She wants to lead the glamorous life!

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!


Monday, October 7, 2013

5 Things I Realized About Myself and Working Out

I recently started working out...again.  After a two week break which was preceded by a three week break, I decided to get back into shape and take my exercising seriously.  I pay for an unlimited weekend membership package, I should at least use it, right?  I must admit, when I have been going to class, I opted for the less challenging Saturday morning Zumba.  It made me feel like I was doing something, but not so much where I was hurting afterwards.  So this past weekend, I worked out both Friday night and Saturday morning, for a total of 3 classes and 2 1/2 hours.  I was was sore.  I was proud.  And I recognized that there are little quirks, habits and rituals that I have when it comes to exercising.  Things that I do, or think.  Here are 5 of the most prevalent:

1.  Derogatory music makes for a better and easier workout  
If the music is wack, I lose my stamina.  In one of the classes I took last week, the instructor played more techno type of 90s-style workout music.  I was not feeling it.  Which made my movements seem heavier and more labored.  I like when the instructor plays the top 40- hip hop and rap.  Yep, if the lyrics are commanding me to shake, move or work "that ass" I seem to comply easier.  I think that genre of music is perfect for intense workout and training.  I mean what better place to objectify women then in the gym?  That's where we ourselves are targeting (sometimes aggressively) certain areas of our bodies that we deem unsatisfactory.  Whether it's Lil Jon shouting, "work that body, move those hips!" or Juvenile rapping on "Slow Motion", I seem to respond better.

2.  I don't need much of a reason to flake out on working out
All I need is a reason, no matter how small, to go home and chill out instead of taking my butt to the gym.  Last week I bailed on my girls, because I knew I had put off working out for two weeks in a row, meaning the next two weeks would be even easier to neglect.  Which would inevitably put me back where I started.  I hate starting over with exercising.  I want the weeks to get easier, not harder.  Each week you miss, it's like going back to square one.  I wanted to join them for a girls night out at that swanky champaign lounge, but I knew getting this body in shape was more important.  Would I have loved to spend about $15 per cocktail and drink my calories, as opposed to burning them?  Why yes.  In the end, however, I think I made the right choice.  They ended up rescheduling and I doubt if they let me off the hook again this week.  Hopefully my girls will understand.

3.  I like the "big girl section" of the room
Ok, "big girl section" is harsh.  How about the section where the women "modify" their movements?  That's better.  I can be an asshole.  Better yet, a competitive asshole.  I hate being in class with people who do too much.  You know the ones who cannot just do the movement, they have to add the extra hop, like, they really need and want to feel the burn.  Once I was in class with this chick who should have been a female stunt double for Billy Blanks.  She could not just squat and punch like the rest of us.  She instead needed to be the closest to the mirror, punching double-time like an audition for "Fists of Fury" was taking place.  Did I mention she wore her sunglasses?  I didn't?  Okay, well she did.  She was doing thee most.  My big girls on the other hand, are great for a confidence booster.  You see, the only thing that really separates me from them, is the size.  Where they are bigger and out of shape, I am smaller and struggling just as much.  So when they stop to take a breath, so do I.  Or if I decide to go on when they have taken a pause, I think to myself, "I feel you girls, I feel you."

4.  I hate planks.
That's it.  I just hate them.

5.  I have been too hard on myself 
I have been feeling a little juicy lately.  When I walk past a mirror, I haven't been as happy as usual.  I am not sure what that is about, because I have not dramatically gained any weight and have been able to maintain my overall physique.  But my mind and the accompanying thoughts have not been so nice.  So when I looked across the room to the mirror while I sweated and huffed, it occurred to me:  I look damn good!  I mean, I am not nearly as "fat" as I have been feeling.  When I told my parents this on Saturday, they both chimed in at the same time, "no, not at all.  You look good."  I don't know if the working out makes you feel like you are at least doing something which in turn makes you feel better about yourself.  Or is it that when I am dissatisfied and not working out, I am more annoyed with my overall laziness in fixing something that would not take much to manage if I just put a bit of effort into it.

What are some of your workout habits or goals?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Rockabye Baby

Recently I have been trying to meditate more often.  After completing the Oprah and Deepak Chopra 21-Day Challenge, I decided to keep the party going by trying to center myself daily.  Meditation for me can be difficult, because my brain is always on overload and I have a hard time focusing on not focusing.  When I would meditate with Deepak, I tried to zone out into the music that was provided in the background, while Deepak "minds the time" for you.  That actually helped.  So I figured if I was going to meditate on my own, the music would be essential.

So where do you find "meditation music"?  YouTube of course.  I just searched meditation music and voila!  I had a whole selection to choose from.  Then I started thinking, if the music can relax me enough to meditate for at least a good solid 10 minutes, than it must also work for sleeping right?  Yes.  Yes indeed it does.  If you have not put yourself to sleep to meditation music, you are missing out on something special. 

Your average full-time working adult (this includes stay-at-home parents, housewives, entrepreneurs, etc.), is already tired when a day's work is completed.  With the internet, binge T.V. watching (oh my goodness, is it just me or is there a LOT of good television to get hooked on right now!?) and social media sites (Facebook can be the devil late at night), it is hard to actually go to sleep.  Tired unfortunately, does not equate to sleep.  I am too familiar with that feeling when your eyes are burning; you can barely move from where your body has landed.  You might even doze intermittently, just not actually take your butt to bed!

I have found a solution for myself.  I just moved into a new apartment, like, just last Sunday.  So less than a week.  Although I really adore my new home, it still does not feel like home yet.  Probably because I lived in my old apartment for six years.  Unlike my previous place, I have my T.V. in the living room, meaning I cannot put the sleep timer on and watch until I fall asleep.  I actually have to get up and go into another room to get comfortable.  I like this set up better, but with it being a new place and all, I needed to get used to it.  This is where my meditation music comes in handy.  I pull up my favorite YouTube meditation music selection, which is over an hour long and let it rock me to sleep.  If you have not tried this, let me tell you!  It is like musical Ambien!  I only remember the first 5-10 minutes, then the next thing I know, it's 5 o'clock in the morning!  This music will put you DOWN.  It is so good, I put it on as soon as I go into the bedroom.  While I am reading before bed it plays.  Last night, I never even cracked my book open; the music had taken over.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is the kind of thing that gets me excited.  I am by no means one of those over-sleeper type people who takes a nap every chance they get.  I have to actually be tired to rest my brain enough (back to the importance of meditation) to go to sleep.  In regards to a good night sleep, it makes a world of difference for me in terms of my mood and feelings the next day.  I hate dragging and being tired.  As I told my friend yesterday, a girl needs her rest!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Curious Woman

I work in downtown Chicago.  As with any urban downtown area, you tend to run into or see the same familiar faces time and time again.  You may not know these people, but as each of you head to your designated trains or buses, you pass them either to or from work.  There is this one woman in particular who I see in the evenings when I am headed home.  I walk eastbound and she west.  I have seen her for a few years now, and each time I pass her, she gives me this "don't look at me peasant!" look.  Which makes me want to smile and be friendly with her even more. 

