USA Today Network visit was all about pride

Had a fantastic day at USA Today headquarters where Nichelle Smith, features editor for the National News Desk and leader of several award-winning race and diversity projects (center), interviewed Jesse Holland and me about our books! Wonderful questions from the audience in the newsroom and out on the network. Culture and living diva Jamila Robinson handled the Q & A. It was such a productive day!

Source Booksellers signing was outstanding!















DETROIT _ Contributors Tamara Winfrey Harris and Carolyn Edgar and I had an amazing conversation with wonderful guests at The Burden book signing at the Source Booksellers. We can’t be afraid of the having the conversation about our mutual history, our mutual hurts, our mutual achievements and our mutual goals and dreams.

DAY 11: Fasting to help others is still fasting for you

So I mentioned that I skipped Day 10 on the 21-Day Financial Fast because I was still working on a budget from Chapter 7 and because Chapter 7.

I also skipped it because it was the chapter in Michelle Singletary’s book “The 21-Day Financial Fast” about Marrying Your Money. That meant it was for married couples or people who are about to get married.

That’s not me, and while I would marry for money, among other necessary things, I couldn’t take anything from this chapter and give it to anyone – because I also don’t interfere in the business of married couples.

But Chapter 11?

That was different.

Chapter 11 (How odd that it shares a name with a type of  bankruptcy, but I digress . . . ) is a chapter about leaving a legacy of good money sense.

And I was feeling guilt.

My daughter is 24, and while I’m sure I taught money lessons – and even wrote about teaching her money lessons, I also let her watch me spend sometimes indiscriminately, just because we wanted things.

She is proving now that she learned both lessons, but I think the wants sometimes outweigh the needs. So I’ve decided to share this chapter with her and other young women to help them learn what to teach their children.

“As parents, we know it’s imperative to teach our kids to say no to drugs and alcohol,” Michelle writes on Page 134. “But can you honestly say you’re doing your best to help them fend off consumerism and credit card pushers?”

How-to-Teach-Your-Kids-About-Money-Management_full_article_verticalI know I had some success when my daughter entered college and got as many credit card applications as there were professors on campus – and ignored them.

How do I know she ignored them? Because she asked me for things that, had she had a credit card, she would have just gotten them. I won’t detail any of those requests here. But let’s just say that one had to do with some really dumb cosmetic surgery.

I remember when she was little, and the best I way I could teach her lessons about money was through sacrifice. I didn’t believe in time-outs because, as a busy reporter, editor, then news executive, I didn’t want any of the precious time I had with her spent with her sitting in a corner.

So we’d play another game.

It began with a sandwich.

I had made her a perfectly good mini-Dagwood, with ham, turkey, lettuce, tomato and cheese. It was pretty.

She took a bite and threw the rest away.

“I don’t want it,” she said.

freepressbookstore_2268_15094257I told her she owed me $1.79 or some such figure. (You’d have to grab my book “Raising A Parent: Lessons I Learned While My Daughter and I Grew Up Together” to read the actual amount.)

And, I told her she had to work that debt off before she could get something else.

Later, in the checkout line at the supermarket, she asked for a candy bar. I asked how much it cost. She knew how to look for the price, because in those days, they were right on the product. I then had her subtract the price from what she owed me.

This lesson lasted for two days. And she never threw food away again.

It was a great lesson for her and a proud moment for me. At 6, she understood debt.

That still didn’t help her understand why I was talking about saving for college when she was in the third grade.

“That’s years away,” she said.

“Yes, and it’ll take years to save for it,” I told her.

So if there’s any lesson I can offer other mothers, other dads, other Godmothers (because yes, we Godmothers have to help our Godchildren attend college, too), it’s to remember that these lessons, like Michelle Singletary is teaching us, are lifelong.

So I didn’t skip Chapter 11. Sure, my daughter is is a grown-up. But I’m sharing it because of the need for all of us to continue to teach our children and their children and our friends’ children about money and saving.

It is a necessary legacy.

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at, and she hopes you will support her Kickstarter campaign to record an acoustic gospel album here!

DAYS 7 & 8: Financial Fast gets harder when required to plan

You haven’t heard from me since DAY 6 of Michelle Singletary’s 21-Day Financial Fast for two good reasons:  I got lost in my closet and DAY 7 required me to do a budget.

I have never done a budget. Not in my entire adult life. DAY 7 was Sunday. Today is Tuesday, and I’m still trying to do a budget.

budget calculator budget for rotator_0Oh, I had every excuse in the world:

Microsoft Excel sucks.

