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BROWNSUGAMAMA: Getting Active With In The Dance Fitness & Yendi Phillipps! [video]

yendijuly2014 (4)It’s been 2 months, and #BROWNSUGAMAMAhood has been quite the journey! We’re getting to the point where Layla the Little Magician is starting to form some semblance of a sleep schedule – nowhere hear through the night, but at least she’s starting to understand the difference between sunrise and sunset.

As for me, I had a great 6 week check-up and have started to ease back into my workout regime. How did I kick off my return to the land of sweat, muscle soreness, and fighting the urge to skip workouts when my Nike Training Club app reminds me? By getting in the dancehall groove with Yendi Phillipps’ In The Dance Fitness class – the Tdot return!

yendijuly2014 yendijuly2014 (2) If you recall, I wined and bubbled with a belly full of magic during the Toronto launch of the Jamaican goddess’ dance fitness DVD earlier this year. We talked then about natural hair, her life as a dancer/beauty queen/TV show host/model/media personality/mommy, and obviously chatted about her In The Dance Fitness project, merging her love of dance with a fun workout you can do in the comfort of your own home. Yendi returned to Toronto in July to give us more dancehall goodness, to tape In The Dance Fitness 2 (yes!), and to fill in as a guest host on Global News’  The Morning Show!

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 via Yendi’s Instagram

As busy as she was, I managed to have another fun interview convo caught on camera with the hilarious and beautiful chica after sweatin’ it out in dance class. Take a peek at Yendi and I, glistening and glowing straight out of the dance studio – talking about motherhood, tips for getting active post-baby, what’s next for In The Dance Fitness, and more!

Bonus: catch my dance moves and Little Magician joining in the fun too! 

So, get ready world! Yendi will be bringing In The Dance Fitness to a city/country near you! Keep up with her moves on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

Photos/video by iShotYa Media

GET MOVING: Unique & Free Workouts To Keep You Happy & Healthy [via For Harriet]

Dance is a great full body workout! Check me out on the far left, ready to get my bubble on with Yendi Phillips! [photo via HeyDoYou.com]

Dance is a great full body workout! Check me out on the far left, ready to get my bubble on with Yendi Phillips! [photo via HeyDoYou.com]

One of the biggest challenges with implementing fitness into your life is doing it in a way that is real and tangible for YOU. I’ve recently been appointed a Community Health Ambassador for the Have Faith In Healthy Living project run by Toronto’s Women’s Health In Women’s Hands Community Health Centre, and will be running a series of workshops this month on ways to do just that! If you detest the gym like I do, you may be wondering how can you find fun, unique, easily accessible, and cost-effective fitness options. Look no further! Here are some fitness choices that will help you hit your health goals!

I’ve personally found that dance is a full-body workout that is so fun, you don’t even realize how much work your body is doing. Since moving from a small town to a big city, I’ve been able to take part in different forms of diasporic dance such as Afro-Cuban and West African dance – and I’ve loved every minute. The best dance classes are the ones that challenge your body to move and maneuver itself in ways you likely haven’t before; they encourage you to leave your apprehensions at the door; and they give you a bit of context into the history and culture surrounding the art. Whether you’re into salsa, dances of the Orishas, hip hop, or jazz – see what’s in your area and take advantage – or purchase a cost-effective dance DVD like Yendi Phillipps’ In The Dance Fitness!

Socacize is a unique workout created by Trinidad-born, Toronto-based Ayanna Lee-Rivears. Combining cardio, weight training, and strength training with dance moves and music from the Caribbean, Socacize’s popularity has exploded thanks to its ability to be a fun yet effective workout. Classes are available in Canada, St. Lucia, and across the U.S. in both 1-hour class and special 2-hour bootcamp class formats. If you like to “wine and tone” to some reggae or get your heart pumping with some soca, Socacize is for you!

If you have a smartphone and/or a laptop, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home to get a good workout in! The digital world is filled with a multitude of awesome and free resources to help you get and stay healthy! The NTC Nike Training Club app is one of my favourites – select a carefully curated 15-, 30-, or 45-minute workout, fire up your music playlist, and get to it! NTC is great for a variety of reasons – one, being that each exercise move is timed, so you can pace yourself and do as many as you can in the given time slot. Two, because the app gives you the opportunity to watch a video tutorial of any move you’re unfamiliar with. Three, because you don’t necessarily need to have any workout equipment to feel the burn. Bonus? At the end of each workout, you’re prompted to set a reminder in your phone for the next one!

Another great free site is The Daily HIIT (high-intensity interval training). I’ll admit – I was a bit intimidated when I first visited this site. The rock-hard bodies of the fitness models and online trainers made me feel that maybe I wasn’t ready for it just yet, but I tried it anyways. Surprise, surprise – I was happy to learn that I could keep up a lot better than I expected! Granted, these workouts are quite challenging, and some do advocate for the use of workout equipment like hand weights or kettlebells – but at no more than 12 minutes in length, these workouts are a great way to squeeze in some quick yet challenging exercise into your life.

A bonus free workout that I never considered until recently is mall-walking. Working at the mall during high school, I often saw groups of seniors power walking through the corridors in the early morning before stores opened. It never crossed my mind again, until I became pregnant and everyone said, “Walking is the best exercise!” Being pregnant in the middle of one of the most brutal winters Toronto has seen makes that a bit difficult, so mall-walking popped back up as an option. If you like to walk (or even do a light jog), and want a free, indoor option, check your with your local mall and see if mall-walking is available!

