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NO COINCIDENCE IN CHAOS: Coming Out On The Other Side Of Sadness

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The start of a new month is always something I look forward to. Setting new goals, anticipating new events, challenging myself to make this month better than the last – in 2013 especially, flipping the calendar to Day 1 has always carried a special sort of excitement. That is, every month until October.

Kicking off October 2013 last week, I didn’t feel that same kind of anticipation. I was apprehensive, fearful, and almost wished that September had a few extra days in it. Last October was an extremely painful month, and it was unfortunately just the start to a devastating end to 2012. I’m now rushing towards the 1-year anniversaries of that pain and devastation, and I’m not sure if I’m ready. Hopefully writing about it will help me to get there.

This post isn’t going to expound upon the details of what happened at the end of 2012, but I will say that I definitely believed the doomsday predictions that swirled around at the time. Just one short year ago, it felt like I was in the midst of the kind of cataclysmic turmoil that was supposed to signal the end of the world, but one year later, here I am.

“There is no coincidence in chaos.”

That’s a phrase that came to my mind last week as I thought about what the next 3 months were going to bring. Aside from my parent’s divorce when I was a teen, 2012 was the next most chaotic time of my life. I’m someone who’s irrationally attached to dates and anniversaries, so in the days and weeks to come, I’ll surely have a few instances of looking at the clock and reliving to the minute what happened one year ago. It’s extremely easy to fall into the habit of saying “Why me? Why now? Why this?” – and while it at times seems like there’s no method to life’s madness, I’ve learned that the connected dots and synchronicities will eventually reveal themselves.

Class is still in session, but I’m learning things about myself that I don’t believe I would have discovered without 2012′s hard lessons. I’m learning what forgiveness looks like in different spheres – forgiving those who actively seek to right wrongs, forgiving people who I know will never atone for what they’ve done, and forgiving myself for internally blaming and shaming when I really need not. I’m learning how to rebuild – how to craft the kind of existence I will be proud of when this life is over. I’m learning new limits and stretching myself beyond the ones I had set previously. I’m learning how to step outside of my comfort zone, and I’m learning how to trust myself when I tell myself that it’ll be OK. I’m learning how to be a better friend, daughter, sister, wife, human being – and I’m learning how to not punish myself too harshly when I feel I’ve missed the mark. I’m learning that taking care of myself is a more intricate feat than I originally thought, and I’m learning that I do myself a disservice when I gloss over those complexities. I’m learning about my needs and wants; what I can do without; what I can’t live without. I’m learning how to heal, how to survive, and how to thrive. All of this isn’t easy, but it’s essential.

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I don’t believe in coincidences on a whole, but especially not when it comes to the chaos of life. I read a quote last year that helped me to begin to put things into perspective:

“The Buddhists believe that sometimes when everything is in turmoil, it’s because something wonderful is ready to be born and that thing is distracting you so it can have some privacy during the birthing process.” – Pearl Cleage

The blessing inside all of the burden has been that there is life on the other side of sadness, and there are wonderful things that may be distracting you during their birth. While I often throw my head to the sky and say “But, why did I have to go through _________ to get ________?” I know it’s a wholly rhetorical question. Though certain life events are extremely painful and seem totally unnecessary, I try not to dwell on the dramatic fashion that life’s lessons are doled out, and instead heed the call to action. In almost all of 2012′s bombshells, I now see that there were indeed warning signs. My personal answer to the “Why?” question is that I simply wasn’t paying attention, so life demanded it, undivided. My eyes are open wider now.

Can I honestly say that I’m grateful for what I’ve endured, or that I’m happy it all happened? Nope. I’m not there yet. What I can say is that I’m starting to understand, and I’m proud of myself. I’m starting to understand why that act of my life played out the way it did, and that the chaos was necessary and not a chance occurrence. I’m proud of myself that in the year since, I can see progress. Baby steps are still steps, and there’s bravery in deciding to take them. When the tough days with even tougher memories come, I hope I can remember that.

