Annie Faust- A portrait in persistence!

Dear Readers,

This post is dedicated to my good friend Annie Faust!


She did something that scared her out of her wits four years ago, she joined Birdhouse Toastmasters because I asked her to come to a meeting. She kept coming to the meetings and learning and being scared and still she kept showing up to meeting after meeting, speech after after speech, role after role.

Persistence in the face of fear, that’s called courage.

Four years is a long time and in that time I have seen her career flourish and her take on roles to speak, to evaluate and eventually to lead and I am so proud of her and her progress.

It must be said, I can’t take all the credit. Yes, I invited her to the first meeting (she didn’t want to go, she told me recently) AND she had to choose to take the steps to go, just like she had to take steps to give a speech, evaluate a speech and choose to be an advocate for herself and her goals.

Here, you can see her giving a public speaking seminar to 42 people! Definitely outside of her comfort zone and she did it beautifully!


She let me part of it so I could demonstrate some power posing Thanks Amy Cuddy! 


You might inspire someone, if you just try.

Think About It!

“No” isn’t always a bad thing

Dear Readers,

Hearing “No” isn’t always a bad thing. I know, this is a hard sell, but stick with me, I come bearing examples to illustrate my point!

Allison Janney- auditioned for “Frasier” but she didn’t get it and I am sure she was pretty unhappy, but she didn’t know that “The West Wing” was on the horizon, waiting to make her famous.

Allison Janney was almost on Frasier! 

Robert De Niro was almost “Sonny Corleone” instead of “Vito”

Eric Stoltz was almost Marty McFly in “Back to the Future” instead of Michael J. Fox?

Justin Hartley- auditioned for a television movie as Mandy Moore’s love interest, he didn’t get it and I am sure he was pretty upset because, you know, rejection sucks.

However, a few years later, he auditioned for “This Is Us” to play her son and he got that part. He has said that he is extremely grateful for the first “no” because if he had played her love interest, he would be pretty certain to not be able to play her son.

In another example, Dick Van Dyke ALMOST played James Bond– and Pierce Brosnan almost snagged the role way back in 1985! Interestingly enough, my top pick, Clive Owen turned it down repeatedly.

Dick Van Dyke as Bond and other nearly cast actors

Show business is rife with examples just like these and it’s a good reminder that the “no” that we hear while hard at the time are usually stand ins for “new opportunities” that would not have come our way if we had heard “yes” rather than the dreaded “no”.

What does all of this have to do with me, you ask?

Well, I have received a few of those no’s lately and without boring you with the details I will simply say, it’s been hard. Rejection sucks and no matter how much you “spin it”     (A great specialty of mine!) it still SUCKS out LOUD to be rejected.

The thing I try to focus on is there is a very big world out there and new opportunities pop up all the time. Easy to say and think, hard to keep it in mind when the rejections come in and beat you down.

In times like these I try to reflect a bit on the past and when I have felt down and out and done, and then I look a little further down the road and look to see how things turned out.  The week before my wedding in 2011, I got fired.  It’s really easy to see NOW how that was a great opportunity, but at the time? I was terrified and not sure what I was going to do. I can report it turned out pretty great because I found a job that I have had and thrived in for the past 7 years. I am reflecting on that time a lot this week, because I will be saying goodbye to that job this Sunday.

It’s definitely not been a decision we made lightly and it’s the right decision for our family.

I am excited to see what unfolds on the road in front of me!


But back to you, dear reader, what are you hearing “no” about that you can reframe as “not yet” or “next opportunity” or “this just means something great is just around the corner”?

I am aware that sometimes that is NOT what you want to hear when you get that “no”, and what I am asking that you do is go ahead and vent and cry and be mad about your “no” and then reframe and then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try, try, again.

Think About It.





Treasure the Ordinary, it’s Amazing!


Dear Readers,

I can’t stop thinking about this quote –

“In chasing the extraordinary, we can miss the ordinary moments that we would crave if they were taken away”- Brené Brown

I was reflecting on this today as I pondered our Mother’s Day.

