To Mimi: Reflections from My Inaugural Mother’s Day

5/13/15

Dear Mila,

A few days ago, I celebrated my first Mother’s Day. I celebrated you and all the ways you have changed my life. The time we spent as one is forever imprinted on my mind. That you are now here, in my arms, amazes me.

It seems like just a few weeks ago, I was praying for your safe delivery and good health, tearfully asking God to make me the kind of mother you deserve. It seems like just a day ago that you were placed on my chest for the first time. If these last four months are any indication as to how time will fly, I’ll soon be walking you to the Kindergarten door.

I’m forever made better by your very existence. Often, I pray as I prayed while carrying you – that I’ll always be someone you can look up to, learn from, depend on, trust, and enjoy. I hope to always approach you with an open mind, a generous spirit and a full heart.

When I look in your eyes, I see God personified. You carry such an incredible light. You are a queen and so many more to-be-discovered things. Your life will be rich and rewarding as long as you stay true to yourself and recognize you are a powerful being with limitless potential. Stand strong in your convictions, trust your intuition, and always exercise your right to think. Never let a setback take you over – it’s all a part of the process.

Whenever you ever need an encouraging word, a cuddle, or someone to back you up in battle, I am here. Always. And if for any reason I must leave you, know there is no realm from which my love can’t reach you.

With so much joy and love,

Mom

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What Grinds My Gears: Dim Lituations

Ya know what grinds my gears? When people refer to every place where 100+ people have gathered as “lit.” Just because a bunch of people cram into a small space (i.e. a club), doesn’t make it “lit.” No one is dancing, smiling or showing other signs of merriment, yet you’re dubbing it “lit.” By that logic, the following would all be examples of “lituations”:

a) “Man, that plea deal wasn’t so bad — the yard be lit!”

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b) “Write down this fun fact for tomorrow’s quiz, kids. ‘Government-funded soup lines during the Great Depression were lit’.”

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c) “The ship that came in yesterday was lit, James. I fetched 50 slaves for a nominal fee.”

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So, moving forward, recognize that while a densely populated party venue is indicative of noteworthy promotional skills, it does not suggest a blazing blowout. #GoodDay

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A Few of My Favorite Things

1. Nail polish. See below for what I mean. And I can’t stop buying it!!! I need help -_-

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2. Shoes. A great shoe makes me feel like I’m on top of the world. Anyone wearing a pair of head-turnin’ shoes automatically wins my admiration. For women, I’m all about a cute flat, a sexy pump or a chic boot. For guys, it’s the GQ dress shoe or the fly sneaker *drools*. I easily have over 100 pair of shoes. Yet, I know there is far more to explore in the shoe world. Ya see, even the most simple of outfits can go from “blah” to “BOOM” with the right shoe. I actually prefer when an ensemble leaves room for the footwear to shine brightest. As I get older, comfort is becoming more of a priority (but not “the” priority). So, when I find a stunner than also makes my feet feel like I’m walking on churned butter? I squeal “THANK YOU SHOE GODS!” (Just kidding….maybe).

3. Jewelry. Especially earrings, rings and bangles. As you may have gathered from #2, I’m an accessory fanatic. My love of shoes is only rivaled by infatuation with jewelry. I love anything with an antique look, shimmer or a tribal/ethnic vibe. I like it cool, corny, classy, gaudy, trendy, classic, cheap and expensive. I love it all! Fun fact: If I accidentally walk out of the house without earrings on, I feel naked, vulnerable and incomplete all day long.

4. Food. I have never understood people who say they aren’t “big eaters.” What does that mean?!? Hopefully it means your stomach is too small to hold a large quantity of deliciousness at once…and you’re extremely sad about it. It can’t possibly mean you don’t get downright giddy when you know a great meal is on the horizon. I especially love dishes that contain rice and am a fanatic for Jamaican, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican cuisine; and although I usually avoid it like the plague, a good plate of authentic pasta is necessary on occasion.

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Homemade pizza ready for the oven.

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A mouth-watering black bean burger

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My first time making sushi (w/ a side of saké)

5. Anything I can read. What can I say? I love to know shit. If the content is interesting, I will read it. I find that almost anything can be made interesting with the right style. Nowadays, though, I mostly read about food and nutrition, self-improvement, and thought-provoking/uplifting posts on social media and blogs. For great entertainment (and outrage), I also indulge in my favorite columnist, Prudence.

Mood-Boosting Music, Part II: Then

If there is anything I love more than a new song to groove to, it’s an old song to groove to. I am all about throwback jams. The music of “now” has its flare but it can’t hold a candle to the music of my youth. So, here it is – my blast from the past that will always last. I hope it causes the muscles near the ends of your mouth to flex upward.

Hypnotize by The Notorious B.I.G.