BALANCING ACTS: Women’s Diverse Roles & The Impact On Self-Care [via UPTOWN Magazine]

In case you missed it – as of last month, I officially got on-board with UPTOWN Magazine as a contributing writer. Because I lost all power thanks to the crazy storm in Toronto last night, I didn’t get to finish the piece that I wanted to post today – however, I thought I’d re-up my first piece for UPTOWN! This is one that I have to repeatedly read to myself as a reminder to work towards better balance and self-care. Take a read and let me know what you think!

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image via shutterstock

The lyrical enchantress known as Erykah Badu once sang, “Been such a long time/I forgot that I was fine” - and for me in this moment, truer words have never been spoken.

In my hopeful naïveté, I always thought I’d be one of those women who would always have everything together. I thought that once I got all the pieces of life in place (happy relationship, fulfilling career, great friendships, healthy lifestyle, etc.), I’d be able to maintain and side-step the gaping hole of “letting oneself go” that I had witnessed other women tumbling into. That won’t be me, I thought – until it was.

With the New York Times reporting that women are more likely to be primary caregivers and are rising as primary breadwinners, women are redefining balance.  Increasing responsibilities, diverse roles, and juggling it all in today’s world means that it’s only natural for some balls to get dropped while focusing on all the others in the air. Thanks to life’s realities my naïve bubble has been burst, but I’m working on doing a better job with my own juggling act.

My mother is a key representation of balance – both the blueprint and the “Don’t try this at home!” model. As one of the key women represented in the NY Times article (a single mother, primary caregiver, and primary breadwinner in subsequent relationships), she exemplified the great ways to maintain balance, and imprinted in my mind the things I wanted to avoid. When she was bad, she was very, very bad – constantly taking on extra shifts at work, turning down opportunities to spend time with friends, and missing out on chances to do the things she loved like traveling and working out. When she was good, she was great – making time to pamper herself, enrolling herself in Continuing Education classes to fulfill personal passions, and finding time to enjoy the mature woman’s dating scene. Though her life’s motto was “Everything I do is for my kids,” my younger siblings and I found her so much more interesting when she did things for herself.

These days, I’ve got a lot on my plate. I try to be am an attentive wife, productive employee, consistent blogger/writer, engaged community builder, household financial planner, dope sister/daughter/friend, and more. Unfortunately, self-care and ‘me time’ have gone right out the window as I work to build an empire, keep bills paid and make others happy. Erykah forgot that she was fine, and I have too. I’ve also forgotten that I love Afro-Cuban dance, working out at home, getting dolled up for dates with my husband, and spending quiet time writing in my journal. So, what can I (and the multitude of women who are experiencing the same thing) do?

It’s simple. Make YOU a priority.

Far too often, we can feel that making ourselves a priority alludes to the neglect of others – and while it’s a hard function to re-wire in our brains, we must. A friend reminded me that when we fly, we’re instructed to put on our oxygen masks before we assist others with theirs – so life must follow a similar principle. When I’m not balanced, I’m not happy. When I’m not happy, I’m not of good service to myself or others.  I’ve resolved to make Bee a priority in order to restore balance, be happier, and have more to offer to the world around me.

This morning I laid in bed and wrote in my journal while singing to Teedra Moses. Next week I’m buying a new blender to get back to making my favorite green smoothies. Tomorrow I’ll be returning to my beloved Afro-Cuban dance classes. The sensuality and passion I feel from dancing will no doubt transfer to my current schleppy appearance. Bright colors in my wardrobe, flirty summer dresses, getting a much overdue  mani-pedi, and taking time to do my hair are all part of my new balancing act.

For many of us, the NY Times are just catching up to a reality that many of us (and our mamas, and our mamas’ mamas) have lived for ages. We’ve been caring for others and bringing home the bread, bacon, and milk for decades. Simply put, we’ve mastered that. We now need to master the art of balance, and ensure that we nourish all aspects of our lives – not just the financial/career/family obligations. Operation Find Your Mojo/Get Fine & Prioritize is on – are you joining me?

6 DOWN, 6 TO GO: Bee’s “Halfway Through 2013″ Check In

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We’ve crossed the halfway mark, folks. We’re in the beginning days of July, which means we’re in the beginning days of the 2nd half of 2013. How’s it lookin’ for y’all so far?