She is tall, about 6'1" without heels (she only wears slipper-like mules or kitten-heeled sandals) and very thin.  Her hair is a throwback to the 40s "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" singers.  It is died black and has never changed since I first started seeing her.  She always wears makeup and her clothes seem to hail heavily from the late 90s to the early 2000s.  Not quite old, but definitely past the label of new and "on-trend". 

I noticed something was "different" about her the very first time I saw her.  Which may be the reason she gives me the shit face.  I may have stared at her a beat to long.  Here's the thing, I think this "woman" is(was) a man.  She is just a tad bit too feminine.  Only ladies will understand me when I say this, but as a natural born woman, I have been handling this body for 33 years now.  I am often told how lady-like I am, I have been complemented on my walk, my unassuming sexiness and even been called "prissy" from time to time.  Which always tickles me, because I know the clutz within.  I do not try to be these things, they just come with the territory. 

I know the feeling of carrying around two oranges tightly held down by a bra that I euphorically remove almost immediately when I hit my front door.  I have felt nature's little fanny pack bounce up and down making difficult my jogging efforts.  I bleed once a month and deal with the cramps from passing blood clots (yes, that happens) or the mood swings that make me want to "laugh-cry" throughout the day.  I know that creepy feeling you get when you walk past one or multiple guys whose eyes you can feel slowly assessing your assets.  Yes, womanhood is a beautiful thing and I can understand why someone would see the positives (i.e. fabulous clothing options, hair, makeup, freedom to be playful and girly) and want this life.  But it ain't all it's cracked up to be.  There is a lot that goes with it.

So when I say she is a bit too feminine, it's because her stance and walk and demeanor is so sharp that it looks rehearsed.  Like she has seen Mahogany one too many times, studying Diana's every move and nuances.  I commend her either way for upholding the external virtues of being a lady.  I support her as my sister, no matter what genitalia she was originally gifted.  But in seeing her, it reminds me of how little (still) is known about this womaness life and journey.  How the outer shell does not fully complete the sentence:  I am woman...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Singularly Single

I am single.  Again.  There, I said it!  It is not something I thought I would be facing at this point again, but it is what it is.  You live.  You learn.  You move on.  No hard feelings.  The most glaring initial problem with break-ups is getting back acclimated with your single self.  More nights at home alone.  Less confidence in who to choose to accompany you to certain events.  That was always his job.  Although now that I think about it, his work schedule and overall lack of interest in things that interested me left me still having to make that choice, but it still felt like I had more opportunities to have an "escort" or buddy.  But I digress.  There are a few events that have come up recently that I have invited friends to, with no success.  I will be the first to admit- it happens.  Life that is.  My girlfriends have kids, and husbands, jobs, stressful re-occurring life issues, plans, class, work assignments.  Lives.  They need naps, and rest, doctor's appointments, money, and a rain-check.  I cannot be mad.  Is it frustrating?  At times, yes.   But it's adult life. 

So where will I turn for companionship during this re-adjustment period?  Within.  I have decided to take myself on dates.  Not once in awhile, but regularly.  Not in that corny, girl you need to get to know you before you can be with any man! type of way, but in a sincere effort to just keep myself entertained and interested.  I purchased one ticket to see Amel Larrieux in September.  I gladly accepted two tickets to the Black Harvest Film Festival from my boss yesterday, with no idea of who would get the other ticket.  I had struck out with my first three offers.  So before my co-worker showed excitement and I offered her the ticket, I planned on attending the short film series on Love (yes, Love) last night, by myself.  It has been a awhile since I have courted me.  I admit, I'm a bit rusty, but taking care of myself is a necessity.  I cannot wait for the right companion to emerge.  I have to keep moving forward, to make this a smooth transition.  In fact, I am going to take a breather from inviting others to the "party" so much.  If it happens and we get together.  Great.  If not, no biggie.   I think I can handle this alone.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Worrisome Non-Mother