Have Faith In Healthy Living official poster

Have Faith In Healthy Living official poster

So, there you have it – a few options for getting fitness into your life in fun and nearly free ways! Want to learn more? Join me at one of my two Have Faith In Healthy Living workshops that are open to the public:

March 8th at 1:30-3pm at WHIWH (2 Carlton Street, Toronto)

March 13th at 1-3pm at Malvern Family Resource Centre (1321 Neilson Road, Scarborough)

Workshops are FREE – snacks will be provided – and you’ll get to meet other great women in the community! Email bee@83toinfinity.com to RSVP!

Post originally published on For Harriet

LOC LOVE: Interview with Rowena of NubianSoulsLocks

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Recently, I realized I was missing something on the blog. Though I’ve been having hearty natural hair convos and documenting my current hair journey on social media mediums like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, it’s been a while since I’ve written a good post on life as a kinky/curly chick. Today, I bring you a little something special.

Rowena of the blog Nubiansoulslocks is a lovely loc’d lady who balances her work in provincial government with her passion for health and wellness. She’s also one of my good sista-friends, so I admit to being a bit biased in wanting to show her off! You’ll quickly see that she’s more than deserving of the feature – get all the way into her gorgeous locs and the hair knowledge she’s acquired on her journey!

Without further ado – here’s my chat with Rowena!

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Bee: What’s your hair story? 

Rowena: For as long as I can remember, I was always on the search for the perfect hairstyle that would be my “signature” style. Every month I would run into the local drug store and purchase the latest Sophisticate’s Black Hair magazine in the hopes that I would find that hairstyle that screamed “Rowena.” I wanted to find something that was synonymous with my personality as well as my face shape, etc. Over the years I went back and forth with relaxers – I relaxed my hair for the first time in the 8th grade, I stopped in the 12th grade and decided to try and grow my hair out. I went back to the creamy crack the summer before I went off to university. I wanted to try something “drastic” and did a short bob. My biggest regret was relaxing my hair; I didn’t have an idea how to take care of it at the time, so my hair would fall out. Texturizing my hair gave me similar results, so I continued to have a hard time trying to find a style that would make me feel and look good. I toyed with weaves and wigs for a short period but I felt extremely uncomfortable wearing something that did not fit my face, or my personality.   

Bee: How did you come to the decision to rock locs? 

Rowena: After my relaxer fiasco, I decided to wear twist extensions as a means to grow my natural hair out. I knew how to put extensions in my own hair so I decided to try this out without realizing how well the style suited me. I remember putting in the twists and immediately receiving compliments from my friends and family on how it suited me so well. I continued wearing the style, playing around with different textures of the kinky extensions, until someone suggested that I try locking my hair. I thought about it and considered trying it out, but it took me a couple of years to actually take the dive and start my loc journey because I was afraid of the “commitment and process” of having locs. It has been a little over 7 years and I definitely don’t regret my decision….this style definitely suits me, my lifestyle and my personality. 

Bee: You work in a corporate government environment – has your hair had any impact on your career or your relationships with coworkers? 

Rowena: In the beginning of my loc journey I was very conscious of the way my colleagues would react to my new hairstyle. Fortunately for me they were very supportive of my decision which I am very grateful for. Overall I have had a positive experience – a lot of colleagues (from all races) would ask about my regimen, how long it takes me to style my hair, how long would I want to grow it, and how I make the style look so versatile, especially after I cut my locs into a shorter style. I haven’t received any negative comments towards my hairstyle as the majority of the people of colour in my office wear their hair natural, and two others have locs as well. We all make a conscious effort to look presentable in the office and I feel that’s what matters here. There are days that I feel that my overall appearance has an impact on my career, especially when I read articles about individuals facing hardship with their natural hairstyles – but I make a conscious effort to focus on my work ethic rather than other’s thoughts about my locs. 

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Bee: You recently cut your locs into a cute shoulder-length bob – what made you cut them, and do you regret the decision at all?

Rowena: I’m going to be honest and say that I had that 7-year itch where I briefly thought of the decision to completely cut my locs off. They were getting very long, and because of my active lifestyle, it because increasingly difficult to maintain. Some of my locs started breaking off as well so I had to make a decision on what to do. I was getting very frustrated with my locs. I loved the progress that I had made over the years but that length was just getting in the way.  A few years ago I saw a hairstyle in Essence magazine (and I wrote a blog post about it) that I instantly fell in love with, and I told myself that if I decided to cut my locs,  I would cut it into a bob similar to the picture that I had seen. I felt that I needed a change; as a way to start over, and to fall in love with my locs all over again. It also made my loc maintenance/exercise regimen a little easier so I went to a stylist in September and cut them off. I was in complete shock when she gave me that first batch of locs, but seeing the results afterwards, I was extremely happy with my decision and I have NO regrets. 

Bee: What’s your current hair care regimen? 

Rowena: Because I am always in the gym, I wash my locs twice a week. I don’t use as many hair products as I used to, so right now I either put coconut oil on my scalp, or I use the Mizani Coconut Souffle Light Moisturizing Hairdress. In between washings, I like to use the Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Moisturizing Leave-in Conditioner to prevent my scalp from getting too dry. I prefer to keep it really simple these days. 

Bee: People often aren’t aware of how versatile locs can be. What are some of your favourite loc styles?  

Rowena: I love side bun hairstyles. When I had longer locs, I would always wear a side sweep because I found them fun and feminine. I also love to wear my locs in curls, and pin them up in various ways. I never realized how versatile locs can be until I checked out YouTube. There’s a vast amount of video blogs available that provide tutorials on loc hairstyles, for all lengths. My favourite go-to for hairstyles would be Chescalocs. If I wanted to try something fun, I would go to her YouTube page.   