As I sat home yesterday celebrating Canada Day (yay for poutine, good healthcare, and Ryan Gosling!), I thought about what the first half of 2013 meant to me, and pondered what the remainder of the year would look like. I took a look at my vision board. I went back to my post on December 31st, 2012. I looked back over my Media + More page where I track some of the cool things I’ve done. It’s scarily awesome that so many things I’ve wanted to happen have taken place already – albeit not always in the form I thought they would.

Looking at my vision board, I’ve had successes in the areas of hosting an ’83 To Infinity event, jumping into public speaking, and growing as a published digital writer. Traveling to NYC was on there as well, and as my last blog post detailed, I’ve done that too. I wrote “Entrepreneurial experiences, entrepreneurial money” on the board, and I’ve been blessed to see both the experiences and the money come to fruition. I’m nowhere near rich and famous, but I’m glad that I’ve taken the baby steps to get to where I want to be.

In my post on New Year’s Eve 2012, I wrote the following passage:

Like I said earlier, 2012′s theme was betrayal. I learned that anything is possible, in a negative way. For 2013, I’m armed with my vision board and clear goals – but I’m flipping the themes of 2012 into positive ones for the new year. Betrayal will turn into trust – most importantly, trust in myself. I’m telling myself that I can do it, I can go there, I can make the right decisions. If those decisions mean cutting loose the people who’ve betrayed and the situations that have caused me to 2nd guess myself, I trust that Bee knows what the hell she’s doing. And yes – in 2013, the “anything is possible” meme will continue, but in a positive light. As I wrote in a previous post, “thoughts become things”, so I will make it my mission to set my mind onto the positive and manifest my wildest dreams into reality.

Whew.

2012 was like a devil on my shoulder, whispering all kinds of negative and hurtful things in my ear. Luckily, 2013 has become an angel on my other shoulder, pushing me to move past the past and take charge of the present and future. There have been low points, tough lessons, and hot, angry tears – but overall? I’ve made it through the first half of 2013 with a glass half full mentality. I do trust myself more. I do know what the hell I’m doing. I’ve made gains in 6 months that only rested in my imagination for the longest time – and while it’s not always easy, it’s always been worth it.

One of the other things I wrote on my vision board was “Get the f*ck out of your comfort zone!” Listen. I don’t even remember what my comfort zone feels like anymore. One look at my Media + More page shows me I’ve done at least one thing every month that I’ve never done before. From co-hosting a webshow to being hired as an official event blogger to being featured in Ebony Magazine to being on TV to planning and executing a comedy show – so many incredible opportunities have presented themselves because people thought I was capable of pulling them off. Pride hasn’t come solely from being able to confirm that for them, but in confirming it for myself.

To put it plainly, the 1st 6 months of 2013 have been awesome, game-changing, and busy as all hell. So, where am I putting my energies for the 2nd half of the year? Squarely on myself.

There are still health and wellness issues I have to work out. Being as insanely busy as I was from January-June means that I got to a point where balance was nothing but a word in the dictionary. I’m still working to get my mind, body, and soul back to a place of equilibrium, because I’ve been so incredibly off lately. Getting enough sleep, working out, eating right, taking time to unwind and destress – those are some of the things I’ll be working on. I’ve already put the wheels in motion to check a few more things off of my vision board, so my beast mode hasn’t been deactivated – I just need to do a better job of balancing all of life’s various aspects. Needless to say, I’m excited about the future, and can’t wait to see how the next 6 months will play out. You know I’ll have some more exciting news to share with y’all soon, so as always – stay tuned!

How has the 1st half of 2013 been for you? If you do vision boards or goal lists, how are they looking? Is there anything you wanted to have happen by now that hasn’t yet? Do you have a game plan for the 2nd half of the year? Let a sista know! 

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? 

BEE’S BUSINESS TIPS: Working With Less Than 6 Degrees Of Separation

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Two weeks ago when I attended the Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Gala, something really interesting unfolded as the night went on.

