Category: Uncategorized

Step By Step

Every step of obedience is a step toward your destiny.
Whatever God calls you to do, do it with your whole heart. (Colossians 3:23)
In prayer, if God asks you to do something, whether it’s change careers, move to a certain place, let go of a certain friend, speak a Word to another person – do it.
You know it’s God’s voice when it lines up with His Word and His will.  
The more you draw near to God, the more He’ll draw near to you.  (James 4:8)
No good thing will He withhold from you, but it takes every step of obedience to make sure you get there. (Psalm 84:11)
Though it sometimes may not make sense to the natural eye, there is always a blessing on the other side of obedience; for we walk by faith and not by sight.  (2 Corinthians 5:7)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.  Psalm 37:23

Remembering B Smith (1949-2020)

At age 70, Smith succumbed to early onset Alzheimer’s, which she had been battling for years. She died Saturday at her Long Island home with family nearby.

Plenty of media have described Smith as the “black Martha Stewart.” And superficially, one could see why: Both women had been models (Smith appeared on the covers of several fashion magazines, the first brown-skinned black model to be featured on Mademoiselle’s cover in the 1970s). Both had a genius for cooking and entertaining. Both eventually built an empire based on their skills (food, decorating, entertaining, home keeping). And when people (mostly white people) called Smith the black Martha, they meant it as a compliment. Smith saw it as well-intended but shortsighted.

“Martha Stewart has presented herself doing the things domestics and African Americans have done for years,” Smith told New York magazine in a 1997 interview. “We were always expected to redo the chairs and use everything in the garden. This is the legacy that I was left. Martha just got there first.” True, but Smith made up for that by diving into everything she did with passion.

Born to a steelworker father and a mother who was a part-time housekeeper, Barbara Elaine Smith left her Western Pennsylvania hometown of Scottsdale for a modeling career right after high school. Barbara became B. as her modeling career took off. After a successful career with modeling agency Wilhelmina and several lucrative corporate contracts, Smith became interested in restaurants.

She married her second husband, Dan Gasby, in 1992, and together they created an empire that encompassed bestselling cookbooks, the weekly show and a lifestyle magazine that was briefly published by American Express. Eventually there were also housewares, bed linens and even an At Home with B. Smith furniture line.

Smith opened her first eponymous restaurant in Manhattan’s theater district in 1986. Two more B. Smith restaurants followed: one near her weekend home on Long Island and the other in the historic Union Station complex in Washington, D.C.

Smith had been showing signs of forgetfulness for a while. In 2013, after she lost her train of thought while she was doing a cooking demonstration on NBC’s Today, she sought a doctor’s opinion.

The devastating verdict: tests indicated she was in the beginning stages of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She and Gasby went public with the news in 2014. Smith put on a brave face and told the public she intended to live and enjoy life until she couldn’t.

The B. Smith who appeared in a public service announcement the following year was a woman whose wattage had dimmed considerably. Her disease was progressing swiftly. Her famously radiant smile flashed less frequently. Her sparkling eyes looked vacant, she forgot things easily and she once got lost in Manhattan for several hours.

Despite that, she and Gasby did several interviews to educate the public and destigmatize Alzheimer’s. They also wrote a book, Before I Forget, about dealing with the disease. They were determined to try to make a difference, as Alzheimer’s is known to be more prevalent in women and African Americans.

It’s a hard call that more and more Americans are going to have to make, as more of us are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Last year, the Alzheimer’s Association estimated 5.8 million people have the disease; 200,000 of those have early onset.

Remembering Betty Wright (1953-2020)

The singer and songwriter Betty Wright, who has died of cancer aged 66, occupied a significant position in African-American music across six decades, beginning with powerhouse gospel in the 1950s and settling on an R&B, soul and funk groove from the 60s onwards that eventually led to work with superstar rappers of the 2000s.

Wright’s career began as a young child in a gospel group in Florida, and her signature song, Clean Up Woman (1971), was recorded when she was only 17, epitomising what became known as “the Miami sound” – Floridian soul music shaped by the many facets of her home city’s cultural melange.

After years of solid achievement in the US as a singer and songwriter, in the mid-80s she set up her own record label and, although she continued to record her own material, began to make a new name for herself as a producer and songwriter, collaborating with the likes of Gloria Estefan and Joss Stone. Later still her material was much sampled – including by Beyoncé – and she was able to undertake projects with rappers such as Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne.

She was born in Miami, to Rosa (nee Braddy-Wright) and McArthur Norris. The infant Bessie – as Betty was christened – was co-opted into the family gospel group, the Echoes of Joy, at the age of two. The Echoes worked the Southern US gospel circuit and Bessie proved to be a vocal prodigy – so much so that by the time the group split in 1965, she was confident enough to start singing on her own, in a new R&B vein, and with a new name – Betty Wright.

