the first person of color that I colored

Do you see the problem?

If you don’t. That’s another post for another time. But for those who already get it let’s proceed. If you don’t, you can still proceed and maybe you’ll catch up.

I really didn’t want to believe this person was black but as I filled her in and the complexion was completed and that awkward butt thing finished I had to acknowledge it. This was their first and only black woman or even person of color all month. Unless you count this guy

And I don’t.

This one came later, but I wasn’t sure if they were black or a seriously tanned version of Gene Simmons

Even these clearly non white characters just looked like white people in costume

This initially started me writing a post in my head about white privilege. White privilege is seeing yourself represented in apps automatically and not having to question why there are no people of color.

But then I decided to try something. I never review apps or leave comments. This time I did. I left a comment for sandbox pointing out the lack of diversity and how it would be nice to see more detailed pictures of people of color and men (white men included). Diversity is an amazing thing.

I honestly didn’t expect much. Maybe a response about how they were working on it. Or no response at all.

But y’all…the most beautiful thing happened.

Every morning I wake up to 5 or 6 new pictures to color. THE VERY NEXT MORNING this is what I saw.

DO Y’ALL SEE THAT?!? Not the astronaut or the gems or the watermelon or that angry knight in the corner. No. Right there. That beautiful, detailed, obviously BLACK woman!!!

I can not describe how full my heart was when I saw that. I immediately got to work coloring her in to see how gorgeous she was. With every shade of brown that I applied my heart grew bigger. I ran to my daughter and her friend and told them what had happened. What I had done.

Yep. I’m taking full responsibility for this one. Maybe they were already working on it. But that’s a huge coincidence. THE NEXT DAY!! I’ve had guys take longer to respond to a text message than it did for this app developer to respond to my suggestion.

And then I got to thinking. Why isn’t it always that easy. That’s all it took. Correcting the issue. They didn’t have to respond. They didn’t have to apologize. All they had to do was correct the issue. No questioning. No trying to convince me I was making things up. No defending why they hadn’t had a diverse selection of skin tones up until this point. No blaming. No finger pointing. No all coloring lives matter crap. Just correction of the problem. Why can’t it always be this easy?

Maybe one day the rest of the world will learn from the Sandbox app and quickly acknowledge and correct racism when it is pointed out. Until then I will keep admiring this beautiful lady I colored in and count this as one itty bitty teeny tiny step to equality.

Here she is!

Here’s her video

And just a few days later I got to color in this possible Cardi B image that I love too

(Or is that Miley?!?)

Ps. My daughter says that if you want some good entertainment read the other reviews to the app.

Justin Timberlake is releasing a new Album and my life instantly got better

So on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018.  In the midst of really feeling crappy because sometimes life just gets you down, I come across a friend’s Facebook post.  It was shared from Justin Timberlake’s fan page and I’m sitting here like…

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And I see something about “coming soon”… Feb 2?!?!?

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AND THIS WEEK HE’S DROPPING A SINGLE?

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I can’t!

When I heard the news, there was only one thing that I could do to celebrate.  I immediately put all three of his album’s in the queue on Spotify.  He’s back after like 5 years of hiding somewhere out in Hollywood doing some lame acting shit, I’m sure. JK JK. But Forreal though. It’s been 5 years JT….FIVE YEARS!

Justin…

Timberlake…

Mr. Sexyback!

Why did you do this to me?!?!?

I have to wait 3 more days for this!

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FILTHY?!?!

FILTHY?!?!?!

JT…Come on Bruh.  Why you gotta do this to me? Now I’m sitting here about to piss my pants because you want to tease new music and make the world wait a week to hear it?!?!  I swear if this song isn’t tight, I might have a mental breakdown.  And then I find out you have Timbo AND Danja co-writing this?!?!?!

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I can’t wait to hear what he’s back with!  (Please excuse me but JT is the Beyonce to my Beyhive…the Taylor Swift to my Swifties, etc.)  This man is a musical genius and if you aren’t on the hype train, CHOO CHOO Mother fuckers lets go for a ride! JT has been putting out nothing but fire since 02 with his debut album Justified.  And we all knew he was going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Creative doesn’t even begin to explain the genius of this man’s talent.  His sound constantly evolves. He’s not afraid to venture out and show people music that they’ve never heard before.  This guy, as popular as he is, is VASTLY underrated.  And it’s not that he’s underrated due to fact that people don’t know his music, because people do. But he’s underrated due to the fact that most people only know his singles.  His Catalog of music is just bonkers.