First, I ran into someone who knew me from my work last year with the Caribbean Tales Film Festival.

Then, I ran into a fellow Battle of the Sexes Show panelist.

Then, I ran into one of the girls I mentored at the Ladies on the Rise program.

Finally, I ran into 3 sisters – two who attended Curls, Coils & Cocktails, and one who remembered me from hosting The Mystic Effect show.

Now, I don’t write this to exemplify my overactive calendar and various engagements, but to highlight an important point that is relevant for Toronto, if not other areas of the world.

This place is too damn small.

These days, we no longer need 6 degrees of separation between us. Social media has played a major role in tightening circles, but even without that medium, I find that it’s just too easy to know someone who knows someone who’s connected to you in some way. As I do more work with my blogging, writing, speaking, and other community building projects, I see that this fact is crucial to remember in a business sense. In Toronto, everybody knows everybody – so being aware of that will help or hurt you as you move about on your hustle.

For me, this 1-2 degree of separation reality we currently live in means that I have to stay on top of 3 major components: quality of work, professional conduct, and personality. I’ll break it down.

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Quality of Work

I understand that we live in a microwave popcorn society, where it seems like the people who make the most flamboyant show of doing absolutely nothing get put on to fame and riches. I get it and I see it, but for me, hard work always pays off. I feel I’m neither the tortoise nor the hare; I’ve taken the best qualities from both and have created a new animal that is diligent, dedicated, and hardworking – but is also strategic and doesn’t waste time jumping on great opportunities. I try to maintain that my quality of work is something I can consistently be proud of – I’m constantly learning and improving, but I try to remember one of Don Miguel Ruiz’ Four Agreements that states to always do your best. Whether it’s a blog post, a freelance piece, a speaking engagement, or an event – and whether I can do it with my eyes closed or it’s my first time out the gate – I aim to do my ultimate best at it. No short cuts or excuses are allowed.  When people link you with consistent good work, it will take you far. It may not happen overnight, but eventually you’ll stop to look back and think, “Damn. I really did come up, didn’t I?”

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Professional Conduct

Not everything is going to go swimmingly. You won’t get along with everyone or like their style of how they do their thing. Common sense is not common, therefore clashes in business are inevitable – but how you handle them is key. I got an email a few weeks ago from someone I was trying to do business with that had me ready to hit Reply and unleash a string of expletives in straight English and patois. I instead chose to vent to my husband, send some key friends “Can you BELIEVE what this MF tried to do?” text messages, and stepped away from my email inbox for a while. When I did respond, I did so in a way that clearly let the recipient know in no uncertain terms that I was displeased and no longer interested in working with them, but that could not be held against me as being over-the-top or unnecessarily harsh.  When it comes to business, I will get in your ass just enough for you to realize the error of your ways, but will not give you extra ammo to play the victim role with. Now, if I ever did have to go there and really let someone have it? I’d have to take responsibility for any consequence that may come from those actions. It’s not about being fake or a pushover, but it’s also not about blowing things out of proportion or inappropriately burning bridges either. Toronto consistently reminds me that you never know who knows who – so I move about my day ensuring that I can always stand by anything I’ve done or said.

In a positive light, maintaining professionalism just adds to your reputation. When people feel that they can depend on you and communicate well with you, that will push you to the top of the list for new opportunities.

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Personality

Hard work is crucial, and being professional is priceless. But if no one likes you as a person? You’ll be hard-pressed to find success. I’m much more drawn to people who have some personality, kindness, and sincerity behind the resume and accolades. When you’re aloof, egotistical, or downright rude, my immediate reaction is to overlook everything you do (no matter how well), and take you in for who you are.

At the Future Aces Gala, I ran into people from 5 different areas of life and business. Some of these people introduced me to other people who could be the gateway to new partnerships and opportunities, which is ultimately a blessing. Luckily for me, I have had all positive interactions with everyone I encountered, so I wasn’t worried about how I would be perceived to the new people I met. Simply put, being nice is worth it. Making positive impressions pays off. Having a unique personality means you’ll be remembered. Just ensure that you’re etched in someone’s memory for the right reasons.