Each summer, my company-sponsored internship program hosts about 20-25 young people from both college and high school.  Sometimes we partner with mentor programs within the city and allow their handpicked students to join our program and work as well.  This is how I ended up with my intern/mentee this year.  She is a recent Chicago Public Schools high school graduate and ready to head off to college in less than a week.  When she first arrived, she had about two to three months left of her senior year.  She was anxious about graduating and a bit timid within our work environment.  When summertime came, and our other interns arrived (most of them older), I along with my co-worker, who also helped mentor this young lady, encouraged her to make friends and open up to the early stages of “networking”.  She was nervous, but soon she had a regular lunch crew, acquired work friends and even did a bit of complaining!  
I was told my intern was coming as she literally walked through the door.  I had no project for her to work on, nothing specific and intensive for her to do.  My goal, as with all of my interns in the past:  teach her what I could work-wise, but try to get to know her on a personal level as well.  When she arrived after school, I would ask her about her day, her plans for graduation and prom, find out what was going on with her boyfriend and get a general sense of what her life was like all the while learning about PhotoChat (I think?), her definition of ratchedness and dishing out MJ’s tidbits of advice here and there.  All in all, I think she enjoyed her time and I got an up close view of her blossoming into a college-bound young lady.
On Wednesday, her mentor organization held a luncheon that centered around the interns completing their public speaking challenge.  This was a PowerPoint presentation, discussing the company they worked for, what they did and the lessons learned during their internship, in front of an audience of mentors and judges.  My girl was nervous after having worked on the project for months.  I have to admit, so was I.  What had she learned?  Did we provide a work environment that she could be proud of?  How would her presentation stand up to the others?  I mean, she briefly interviewed me, so what exactly was she going to discuss?  What wise-crack comment had I given her that would come back to bite me in front of all of these people?  To my delight, the presentation was excellent!  It brought tears to my eyes.  I was so proud!
Thursday, was her last day working with us.  I got all misty-eyed and gave her a long hug.  We pulled away, she was crying and we embraced again.  My instinct was to tell her everything I could think of:  Don’t put your drink down unattended, You can party, but not too hard, You can do whatever you want to do, Love your boyfriend, but know that there are other boys, Take care of your reputation, it will follow you all four years and lastly, I reiterated a point we had discussed thoroughly in the past- Don’t lose your crown!  She nodded in agreement, tears streaming down her face.  “I know, I’ll remember”.  
I will admit, there were times I had to correct her, gently, but professionally.  Her teenaged moodiness and slight eye-rolls would work my nerves.  She was your average teenager, with boyfriend drama, best friend issues and high school annoyances.  She was still my girl though. Yesterday, at work, I received an e-mail from her company account.  She must have scheduled it from the previous day.  In it was an attached Word document thanking me for the lessons I taught her.  How much she appreciated those lessons.  Not only are you my mentor you are also my big sister that taught me to always keep it classy and always act like a lady.”  This must be how a parent/guardian feels!  You want them to soak up what you tell them and take it to heart.  You want to know that they are listening.  You want them to be okay.  Most importantly, you don’t want them to make the same mistakes you did.
With the city’s senseless violence and staggering high school dropout rates unwavering, I always take personal care to wish the interns a safe night, weekend, or return to school, with reminders to “be careful” and “be good”.  I did the same with my intern this year.  I found myself adding her to my prayer list.  Not only worrying, but wanting to personally protect her.  When it comes to our youth, I believe it really does take a village.  As a fellow villager, my work feels sometimes just as tough as a parent, knowing that every little experience, word of encouragement or discouragement, makes a difference in someones life.  I still have “old tapes” that play in my head that some former employee, school teacher or classmate said to me many moons ago that serve to shred my self esteem at times.  Thoughts I have to overcome and try my best to delete so that I can be productive and move on, releasing all judgement.  I want the words that I speak, that might be on auto-play in a young person’s mind that I have encountered to be positive and uplifting.  You want to create a better world?  It starts with the younger generation and how they feel about themselves.  If they love, respect and believe in themselves we all benefit.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Too Grown

Yesterday I returned from a trip to D.C.  I flew in on Saturday for my Best Friend's Trip 2013, which my best friend (hence the title) Antoine and I do each year.  We chose D.C. to catch the highly anticipated Mrs. Carter Tour starring Beyoncé.  Neither of us had seen her prior and decided the trip would kill two birds with one stone.  Although we both frequent live performances, our distance and schedules never permit us to see any major concerts together and we could finally settle on a trip destination for 2013.  A win-win situation.

The plan was set.  Concert and plane tickets were purchased.  What I realized was, unlike previous trips from years prior, this vacation did not involve us "kickin' it" hard.  There was no club-hopping.  Instead we caught a great happy hour at a tapas restaurant.  Where previously we may have chugged tequila and vodka drinks, we opted instead for pitchers of sangria with co-workers and new friends.  In the past I would have stressed a shopping excursion.  This year, our days were spent visiting the recently erected Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial and the Rosa Parks statue located in Statuary Hall in the Capitol.  We did not wear our feet out dancing all night.  The soreness came from walking from the Smithsonian's African Art and American History museums to the National Archives building where we viewed everything from Michelle Obama's first inauguration ball gown to the original Constitution.  We both ended up seeing Beyonce separately prior to our trip and were not dying to see the show again.  So on our last night, we sold our concert tickets on Craig's List and bought $4 lawn seats at Vienna, Virginia's Wolf Trap National Park for Performing Arts to see the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

The trip, as always was a success.  We spent less money than usual (neither spending more that $200) and agreed we both had an amazing time.  You can map our maturity through our trips and vacations.  They have become less about getting 'tow up' and more about bonding, relaxing, getting away and learning.  Yes, things have definitely changed!


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Scripted

I just finished watching the entire series, The Wire, this evening.  Yes, I know I am behind.  When the show first aired on HBO in 2002, I had a hard time following the storyline and felt the plot was too slow.  Fast forward to the present day and here I am glued to my HBO Go every day, concerned about the characters and outcome.  This evening I wrapped up the series with Episodes 9 and 10 of Season 5. My overall verdict:  this was a well-written, beautiful, honest, realistic and bitter-sweet scripted program.

With all due respect to those who enjoy "reality t.v.", I am over it.  These shows feature people I do not really care about.  Individuals who I would not want to hang around in real life, acting under the guise of "reality".  When in fact they are usually goaded by producers looking for something interesting in an uninteresting situation.  I enjoyed The Wire.  Just like I enjoy Mad Men, Breaking Bad, House of Cards and others.  I love to see a good story come to life.

Whenever I see some 5-bundle-weave-wearing, red-bottom-Louboutin-sporting, false eyelash having, beat-face on a Tuesday afternoon "woman" cursing someone out or having lunch on a patio, revealing secrets that lead to commercial breaks, I find myself absolutely bored, sometimes intrigued, but in the end, always bored.  I have no interest.  As a writer, I marvel at and get easily sucked in by good writers.  I want a story that stays with me, that gets me pumped and excited.  A script that has me quoting fictional characters on Facebook, or looking for someone whom I can talk to about what I just saw.  I want a show with a good storyline and believable characters portrayed by flawless actors.  I know reality t.v. is cheaper, but can we bring back more good scripted programs?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Self-Absorbed, You Say?

Yesterday, as I waited at the bus stop headed home, a young man approached me.  He had just crossed the street, walking in my direction talking to another man who was shaking his head "no" and moving away from him.  The young man, dressed in all white with a toothy smile, said:  "Please tell me you're going to be the cool person I talk to today."  Here we go... I was not in the mood, and knew whatever he was about to say would have a request for money wrapped around the end.  "Oh no, please, not today."  That was my response.  To which he said, "you know what?  And don't take this the wrong way.  But, overall, people in Chicago are very self-absorbed.  That has been my experience since I've been here."  "Well, you're in the financial district, so that's why."  In hindsight, I am not really sure why I said this, or what it exactly means.  I guess, my point was, this is the business epicenter of the city.  People have short patience when it comes to handouts and pretty much everything else.  When you work downtown, you lose interest in a lot of things that go on downtown.  You are no longer in awe of every little tweak in the day.  Instead, you are just trying to get home (in my case), get something to eat (quickly) or grab a drink (because you need it).