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Bee: You’re very physically active and health-conscious – how do you maintain your locs during frequent workouts, and how does your hair choice fit with your healthy lifestyle choice? 

Rowena: As you know, I am a Socacize instructor, and since it is a high impact aerobic exercise class, my locs are drenched after every workout. What I have learned is that when it comes to product use, less is more. Your hair (and skin) will thank you when you put less product in your hair, especially when you work a sweat more often. Aside from the length that I had earlier, I found that having locs while maintaining an active lifestyle is a lot easier for I don’t worry about sweating my locs out at all. Because I value my active lifestyle, I had to get over that “I’ll ruin my fresh twist/I just washed my hair” mentality and just exercise. Having a healthier lifestyle is more important than sweating out my freshly-done locs.  I have become more aware of the foods that eat as well; I have committed myself to cleaner eating and I have definitely noticed a change in the strength as well as the growth process. I eat a lot of leafy greens throughout the day and I feel as if this has positively contributed to the health of my locs. 

Bee: What are some pieces of advice you’d offer to someone who is contemplating or has just started their loc journey?

Rowena: Patience is key! Locs will not form overnight so be patient with its growth and development. Document your monthly progress and you’ll be fascinated with the progress you have made as the months go by. 

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Bee: Where can people find you? (FB, Twitter, blog, etc.) 

Rowena: I can be found at the following:

Facebook: Nubiansoulslocks

Twitter: @Nubiansoulslocs

Blog: http://nubiansoulslocks.blogspot.com

Instagram: @Nubiansoulslocs

If you have locs or are contemplating them, I’m sure you got some piece of info or inspiration from Rowena! If you have any questions for her, feel free to comment here or contact her directly!

GIRL TALK: Interview With In The Dance Fitness’ Yendi Phillipps [Video]

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Last week I got to engage in one of my first loves, and something I haven’t had the energy to do throughout the early part of my pregnancy – DANCE! I was one of the lucky few who grabbed a ticket to the sold-out In The Dance Fitness class with Jamaican dynamo Yendi Phillipps at Toronto’s City Dance Corps, and I’m SO glad I did.

First off – if Yendi Phillipps‘ name isn’t one you’re used to hearing, get familiar. I first “met” Yendi through her pageant life, serving as Miss Jamaica World 2007, and Miss Jamaica Universe 2010 (as 1st runner up, she made history by being the highest-placing Jamaican ever in the pageant). Since then, she’s parlayed her beauty, smarts, and charisma into a complex career: brand spokesperson (Air Jamaica, Digicel), Smile Jamaica TV host, foundation creator, model, actress, dancer, and much more. With her educational background (a BFA in Dance and a Master’s degree in Recreation & Leisure Management), Yendi returned to her first love – dance – for her latest project, In The Dance Fitness.

The recipe for ITDF? Mix one part love of dance with one part love of Jamaican culture, and substitute the need for a gym with the comfort of working out at home to a DVD. Using dancehall dance moves like the Butterfly, Body Basics, and One Drop, Yendi has created a fun and challenging workout that incorporates cardio and aerobic activity, core work, body toning, and fat burning all in one. I went not once, but twice to her live classes here in Toronto for the Canadian launch, and adored every minute. Yendi’s energy was the best blend of motivation, positivity, and fun, so we all got into it. Y’all also know I’m not a gym girl, so In The Dance Fitness is perfect for me – give me some good music, some dance moves, and a guaranteed full-body workout, and I’m happy – plus, my Jamaican heritage loves all the good things yaad has to offer!

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After Thursday’s media class, I got to kick it with Yendi and talk a bit about this new project and more. Here’s a taste of our hilarious and open chat:

On In The Dance Fitness…

Bee: What was the idea for this project, and where did In The Dance come from?

Yendi: So, outside of what people know me for, which is you know, Miss Jamaica and Miss Universe and so on,  I actually am a dancer. So I’ve been dancing since I was 3 years old, and I’m a trained dancer – I have a bachelor of fine arts in dance where I completed my degree in New York, and this is what I’ve done my whole life. This is what I know, right?! And then, in training for the competitions and to get ready for those competitions, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the gym – but body is a big part of it. You know, when you have the swimsuit competition and you’re only walking in front of 3 billion people [laughs] no big deal, no pressure, right? So, I have to get fit and I have to get ready! My method was dance, so what I wanted to do was merge Jamaican culture – which is the culture I know best, which is what I do – and merge it with my passion, which is dance. And so, here came the idea of putting it together, putting it in a product, and the birth of In The Dance Fitness came.

On Motherhood…

Bee: How has your daughter’s [16-month old cutie, Israel] presence shifted things in your life?

Yendi: Oh – it’s shifted things tremendously. I feel like I had a mission before, and now there’s a bit more purpose to my journey. It’s not just about trying to get to a goal, but it’s about enjoying the experience and the journey towards that goal [...] it’s actually made me more determined to leave an indelible mark, because I want her to look at me as her inspiration and no external factors. And yes, there’s a part of me that wants to make my mother proud and my parents proud, but I want to make my daughter proud to say “That’s my mom.”

On Natural Hair…

Bee: I know you recently did your big chop, and you’re still wearing your hair naturally – what was the impetus behind that decision, and did you feel anything around redefining what beauty means to you?