Are you feeling the ’2 degrees of separation’ crunch these days? Does it change depending on if you work in the digital sphere or more face-to-face? What are your main tenets of doing business?

4 IN 24: Four “A-ha” Moments That Will Change The Game

Awakening

Within the span of 24 hours (from Tuesday night to Wednesday night), I learned four very important lessons. A better descriptive word might be “revelation”, or as my Auntie Oprah calls them, “A-ha moments”.

These four crucial frames of thought found their ways into my consciousness through various means. While engaging in a Twitter conversation. In the midst of giving advice to a friend. After giving myself a pep talk while driving on the highway. After hearing a phrase repeated over and over again. Four different methods that showed me that messages are all around us, and will seep in once we open up and allow them to.

Leave Room For Surprises

Yesterday morning, I read a great piece on Ebony called “Love, Beyonce Style” by Josie Pickens. I engaged Josie on Twitter (@jonubian) in a discussion about her piece, and discovered that we both had a lot in common with various things surrounding love and life in general (“we’re kindred”, she tweeted to me). As I mentioned to y’all before, I’m working on my control freak issues. Even though I adopted “Let life happen” as my new mantra, I started slipping recently. Instead of letting life happen, I was starting to play my puzzle game again, trying to slot the pieces into the kind of picture I thought I wanted (and needed) to see. During my Twitter chat with Josie, she mentioned the same control issues, but wrote “My morning meditation was centered on the idea that we need to allow ‘surprise’ in our lives.” Immediately, I snapped back into reality and cooled off on the control tip. For someone who loves surprises as much as I do, I was doing a great job at making sure there was ZERO chance that life would ever be able to grant me any. A-ha moment #1.

Do What You’re Good At

I was having a conversation with a friend about the work we’ve been doing outside of our respective 9-5s. We talked about the kind of gelling that happens when you’re doing something you love, and you get feedback from the outside world that you’re pretty damn good at what it is that you’re doing. I said to him,

See, that might be where we’re worrying about the wrong things…so many of us are trying to figure out what our thing is, and wasting time trying to fit square pegs into round holes, simply because we think the round holes are where its at. When you find something you’re good at, it comes naturally to you, you want to learn and grow and do better at it, and people love the shit? To me, THAT’S what your thing should be.

He nodded and agreed, but I was the one who sat back and took in what had just tumbled out of my mouth. I’ve been (am?) that person trying to get in where she fits in while turning a blind eye to the fact that she doesn’t really fit in. That person who has described herself as a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. That person who has beaten herself over the head about things she feels she’s not good at – yes, there’s something to be said about taking on the challenge to do things that are difficult, but there’s another thing to say about the person who continues to self-sabotage by forcing improvement where there probably won’t be any. Am I spending enough time learning and growing and doing better with the things I love and am good at already? A-ha moment #2.

What Speaks To You? 

This lesson somewhat fits with the lesson above. On Tuesday night, HomieLoverFriend and I attended Dwayne Morgan’s Spoken Wordz 4 event. One of the poets (and the only woman on the billing) Lishai started off with a dope piece about the motivations behind being an artist. She kept repeating “What speaks to you?” and I was enraptured. Even my date noticed, and leaned over to whisper “You really liked that one, didn’t you?” Wednesday morning, I was driving to work when I heard an ad on the radio that asked “What speaks to you?” and I immediately flashed back to Lishai. At lunch, I overheard two women talking – in the middle of a mouthful of McDonald’s french fries, one said to the other “So, what speaks to you?” By then, I wanted to yell out “OK! I get it!” – but that would have been crazy. I’m taking that constant repetition of the phrase as a notice that maybe I should be paying attention to, or further investigating what speaks to me. A-ha moment #3.