Willie Clarke and Clarence Reid, two Miami-based musicians, were so impressed by the young girl that they signed her to Deep City, the only African-American record label in Florida. Wright’s debut 45, Paralysed, was released in 1965, and it sold well locally. However, Deep City lacked the resources to promote records properly, and so Reid and Clarke eventually passed Wright on to Henry Stone, a distributor with experience and contacts who was launching Alston Records in Miami.

Aged 14, Wright recorded her debut album for Alston, My First Time Around (1968), which not only revealed her to be a formidable soul singer but generated a single, Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do, that reached the Top 40s of the US and Canadian pop charts.

Although subsequent singles failed to make much of an impression, Wright continued to sing in the Miami clubs on the weekends, building up valuable contacts in the music business. Then chart success returned in 1971 with Clean Up Woman, written by Clarke and Reid, which got to No 6 in the US. Based around a distinctive guitar lick played by Willie Hale, Clean Up Woman’s breezy, danceable funk ensured that Wright would be one of the few school pupils ever to have turned 18 with a million-selling hit record behind her.

The song also helped to launch the Miami sound, whose origins Wright associated firmly with the city’s vibrant and fluctuating cultural scene. “You’ve got a little Cuba, a little Jamaica, and a little Haiti; you’ve got a large Jewish culture and you’ve got calypso,” she told Billboard magazine. “Then you’ve got people who were born here or came from South Carolina, where they’ve got a heavy African culture too. It’s a very rhythmic roots music. Even the white acts that come out of Miami tend to be very soulful. We’ve got that serious, serious conga rhythm.”

Wright continued to produce popular songs across the 1970s – Baby Sitter, Let Me Be Your Lovemaker, Secretary, Where is the Love?, Tonight is the Night – although none quite matched the success of Clean Up Woman and generally made more of an impact on the US R&B charts than in the pop sphere. A prolific songwriter, she won a Grammy for Best R&B Song in 1976 for Where is the Love?, a song she had co-written.

Signing to Epic Records in 1981, Wright quickly grew disillusioned with the restrictions of being with a major company, and so launched her own Ms B record label in 1985. With her 1987 album Mother Wit she became the first African-American woman to achieve a gold album on her own label.

From that point onwards, however, Wright began to achieve greater success by working with other artists. Estefan’s US No 1 single Coming Out of the Dark (1991) featured Wright’s vocal arrangements, and Wright co-produced and co-wrote every track on Stone’s 2004 album Mind, Body & Soul, which reached No 1 in the UK.

In 2006 she appeared as a mentor on the US reality TV talent show Making the Band, and in 2008 produced two songs on Tom Jones’s album 24 Hours. Her 2011 album, Betty Wright: The Movie, featured Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne, and was praised by reviewers as her best effort in 30 years.

Wright continued to tour almost up to her death – she sold out the Barbican Centre in London in July 2019 – and earned considerable amounts from her back catalogue. Clean Up Woman has often been sampled, while Beyoncé used a section of Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do for her 2006 single Upgrade U.

In 1985 Wright married Noel “King Sporty” Williams, a Jamaican musician who had co-written the song Buffalo Soldier with Bob Marley. Noel died in 2015; Wright is survived by three daughters and a son.

“Rona” Life Hack #17

If you haven’t already depleted all of your household supplies, it might be the perfect time to make a homemade first aid kit. You can get a 30 to 90 day supply of basic medications and supplies from the Dollar Tree or 99 Cent store to create your own Emergency First Aid Kit. They have some great bandages, off-brand Tylenol and wipes along with other products and first aid items. Watch this video for more information –

“Rona” Life Hack #14

Since most people are quarantined in their homes, a lot of businesses have opted to use Zoom to conduct their staff meetings. For some, this is the first time they’ve done video conferencing and may have some difficulty in figuring out all the “bells & whistles”. There are some shortcuts to using this software. See below –