Yendi: You know what it was for me – and I’m SO glad you asked that question! No one has asked that question at all, so thank you for that! This world of pageantry puts out this image of what beauty is ‘supposed’ to be [...] and it was so much of not who we naturally are – it’s almost like it was a big façade. In retrospect, I kind of felt like, why is it that we as women are made to feel as though we have to do a particular thing to be a particular thing, and I wanted to almost redefine for myself what my projection of beauty was. My personal journey is that I wanted to go back to what I was created to be.

Check the video for Yendi’s additional thoughts on bouncing back after baby, motherhood, natural hair choices, being a big dreamer, work-life balance, and the top 3 famous folks she’d handpick for her dream In The Dance Fitness class! Plus – if you pay attention, you might just catch footage of yours truly balancing pon head top in the studio!

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Did you catch her face when I said I was hitching a ride in her luggage?! Lol!

Yendi’s In The Dance Fitness DVD is available at Walmart locations across Canada, and more details can be found at the In The Dance Fitness website. Make sure you keep up with her via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and search the #inthedanceTO hashtag to see some of the real-time reviews on social media!

Special thanks to Krystal of Chris Smith Management, iShotYa Media, and Potential Films!

SKIN WINS: Getting Back On Track With Natural Skin Care

No makeup, no filter! Straight out of the shower with grapeseed oil moisturizer.

No makeup, no filter! Straight out of the shower with grapeseed oil moisturizer.

As I may have mentioned before, I’ve been working on embracing a more natural and holistic lifestyle over the past couple of months. I started seeing a naturopathic doctor back in August, and she’s really inspired me to do the work necessary to get my mind, body, and soul back on track and in sync.

After dealing with an uncommon series of breakouts, I started looking into natural skin care options. For quite some time, I had been following the OCM (oil cleansing method), but fell off and got lazy with my skin care. With my habit of washing my face with any old thing in the shower, moisturizing inconsistently, and living life in the super-stressed lane, it’s no wonder I started breaking out in ways that haven’t occurred since puberty. I’m proud to say that I haven’t fallen asleep with makeup on in years – but that was really the only thing I could pat myself on the back about. My skin care routine was tragic, and needed a complete 180.

After reading and hearing about the wonders of black soap, I received a bottle from Love Thy HNS – an online beauty and hair boutique based in Montreal. The first thing that amazed me about the Alaffia African Black Soap was that it got every single stitch of makeup off of my face without leaving me feeling like I lost a layer of skin. My natural makeup remover staple has been coconut oil, but I found that the black soap alone did the trick amazingly.

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The Alaffia African Black Soap is created from a saponification process including shea butter, West African palm oil, and ashes – and also contains African mint and other citrus essential oils. I love the tingly feeling that the mint adds, and appreciate the fact that the black soap doesn’t give me that OHMAHGAWMYFACEISTIGHTENINGUP feeling 5 minutes out the shower.

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After washing with my black soap, I splash my face with the coldest water I can tolerate to tighten my pores back up – then to moisturize, I use grapeseed oil. I learned that my skin LOVES grapeseed oil when I started the OCM, so I made sure to get back on it when I re-launched my new and improved skin care routine. Grapeseed oil is extremely light, and has astringent and antioxidant properties as well. Because I have oily skin, a lot of people wonder why I would put MORE oil on my face to moisturize. My chemistry days reminded me that oil dissolves oil, therefore the grapeseed helps to dissolve any excess oils in my skin – and also tricks my skin into thinking it’s sufficiently moisturized, therefore eliminating the need to overproduce oil.

I’m back to incorporating my cane sugar scrub into my repertoire, but my new natural skin care BFF is honey. Let me explain.

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I’ve started using honey as a super-simple weekly mask (major thanks to @jchiron18 on Twitter!):

  • Splash face with warm water to open pores
  • Rub honey over face
  • Let honey sit for about 30 minutes – it’ll set and get very sticky
  • After approx. 30 minutes, massage your skin in circular motions – you’ll feel like you’re pulling your skin off, but keep at it!
  • Massage your entire face for a few minutes, then rinse with water

Voilà! Baby-booty soft skin!

Honey is an amazing humectant, which means it draws and binds water from the air into your skin – hello, moisture! Honey also has great antibacterial properties, so using it as a spot treatment for pimples is highly effective. If you’re anything like me, you KNOW you’ve gone to bed with a spot or two of toothpaste on your face, trying to zap a blemish before it gets worse. Toothpaste will dry that sucker out, but will also dry your skin out in general. Honey will do the trick by killing the bacteria that causes blemishes to flourish, but will moisturize your skin at the same time. If you want happy skin, not angry skin – get some honey in your life!

So far, so good! While I’m still solely responsible for managing my stress and the physical effects it brings, I can definitely see the improvement since I got back on track with my regimen. Black soap + grapeseed oil + cane sugar + honey = great skin for Bee! Give it a try, and see how it works for you!

Do you have any natural skin care tricks? Share in the comments section!

BEE IN NYC: Our Take On Arise TV, Blogging While Brown + More

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If you follow me on Twitter, you saw me tweet over the past few weeks about the #BeeinNYC escapades I had planned for this past weekend. After a failed attempt at reaching the Big Apple in February, I was finally going to touch down in the city for a whirlwind weekend. Wondering what I got into? Here’s the recap:

Greyhound Fiascos and TV Time

I chose to take the Greyhound bus down to NYC. I left on Thursday night and was scheduled to arrive in NYC on Friday morning at around 10am. Without falling back into the blind rage I was in during my trip, I’ll just say this: the bus was late. Instead of getting in at 10:15am, we pulled into the terminal at the Port Authority at 1pm. Now, sore bum aside – I may not have minded had I not had somewhere VERY important to be.

