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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!

RAMEN NOODLES VS. STEW: Our Addiction To Instant Success

One of the hottest debates on my Twitter timeline this week had to do with rapper Kendrick Lamar’s new album, good kid, m.A.A.d city. Among all the breakdowns of lyrical content and production quality, the biggest controversy came once fans started throwing the word “classic” around. Is Kendrick’s album a classic? Is it too early to tell? Whatever your stance, this discussion made me think about today’s society and our perceptions of success.

We currently live in a quick fix, instant reply, microwave-fast society. Things that are fast and easy are preferred, and this has affected everything from how we communicate to how we manoeuvre our way up the ladder of success. Looking at the corporate side of things, my generation of workers differs greatly from that of our parents’. Where they settled into a career and often stayed at the same company until retirement, my peers have more loyalty to their own path than they do to a specific company. Whether either practice is right or wrong doesn’t matter – times, opportunities, and goals are different, and that breeds new practices.

When I was younger, I realized quite clearly that some members of my family have a “get rich quick” mentality. When they weren’t making frequent jumps from one job to the next (for promised increases in salary that may or may not have actually appeared), they were utilizing their entrepreneurial spirit to create the next big thing. They were long on goals and dreams, but short on perseverance, practicality, and purpose – which reminds me of many people I come across today.

People have taken the phrase “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” and have turned it on its head to create a mirage of success and accomplishment. Taking a look in LinkedIn, everyone is an “expert” or a “visionary”. On Twitter, usernames are “@THEsuchandsuch”, bios include exorbitant claims, and profiles even have fake verified checkmarks. Sometimes, these accoutrements are warranted – but more often, they are not. Masters, experts, mavens, etc., are truly created when they’ve honed their craft and have found the right blend of goals, dreams, perseverance, practicality, and purpose. In our pursuits to carve out new paths to success, it seems that some of us have forgotten that – and it’s painfully obvious.

Taking shortcuts to success is why fans can entertain the thought of calling a new artist’s debut album a “classic” within its first week of release. If we’re so quick to bestow those statuses on ourselves, it’s not hard to imagine that we would do the same for others as well. The process of success – the act of inputting time and effort, of making mistakes and learning from mistakes, and the associated peaks and valleys – simply isn’t as attractive when compared to the satisfaction of making it. However, once you’ve made it – you need something to keep you there. I liken it to nuking a bowl of ramen noodles in the microwave compared to letting a hearty stew simmer on the stove. Sure, the ramen will be quick and might just hit the spot, but the stew will be so much more filling if you just wait until it’s ready. If ramen affects you like it does me, it’ll have you on the toilet within half an hour of ingesting…whereas the stew will give you the strength and energy to keep going.

All this to say that shortcuts, fast-tracking, and premature crownings of titles may do more harm than good. If you’re a master after your first project, where do you go from there? If Kendrick’s debut is a classic, does that leave room for growth and experimentation in the face of fans who expect greatness…5 minutes ago? I don’t want my arrival to the land of milk and honey to take an eternity, but I definitely don’t want it to happen tomorrow and fade by next month. Let’s all recommit to striving towards excellence, to creating a body of work, and to having a story of how “all the hard work paid off.”

What do you think? Are we working for longevity, or seeking out instant gratification? Does it help or hurt to reach for titles and accolades before we’ve technically earned them?

THANKFUL: Being Grateful For Good News

Stretchy pants, Tupperware containers, and HomieLoverFriend’s famous cornbread are all prepped and ready to go!  This is the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, and I have not one, but two family dinners on tap. Aside from all of the delicious food I’ll be consuming, I’m looking forward to taking some time to put the hustle on pause and catch up with family and friends I haven’t seen in some time.

It is, however, the hustle that’s giving me so many things to be thankful for this holiday. There are some new and exciting things goin’ on in the world of Bee, and if you’ll allow me this moment to share, I’d be much obliged!

They Said Yes!

I’m relatively new to the world of freelancing, and have already experienced some of the associated ups and downs that come with it. Well, lately it’s been more downs than ups. However, all that changed last week when a pitch that I worked REALLY hard on got accepted by Frugivore Magazine! Frugivore is a health & wellness online publication that partners with Clutch Magazine, and I’m so excited to add my voice to their site. While I’ve gotten other opportunities off the strength of blog posts I’ve written, this is the first time I had to navigate the pitch method (selling the idea of what I want to write about, and waiting for them to say yay or nay). I’m still a “see it to believe it” kind of gal when it comes to things like this, but I’m still celebrating the win of a successful pitch. You never know if an editor is going to be interested in your idea or if they’ll be impressed with your work, so I’m thankful  for this validation in my pitch writing.

