She wants to lead the glamorous life!

Friday, May 2, 2014

I Was There


My 93 (or 94?) year-old Aunt Edith, and I share a steady written correspondence.  She sends me greeting cards for all major holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas and my birthday.  I, in turn, send her 'Thank You' notes and postcards from my travels out of the country.  It is very nice and old school.  There is something about getting a letter or package in the mail that surpasses the feeling of an e-mail, text or social media update.

Last Monday, I received an Easter card from my aunt with a handwritten (always handwritten) letter enclosed on beautiful stationary (classic).  It was sent to my old address and forwarded by the Post Office a few days late.  Her cards are always early or on time.  Her letter was written in response to the postcard I had sent her from my recent trip to Paris (and Amsterdam).  She started the note by saying how happy she was for me, that I am able to take trips and "see other parts of the world."  She went on to say that during her "travels Blacks [were] not able nor interested in other parts of the world."  A nurse, by profession, she would save up her vacation days and "take a month off and travel over the U.S.A."  Aunt Edith, whom at the time lived in Chicago (she later retired to her hometown of Gulfport, MS) was able to cover the West Coast, Canada and part of Alaska.  She said she would compare the "different scenery".

Even though Aunt Edith is closing in on 100 years of age, which she will no doubt reach (our family has a history of living to the upper 90s; her dad lived until he was 111), she is still thinking of travel.  "I would like to take one of [those] Amtrak tours out West, that would be interesting to sit back and see the scenery. Smile."  An avid amateur photographer, she said she hoped I took lots of pictures.  "So one day you can look back [and] remember 'I was there'".  She ended the note with her usual "Love Auntie".  

I got misty-eyed when I read the card.  I truly enjoy traveling and take pride in my freedom to move around as I please.  But her letter made me understand how important it is to travel.  My Dad often tells me how when he and Aunt Edith discuss me and my latest trips, she tells him, "tell her to keep traveling while you're young.  When you get old no one wants to travel anymore."  In me she sees herself.  She is able to witness the evolution of the world, where as a woman, a Black woman, I am able to go where I want to go and see what I want to see.  In her, I see how golden life can be.  In a time when a lot of African Americans, and women alike were not educated beyond primary and high school, she received her nursing degree from Howard University.  She still drives herself around town and is an active member in her church community.  She has no children and I am still not clear on whether she has ever been married or not, but it (from the outside at least) has never been an issue.  Aunt Edith's life and encouragement inspires me.  She makes me want to live free in both mind and spirit.  She makes me want to travel more!

So in honor of my Aunt Edith, who doesn't even own a computer and who will probably never read this, here are some pictures from my Spring European holiday.  Enjoy!  P.S. Let me know what trips you have planned in the near future.

PARIS and PALACE OF VERSAILLE


AMSTERDAM












Monday, March 17, 2014

Let's Get Happy

I recently asked life and career coach, Rosie Guagliardo, to answer some questions; I wanted her recommendations for those who have not quite kept their New Year's resolutions, people who struggle with wintertime blues and to find out how to deal with loneliness during what seems to be a never-ending cold and snow season.

Do you believe in New Year's Resolutions?
No, I actually don't believe in them.  The main reason New Year's Resolutions don't work is that they are often based on what you think you "should" do.  It feels like a forced effort based on an external reason (e.g., the start of a new year).  Research shows that only 8% of people achieve their resolutions, and that's because they are only pursued using willpower- which wanes over time.

Instead, what I recommend is thinking about what desired outcomes you'd like to experience.  This allows you to have a deeper connection to what you're pursuing and you can create an inspired plan to experience it.  For example, I used to make a New Year's resolution to lose ten pounds.  But, then I realized I really didn't care about weighing a certain amount.  What I did care about was having energy and feeling fit.  So, I refined my desired outcome to reflect those two desires.  Now my health goals are based on what I value, and I was more motivated to achieve them.  The result is that I feel better than ever.  (And the weight came off, too!)

