Expensive Lessons

I don’t like it when I make, what I consider to be, costly mistakes. I especially dislike feeling pressured into something I never wanted, and I can’t stand it when I make poor financial decisions. This is likely the reason why it has taken me 10 years to close a (somewhat shameful) chapter in my financial history. I have a confession. In 2008, I bought a timeshare. I never wanted one, in fact, I thought they were silly. I didn’t like the idea of being locked into maintenance fees and whatnot for the rest of my life, but I did like the idea of getting a free trip somewhere for just going to the presentation. What I did not anticipate, was the conditions I would be subjected to while at the “presentation” — really a high pressure sales pitch where you are not left alone for one second and are continuously made to feel as though you are stupid.

I made the mistake of going to the presentation by myself. I was assigned to two older gentlemen who, every time I said no, made harder and harder sales pitches. I was very uncomfortable the entire time, and I kept saying I was not comfortable spending money that I didn’t have (‘don’t worry, we have financing plans,’ they said), locking myself into a single location for vacations (‘not a problem, we have exchanges,’ they said), making a decision at this age when I had no idea what I wanted to do next, I’d rather save the money for school (‘you’ll own your vacations!’ they said). I finally just agreed –to make it stop, which was my youth and inexperience showing through, as I would NEVER do that same thing today. From the time I agreed to the purchase to the time I signed the papers, they did not leave my side. In fact, they took me from room to room, further away from other people, and I felt trapped. As soon as I signed the papers and they told me “Congratulations!” with their slimy grins and triumphant handshakes, I felt sick to my stomach. I was extremely upset with myself.

Over the course of the next 5 years, I paid off the timeshare, but I never once used it. I was so upset every time I had to even look at the paperwork, I saw failure and felt angry all over again at myself for being so gullible. I looked into the possibility of selling the timeshare, but believe me when I say — no one wants to buy a timeshare, not even the people who sold it to you. I also found out that there is a buyers remorse sort of protection where you can cancel the purchase within 7 days, no questions asked, but I didn’t know that at the time, and of course, the salespeople never told me. One day, I just stopped paying the assessment fees. They never called. One week turned into 2 months, turned into 3, then 4, then 5 years, and…nothing. I checked my credit reports annually, nothing.

When I told my fiance, now husband about the timeshare, he encouraged me to call and find out what the status was. In fact, he sat the duffel bag they had given me to hold all of the documents and paperwork in my office, so I had to look at it, every. Day. Today, I finally called to confirm that my account was closed, I owned nothing, and I owed nothing. They confirmed and I tossed out the contents of the bag that had been sitting in my office for nearly 6 months, and lifted the burden that had been resting on my shoulders for 10 years. I will happily shred the documents, but I learned 2 valuable lessons over the course of this sorted affair —

  1. Never, and I mean EVER, let someone pressure you into doing what is not right for you. Anyone willing to belittle and coerce you, does not have your best interest at heart, and you should feel 100% confident with ZERO regrets about standing up, putting your shoulders back, and loudly saying: NO. 
  2. Everything “free” is not free. Count the cost, and understand what it will really mean to put yourself in a situation where you may be vulnerable. 

It was an expensive lesson, I hope you can learn from my story, so you don’t have to experience something similar. Happy (almost) New Year!

A new year

Each year, I write an entry in my journal attempting to recall the most impactful memories and lessons from the previous year. I also reread the entry I’d written to see where I (thought I) wanted to be and where I ended up. In my 2017 entry, I wrote this, and I think it’s worth sharing because maybe it will speak to someone.

So I want to write this thought before it escapes. I used to place more significance on how I “rang in” the New Year — feeling like it “set the tone” for the rest of the year. I feel more liberated to approach each day as a new year, a new start, a fresh page to write a new story and right wrongs — to make better choices and be more authentic. The 31st is just a day.

I share that thought to encourage anyone who may feel that they didn’t start the year off the way they should have, not to be discouraged. Happy New Year!


They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I do not disagree, with the exception of theft. If someone does not attribute their imitation to the source, they are lying. Plain and simple. In this, the Internet age, it has become far too easy to co-opt an original work. There is a word for this, it is called plagiarism.