Bee In Print

Writing online has been my thing as of late, but being printed has always been a goal of mine. I’m old school with my reading – I like the smell of books and flipping through magazines – and I’ve been slow to catch on to the e-reader movement. Print publications require a different set of game rules versus online pubs, but I’ve been lucky to find out about a really cool initiative that’s helping me realize that goal of seeing my name in print.

The Printed Blog is a Chicago/San Francisco-based publication that curates web-based material into print form. Publishing blog posts and photography that have gone through their submission process, the 11×17 glossy magazine is distributed across the US and to international subscribers. Each issue has a theme, and one of my favourite blog posts was accepted to be printed in the upcoming Intensity issue! I think The Printed Blog is a really cool idea. Aside from being ecstatic that I’ll be a part of it, I’m even more thrilled that so many people from all over are going to read about someone so special to me!

’83 To Infinity…Award-Winning Blog?

Soooo..remember my recent post about ’83 To Infinity being named a semi-finalist in the Black Weblog Awards? Well, guess what, kids! ’83 To Infinity is now a FINALIST in the Best International and Best Writing In A Blog categories! I am over the moon with the recognition, and ready to see if we can make ’83 To Infinity a winner!

I’m so happy every time someone comments, subscribes to the blog, likes the Facebook page, hits me up on Twitter, or does the “Oh! I love that blog!” when I tell them I’m behind it. I’m still in awe at how things have played out in the 14 months since I started this site, and I’m so grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met through this outlet. It’s amazing to say that ’83 To Infinity is a BWA finalist – but it’ll be even more amazing to be able to say that it’s an award-winning blog!  I’m tryin’ to take this thing from Charles Barkley to Michael Jordan status, y’all – so I’ll need YOU to help me achieve that! Head to the Black Weblog Awards site and look for ’83 To Infinity on the finalist ballot under Best International Blog and Best Writing In A Blog, and VOTE! You can only vote once per device – so get on your computer, your mama’s computer, your phone, the library, your work laptop (don’t get fired though), and support with a vote or two or 5! As always, thank you guys for supporting ’83 To Infinity!

So, there you have it – a few things the hustle has brought my way to show me that it’s all worth it. I’m so thankful to have made these positive steps, and I’m looking forward to more great leaps and bounds! Because gratitude is something that we should take into consideration daily, let me know what you’re thankful for! And for my fellow Canadians, let me know how your Thanksgiving weekend was! 

THE CLOCK STRIKES: How Openness Changed My Time Paradigm

A few weeks ago I began taking a Creative Writing course, and something that the teacher said on the first night has stuck with me to this day. Talking specifically about character development he said “Be open to meeting new characters – if you stay open, you’ll find that they’ll come to you, ready to be written into your story.” However, that thought of being open resonated with me outside of my notebook. I was surprised to find that being open – to characters, possibilities, new ideas, life’s hidden messages – presented a brand new view of a concept that has haunted me for the last little while.

The concept of time has been a touchy one for me, and has often had somewhat negative, worrisome, and stressful undertones. Getting older, losing friends and family,  hell, even the fact that this year seems to have flown by – I have clearly been feeling the pinch of time, and my thoughts reflected the sentiment. By now, I should have accomplished so much more. I’ve been missing out on amazing opportunities. I’m running out of time. It doesn’t take you long to realize that this fearful, panicked way of thinking does nothing except work you into a frantic mind state. My problem was, I didn’t know how to get myself out of it.

Once I started practicing my openness, I began to notice a common thread. Nearly everywhere I went, I heard or saw references to time. A conversation with my girlfriend centred around it “being time” for her to launch a new business. My homie and mentor Britni Danielle wrote an excellent piece inspired by Jay-Z’s words at a recent Barclay Center show: “Don’t let anybody diminish your accomplishments. It’s our muthaf*ckin’ time now.” Looking back at pictures from a trip to Japan, I thought about how I felt the day I purchased my flight ticket – I remember being so excited thinking “It’s now or never” as I confirmed my purchase.

Time can be a strict overseer, hounding every moment of everyday. It has a terrible habit of mocking you as it slips between your fingers while you frantically try to grasp and hold on for a minute longer. When I decided to be open to possibility, I released that watchdog and found a new, more positive way to look at time. Instead of being afraid, I became energized. Maybe it was time for me to do something I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe it was time for me to finally kick a habit that’s been dogging me for too long. Maybe it was time for me cut out the excuses and live the life I’ve always wanted to live. Procrastination has been cut down (it’s not completely gone – I won’t lie), and being more intentional and proactive has increased. Regardless, my new outlook on time has me focusing more on the act of starting now versus the fear of the clock running out. Remember that 50 Cent verse “I got a lot of livin’ to do before I die/and I ain’t got time to waste”? Yeah. That’s kind of my new motto now.