Do you suggest a person set smaller goals for short periods of time throughout the year, or focus on one large goal to achieve per year?
I think focusing on a few smaller desired outcomes is best.  Then, you can break those down into what I call "process" goals that lead you to experiencing your main desired outcomes.  So, think of the baby steps you need to take on a daily basis.  Like an athlete who trains for his performance, think about what you need to do periodically to feel happier in the end.  Ideally, you can ritualize these actions or behaviors to make them consistent so you won't need willpower to succeed.

Smaller outcomes help reduce the chance of feeling failure, too.  But remember, life isn't about being perfect, so anticipate some failure and make space for recovery.  You might even want to reframe failure to focus on the effort you're making.  If you weren't trying, you couldn't fail!  It's just part of the process toward feeling happier.  And, stay in tune with your overall desired outcome by asking whether you're going in the right direction, even if there have been some setbacks along the way.

The holidays are over, most of us have already forgotten about or altered our 2014 goals.  What do you suggest for getting back on track with those resolutions which were so important just a few months ago?
You can start by reviewing them to confirm they're still appropriate for you.  Gaining clarity on what you want may take some time, so be patient.  If you feel that you can easily create goals (or desired outcomes) but sometimes have trouble pursuing them, it could be because the ones you created aren't what you genuinely want in your heart.  Or, they just need to be modified to be more in line with what you want.  There are several ways to confirm or refine your desired outcomes to ensure you feel happier and more excited about pursuing them.  Here are a few examples I've used:

  • Ask yourself, "What is the purpose behind each outcome?  Is it something I want to pursue or feel like I have to pursue?"  If you feel that you "have" to pursue it, then get rid of it.  If it's an outcome you "want" to pursue, remind yourself of why it is important to you.
  • If you feel that you haven't made much progress towards your desired outcomes, visualize how you want to feel and what you want your life to look like when you're achieved each one.  Use that vision to identify an incremental next step that will move you in the right direction.
  • If you're still unmotivated to take next step toward your desired outcome, try to make that action step more fun.  For example, if you don't like exercising at the gym, bring a friend along who energizes you, or go for a hike instead.
And then, after you feel that your desired outcomes really resonate with you, make sure you have the structure and support needed to sustain the energy to achieve them.

Studies have shown that season depression does in fact exist.  What are some tips you can give to people who are having a hard time coping with the long winter months?  Everyone cannot get away for the season, what can a person whose budget or time will not permit traveling to a sunny tropical climate do to keep "sane"?
Obviously, getting the light you need (possibly through light therapy) along with proper nutrition and fitness makes a difference.  But, there are a few other ways to generate, maintain, and revitalize your energy.  One way to generate energy is to help others through volunteering.  Positive psychologists say volunteering helps provide you a sense of purpose by committing yourself to something outside of yourself.  You'll also create connections which can help safeguard you from feeling isolated and ultimately boost your mood.  Research actually shows that expressing compassion and generosity impacts your well-being, and reveals that when you give, the pleasure centers of the brain are activated (just like when you enjoy dessert or sex).

A way to maintain your energy is to visit with friends before you start feeling down.  Don't wait until you're feeling the effects of seasonal depression to reach out to friends.  They'll help you keep you good mood intact.

Finally, a way to revitalize your energy is to create and use a "Happy Box."  Remember that happiness isn't an absolute or a destination.  Instead of asking "Am I happy?" ask yourself "How can I be happier?"  Write down several actions you can take that make you feel happier (e.g. calling a friend, meditating, taking a bath, etc.) and put them in a box.  Whenever you're feeling disconnected from your best self or feeling down, reach for your "Happy Box" and do one of the things to feel happier!

Regarding both romantic and familial relationships in general, winter can feel lonely and isolating at times, what can single people or people who are away from loved ones do to keep their spirits up?
Because it's difficult being away from loved ones, it's so important to remain connected to them - even if only phone.  Connecting on a consistent basis will keep your spirits up because you can enjoy the anticipation of talking with them as well as the actual discussions.  Try to ritualize the behavior by planning ahead and blocking out time in your calendar to reach out to loved ones.

