art · culture

Celebrating the Arts

One of the greatest joys of my life was visiting museums. Prior to 2019, I regularly worked in Washington, DC, which meant that I could easily go to a major museum during my lunch break or after work. I loved walking those corridors and taking in art from all around the world, as well as art that documented the history of America. Nothing was as soothing to me as spending time at the Smithsonian and checking out the latest exhibitions.

However, things changed drastically at the end of 2018. I was unable to walk more than a few feet without getting winded, I could only sleep for an hour or so at a time, and the unrelenting body aches that I experienced left me frustrated and frightened. As someone that was used to being far more active, I was terrified of these mysterious symptoms that took away my basic abilities to navigate the world like I’d previously done. As it turns out, I had fibromyalgia, and I immediately started a telework schedule that would allow me to rest as needed throughout the day. Unfortunately, my condition made traveling to DC absolute torture. So, I had to put my museum mini-trips on hold until my health improved.

I still haven’t gone back to visit the museums in DC, though I have spent some time at my local museum earlier this year (I was thrilled to finally be able to walk around a bit without experiencing excruciating pain). However, it’s National Arts and Humanities Month, and I just want to take a moment to share some of the amazing things happening at the Smithsonian in honor of this month-long celebration.

On October 23rd, the Smithsonian will be kicking off its own craft show. The show will occur virtually, and the theme is Celebrating American Artistry. The crafts featured in the show are created by carefully selected artisans that create work that reflects American aesthetics and sensibilities. What better way to celebrate art than to purchase some for yourself? Interested shoppers can securely purchase items through the Smithsonian platform, adding a layer of assurance for both shoppers and the craftspeople that are involved in the exchange. The event ends on October 31st.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Asian art museum within the Smithsonian, is the host of the DC Turkish Film Festival. The films that are featured in this festival are all available online for free, so anyone can enjoy from the comfort of their homes. The films will be available through the Sackler Gallery through October 31st.

The companion to the Sackler Gallery is the Freer Gallery. At the Freer Gallery, the Hokusai: Mad About Painting exhibition is a fascinating dive into the art of Katsushika Hokusai, a Japanese artist that is arguably among the country’s most famous painters. The Freer Gallery has an impressive collection of Hokusai’s work, and anyone interested in learning more about this gifted artist would do well to check out this exhibition. But hurry: it will only be at the gallery until January 9, 2022.

The National Museum of African Art (located just one block from the Free and Sackler Galleries) is currently displaying Heroes: Principles of African Greatness, an exhibition that centers on how art is used to tell the stories of heroism and the traits of effective African leaders. This one is definitely worth checking out sooner rather than later, since the end date for this exhibition is still to be announced. Nothing is worse that postponing a visit and finding out that you mistimed your travel and lost the opportunity to do something that you wanted to do (trust me: it’s happened to me, and it was no fun!)

Finally, the Archive of American Art is hosting the exhibition, What is Feminist Art? This exhibition is a continuation of a discussion that was initiated back in 1976, and some of the same artists that participated in the 1970s also participated this time around. This exhibition promises to be an eye-opening discussion on feminism and how it has changed, or remained the same, over the past 45+ years. This exhibition closes on December 31st.

Would you check out any of these exhibitions? Or, do you have other plans to celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

art · culture · music

Giving Gladys Her Flowers

During one of my many jaunts down the Google rabbit hole, I found myself in 1930s-40s-50s Black American music history. I always love looking at the style of clothing, listening to the recordings of the artists, and finding out some of the fascinating backstory that led to their rises to fame and, many times, their untimely and tragic demises.

Every now and then, I find myself in an interesting corner of Black American history. One such corner is the part of history that contains the legacies of LGBTQIA+. In this corner is where I found Gladys Bentley, lesbian icon, trailblazer, and unapologetic star.

Prior to this year, I was completely unfamiliar with Ms. Bentley’s story. However, when I read about her, I made sure to jot her name down so I could write about her when I had the chance. I’m fortunate to be able to discuss her life and legacy now. When I saw a photo of her, I was immediately struck by her impeccably tailored white suit (at least, I think it was a white suit: the photo was in Black and white, after all), her matching cane, and a white top hat worn at a jaunty angle. Everything about her screamed stylish and confident star.

But it was her story that made me want to both cheer and weep. Ms. Bentley was a cross-dressing star during the Harlem Renaissance, a period of time that embrace the avant garde and brilliant creative endeavors of Black performers. During this time, she thrived due to the novelty of her act, but her talent is what kept people hooked on Gladys. She could sing well, play piano, and work a crowd like no other. Her song selections were risque and fit the vibe of the smoky speakeasies where she performed. She didn’t try to pass as a man: she made no attempt to hide her full bust or wide hips. She achieved major success for several years, and she lived luxuriously during this time.