  1. the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

What prompted this thought? I had something on my heart and Googled a phrase. Within the top three search results were two separate blog posts, one from 2013 another from 2009, with identical content. The 2013 post was clearly masquerading as original because it made no mention of the earlier post. This made me quite angry because, as a blogger, the thoughts I share are often personal and shared from my heart. Were I to repost content that I did not write, I would be sure to identify it as such, anything else would be disingenuous.

When I encounter an injustice, no matter how small, I do not sit idly by. I sent an email to the original poster alerting him to the plagiarized post. The kicker? Both of the blogs were written by church Pastors.

“For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.” – Matthew 4:22



I haven’t posted an entry since…June, of last year. It is not that I haven’t had a multitude of thoughts, I just have not made the time to write them here. I had to write this, because I know someone needs to hear it, I needed to hear it.

“Everything has a purpose, clocks tell you the time, trains take you to places. I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine… I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.” —Hugo Cabret

Do not, ever, diminish who you are in order to allow someone else to be comfortable. Anyone. Not your friends, family, co-workers, spouses, acquaintances, no one. Life is short. We only get one shot at this, and the time we have is precious, far too precious to spend even one moment hiding who it is that we were created to be. More important than that: someone needs you to be exactly who you are in order to fulfill who it is that they are meant to be. We are all here for a reason.

If we spend our lives and energy worrying about what will cause someone else discomfort, what they will think of us, we do ourselves and the world a great disservice. Each time we hide, we retreat further into ourselves until eventually, we just…disappear.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” –Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”, Ch. 7, Section 3 (1992)

We must be careful who we allow to speak into our lives, who we allow to impact our spirits, because the people we surround ourselves with can be our greatest detractors or our biggest supporters. Everyone needs encouragement in order to grow. Anyone who constantly feels the need to remind you of how normal, average, and insignificant you are, is someone who does not yet love themselves enough to be loving toward anyone else…even if they want to be. The world is full of people who have been rejected and made to feel inadequate. If they have not healed, those around them become collateral damage. It is our job to love them, but not at the expense of shrinking from who we know in our hearts we are called to become.

There is far too much darkness in the world to extinguish, or even diminish the light we carry. We have to shine. We were born to shine. We were made to shine.

What I am going to say next, makes me want to cry: all of the love you have to give, will never be enough love to make someone love themselves. Let me repeat that. ALL of the love you have to give will NEVER be enough love to MAKE someone love themselves. We are not meant to fill that void, if we try, we will soon find that we are drained. Loving a person is not easy, but healthy love is reciprocal and, though hard-fought, has the effect of making you shine brighter.

I want you to do something. I want you to take a pen and paper, and write down every person that you love. Are you their biggest cheerleader? You should be able to cheer on, from your heart, everyone who you love. If you cannot do that, you are not loving them. You should ask yourself, why? If your actions cause friction, tension, silence, separation, you are diminishing the people who you say you love.

I want you to take the challenge to give the people you love license to shine. You may not yet know how to do this, but it is simple: look into their eyes, observe their body language, you will see that they are shining, it will exude from every pore. Lift them up, speak kind words, give of yourself when there is nothing that you expect in return, look for ways to lighten their burdens, hug them, personify love.

I want you to give yourself license to shine. Pursue your passions. Your dreams are not silly, stupid, crazy, or unreachable, they exist in your heart because you have the unique life experience to steward them, to shepherd them, and to carry them to completion. If you are reading this, even if I do not know you, I want to tell you that I love you.

Do not be afraid to be who you were created to be, you need to be that to fulfill your purpose, and the world needs us each to shine brightly in order to illuminate the darkness.

Weighing In

I have not blogged (on my personal blog) in over a year. Thoughts pop into my head and as quickly as the seed is planted a responsibility usurps my fleeting desire to write. So, here I am, sitting at the keyboard, finally. I intended to go to bed early tonight because I went to bed far too late and got up far too early yesterday. I wanted a nice cup of mint tea before I went to bed, warm beverages put me in a sleepy mood. I opened the pantry, only to be accosted by a moth. I don’t like things flying unexpectedly at my face. So, I killed it. And then, there was another, and another…until in disgust I started removing all of the boxes from my pantry shelf to find that they had taken up residence there. There went my early bed time. I have spent the last 2 hours cleaning out my cabinet and throwing away food. At the end of the ordeal, I put my water on to boil, let my mint tea steep and I thought: “Why do I love butterflies and hate moths?” They are essentially the same, right?