Let me break it down for you…

Justified, his debut showed that he was going to be a star. With the help of Pharrell and Timbaland by his side, he had all the tools there to help launch into stardom.  JT played it safe with this album, which for a debut is smart.  He stuck to his Pop roots and just really murdered EVERY. SINGLE. TRACK. on that album.  My favorite from this project will probably always be “Last Night”.  Classic Neptunes sound bring together Justin Timberlake’s melodies and slight harmonies perfectly.  And lets not forget Pharrell’s adlibs that just pull everything together.

Then FutureSex/LoveSounds comes around.  And at first when you first heard this track you were probably thinking “What in the hell is this?” (I know I did). Then over a few days you probably heard the track about a million times on the radio.  “I’m bringing Sexyback (YEAH)”, JT dropped that Pop club banger on your heads that you just couldn’t get away from. FS/LS was exactly what its namesake said. Just sexyness from the front of the album to the back, and with Timbaland producing most of the album, you already knew it was going to have future flare to it. There’s still no producer better than him in the game and probably won’t be until he’s hung up the cape.

Then mother fucking 20/20 Experience.  This one went over a LOT of peoples head.  This album was on some grown and sexy shit. Unlike “FS/LS” where the sexy factor was there, but the grown factor was slightly lacking.  It had the “fun” vibe to it.  But with “20/20” you can tell that JT had grown into this beast of a performer and songwriter.  Most of the songs had a deeper vibe, showing his growth over time and part of the reason I’m looking forward to his new album.

Man of the Woods is supposed to be about his family life and I don’t even know if I’m ready for that JT yet.  But just speculating off of the name, I think the first single is going to show us some of that “old” JT before he slaps us with that family man stuff.

All I need now is for him to announce a tour after his Super Bowl performance and I might just die a happy man this year.

I don’t think my body can handle it…

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The word “No”

No

It has become apparent, that the definition of word “No” has, all of a sudden, been forgotten in the English language.

Let’s review:

1. not any.
ex: “there is no excuse”
2. used to indicate that something is quite the opposite of what is being specified.
ex: “it was no easy task persuading her”
3. hardly any.
ex: “you’ll be back in no time”
4. used to forbid or reject something.

ex: “No Smoking” signs.

That last one is very important.  Why? you say? Because there’s a population of people who don’t seem to understand that when this word is used, that it’s not being used for fun and that a decision is made about something and all conversation should cease at that moment.

No, is simply that.  “No”, and if you don’t like it, then tough cookies, because at that point, you begin to beg and begging is not sexy. If you come on to me, or ask me if I’m interested, and I say “No”, that should be respected and you shouldn’t try and convince me otherwise.  If you ask me for a piece of candy and I say “No”, don’t ask me again.  If you ask me anything and I say “No” as a response.  That it.

I hate repeating myself.  I should only have to say “No”, once.  You are not a dog.

But for some reason, humans (men specifically) seem to have this thing about obtaining things they can’t have.  So they continue to pry, and beg and whine (yes it starts to sound like whining after a while) until they finally get what they want or, in some cases, finally give up.

There’s an issue with this. Because if someone tells you no from the beginning, THAT is when you should give up and let it go.

I’m tired of saying “No” and being ignored. I’m tired of being asked “Why” after I tell someone “No”.  I’m tired of being asked “Why are you so mean?” after telling someone “No.  I’m tired of just being expected to give into YOUR wants. STOP IT.

So, if you notice that you’re starting to be ignored by me.  Just know that I’m finally over it.  And it’s most likely because I’ve told you “No”, but for some reason you’re still trying to avoid that reality that I’m denying you. This should be respected in all facets of life.

 

 

Obligatory Year Review

I went back and forth about writing this. Then my wonderful fellow bloggers did and I felt like I had to as well. But honestly I probably would have anyways.

I like to think that I do a lot of internal reflection throughout the year. Reflecting and adjusting as necessary but New Year’s is obviously a time to do that a little more extensively.