I was more than a little bummed because we had planned to go to karaoke and I had all these great plans to sing song after song but what had happened was, I sang once, Jeremy sang once, and we had a burger, and then we had to go get kiddo from daycare.

I replayed the night in my head and hit a few highlights and then realized, it had actually been a GREAT day and night. I worked an earlier shift so I could have the night off, (thanks Sherita!) then I went to get my nails done to feel pampered (Thanks Jeremy!) and when I got home Miss Vivienne was not awake from her nap yet so Jeremy and I got to take a nap (I LOVE SLEEP) and then I got ready for our date night and got to hang out with Vivienne as we were taking her down the stairs, I asked Jeremy to take a picture because I remember she had done it a few days before but I didn’t have time to stop capture it.


The drop in daycare closed at 8, we had to go get her, and also because they closed at 8, we could go have a family dinner together and while pretty ordinary fare, it was an extraordinary day and night of family togetherness.

What could you be missing out on that’s “ordinary” by searching for the extraordinary?

Think About It.

The Value Of Being There

Dear Readers,

This past week I was able to “be there” for a dear friend of mine. He had a BIG moment in his career and I was able to see him perform! Congratulations Gab!


There were some things that happened to make this possible (not the least of which being my wonderful husband coming up with the idea!) but upon reflecting on this, I found myself recollecting times that other people have “been there” for me and thought it was a good time to call some of them out. *Note- this is not a comprehensive list*

This trip was actually inspired by a surprise that someone else gave to me and my husband, so I will start there. Our good and dear friends, Mike and Leanne Schmidt, I still get choked up when I think about this, they were building their business and we asked them to come to cheer us on (as they had for the three long years it took us to get out of debt) because we were going to be in Nashville to do our debt-free scream on the Dave Ramsey show, and they told us they couldn’t make it, we of course understood, because part of learning budgets is also learning boundaries. No is a complete sentence, but then LO and BEHOLD, they showed up anyway! Surprise!


Joan Ellen Young, the most important “being there” of my life, she saw me when I was 14 years old, alone and not cared for at all. She decided to be there for me and it has made ALL the difference. I could write an epic novel about all the times she has been there for me, holding my feet to the fire and keeping me accountable to the promises I have made. She is here now, helping me be a great mom to Vivienne.


Then, there is John Ulmo. A wonderful man who died too young. He was one of the first people to “be there” for me when I was growing up, I was 16 the year I met John and he consistently made me laugh and was always challenging the way I thought about myself and others. He helped me find my first of 3 jobs as I was preparing to move away from New Orleans. I know that he is looking down from Heaven and is proud of me and the woman I am becoming.

Next, the one, the only, Alan, he won’t read this and that’s okay. Our friendship is stronger than the reading of a few blog posts. He taught me how to drive my car,  how to be an excellent friend, and the value of shared experiences. He also taught me about books and movies and the meaning of the phrase, “No taboos”.


Started out as my walking buddy, but she has become, oh, so much more, Susie “Sedona”  to my “Sparkles”, oh, my sweet friend, you inspire me in so many ways, every day and every way, thank you for teaching me about how important it is to strive and BE BOLD.


Next, my sister from another mother, Dr. Keya Howard Litt, two years ago, she came to see my show “My Big Fat Bahookie” and it meant the world to me. She also babysat for us so Jeremy and I could have a “Date Afternoon” and it was just because she wanted to be there. Lest I forget, just a few months ago, she found a free hour in a thoroughly packed weekend (for both of us) to SURPRISE me with a visit and a cup of tea! That is only the tip of the veritable iceberg of an incredible friendship that continues to grow and grow. Thank you Dr. Howard- You are an amazing friend and you “touch” my heart constantly.


Rachel, my sweet magnolia friend, a few months ago, Rachel dropped everything to “be there” for me and as long as I live I will not forget that kind and wonderful gesture. Truthfully, there have been many times that she has “dropped everything” to be there for me, these are just a few pictures to depict that and I hope she knows the value I find in her ongoing friendship and love. My one and only, CB!