Why is it that I am delighted when a butterfly lands on me, yet, I swat violently when a moth so much as dares to enter my atmosphere? I came to the conclusion that it’s because butterflies are prettier. Beautiful things get a pass in this world. If something is hideous or even slightly displeasing, we have less empathy for it; ugly things suffer. I had to let that marinate.

How must it feel to be passed over, or worse, targeted for ridicule because you are not conventionally attractive? I have been guilty in my lifetime of judging the book by it’s cover. If someone smelled bad, seemed not to care about their appearance or, heaven forbid, was obese, I judged them. I am not proud to admit it, but I was extremely intolerant of obesity.

I seized every opportunity to climb atop my fat soapbox, often going on tirades. My friends jokingly remarked that I “hated fat people,” to which a typical response would be “I don’t hate them, I just don’t want to have to subsidize their bad habits” before laying out the laundry list of ailments associated with being overweight and lamenting how I should get health insurance discounts for keeping myself in good shape.  I made insensitive comments, minimized the weight loss struggle (“just stop eating so much and so unhealthily!” I’d think when I saw a large person) and in some ways, disliked overweight people without ever having befriended one. Weightism is one of the last socially acceptable forms of discrimination.

Everyone cannot be a butterfly, but that does not make them any less worthy of love. I know that God created all things for a purpose, yes all things, even those that I do not find beautiful. In 2011 I made a conscious decision to stop speaking so venomously about people who are overweight, to start seeing them with new eyes. In the process I came to a realization about obesity: It is merely an outward manifestation of inward struggle. If we all had to wear our private battles like a badge where everyone could see, it is likely that we would stagger and fall beneath the weight of judgement.

For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you

Saying You’re Sorry

It is never easy to admit when you are wrong. Seeking forgiveness is a very humbling experience. You can (and likely will) pour out your heart, having thought very carefully of the words to use and their delivery, but it is left to the person whom you have wronged to either accept or reject. No matter the response, you have to be able to forgive yourself and move forward. I made such an apology and received a terse response which, in all honesty, I deserved. I was not expecting a warm reception, or even a reply but I felt like a jerk nonetheless. An apology should never take long to deliver, the more time you allow to pass, the less likely you will be to make it, and the more hurt the person who deserves it will be. I cannot change what I did, but I can change how I behave in the future. I will not continue to beat myself up about something that has already happened. I will simply do better.

Knowledge, Wisdom and Understanding

I have been reading in the book of Proverbs lately, and since I write as I read, I thought I would share my musings from a few days ago.

There are three terms used distinctively throughout, and although I know what they mean, I wanted to understand the nuance, so I went to my handy dandy New International Webster’ s Standard Dictionary (I don’t read with my computer on):

knowledge – Information or awareness gained from study or experience
wisdom – An accumulated body of knowledge
understanding – comprehension, the ability to retain knowledge

I wrote these down, because of this verse: Proverbs 3:19

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding established heaven

I really wanted to dissect this to better understand and apply it to my life. This is a hidden gem. I can best explain my thoughts using engineering as a metaphor. I can learn math and science and the rules that govern them, how to apply those equations and in so doing, solve them. There are plenty of things that I can construct in my life simply by learning, but until I comprehend, until I internalize, until I do more than gather information and apply rules, I will never produce anything divine.

When you know an equation, you can solve problems, but when you can derive the formula because you comprehend the underlying concepts that the equation is based on, you can discover. Look at Newton, Einstein, Edison..all of the great scientists and mathematicians didn’t just apply equations, they wanted to comprehend them. They sought to gain a deeper understanding so that they could deconstruct the mysteries. When that happened, they made transformative discoveries that revolutionised not only their lives, but the lives of countless others!