I'd also suggest contemplating what you love most about those relationships.  Is it how safe you feel, loved, inspired, or connected?  Whatever it is, take time to be grateful for those relationships and really feel the feelings associated with them.  A study by Robert Emmons and Michaels McCullough (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) revealed that people who focus on what they are grateful for are both emotionally and physically healthier.

If you keep thinking about what you're lacking, you'll keep noticing what you don't have, and you'll keep thinking you're not getting what you want.  If you shift your thoughts to focus on what you do have and what makes you happy, your brain will continue to notice the abundance in your life, leaving you feeling grateful and ultimately happier.

What do you say to people who have the philosophy that winter should be reserved for hibernation:  "I'll start exercising, dating, looking for a new job, break up with him/her, eat better when the weather breaks"?
I think you can positively leverage the spirit of the winter season, which includes slowing down, resting more, and reflecting while the weather is cold.  But, I don't recommend waiting to live the life you desire.  My philosophy is to create your vision for the future and balance that with your current realities.  This approach allows you to effectively pursue long-term desired outcomes while living a happier life every day.  So even during the winter, let your vision guide and inspire you during your daily life and find the baby steps you can take toward your desired outcomes.

And remember, to remain motivated during the cooler winter months, confirm your desired outcomes are based on what you truly want and aim to keep your spirits high.  By the time the weather is warmer and Spring begins, you'll be in a better position to experience the renewing energy of the season ans even more inspired to pursue your desired outcomes.



     Rosie Guagliardo has loved being a life and career coach for 7 years and the founder of InnerBrilliance Coaching, LLC.  She is also a beauty-seeking, lover of life, Italian-American who wears "Rosie-colored" glasses while being pragmatic, purposeful, and results-oriented.  The combination of these qualities inspires her to help women honor themselves and each other by seeing perfection within and all around them -- in themselves, in others and in every moment of life.  This approach to life motivates a woman DAILY to realize her life vision with ease, joy, and grace.  
     Ultimately, Rosie's desire is for a woman to radiate her true essence and navigate life gracefully so she can experience her deepest wishes.  And, for her 80 year old self to have stories she would be proud to tell.  Rosie's philosophy is become passionate about your already perfect self, others, and life...and your path becomes perfect for you.  Click to find out more.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Designing Woman: Danaya Azure

Danaya Azure

What I like most about Danaya Azure, owner of Danaya Designs 4U, is that she stays busy creating and being creative.  I was grateful she agreed to take time out of her schedule to answer some questions about the many projects she is working on, her signature style and staying focused as an artist.

You are a woman who stays busy year-round.  What are some of the projects you are   currently on?
I am currently working on several projects with Model/Actress Dalila Torres, owner of D’Martiphotography, Daniel Martinez and Chicago performing artist and hair stylist Alicia Ya Yah Banks.  We actually just finished a photo shoot for my Danaya Designs 4U ad [which is] featured in the latest edition of K4S Entertainment HFLMagazine.  I am also working on some promotional projects with Lady Survivor, including a new collaborative called Global Media Branding with Ali Joseph owner of Phaze Events and Promotions, Ebony Brinson owner of Diva Spot Ent and Paul Muhammed owner of Identity 12 Branding.  I am working with a new Chicago reality show [titled] “Real Mommas”, for which I will be sponsoring the jewelry. I am also a host on Nexxlegacy Radio Network just to name a few.

You host a radio show and design jewelry, which comes more natural to you?  Why?
I would have to say jewelry design, because I am creative I have been creating things for years.  Whether it be writing songs or poems, co-choreographing dances with Nazaree Azure or re-writing a curriculum to help students learn better.

You have interests in two industries people often refer to as very superficial (fashion and music), how do you insure that the focus stays on your skills and talents? 
I’m an artist.  I have always been an artist. I survived school only because I was allowed to express myself through art.  Fashion is about expressing yourself which is why my motto is “Express What Makes You Unique”.  I create pieces that make a statement, pieces that cause conversations, pieces that make people feel proud to wear them and most importantly pieces that are affordable, but not inferior because they can last over four years for our jewelry and over 30 years for the dazzlers. We create pieces that are truly one of a kind.