For me, this act of simply being open to life’s signs and opportunities is like leaping from a building a believing that there will be a safety net below. I can see that it’s all part of my continuous journey to having faith, releasing control over the uncontrollable, and trusting that the Universe will guide me to the things that are meant for me. The saying that “time is of the essence” can’t be denied, however, I’m choosing to turn time on its head. No more playing Cinderella, fearing that the clock will strike midnight before I’ve done what I have to do. Instead, I’ll be over here, living the “there’s no time like the present” life – focusing on now and letting later come when it may.

Do you ever find that you get continuous signs that point to a lesson you need to learn in life? What does “being open” do for you? Have you ever changed the way you view a concept, like I did with time? 

KID CURLS: Healthy Hair Care Tips For Little Ones

Do you have memories of sitting in between your mother’s legs while she parted your hair, oiled your scalp, and styled you up in some plaits and twists, perhaps with pretty clips and bubbles and elastics? Are those memories fond or fearful? For me, they’re all warm and fuzzy. Having my mom wash and braid me up for school was usually something I looked forward to – her hands were gentle, I loved the smell of the African Pride scalp oils she used (remember the yellow ones filled with petroleum and “herbs”?), and we had fun watching TV or talking while she got me ready for the next day of school.

I know that for others, the memories aren’t so sweet. Hair being scraped back and torn with rough combing, singes from irons used to “tame” naps, and harsh comments about how tough, nappy, and bad one’s hair was. I’ve seen the after-effects of negative treatment pass down much more visibly than the positive – mothers who were told their hair was “bad” have practiced the same with their own children, especially their daughters. Seeing 4 year olds with relaxed hair makes me sad. Hearing mothers talk about how terrible their child’s hair is in front of the child makes me cringe. I have heard Black women admit to choosing fathers of another race in order to ensure that her daughter didn’t have “nappy-ass hair” like she did. I’ve spoken with White mothers who have children with Black men, but have absolutely no clue what to do with their baby’s hair.

If you’re a parent struggling with your child’s hair, you aren’t alone! I’m no hair professional, but here are some tips I’ve acquired to help create more happy, healthy memories when it comes to little ones and their hair.

  • Moisturizing is the key: kids’ hair can get extremely dry. From wearing wool hats in the winter, to going to swimming lessons, to a general rough and tumble lifestyle, so many things can zap the moisture right out of your little one’s hair. If they also have tight kinks and curls, you’ll want to pay even more attention to this. Adding a bit of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or jojoba oil to shampoos and conditioners is always a good move. Stick to natural moisturizers like coconut oil, argan oil, and shea butter to juice up your child’s hair before styling, and to moisturize hair in between washes.
  • Detangling doesn’t have to be torture: the keys to detangling are tools + technique. Use a wide-tooth comb to gently but thoroughly detangle hair section by section, and if you have extra time, use your fingers as a comb to remove any tiny knots or tangles. Never detangle your little one’s hair when it’s dry! The best time to do so is when their hair is soaking wet and full of conditioner – this helps your comb to move through the hair much easier, and less painfully too. If their hair does dry before you’ve been able to detangle, keep a spritz bottle of water and leave-in conditioner handy to wet the hair again before running through with the comb.
  • Young scalps are important: Are you concerned with the rate at which your child’s hair is NOT growing? It all starts at the scalp. School-aged children are prone to getting a little bit of everything in their hair, and if yours also sweats in their scalp, you’ll need a good clarifying shampoo. Scalps need to be able to breathe in order for hair growth to flourish, so keep that in mind. Also – don’t gunk your child’s head with petroleum based oils and greases. Those products usually sit on top of the scalp without providing any nourishing properties. Try applying castor oil to your little one’s scalp to moisturize and promote growth.
  • Styles matter: Most parents I know limit “out” days and keep their children’s hair in mainly protective styles. Smart move, as this could save you the tears and extra time to detangle at the next wash day. In the same vein, don’t be afraid to try your hand at some new styles! Buns, braids, twists, cornrows – the options are endless! If you aren’t as skilled as you’d like to be, or if your busy schedule makes it hard to recreate fresh and fab styles, hit up your friendly neighbourhood braider to get a style that may last your child a week or 2 at a time! Whatever route you take, remember that young hairlines are sensitive – don’t cause damage by braiding, pulling, or combing too tightly. Also, take care of exposed ends. Try applying shea butter or coconut oil to the ends of hair to protect from dryness and splitting.

(don’t the above tips reflect the same things we adults do for our natural hair care? Get the kiddies started off right!)

  • Watch your words: I have colleagues and acquaintances in their 50s who remember, clear as day, the way their mothers used to disparage and criticize their hair – those memories don’t easily fade away. Remove the negative speak when taking care of your child’s hair, and replace it with positives. Children first develop their self-esteem through what they’re taught and told at home – besides, there are sufficient messages in the world to tell your child why they aren’t good enough. Do you want to add to that, or help to strengthen your child against it? Use your words to instill pride and love in your child’s hair, so that they can absorb that pride and love for themselves. Instead of teaching them how to “fix” their hair, teach them how to take care of it. “Fixing” indicates that something is wrong – and as long as your child’s hair is healthy, it’ll be alright!