My take away in short: To learn is earthly, but to comprehend is divine. To approach life based on an accumulated body of knowledge will get me only so far. I tend to be something of a”jack of all trades,” learning a little about a lot of things. This can be both good and bad. I am going to choose one thing that I love, and fully commit to creating something…divine! When I do, I will share that with you, and maybe, it will change our lives.

A dress story

I have a dress in my closet. It was gifted to me by my sister, who inherited it from my mother. So this dress, which started in the 70s has found new life in 2010.

My Aunt sent me a couple of pictures of my mother in her youth a few months ago, and I was just tickled to see my mother wearing THE dress in the photo. I sent a photo of me in the dress to my Auntie! Her response:

is it??….. Could it really be..?? …. the same dress??

When was this picture of you taken? If it is the same dress, it held up very well! Do you still have it?
Did you know that it was I who took young Brenda, California Xmas shopping the day the dress found its way into her life? In fact, I only agreed to her having the ensemble because it came with the matching sweater… for a little cover up. 🙂 I didn’t want your grandma upset with me because of the neckline. That long ago day,.. in the boutique (it was owned by a lady who was a friend of Joes.).. I could see in your mom’s young face and eyes that she reallllllly wanted that outfit. She might remember, that I was hesitant with my approval because she was only 17 years old. But,… I relinquished… she looked so cute… how could I say NO. She might also remember,.. I wanted to discreetly ‘pin’ it in front so the neckline wouldn’t be so revealing. She agreed,… but the picture of her in it says she tossed my ‘pinned’ idea.(that little rascal) LOL
She also chose a couple of other items for purchase that were nice,… but this particular dress is the stand out memory maker!

there is a method to my madness

sometimes my train of thought seems scattered and disconnected (at best), but there is always a logical path. i was going to post a video without context on my social networking site of choice, facebook, and then i thought better of it. let me explain how i got to this (video).

a friend of mine posted a picture of a pair of noise-canceling headphones she was considering for purchase from amazon. this triggered the memory of an episode of the ‘hammerman‘ show where the villain of the episode hated noise and hammer helped him in the end by getting him a recording of nothing…with headphones. that sent me on a youtube search to find a clip of that mc hammer cartoon, and that brings us to this: the hammerman theme song. now i can go on with my day, my internet fix is satiated.

to my father, on his day.

On this father’s day, as I sit listening to President Obama’s speech on fatherhood and having called my father to speak with him this morning a thought crossed my mind. My father has been many things to me; a provider, a coach, a disciplinarian, a friend… The memory that came to mind this morning, was the day that my grandmother died. Below is an excerpt from my journal on that day.

My grandmother died today. My Grandma Smiley. She died of cancer, in her lymph nodes. I didn’t know all day, I guess my parents didn’t want me to know because it would ruin my day. They said that she died at 9:00am. I don’t know what to think. I feel really shallow. Today was the homecoming game and our parents were supposed to escort us at halftime, for the show. Anyway, it was almost time and my mom and dad still weren’t there and I know that they are really busy, but I was still like ‘This is really important,’ and I started crying. They offered to get me another escort, but I didn’t want anyone but my parents. Our mascot, the eagle, was going to escort me, but right when we were walking over, my mom and dad came. I could tell that something was wrong, but I was too wrapped up in myself and what Eshe needed, that I didn’t even bother to ask. I was just really relieved that they came.

The reason why that incident stood out for me is because being a father is often about sacrifice. I was very excited to have been selected by my peers to sit as a princess on the homecoming court, in Belen, NM. I was the first African American to sit on the homecoming court in 20 years. For my father, allowing me to have that moment meant that he swallowed his pain, and showed up for me to walk me down that field at half time.

My father is far from perfect, but he is a good father. I love him dearly and the thing I will remember always is how he has shown up for me. From the time he had to confront my 5th grade teacher for trying to block me from going to represent my class at the Optimist’s club speeches to the basketball game where he jeered me when I shot at the wrong basket — a story he LOVES to tell, I know what it’s like to have a father present in my life. To all of the men who believe that a father’s job is to provide, I respect that, but it is so much more. My father is the man who taught me that love is displayed through action.