Expecting Bad vs. Expecting Good

I was on my way to an important appointment on Wednesday evening, and was giving myself a little pep talk while breezing down the highway. Sometimes I feel the need to get my thoughts out in the open, and a 45-minute drive all by myself was the perfect opportunity. I was thinking/talking about how I realize words have so much power – in the past, I’ve been surprised when things I’ve said pointedly came to fruition, and noticed that it almost always happened when I focused on the negative. “Why is it so easy to expect the bad, and not to expect the good?” I wondered aloud. Why is that? Maybe it’s just the way my brain is wired, but it’s so much easier to imagine the worst things happening – meanwhile the best things seem like unreachable, lofty goals. Is it possible to re-wire my brain, and make my hopes and expectations of good things just as possible to manifest as my fears and worries of bad things? All I know is, I’d much rather speak of positive things and see them come to fruition than to give the negative an open-door invitation to my life. A-ha moment #4. 

I reached home on Wednesday night and sat in front of my computer while it hummed and came to life. I’d been scribbling notes and phrases on scrap pieces of paper, and couldn’t wait to get home and into the loving arms of WordPress. Thinking back to these various messages and lessons, one thought came to mind: “Tomorrow is going to be a different day.” If these messages can stick with me longer than it takes to say “A-ha”, that will most definitely be true.

What do you think of these “lessons”? Has anything come to you recently that you’re trying to implement into your own life? 

DOPE READS: Britni Danielle’s Break Out Of Your Box E-Book

When you’re on the track to success and pushing towards your goals and dreams, there’s nothing like having a support group of sincere and likeminded people behind you. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have family and friends in our corner that push us along, but that isn’t always the case.

Here’s where I’ve found social media has stepped in to save the day. A loooong time ago, I started following writer Britni Danielle on Twitter. I loved the links she posted to her writings, and soaked up the advice she graciously doled out for other aspiring writers and dreamers. When she began mentioning that she was creating a Facebook group called the GOALDiggers (ha!) Project, I made sure I was one of the first to join in. Since then, the GOALDiggers group has served as an awesome sounding board for advice, a place where I can toot my horn, an understanding group where I can vent frustrations, and an environment where I can encourage and help others in their goal attainment as well.

Britni also served as my writing coach for a few sessions, and the knowledge and advice she gave me was priceless. As a writer for publications like Clutch Magazine, JET, Ebony and others, I knew I had to absorb what she had to offer – and her advice has helped me tremendously with my own writing.

In a day and age where people seem to selfishly hoard who they know, what they know, and how they do what they do, Britni is one of the most unselfish and giving success stories I know. While she will humbly say she’s still on her way, I can definitely say she has achieved a level of success many of us will never know – she took charge of her life, created her own lane, and is doing what she loves while taking care of herself and her family. Now, Britni has found a new way to give to those of us who need a push forward with our goals – her new free e-book, Break Out Of Your Box: 5 Steps To Start Following Your Dreams!

As a member of the GOALDiggers Project, I was able to get my hands on a preview copy late last week. I took the time to read and ingest the beautifully written and designed book, and LOVED it.

Want to get a copy for yourself? Click here!

As per Britni’s site, this book covers:

  • How to get clear about your vision
  • How to network with others who will support your dream
  • Why you need to give yourself a concrete deadline
  • How to set measurable goals to achieve your dream
  • How to overcome the need to be perfect
  • Resources to get your started on your journey

I read it, took notes, evaluated what I was currently doing and how I was doing it, and decided to make some tweaks to my game plan based on Britni’s thoughts and examples. At just 30 pages, Break Out Of Your Box is a clear-cut, entertaining, and motivating read that will really start to get your juices flowing and get your wheels turning. Even better – any book that uses a Biggie line as its dedication is good as gold in my eyes!

If you’ve been looking for a way to start making ANY kind of positive change in your life, try Break Out Of Your Box as a guide. Acknowledging that you want better for yourself is the first step – but that self-revelation will be in vain if you don’t start taking the steps towards initiating those improvements! Put Break Out Of Your Box on your must-read list, and get to work! Hey – you can even make it one of your 5 Before 8 and get your day started right ;)

Check out Britni Danielle’s site, and spread the word about her book via social media and email! Have any questions for Britni? Reach out to her via email (Britni@BritniDanielle.com), follow her on Twitter, and check out the GOALDiggers Project Group on Facebook! 

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! 