Do you follow trends when you design your jewelry, or would you say you have a signature style?
I have my own signature style.  I don’t really follow trends because trends fade, but a quality product will never go out of style.

How much time do you invest in a line of jewelry, from the planning stage to actually creating a piece?
It depends.  Some lines come about from me just playing around with different shapes.  However, some lines have to be more thought out.  For instance, [for] The Sorority Love Collection I had to do a lot of research of the Divine Nine before I launched, to make sure every symbol was accurate and the meanings behind the symbols as well.

Who or what are your style influences?  
I love all things that sparkle!  I have always looked for unique jewelry and I know how it feels to find that perfect piece that fits you just right.  I feel blessed to be the person who can now give someone that amazing feeling and the ability to do exactly what my motto says “Express What Makes You Unique”.

Where would you like to see your jewelry line in the next five years?
I would love to see Danaya Designs 4U featured in a major movie, on every red carpet and on Broadway.

If you could send a specially crafted piece to anyone in the world, who would it be?
Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Tyra Banks, Queen Latifah or Michelle Obama 

Advert for Danaya Designs4U


Connect with, follow and learn more about Danya at:  

Twitter and Instagram - @danayaazure





Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Regrets


So I did something last year that I am ashamed of.  I did something that breaks my heart when I think about it.  Yes, I, MJ made a mistake.  I reluctantly did something I am still regretting to this day. I deleted my work.  My writing, that is.  For this very blog.  I made a decision based on love and a warped sense of loyalty to someone other than myself.  I thought I was okay with the choice that was (reluctantly) made at the time, until I was recently re-telling the story and started bawling my eyes out.

I posted a lamentation about the pains of double dating.  I expressed how in most double dates, two friends want to get together and expect the “dates” to instantly fall in love.  Sometimes it happens, in the particular case I was referring to, it did not.  The post was dated and the incident itself happened in 2012.  My boyfriend at the time was uncomfortable with what I wrote and how it might affect his friend’s feelings or their friendship.  He felt that although I was speaking the truth (the girl was socially awkward and a complete bore!) it may reflect badly on him.  I offered to delete the post because I wanted to avoid hurting or upsetting him.  I later talked to my best friend, who provided similar advice.  He felt that if I want to write something that could possibly upset others, I might consider just journaling my thoughts privately.  I took this into account as well.  I felt shaky about deleting the post, but felt that it was the "right thing" to do.  But it felt so wrong.  I am pissed off because I have no record of the post.  I completely deleted it from my life.  

Here is my issue:  I have done something for the sake of others and their feelings, when all the while, my feelings were not being considered.  And for what?!  Neither of the couples are even still together!  I have decided to train myself in being more direct and authentic in my feelings and beliefs.  This includes being true to my craft.  It may not fit everyone’s fancy, but in the words of Erykah Badu (who celebrates a birthday today), “keep in mind that I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit”!  

One of my main goals this year is to continue to discover and in essence heal myself.  What I have learned thus far is I am a natural nurturer.  I am a caretaker.  I try to please and not rock the boat.  In the process, however, I have found my boat sometimes has water seeping in.  I have been secretly and subconsciously harboring my true feelings about deleting the post, until last Saturday when I retold the story to a virtual stranger.  I was so very upset.  I write because I enjoy it, because it is a necessity- because I have a lot to say.  I deleted my work to pacify someone I am not even with today.  I did it so he would not upset someone else.  All along, no one worried or cared about my feelings.  

This blog has alienated me from “friends”.  I have been talked about because of it.  I am pretty sure that a certain someone who is no longer my friend, still reads and keeps up with it.  What the what!!??  I think it’s good, but not good enough to read if you do not like the person who creates it.  