Sadly, her story had a heartbreaking beginning and a tragic end. Ms. Bentley was initially rejected at birth by her mother, who wanted a son. While her mother eventually started to care for her a few months after her birth, the trauma (and, no doubt, toxic messaging that was doled out over time) lingered and was what she believed was the root cause of her sexual orientation. Years later, as her career declined, she tried to live as a heterosexual woman, marrying and divorcing twice. She eventually died at the age of 52 from pneumonia. She claimed to have been “cured” of her homosexuality, with her cure curiously coinciding with the McCarthy Era. This is just my humble opinion, but I suspect that the claim of a “cure” was probably Ms. Bentley’s way of protecting herself from additional harassment and potential abuse. But that’s just a speculation.

I had a chance to check out some of her discography, and I enjoyed listening to Ms. Bentley’s full, resonant voice. Anyone that has listened to recordings from the first half of the 1900s knows how difficult it is to enjoy some of the songs. The recording quality, as well as the style of singing preferred by the public, is quite different from the music preferences of the past 30 years or so. That being said, I found that her voice was closer to being “timeless” than some other artists of that period. If any of her original records could be digitally enhanced, I’m sure that many of her songs would have experience a revival of sorts, becoming popular with a new generation, nearly 100 years after she first sang them.

I wish Gladys Bentley was more well-known today, and I sincerely hope that this post, though simple, honors her memory. Instead of focusing on the tragedy that she experienced, I will share the gift of her music with you all. Here is a YouTube video of one of her songs. Enjoy.

culture · fitness · goals · health · life curation

March Goal Updates – Finally!

Happy first day of April, friends!

I know that you all saw some post notifications yesterday, but those posts aren’t ready just yet. Bear with me: the past few weeks have been busy. Between my job, my side job, my family, and my school coursework, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends. I will be getting a much needed break this weekend, but that’s a couple of days away. In any case, I am ready to chat about my March goal update.

So, my goal list for 2021 is as follows:

  • Publish 5 books
  • Lose 15 lbs
  • Manifest 3 international trips
  • Earn 6 figures in my businesses
  • Read 100+ books
  • Luxury purchases – Hermes, Christian Louboutin, Sophia Webster, Ralph & Russo
  • Cure my fibromyalgia

I always discuss my book reading goal in a separate post, so I won’t talk about that until next week. However, I’m really excited to confirm that I’ve made progress on several of my goals for the year!

  • Publish 5 books

In the midst of the tragic shootings in Atlanta several days ago, I was moved to do my part in supporting the Stop Asian Hate movement. I stayed up late several nights, and I ended up writing and publishing two books to inspire children to learn more about Asian countries. I believe that hate is rooted in ignorance, and the cure for ignorance is knowledge. I plan to eventually write books on each of the countries of the world, but I decided to start with China and Vietnam, in hopes that what I publish will help educate children on the many ways that we are wonderfully different and surprisingly alike. My books are Let’s Go to China and Let’s Go to Vietnam, and they are filled with beautiful pictures and fun facts about these two Asian countries.

Now, these books were not planned at all, but I believe in working with inspiration as it strikes. Inspiration led me to write them, and I’ve done this sort of thing enough to know that I should never ignore a hunch. These two books bring my closer to my publishing goals for the year and, as a plus, I’m on target to meet this goal before summer begins!

  • Lose 15 lbs

A recent trip to the doctor confirmed that I have gained weight (more about this in tomorrow’s post). So I’m amping up my physical activity and revising my diet. I feel pretty good about the changes I’m making, and I’m confident that I’ll be able to shed the weight easily – so long as I stick to my plan. I’ll spill more of those details tomorrow.

  • Manifest 3 international trips

Part of manifesting my three international trips including allowing inspiration to point me in the direction of the right trips for me. Well, with some inspired conversations with my friends, as well as some fantastic evidence from the Universe, I’ve decided on one of the countries that I will visit this year! I’ll share more about this as I plan my trip, but I’m really excited that one of those international trips is in the works.

  • Earn 6 figures in my businesses

I’ve gotten several opportunities to earn additional money doing the things that I already do (like vlogging). I also have been selling some of my books (so exciting!) and having several people interested in a few of my little businesses. I’m not sure how much money I’ve made so far in my businesses, but I think I’ll calculate it next month and share it in my April goal update post.

  • Read 100+ books

This will be in a separate post, but I’m excited to let you all know that I read more books in March than I did in January or February. I’m so happy that I’m making progress toward my goal!