My sweet SWADIC, Jessi- there really aren’t words to cover the “being there” that she is, has been for a long time now and I am sure a long time to come. She has helped me grow and become stronger with the ability to express what I want and to stand up for my own opinions in the face of strong opposition. We definitely don’t agree on everything, (like the awesomeness of the colour blue!) and we are there for each other, consistently and without fail.


I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the true champion of being there, my one and only true love, my soul mate, my husband, my partner in crime, my “I love you 3000” Jeremy.


I have often said to my mom, what is the value of being there? She turned the question back on me and said, What did it mean to you that I was there? Everything.

What can you do to “be there” for someone today? It doesn’t have to be a plane or train ride, though that’s available (hint, hint!) you can text, or send someone a note in the mail  but think about what it might mean to the person who receives it?

Think About It.


The Tooth, The Whole Tooth and nothing but the Tooth…

Dear Readers,

I have spent a lot of time chronicling my difficulties with the dentist and my triumph over those difficulties and here I am again because guess what? I had to get dental work done last week. Ugh, I know, it SUCKED. Quite literally, due to the suction used and the drill, do not get me started on that drill. It’s the worst sound.

Despite having a dentist I know and trust, (Dr. Alan Williams)


I still struggle (fear and anxiety of what they will say) when it’s time to get in that chair. You may or may not remember, I pushed my luck a little too much back in October and had to get a root canal.

Well, hang on, because the story gets better, a few days after that was complete, my temporary fell out (despite me NOT eating popcorn or caramel or candy apples) so I had to go back to the dentist 6 days earlier than planned for emergency consultation. Now, I have genetics to blame (mostly) and it’s super unsatisfying to do that. “Thanks Mom and Dad for the crappy teeth health” That surely did not make me feel better, and it definitely didn’t magically make the dental problem or pain cease, so it’s kind of useless to cite it as a “good reason” for dental problems. It is a fact, and I am doing all I can to combat the bad genetics I got at birth. Happily, I did not have to get the root canal redone, and they started work on the temporary right away, I am on session 2 of 3 right now and it’s a whole lot of not fun. It’s also necessary because having good dental health is a big part of your overall health picture.

“Poor oral hygiene can lead to problems with diabetes, heart disease and other health issues.” – American Dental Center


According to the American Dental Center- It’s all connected!

While it definitely sounds like a first world problem, it got me thinking about how often we put something we KNOW we shouldn’t… like taxes, or parking tickets, or regular checkups with the doctor, the list goes on and on.

As I share my story with you of the procrastinating leading to some pain, what does this make you think about? That doctor appointment you keep putting off? How about that dental check up or cleaning you need to get done? Don’t wait, go schedule it NOW. Your future self will thank you!

As for me, I am going to go enjoy hanging out with my daughter and teaching her good brushing and flossing habits so she can keep that gorgeous smile I love seeing so much.


Think About It.


Keeping it Simple, Sweetie!

Dear Readers,

Since becoming a mother I have found a lot of comfort in making things simpler.

No idea what I mean? Let me explain, ah, there is no time, let me sum up!

At night before I go to bed, I pick out my clothes for work so I can sleep longer in the morning. My husband calls this “preemptive laziness” but I call it smart.

I pack Miss Vivienne’s lunch at night when I get home from work, so I can spend more time with her in the morning before school.

When getting her ready to go to school, I make a mental note to leave 10 minutes sooner than I want to, this gives Miss V her “nature buffer” (she loves to play in the yard!) and Mommy some peace of mind that we will be on time.


Credit to my good friend Alan for this one. When loading the dishwasher, I put all the same silver in each section. All the butter knives go in the left one, all the spoons go in the right and so on, trust me, it’s so much easier when you go to unload the dishes!

A few weeks ago I made a discovery about “mom shirts” that I want to share with you.

It’s revolutionary, are you ready? Here it is. Get dressed for work and then add a larger shirt on top of your outfit so your munchkin (see photo bombing monkey below) can hug you, drool on you, or spit up on you, to their heart’s content, all the while, you are protected from getting your work clothes messed up.



So what “life hacks” do you do to make your life simpler?

Let’s all do what we can do to help each other on this journey!

If you are not a parent, what life hacks can you share?

Think About It.

