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UNAPOLOGETIC: Focusing On The “Self” In Self-Care

SelfCareRevolutionarySelf-care has been a topic of much discussion in my various circles these days. Whether at work, with friends and family, or on social media, many of us – mostly women – are in the process of prioritizing ourselves in order to preserve ourselves.

Just yesterday, I commented on a Facebook posting on the topic with the following:

I have to be very mindful about my own needs and really have to train myself to stop, say no, relax, and rejuvenate. The two biggest things I’ve realized are: 1) for me, self-care doesn’t have to be a huge action – it can be as small as going inside a bathroom stall and doing some deep breathing, or going for a 10 min walk – and 2) getting over the guilt of practicing self-care is crucial – we need to take care of us so we can take care of everything else.

As soon as I hit send, I had an epiphany and quickly added the following:

Actually – though women have tons to take care of, the validity of our self-care still doesn’t need to be contingent on being able to take care of others. We have to take care of ourselves because we owe it to ourselves. That just popped into my head, so I wanted to add on :)

When we tell people – especially women who carry a multitude of concurrent roles and responsibilities – that their need for self-care is valid because it helps them care for others, is that truly self-care?

At the root of it all is the understanding that we need to create space in our lives to rejuvenate and replenish ourselves. It may look like booking a spa treatment. Or taking a walk on a beautiful day. Or buying ourselves something nice. Or saying no to every hot Friday night plan in favor of Netflix & wine after a tough work week. We can honour ourselves and our immediate needs in a way that no one else can, but we often feel guilt around the practice.

If we need to take a day off from work, we feel like we’re letting our team down. If we tell our families that we’re taking an hour to ourselves to unwind with a bubble bath, we feel bad about not being there for their needs. If we disclose our self-care practices to people who mock us for our “indulgence,” we feel like maybe we’re truly being selfish. A method that’s been used to curb this guilt and second-guessing (and to encourage us to continue along the path of self-care) is the phrase “Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others” – and while that’s undoubtedly a valuable asset to making ourselves priorities, it shouldn’t be the only reason we do.

We juggle so many different hats. Parent. Lover. Friend. Coworker. Caregiver. Financial Advisor. Student. Homemaker. We could be wearing any combination of hats at any given time, and self-care is crucial if we’re going to be any good to the people who depend on us. I definitely believe that in order to be there for others, we first have to be there for ourselves. They say you can’t give from an empty cup, so self-care helps us give to others from a place of abundance, not a place of martydom.

HOWEVER.

It still isn’t enough to value self-care solely for the ability it lends us to take care of others.

Isn’t the reverence we have for ourselves enough of a validation for self-care? Isn’t it OK to just say, “I’m doing this for myself” without further explanation? I’ll admit, when I thought about this while writing the aforementioned Facebook comment, I was hit with a nervous flutter in my stomach that signaled the guilt I thought I had swept away. It takes effort as a woman with multiple people depending on her to say “This is for me” instead of “This is for me so that I can be for you.” For those of us who fall prey to the fallacy of the Strong Black Woman trope, it takes effort to separate ourselves from the value we earn by keeping things going. We are prided on our ability to take everything the world throws at us without missing a beat, and we often aren’t afforded the opportunity to drop bits and pieces or the whole load to focus on ourselves, even for a short while. We give ourselves permission for self-care by equating it back to the asset we’ll be to those that need us, and that helps to make it OK. The benefit to others is the easiest defense against cries of indulgence of selfishness, so we grab at it quickly. Forcing myself to move beyond that, and allowing myself to care for myself because I care for myself is a revolutionary act.

As I said on Twitter:


Now, I just need to remember that.

JEANNINE, PT. 2: Sharing A Story Of Mental Illness

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In today’s post, we continue with part 2 of Jeannine’s story of living with mental illness. Jeannine recently disclosed her diagnosis with bipolar 2 disorder, and today we’ll get a bit deeper into her story. If you missed part 1, check it out here!

Mental Illness Misconceptions

The biggest misconception people have about mental illness is that we are ‘crazy’ and dangerous. I hate when people talk about how they met someone who was just so rude and angry about something that she/he “must be bipolar.” That is a huge pet peeve of mine because everyone gets angry and that certainly does not define the disorder. Or when I tell people about my disorder they try to comfort me by telling me about the one time they were “depressed” over a breakup or something similar. I am always like OMGosh that is sadness, not depression. There is a lot of ignorance surrounding the disorder because of the images that are portrayed of people with mental illness. You rarely hear the good. It is often that they killed someone or did a mass murder or were gunned down by police. It frustrates me because there are so many people who have a mental illness or bipolar who are managing and living their lives without any violence. There are good aspects to my illness during hypomania. I become very creative and productive. I can complete a weeks’ worth of tasks in a day. I need little sleep and feel super refreshed and energized. I love being hypomanic because of my ability to just be on the ball and stress free.  A lot of people are unaware of the hypomanic or manic aspects of bipolar disorder.

