Co-signing credit is giving your reputation
to someone else to use and lose

It’s not that I’m selfish, but Days 13 and 14 of the 21-Day Financial Fast were easy.

Chapter 13 in Michelle Singletary’s book that accompanies the fast explained the curse of credit. That curse taught me a harsh lesson more than a decade ago. That curse kicked my butt.

Suffice it to say, after my foray into unlimited twentysomething spending, I soon learned to treat credit cards like alcohol, and I didn’t want to become an alcoholic.

I cut up all my credit cards but one, (My company gave me a second for business expenses.), and I began paying off my bills.  That was a huge step for someone who got her first credit card when she was 19.

creditcardsChapter 14 was one I didn’t even have to read. It was called co-signing is crazy. As I said, it’s not that I’m selfish, but I wouldn’t co-sign something for anyone, not even my mother.

What I would do is find a way to get what she needed, whether it was a car or a house without attaching my name to someone else’s credit.

It is a standard I’ve always had, but one that became a life mantra that speaks to a larger issue: Do not give your reputation to someone else to use and lose! If they mess it up, you can’t get it back – not for a long time.

So these days, these chapters, were easy: Do not get a bunch of credit cards. They are not money, and you’re still broke. And don’t let someone else’s poor credit keep you from using your own.

Got it!

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!



Thanks for the memories, 2013!

As I wind down 2013 and begin a vacation that takes me to 2014, I want to thank everyone whose spirits touched my life, whose goodness made my heart soar and who forgave me when I forgot to do the same! It was a pretty daggone good year. (Yes, I’m still from North Carolina. I still say daggone.)

derek lukeI won a National Headliner Award. I dined with really interesting people (Spike Lee) and met quite a few others (Derek Luke among them).

I kissed a boy, and I liked it (Hollywood actor who shall not be named. No, it wasn’t Derek Luke.).

I watched women ascend to top spots at one of the Big Three and got to write about them – Mary Barra, the soon-to-be CEO of General Motors and Alicia Boler-Davis, a senior vice president who is one of the top two African American women in the entire auto industry. They were huge news event and ones that, as a woman, I had to privately applaud.

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 12.39.18 PMI was honored to be part of a United Way for Southeastern Michigan campaign to inspire children.

I didn’t go to Africa this year, as I did for the past three (to Senegal and Kenya). But I spent a great deal of time planning my trip to South Africa in the spring.

Instead, I did further exploration of my own country, eating oysters every day for a week in New Orleans and drinking great wine for a weekend in Napa, walking parts of New York, that even after all these years, I had not seen.

I hosted the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame inductions and watched my friend, the late, great photographer Hugh Grannum, join the number.

I went to the Final Four with my cousin Roderick for the third year in a row, keeping intact our promise to go together every year. God, I love NCAA basketball.

Screen Shot 2013-12-27 at 3.19.19 AMI saw “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and loved it. Yes, a Peter Jackson movie is still an event.

But it was the little moments that mattered most. I visited my mother, and she knew who I was. I made a dish, for the first time, uh, ever, at Thanksgiving dinner, and my family loved it.

My daughter sent me a note about my Mandela column – “Good job, Mom!” – I felt like I was 9 and had gotten an A on a major test!

I survived illness, and last I checked, my brain works just fine.

Thank you, my friends and fellows, for being parts of my life. Thank you, my Face Friends, colleagues and inspirations, especially you inspirations, you sisters and brothers who do what you do (Gwen Ifill), who provided opportunities I would never have had otherwise (DeWayne Wickham, John Yearwood), who introduced me to great wine Jocelyn K. Allen), who made me laugh (all my classmates from Tarboro Senior High School and THE mighty University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Bird and Bonita Perkins Newby), who taught me new things every day (Revka Stearns), who listened for hours during my dark times and who trusted me during theirs – and who connected with me without spoken words across untold universes (Charlie Haviland).

IMG_6324And thank you to Desi, the Wonder Dog, the world’s best dog, whose infinite patience is unbelievable – even for a dog!

See you next year!

Sometimes you need a silent weekend

WASHINGTON, D.C._ It is the silence that is most pleasant.

Yes, it is Washington, D.C.

Yes, we are two days away from the Presidential Inauguration.

Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of additional people in town.

But it took only a moment for me to decide how I wanted to spend my long weekend. I wanted to sequester myself somewhere without television, without distractions, without people so I could just write. And thanks to my friend,  Michael who found it for me, I’m there.

I’m on my laptop in a beautifully restructured mansion in Washington,D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. The lemon ginger tea is hot. And I am at peace having days, hours, moments totally to myself.

And it is really true: It is the silence that is most pleasant.

Sometimes you need to take a moment to reflect, to work on a book, to think about  what’s next, to just be. Everyone should take a moment, find a moment to breathe, to study your life map and make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

And if I may offer a bit of advice, do it where there is no noise.

Hope does spring in romcom for elders

Finally had time to see a movie and chose “Hope Springs,” the Meryl Streep-Tommy Lee Jones film I thought was a romantic comedy. It turned out to be a serious film about sex between older adults. Moments of hilarity dotted a slow, serious look at a couple who, after three decades of marriage, aren’t really married anymore. They, instead, are marching toward death in a routine that is so heartbreakingly predictable that it is hard to watch.

Meryl Streep, who buries herself in every role, is nearly perfect. And Tommy Lee Jones gets a chance to do something besides chase aliens, fugitives and bad guys. He’s a real guy, who felt he gave up the sexual freedom and adventure he might have had for the woman he loved. His performance would be a revelation, if it wasn’t someone that you expect that good from all the time.