He walked away and I thought, well he's not going to get too far with that attitude.  When I woke up this morning, I had completely forgotten about my exchange with this guy.  Instead my thoughts were on a very vivid dream I had that revolved around me, brace yourself... choosing the right nail polish color for my mani and pedi that I need to get by tomorrow.  Hmmm... he might be on to something.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Maasai

I have been staying at my mother's house for the past week dog-sitting.  Her dog, Chancey, has been banned from my building after his previous month-long forbidden stay at my apartment.  The condo association got wind of his furry presence and have been on the lookout for any signs of him.  So when my mother left town to go to visit family in the D.C./Maryland area, she needed me to watch my little canine "brother".  Typically, I do not watch Chance.  She will ask my cousin or even a family friend.  My building's rules, get me marked off the list of choices.  This time around, we came up with the most sensible and logical idea of me just staying with him at her house.  So that has been my whole week since two Friday's ago:  twice-daily walks, feeding and preparing the apartment for my departure.

I have to admit, the morning and even some evening walks are no joke- energy-wise.  Since he is usually confined to a cage for the day (in hopes of avoiding accidents), I try to provide decent length walks both times.  Last Friday, I actually just started letting him have free reign of the living room and kitchen area and he seems to do well throughout the day.  Regardless, it can be a lot trying to take care of him and get myself ready for work.  Not to compare him to a child, but I feel for both the doggie parents and human parents alike.  Being responsible for a living being, whether animal of human (obviously) takes a lot of commitment. 

That said, I still have to catch a bus in the morning to make it to work on-time after walking him and getting dressed.  This morning, as I was on the elevator going down to the lobby, I pulled up my Chicago Transit phone app to see when the next bus was scheduled.  According to my phone I had one minute to catch the next bus.  If I missed that bus, my next opportunity would not come around for another 22 minutes- making me late for work for sure.  The bus tracker sites are usually 1-2 minutes behind, so I knew I would have to run to get outside in enough time to catch it.  As I got out of the elevator and headed for the front door (where the bus actually stops), I could see my bus come into view and then move on before I could get to the second set of double doors.  Dammit!  Next option, try to catch it at the next bus stop.  So I do what I affectionately call my "fat girl run".  Anyone who has ever been on the phone while I have done this sprint will tell you, it usually involves heavy breathing- and not the good kind.  As I call out to "hold the bus!"  I realize, no one has heard me or cares.  So there I was in the middle of the next block, pissed. 

A cab pulled up and shouted out through his passenger window, "get in!"  As I opened the door reluctantly, I said, "I can't afford a cab ride."  He responded, "no, I'm going to help you catch the bus."  "Thank you" was all I could get out through my labored breathing.  Then, because I thought about how nice it was of him, "thank you, again."  The cabby said, "I saw you sprinting and thought, wow, she must be a Maasai!"  That made me laugh and feel proud all in the same moment.  By no means can I be compared to this beautiful, semi-nomadic group of people found in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.  I felt regal, nonetheless, in the moment though.  Just imagining what I looked like running- giving my all to catch something that seemed like I had only barely missed.  Depressing as it can be, I watch the news each morning to start my day.  I hold personal stories like this one dear to my heart, because no matter what is said about the ills of our society, there are still good people who look out for one another.  Two blocks up, I got out of the cab and caught my bus.  I made it to work with a couple of minutes to spare and a good story to tell.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Brain

So I started daydreaming about how I'm going to successfully complete the juicing portion of the cleanse I'm starting the beginning of August.  Then I thought how nice it would be to add cherries to the mix, but where can you find pitted black cherries? That led me to Google, which brought me to Williams-Sonoma who have an OXO Cherry & Olive Pitter. But while looking at that item I discovered their 'Burger Shop' which carries a Stuffed Hamburger Press with Lifter. It was accompanied by a picture of cheddar cheese stuffed burgers.  A1: I'll take each- the cherry Pitter, hamburger press AND the burger itself. B2: Am I the only one who is often captivated by Williams-Sonoma  catalogs?  C3: This is 'distracted' at it's finest ladies and gentlemen!  A sample of how my brain works...

The Pitter
http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/oxo-olive-and-cherry-pitter/

The Press
http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/stuffed-hamburger-press-with-lifter/

Monday, July 8, 2013

Disbanded

The creator has disbanded this group...

This is the text message I received two Thursday nights ago.  For about a year, I was part of a group text started by a friend.  The group consisted of high friends I became reacquainted with in 2010.  We had connected on Facebook and started hanging out together.  Whether at someone's house for the holiday or while celebrating a birthday, we always had fun.  For all intents and purposes, the group was solid- or so I thought.  Fast forward to last November, around the Thanksgiving holiday.  I noticed that one of the friends had de-friended me on Facebook.  That was odd.  I only knew because I had tried to tag this person in a comment to no avail.  When I went to the person's Facebook page, I was virtually given the long arm- the site asking if I knew this person.  I thought I did.  Apparently I did not. 

I immediately called this girl, who did not answer, but instead texted me stating that she was on another call and would call me back.  She never did.  I knew something was wrong.  Unfortunately, we as a society have become so ingrained and dependent on social media, that you can safely take social cues from your interactions or lack thereof on social juggernauts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and such.  I knew that this individual whom I had hung out with in person both in the group or separately on our own, was sending me a major message:  We are no longer friends.  I could easily go through the timeline of awkward events that solidified this truth, but I do not want to give anyone undue credit for a very small sub-chapter in my life.  That being said, when I confronted the person about the unfriending, she, in giving me her reasons for dissolving our friendship in a very passive-aggressive way, said that she did not want to "be a shit starter" nor did she want to upset the group by saying anything to the others.  I, being the ever-loyal-sometimes-to-a-fault type of person that I am, followed her lead and decided not to mention anything to the other girls either.  With the exception of a very vague, non-descript, yet, in context re-telling of a small portion of the entire conversation with no names mentioned to exactly one person, I have, to this day not spoken a word about the incident to anyone else within the group.  My side of the story has not been provided.  I have not discussed with anyone my thoughts and feelings about the situation.  Or the details involved.  From the bizarre and reduced interactions, whether on social media or via personal/direct texts and phone calls, I have the feeling I was the only one who kept up her end of the deal.

Overall, my role and positive position in the group's dynamic has changed.  This obvious fact has not made me lose any sleep, but it has caused a bit of anxiety whenever I would receive a text from the group.  I wanted to pull away and no longer interact with the girl who had initiated all of this.  I hate to be uncomfortable and hide my true feelings in an effort to be the "bigger person".  I would rather disassociate myself from certain activities.  Like recently a get-together that was to take place at a restaurant, had been moved at the last minute to the girl's house.  How crazy would that be?  Hey, I know you don't like me, but I decided to show up anyway.  What should I bring- wine?  Um, no.  Since my gut tells me I have been discussed, I am confused as to how this became a suitable option anyway.  If everyone wants to keep the peace.  Why not host events in neutral settings?  Maybe that's me just overthinking things with my analytical self.  I do still have ongoing and positive contact with one of the girls.  For that, I am grateful.  She has not changed and I am appreciative. 

Which brings me to that final group text message.  It gave me a peaceful, internal giggle.  I thought it fitting that the term "creator" was used.  Sometimes, God will rock the boat to get your attention, to move you in a different direction.  Because He does not come down physically to talk to us and hand feed us His plan, we have to listen and listen carefully.  I, in an effort to flex my loyal friendship skills, trying to build upon relationships, which maybe should have stayed more casual, missed key early warnings.  I can look back on conversations with the individual and think, that was a red flagThat should have been your sign that this was not going to end well.  Hindsight is indeed 20/20.  At the time, what I thought were little quirks, I now know were future problems being formed.  Molding resentment towards me for things that are less about me and more about her.  But that text though.  The group has indeed disbanded.  I still enjoy hanging out with that one remaining friend, but I would not be surprised if I do not receive invites to events from the others.  I am confident in saying I do not believe I have done anything intentional to alienate the group, but at this time, it seems we have run our course as friends. 

When I told another girlfriend the complete story, she said, "yeah, you've been iced out."  She continued with a shrug, "besides going to high school with these people, what else do you have in common with them?"  Not much, if anything.  She went on to share some of her own woes with friends who did not stand the test of time.  Friendships can be difficult; they should not be, but they can.  Friendships with women can be even more complicated.  You mix in the insecurities a lot of us deal with that come with trying to be perfect, polite or humble at all costs, and you have the recipe for a troublesome friendship.  I like meeting new people and gaining new friends, but situations like this remind me to tread lightly and keep my eyes open.  Keeping your friend list short and tight seems like the best answer, but even that can be a bit non-progressive when you think about it.  How do you grow, if you have the same group of individuals as friends and never look outside of your circle to let others in your world? 

Whatever the case, I have learned a real strong lesson about taking time, gaining trust and what true friendship really means.  It is not fickle.  Tell me you all did not stop talking to me because someone else stopped talking to me.  It is not random.  I thought a genuine friendship was built, however, it must not have been important enough for you to tell me your feelings in person or at least over the phone.  You just deleted me- via Facebook no less.  It can only thrive if both parties are on the same level mentally and emotionally.  When someone tells you they are crazy, please believe them.  Are there any groups or friendships that you are part of that need to be disbanded?  Do tell.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Trina, Naturally: An Interview About Business, Dreams & Hair

Trina doing what she does best.

This is the second time I have featured my hair stylist of 16 years, Trina, on my blog.  She is a wealth of hair care and style knowledge, so there is always endless insight she can provide.  The first interview, we touched on some of her hair care tips.  This time around, I wanted to focus more on the business side.  I mean, after all, when we hear politicians discuss small businesses, how often does your local hair salon come to mind?  Every time you have sat down in a swivel chair, been adorned with a cape and put your hair in the hands of someone wielding flat irons, smoking hot barreled curlers or a pair of sharp shears you personally supported a small business.  For some, their support comes as often as weekly or as little as annually for special occasions, trims, chemical treatments or color.  Regardless of the frequency of your visits, the hair industry is big business.  Whether the stylist is renting a booth or owns the “shop”, those individuals act as their own CEO, president and operations team all rolled into one.  The competition within the industry has always been fierce, yet in the wake of the natural hair “movement”, women are becoming less dependent on their stylist and more self-sufficient and knowledgeable about their own hair.  If you stopped 10 random natural-haired women on the street, at least 7 of them have done their own hair.  With YouTube videos, meet-ups, product swaps and natural hair bloggers infiltrating your Facebook and Twitter timelines, there is so much information and there seems to be less of a need for going to the salon.  Visit your local Target, Walgreens, CVS or even Whole Foods and you are sure to find an end-cap or two featuring natural hair care products.  So with all of this information and DIY tips floating around, where does that leave our beloved stylists?
I took the opportunity while having my hair finger-twisted at Trina’s N.V. Hair Studio, located in downtown Chicago, to delve deeper into the subject.  I wanted her opinion.  When I first met Trina, I was a junior in high school; I just wanted my hair to be cute and manageable.   At that time, she was renting a booth.  Now the salon I go to is hers.  This year marks Trina’s 29th year in the hair industry.  She graduated from Wilford Academy in September 1984.  Growing up, she was fascinated with hair.  She recalls her mom sending her to school with her hair looking one way and at some point throughout the day she would change it.  As early as the 3rd or 4th grade, she would do her sister’s hair and make “concoctions”, but back then she never “really claimed it”.  Since Trina has been in the business almost as long as I have been alive (she is not old, just started her career right out of high school), she has seen many changes take place in the hair care industry.  Some of the changes that stand out to her are the number of products and product knowledge by customers.  There has been an increase in choices for both salons and products.  One change she is not happy with is the “assembly line” mentality of some stylists these days.  Trina wants to put the “care back into hair care.”  
Trina has fully embraced the natural hair movement.  She has even started N.A.P.E.E. (Naturally Attractive Proud Energy Empowerment) Cakes a name she has created and hopes to brand to be synonymous with healthy hair.  The goal is to change the negative thoughts attributed to nappy hair and to use N.A.P.E.E. Cakes as a source of education and a forum for those with natural hair.  Trina admits the so-called natural hair movement has changed the hair industry a lot.  Especially for the professional who did not “jump on the train”.  She regrets that there are hairdressers who are “turning [natural hair] clients away because they can’t do it.”  What are the benefits of the movement?  “It’s great that women have embraced their hair.  [But] it’s a lot of work.  It’s good work.  Most heads need a break from the creamy crack.  That’s my campaign.  That is my point.”  Trina hopes N.A.P.E.E. Cakes will encourage women to embrace their hair no matter the coil or curl.  Making what may have previously been considered nappy i.e. bad hair, into the “new good hair”.  She wants women to “wear it and wear it well.”  N.A.P.E.E. Cakes workshops feature a wide range of hair textures and, of course, cupcakes.  “Who doesn’t like cupcakes?”

Trina throughout the years (clockwise):  Top Left- 5th Grade and Senior Photo, Right- before marriage and kids (1995 & 2005),  Bottom Right- daughter (R) and step daughter, Bottom Left- at last years inaugural N.A.P.E.E. Cakes event

With that said, I asked Trina how she competes with all the home techniques.  “I don’t” was her definitive answer.  Instead of making “How To” videos and blog posts the enemy- to hair stylists, she too has learned a lot from them.  Trina takes time to decode some of the products and their uses for clients in need.  “It can get overwhelming.”  Furthermore, she laments, women are spending their “last [dollar] on hair care products, [when] it’s all about DNA.  I want to bring the best out of your hair.”  Although loving hair care and products is not exclusive to Black women, there is something particularly special about our spending habits when it comes to our hair.  Trina says that that kind of attention and affection is not new.  It goes “way back.  We have always based things on hair.  We describe people by hair.  No other culture does that.  We have such diversity.”  She is right, think back to how you describe a Black woman, it usually goes something like this:  She has short hair.  She has a weave.  She’s the one with the braids.  She had a bob.  Her own family was always “fascinated with hair, in particular, her grandparents.  Trina recalls often cutting her hair while in beauty school and her family getting upset.  Her grandmother would tell her to “let your hair grow and wear your lip rouge.”  As a culture, Trina says, we look at “hair as beauty.  Hair can change things, change our moods.”
Trina counts YaYa from America’s Next Top Model cycle 3 as her current “hair hero”.  She adds Diana Ross and daughter, Tracee Ellis Ross, “I’m naming all natural women, aren’t I?”  Viola Davis made the cut, no pun intended, for just that- her haircut.  “I love that she cut her hair for the Oscars.  She stood her ground.”  Rounding out the group of hair and style icons is Solange.  “I love her whole style.  She’s got it together.”
With the wave of do it yourself product lines and salons going out of business all the time, Trina simply credits her clients for keeping her small business afloat.  She says most of her clients have been coming to her for over 15 years. “Old clients keep the doors open.”  Her definition of success is “going to work and being happy first.  The money will follow.  God, health, family, fun- surrounding yourself with people you look forward to seeing.”  Some other keys to her success are, “staying focused, learning new things.”  The hair industry is “full circle.”  A stylist must learn to take old “remedies and make them work for now.”
As the mother of an 11 year old girl, Trina wants to pass along the deep-seeded idea that she can do anything in life.  “She’s my inspiration.  She is fearless and coming out of her shell.”  A recent letter, her daughter Brooklynn wrote to her, ended with, “Mom, one day I think you’re going to change the world with the hair [you do].”  Trina, with pride, gushes, “She sees that I’m doing something I love.  I want to make a mark; change lives one curl at a time.”  In the next 5-10 years, Trina wants to see New Vision Hair Studio become incorporated into N.A.P.E.E. Cakes, becoming a household name.  Her ultimate goal is to host and create more style and hair workshops for women and young girls; with the thought that the workshops can one day grow into a fully-functioning hair school, providing young women an outlet and trade.

Trina (Center) surrounded by hair models at the N.A.P.E.E. Cakes event

Trina's Tips for Summer Natural Hair Care
Tip 1:  Hair Mask
If you have never tried a hair mask, this is a great time to do so.  Use a oil hair mask the night before a shampoo.  Include a nice amount your favorite moisture conditioner, don't be shy!  The more hair the more product.  Part hair in four sections (if the hair is natural, you can skip this step).  Apply the mixed conditioner and your oil of choice- coconut, olive or grape seed- to the hair.  After applying to the entire head, add another round of the oil of your choice.  Detangle with your fingers and put on a plastic cap.  Let this sit overnight.  This is a great pre-treatment before you go to the salon or as a DIY shampoo.  From here you can wash-and-go with a PH Balanced shampoo or create a twist-out.  The result is super hydrated, moist and shiny hair.  I love, love, love this!

Tip 2:  Try Color
Ladies, if you are natural and you don't have color, your hair can sometimes appear dull and dry no matter how conditioned it is.  Consider getting a tone on tone color (your natural color), to add depth and shine or go a few shades lighter.  If you have hair commitment issues, try a few highlights to add personality to your style.  Talk to your stylist and get a good consultation.  DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!  

Tip 3:  Enjoy
Have fun!  Let your hair be a reflection of who you are within.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Ripple Effect

 


Tonight I will be participating in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge.  It is an annual event where corporations from around the city, come together to run a 5K, or in my case, walk it after normal business hours.  What makes the event fun is companies set up tents that go from very basic (ours last year) to enviably elaborate, including catered food and deejays.  Last year, I just came out to support our team.  This year, I was roped into actually joining the team.  I didn't really have to be convinced.  We are having food catered from Famous Dave's BBQ.  Plus, there will be wine and beer.  So it was really a no brainer.  I like free food.  It's one of my "issues".

Besides today being dreary, cold and rainy and the thought of me leaving an 8 hour day to go to Grant Park and walk 3.5 miles, I am irritated about the race's logistics this year.  Participants cannot bring "large bags" or book bags to the race.  At first my thought was, "why?".  Then it occurred to me.  It has only been a little over a month since the tragic Boston Marathon bombings on April 15th.  This is what terrorism is really all about ladies and gentlemen.  It starts with a horrible act that is widely documented and reported, but soon after and usually for years to come, it continues with the disruption of our lives and regular routines. 

The fact that I cannot bring my tote/purse to the race tonight because I am sure it will be classified as a big bag- rightfully so, is annoying.  Or that when I went to the Statue of Liberty during a New York visit a few years back, the security process was as thorough and tedious as TSA's.  I cannot tell you how taxing it is to wait in a long line to be screened one-by-one whenever I want to go to my credit union, which happens to be in the Federal Building.  Furthermore, I have officially been searched, patted down, scanned with a wand, walked through body scanners of various ilk and been released of belts, shoes and jewelry enough to last a lifetime.  But I understand.  I get it.  As it is often said, this is the world we live in. 