Looking for some more online resources to help with hair care for the Mini-Mes? Check out Hair-Raising Adventures, Baby Big Hair, Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care, and the Curly Kids/Natural Kids tags on CurlyNikki! If you have any more questions or tips to share, hit up the comments section!

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Thoughts On Toronto’s Past, Present, & Future

Today, I was reminded that I’m an outsider.

I didn’t grow up in Toronto. I don’t share the same memories of high school track meets, all-ages jams, summer jobs at Canada’s Wonderland, or the days when the Caribana parade was anywhere but along Lakeshore. I came here almost 6 years ago, in the midst of that sensitive crux of girlhood-to-womanhood, ready to make my mark on the big city. My residency began in late 2006, but my love affair with Toronto was born many moons before that.

I was born and raised in London, Ontario – a small city known for its post-secondary educational facilities, greenery (it’s been dubbed “The Forest City”), and penchant for adopting street and landmark names from that other London, across the pond. London was not known for its diversity. Having “Nigger!” yelled out to you from passing cars as you walked to school, and having people insult and mock your parents’ accents was the norm for me as a child. It was our regular family trips to Toronto that reconnected me with something I didn’t realize I was missing. Mom, sis, and I would get our hair done at the salon while Dad and bro got shaped up at the barbershop across the street. Reggae music blasted from the shops along Eglinton West as we hit up Rap’s for lunch, and Sunlight Bakery for fresh Hardo bread. The coolest spot was the record shop where Dad would buy all the latest reggae 45s. I loved the feel of vinyl under my fingers, loved the bass that pulsed through the tiny shop as Dad asked the owner to “play dis yah one – mek me hear di riddim”, and loved visiting this Black mecca where elements of my Caribbean culture seemed to just be – it wasn’t an anomaly or something to be ridiculed like it was at home. Toronto was where I came to understand community.

Memories of the mecca of my childhood collided with the reality of the past week. Since July 16th, Toronto streets have seen 3 shooting incidents that have left 4 dead – and in one shooting, left over 20 people injured. Reaction amongst friends, family, and social media connects have ranged from nonchalance to burning outrage.

“Get rid of the guns!”

“Too many good-for-nothing people are sitting around on welfare.”

“This is what happens when kids are fatherless, and mothers aren’t mothering.”

“Children need better mentors and role models.”

“Where’s the funding for positive community programs?”

“Again? Ain’t nothing new about this.”

The only conclusion I can reach is that the violence in our city is a multi-layered, multi-faceted issue. Guns are too readily available in this city, and that warrants policy review of its own – however, the true problem is apparent long before someone (mainly our young Black men) gets their hands on a firearm. Our youth are disconnected – from family and family values, from meaningful education, from gainful employment, from self-esteem, and from respect for self and others. As poet/speaker/social entrepreneur Dwayne Morgan mentioned in his piece, we’ve lost the sense of community that was once the norm, and now function as a set of individual souls, surviving on our own without the ability to reach out, solely looking out for me, myself, and I.

Too many youth are empty, but please understand that they’re filling those gaps. Youth hunger for so much, and are consistently seeking out the junk-food equivalent of the things they lack. They’re finding a sense of belonging from gang affiliation, love from partners who really have no clue what healthy love consists of, self-esteem from the smoke-and-mirror magic trick of image as seen in the media, and security from monetary gain – problematic whether through illegal means, or whether it’s legal, but the only thing they value in life.

So, the million-dollar question remains: where do we go from here? How do we remove the junk from our youth’s value diets and infuse them with the things that will help them to grow and thrive? How do we get parents to understand the depth of their role in a child’s life? How do we get our children excited about education? How do we create a society that provides opportunity and financial stability? How do we learn to respect ourselves as a minority community in order to gain respect from those who look down on us? How can those of us in a position to mentor find effective ways to do so? How do we find trust in leadership that tells us to “move on” and wants to investigate immigration laws to “get ’em [criminals] out of Toronto”? So many questions, and to be honest, my brain hurts from working on my personal responses.

Like I said at the beginning of this post – I was reminded I’m an outsider. I was told that since I didn’t grow up in Toronto, since I wasn’t born and bred here, I couldn’t truly relate to or feel the pain of what this violence is doing to the city. I may not have paid my dues to Toronto, but this city was often more of a home than my home in childhood. This city was where a girl became a woman. This city has a significant piece of my heart, and that love motivates me to do my utmost best to see the esteem, respect, success, security, and future of its inhabitants lifted up. The mecca must return.

 Whether you live in Toronto or not – what are your thoughts on violence and the issues youth are facing today?

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