Artist to Artist- In the Moment with Kendra Christel!

Dear Readers,

I am lucky enough to know several very talented people in the arts. Kendra is one of them! She is an actor, director, writer, singer, and producer! This week, I was privileged to sit down with her and we both talked life, love and the pursuit of art from her perspective.


Professor Haston– Kendra, thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule (she opens Sister Act, playing Deloris Van Cartier, at the Georgetown Palace on Friday 4/19/2019). Tickets for Sister Act

So let’s jump right in- Who are you named for? 

Kendra– I had an uncle named Ken- Kenneth. My full legal name is Kendra Omega Davidson Banks. My stage name is Kendra Christel, which is because I took my sister’s name. My legal name Kendra Omega Davidson Banks- Omega is important because I am the last child of 5. 

Professor Haston-  Where are you from? 

Kendra– Austin. I grew up off Martin Luther King Drive in a neighborhood called Craigwood.

Professor Haston-  What do you think makes you a successful artist?

Kendra– Probably the same thing that makes me an unsuccessful human. I am extremely hard on myself. Sometimes it wears me out. I constantly tell myself to work harder or do more. 

Professor Haston-  Where does that come from? Your parents? 

Kendra– My grandmother. She was from a totally different generation. I don’t know if you are familiar with the phrase in the black culture,  “You have to work twice as hard to be half as good”? My grandmother was from the generation of, “You have to do this, you have to do this right”. She worked hard and she put a determined thing in me. Sometimes I think I can go too far on the “try harder” scale.  Really trying is what makes me an artist. 

Professor Haston-  Well you do so much…you sing, you act and you dance and direct and produce… What brought you to acting? 

Kendra– College. I always wanted to be an actress, I just never did it till college. While a student at Texas State University, I joined Harambee Dance Group, became a member and chairperson for Gospel Expressions Association choir, and an original Executive Board member of the Ebony Players theater group and I have been acting ever since. 

Professor Haston-  What do you still want to tackle in the world of acting? 

Kendra– The things I am doing now, I want to CONQUER them. I don’t believe you can be good at one or two things. You can be good at a LOT of things. I want to be really good at writing. I want to be really good at acting.

I want to be an EGOT. 

That’s when you win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony.

Professor Haston-  What’s the best advice you have ever received? 

Kendra– My mom, she is so quotable. “God’s favorites always have the hardest time”. Then people will say, “Well, God doesn’t have favorites.” and you say to yourself, “Well you must not be one”.  He tests us because He believes in us so much. It was tough for me growing up, I had a great childhood but as you can imagine, you know when you are creative you just don’t fit in and you struggle. I never stressed myself out about making friends or being liked but then people start to mistreat you or try to make feel bad about how and who you are and then it becomes necessary to constantly be on defense. That takes a lot to get out of that mindset when it’s how you grow up and my mom would tell me, “Babe, God’s favorites always have the hardest time”.

Professor Haston- Speaking of a hard time… I read recently about an all white cast doing a production of Porgy and Bess? What do you think of that? 

Hungarian Cast Members “Identify as African American”

Kendra– It’s disrespectful. It’s extremely disrespectful. Don’t get me wrong. I mean it’s Gershwin, I understand loving an artist’s work so much you have to be involved or you have to touch it some kind of way.  But there are just some roles and some works that should go untouched. Gershwin put that stipulation in for a reason (stipulation that the lead roles should only be played by African American actors) Then and now, black people and brown people, we don’t get roles that we should, we don’t get the opportunities that we should, we don’t get the treatment that we should. I mean it’s seriously clawing all the time, it’s exhausting. Just as much as people who are not black and brown are tired of hearing about it, we are tired of going through it so we wish we could stop telling you about it and the fact that there was beautiful thing created just for us, us being black people and they being not black people, couldn’t let us have it. It’s frustrating, it’s not enough to make it hard for us to be accepted and to be artists and to be beautiful and be talented and be celebrated and be creative within in our right and our own realms. It’s like we are being invaded. You can’t let us have the thing even though we created the thing. It’s frustrating. From what I understand the estate of  Gershwin is trying to sue, and I hope they win because you shouldn’t do that. It’s cultural appropriation at it’s finest. 