What’s working? What’s not working? What should stay? What should go? Did I do all the things I set out to this year? Where did I succeed? Where did I miss the mark a bit? What are my hopes for the year to come?

I think the biggest lesson I learned this year is that I am enough. Just as I am. Right now. Today. Tomorrow. If nothing were to change. I am enough. Does that mean I don’t need to improve? No. That’s not what I’m saying. There is always room for improvement, but I think it’s important to focus on where you are, where I am, and be proud of that too.

I have spent a long time, not just 2017, feeling like I wasn’t enough. Wasn’t good enough for someone to Love, wasn’t cool enough, wasn’t a good enough friend or Mom or therapist. Just less than in all areas. This thought guided everything I did and definitely encouraged the way I interacted with people.

But I told y’all, 29 years and 9 months was the exact moment I became too old for this shit! Too old for doubting myself, minimizing myself, and treating myself as less than. Too old for allowing people in my life who do those things. Too old for not standing up for myself. Too old for not loving myself. The world is going to do that enough, I don’t need to join in.

Honestly, it’s hard. Sometimes I feel like I’m being cocky, or selfish, or crazy, or thinking too highly of myself. But I think that’s just old ways of thinking creeping in. There are many moments when I still feel less than or like I’m not enough. I work hard to make those moments smaller. They will always be there but my goal is not to live there anymore.

So to all of you who read this, to my lovely blogging friends who I adore and thank for this outlet, to my family, to my co-workers, to my daughter, my hope for you for 2018 and beyond is that you believe and live a life knowing that you are enough!!

( I also hope you make/save all the money, pay off all the bills, lose all the weight, get all the gains, kiss all the people, have all the laughs, cry all the tears and feel all the feels!)

“New Year, BETTER Me”

I’m such a hater of the phrase “New Year, New Me”.

This mantra invades our Facebook posts, and Twitter feeds and it’s always a show of how possibly someone’s life was so bad, that they get to press the “reset” button at the end of one year and beginning of another. As if you’re able to just do a 360 twirl and start brand new.  As if the problems from the year prior can no longer penetrate your environment.  As if everything in your past life led you to this moment.

Yes, striving to be better is great.

But don’t forget where you’ve come from.  Why does the new year have to bring a new you?  Why can’t we strive to be a BETTER us?  Every moment in life is a teachable moment.  And yes, life is not perfect, but that’s the beauty of it.  We learn from the imperfections of life and build upon those experiences.

Those who do not know history are bound to repeat it.

This is not only true in social, political, and historical context, but also in personal context as well.  Give yourself hope, that where you are currently, is no longer where you were.  You are enough.  There’s no reason to undo who you’ve been this year, just to most likely repeat these actions in the upcoming year.  Striving to be better is one thing, but pressing the reset button completely is another.

And if you seem to think that maybe life is bad enough where you need to press the reset button.  I hope that you find your base platform from which you need to build from.  But at the end of this year, I hope that you aren’t posting “New Year, New Me” but “New Year, Better Me”.

 

 

 

 

Reflections of 2017

It’s New Year’s Eve, and for me this is a day of reflection (and later, celebration). I truly believe in the power of reflection as a learning and growth tool, that is necessary for humans to really understand their lives. And so, as I sit on my brother’s couch (who the hell told him he could grow up and have a whole apartment and wife by the way?), I hope to try to make some sense of a pretty rollercoaster of a year and share my learnings with you.

1) I learned that I equate suffering with “goodness” in myself. I am sure this stems from a very conservative religious doctrine that characterized much of my early religious experiences and also from some complex traumatic events. It is unhealthy and damaging no matter how I look at it though. Staying in situations, jobs, etc to prove to people who do not value my well being, that I am worthy or “strong” is damaging. It kills my soul, ups my anxiety, and deepens depression. It also reinforces a faulty idea that I hold that I’m not good enough. It literally kills me. I am still working on how to combat that, but I took some brave steps against that belief this year, and have at the very least, realized that martyrdom won’t make me happy or make others see my worth.

