An unexpected gift brings joy

The event itself was a gift.

I moderated the recent first ever Latina Summit sponsored by the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on the river at the General Motors Renaissance Center. Three women of substance offered worthy observations about business and success in hopes their words might help someone seeking to make strides in both.

There were role models on the panel and scattered throughout the audience. There was great camaraderie of spirit. There was great food.

But before the afternoon ended, there also was a moment to left me dumbstruck.  A scarfwoman I’d never me walked up to thank me for participating, to tell me she appreciated what I offer through my newspaper column and what I said as I moderated the panel. I thanked her and complimented her attire, including a beautiful scarf of lavendar, turquoise, green and blue – my four favorite colors.

“I’d like you to have it,” she said as she took it off. I did what any self-respecting woman would and said, “Oh, no.”

But she insisted. So I did what any woman who loves a good gift would: I accepted it with gratitude and humility.

What she did I had done before:  Someone complimented a bracelet. I took it off and gave it to them. Someone liked a pen (I use Papermate Inkjoys exclusively.) I offered it to them.

There is such joy and giving and getting that I like doing both as often as possible. So I accepted the scarf, a gift from Sylvia Gucken, assistant to the chairman of the Ideal Group. At the moment she gave it to me, I hope an angel got her wings. But if they didn’t, I know that Sylvia may have made a case for her to get her own.

There should be a special place in heaven for people who make other people’s day.

She made mine!

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

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.


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!

Facebook photo offers glimpse at a previous life

1521895_10201850275711718_677645523_nThe photo showed up in a Facebook post, like a squirrel unexpectedly popping out of a tree. It was a simple picture of a beautiful living room with a newly decorated Christmas tree. But it was more than that for me.

I once resided in that room, in that home, in that space. It is where my daughter and I lived when we first moved to Michigan.

A friend now lives in there and showers it with love. But in that simple photo, I could still see my family having Thanksgiving dinners and Golden Globe parties and fireworks-watching from the living room window.

I could still see my daughter chasing our dog, Lucy, through the large living room, dining room and kitchen, part of a home that still stands nearly 100 years after it was built.

I relived my daughter and me arriving home to a foyer of fluff that we followed to the living room where our dog, Lucy, who had obviously gotten bored, had chewed out the side of the sectional sofa.

I miss that room and that home like I do every home we’ve shared that has beautiful memories of every day moments, from baking cookies to doing homework.

I miss that space. I miss my daughter being 11 years old in it.

I miss watching her play with Lucy in the vacant lot that used to be next door, knowing she was safe and the doorman could get to her sooner than I could.

I miss her hamster experiment. She bred three generations of pets to study what traits were passed down from one to another to another. I told her that, in her room, they were hamsters. In my room, they were mice – and in danger.

I miss so much about that space. But I am so happy that my friend and the enormous love she shares with everyone every day are there now.

And from now on, my friend’s memories and mine will dance through the rooms and chase each other all around, mingling with memories from other residents through the years, decades of love getting to know each other.

Until the next memories come.


GM names first female CEO on day lege committee
passes bill allowing women
to breast-feed in public. Sigh!

Sometimes, it’s just about timing. 1386696709000-gmmarybarra3

A Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill Tuesday allowing breastfeeding mothers to actually breast feed their babies in public. Now we’ll see what the rest of the legislature does.

The passage came just hours after General Motors, the second-largest automaker in the world, named its first female CEO. Now we’ll see what other auto companies and non-auto companies do.

Even as I wanted to rejoice in the latter, I couldn’t help but sigh at the former. Why? Because men are still telling women what to do, and women still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. And that remains 50 years after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in an effort to end wage discrimination.

So women are making true progress in some areas, making progress that is laughable in other areas and still fighting for equality in nearly every area.

I once said that if women stopped having babies, men might come around. They might understand that civilization depends on the most important joint project that continues  to happen in history.

But I was wrong.

Women would have to stop having sex to force change. And that’ll never happen.


Battle of the Bulge allies include Barry White, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson

If you want to know how you’re walking, don’t look at your feet. Look at the people watching you.

I had been searching for something new in my Battle of the Bulge.

I finally found the answer.

And it was in something I was doing all along.

Rather than stroll with Desi, letting him saunter, stop to chase squirrels or just meander around smelling the smells of every dog that had walked sooner than we did, I remembered the doggie training, put him on my right side, and we strutted. It was a cross between a power walk and dancing.

Now, we do it every day.

Yes, I put on my purple Skechers, my purple Parade Company Jacket and my purple Urban Ears earphones. Then I pump up the volume and set my pace by music: Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love,” Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” Marvin Gaye’s “Come Get To This,” Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time, Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You,” (the BEST thing about “Saturday Night Fever”), Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” Jennifer Hudson’s “Love You I Do,” the Jackson 5’s “The Love You Save” and  the classic, always useful “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me” – the Aretha Franklin-George Michael duet that has no Expires By date.

After a few weeks of this, I realize that I have reached cardio pace. A week ago, I noticed the smiles of those in passing cars who slowed to wave or nodded. Approvement? Encouragement? Had I been a Facebook page, they were clicking LIKE.

Since I don’t weigh myself (It ruins the whole campaign.), I can only tell you that the pants are getting loser, the attitude is getting better – and yesterday, a guy in a car almost hit the car in front of him because he turned all the way around to watch. Yes!

Thanks, Barry, Marvin and Michael. You’re still making a difference every day. And thanks to the Queen and to the Prince of Motown. Stevie Wonder may never see what he’s done, but I hope someday to let him know.




A decision that only women should make . . .

Emails keep coming today. Women are headed to the State Capitol today. Today, vagina is not a dirty word.

As the debate continues over how to deal with the issue of abortion, furor mounts over Michigan Republican legislators choosing last week to silence two women speaking out against controversial new anti-abortion legislation.

In my day job, I wrote a newspaper column about how that silencing was an attack on democracy.

Because it was.

I don’t have the answers to the question: How do we decrease the number of abortions in America?  But I do know that the debate cannot happen without women. There cannot be a moment in history, in America, in any legislature, where women should not be heard on this issue.

However they want.

Whenever they want.

Because it is a decision that only women should make.

To read the column, visit:

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.

Betty White: Flavor of the Century

There are many reasons why I love Betty White, why millions of people love Betty White, why 317,000 Facebookers LIKE her static fan page that says nothing more than she is.

It is because, for almost 90 years, she has been who she is. She is funny, irreverent, risk-taking and consistent. Whether it was Sue Anne Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (the perky secret slut who was host of “The Happy Homemaker”)  or Rose Nylund, the naive and unaware to right before the point of being dumb – or Elka Ostrovsky, the caretaker of the house that three fish-out-of-water urban divas land in on TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland.”

The bottom line is this: Betty White has been working for 70 years as an actress, comedienne, game show celebrity and for several years now, successful author. Her career began the year that “Gone with the Wind” was released – 1939. She has made herself at home in seven different decades, and I was never more excited than to be one of the 500,000 on the FB campaign to get Saturday Night Live to let her host. She did. The show as a hit. She won an Emmy.

Now I want her back.

So while we’re gearing up to get her back in Studio 8H in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, here’s a recent interview: