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Archive for the category “Celebrations”

Diner en Blanc Baltimore, We Got In!!!

If you thought you heard a high-pitched squeal anywhere in downtown DC, a little after Noon today, that would be me.

Me and one of my dear friends will be going to Diner en Blanc in Baltimore in just a few short weeks. (Check out the Forbes article that breaks it all down.)

I’m thrilled, I’m amped and I’m excited. I’ve heard about Diner en Blanc which started more than 20 years ago by a Frenchman who basically invited a select group of friends to dress elegantly in all white and set up a picnic in a beautiful public space and enjoy each other’s company. Truth be told, I’ve been starved for an event that requires people to put in some thought and effort. I’ve lamented in this blog how our casual attitude towards our lives, our meals, our going out and our interactions have really just made us a blah society. I can rock with some of the formality and style of the French and Italian and folks in other countries. Joie de vivre. Enjoy life. Enjoy each bite of food and swallow of drink and wear nice clothes and engage and enjoy your company. Put care into the smaller details. Yup, sign me up, if only for one night.

Each year, invitees from the previous year invited other friends, and it grew. It grew so much that the event has been taking place in major cities all over the world. At this point, thousands of people show up to appointed places at appointed times and then are sent by foot, public transportation or chartered buses to the selected spot. The spots have ranged from the Louvre in Paris, to the Usain Bolt Track in Jamaica. DC revelers have even partied at the foot of the Lincoln Monument. The photos are a true sight to behold.

So, when it comes to the inaugural soiree in the Charm City, one naturally assumes, we’ll wind up in the Inner Harbor. But, that may seem like the super obvious choice. So, my guess would have to include outdoor spaces that would make for great photos near iconic buildings or with potential views of the harbor.

If we don’t end up directly in the harbor, my top guesses are City Hall and Orioles Park or any area where ArtScape or the Baltimore Book Festival have taken place where large groups of people are able to gather and streets can be shut down. The Maryland Zoo and Pimlico Race Track are my wild card choices. They aren’t immediately downtown, but there will be enough spaces for buses to load and unload a bunch of folks.

My guesses include:
1. The Maryland Zoo
2. Right in front of City Hall
3. Fells Point
4. American Visionary Art Museum
5. Walter’s Art Museum
6. Oriole’s Park/ M&T Bank Stadium
7. Pimlico Race Track

There’s a lot to do. I’m using all of my strength to avoid purchasing a new outfit and try to find a lovely white number inside of my closet. I’m already against it because I feel it’s more for a power meeting at work. My go-to site is ASOS (every ASOS dress I’ve worn, the compliments pour in) and NY and Company is having a great sale. Those dresses always tend to fit me well and are made of comfy fabrics and are insanely easy to dress up with accessories due to their simplicity and versatility.

As for the shoes, I personally hate white shoes. They make everyone’s feet look like Fred Flintstone. Totally unflattering. White shoes no matter the style, make me think of the usher board and their sensible nursing shoes walking up and down the aisles at church. I do plan to follow the rules. I think gold and silver shoes are allowed, but either way, I’ll figure this out. Moving on.

I was determined about getting to my computer on time to get into the registration period for new folks, better known as Phase 3. Phase one folks are people who have attended previous events and get automatic invites to the next. From what I understand, Phase 2 folks are guests of phase one people who have attended before and Phase 3 are the newbies like me, who have never gone and managed to sign up for the wait list.

I was really excited today about being able to get in, I haven’t been this crazy about logging on exactly at 12 noon since getting tickets to see Prince. I willed Ticketmaster into submission and even went solo to increase my chances. Seeing Prince was a serious thing for me and I’m so thankful I did that. The following year, he passed away. See, good choices?

But anyway, I was amped. When I asked my boyfriend if he’d be interested if I managed to get registered, he politely declined. I let it be. He probably would have been miserable and probably the thought of him pulling together an acceptable head-to-toe white outfit in two weeks was probably the last thing he wanted to do.

My boyfriend was not about us lugging a table, chairs and our own food to a secret location dressed in all white, so this was a mission for one of the local homies who is always down for an adventure. I was able to quickly rebound from his rejection.

This homegirl is the type of homegirl who makes everything fun. Like gut, busting, silly, loud-singing, fun. I could have a bowl of cereal with her, or get lost in some random city with this chick, and shenanigans will ensue. We ALWAYS have a great time whether we are sitting around the house making mini pizzas, watching the Muppets and putting on clay face masks, or checking out an art exhibit. Yup, as soon as I sent the text, “We’re In!!” we’ve been texting and thinking of ideas on how to decorate our table… yes, that’s a thing and there’s even a prize for the best decorated tables.

According to Pinterest, folks go all out. Yes, I’ve stalked Pinterest and read every article. This is probably why my boyfriend wisely passed on attending this with me. While I’ve seen some elaborate setups, we plan to keep it simple, if for no other reason than not wanting to lug around a lot of stuff.

Diner en Blanc vets recommend having a hand truck to lug your goods. I will be investing in that.

So, yes, my boyfriend’s observation is right. He’s the more sensible one of our pair. This is a lot of work. But I’m actually very excited to pull this together and so is my home girl.

Yes, there are articles that poke fun at how much people end up spending to have a picnic in a public park, and even people calling it elitist and super snobbish because of the air of secrecy and the element of exclusivity due to the original invite only premise. There was another honest article from Washington City Paper about how much it really costs to attend one of these things, from buying or renting tables and chairs and linens, buying your own food vs. buying directly from Diner en Blanc to ordering your wine or champagne, because you can’t bring your own. Sniff, sniff. The costs do add up. I did go ahead and buy one bottle of wine through the website after registering, because dang, after all of that, it’s not about to be dry. We will need to toast. That is non-negotiable.

Is it bourgeois? Most certainly. I don’t care. We live in perilous times. I’m desperately seeking Trump-free, non-partisan, fuck-my-student-loan, joy.

It’s a moment to share with thousands of people, on a hopefully lovely night weather wise. Sure, people will be doing it for the ‘gram hard core, it’s a social media wet dream. Serious, google the pics. But, I really am interested in doing something unique this summer and just having a really great time, even if there is a bit of effort that goes into all of this. I’ve been looking for moments to engage in joyful things, and looking at pics from all over the world, I know that this is it.

I want to see other people’s creativity with their tables, what they decided to bring to eat, and then enjoy the entertainment and dance the night away with a breathtaking Baltimore backdrop.

So let’s get it.

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One Of the Most Adult Things One Can Purchase

Probably the most boring yet necessary adultest-ass things one can purchase, has to, hands down, be a mattress.

That’s right folks a mattress.

When you need a new one, and you are in your 30s and beyond, your body is the first to tell you.

At first, it seems like a little ache here or there. And you think that you just need to go to the gym more. Stretch in the morning.

Then you get new pillows, or special memory foam cushions to put on the bed.

Then the aches and pains come more fast and furious. You can’t sleep and you find you have the best sleep ever on your couch and going back to that bed becomes unthinkable.

So you suck it up. Off to the mattress store you go.
Well off to the mattress store I went.

Fortunately, I had the boyfriend in tow, and it seems that going with a significant other, salesmen tend to assume you’re married, and say things like, “Happy wife, happy life.”

Fortunately, for me I have a boyfriend happy to play along and agree.

As, most web site searches tell you, the life of a mattress is 10 years. And so, my cheap mattress, purchased when I was heading to my very own first apartment alone, is probably heading into its 12 year. It served its purpose. It served me well. It makes sense that it is old, and I have the temporary daily lower back pain to prove it.

I joked that the timing was right for several reasons.

1. It is old as hell.

2. Well, back and shoulder and neck pain.

3. I work really hard, and a good night’s sleep is non-negotiable. Yall, that’s another post. This job is challenging and requires me to be on from the moment I get there until I leave.

4. My new serious relationship.
As for number 4, there’s nothing like being in a new, serious relationship. One where you’ve had a disagreement or two, made up and continue to learn how to deal with each other, support each other and feel like the other person just may stick around. You think about the future, and you are ready for the past to truly be that. Tossing the mattress is totally symbolic of where I am right now and where I’m trying to go.

I joked with a girlfriend that this fresh start relationship-wise, would be a great cleanse of whatever ghosts of ding-a-ling past lingering in the coils.

See, coils, where they do that at? Now, they do memory foam or a hybrid with a few coils and still the memory foam. I’ve moved on to a Tempurpedic memory foam. Growth! Progress! And real talk, this new relationship was totally worthy of not having any remnants of the past and that feels good.

These days, the mattress stores use computer technology to match you to a mattress. You lay down and watch a video and it measures all kinds of things about you and your partner on the other side. And it spits out the top mattresses in the store for you.

So, there were four. Hand-picked by technology that should agree with my body the most, and provide a good night’s sleep for my partner too. I had a good laugh during our diagnostic session, because as the computer measured us, I couldn’t help but notice the deep valley my butt made on the screen. Clearly, my booty is a factor in the alignment of my spine, hence probably contributing to my lower back issues when I wake up. Heavy is the butt that wears the crown, right?

Mattress shopping almost feels like shopping for a car or appliances, or other furniture. You deserve ice cream and a nap afterwards. You have in your mind what you think you want, and you certainly have in your mind what you want to spend and then what you’d spend at the very most. But once you get there, everything you thought about anything really gets thrown out the window. We were certain a firm ass bed was going to solve my lower back issues. The computer said, I still need a soft bed. And after I told the salesman to let us try their firmest bed as a “control,” I realized the computer was doing the Lord’s work. I defer to technology.

In pure salesperson fashion, our guy gives us increasingly better choices. The last choice, was the top of the line. It felt ridiculously comfortable and if either my boyfriend or I moved, we couldn’t feel the other person shifting. Oh man. That was the Cadillac. But, in this case it was more like the Saturn sales model, where the sticker price was just that, no negotiation. No sales, son. And your girl was not even trying to drop $3,000 on a mattress, no matter how lovely it was. So, I went with my second choice. The second choice was probably the third of the ones we tried anyway, just before we got to the dream mattress. It was the best of the ones prior, and the price was expensive, but acceptable in my opinion for the quality.

It is ironic, though, trying out mattresses. We go to sleep every night, and sometimes we share beds with people. It’s intimate, but it’s something we all do. Even when my boyfriend and I tried the mattresses, by the time we got to the third and fourth bed, we kept it all the way real and spooned to make sure it was right.