I have been subtle and concerned.  I have hemmed and hawed about clicking the “publish” button.  I have a whole shitload of content I want to release that’s floating in my head.  All I keep thinking is, what if this person reads it?  Or what is so-and-so going to think?  There are thousands of blogs available.  There are blogs about style, decorating, comedy, hell, I know of one solely dedicated to Bloody Mary drinks.  There is enough to write about.  There is enough to read.  Find one that suits you best.  My blog is mine.  I created it.  I create the majority of it’s content.  It is my baby.  My love.  My outlet.  One of my 2014 goals is to be my most authentic self.  My initial fear was, in being this person, in being me, I might offend others.  That’s no longer my problem.  It’s yours.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My Journey of Journals


Last week, on Wednesday, January 1, 2014, I did something for the very first time in my life.  On the first day of this year, I closed the book on a goal I set out for myself, unsure of the outcome.  When I say book, I mean that both figuratively and literally.  I finally completed a journal!  It sounds weird, me being a writer and all, but I have never finished a journal.  The crazy thing is, I have a boatload of journals that have been gifted to me by many people (including myself) dating back to the 1980s- none of them completed.

Some of my journals stand absolutely empty, as if nothing of importance or value has occurred since receiving them.  Each one has either been started as a method of healing or as a a way of documenting something that I feel my future self needs to remember.  The journal I just completed, the only one with the distinct characteristic of having it's pages filled from cover to cover, was started for the former reason.  I needed to deal with a breakup that caught me off-guard.  I had to find some way to release my feelings without calling my friends up every hour to discuss the different angles of my sadness, anger and frustration.  I wanted to get off of my chest, what I felt was pinning me down.  I needed to be my own sounding board.  

The first entry of the journal is dated 2/26/13.  I reflected on Joshua 1:9.  I was sad.  It was seven days after the dissolution of my most recent relationship and I was still reeling.  My best friend, Antoine, had suggested journaling.  I told him about my challenge with finishing journals.  He said write anyway.  I wanted to pick up an old journal that I had written in last, but Antoine said it may be important to just start a new one, with the goal being to finish.  Here I am, a little less than a year from my first entry and I have done what I set out to do.  After my last entry, I found the hardest and most therapeutic thing to do was to actually go back and read my previous entries.  To see where I had come from was heartbreaking and liberating at the same time.  How could someone so broken, be renewed in just less than 12 months' time?  It seemed like hell then, but now it feels like nothing.

So what does one do when a journal has been completed?  One keeps writing, with the same goal in mind- to complete it and to heal and grow from the process.  I decided to finish another journal that I started in 2009.  It too focuses heavily on a relationship gone sour, but also of my employment at the time.  I hated my job then and you can hear it through my words.  I was almost in tears reading my words from the past.  My frustration and hurt is palpable.  I think this will be a good journal to complete next.  The contrast between my life then and now is plain to see, which makes it all the much sweeter to end it on a high note.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