FOCUS ON THE PHYSICAL: Organize Your Home, Restore Your Sanity

A few months ago, I wrote a piece for The Learning Curve entitled The Life-Space Continuum, where I talked about how connected my physical and mental spaces are. In a nutshell, I’ve come to realize that my physical space, whether neat or messy, often reflects my mental state – and vice versa. When my physical space is cluttered, it’s safe to say that my mind is cluttered too. On the flip side, little things like coming home to an unobstructed doorway and neatly made bed does wonders for my mental. Recently I sat back and realized that the rising frustration and anxiety I was feeling at home could be easily resolved by doing one thing – de-cluttering my space. The process is still ongoing, but the effects have been amazing so far – so I had to share!

When I was in school, de-cluttering was so easy. At the change of the seasons, I would naturally purge my closets of the clothes I no longer needed or wanted. At the end of different school semesters, it was second nature to clear out old books and papers to make way for new classes and assignments. However, it now feels like days, weeks, and months all flow into each other, and without any defining time periods, I let my de-cluttering practice fall to the wayside. One day last week I woke up, stepped over bags and boxes to get to my walk-in closet, then tried to fish through randomly tossed shirts and sweaters to find something to wear – and I said, “enough is enough.” I started de-cluttering that day, and haven’t looked back since.

Clothes: Toss vs. Keep

The first thing I did was attack my clothes. I went through everything in my closet and drawers, and played hardball with what I was going to toss or keep. If I haven’t worn it since before the world knew a baby named Blue Ivy, I was pretty sure I could toss it. If it was an article of clothing that I’ve been waiting to have altered by a seamstress for the past 2 years, I figured it could go. Outdated clothes or excess items (how many oversized t-shirts does one girl need?) were tossed in the To Go pile, and before I knew it, my drawers could close and my closet was tidy.

Organizational Tactics

Once I cleared out about 3 garbage bags of unneeded clothes and shoes (ready to be donated), I focused on organizing what I had left. Dollar stores are GREAT for little organizational tools like hanging shoe and clothing racks (like Ikea’s SKUBB organizers)and cute boxes for out of season storage. My biggest coup was finding a way to display my necklaces, as opposed to having them strewn about on a dresser or tangled up in a jewelry box. Using some hanger extenders, I hung them horizontally on the top of my closet door, and hung my necklaces from each peg on the extender. They failed miserably as hanger extenders, but worked incredibly for my necklaces!

Sentimental Value

When I finished with my clothing, I moved on to the boxes of STUFF that I also kept in my closet. I say STUFF, because the boxes were filled with all kinds of random papers, notebooks, flyers, ticket stubs, pictures, and other things that I thought were necessary to keep once upon a time. Part of de-cluttering is letting go of the old and unnecessary. That being said, I had to come to grips with the fact that every item in those boxes couldn’t possibly be required to follow me into 2013. While sorting through my stuff, I realized that not everything was as meaningful as I thought, so the process was actually much easier than I assumed at first. I am a very sentimental person, but I know myself enough to understand that I can also easily fall into packrat status – so I really had to be diligent and make sure that I only kept the things that were must-haves.

Looking for more organizational tips? Check out one of my fave tumblr sites – Unf*ck Your Habitat. The gifs alone are worth it!

My bedroom is now gorgeous, neat, and organized – and walking into it at the end of a hectic day is so calming. I don’t need to be a Feng Shui master to know that the energies are different in a neat room, and I just feel so much better lounging, sleeping, and waking up in there. I’m taking the de-cluttering practice into every corner of my home now, and I can’t wait to start the new year with a lighter load and less junk. I’m a believer that you have to get rid of the old to make room for the new – so that’s what I resolve to do, while saving my sanity at the same time.

Are you a chronic packrat, or are you perfectly organized? Does anyone else out there feel that their physical space and mental states mirror one another? What are some other tips you use to create a calm spirit in your home?

SHOP TALK: Why I’m Saying NO To The Malls & YES To Small Businesses

Photo source: Daily Delights

I don’t know how this happened, but it’s almost December, y’all. It feels like I JUST put away my summer clothes in favour of my fall jacket, and soon I’ll be scrounging around for my winter coat.