I love me some Biggie Smalls! Always have. Always will. And no song will make me risk the vitality of my sound system quicker than this one. This summer, I played “Hypnotize” from my phone on an iPod deck during a Teach For America staff social. I was not surprised in the least when the place went wild. I was only slightly surprised when almost every white person there could rap it verbatim.

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Lights, Camera, Action by Mr. Cheeks

This song came out when I was in middle school. All I can say is, I’m glad I have music On Demand because occasionally, I still play the video…three times in a row…while dance around the living room…every time.

100% by Big Pun and Tony Sunshine

I don’t know what excites me most about this song – the beat that entices me to move my hips, that it reminds me of Puerto Rico, or that I can sing the entire chorus, which is mostly sung in Spanish. Actually, it’s probably that I can sing it and I actually know what’s being said. Either way, the song makes me feel too good.

Back and Forth by Aaliyah

This song takes me back in the best way because it reminds me of when life was oh-so-simple. When I hear it, I close my eyes and picture a cookout that everybody showed up to and didn’t want to leave.

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Big Daddy by Heavy D

What is this obsession I have with overweight hip-hop artists? I can’t help but love this delightfully corny song. The coolest things about this song is that Heavy D never says anything explicit when describing why he is head over heels and that the girl who sings the hook has a really smooth voice that probably deserved a record deal.

Just Fine (Remix) by Mary J. Blige and Swizz Beats

The original was a huge hit and became the anthem for almost every black woman in the country who had just experienced a major life breakthrough (no pun intended). However, I love the remix even more. It makes me want to go skating (“ATL” style). Actually, it makes me want to have a skate party. Ok, I’m having a skate party.

Countdown by Beyonce

If you know me, you know I love QUEEN BEY! She is IT! She has scarcely made any song, radio-bound or not, that I don’t love. This song, though? This song makes me feel so good about love for no good reason. It makes me want to get on a random stage in front of a huge crowd and scream, “Everyone, just be in love! Be infatuated! Wear colorful bodysuits with a leotard!”

Jam by Michael Jackson

I couldn’t throw the queen up here and not mention THE KING! My grandma always tells me that I absolutely loved MJ as a child and to this day, this song gets me PUMPED to the nth degree. And who could forget the video featuring two of the greatest Mike’s EVER? Jackson playing one-on-one with Jordan? MJ teaching MJ how to dance? #Historical

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Throw It In The Bag (Remix) by Fabolous and Drake

This is the third song on this list that isn’t too throwback but it’s old enough. When this song came out I was like “Yeessss!” I mean, who doesn’t want to ride around pretending they got it like that. Oh, you don’t wish you could “walk up to the register like you didn’t know it had a tag?” You don’t want someone to say to you, “If my lady like to eat, I’ma buy a restaurant?” Well, you are weird.

Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield

Love the artist. Love the song. While I haven’t remained faithful to its overall message at all times, I believe in it whole-heartedly. It lets me know that each day is a new day to learn, grow, and do. And that…that makes me smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mood-Boosting Music, Part I: Now

I’m a busy educator and entrepreneur with a complicated mind. It’s a heavy combination. Thankfully, music is my therapy, and there are certain songs that boost my mood whenever I hear them. Here are some current songs that get me going. Hopefully, they’ll inspire you to be giddy, too.

Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I.

This is my FAVORITE song of now (and perhaps all-time). It makes me want to sing, dance, smile, and paint pictures of puppies in my panties. (Hey! Hey! Hey!)

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Radioactive by Imagine Dragons

This song definitely has dark undertones but for some reason, it gets me PUMPED! Using a stiff forearm, I intently pump one fist while blasting it extremely loud in my car.

Treasure by Bruno Mars

This song makes me smile so hard it doesn’t make any type of sense…I mean, like, an idiotic smile. Very sing-along-able, too.

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Mirrors by Justin Timberlake

This song makes me smile…and cry…and wish that I really could sing. Good job, JT.

The Way by Ariana Grande and Mac Miller

I love this song because it makes me think of every sugary-sweet pop song I’ve ever heard in the best way possible. It makes me feel nostalgic and reminds me of the good ole’ times (whenever that may have been).

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Crooked Smile by J. Cole and TLC

“Crooked smile, wicked style on em’.” Yup, that’s me! P.S. So glad to hear TLC again 🙂

Feds Watching by 2 Chainz and Pharrell

Wooooo-Weeeee! I love 2 Chainz and he has YET AGAIN reinforced all the reasons why. My goodness! What a delightful piece of ignorance mixed with “real.”

How Many Drinks? by Miguel and Kendrick Lamar – I don’t know what all the talk is about this song promoting rape culture, but I do know it comes on smoother than a baby’s ass. It makes me want to drop my imaginary top and cruise through the city as a warm breeze wafts over me.