2) Love did not knock on my door this year, but actively dating did teach me a lot about myself. Dating was an integral part of my journey this year. I further refined what I want, who I am in a relationship, realized patterns, and continued to try to understand how to balance doing enough with too much. I learned that no matter how wonderful you are, if a man isn’t on the same wavelength as you, he won’t come around to you. I learned that I bathe in self loathing and blame when rejected, and that destroys my soul. And so I learned to reframe the self loathing a tad more so as to protect my soul from that damage. I learned that I am jealous that I have friends who can easily make men love them, and seem to find beautiful men who are interested, even if short lived or forever. I learned that I hate being jealous, but it is hard. I am not sure if I am anyone’s cup of tea to be perfectly honest, and I also realize my standards are high. I realized that first dates are exhausting and to trust my instincts more, because my intuition is hella good.

3) I learned about loneliness – again. Living in NYC has been one of the most thrilling and loneliest adventures of my life. I’m perfectly comfortable being alone, eating alone, exploring; I actually quite enjoy it! But I’ve missed true and deep human connection, which in all of my travels, I’ve never seemed to lack in. But in NYC, connections seem fleeting, sometimes superficial, and often non existent. I am not used to not having close friends and coworkers around. I have learned or perhaps, deepened, my understanding that introversion has nothing to do with not wanting real relationships and connections, but instead means that in order to effectively reach my full potential and happiness, I must engage in meaningful relationships. I am still really not sure how to do this in a city like NYC, but I’m working on it.

4) I learned a lesson that constantly replays in my head. I am not perfect, can’t be perfect, never been perfect, and shouldn’t be perfect. This lesson is one that I’m always in a constant state of learning. I saw a beautiful quote that said “self care is… learning to forgive yourself for not measuring up to your impossible and damaging standards of perfection.” This is totally something I need to master in 2018. Expecting perfection in work, dealing with my emotions, my body, my health, as a daughter, friend, sister, relationships, and mentor is literally the most insane and hurtful thing I can ask of myself. I am literally asking myself to live in a constant state of shame and depression. I am torturing me. So now that I have learned that, the hard part is learning to extending grace to myself.

5) You get older. The years fly by. You develop aches and pains, your genetic lot of diseases, you have to eat better, move, manage past trauma, parent your parents, pay bills, plan for the future, hangovers get worse, and learn to live with it all. You also get wiser, more confident, develop more fuck it in your system, drink better wine, become more patient, and your sex drive and game gets stronger. Getting older is a blessing and privilege, not extended to all.

6) My siblings are amazing. I know this isn’t true for everyone, but I’m so blessed. I learned to lean on them more. So happy to bring in 2018 with them.

7) I am really, really, really angry. Maybe I’ll write a post about that one day. But I learned I have a lot of pent up rage in my body and mind. I am afraid to express it because it is so strong. I’m hoping 2018 will help me express and manage that.

8) You can be loving your job and career in one second, and the next, be in a state of exploration, trying to figure out what is next? I also learned that my worth is very much tied up in my professional success. I often feel that is all I am good at, and when that part of my life isn’t fulfilled, I feel like a failure. I have spent a lot of 2017 feeling like a failure. But along with that lesson, I learned, you can always make another decision to transform your professional life (or any life). And people will judge you, and that has nothing to do with you.

9) I learned to turn off the news and social media. That there are people who hate me because of my skin and gender, but I cannot indulge in that all the time, as it will kill me. That the world is scary and heartless, but I don’t have to be. And that to be black (woman) and conscious in America is truly being in a constant state of rage, but I have to learn to take care of myself if I want to help others.

10) I only have so much emotional energy to expend. Spend it wisely. Turn off your phone. Spend your time with people who fill your energy account as much as you fill theirs.

11) Despite all my flaws, I’m a badass in my own right. My flaws are not even flaws actually, they are me and what makes me glorious and human.

I plan to to into 2018 with these lessons in mind and do my best to build upon those, while also fully aware that I may have setbacks. But my hope is next year, I can write about a further step I took, a new lesson realized, and a little happier.

May peace and love follow you into 2018.

Happy New Year!!

To the ones I’ve failed

Tonight, my soul is heavy. I know that as far as career paths go, I am on the right track. I love what I do, but it’s tough work. I’ve wrote about it in previous post but if you are unaware, I am a therapist. Therapist, counselor, pain holder, emotion feeler, walk wither. I sit with people in moments when most people run away. I have only been doing this work for a short period of time, but in these few years I have met some amazing people and heard some terrifying stories. I have been touched and I have been forever changed by many people I have come in contact with.