10 Things I Learned (or were reiterated) in the Year 2013





          1.   Friends come and go…
It sounds sad to say, because friendship is such an important part of most of our lives.  The fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, has the motto “friendship is essential to the soul.”  And I think whomever came up with that motto was on to something.  Friendship is essential.  Friends are the family you get to choose.  The difference, even if you decide not to associate with family, is that they are still your family.  Friendships can evolve and change, or rather the people within the friendships can evolve and change.  No matter how many good times you have with a person, those experiences do not always result in a happy future.  Whether I released or I was released from friendships, I made a point of learning from the experiences and cherishing the good times.  But I also clung tightly and fiercely to those positive and healthy relationships that were stable and genuine.  You will never know who your friends are only in good times.  You can never truly understand what it takes to make a friendship work by partying and socializing with people.  The best barometer of a quality friendship is your tough times- the times when you both have misunderstandings or get on each other’s last damn nerves.  That is how a good and solid friendship is measured.  
2.   It is important to allow people an out or a ‘no’…
Why?  Because you want others to give you ‘outs’.  Once I became what I consider a grown woman, I started taking my free time more serious.  I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it.  So, when I host an event (lately I have been averaging three a year), I have learned that everyone on my invite list will not and cannot show up.  Whatever the reason or excuse, I cannot worry about it.  There have been people whom I make sure I support and attend any and everything they invite me to, in order to show my support, but when my events roll around there are conflicts with schedules, there are uninterested replies, there is lack of time management.  One good girlfriend, whom I love, plainly said she could find better things to do for three hours than come to my vision board party.  Ouch!  (Love you April!)  You know what?  I still love them all.  I know how important it is to say ‘no’ sometimes.  I know how special free time is.  I also know as women, especially, we should not guilt each other into doing things we wish not to do.  Society does enough of that already.  This past weekend I hosted a burning bowl ceremony (you write on a piece of paper what you want to rid yourself of in the new year to “burn” and on a separate sheet, what you would like to replace those things with instead, to be revisited several months in the future) at my home where 11 people were scheduled to show up, but even an hour into the event I was receiving cancellations.  No worries.  The three women who did show up and myself had a wonderful time.  My friends commented on how much more comfortable they felt disclosing their true feelings and goals with the small group.  Everyone who should have been there or needed to be there was there.  I held no hard feelings towards those who could not make it.
3.   I like the new Beyonce album...
I have had some really great discussions with some friends shortly after it came out about the release, the content, the marketing, her message (if any) and I came to the conclusion that I just like the album.  I like her being a bit raunch.  I like her continuing to express that she is indeed a grown ass woman.  It is the same reason I love Ledisi’s sexy new look, album cover and video for “I Blame You”.  I like seeing women evolving!  I like the growth process of womanhood.  I like the many facets of this womanhood.  I like owning my own sexuality and applaud other women for welcoming and exploring theirs.  
4.   I move slow...
Let my mom tell it, I have always been slow:  getting dressed, cleaning up, arriving to parties.  I can finally admit that she is right.  What does a good off day look like to me?  Taking my time in the morning.  Easing into my outfit.  Playing music, eating a bit and lounging in between.  I get up everyday at a certain time so that I can be at my gig based on someone else’s rules.  On my off days, I like to do as I please as slow as I please.
5.   Hosting is fun and fulfilling...
I am more comfortable at it and can take my time and enjoy myself in the process.  Although the previously mentioned Burning Bowl event was mentally constructed in my mind, I got up that same morning, decided upon what was needed and purchased everything accordingly.  Then after eating and relaxing while watching T.V., I gave myself two hours to put everything together.  I was stress-free and enjoyed the process.  I also have been noticing that I would consider myself a pretty good, if not good, host.  I have learned that it does not take much for an event to be a success- just good people.  Good food and drinks do not hurt either!  But even with that, I make everything a joint effort.  I am a fan of the potluck.  I come up with my menu and ask if people can bring things that would compliment what I was preparing.  It makes it easier for me, plus my guests do not have to worry about what to bring.  It is fulfilling to allow people into your home and serve them and enjoy them in your space.  I also love when people like my cooking.  When I was little my step mother used to watch me eat and ask me over and over if I thought it was good.  It annoyed me at the time, because I could never say ‘yes’ enough.  But now I fully understand.  You want people to like your cooking, your food selection, your drinks.  It matters and it feels good when they do. 