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Don’t Drop That Thun Thun by Finatticz

This is my three-year-old cousin’s favorite song. When I sing it, he says, “Hey! That’s my song!” and I retort, “No, it’s mines!” I’m sure we should both be ashamed.

*Stay tuned for “Mood-Boosting Music, Part II: Then”

 

Lines We Should Retire from Hip-Hop

Music is my life. If I’m not listening to it, it’s probably playing in my head. I love all types of music but I grew up with hip-hop in my heart. Lately though, I feel like we’ve run out of things to say in rap songs. I am growing increasingly irritated with the following topics/phrases:

1) “Turn up” or “Turn down for what?” — I may morph into a dancing maniac after a few drinks but I have to respectfully decline these repeated requests to get jacked out of my mind off of syrup, pills, and the like.

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2) Molly — she may be the queen of the aforementioned turn-up but I can’t wait for her 15 minutes to be over.

3) Gun references — let’s come up with names besides “llama,” “Nina” and “choppa” to describe firearms. Better yet, let’s stop killing people in songs. #WACK

4) “Eat it up like ______” and “Beat it up like _________” — I was officially done with these phrases when Lil’ Wayne said “Beat it up like Emmett Till.” He’s received enough flack for that idiotic and insensitive statement, so I don’t need to say much more…especially since he’s really the only one overusing these similes anyway.

5) “Killin dem hoes/b*tches” — Ah, yes. Aggressive saying #3. Cease and desist.

6) Why do I even have to go there?

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My Superpower of Choice

If I could have one superpower, it would be the power to perceive how people feel about me. Is that tacky? I mean, I don’t want to be able to read minds because I know how precious one’s thoughts are and I would never want to impinge on the sacred space that is the mind.

However, I would like to be able to extract how people feel about me. Like, a nice little one-page printout detailing a person’s motives as far as I’m concerned.

I say this because 99% of the time, I approach people and situations ingenuously. I am not saying life experiences and pre-established mindsets don’t influence my perceptions of people I don’t know, but once I actually meet and get to know people, I am so open to them.

Yes, from the first handshake or hug, I am willing to form a genuine relationship founded upon the commonality that we are both children of God, making our way through this world the best way we know how. From there, I let other commonalities and deeper bonds build naturally.

So, when I have developed what I think is anything from a sociable rapport to a professional affiliation to a friendship with a person, I am always taken aback when something is said or done (either in isolation or through a pattern) that isn’t aligned to the norm we have established with each other.

I know I have a tendency to read into words and actions a little too deeply, so I try to focus on things I notice over time rather than on one occasion. I know that life has a way of changing our habits, behavior, moods, state of mind, etc., and some people can communicate when they have a lot/something major going on that may cause noticeable changes in how they interact with and relate to others.

However, I find that most people – regardless of age and gender – do not do this. (Shocking, I know.) Therefore, I think it would make my life easier to know if a person is acting seemingly out of character because they are facing a trying situation or because they are mad at me about something.

I also think it would be helpful to know whether a person is going out of his or her way to sabotage some social or business venture we’re partaking in because they are jealous of me or simply because they have been pressed for time, funds, and sanity.

I never really know! Sure, it would be nice if everyone if the world were totally transparent and honest. Wait, actually it wouldn’t be. As my uncle so aptly pointed out on Twitter, total honesty would cause chaos. His example was Jim Carrey in “Liar, Liar.” Good point, Unc.

Still, though, I want to always have an accurate read on where I stand with people in my life because I can then regulate how much energy I offer to individuals and situations. Oh, well – I guess I’m stuck with tools like common sense, intuition, and the good ol’ “time will reveal” like you mere mortals.

Roles Redefined

I believe in roles — I’m just not a huge fan of rigid, gender-based ones (especially in relationships). Someone argued to me that these roles are nature. No, having a penis or a vagina is nature. What we learn about what people with those parts are able to/should do is nurture.

Little girls can play basketball and boys can be gymnasts. If my man is better at making a dish than me, he can cook it and if the trash is stankin’ up the house, I know how to get it up out of there. Simple enough, but many of us didn’t see it play out like this growing up.

Nowadays, though, the lifestyles of women in terms of career and other commitments outside of the home show that “communicate + collaborate” is much more practical than “girl jobs” and “boy jobs” around the house.

The notion of women staying home? Well, I’ll put it this way — if a man and woman agree it’s best for their family that the woman stays home, I fully support that. And vice versa. I hope when I have kids, my financial situation allows me to stay home for a while. I can’t see it being a lifelong thing, though.

I don’t understand why a woman who went to college, or is otherwise trained in a field or trade, would forego her God-given talents and skills to rear children and keep house. That screams “barefoot and pregnant” to me.