Professor HastonI find it disgusting. As an artist, I love the songs of Gershwin but that isn’t a role I would consider playing ever because no matter how much research I do, I will never know what it’s like to be black. 

KendraYou know what, that’s hard for an actor of any color. There are going to be roles that you can never play and never identify with because you will NEVER be that. Look, I love Frida Kahlo, I love her work, I will even wear flowers in my hear sometimes like her, I love the kind of woman she was, when I found out she was in a relationship with Josephine Baker, it made me love her even more. But if I was given the opportunity to play her in a movie or television show, I would turn it down, because it’s ridiculous. There are just a plethora of Latinas who could play that. I am not that. I can appreciate it and love it until I turn blue but I am just not that, and that’s okay and so, with them having these cast members sign a piece of paper that says you “identify as black” is f****** ridiculous.  Being black is such a vast thing. We are so different, we are so numerous. We come from everywhere, we are everywhere. Just saying that you “identify as black” – I mean, I am black and sometimes I am not sure if I am as black as I should be. We are so different. It’s disrespectful and it’s disgusting and I don’t like it. 

Professor HastonHave you seen roles that are going to white actors that you think should be going to African American women? 

KendraYes. It’s everywhere. There are roles that can and should be opened up to black women. Steel Magnolias, you know. I could go on and on. I remember trying out in high school and because I didn’t have the “traditional theatre voice” I wasn’t even looked at twice. One thing I can say is I have been working with a great production company called Mad Productions who cast me as the Queen of Hearts.  You wouldn’t immediately think about this black woman ruling over Wonderland, but why not? No one thinks, “Let’s try that,” and then this company does. They have a knack for casting the non-traditional. It’s part of the thought process of this part doesn’t HAVE to be played by a white person. It’s getting better slowly but surely because people are looking at things with new eyes. 


Professor HastonWhat do you think we all need to do to be accomplices in the fight for human kindness and better race relations besides realizing that we still have so very far to go. 

KendraIt’s exhausting. Also knowing that any moment we can regress. At any moment, someone will say something or someone will touch my hair… 

Professor Haston- Without your permission? That’s unacceptable. 

Kendra- We say it on social media all the time and we say it in life “DON’T TOUCH OUR HAIR. WE DON’T LIKE IT.” I don’t care what your one or two black friends let you do. Don’t do it. I had a woman send her 6 year old child over to me to ask me if she could touch my hair. I had to tell the child, no you may not and inform your mother that it’s not appropriate. It’s extremely frustrating. 1. I don’t know where your hands have been. 2. I am not an animal in a zoo, don’t pet me.  Don’t get me wrong, I know the myth of black hair is fascinating, and when I have friends who ask me, “How did you do that?” I will tell them and they are genuinely asking. “Can I see how you did that?” Yes, tben you can touch my hair. When it comes to sharing my culture with people, I am happy to share and teach and educate, and a good general rule of thumb, keep your hands to yourself.

{You heard it here, folks!}

Professor Haston- So as we are talking hair and costumes let’s talk a bit about Deloris Van Cartier- Why are you so excited to play her? 

KendraOne, I am a HUGE Whoopi Goldberg fan. But really, the story of Sister Act, this person who just wants to make it, reminds me of me. I know it sounds like a cliché, and it’s true. Growing up as a little girl I wanted to be a performer so bad I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, God that would be so boring. My cousins and my friends would say I couldn’t sing and they thought I was weird when I wanted to play theatre and not like freeze tag. They would indulge me sometimes. “If you could just get this English accent right..this production would be great, trust me.”  I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I know my parents weren’t discouraging, they were just worried. You don’t want to hear your child wants to be an entertainer, you want her to say she is going to grow up to be a doctor or lawyer or engineer. I had a knack for being on camera.  I got to interview some celebrities when I worked for Spiderwood Studios and I was good at it, but I got sad because I wanted to be on the other side of the camera. When I was interning there, I knew I HAD to do this. I couldn’t shake it. That’s why I identify with Deloris, she is in this relationship and gets in trouble, but she wants to be a disco diva so bad, and that’s all she has ever wanted. I can identify with that longing so much. I get to be glamorous and fabulous. 