There’s no way to calculate what I might spend on some things.

I don’t want to.

None of the excuses were good ones, and I’ve put it off long enough. So between the NBC Nightly News and the 19 other tasks I have on my plate tonight, I’m going back to the numbers.

I will create a living document. I will place it on the wall where I can see it every day.

I have learned so much about myself: how quickly I spend money, how much I waste money; how little I pay attention to ways I could save money. I’ve kicked myself with questions: Why didn’t I refinance my house three years ago? Why didn’t I save more?

Michelle writes in the book that guides the fast about Joseph (from Genesis 41: 47-4) who stored grain from the fields even when they were overflowing. He stored so much that “he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.  He stored for when the famine came.

We think a famine isn’t coming – even as one is just ending. Joseph’s instructions came to him in a dream. Ours come from parables that we can use to guide our judgment or ignore at our own peril.

In the book, Michelle asks: “How many blessings are you missing because you spend every dime you make? Who are you failing to connect with and bless because you don’t have enough to share – because you’ve failed to save?”

I thought of the trip to Africa I’m taking in the spring and how I canceled going to this year’s Sundance Film Festival. I was patting myself on the back until I realized that had I budgeted better, saved better, I could have done both.

And then it got real deep. I thought about that choice I faced versus the ones that some people make – between medicine and food, between rent and diapers.

Am I an idiot or what?

The DAY 8 guidelines were simple: have two essential funds: an emergency fund and a “life happens” fund. The first should have six months worth of living expenses. The second should have at least $1,000.

I recalled when Paula Madison, a television executive and all-around dynamo who now is an owner of the L.A. Sparks told me years ago that she began saving for her retirement when she was 21 years old.

It looks good on her.

I wish all the time that I had listened.

But what the financial fast has taught me is that it’s not too late. Michelle suggests knowing your net worth. It’s not something you have to discuss over lunch, but you should have an idea.

She also talked about her grandmother living every day as if she would lose her job at the end of it. Anyone working for a newspaper these days should feel the same way. But she also suggests not living in fear.

I don’t know how you do both, except to see that living with debt is like living with obesity. You decide how fat and unhealthy you want to be.

Michelle didn’t say that.

I did.

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at, and she hopes you will support her Kickstarter campaign to record an acoustic gospel album here!

Financial Fast coincides with plans to clean, count blessings

OK. So now, Michelle Singletary is psychic.

Well, that’s not true. But it felt that way last night when I began reading Chapter 6 of the 21-Day Financial Fast, which coincides with DAY 6 of the fast the Washington Post columnist is leading people on across the country.

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 12.09.35 PMI had had a great DAY 5, and was up late. So I began reading Chapter 6 early.

I need to read Chapter 6 every day – even when this fast ends. Its title: You Can’t Buy Contentment. Its purpose: Reminding us to be content with and thankful for what we have.

I was already on that road. As I searched my closets for something to wear to a gala, I stopped for a minute and saw all the stuff I had. And I felt overwhelming guilt that I had not been thankful enough for what’s already in my house.

The gala went great, and as I sat having a cup of coffee, I was happy. But it didn’t last long because I began whining in my head about what I couldn’t do Saturday.

Saturdays are my favorite day.  Saturdays are the day that, no matter what, I get to choose what I’m doing. There is no activity already on the calendar, no work, no meetings, no plans.

I usually have a great lunch somewhere outside my house, alone or with friends – and I go to the movies. My daughter and I used to go to the movies on Friday nights. We’d see movies as soon as they premiered. When she grew up, I continued to do that like it would kill me to hear conversations Saturday about a  movie I hadn’t seen. And I began preferring to go alone most times  (I’m one of those people who cannot stand conversations in theaters. I think there should be fines).

hr_Jack_Ryan-_Shadow_Recruit_14I had already begun to whine in my head about not being able to see the new Jack Ryan movie. And that lemon artichoke tilapia that I love at a nearby restaurant? It was calling me!

But, I told myself, the movie will be playing for at least a month and will show up on the DVR. And the restaurant will still be open in February. (Thank you, God, for giving me a moment of clarity about why I’m doing this fast in the first place).

So I decided I’d keep myself busy Saturday by cleaning house, getting rid of stuff  I didn’t in December when I normally take bags and bags of things to the Salvation Army.

I kept reading. And there on Page 85 of Michelle’s book was a remedy for a lack of contentment and a great way to remember what you have.

“Clean every room.”

I stopped reading, told Michelle to get out of my head, and went to bed.