Last week, I was contacted on Twitter by a TV producer from Arise TV – an American network that’s also carried in England and South Africa. The producer was aware that I was going to be in NYC for the Blogging While Brown Conference, and wanted to talk to me about appearing on their new show, Our Take. I had to re-read the tweet and Google the producer’s name to ensure I wasn’t being punked. Me? On TV? Whodathunkit? Long story short, we chatted back and forth and it was settled – I would be a guest on Our Take on Friday afternoon. With a live taping from 1-2pm, I was advised to come to the studio for 11:45am, dressed and ready for the camera. “Sure!” I said. “No problem!” I thought. My bus gets in at 10:15am. I’ll be about 10 mins from the studio. I’ll get ready at the terminal and head right on over. That was the plan until I ended up standing outside of a Burger King in the middle of the Poconos at 10:30am, calling the producer with “a slight issue.”

Hair and makeup done en route

Hair and makeup done en route

Once the bus got rolling on the remaining 2 hours of our trip, I hustled into Superwoman mode. I took my dress from Bedo into the bus bathroom (with no working lights) and got changed. Headed back to my seat and styled my hair (twisted by Dixie at Curl Bar Beauty Salon) into a fly updo. Pulled out my makeup bag and somehow managed to do a full face of makeup (eyeliner and all) on a moving bus without poking my eye out. Then, I packed everything up so that I would be able to jump out of the bus and into a taxi as soon as we pulled in. With my luck, I jumped into the cab of a driver who said it was his first day on the job, and didn’t know how to get to my destination. Jumped into another waiting cab, and I was on my way.

Luckily for me, the producers were extremely accommodating and had moved my segment from the top spot to the last spot to give me more time. Thanks to NYC traffic, I arrived at the studios at 1:33pm – got miked up, took a sip of water, then was on the set at 1:40pm, ready to go. MAJOR shouts out to all of the staff at Our Take on Arise TV – it was an incredible experience! I spoke on international health and medical tourism, and had a great time doing so.

I STILL haven’t watched myself on camera yet, but here’s my segment:

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Blogging While Brown

My original intent for my June version of #BeeinNYC was to speak at the Blogging While Brown Conference in Harlem. I attended for the first time last year, and was excited to return this year in a speaker’s capacity. I had a wonderful time at the Colgate-sponsored White Party on Friday night, reconnecting with friends from last year and meeting new ones. Saturday was chock-full of incredible information sharing and bonding – I took away some awesome tech tips (the bane of my blogging existence), learned how to improve my writing, and sat in on some great presentations on diversity and accessing business opportunities from blogging. Of course, I had the jitters for the first part of the day as I geared up for my own presentation! Being a blogger from outside of the USA, I wanted to use my experiences to encourage bloggers to look beyond their borders for connections. I’ll say this: for all my stressing and worrying, I think I did pretty damn good! I wanted to just get through the presentation without too many “umms” and “uhhs”, avoid any technical difficulties, and not have anyone fall asleep or get up and leave. The standing-room only at the beginning of my session +the lineup of people waiting to chat with me after my session was just icing on the cake!

Luvvie and I

Luvvie and I

Presentation time!

Presentation time!

Some of my favourite folks in the blogosphere were in the house, including Luvvie, Scott Hanselman, Necole Bitchie, Claire of The Fashion Bomb, Angel Laws of Concrete Loop, and Karen Civil. If you’re interested in attending the conference, next year’s Blogging While Brown will be held in New York City again! I loved the genuine and real conversations I had with people who are all at different stages of their blogging lives – and it was great to support and learn from each other.

An Empire State of Mind

In between all the TV stuff and conference stuff, I got to enjoy a tiny piece of the city. I stayed in Harlem (thanks to a cute little spot I booked through airbnb.com), and LOVED the vibe. Walking up Lenox Ave, eating at Sylvia’s, sitting on my stoop and listening to neighbours chat with each other as they passed by…Harlem was lovely. I ended up doing something I never thought I’d do – take the subway by myself – and traveled to Brooklyn for dinner with a homegirl I connected with through Twitter. Me and Keya Maeesha (the incredible show curator behind Date Night NYC and Date Night DC) laughed it up, ate it up, and drank it up at Sugarcane in Brooklyn, which was DOPE. From there, we headed to MeLa Machinko’s album listening party (cop her album Hov Said It Best now!) where I met more Twitter homies in the flesh, including the incomparable Jean Grae! I ended up leaving 10 minutes before Pharoahe Monch showed up, and I had a major case of the sads when I found out. What can I say? It was a perfect NYC summer night, and I had an awesome time soaking up the entire vibe. I was so happy to finally meet some of the people who I’ve been chatting with forever, and I flew out the next morning knowing I had to come back asaptually.

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As crazy and time-crunched as the weekend was, it was an important one filled for crucial firsts for me. I know that everything I experienced in NYC is going to set the tone of things to come, and I’m excited to see what’s next. However, a sista needs a break! It’s time to get back to regular blogging, more writing, and more spending time with HomieLoverFriend. A little time to breathe is always good – until the next adventure rolls around!

Were you at #BWBNYC last weekend? What are your favourite things to do/see in NYC? 

PREGNANCY PSA: Why Unsolicited Advice, Questions, & Sperm Offers Make Me Mad

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It was just your average Tuesday. Just your average Facebook chat with an old friend (specifically, a dude I dated back in high school who I hadn’t seen in forever). Just your average so-what’s-new-where-are-you-living-now-how’s-married-life-any-kids-yet routine check-up. It was just average, until it turned the corner and became unbelievable.