6.   I have finally found my perfect bra...
It is black.  It has detachable straps (I prefer it strapless).  It is Calvin Klein.  It was purchased at Nordstrom.  It is amazing!  I do not wash it as much as I would normally because I cannot stop wearing it!  
7.   There is no need to “should” people...
I have learned from my Iyanla Vanzant daily StimuMail, that there is no need to waste time “should-ing” people.  That is when you say, “they should have done this” or “you should have done that”.  Everyone does exactly what they are meant to do to bring you, me and them to the place where they are supposed to be.  In other words, everything does happen for a reason, no matter how stupid and inconsiderate we think that reason is.  What is done is done and I must not react to the individuals, rather respond based on my core values.  I cannot control any other human, but myself.  So whatever should have been done, is not my concern.  My concern and my responsibility, regardless, is to move forward despite what “should have” been. 
8.   I gained weight, and I was okay with it...
I typically gain winter weight.  But this year after doing a few cleanses and dropping pounds by being conscious of what I ate, I let the cards, or rather, the fat fall as it may.  I exercised a bit on a regular basis leading up to November.  Then I decided to sign up for my fitness center’s 2014 Bikini Challenge.  Which meant, I decided to stop working out all together this month and eat as I wished.  I have to admit, I have enjoyed the process.  As juicy as I have gotten, I felt sexy and confident in my skin.  I giggled as I looked at my stomach rolls while getting dressed.  I silently shook my head as I heard the inner thighs of my pants rub together.  I threw my hands up when zippers busted and certain dresses would involve me becoming a contortionist in order to get in them.  Again, I enjoyed it!  I did not throw any clothes away, but I did not dare buy any new clothes either.  I know these 15 extra LBs will be gone by March and I type that with confidence.  So yes, I will indulge in the rest of this pound cake.  Why of course I will take bacon and a fried egg on that burger- don’t forget the cheese!  I am comfortable with the skin I am in, and after a clumsy breakup which caused me to doubt myself and lose some of my teflon self-esteem, that means a lot!  And it took a lot for me to get there.  Catch me in 2014, bet I’ll be tight.
9.   Forgiveness is necessary for forward movement...
Forgiveness allows growth and new grounds to be broken.  Forgiveness of others releases you from being connected to people through your anger and hurt.  To forgive is to live free.  To let go of the past and truly embrace the present.  I had to forgive a number of people this year.  Not always verbally to them directly, but usually through my silent prayers.  I had to pray through the hurt, the betrayal and confusion I felt others had inflicted on me.  I needed to be free of the individual’s or the particular situation’s hold of me.  After forgiving this person for not being upfront and honest and for what I considered wasting my time.  And forgiving that person for talking about me behind my back and rallying others to do the same.  Then forgiving those who I felt created unnecessarily hostile environments or were just plain rude.  And those who just believed the lies of others and abandoned me.  After all of that forgiveness, I took time and wholeheartedly forgave MYSELFThat, I found, was the ultimate act of forgiveness.  Forgiving myself for the hurts and the pains that I played a part in and considered myself responsible for having happened.  I forgave myself for not being more thoughtful or cautious when entering some relationships.  I forgave myself for not taking time to tap into what I was actually feeling when those feelings arose instead of just going with my gut which has been off since the ‘90s!  I forgave myself for my role in some of the shenanigans I encountered.  I forgave myself in order to embrace myself fully.
10.  I have to be gentle with myself...
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with all of the above.  I have tried my darndest to learn and act on this lesson.  It ain’t easy!  But it is necessary for my well-being.  I am not a failure.  Although I am not always right, I am not always wrong either.  Some things that look like mess-ups or mistakes are actually blessings.  I am good.  I am enough.  I am ok.  If for no other reason than because of Who created me.  I have been working hard to change the “tapes” in my head that have me doubting or criticizing myself.  The small voice that always has a harsh comment whenever an obstacle presents itself or things do not go according to plan, has been slowly substituted with words of encouragement or sometimes just silence.  I am working on just being.  Taking life and it’s blows as they come and understanding the importance of each in retrospect.  
Happy New Year!!  What are your best lessons learned 2013?  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: 12 Years a Slave