That is the other side of the tragedy.  That some punk(s) with psychotic ideas and irrational thoughts fuck things up for the rest of us!  Twelve years after the September 11th attacks, TSA is just now (as of March) allowing people to carry small pocket knives and sporting goods such as hockey and lacrosse sticks.  That's terrorism folks.  Most, if not all of the, immediate participants are either in jail or dead, yet we cannot be too sure that someone won't try it again.  Now I have to damn near perform a fast paced striptease every time I want to travel.

There is a way to not let "them" win, whomever they are.  I will enjoy myself.  I will still move around- visiting and vacationing whenever the mood hits me, and it often does.  I will not halt my life.  I will merely adjust.  Is it irksome?  Does it sometimes seem ridiculous and overly cautious?  Yes and yes.  I mean I'm on the Good Guys side.  Right?  The problem is, with what we have seen, how can anyone know this?  So it then becomes necessary- and I will cooperate. 

Tonight, as I am eating my ribs and sipping wine trying not to say anything too offensive around my co-workers as I slip into a sleepy-tipsy mix of chatter, I will at least know that some precautions have been made to keep us safe.  I will reflect on the people, who like me, were just trying to enjoy a normal day, but didn't get to go home the same way they came, if at all.  That alone makes the walk back to the office to retrieve my big bag not so bothersome or long after all.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's Your Birthday!

*Ahem* Hear ye, hear ye!  Today I would like to wish MY SISTER Ericka, a VERY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!  Cheers to the woman who, 9 years older than me, made sure I had a proper 80s upbringing.  Complete with a learned love for New Edition and Menudo.  At 5, I remember thinking her room was magical.  Right On! magazine posters of Michael Jackson (solo and with his brothers) and the two previously mentioned groups hung on her wall.  She would play music from the radio while Soul Train was muted on her T.V.- so cool!  She spent hours putting herself together so she could go outside and sit on the porch with her friends.  I thought my sister was the absolute prettiest girl in the entire world.  And at the time- I believe she was.

To give you a little history.  I grew up spending weekends and holidays with Ericka and her mother, my father's 1st wife, on 91st Street, a little off of Ashland.  I did not realize how "odd" or rather special it was for the child of a man's second marriage, to spend her weekends at his 1st wife's home.  A classmate in grad school let it be known that this was different.  I had no clue.  Now they have a name for it:  blended family.  It wasn't a, let the sisters bond type of thing.  Like every weekend I was over there.

Rosa, Ericka's mother, was a true Earth-walking saint.  In more ways than one.  She was wonderful.  Although my sister was cool.  She was mean as hell.  I mean in hindsight it makes sense.  Who wants to be stuck babysitting their kid sister, when there is teenage debauchery to get into?  My stepmother's favorite phrase was, "take your sister with you".  To which Ericka would roll her eyes and I would beg to stay.  I had a love and hate feeling about hanging out with my sister.  On the one hand, it was more fun than hanging around the house with Rosa.  But at the same time, Ericka was so annoyed by my presence and how I was cramping her style that she could make outings a bit tortuous!

Ericka and her friends would go, let me rephrase, walk practically everywhere- Burger King, the park, The Plaza.  Yes, let's take a moment and discuss that long walk to the Plaza.  My sister would make me walk ahead of the group, even though usually I did not know where we were going.  She would shout, "walk up!"  I would be at least 3 feet away from the group.  And then we would get to the mall and do...nothing!  Although the smell of Mrs. Field's cookies has always been alluring and my dream was to have a boyfriend buy me a large cookie cake, I would rather have sat those outings out.  If we weren't walking around the entire Beverly neighborhood, we would sit outside on her stoop for hours.

So on this day, her birthday, I would like to toast her!  The woman whom when I peed the bed once when I was little, put two fingers at the top of my head, twirled me around while simultaneously spraying me with Lysol, in annoyance.  Then put me in the tub!  She says she doesn't remember, but I do.  To the woman whom I saw my very first concert with- New Edition and the Fat Boys at McCormick Place I believe.  She is the reason I was the only 4 year old in my class to have seen the movie Purple Rain in the theaters (my mom, a Prince fanatic herself, took us).  My sister is responsible for me not liking horror films to this day; I have seen my share of Friday the 13th movies with her and her crew.  Cheers to the woman who never had a problem with handling a situation for me.  No matter how ridiculous.  Like when I suspected an ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend was calling my house and hanging up when I was a teen.  I called Ericka, who promptly called the girl and got her straight.  Even though the girl claimed it wasn't her, the hangups stopped.  When I had dates come to my sister's house, she would say things like, "I'll chop yo' tall ass down if you hurt my little sister!"  I mean, who says that??!!  She does!

While still underage, I would use her I.D. to get into clubs with her other friends while she stayed home.  At 19, I could be spotted at all sorts of clubs like the "New" 50 Yard Line, in a black velour catsuit, thanks to her.  During my sophomore year of college, I desperately wanted to come home and finish school locally.  Just so I could hang out with Ericka and her friends.  When I told our dad my idea, he fussed and immediately squashed that option, but I had to try.

We got into a really heated argument this past December.  I never really argue with her, because she still is my big sister.  But we got into a very intense verbal scuffle over the phone.  I remember feeling really scared.  I thought, if something happened to her, I would miss her tremendously.  I would hate that that was our last conversation.  I apologized perfusely via text and voice mail.  She finally accepted my apology and shortly after, my dad and I visited her downstate to remind her how much we love her.  I vowed that day to do anything in my power to make sure she felt respected and loved, if by no one else, by me.  We have had our differences and with time we have grown apart.  But while typing only the first couple of paragraphs, I was getting teary-eyed.  The fond memories brought me back to a time that seems so far away sometimes.  My childhood.  It is not this grown woman's voice you hear while reading this post.  It is the little girl inside of me, who is still someone's "little sister".  In fact, my sister still refers to me as her little sister.  For that, I toast her.  How many people in your life still make you feel like your most meek, innocent self? 