  • Luxury purchases – Hermes, Christian Louboutin, Sophia Webster, Ralph & Russo

I’m still floating off of the happiness of my Sophia Webster purchase. I haven’t recently checked the Hermes, Louboutin, or Ralph & Russo websites to decide on what items I want, but I’m sure I’ll have made some more progress toward this before I do my April update.

  • Cure my fibromyalgia

I’ve been feeling great recently! My medication seems to be at an optimal dosage, which makes me really happy. I’ve been dealing with fatigue, but other than that, everything has been good. I’ll discuss this more in tomorrow’s post, too.

So that’s it for my updates. I’ll be back tomorrow with my Fibro Friday post. Take care, and I’ll talk to you all soon!

*This post contains affiliate links.

culture · international

Harry, Meghan and Oprah – My Thoughts

Happy Tuesday, friends! Most of the online spaces I frequent are buzzing after the bombshell interview that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, had with the queen of American media, Oprah Winfrey.

You all know I had to write my thoughts on the interview. There were too many lessons for me to keep silent. I’m breaking down some of my favorite takeaways from the discussion.

  • Stay ready so that you don’t have to get ready.

Meghan was not given the opportunity to receive royal protocol training. However, Meghan quickly schooled herself enough (with the help of Harry) to pass the protocol tests with flying colors.

I’m certain that she had no idea that she would be under so much scrutiny, but as an actress, she knows that being flexible and adjusting quickly to change and unexpected circumstances is key. So, she learned what she needed to know and performed beautifully. If she had waited for the training to be offered to her, she would have failed miserably at impressing the Queen as well as the public. One of the things Meghan mentions as a regret was not being more informed about the role of “working royal”. So, if there’s anything to be learned from that, it’s this: stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Prepare yourself as much as you can for each new circumstance, so when life throws you a curve ball, you can knock it out of the park.

  • Always have your own bag.

The Sussexes are not receiving any security or other financial support from the British royal family (BRF). For this reason, having your own “bag” (money) is key. The move from working royal to private citizen is challenging enough, but doing it with no money is impossible. Likewise, no matter what situation life finds you in, remember to save for a rainy day and always have your own “bag”, so you will have the freedom to walk away from anything that doesn’t serve you.

  • Legacy planning can save your life, as well as the life of your children, grandchildren, etc.,.

Part of the money being used to support the Sussexes is Harry’s inheritance from his mother, Princess Diana. Legacy planning isn’t always easy, but some measure of it is always feasible. Even if you can’t leave your children millions of dollars, strive to leave them something of value. That money may be just what they need to escape a dangerous situation in the future. Legacy planning is a literal lifesaver, and should be prioritized by everyone (but especially those among us that have children).

  • Prioritize your mental health.

The most heartbreaking thing about this interview was Meghan’s description of her suicidal thoughts. Whatever you do, always make sure to prioritize your mental health. Find the resources to help you to cope NOW. Many resources are available online for free, so you don’t have to be wealthy to get some measure of help. Take care of your mental health: your life depends on it.

  • Sometimes, the best way to win the game is to walk away from the table.

In light of this interview, it’s clear that Harry and Meghan made the best choice for their family. Their faces are obviously pained, but there is a peace still emanating from both of them. They won this game simply by opting out. They have endeared themselves even further to those of us that believe them and want them to be happy and safe. I, for one, am thrilled that they are forging this new path for themselves. They are sharing their story so that the world will know the truth. All of the world is watching, sending them positive energy, and hoping that they remain safe.

I wrote previously about what it means to step away from royal duties, and I’m glad that I watched this interview and got an even better sense of what this entails. I am so proud of Harry and Meghan, and I feel very optimistic about their future. I foresee nothing but success and happiness for them!

career · culture · international

Back in School

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you all are doing well, and I also hope that you all had a restful and restorative weekend.

I’ve been busy behind the scenes (as I noted in this previous post), but I wanted to make sure that I shared additional details about what I’ve been working on. I recently was accepted into a certificate program, so I’ll be attending Cornell University for the next several months (that was the entrepreneur training I mentioned previously). I don’t anticipate that this will interfere with my posting schedule, but that remains to be seen.

At this point, I’m adjusting my schedule so that I can (fingers crossed) have enough time to do everything that I need to do. I’m getting back to using one of my old favorites: a planner than maps out your day, hour by hour. That way, I can stay on top of all of the things I need to do daily, and if I need to shift things around, at least I’m less likely to skip a task that desperately needs to be done.