Now, I’ve written before about my request for folk to stay up and out of my uterus, but it seems the lesson bears repeating. I’ve continued to deal with overly excited family members and well-meaning but overly inquisitive friends, but never thought I’d have to deal with an overbearing and downright disrespectful puppy love ex who didn’t know how to stay in his lane.

After being asked if I had any kids yet, and replying that I didn’t, and fielding questions about why not, and explaining it’ll happen when the time is right – I was mentally exhausted. Usually people end by tossing up an unsolicited reminder: “Well, don’t wait too long!” or get the hint and move on to the next topic. But no, not this dude.

The next morning, I received another Facebook message that read “Good morning, my future mommy friend!”

Me: “Lol. Do you know something I don’t?”

Him: “Haha. I just know it’ll happen soon.”

Me: “I see…well, when there’s something to share, I’ll let you know. But it’s a bit of a sensitive topic, so let’s move on, shall we?”

Him: “Why is it sensitive?”

Me: “…because it is.”

Him: “Why? Is it because you really want a baby and don’t have one yet? Or is it because you just turned 30? Or do you have health problems? Or is something wrong with your husband?”

While I picked up my jaw off the floor at his audacity to continue to push the topic, I noticed the screen read “____________ is typing” – and I knew I should have just logged off right then and there.

What followed was an offer.

An offer to be my “Plan B.”

An offer to impregnate me if my “Plan A” didn’t work out.

I won’t write my response here.

Insane Facebook conversations aside, the question remains: Why are people so extremely concerned with the contents (or lack thereof) of a woman’s uterus? 

masteruterus

Let me preface with this: I know that 99.9% of the time, questions about my family plans are backed by nothing but good intentions, and I get it. Friends are excited to cuddle and spoil a brand new chocolate drop. Family members want to see which genes HomieLoverFriend and I donate to the next generation. And if I do say so myself, we’re two pretty dope individuals – so who wouldn’t want to see what kind of amazing creation we could come up with? I get it. I’m excited too. I want to see it all unfold. And that’s the point – people never realize that their anticipation pales drastically in comparison to that of the two people who are waiting for the same thing. Your urgency, anticipation, prodding, and reminders do not help.

I’ll be 100% honest. There was a day recently where I was SURE I was pregnant. I had (foolishly) played Google Doctor and read about early pregnancy symptoms, and suddenly I felt them all. I remember patting my bloated belly, imagining something no bigger than the dot on top of an i burrowing its way into me, and I couldn’t help but smile. Part of my brain said “Too soon! Don’t do it! Reconsider!” like Andre 3000, but the other part relished in its “women’s intuition” that just KNEW something was different. The day I ended up getting my period, I got caught up in a conversation about babies/when I was having some/why it was taking so long – I laughed and played coy and cliche on the outside, but each comment was like a tiny stab to the gut. Now I’m left with wounds that pretend to heal but reopen on a monthly basis.

My personal experiences have showed me just how sensitive of a topic this can be. Many assumptions are made when engaging women in discussion about their baby plans, but mindfulness is missing. Some women are aware that they cannot conceive or carry a baby to term. Some women have partners with fertility issues. Some women are navigating non-traditional families and relationships. Some women are anxiously hoping that their periods don’t come next week. Some women may have just lost a baby last week. Some women *gasp* don’t even want to have children. Regardless of circumstance, no woman should feel obligated to disclose the minutiae of her fertility plans/problems/wishes.

Uterus1

I understand human nature, and I often don’t mind a question or check in at times from family or friends. What I do mind, detest, and resent are habitual line-steppers who are pushy, rude, selfish, and/or nosy in their conversation. There is a very short list of people who are allowed to be inquisitive about the subject. If you’re in doubt, just opt out.

Today I’ve got one less friend on Facebook, but I’m OK with that. If this post encourages one more person to think before they offer some unsolicited advice or ask a prying question, I’ll live on happily. Go forth and prosper…and wait until you get that text/call/Facebook update that there’s about to be a +1. Also – keep in mind that the pushier you are, the more likely you’ll be called on for babysitting help later on down the line. I’ve got a list of folks who will see me and my bundle of joy at their doorstep, talkin’ ’bout “Well, you were so excited for his/her arrival, I didn’t think you’d mind!” Be warned.

How do you field unwanted questions and advice about your pregnancy plans? What’s the craziest thing anyone has ever said to you about having a baby? 

MORNING GLORY: The New Way I’m Going To Start My Day

In my old age (sigh…30 is coming – I kid, I kid), I’m learning that certain things about myself are changing. I used to be able to write on my laptop in my living room with nary a break in concentration. Now, I need a dedicated workspace to focus and get things done. I used to be able to work and study with friends, and now I do my best learning when I’m solo. I used to (in high school/university days) be able to stay up late and wake up at the crack of dawn, ready for the day. This last one is what has changed the most, and it’s the one I need to work on in order to save my sanity and productivity.

These days, I stay up too late and end up hitting snooze over and over in the morning. Getting out of bed in the morning is a challenge, and that challenge leads me to start my day off on a frantic and panicked ohmyGodwhattimeisitwherearemykeysIdon’thavetimeforbreakfast note. Last year, I did the Happy Black Woman’s 31 Days To Reset Your Life Challenge, and one of the daily tasks was to take an audit of your day. I clearly identified that I had a problem with staying up late and struggling in the morning, but I realized then, as I do now, that I have no one to blame but myself. The hours between 8am-5pm are generally reserved for the office, so I need to use the rest of the time that I have in a much better way.