Now, if you’re working from home (entrepreneur, writer, etc.) that’s different. I just feel like I’d get fat and bored really fast if I wasn’t out and about making a living.

It may be some women’s dream to stay home while there man brings home the bacon. Excuse my cynicism, but I was always taught that whoever has the bacon, has the power.

I don’t even eat bacon anymore but I do enjoy money and no matter how much I love or trust someone, I don’t feel comfortable having no income as a grown woman.

Oh, I can picture the jabs made during arguments now. “You’re pissing me off — no allowance this week!” or “Chick, you don’t run nothing around here.” Nope, not having it!

Even if I have to check receipts at Wal-Mart or dress up like the Statue of Liberty and spin signs by the highway, ya girl has to have her own. Being disabled or on maternity leave, that’s one thing. A lifetime of being dependent “just because?” — no thanks. Maybe it’s the Leo in me but I expect so much more from myself. I like to get my shine on, too.

I know being a great mother and homemaker is hard work and deserves many accolades but my observations over the years indicate acclaim for these jobs typically only come one Sunday in May.

Yes, I know there is “something” in women that makes us more domestic and nurturing bu is there anything sexier than a man who can do everything for his kids that their mom can? Doubt it. Gotta love a man who can give a house a thorough cleaning. That means he takes pride in the place he calls home. Oh, yeah, push that broom baby 😉

The contrary has been suggested to me, though. Apparently if I don’t conform to gender roles, no decent man will want to marry me. Oh, word? Cause I’ve heard a song or two suggesting a woman who does her thing outside of the house was a hot commodity.

Drake NeYoStuck in a time-warp, are we? Much respect to the 1950s, but in a world where women work as hard outside of the house as men do, there needs to be more parity for household tasks.

I want my future daughters to know that they can bring home the bacon and cook it because they’re awesome like that. I also want them to know they should look for a partner who is both supportive and accommodating of whatever “roles” they choose to take on. Not to mention, all of their suitors should be comfortable rockin’ construction boots, a three-piece suit and an apron.

Golden Rule Reciprocity

I am a servant. I serve my students the best way I know how every day. I bring energy, love and knowledge. I offer these things freely, without condition or expectation of much in return. Sometimes, it’s a challenging role because all of my students aren’t open to these things, all the time.

Being rebuffed can hurt and is an uncomfortable feeling, but with my kids, that feeling never lasts long. I don’t hold grudges because I get that adolescents are moody, hormonal, and (unfortunately) have many of the same stressors we adults deal with. So, I roll with the punches, taking it all on the chin.

However, I get paid for those daily chin checks. Servant ≠ slave or idiot. I’m a professional, a salaried employee. Any other case of me giving my all (or even my “some”) and it not being respected or valued will not be tolerated. For too long, I’ve allowed people to undervalue or overlook the “gems” I’ve contributed to their lives.

For a long time, anytime someone close to me would say or do something out of line, I’d make the excuse for them that “no one is perfect,” “we’re all human,” or “he/she didn’t mean it.” While all of those things may be true, human nature doesn’t negate thoughtfulness or care.

Since I know people aren’t perfect, I am constantly work on becoming a better person. One of the reasons I even bother is so that I can treat others better and continue to be of service in any way I can — especially to those closest to me.

While I don’t require people in my life to go tic-for-tac with me in overall goodness or to hold the exact values I do, I expect The Golden Rule to be in their ‘Top 10.’ What I give is what I expect. I no longer feel awkward saying nothing less will be accepted. I’m worth it — and so are you!

To Thy Own Self Be True

I am a self-described people-pleaser. I love to make people feel happy, comfortable and proud. Contrary to what reality TV shows tell you, these aren’t bad things. That is to say, there is nothing cool about going out of your way to piss people off and constantly feel the need to make the point “I’m grown, so I’ll do whatever I want.”

No, you don’t earn cool points for being intentionally disagreeable (except among other social pariahs). Nonetheless, I envy people who naturally march to the beat of their own drum; people who do what they want without worrying about how others will react.

How freeing it must be to go about life thinking about what you want for yourself and not what others want for you. Ahhh, yes. Dare to dream. Sometimes, I still struggle to make small decisions (i.e. what to wear) and “medium” decisions (i.e. pursuing a professional opportunity) without stressing over what others will think. Meanwhile, most of my loved ones seem so unaffected by external opinion. I’m jealous.

I’m working on it, though. I realize I discover more about who I am, what drives me, and what I want when I turn down others’ perceptions, thoughts and expectations. Yes, these things are relevant and have their place. I’m not saying it’s OK to become your neighbor’s surrogate without consulting your husband or to move halfway across the world without talking to your family about it first.

I am saying that you are given one life and that life belongs to you — not the masses.

How much do you care about other people’s opinions?