Professor Haston- If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?

KendraStart before you’re ready. I have been a late bloomer in everything. Still. I am to this day. I was a late bloomer in dating and marriage. I was published at age 8, so I knew I could do it, so I would say it doesn’t matter how scary it is, GO DO IT. I just now feel like I am getting in the swing of the acting thing. I definitely don’t feel old but I wish I had started sooner. Start Before You’re Ready. 


Professor Haston- Have you ever taken a hiatus from acting? 

KendraI did. It was about three years ago, November of 2016, when I was diagnosed with PCOS Polycystic ovary syndrome

It was horrible. It sucks. It really does. I joined a support group. I went back to therapy.

In my case, I am insulin resistant, I am infertile, my hormones are really out of whack, so I easily gain weight. I have had to use 3 different birth controls, I am on a fourth one now. I was taking 13 pills a day, my hair would fall out sometimes, still does. I wasn’t  eating like I should, throwing up constantly. On my worst day, my husband would have to stand me up and bathe me. Because I just couldn’t get the weight off and it caused body image issues. I just closed off, I stopped acting and doing music, I closed myself off from all my friends. I started going to a support group, spent time in therapy and I started losing weight and I had to spend a solid year taking care of myself. I had painful surgeries. I needed a break, because I could not function.

Professor Haston- What brought you back?  

KendraMy husband. (gets choked up) I don’t want to cry. 

Professor Haston- It’s okay if you do. 

Kendra- It doesn’t matter what I looked like or what I felt like. He never made me feel like he didn’t think I was beautiful or pretty or worthy. He never left. He never left. Not one time did he complain. He was on top of all the mess. He cooked for me, he literally had to hold me up and bathe me and he NEVER complained  and it says something that after I was diagnosed, is when he proposed to me. So to learn that someone has a life- changing condition and know that we might not be able to have kids and still decide, “Well, I still want to spend my life with you”.       I had to pull myself up and bring myself out and not go back, because it doesn’t matter what I feel like, I just couldn’t have him living like that. I know he will stick with me through whatever. He is the most loyal person and it’s when you have someone like that you want to be your best self and give them the best of you and live your best life.  If you are going to sign on to spend the rest of your life with me, than I am going to make it a really good life. 

Professor Haston-  How do you deal with haters?

Kendra- Like my Mom says, you have to consider the source. If someone hits you with a low blow then they have just signed a permission slip for you to do what you need to do get them off of you. The more public you get, the more people will hate. 

Professor Haston-  Who is your favourite artist?

Kendra- I don’t have one. There are just too many. I mean this week, this minute.. it varies day to day. 

Professor Haston-  What inspires you? 

Kendra- My fear. My biggest fear is lying on my deathbed and thinking and feeling that I should have done that or tried that. I should have done that. Like my mama says, When you slide into Heaven, you should be tired, just barely making it. 

Professor Haston- Speaking of being tired, (You are in tech week, aka Hell Week, after all) how do you “fill up”? (what you do as a performer to fill yourself to give to others)

Kendra- There is a lot of wine involved. When I am not busy writing a novel, (she is working on a book, people!) or doing a show, I watch a ton of supernatural television. I love television which is why I have a degree in it. I do face masks, I do therapy, and I spend time with my “purple hearts”.

Professor Haston- What are purple hearts? 

Kendra–Those are what I call people who support me. In the Armed Forces you get a Purple Heart for valor and giving a piece of yourself for the greater good, for great sacrifice. Purple is also my favorite color. So, I call people who support me purple hearts because they understand what it’s like to have to grow and change and hurt and struggle just to prevail and get to a better version of yourself.


Professor Haston- Well,  I consider it an honor to be one of your “purple hearts” Thank you for helping to inspire all of us and sharing your truth, your talents, and your thoughts with us.

One of the last things Kendra shared with me was this –

There is no limit to how great life can be. 

I quite agree, Kendra.

How about you readers, what say you?

Think About It.