December for me means snow, family time, food, celebration, and reflection on the year gone by. However with the holiday season, I always seem to get swept up into the madness of gift purchases and exchange. I’ll admit, I love getting gifts – but I adore the feeling I get when I gift someone with an amazing present. It could be something they truly wanted, or it could be an unexpected gift that fits their personality to a tee. Either way, the satisfaction I get from friend’s and family’s happiness will forever keep me in the gift-giving cycle – however, I plan on doing things differently this year.

Unless I know that a friend/family member wants a specific gift that I can find at the mall, I’m avoiding traditional shopping altogether this holiday season. I plan to support as many small businesses as I can – especially Black businesses that are just starting to forge their way to success. Let me explain why.

  1. I cannot STAND the insanity of malls and shopping centres. I have no patience for fighting for parking spaces, plowing through crowds, lining up in ridiculous lines, none of it.
  2. I want to purchase gifts that are as unique as the people I’m giving them to. Like I said earlier – if a cousin wants a specific toy, or a friend wants a specific sweater, I’ll brave the malls to satisfy them. However, I’m leaning more towards giving gifts that are more personalized and one-of-a-kind.
  3. I’m much more comfortable with online shopping now. Many small businesses are online, which speaks to point #1, and allows me to shop from the comfort of my own home. As always, ensure that if you shop online, you do so from reputable and protected sites.
  4. I want to support people who are doing amazing things. My favourite small businesses are people who are offering products of impeccable quality, and do so out of sheer passion for their work. I want to support that. I’m also a major proponent of supporting Black businesses in order to circulate money in our community and to help provide financial stability. Dropping bands to make the owners of Old Navy and Toys R Us dance doesn’t quite fit with those intentions.

Photo source: Feature Pics 

Though I already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada last month, the awareness of the US Thanksgiving – and subsequent Black Friday sales – is apparent. This Saturday is known as Small Business Saturday, and is set up as a day for small businesses to get some shine during this heightened shopping time. This weekend might be a good time to investigate and start making some purchases for the special people in your life, while supporting hard-working entrepreneurs at the same time.

Looking for some awesome small businesses to check out? I got you!

If you know someone who’s into hair and skin care, check out Ixora Botanical Beauty and Whipped Body Goods. I follow both of these amazing entrepreneurs on Twitter, and the incredible handmade products they sell have been getting rave reviews all over the cyber world. Check out some of Ixora’s testimonials, and this Black Enterprise feature on Whipped!

Looking for jewelry and accessories for men and women? Hit up Absynia, who I’ve featured right here on this site. GORGEOUS pieces with incredible prices. For some local Toronto entrepreneurs on the jewelry scene, you’ve got to check out Glass Hearts and The Diana Tracy Collection. Gifting from one of these small businesses will ensure that your recipient will likely never be wearing the same tired accessories as everyone else – and even better, personalized customizations may be available!

Need some unique threads for that special somebody? Why not take a peek at Afrodelik? I also featured this Toronto-based business a while back, and I adore their designs. Two other amazing lines are Mina Danielle and Kaela-Kay Collections. Both of these lines take African-inspired designs and find unique ways to merge them with street style and high fashion. Guaranteed – if you get one of these pieces, you’ll never walk into an event wearing the same thing as someone else.

For hair fanatics, you can support by purchasing products and gift sets from start-up lines like Earthtones Naturals or Shea Radiance. Get your friend a gift certificate to a local salon or barber, or pick up a gift card for a local store like Honey Fig (where you can shop online or in-store in Toronto)!

When it comes to gift-giving, think outside of the box! Books, art, even services – there are small businesses catering to almost any and every need you can think of. Take some time to research and seek out local or online businesses that can give you something of quality that no one else can – and support them!

If you’re in Toronto, Dwayne Morgan of Up From The Roots will be hosting a Pop-up Shop on December 8th! If you’re in the city and looking to support local small businesses, you’ve GOT to come out!

Are you gearing up for holiday shopping this year? Have you considered supporting small businesses? If you have others that you think we should know about, share them in the comments section! And a BIG happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

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