Here I was, adulting big-time, spooning in public and decided to double-down on the grown folk talk, even broaching future life scenarios with the boyfriend.

“So, um. Since folks buy mattresses every 10 years. Say our living situation changes within the next 2-3 years. We’d be merging furniture and such. Clearly mine would be new, and that could be ours and your current mattress which isn’t very old, could be for guests. Should I buy the dream mattress now, as, say an investment?”

Him smiling at me. “If I were in your situation, and I’m totally not telling you what to do… but I would be thinking the same thing. So we’re on the same page. But, I think this less expensive bed still feels nice, you’ll be happy with it and that’s the one you should get. Because 10 years from now, we’d easily be able to buy that more expensive mattress, together.”

I wasn’t sure if I was floating on a cloud or still laying on the $3,000 mattress, but I made my decision and I’m the proud owner of a new mattress and box spring. And I walked out hand-in-hand with a man who was happy to spend an afternoon testing mattresses, and basically telling me, he’s in it way past the warranty. Yep, out with the old. Good riddance.

Why Anyone Wanting a Serious Relationship Needs to REALLY Listen to Kindred the Family Soul

I had the pleasure of watching “Kindred The Family Soul” do their thing at the Summer Spirit Music Festival this weekend in Maryland. And while they weren’t the headliners like Erykah Badu and Jill Scott who closed the two day festival respectively, Aja Graydon and Fantin Dantzler’s performance really stuck with me long after they took their bows and floated off the stage together.

I was introduced to Kindred in college (early 2000s) and they came out around the same time Jill Scott and India Aire did. These artists were a breath of fresh air as I was growing and learning how to be more mature. Listening to these kinds of artists was a gateway to shaping my evolving taste in music. There was something old school about them, yet fresh and relatable to me. You couldn’t ass shake all the time, and you couldn’t scream out loud aggressive raps either. At that time, me and my friends were falling in and out of love and even wondering if the relationships we were building were among the ones that would lead to marriage. It was college after all.

I was immediately drawn to Kindred’s first album, which I think hands down is their best and untouchable, “Surrender to Love.” The classics on that joint still stand the test of time, as evidenced by the reaction from the crowd when they sang a good amount of those songs in their set some 16 years later.

After to Surrender to Love, I kept my eye out for some other songs, only really connecting with a single or two here and there over the last few years. They announced they are releasing their 6th studio album, and I’m just so stuck on their first. I’m sure they wouldn’t be happy with my steadfast devotion to only Surrender to Love and neglecting their other albums, because as artists they need to and have to grow.

I was standing still and my relationships weren’t really evolving to the level of the things they were talking about.

Which is why I’m revisiting Kindred now as a 30-something who has had a few relationships under her belt, including a broken engagement and six long years of being single and now entering something new and serious and very mature.

My ears are starting to perk up to some of the other songs on their other albums and I’m hearing them with completely new ears, because I’m eager to make this thing work, and I’m finding out that deciding to really open yourself up and join with someone else and not be long distance can reveal somethings about yourself in the process. How guarded you really are, and how it takes a lot of trust to undo those protective actions you’ve been crafting so carefully over the years to protect your feelings.

One of the things I appreciate about Aja and Fantin is the very obvious love, respect and genuine affection they have for one another. They are married with six children and that bond as artists, business partners, husband and wife and parents is strong and battle-tested, but their love is genuine and you can still feel them flirting with each other during songs, and even looking on with pride when the other person hits their solo part of the show.

Through their music they lay out the good, bad, ugly and mundane but always bring it back to not wanting to do the ups and downs of life with anyone else but each other.

There have been several times as a black woman, exasperated I’ve asked my friends over drinks and brunches and dinners and international vacations, “Where is black love? What happened to it?”

Aja and Fantin were holding up the banner last night and every night they perform. And their light attracts other couples who are holding on and holding on to each other, and I saw them last night in the audience dancing, singing along, or leading each other through the crowds and keeping each other cool in the heat.

Their lyrics are loving and honest. From day one in their classic hit “Far Away” they lamented working 9-5s and wanting to hold on to that loving feeling, but having to sneak in sexy time while their baby naps.

In other songs, they discuss doing the work to stay together and grow together and that deciding to stay with someone for decades and for the rest of your life is magical, but like a great magic trick– there’s a whole lot going on that the audience will never see, to create the illusion. They ask each other to hang in and to not give up, they remind each other that it’s worth it.

And boy do we need more music like that.
There is a validity that Aja and Fantin bring to their performances that only comes from having a front row seat to each other’s lives. I’m glad they share vulnerability in their songs and remind people of their own vulnerabilities and that loving another person is indeed a risk, but one worth taking each day. One that is necessary if we are to ever truly enjoy the sweetness of life.

It’s often impolite to ask probing questions of the couples we know in real life. Most couples won’t pull back the curtain on their relationship, because it’s not always what we are seeing when folks post those “couples’ challenge” social media posts. And while most couples would be afraid to be so transparent, at least we have Aja and Fantin giving us the real and sharing their journey with us so we can all grow. They are the type of couple who seem like they’d be at the BBQ giving the younger couples the truth about love, and reminding them that it’s worth fighting for and to above all choose wisely.

The gems in Kindred’s body of work aren’t hidden. They lay it all bare. But like love, it’s all about an individual’s willingness and readiness to accept all that comes with it.

And that BBQ advice session was exactly the vibe I felt with my larger “family” of music lovers all day yesterday. Aja and Fantin held court, while I hung on to every note, listening carefully to every word.

Yup, I’m going to take a closer listen to the subsequent albums after “Surrender to Love.” Because you can’t stay in one place. You have to grow, you have to be open, you have to listen and you have to learn.

And growth certainly looks good on Aja and Fantin, and that’s worth emulating.

 

Destination Wedding Guest, This Really Ain’t Your Vacation

I recently went to an amazing destination wedding in Mexico. I was amped.

I felt like it was going to be a 2-for-1, where I’d get to see a beautiful couple I’d been rooting for a long time get hitched, and 2. I’d get a much-needed break from my hustle.

I was bummed from being on academic suspension, I had a huge project at work with looming deadlines, and my lengthy commute was starting to wear on me.

I welcomed four days of fun in the sun with open arms and a lot of relief. Per my usual vacations, I was expecting time to reflect, relax and unwind. I wanted to come back refreshed and inspired and with some kind of grand revelation that pushes me forward, as my trips tend to do.

Well, as a first-time attendee to a destination wedding, while there were moments to do your own thing, I realized trips that have schedules of any kind, may not contribute to the usual relaxation and pace of my other vacations.

Therefore, that probably contributed to me not having my usual moment of enlightenment, or feeling completely recharged. It also didn’t help that I was tending to some serious sunburn for the duration of the trip and well after.

As for the schedule, there was the bachelorette party, the rehearsal dinner, and of course, the wedding itself. I enjoyed every moment and appreciated the great lengths the bride and groom went through to plan such fun events. I really enjoyed myself, which was what was supposed to happen.But, I needed to put my expectation of complete vacation zen to the side, to be a present and active participant in the festivities.

While there was a good amount of time to lounge on the beach, enjoy the great food and book a spa treatment or two, I always felt like in the back of my head I had to be back to my room to have enough time to do something with my hair (Natural girl problems, but I think I did an awesome job for every occasion after being on the beach!), shower and get dressed to get to a designated spot at a designated time.

A group of folks from the wedding party were going on an all day excursion, and I passed to just relax on the beach and get in some spa time. I knew I’d be exhausted. And the start time for the trip was somewhere around 6 a.m. after hanging out into the wee hours the previous night. NOPE.

So, I say all of that to say this: if you’re going on a trip for a destination wedding, it isn’t safe to assume you’d get the amount of rest you’d normally get during a vacation you’ve planned for yourself, because of having to stick to a schedule someone else lovingly set. We tend to try to kill two birds with one stone (not just with destination weddings and vacations), but the real mission of the trip is to celebrate and shower love upon the couple who just happened to tie the knot in a beautiful locale.

If you keep these things in mind, you won’t find yourself wondering how you still wound up so tired upon your return. So my lesson was, don’t try to turn the destination wedding into your personal vacation and expect the same results. Be present for the happy couple and focus your energy on that.  Just book another trip! It’s a great excuse to just GO, again!!

 

Wedding Guest-Turned Natural Bridal Hairstylist I’m Freaking Out, Here

For most women, our wedding day seems to be elevated in our mind’s eye as the happiest day of our lives, and the magical day where for 24 hours, we are our most beautiful in our entire lifetime. And it’s usually photographed. We slay. All day. This is non-negotiable.

A beautiful friend of mine is getting married in the coming months and while attending her bridal shower a few weeks ago, she approached me about discussing natural hairstyles for her destination wedding.

Originally, I thought this was a simple conversation and that she already had a stylist in mind, but just wanted other opinions from a fellow natural. So I pulled out my phone and pointed her to amazing sites like Munaluchi Bride. (Their site is gorge, I’m just browsing. No man, but just browsing.)

This is not a drill folks. Here's the style we are attempting.

This is not a drill folks. Here’s the style we are attempting. (Photo credit. My Natural Sistas)

What I didn’t realize was, I was getting set up. The bride’s mother-in-law to be complimented me on my hair and managed to tell the bride not to worry because she would be there to help and so would I. I as in me, the author.

Me the author who experiments on her own head, but rarely ever attempts to work on others because, well, I’m not a professional and I don’t want to be responsible for jacking up anyone’s hair on a regular day.

But in this case, I’m being drafted to work wonders on a nervous bride who wants to enjoy the sun, sand and watersports all week, doesn’t like weaves, and doesn’t want to wear braids (which is understandable, because it’s usually associated with vacation styles). I’ve seen elegant braids, but I get it.

So, I took a deep breath and told my friend that I would help. But we’d have to be strategic. There were a variety of unknowns: The humidity in Mexico, wedding nerves and a high pressure situation.

We needed to select a hairstyle that could be done that day, that was sleek and could hold up to the elements, but allow my friend to have the freedom to enjoy the resort like her guests, and not have to sleep in some awkward position during the night so her impeccable style would “keep.”

We scoured pinterest boards and swapped ideas for twists and buns and styles where faux kanankalon ponytails could easily be added and then removed.

Then I devised a plan where she’d come by my house and we run through the process to see how long it would take to work on her hair, what products we liked and if the ideas we saw on pinterest were completely unrealistic.

She stopped by last Saturday and we were all set to go. I was extremely nervous and I told her that I was and that she really had to be honest with me about whether or not she liked her hair and not to think about the work or the time involved. We want to be able to get it right and make the process smooth for the day of which will already be stressful. So she agreed. And she had a good laugh at my whiteboard that outlined our game plan and our challenges.

I work in project management. I think these things out.

So off to work we went, she shampooed and conditioned her hair and agreed that she could do that in the shower the day of.

Section by section, I took the blow dryer and pulled each section taught to perform the tension method to stretch her very coily hair, that’s quite similar to mine in texture. As we went along, I realized my friend had crazy shrinkage and soon her hair was reaching her shoulders as I worked.

To cut down on the inevitable frizzing I twisted each freshly dried section and added some oil.

We played old 90s music and talked about the wedding, my dating life and other things. It made me miss the old days of spending entire Saturday’s at the salon with my mother and my sister growing up. There is a kinship between women when we go through our lengthy beauty rituals and share them, especially around special moments like getting married, Easter Sunday, graduations and proms. There is an essence of black girl magic.

As I worked through each section, my confidence would build. I’d be less timid working around her head pulling her head closer to me so I can get a better look or angle or be able to part the hair just right.

I’d compliment how strong and healthy her hair is, and how incredible her shrinkage was hiding so much length and thickness. I think that made her feel better too.

We looked at the hair adornments she brought with her and ones she was interested in online.

And after two hours of blow drying and one hour of styling, slicking hairs down and adding some hair to the bun for high drama, I told the bride it was time to take a look.

During our first attempt, she found using two ponytails was too much hair and too much high drama. So we tweaked it.

Her face was very still.

I was very nervous.

We looked at the YouTube video two more times.

I put on the finishing touches and we went to the mirror. I advised her to stand with her back to the bathroom mirror and hold the hand mirror out in front of her to see our handiwork.

And finally, a slow smile. It felt super slow.

Still nervous, I reminded her she could say she didn’t like it if she really didn’t. And that I wouldn’t be offended and to speak now so we can make adjustments (like find another stylist, a professional. A non-me stylist. Lol). And she said that she did like it.

It appeared as if she was imagining the makeup and the dress. Then, we added one of the hair adornments, and her smile became broader.

She was seeing it come together.

And so was I.

Seeing her relax boosted my confidence and I exhaled.

We clocked in officially at 3 hours. And discussed her schedule on the wedding morning that involves her time for makeup with the resort salon and the best time for us to start her hair and get her to the altar on time. We made mental notes of all of our favorite hair tools and products. I warned that for the liquids, she go ahead and pack it with checked luggage.

And now we have a happy, natural bride with one less worry, thanks to the trial run.

But we still have a very frightened, wedding guest-turned amateur natural bridal hairstylist.

Wish me luck y’all.

And speaking of the beautiful connection between friends doing hairs. Check out this video of Lupita Nyong’o explaining how she used to braid her friends’ hair in college.

 

Sasha Obama: An Ode to the Little Sisters With Big Presence

sashaservesface

Sasha is serving face in attendance at her first state dinner. Image: Getty/Pool

Ok, it’s been a looong time since I’ve connected with the lifers. I’m sorry.

My life has been out of control in both positive and negative ways. I’ve been going hard at school, facing a lot of challenges and the stress from it all has messed with my health and caused me to shut it down for at least a day and a half this week.

But we’re going to push all of that aside to talk about someone who I connect with on so many levels it’s not even funny. I was so inspired, I had to come out of semi-blog hiatus to pay proper respect.

Natasha Obama is her government name, but she’s so real, her fam is so real, everyone knows her as Sasha. And you can’t get no more government than living at the White House, but folks ain’t gonna call her Natasha or Tasha. Nope. It’s Sasha, baby. So there’s already something kind of counter going on.

Miss Sasha has had swag since day one, and paved the way for the Riley Curries of the world to hijack the hearts of millions with one well-placed honest look or reaction to their famous dad, or even the public.

sasha early years gettyimages-51913478

Here’s Sasha looking at the camera as if to say, “I been on.” Circa 2005 Senate Swearing in ceremony. Riley Curry is new to this. Sasha Fierce is true to this.

The cool thing about Sasha is she knows yall are watching, and she doesn’t care. Sasha has to be the founding member and president of the Sidwell Friends chapter of the “No Fucks Club.” And I’m here for it.

Obama departs Washington

U.S. President Barack Obama and daughter Sasha (R), along with two of Sasha’s friends, board Air Force One as they depart Joint Base Andrews in Washington July 17, 2015. President Obama and Sasha are traveling to New York City to meet up with Obama’s other daughter Malia for some father-daughter time. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Here’s the thing though. There’s something magical about being the younger sister to a female sibling.

Me and my sister are 10 years apart. The gap between Sasha and her older and equally fabulous sister Malia isn’t as large, but how Sasha goes about this thing called life felt so familiar.

When you’re a younger sister, you spend time really admiring your older sister, but you aren’t blind to her flaws either. You know the personality traits that might be holding her back, and you’re frustrated about them because you think she’s amazing and while you’re working out who YOU are based on what you see in your mom and your older sister and other women figures in your life, you also become very clear on adapting the things you admire and avoiding the things that you may be critical of her about.

As a younger sister, you are, on some level in a mental competition with your sister and this competition is for you.

If your sister met certain benchmarks in high school, your teachers remind you of this, so you aspire to reach higher and basically break family records, you have a family name to uphold, but you also have to set yourself apart.

My sister was the first in our house hold to go to college. I was the first to go on a scholarship. My sister was an honor roll student, but I was an honor roll student taking advanced placement classes. My sister played basketball and was the captain of the cheerleading team.

I played basketball and volleyball. Cheerleading? Nah, son.

Younger sisters are known for being more outspoken, throwing more shade and generally being the hell-raisers who question parental authority, test and push boundaries and get off on going left when everyone else goes right. And while they may give their older sisters grief, little sisters are fiercely protective of their big sisters and will go to war if anyone messes with them. Little sisters will get ugly, down and dirty when big sisters try to keep the drama to a minimum. And to some extent it’s true.

Speaking of younger sisters getting down and throwing the hands if need be…Another famous younger sister sibling Solange Knowles is a fantastic example of a strong younger sister who can follow the beat of her own drum, have the room to speak her mind, try new things and be spared some of the level of scrutiny her superstar sis Beyonce would face if she took some of the same risks or even actually truly spoke her mind.

Beyonce gives a nod to this point in one of her songs “Flawless.” “My sister taught me I should speak my mind.”

Sometimes bad ass little sisters give older sisters the permission and the safe space to let loose a little, even if it’s between the both of them. And that’s a super power in itself, when older sisters who have characteristics of their own, might feel as if they have to be the more responsible and restrained one, especially in public (knowing their younger sister probably gives no damns at all).

As I see the Obama girls grow into gorgeous, confident, poised young women, as we saw last night in a few photos from their first state dinner, I couldn’t help but seriously see myself in Sasha, even though I don’t have the powerful parents or the bank account.

I saw a young woman who continues to carve out who she is in the shadow of parents and a sibling that basically define black American excellence, who is comfortable.

She’s human. Her face is expressive. You can tell when she’s bored, you can tell when she’s amused and you can see straight joy and animation when she’s got her head cocked back holding court with her friends and cousins. You see glimpses of the strength she gives her older sister from a shared photographed glance.

Sasha-and-Malia-Obama-through-the-years_1_1

UPI.com

Shine on Sasha!! Let’s go little sisters!

 

 

 

 

Bad-Ass Scardy Cat

I keep telling yall. 2016 will be the year of the unexpected. I mentioned in a previous blog, in 2015, I was concentrating on balance. And it served me well. Focusing on balance brought me to a good place and I think prepared me for the coming year.

I’m getting that much closer to finishing my master’s degree (hopefully in December folks!), and I’m getting much better at just saying no to things I can’t get with and taking a time out when things get a little crazy. I’m learning to listen to my inner voice and my body (which is super important as I’m getting older. 34 next month yall… and when 29tolife started, we were talking about the possibilities of what the 30s will bring! Ha!)

At any rate, I’m the kind of person who, I believe exudes a certain self-confidence (that I fight for daily). People in my life and strangers even compliment me on how I carry myself, and how I can motivate other people or make others feel good too. But at the root of it all, like I said, I fight for it. I have to pump myself up, and I’m elated when people tell me that I am beautiful or I did something well. It really helps. I think on twitter, I mentioned being what I call a “bad-ass scardy cat.”

I may try new things or things that scare the hell out of me, or make a life change that scares me, but once I’ve made up my mind, no matter how scared I am I do it. There you go, a bad-ass scardy cat.

Well on Jan 2, 2016, I may have outdone myself.

I got a tattoo. At 33 years old, I was eating breakfast with my cousin and I said I’m doing it today. She asked if I was sure, and with a piece of bacon in my mouth, I said yes. It was clear as a bell.

I knew I wanted a tattoo right then, that day, just as I knew my name. I just knew I had to do it. So after thinking about local places my friends have gone to, looking at the websites and recalling strong reputations for cleanliness, experience, ability and friendliness to newbies, I set out for the tattoo shop.

The place was pretty busy with folks also determined to get tatted or pierced, most folks adding to their collections.

I have to say my tattoo artist Jen, was the PERFECT person to do my tattoo. She was warm, kind, and had a bunch of bad-ass tattoos of her own. She made me feel completely at ease, even though my heart was beating out of my chest as the needle touched my skin for the very first time.

I asked her to please just keep talking to me, as she worked. I couldn’t bear to just let the buzzing hum of the needle and background noise of other conversations suffice.

Keep in mind, this act of badassery was going against everything my religious family believed was proper, especially for a woman. To my family, it probably would have even made more sense for me to do such a thing during college. But to be an established “professional” woman rolling into her mid-thirties, why now?

Now was the perfect time, because I am grown. I have lived enough to get a really good idea of who I am and who I’m not. I’ve had my heart broken, I’ve changed careers slightly, I’m expanding my education, I’ve changed my hair, I’ve lost weight, I’ve visited other countries. Whatever I choose to put on my body at this point wouldn’t be a whim, but a conscious decision.

That choice, was a lovely quill pen. The feather represents truth. The truth sets us free and makes us light as a feather. Birds are free and fly, they have feathers. I love the connection of it all. Whether I work in journalism or not, I’ll always be a writer. That will never change.

My truth will be ever-evolving as I continue to learn things, experience things and grow.

I think when Jen asked me why I wanted a quill, I wasn’t as eloquent as I was just now, but I mentioned being a journalist, the feather representing truth and how I really wanted this particular tattoo for YEARS, but never had the guts to do it.

By not being in a relationship, it was even easier not to be influenced by or wonder whether or not my partner thought it was a good idea or not, sexy or not, etc.

I truly believe the Belize trip was a catalyst for this. Ziplining through the jungle, getting a mud bath and being butt naked and painted and adorned in flowers and having myself photographed, it was liberating. It was an acceptance of myself that I wasn’t familiar with, but it fit. I saw myself in those pictures being adventurous and happy and comfortable with my body and my hair and just living. I loved that. This is me. This is who I am. This is who I’ve been all along.

Was it painful? Well, it wasn’t a massage, but it wasn’t waterboarding either. The best way I can describe it was a deep scratching, that became more sensitive depending on where the needle went. But it wasn’t that bad. Jen was quick and focused, while making me feel comfortable.

I went into journalist mode asking her about what it was like to do her very first tattoo, what was her own personal first tattoo, and if she doodled as a child. She went to college for fine arts, and found that tattoo artistry would be a reasonable and profitable way to make good on that education and how she enjoyed meeting so many different kinds of people. She admitted to giving a side-eye or two for people’s choices, and told me about how celebrities often send people in in droves to have identical ink.

She also mentioned how an audience can make people more dramatic while getting ink, and that women tend to appear to be in more pain if a boyfriend or group of girlfriends are around.

I thanked Jen and walked out with my cousin kind of new.

I felt a bit more edgy, but then I unpacked that confidence later as I proudly rubbed the After Ink ointment on my brand new tat. I kept looking at it and admiring it. It just felt like I was myself. I was always myself, and this was an outward manifestation of just how bad-ass I could really be, according to my own standards and there’s nothing more bad-ass or revolutionary than that.

 

 

Sweet 2016

With only a few weeks left of 2015 left, it’s really not too soon to discuss the New Year.
2015 was dope. I was able to visit three different countries this year, which is something I keep pinching myself about. I started a new job and despite academic ups and downs, I’m still in the game. I hope to walk in 2017, unless there’s a winter ceremony. We’ll see.
Anyway, the love department was pitiful, so maybe. Just maybe 2016 will present me with a new worthwhile situation.
But 2015 was a year of truly doing me. It was unexpected.
I took more chances, I said no to things I didn’t want to do and I followed my gut.
I even put myself in an 8 week grueling exercise program and managed to lose 15 pounds. I felt good about the skin I’m in. I did gain about 4 pounds back, so I’m not trying to have that, I’ve got more work to do, but the point is, just like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, or The Wiz, I’ve got all of the tools in me to do whatever it is I need to do.
There were victories this year, and there were defeats. But I appreciated the journey. I took time to give myself some props just as much as criticize and analyze all the stuff I did wrong.
So, I have no resolutions. I want to do what I did in 2015, but on a larger scale. Challenge myself more, love myself more. Rest. Travel. Learn a thing or two or three. Feel good about my decisions and then keep it moving. Not agonize over every little thing.
Let’s make it a Sweet 2016! Cheers!

I Want to Scoop Ice Cream in the Caribbean Too!

I have been really intrigued by a woman who has been on the news and all over social media for quitting a 90k salary job in New York City, and leaving it all behind to work in an ice cream shop in the Caribbean.
If you’ve ever been to the Caribbean, you will wonder why you are killing yourself in the rat race of everyday life and be tempted to do the same. But you start talking yourself out of it.
You say, that kind of life isn’t for me.
I’ll be far away from family and friends, and airline tickets don’t come cheap.
I’ll miss the mall and all of my favorite places to eat and shop.
People in the Caribbean move too slow, it would eventually drive me crazy.
What would I do? Almost everyone is in the hospitality industry!
I visited the Cayman Islands last year with my cousin and best friend. My best friend is a nurse, and our tour guide happily took detours to show hospitals and new health centers to recruit and lure my friend to work there, because they are always looking for medical professionals.
I half-jokingly asked if she wouldn’t mind driving by the local newspaper, didn’t they need another writer or editor???
My best friend was actually considering it. Who wouldn’t?
I’m jealous of that woman, but not for the obvious reasons. I’m jealous because she had the guts to do what most of us joke and say we’ll do, but never do because of fear.
That woman went out and got exactly what she wanted and she’s happier. She took a risk. She did something outside of what most people would consider the norm. Through a very limited lens, people believe being 31 with a $95,000 salary is having it all. As she explains, in her article, in NYC, that’s a base salary to live a comfortable existence. And I’ve even said, I would never move to NYC for a job for less than $90k. It’s a complete waste and I’d be totally stressed just trying to simply live.

It’s another message to me that success isn’t measured in money, and happiness surely isn’t either. And while we are always concentrating on negotiating for more money, we neglect to negotiate for our happiness. We put hard lines on how much we expect to earn according to our skills and talents, but we don’t tell potential employers, or lovers or ourselves, what our non-negotiables are for our peace of mind and our joy. We don’t ever really take the time to sit around thinking about what truly makes us happy and how to incorporate that into our lives without feeling guilty about it. Why do we equate happiness with friviolity or even selfishness? Happiness is the first thing to go last on the list for some reason, meanwhile the things that make us happy can make us mentally and physically healthier and it should be a much higher priority.
Most of us are working ourselves to death in thankless jobs, for companies who will replace us if we choose to leave or up and die. They just do. A friend of mine told me about a colleague who just dropped dead while working out. This man was in his 40s, and the company wasted no time in finding his replacement shortly after his memorial service. So, companies have goals and priorities and bottom lines, and so should we. Even Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital has to start looking for a new neurosurgeon, post McDreamy… booo.
Stretching ourselves to make it to each weekend or even better, a 3-day holiday weekend is a sad existence.
I think about how hard my parents worked, and how my dad is in his 60s and isn’t even thinking about retiring. He likes working, but he doesn’t feel financially secure enough to stop because well he helped put me and my sister through college, as well as paid for medical bills for my mom.
While I can appreciate the work ethic that was handed down to me, I am not a fan of generational work yourself in the groundness that got passed to me too.
This is why I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had in recent years to take what I call “Real Vacations.”
We’re drowned out by the sounds of our bills and things we believe we have to do first, before we can experience… well life. And I’m sick of it.
Maybe I can’t run off to the Caribbean… well I could, it’s just really scary. But, it’s time to take control of the pleasure in my life in smaller ways.
Allow yourself the time to do things you like to do, and take in the beauty of where you live.
I’ve been making more frequent spa trips. I like visiting local parks and botanical gardens, I’d like to check out some of Maryland and Virginia’s wineries. I want to visit some of the beaches in Delaware and North Carolina. I’ve been looking at bed and breakfasts online.
I’m not saying go out and make huge life changes on a whim. This woman did her research, she asked people questions about what kind of transition this would be and then she was realistic about how her life was going to change. Then she went for it.

Treat Yo Self To Some ‘Good Jewelry’

Every now and then, a woman should walk into a jewelry store– not your favorite accessory spot, but a straight up jewelry store and buy yourself a piece.
We often place the role of special jewelry hunting to significant others.
Sometimes we hint, or tell folks what we want and we hope around Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or an anniversary, we’ll get that shiny object of desire.
Well, I’m single.
And for some reason, while I don’t mind getting jewelry from a lover or a loved one (rare occasions) I tend to buy myself a piece of jewelry as a symbol of power and loving myself. It’s a special moment, because I don’t do it often and I’m discriminating about my selection.
Maybe it’s a special moment to me, because I know I like to wear a lot of costume jewelry, so when I’m ready to throw down real cash for a certain piece, it means so much more.
Fairly recently I purchased a new watch.
I’m very picky about watches and it takes me a long time to find just the right one. Nothing that’s too plain, nothing that’s too dainty, but not too thick and masculine either… not gaudy, but classic. Something I’d reach for when I want to make a statement about my style without saying a word.
I had worn a silver Guess watch for probably the last 12 years. It had been with me through the ups and downs and there was even one moment I was heartbroken when I thought I lost it in Chicago. Thankfully my boyfriend at the time found it. I was so relieved. Sure, I could have had another watch, but it was so much a part of my daily life, it was like me putting on my glasses every day. For the last couple of years, I’d been saying I need a new watch or at least a different watch if I’m not wearing silver jewelry.
So in my mind, I decided I would upgrade from Guess and make sure I chose either a black watch or one that was rose gold.
I always buy my good jewelry during random moments. That old Guess watch I purchased as a student from Lord and Taylor. I felt fancy just buying it.
My new watch, I bought from Macy’s and they were actually having a great sale on all of their watches, it was too good to be true. And after trying on a black one and a rose gold one, I found it and I’ve been loving it.
Interestingly enough, I’ve only been breaking out the rose gold for special occasions. I continue to wear my Guess watch to work. We should have special items for special times that make us feel like we shine.
Today, I bought a lovely ring. Once again it was a random situation, and ironically enough in another store, my dear friend asked me how I choose my accessories.
“They speak to me. And then I can see in my mind how they look with certain outfits I have at home. The thing is all of this stuff will be speaking to you. Some even screaming (those you leave alone, they are probably ugly and gaudy) So you have to just relax and go with what gravitates to you.”
Welp, we made our way to an official jewelry store and that’s just what happened. I was drawn to a rose gold ring with a white sapphire stone because it looked like an antique, it looked timeless and it was on sale for a great price. Shortly after my engagement ended I bought a little sterling silver ring with black stones and I can’t wear it anymore it’s too small. So I decided, I needed an even better ring that just would suit me and my style. And there she was. My goal of being in the store was actually for my friend, but I kept coming back to it. There were other rings, but that one seemed to be the one. It spoke to me.
I like those moments when I decide to treat myself with these kinds of trinkets. I’ve only done it one other time, when I bought my silver pearls and a silver cuff and recently I’ve gotten on the Pandora bandwagon. Those charms suck you in. But it’s a nice reminder to treat yourself, to love yourself and that it’s okay to acknowledge your own beauty and fabulousness through nicer jewelry from time to time.

I always tend to buy myself nice jewelry to commemorate a new phase in my life, the end of a relationship to remind me that I’m important, the beginning of a new career. And today, I think I bought the ring because I’m ready to commit myself to a new start, I’m in a good place and I’m blessed. I can support my friends with a full heart as they embark on new relationships and not think about where I may lack in love. I wasn’t always there, and that deserves a treat!!!
S

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