The title is both the name of the town where the couple goes for sexual counseling and the idiom for hope in the face of hopelessness from Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Man:”

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

In the end, both find what they need. And it was sweet to walk out of the theatre with a lot of older couples holding hands and possibly going home to rediscover themselves as well.

Hope does, indeed, spring eternal.

Change . . .

After years of being sick of them, I finally had a handyman tear down two walls in my house.

Yes, that might seem a little foolhardy. But these two walls taunted me. The previous owners of my home had decided they wanted a larger kitchen, so they built two walls into the living room, an L-shaped extension. They hung cabinets on these three-quarter calls that didn’t go all the way to the ceiling, plugged lights into tops of them – and voila, bigger kitchen/big chunk of living room missing.

So I had the walls removed.  Now light floods what has become one big great room! Except, the rest of the kitchen is sitting there taunting me. So, now I have to move the kitchen.

Into the breakfast nook.

So I’m doing two things:  1) Watching all my favorite shows on HGTV to decide what I want to do with the Great Room. And 2) Watching all my favorite shows on HGTV to decide what to do with the kitchen.

“Property Brothers!” Where are you when I need you! Well, I actually only need one Property Brother, Jonathan Scott. I don’t want to buy a house, so I don’t need Drew.

Actually, I would love for Candice Olson from “Divine Design” to come and transform the place. But she is based in Toronto. I’m not moving the house. And she’s doing two TV shows, so I can’t imagine that she’d drop everything just for my small project.

So somewhere between Divine and Doable lies my own plan for my own home. I’m working on it.

Yes, I know. You’d love to see before and after photos.

But I can’t do that until their is an after. So stay tuned for details on The Case of the Missing Walls.


2012 is the Year of Me!

I’ve heard it said that whatever you’re doing when the ball drops, when the year changes, when the moment comes is what you’ll be doing for the rest of the entire year.

In 2012, I will not be partying. I will not be drunk. I will not be focused on the crowds around me.

2012 is the Year of Me.

And as Beyonce sang, in a beautiful moment that Dick Clark broadcast from an old concert, I plan to focus on making sure the world knows that I was here.

I’m working on my footprint.

We spend years finding ourselves, which leads us to believe that we were lost. We spend years listening to others’ suggestions for our life path, meaning that we let others determine our direction.

This year, I’m determining everything.

At 11:59, I was letting a re-broadcast of “The Italian Job” watch me as I slept. By a stroke after midnight, the calls and texts began coming in.

In 2012, I will be joyed by surprises. I wish for the unexpected, the acts of love that come unplanned.

At 12:05, I turned the phone off and went to bed because in 2012, I plan to have a more regular schedule filled with exercise and predicted sleep.

And even though I threw the delivered newspaper into the house when Desi and I went out for our morning walk, I did not read it first when I came in.

No, I picked up a copy of the giant-print, King James Bible that I gave my mother on April 2, 1983 – the one that we traded for a new model a few years ago – and I read the first chapter. And I plan to read a chapter each day until I’ve read the entire book, again.  There are 66 books and 1,189 chapters, so some days, I will read more. But it dawned on me during the last week of 2011, that, for a Christian who was raised in church and attends church, I don’t really reflect on that book enough.

So either I believe, or I don’t. I will take to heart what the book says or I won’t. I decided that I do, and I will.

And beginning tomorrow, since I no longer will work on the Sabbath, I am cleaning house. No, not just cleaning the house. But cleaning my life of bad vibes, bad people and bad projects. I plan to make a list of what’s viable and important, rank them in priority order and get ’em done in 2012.

I will do more for the people around me, especially children, especially the children who need me most, those whose parents don’t want them and aren’t raising them.

I will do more for my friends – building web sites and blogs and helping them market new ideas and companies and making sure that everyone is working.

I will do more for my family, which in their case, just means making more trips to North Carolina and Dallas.

And I will, in the greatest portion, do more for me. Like Jennifer Hudson, I believe. As a a former athlete, I will no longer make excuses for my malaise and laziness. I used food as a tool to dispel disappointment. But now, I’ve called a slob a slob. And now that I’ve read the first chapter of Genesis and tickled Desi’s tummy, I’m headed to the floor for stretches and sit-ups. Then a hot bath and some nontoxic tea before heading to church because, well, where else should I be on the first morning of a New Year?

The biggest cleanse begins now.

Sound like a lot?

Not really. Not in the Year of Me.

A wedding brings back memories

I saw a little girl get married Saturday.

She was a 13-year-old babysitter who took my 3-year-old for long walks while I worked.

Then she was a 16-year-old high school student making decisions about her life.

Then she was a 19-year=-old college student – smart, funny, totally sure of her self. And then one night, she decided to go across the street to get something to drink. It was just a study break.

It happened in seconds. She never saw the police car that struck her. The car was involved in a high-speed chase that wasn’t allowed on the streets of Atlanta. The officer was driving in excess of 60 miles an hour.

It was the same night that Niki Taylor, the model and celebrity, was involved in a car accident. Niki Taylor’s serious injuries made all the magazines and newspapers. Carmen barely made it to the hospital.

She would be get better over two years, get to walk again again over five years.

And last Saturday, she walked down the aisle in a red & white ceremony that she planned herself.

She married a soldier. His fellow soldiers came in uniform. Two of them preceded her into the glorious atrium of a Dallas County office building that looked like a dream.

She danced the first dance with her husband beside a serene pool.

She and he cut a large multi-tiered red cake with white and gold decorations.

For three hours, through a glorious and short ceremony and a catered dinner, She was a testament to faith, love and the fact that only God knows.

And God knows we were happy to be there for that moment at a wedding that brought back memories, both bad and good.

But the good ones drowned out the bad ones.

And we never have to think about the accident again – until the next milestone, and we offer thanks again for how far she has come.