Coping Strategies

I am registered for a Dialectical Behavioural Therapy or DBT program and have been on the waitlist for over a year now. My treatment is still a work in progress and I really wish I had more information or a better plan here, but the truth is I really don’t. I take it one day at a time and try really hard to monitor my moods, symptoms and their manifestations. I also have limits on my bank accounts, no credit cards, and live directly on cash. It helps to avoid overspending, which is a symptom of hypomania. My diagnosis is still new to me and I am working on developing better treatment plans for myself. I self medicate a lot and that is something I really want to work on.

About Jeannine’s Support System

My support system consists of my dog, a few friends, my ex, and my counsellors.

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My biggest savior in my whole treatment is my dog Misty. She is my saving grace and I say it all the time, she saves my life every single day. My dog keeps me grounded and reminds me to enjoy the little things in life. I go for walks and get to be in nature, which helps me so much. I can relieve stress by just petting her and hugging her. I cry to her and confide in her. I know it sounds strange because she is only a dog, but the love we have for each other and our connection is what I need on a daily basis. She is the best part of my life and I want to take this opportunity to say that emotional support animals (ESA) should be recognized in Canada and not just the US. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have her.

[My friends] show more understanding and tolerance than before because of [bipolar 2 disorder] and they allow me to express myself more.  I have very few friends, one in particular, who I feel completely comfortable talking to about my illness because she doesn’t judge.  She knows how to listen and understands how difficult it is for me to talk about it. She has the necessary empathy to give me her undivided attention and I love her so much for that.  Thanks baby girl – you know who you are! My family doesn’t really know enough about it to say anything. It is definitely not something that we talk about — at all!

I wish I had a better support system, but you can’t force someone to support you.  I do wish that I had a place to talk openly about what I feel and what I go through daily. It would be nice to know other people who struggle the way I do, but are successful in their management of their illness.

When Well-Meaning Words Hurt

I don’t like when people say that they know someone who has this disorder and tell me about a bunch of horrible things the person has done, only to say “Are you sure you have bipolar?” as if the disorder is only associated with bad things. There are times when I am hypomanic and I wish I would stay up there. Since I have become a little more open I have heard a plethora of advice, such as “Maybe if you didn’t give in to your disorder…” or “Just tell yourself to get up!” Oh, and my favourite is “I think you use your disorder as an excuse, and maybe if you didn’t label yourself then you wouldn’t feel the way you do.” The worst thing I think I have ever heard and still hear a lot is to keep my disorder a secret because I will be labeled. I absolutely despise when people say that. I feel like there is truth to what they are saying and that is all the more reason to talk about it and let people know. If we don’t start the conversation, how can we ever expect things to change?

Jeannine’s Inspirations

There are a few people who inspire me. Jenifer Lewis, the actor, because she is amazing at her craft. I had no idea she was bipolar and when I found out it just amazed me because of the numerous roles she has been in. She is an amazingly versatile actor. My biggest inspiration though is Melody Moezzi, she is the author of Bipolar Life. I love her book because I found it so funny and real. Melody is a Middle Eastern American who is an attorney, author, public speaker, and advocate for bipolar sufferers. I love how she has battled and overcome so much. She had a lot of adversity because like the Black community, the Middle Eastern community does not really acknowledge mental illness. There is a very dismissive attitude amongst both cultures. Her fearlessness inspires me often. She gives me a lot of hope and is a constant reminder that I can heal from this.

What Jeannine Has Learned About Herself

I have learned that I am a tough woman and can overcome anything. I have been through a lot and am still here telling my story.

Final Question: For people you know who may be finding out about your mental illness for the first time via this blog post, what do you most want them to understand?

That I am still Jeannine, the same person that they have always known.

I’m so honoured to be the conduit for Jeannine’s story, and can’t tell her enough how proud of her I am. If you’d like to reach out to her, please shoot me an email and I will forward to her. 

Continuing the conversation, I’ll be hosting an important event on February 7th at The Royal Cinema: the premiere of The Blind Stigma, a documentary focusing on mental illness in the Black community. Please check out the documentary trailer, an interview with the filmmaker Stacy-Ann Buchanan, and grab your tickets here! Let’s keep this going and keep lifting each other up in love and support. 

JEANNINE, PT. 1: Sharing A Story Of Mental Illness

It’s kind of serendipitous how things work out sometimes.