On Saturday, I attended trey anthony’s Millionaire Artist Workshop (I interviewed trey prior to her first workshop last year) and LOVED it. trey is an accomplished writer, actor, producer, and all-around businesswoman, and returned to Toronto from her new home of Atlanta to motivate other artists who are in pursuit of their dreams. trey taught us about a tip that she learned from a mentor of hers: 5 Before 8. The 5 Before 8 trick is simple – do 5 things before 8am directly related to your career/dream/goal. Whether it’s sending an email, reading a passage from a book, working on a resume or a business plan, or doing some kind of research – be able to say that by 8am, you’ve done 5 things to push you forwards. In trey’s example, this has helped her get a jumpstart on things, because when other people might be getting started at 9am, she’s already been up and in the game. I heard her speak on it, I took notes, and I said to myself, “I’ve got to try that.”

trey also spoke about the importance of starting her day in the right way. Doing her 5 Before 8, meditating, positive affirmations, yoga, reading, talking to the right people (or making sure NOT to talk to the Negative Nellies first thing in the morning) – these are all things she does every day to get her day started off with purpose and positivity. I quickly realized while sitting in the workshop that that was what I was missing. I haven’t been starting my day with anything except HomieLoverFriend kicking me because my alarm is going off for the 2nd or 3rd time; and the mad rush filled with half-blind runs around the house, stubbed toes, curse words, and praying that there’s gas in the car. It’s no wonder that my days seem so stressful.

So, I’m determined to make a change. I realize now that the way I start my day is more important than how I end it. What I mean by that is at the end of the day, I have so many natural options of things that close out my day well. Writing, working out (I prefer evenings to mornings), quality time with the Mister/family/friends, a nice glass of wine, etc. The other thing I have to admit to myself is that I have a cutoff point at night where I go from hard-working to hardly working. That’s when I start checking Twitter or Facebook in-between “doing work”, and next thing you know, it’s after 1am and I have to schlep myself on to bed.

I’ve got to start putting in more effort to kick my days off well, so this night owl needs to become an early bird. Getting up early and starting my day with positivity and productivity might be the magic needed to help me feel more disciplined and just…good about things. It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?

I’m putting it here plainly, and as simple as it sounds, I hope it’s effective: My goal is to be productive, positive, and balanced. I will start going to bed at a decent hour, so that I can get up early enough to do my 5 Before 8 and make time for some real morning positivity. Maybe later on I’ll swing back to being a work demon in the late night hours, but until then, I’ll give this morning thing a try.

 Are you an early bird of a night owl? When do you feel the most productive? Do you start your days off positively, or are you like me in that you need to put a bit more effort into waking up on the right side of the bed? 

ALL ABOUT ACCOUNTABILITY: Bee’s 2013 Health Goal

Well, happy 2013 to all of y’all! Regardless of how you rang in the new year (I stayed home and did nonsense like this), I hope it was a great night. Now, we’re roaring into 2013, and with that comes the near-inevitable practices of resolution-setting and goal-planning. Health, fitness, and weight-loss goals are often at the top of the list, and it’s apparent by the number of people who start flocking to the gym around this time of year.

I’ll admit it – health and wellness goals are at the top of my list too, especially since 2012 was such an unhealthy year for me on a whole. What you WON’T catch me doing this year though, is setting a strict number (“I will lose/gain _____) or setting foot in the gym. Let me explain.

If you’ve seen a full-body pic of me or met me in person, you know that losing weight is not one of my wellness goals. I’ve been called everything from scrawny (maaga, as my Jamaican family calls it), skinny, slim, to slim/curvy. I’ve come to terms with what my body is and isn’t capable of at this time in my life. I know that while King Magazine probably won’t be knocking on my door anytime soon, I am still capable of sculpting a toned body with some muscles and curves – think the Brandy/Kelly Rowland aesthetic. I’d be lying if I said that the way I look isn’t important, but what has matched or surpassed that importance is the fact that I just generally want to be healthier.

I want to improve my cardio. I want to improve my upper body strength. I want to improve my flexibility. I want to be able to do more with my body, and push it to the max every now and then without feeling like I’m about to throw up a lung. I want to run a marathon, I want to feel the runner’s high, and I want the mental and emotional benefits of an active lifestyle. I do want to have some mini-mes and mini-HomieLoverFriends soon, so I want my body to be ready for that journey too. If there was ever a time to get in tip-top shape, I know that that time is now.

My goal is not to attach a hard and fast number to my health goals, but to instead work towards imbedding physical activity and healthy eating seamlessly into my life. I am working on creating a habit of health, until it becomes second nature to me. That’s my goal. So, how am I going about achieving it? Definitely NOT in the gym!

As I’ve written before, I am not a gym rat. I get bored and unmotivated very easily in a gym. Thanks to The Daily HIIT, I have a way to bust my booty and stay challenged right in my own living room. And thanks to the #great48 challenge, I have an accountability team! The Daily HIIT is an awesome site that provides daily high intensity interval training workouts. No longer than 12 minutes long, and with offered modifications for different fitness levels, The Daily HIIT makes it nearly impossible for you to say “I don’t have time.” The site is very user-friendly, and I find that I actually look forward to the next day’s workout. I’ve never been excited for a workout. Lol!

The #great48 is a fitness challenge created by @deactivatedfatgirl and @its_iriel on Instagram. This challenge began on December 31st and runs until February 16th, with amazing prizes up for grabs for the biggest transformation. I joined the challenge simply to be accountable in my health goals. Having to post photos on Instagram and engage in update conversations really forces me to stay on top of this and push through, because I know so many others are doing the same. It is a very self-directed challenge, but participants are great at sharing recipes, workout tips, and other information to motivate each other. Do I think I’ll have an amazing before/after transformation photo by mid-February? Probably not, but my goal is to have regular workouts become a regular part of my life by then. That, I think I can do.