  • Change your backdrop: If your bedroom wall isn’t cutting it as a backdrop for work calls or you just want to make your friends laugh, Zoom gives you the option to change your background to any image you want. Go to Settings on either your desktop or mobile and then click on the Virtual Backgrounds From there, you’ll see all the pre-installed backgrounds Zoom has, like the New York Skyline, Golden Gate Bridge, and even outer space. But if you’re not too fond of the options that are available, you can upload pictures of your own, from pretty landscapes to your favorite memes.
  • Annotation: If you’re a big notetaker during meetings, there’s no need to bring out the pen and paper. Zoom lets you make annotations and take notes right on your phone or even your desktop with its whiteboard feature. Just go to Settings, hit Meetings, and double check that the Annotations option is checked. Then, using your finger, a stylus, or your mouse, you can make as many notes as you’d like, either for yourself or for everyone in the meeting. Jot things down on slideshow presentations for work or draw up funny doodles to your friends in the middle of video calls.
  • Share your screen: If you’re giving a presentation or want to share a funny Instagram post or Tweet with your friends during a virtual happy hour, Zoom’s screen sharing feature is key. All you have to do is tap the Share Screen option at the bottom of your screen. You’ll be able to choose whether you want to share your entire computer desktop screen or just your screen when you’re on specific applications like Microsoft Word. Plus, you can pause your screen sharing so your coworkers don’t have to see you awkwardly fumble between apps.
  • Record your meeting: Zoom users have the ability to record meetings to a Cloud or their computers, so that important points and discussions are always on file. Just tap the Record button at the bottom of your screen and click where you want to save the video. Afterwards, you can access the video and any others you recorded by logging into your account and going to the My Recordings page.
  • See everybody all at once: Whether you’re on a work call or just chatting with friends, sometimes you want to be able to see everyone you’re talking to on the same screen. Well, with Zoom’s Gallery View, you can do just that. The feature lets you display up to 49 participants in one screen. Go to your Settings and then Video to open up your Video Settings options. There, you should be able to enable Gallery View. Then, all you have to do is start or join a meeting, and you’ll be able to see everyone in the video call all at once. You can also just click the little grid icon at the top right of your screen once you’re in a meeting.

 

“Rona” Life Hack #13

If you haven’t gotten a mask by now, you are way behind the eight ball. Several states are now mandating their residents to wear a mask when out in public, particularly, when going inside a public building.  But if you check Amazon they are mostly sold out with no fulfillment date in sight. So, if you are without a mask (or want some extras), then now is the perfect time to create your own –

“Rona” Life Hack #11

Most of the stores are out of many of the essentials like toilet paper, napkins, masks, hand sanitizer & even soap. Some of these things we can’t create ourselves (like napkins), but other things we can. In this post, I’d like to discuss how to make your very own hand sanitizer!

All you need is rubbing alcohol and some aloe vera. You can include some essential oil if you’d like to help cut the smell (but it’s not really necessary). Essential oils would be vanilla, lavender, jasmine or even lemon juice. Mix 3 parts alcohol and 1-part aloe vera & voila! – you have your very own hand sanitizer. You can use either aloe vera gel or actual aloe vera for those of you agricultural buffs out there. You can also add some water to loosen things up a bit. Whip these ingredients really well, put them in a bottle & be sure to label it so you don’t forget what it is!

The rubbing alcohol is obviously the cleaning agent & aloe vera is the moisturizing part of this concoction. You may not have access to store-bought products right now, but that shouldn’t keep you from staying safe & clean!

“Rona” Life Hack #10

With so much going on, there’s already enough to worry about. From finding toilet paper to stocking up on food to possibly losing your job, the government has finally thrown us a lifeline.

Normally, taxes would be due next week but because of the Coronavirus, the tax deadline has been extended by 3 months. This relief only applies to federal income returns and tax (including tax on self-employment income) payments otherwise due April 15, 2020, not state tax payments or deposits or payments of any other type of federal tax.

The 2019 income tax filing and payment deadlines for all taxpayers who file and pay are automatically extended until July 15, 2020. This relief is automatic, taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify. This relief also includes estimated tax payments for tax year 2020 that are due on April 15, 2020.

Penalties and interest will begin to accrue on any remaining unpaid balances as of July 16, 2020. You will automatically avoid interest and penalties on the taxes paid by July 15. For more information, visit IRS.gov.

“Rona” Life Hack #8

Food is getting pretty scarce out there. Sure, grocery stores are restocking almost every day but you may not be able to find what it is you need. You may be dependent on the stores for things like meat or milk BUT you can create your own fruits & vegetables.

Buy some seeds/seedlings or plants for herbs, veggies from places like Walmart, Target or at any Dollar Store. As long as you have sunlight, water & soil you can have your own source of nourishment during this time that we all are supposed to be indoors. You can grow anything from onions to carrots to potatoes, and they grow faster than you think. Start now & you’ll have your own garden before this quarantine is over!

 

“Rona” Life Hack #6

It’s tough to exercise when you’re supposed to be indoors all the time. Even without all the fancy exercise equipment, fun classes and instructors yelling at you, it’s still possible to get a good workout in. Just a grab a towel & do some stretches on the living room floor. Go to Instagram or YouTube and find your new favorite workout “coach” & get busy!

There’s cardio, anaerobic exercises, stretching, yoga, jump rope even pushups & pull ups. You can do crunches, planking and more stretching! I admit, the first week of being shut-in, I didn’t get much of a workout in. I ate & ate, but it wasn’t until this past weekend I decided to get out and do a little at-home conditioning. It’s amazing how much you can do for free in the comfort of your own home.

So if you can’t get out to exercise, then get up & get moving!