I currently work with adolescents with severe mental health and behavioral issues. I love what I do. I feel like everyone I went to grad school with already knew their niche. They knew what they wanted to do, where they wanted to do it, and with what population they wanted to work with. They even knew their theoretical orientation (I question that I have feared since everyone said I would be asked all the time but have not actually been asked since grad school).

I knew one thing. People always talk about working with “at risk youth.” While that is great work, I always wondered “well what about the kids beyond that. The ones in the risk. The ones doing the stuff. Who helps them?” It was the spark of a passion that I set out to find an answer to.

I did my practicum at the jail working with adolescent males. I have always said I would go back to jail in a heartbeat if given the opportunity! I did my internship at a shelter for pregnant, homeless women. I enjoyed this as well. My first job was at a methadone clinic. Here I met some of the most amazing, sincere, beautifully broken people I have ever come into contact with. Addictions work will forever hold a place in my heart. All of these places led me closer to the answer to my question.

I currently work at a psychiatric residential treatment facility (PRTF). These are the kids that are living the risk. They have stepped beyond “at risk”. They are actively and daily engaging in risky behavior. Some enjoy it. Some don’t see a way out of it. Some have never known anything different. This is my population. (Obviously though the kids in jail also meet this qualification hence the reason I would go back in a heartbeat).

When people describe me, they often use words like calm, steady and they do this motion where they hold they hold their hand out flat and just move it slowly side to side. I think to indicate the calm and steady idea. I used to be offended by this. I now realize it is my greatest strength in working with the kids that I love. These kids have lived in some form of chaos the majority of their life whether internal or external. Most people have not responded to them neither calm nor steady. I can. In a strange way, I thrive in the chaos of my job. Not the chaos of the paperwork or work related drama. But my favorite part of my day is when someone comes to tell me one of my kids is acting a fool on the hall and can I help. I’m not always successful but I try. Sometimes it works. Sometimes the kid is so far gone in the moment that other methods of getting them to calm down have to be implemented. As painful as that is to watch, I stay, calm and steady, to remind them that no matter what…I am there. No matter how mad they get, how much they hate me, how many names they call me, or how much spit they haul my way. I am there.

I think I have done good work. My job is a thankless one. Most days I can thank myself and see the work I’ve done. I’ve never received gifts or thank yous from kids who have left. I don’t expect them. I don’t think that determines whether or not I’ve done good work either. I have sewn seeds. Add that to the list from earlier, seed sewer. For some I have been a support they’ve never had, for some I’ve been an advocate, for others just a listener, and I may have taught a couple of them a thing or two. They have taught me way way more.

But

Sometimes I fail. And not in a sense where I think I have done a terrible job. That’s usually the first thing people say. “You aren’t a failure. It’s not your fault.” Of this I am aware. But I have still failed them. Or the system did and I was a par of that. No matter what I did or didn’t do, could or couldn’t do, no matter how much I cared or how much I wanted to help. I couldn’t. Not in the way I had hoped, not in the way I believe I could have if given the opportunity.

There are two that stick out and hurt me daily. For these two I have cried many times. I have questioned myself. I have sought supervision. I have prayed. There will be a place in my heart for them for all eternity. I will always wonder “what happened to them” and I will always fear that the failure of the system may result in deadly consequences. To them, I apologize. I also thank them for teaching me more about myself than I could realize was possible.

Soul # 1. You will forever be skip-bo, white people eating steak pink in the middle, origami hearts and butterflies, this place, fingers, walls, doors, yelling, pain, I love you Ms Ashley, and same names. Thank you. I’m sorry.

Soul # 2. You will forever be ginger bread men, toddlers, tantrums, anger, counting, shoes, Ms Ashley you’re fat, spitting, helping, basketball, 100% effort, hurt, small steps, bad words, always move forward never backwards, and Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang. Thank you. I’m sorry.

Tonight. My soul is heavy. My fear is, it will be this way for a long time. My fear is, no one will understand. My fear is, no one else will see the importance in helping.