I saw the film 12 Years a Slave several weeks ago, so yes, this post is a bit late.  However, it seems there are still a lot of people who have it on their "must see" list, but have yet to purchase a ticket.  The most given reasons are:  I gotta get my my mind right before I see it or it's going to upset me and I have to go back to work with a bunch of White people or yeah, the slave movie, un unh, see I can't watch movies like that, it'll piss me off.  This review is for these people.  Here's what you must know, first and foremost, the film is excellent.  The story, although, heartbreaking, is told truthfully and beautifully.  Finally, all of the things that you believe will upset, will, as it should.

What I love about director Steve McQueen, is he does not falter when shooting an uncomfortable scene.  He let's the pain sit and hold you.  He tests your resolve.  He tests your strength.  In regards to a film centered on slavery, there is no better way to direct such a piece of work.  You have to let it burn.  You must make the film simmer.  Everything you do not want to see, is exactly what you should.  African Americans do not often like to talk about the painful past.  Most likely because it is not that far removed from where we are today.  Most of us in my generation, the 80s babies, has a parent or grandparent who remembers the Jim Crow era.  We have heard the stories up close and personal, from people we love and know very well.  As a culture, we tend to try and forget.  But why?  Let us never forget what our ancestors put up with, to bring us to the present.  Is it because we are ashamed at the fact that those who came before us endured so much and here we are in the present, creating twerking videos, referring to each other as bitches and hos, or take are "freedom" to mean we can act like fools.  Oh, did I step on your toes?  My bad.  The fact is, most, if not all of us are guilty of taking our ancestors strife for granted.  As humans, we have lived as such.  Very humanly.

McQueen's film does not sugarcoat the life of an enslaved person. This is no modern-day love letter to the antebellum South.  There is no romance attached to the all to real horrors that transpired.  This ain't Gone With the Wind!  Sorry Kenya Moore, but as a Black woman, nothing about Gone With the Wind is fabulous.  There is no heartfelt story of Master and Slave enjoying a sweet and respectful relationship.  The film does not spend time showing the story of the Mistress of the house building a bond with one of the house slaves.  Nope, this is a raw tale.  The story depicts the sick and twisted history we all share.  I remember being in the 7th or 8th grade, in Gulfport, MS.  I was attending a majority White Catholic high school.  One of my teachers, Ms. Durbin, once told the class that during the time of slavery there were many different stories and they were not all that bad.  She said that many times, the owners of slaves worked side by side with their field hands.  That they did not all have big houses, or get rich off of the slave's back and hard labor.  To which a very bold young MJ raised her hand and said, "but the difference is, the slave owner got to go home at night."  Yep, I was one of those kids.  Girl, don't try it!  It did not help that I was going through my Malcolm X fascination phase.  I was not having it.  Living in the South I realized how many people still long for those days.  Paula Deen isn't the only one who wants to throw a plantation-slave party.  I cannot tell you how many plantations I have visited while at that school for field trips.

Another thing you must know before seeing the film, and this is not a spoiler alert:  there will be whippings!  I was discussing the film with a co-worker in the staff kitchen and another co-worker was saying she did not want to hear about it.  I said, "listen, if there is nothing else in a slave movie, you can definitely expect that someone will get whipped!"  I mean, really.  McQueen shows the brutality in a way that makes you want to hide your face.  You find yourself holding your breath waiting to exhale.  Yep, that's what makes the film genius.  The director has successfully put you, the viewer, the spectator- in the moment.  That's how the story of slavery needs to be told.  Not as a glossed-over, excuse-making movie, but an unflinching scope of what took place.

You have to see the film.  No matter what your ethnicity is.  Get over the fact that people may not be as sensitive to it as you think they should be.  When I went, there was a group behind us made up of non-Black folk.  They snickered and giggled during certain scenes.  Mind you, I laughed at no parts in the entire film.  When my group I saw the film with left out, my best friend said they were pissing him off with their giggling.  I told him, due to the intense nature of the film, you can liken it to a nervous laugh.  People watch it looking for any moment to breathe.  The film is heavy and everyone has not matured to know how to take in what they are seeing.  I explained they probably meant no harm, they just did not know what to do and how to handle their emotions.  If this happens while you are seeing the film, try your best to dismiss their immaturity.  Hell, there were Black people doing it too, and I say the same thing for them as well.

Still apprehensive?  Ask yourself, why is this so uncomfortable for me?  Go with a good movie buddy whom you can openly discuss the film with afterwards.  You will definitely want to talk about it.  Finally, go with an understanding that no matter how uncomfortable you feel, you will be watching it in a plush movie theater, eating popcorn; the story you see on screen, however, is real and you can't be any more uncomfortable than our ancestors felt going through it.

12 Years a Slave See it!