The Dec. 31st deadline has passed, but you can still follow #great48. If you’re looking for motivation or great tips and references for health and fitness questions, check the #great48 hashtag on Instagram. Don’t forget to check out The Daily HIIT if you’re allergic to the gym like me, but still want to be challenged in your workouts. If you’re looking for an accountability partner, I’ll be dat! Hit me up in the comments or send me an email, and let me know!

Is health and wellness goals among your plans for 2013? If you’re going strong now, but fear you might fade out, let me know! We’re in this together!

HOLISTIC LIVING: The Journey To A Full & Balanced Life

Photo source: A Hope For Today

When it comes to health and wellness, one of the keywords we hear a lot these days is holistic. However, have you ever thought about this word and what it means to you?

On Wednesday night, I co-hosted the pilot show of Hot N Holistic, a new webshow on Spreecast “devoted to a helping you live a healthy, wealthy and holistic lifestyle.” Joined by the other co-hosts in a roundtable/panel format, we used the pilot to introduce ourselves and talk about holistic living – what it means to us, stereotypes and misconceptions, and our personal journeys to living a life of health and wealth in all forms. It made me reflect on my own definition of holistic living – how important it was to me, and if I was being about it, or just talking about it.

First things first – the definition (as per Merriam-Webster) of holistic:

relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts <holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body> <holistic ecology views humans and the environment as a single system>

To me, living a holistic life means looking at the self as a whole being, instead of compartmentalizing. It acknowledges the interconnectedness of the various facets of health – mainly physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. It highlights the fact that the different spheres of our lives overlap like a Venn diagram, versus a hard line pie chart. Work life, home life, family, physical health, mental health – these are just a few of the aspects that undoubtedly blend into and affect each other, as much as we often try to keep them separate. Taking care of yourself as a full being – understanding that stress in one area of life can affect productivity in another; making healthy eating and physical activity a part of your lifestyle; and understanding the benefits of finding balance in life (even if that means making changes to the things you’ve always just done), is crucial to living holistically.

On the show, we took turns talking about our personal journeys to holistic living, and many of us echoed similar sentiments. Witnessing the often-preventable health struggles of those close to us. Facing our own illnesses and health scares. Feeling utterly imbalanced in our lives by stressing about work, family, or finances. These were some of the key factors that encouraged us all to look at our lives and make the necessary changes in order to live well.

As I look back at 2012, I can say with confidence that this was likely the most unhealthy year of my life. I used ALL of my sick days at work, which I’ve never done before. I had the cruelest colds and viral infections ever. I was ordered off work by my physician twice. I had my previously-documented cervical cancer issue. Damaged relationships exploded in all their dysfunctional glory. My stress levels were off the charts. I probably cried more in these 12 months than I have in a LONG time. Phew.

I got to the fork in the road where I could either choose to dig deep and do the hard work necessary to make changes for the better, or I could continue along this path, which undoubtedly led to a dead end. I’ve chosen to do the former.

So, what does a holistic life look like to me?

  • I’m making changes to my diet – cutting down on the junk food and eating much healthier.
  • Making time for working out has proven to be an amazing stress reliever, in addition to all the physical benefits.
  • I’m using more natural products and ingredients for anything that goes in or on my body.
  • I’ve learned about my triggers, and the unhealthy things I do when I feel stressed, anxious, or out of balance. Instead of reaching for a cupcake and stewing in my negative thoughts, I’m training myself to do something better, like journal or work out.
  • All of the things that aren’t serving me in a positive way? I’m getting rid of them. Clutter in my house? Gone. Negative people? Gone. Stressful situations that I have the power to remove myself from? I’m gone. If I can change it, I do. If I can’t, I change my attitude towards it.
  • I’ve expanded my circle of healthcare professionals to ensure that I am able to get a full 360 view of my health. I’ve also expanded my mind to research both conventional and alternative methods of healthcare and treatment.
  • Most importantly, I’m working on ensuring that I listen to myself, and that I value myself as a whole person. Trusting my instincts, not second-guessing myself,  knowing what I deserve and what I will not tolerate, and recognizing/taking accountability for the shortcomings and flaws I need to work on are vital.

In talking to a few people about the Hot N Holistic show, the vibe I got was that living a holistic life was difficult or extreme. I used to think so too – there was no way I could set my curry chicken and rice + peas aside for a plate of granola. However, it took me reaching my danger zone to realize that it’s actually a simple decision – implementing the smallest changes to restore equilibrium in my life and look at myself as a whole entity started making all the difference. Stereotypes and misconceptions about living holistically abound, but when you get right down to it, it’s all about living your best, fullest, most whole life.

When you look at yourself as a whole person, what is something you would change to improve your life? Instead of compartmentalizing into solely being a brother, daughter, significant other, co-worker, student, parent, caregiver, or any other hat you wear in your daily life, look at yourself as a whole. Will changing your diet improve things? Will getting more physical activity in your schedule help? Will identifying and eliminating unnecessary sources of stress give you more balance? Once you take the time to think about it, the answers will usually come to you quite easily – and you might wonder like I did, “Why didn’t I think about this sooner?” A wise person once said, “better late than never” – and it definitely applies here.

What are your thoughts on living holistically? Do you feel that you are living a whole life right now, or have you identified ways in which you can begin to do so? Want to keep up with the Hot N Holistic show? Like the Facebook page and stay tuned – the official kick-off show will be January 7th! 

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