Today marks Bell Let’s Talk Day – a day spearheaded by Bell Canada to shine a light on the discussion of mental illness in our society. I didn’t plan for this post to be published today, but it makes all the sense in the world that it is.

Today’s post features part 1 of the story of Jeannine, a university friend of mine who reached out recently with an unexpected request. It’s my honour to fulfill that request and to give her the space to share something she’s kept hidden for too long. So, without further ado, meet Jeannine.

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3 Things About Jeannine

I used to take skiing lessons and still can’t ski. I do mixed martial arts and box. I have 13 nieces and nephews for a total of 21 members of what I consider to be my ‘immediate’ family.

The Big Reveal

I have bipolar 2 disorder and a hint of borderline personality disorder (BPD).  I was formally diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder in November 2011 and have not yet had a formal diagnosis for BPD. If I could sum up my mental illness in one word it would be ‘sucky/crappy’. It is definitely the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with in my life and it consumes a huge part of my life.

What Bipolar 2 Disorder Looks & Feels Like For Jeannine

Bipolar 2 disorder looks like chaos to me and feels lonely. I often refer to my illness as my shame because for me it still is shameful. It’s as if I judge and stigmatize myself. Anyway, it is very hard for me to make decisions – especially those that affect my entire life – such as career choice or relationships. Even [deciding] what I want to eat becomes difficult. My thoughts race a lot making it difficult to form a clear thought process. When I am depressed this is especially prominent. My mind can go off on a tangent of insults, put downs, a synopsis of all my disappointments, and remind me of every bad thing anyone has ever said to me. I was once told by a counselor that I have a negative box. I open it up when I am depressed and go through all of the problems I have ever encountered in life. A counselor told me this prior to my diagnosis and I have never forgot because that is exactly what it feels like. In those moments I hate myself and think that no one in the world cares about me or will notice if I am gone. I am in a dark place and for some reason I feel horribly safe there.

It doesn’t make sense, but in those moments I want to remain in my depression alone because letting anyone in is dangerous. I become full of shame and embarrassment with an overwhelming warmth of loneliness.  I use the word ‘warmth’ because it is warm and comfy being alone in those terrible moments. To let someone I know see me like that would change everything they know about me and how they perceive me. I never let anyone see me there – no one. I have been told by my closest friends that I hide my illness very well and I think I do. Actually, I know I do. I have worked very hard to hide my shame, but it doesn’t take long for a roommate or someone who lives with me to notice that something is wrong or that I am “different”. I’ve had a roommate diagnose me with bipolar before I really knew what it was, let alone been diagnosed. This disorder affects my judgement, decision making, my relationships, my mood, concentration, and sometimes my social interactions. It is a hard thing to deal with and I often question my mental state when doing anything, especially with people that I know.

Jeannine’s Journey To Diagnosis

I knew that something was different about me and that is why I started to see my doctor and counselors. I wanted to be “fixed” and expected it to happen. I thought that I would go to the counselor and they would be able to connect the dots, unleash my demons, and send me on my way – boy, was I wrong. I had always been a bright student and did well in school, but when I got to high school I just stopped caring. I stopped trying and going to class and was completely withdrawn. By the time I got to Western (the University of Western Ontario) I had enough with this disengagement and started to see a counselor. I kept going back to these counselors and was so hungry for an answer and didn’t stop until I found one. I went to many doctors and services in hopes to get some help and support in my search for an answer. I was also aware that I had mental illness in my family and knew that there was a possibility that I had one. I had always been a sensitive person, but it got so extreme that I needed help. I thought that everyone hated and judged me, especially when I arrived at Western. I felt like a fish out of water and needed to get grounded, so when I found about the free service I took advantage of it.

All About Treatment

Treatment is still very much a work in progress. I have a hard time coming up with a concrete plan that works, but have been doing a lot of trial and error. Right now, treatment looks like medications, which are Wellbutrin and Abilify. I also see a couple counselors and have a psychiatrist. I have learned some coping skills, such as grounding exercises, breathing techniques, and medication. I am also aware of regular sleep, a good diet, and exercise, but do not follow these guidelines the way I should.

I struggle with every aspect of my treatment. I never used to take my medication because I thought it was a band-aid solution. I wanted to be cured and not treated – that was my goal. Last year I was receiving no treatment except for counselling and got a huge wake up call. I learned where my illness can take me and I don’t want to ever go back there, so I started taking my medication regularly.

Jeannine’s story continues in tomorrow’s post – learn more about her treatment plan, the most important person in her support circle, her inspirations, and more. Also, you’ll learn more about The Blind Stigma, a documentary discussing mental illness in the Black Canadian community. Today, follow the #BellLetsTalk hashtag on Facebook and Twitter to support the initiative.

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? 

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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.

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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? 

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