But today, that is what I’m doing. Between breaks for Facebook and Twitter and coffee, I’m doing an inventory of all I own and what could be blessing someone else’s life now.

Michelle suggested making an inventory, but I don’t want to waste that much paper.

But I’ll tell you this: I’m going to need bigger bags.


Harry Potter, I hardly knew ye!

Is it wrong to say that I haven’t seen the new Harry Potter films “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts I and II?”

I know why I haven’t seen it. My daughter has outgrown him. Yes, I was one of those parents standing in line with a child too young to be reading a book so dark, buying a book so dark and then watching her read it all night.

Publishing phenomenon or not, the entire set of Harry Potter books sits within three feet of me in my library (save “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” which I can’t seem to find anywhere), and I have yet to read any of them.

But I did see the films – glorious, nicely done fantasies – at least the first four.

Until I see “Order of the Phoenix,” I can’t head for the “Deathly Hallows.” But I don’t know whether I want to. The Harry Potter I knew was young and not in danger so much all the time. The older Harry Potter facing Ralph Fiennes in a body condom, seems to be facing hell.

I’m sure I’ll decide soon. I do so want to see the end of a 10-year journey for myself.

But more important, I plan to read the books and study the films and think about my own contribution to literature and cinema. What I want more than watching someone else’s story is creating one of my own. I want to create and then make a film about a character who will leave an indelible mark on those who meet her. I want to conjure up someone who – forever after – will need no introduction other than her name: Ferris Bueller, Forrest Gump, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Rocky Balboa – or Harry Potter.

Except, she’ll be a girl. Bolder than Annie Hall. Happier than Buffy. More serious than Holly Golightly. Less serious than Ripley in all her Alien forms.

Maybe the problem is: I need to write a book about her first. That not only will make recreation easier, but I’ll really know her, all about her, before everyone else does.

But first, I’ll have to read the “Harry Potter” books and see “Order of the Phoenix.” That’s where I last knew ye, Harry.

A woman cave?

It was a Saturday afternoon, and my friend, Walter, had arrived so that we could go shopping for a new TV. The last time I bought a TV, Bill Clinton was president and “Survivor” was a hot new show.

We began our journey at a Meijer’s, which had one that I figured was perfect. We waited and waited for a clerk, before finally calling for help on a red hotline mounted on a nearby pole. A young woman came over. We asked the difference between an LED and a LCD set. She said: “I don’t know,” as if we’d asked how far to get to the moon.

She left to find somebody. We left to find a store with actual TV salespeople. We weren’t mad at her. We just knew that she’d drawn the short straw that forced her to leave the comfort of whatever break room she was in and that the next person would be no more eager to sell us a set than she. Thought we’d save them the time.

We headed to Best Buy.

Although their prices weren’t as low, their customer service got high marks after a knowledgeable young lady talked me through screen size and models and pixels and other features that one should consider before purchasing a set. I chose one that was only a little more expensive than the one I’d seen earlier. And we took it home.

Now, this is where the story gets a little funny and a little weird. I told Walter that the set was for my woman-cave, a female version of a man cave. He was, at the least, inordinately unimpressed, and at most, horrified.

“There is no such thing as a woman cave, and if there was, this wouldn’t be it,” he said sweeping his arm around at the books on every wall and the glass writing table in the corner.

“Why?” I asked.

“Man-caves,” he said, “are fun. This says work.”

Man caves, I told him, are for sloth. Most are dark places with big sofas and sports paraphernalia and ratty chairs that are impossible to stain. And they are for nothing but watching TV.

A woman cave, I told him, is a place of relaxation and refuge but also a place for intellectual stimulation.

“The writing table is to scrapbook!” I said. And I pointed determinedly at the leather recliner that my nephew had helped me maneuver in the week before. “Look! There’s even a cave chair!”

No, he said. You can’t have a desk or writing table or books or any items that require thought or can be used for work.

“You need to have a jersey or two on the wall!” he explained in exasperation. What I had, he said, was a cove. I told him that a cove required water.

Instead, what I have is a quiet all-in-one room where I can watch “27 Dresses” or “An Affair to Remember,” where I can manipulate photographs and sheer silk, where I can – as I did after Walter left – drink a cup of tea while lying in a recliner, watching re-runs of “The Sentinel” on SyFy. Or where I can watch Wimbledon as I did a few days later.

I’ve thought of a perfect name for my new space, where I can scrapbook, write, cuddle, read novels, watch old episodes of “The Wire” and do crosswords: It’s my cavern.

A woman cavern.

Sports allowed in moderation.