Ericka, I love you.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In the Closet ft Michelle

For our first installment of the new "In the Closet" series, we feature Michelle B.  I like Michelle's style.  It is fly, but not over done.  She describes it as classic with a twist.  "I'll pair a button shirt with a cardigan and pencil skirt, and [add] a funky bootie.  I like to be a little edgy."  Her most recent fashion splurges include an oyster colored dress and beaded and sequined mini skirt from All Saints and a leather and tweed blazer and gold sneaker wedges from Michael Kors.

Michelle's favorite "go to" item in her closet are her leggings.  "They're comfortable, easy to dress up or down and flatter my shape."  She also gets a lot of wear out of her blue button up shirt from Brooks Brothers.  "It's easy to wear, is wrinkle resistant, elevates my outfit, plus it's Oprah's 'go to' button up too."  Michelle has incorporated several pieces from her late grandmother's closet as well, including a camel colored pencil skirt, "it's flattering, it's sophisticated."

Appropriate undergarments, such as slips, bras designed for certain shirts and proper underwear to avoid panty lines is what Michelle thinks more women should be conscious of wearing.  I wanted to find out more of her thoughts on clothes and fashion.  So two Fridays ago, I visited Michelle at her Hyde Park apartment to check out her closet.  Click here to take a peak inside!




Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Storied Life of Amnel Massimo


Amnel Massimo via our recent Skype interview



I had the pleasure of meeting singer Amnel (pronounced Ahm-Nell) Massimo in Playa del Carmen, MX last year. What better place to get to know someone than a Mexican paradise? She was welcoming, warm and married to Perez Massimo, a deejay and good friend of my boyfriend. The first thing she said to me, standing poolside in our shared hotel’s atrium was: “I like your hair. What products do you use?” I liked her instantly. A woman who is friendly and likes to talk hair? That is a foundation for good friendships.

The story of Amnel begins in New York City, moves to the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and lands back in the NYC. I know her story. She told it to me over drinks while we watched the men in our lives take turns deejay-ing at a hotel lobby bar not far from our hotel. She was open and honest and curious. After telling me her tale, she asked me mine. I had a hard time following suit. Amnel provided the details of her life like she had done it many times previously. I, on the other hand, found it difficult to pull together a concise retelling of my story. Who I am and how I got here. That is Amnel though. As with anybody else, I prepared 10 questions for our interview. This usually results in at least an hour and a half of talk time and lots of frantically scribbled notes. Not with Amnel. Our interview took less than 45 minutes- a record for me. Her answers were always to the point and confident. Again, like she has been answering questions about who she is her entire life. I get the feeling she has been preparing for this moment, every moment, since forever.
 
Amnel has been singing since before she could talk. Independent, even then, she recalls rocking herself to sleep with song. She gets her talent honestly. Her dad was an “amazing singer”, her mom, a painter, did not have the singing ability, but there was singing talent on her side of the family as well.

It was in Junior High that Amnel’s professional singing career began. Friends of hers had a disco band, and needed a vocalist. By the time she was 16, the group was touring the island (something she loved to do), performing at weddings and hotel events. Amnel also fondly remembers singing with choir of the all-girls Catholic High School she attended. The “fuffy” school, owned by the country’s Cardinal, competed and won nationally four years in a row. Performing comes naturally. Again, preparedness is the key.

Recently, Amnel’s career has surged to the next level. It is only April and she has already performed at the girlNation Relaunch party at M Lounge in New York, the Winter Music Conference's Women Man the Decks party in Miami and Le Femme Affair- a spinoff of a Private Affair, which is an über exclusive event created by her husband, that the couple hosts in their Queens home. Later this month she will perform alongside Perez at I'll House You with Oscar P, at Bar 13, also in New York. Many artists in her position would love to have that schedule and the visibility that comes with it.

The collaborative effort between Amnel and Perez should be no surprise to those who know the couple. They are each other’s biggest fans. Amnel sites Perez as being her musical muse, teaching her about the industry and providing support. She scoffs at the idea of competition between the two, explaining that they are in “two different realms”.
 
Amnel’s inspiration for her music and sound comes from life itself. “God has a very big role in my life. I feel He has given me this gift to testify His glory.” She is spiritual, and an unflinching Christian. I asked if she finds it difficult creating a balance between her Christian life and the more secular music she performs. Amnel makes it clear, “it’s all in your heart- your intentions. You can clean your house and glorify God.” She does draw the line at overtly sexual music, choosing “integrity [and] dignity” instead.

Like most of us girls who grew up in the 80s and 90s, Amnel sites Whitney Houston as the singer who influenced her the most.  In her opinion the singer from the past or present with the most unmatched voice is Amy Winehouse. The terms “effortless” and “beautiful” are used when describing Winehouse’s singing ability. “[Singing came so naturally] she looks bored in some performances. She was unique.” Her favorite singer right now is Sia, “she’s amazing”.

As a Dominican, Amnel finds the folk music of her country’s past to be intriguing and something she would like to explore further to weave into her own music. She spoke of how “particular sounds from your nature have spiritual weight” and wants to continue to draw creativity from her roots, her folk language.



In the next five to ten years, Amnel simply wants to be “successful”. I asked her to describe her idea of success. Her immediate answer is touring. With further contemplation, she explains her goal is to use music to inspire others. The music means more to her than the money she will make as an artist. “The money will be good no doubt about that. But I look forward to the people that will testify that they were healed [listening] to my songs. Only God can bring success like that!” She plans on using her “voice to break chains [and] boundaries”. Is this not what real music lovers want from artists? To provide a soundtrack for our lives that will lead to breakthroughs, small and large, whether personally or globally. We want to be uplifted, but still groove. Upon hearing Amnel sing, or even speak, you are drawn in by the sound- thick like molasses, and soft at the same time. You want to hear more. The good news is there always seems to be more to give.

Amnel has a testimony, and she willingly shares it with those who will listen. If you watch closely to her performance, the way she commands the stage, you will witness it- her story. The story she has been preparing and articulating, her entire life. She is on a path that keeps winding, constantly moving her further and deeper and up, almost as if it were already written. If you are looking for a new voice, a new sound you can relate to, follow that path. She won’t steer you wrong.
 
More about Amnel…

“Heart Beat” by the Drumattix is currently on constant rotation. “[It] never gets old”.

She credits Trip Hop, Soul, R&B from the past, Pop, 60s and 70s Spanish Pop and Electronic music in general as her musical influences.

She considers herself a Househead, “[it] really speaks to me.”

Click to hear Amnel's cover of Rihanna's "Stay"!