Along with these Cornell courses, I’m taking two free courses on FutureLearn. The first course is Unleash Your Potential: Global Citizenship, focusing on the different opportunities that arise from being a global citizen. The second course is What is International Development (the title is self explanatory). These courses aren’t as intense as my Cornell schedule, so I’m fitting them into 30 minute chunks every day.

Between my classes, my job, and my writing, I am BUSY! But honestly, I love it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother to do all of these things. I have some big goals which means I have to take some drastic action this year. There’s no time like the present to work on everything I want to do, so that’s what I’m doing.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more musings, because this recent Harry and Meghan interview has my mind churning! Talk to you all soon.

culture · international · life curation

Embracing The Year of the Ox

We recently saw the beginning of a brand new Lunar Year on February 12th. Somehow, I was a bit late this year, and I didn’t realize that the Lunar New Year occurred until two days after.

What can I say? It’s been a challenging year for all of us, and if I miss a couple of holidays, it’s only because this year has done a number on most of us.

Anyway, back to the Lunar New Year. I thought of the significance of this year’s animal, the ox. I reflected back on the last lunar year, the year of the rat. I think of mice and rats, and how these animals, while indicative of abundance (they are always in places with adequate food supply), can overconsume and leave desolation where abundance used to reside. I think the year of the rat, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, was a collective wake-up call. We are abundant, but, as a society, we have taken too much from nature, and balance must be restored.

Enter the year of the ox. This hardworking beast of burden only consumes what it needs to sustain itself, and it’s purpose for existing is to produce through manual efforts. Unlike rats, whose body waste is toxic and often spreads disease, oxen are useful all the way down to their fecal matter, which can fertilize and restore balance to the soil. The ox is sturdy, reliable, and work-oriented. It is the animal that’s most representative of the attitude we need in these times.

I think this year will be a year of restoration and balance. Life will get back to normal, more or less, but what is considered baseline normal has changed. We’ve had roughly one year to stay close to home, spend more time doing domestic activities, and to closely examine what matters to us. Now, we have our work to do.

It’s time for us to produce. We’ve been incubating our skills and talents during lockdowns and quarantines: now is the time to put out into the world what we’ve been creating during our downtime. And yes, I understand that many of us were too stressed and otherwise limited to “create” in the traditional sense. But, our creations need not be tangible: they can be our musings, creative nudges or even inklings of necessary change in our personal lives or in society. We have all created “something” in the past year: now it’s time to unleash it.

May the year of the ox give you great favor and lead you closer to a wonderful existence.

That’s all for today. I’ll talk to you all tomorrow. Take care!

culture · international · life curation

What Stepping Away From Royal Duties REALLY Means

Happy Monday, friends! I don’t know about you all, but the past few days have been wonderful. The weather is becoming milder here on the East Coast, and COVID-19 seems to be FINALLY decreasing. Let’s hope that these good things continue!

Recently, I read Buckingham Palace’s statement on Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan and their decision to step away from royal duties. As a result of this decision, they will be stripped of their royal patronages. This could not have been easy for the Sussexes, as they have made service a crucial theme in their personal and professional lives. In particular, I think of Prince Harry, who, as a result of this decision to step away, will have his honorary military titles removed. This must have been a very painful outcome for this proud veteran, who dutifully served the Crown for ten years.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (Photo as shown on People Magazine [Karwai Tang/WireImage])

As painful as it must be, I am so happy for and proud of this couple. There is far more at stake with this decision that simply losing titles and patronages. The decision to step away from royal duties is the decision to forge a brand new path. No one so close to the Crown has opted to become a private citizen since Edward VIII, and we all know how much of a crisis that caused. This is truly untrodden ground, as the world that we know today is quite different from the one occupied by Edward VIII and his beloved, Wallis Simpson.

The decision to step away, closing the door leading to life as a royal, has opened a myriad other doors for the couple. Walking away made it possible for them to create Archewell, a revolutionary media company that will distribute the content that the Sussexes want to bring into the world. The Archewell umbrella will also allow them to support causes that are near and dear, and will allow them to influence people in ways that they feel are most impactful, without the limitations imposed upon royals. Stepping away from royal duties will allow the Sussexes to step into serving on their terms.

Ultimately, this is what the couple truly wants to be known for: service that matters to them, and done in the way that they feel will do the most good. The Sussexes demonstrated this almost immediately after the Buckingham Palace statement was released, by supporting a Dallas woman’s shelter that was badly damaged by the devastating winter storms that slammed Texas last week. The unexpected act of kindness is the first public contribution made by the Archewell Foundation, and is likely a small preview of the many charitable acts that we can expect from Harry and Meghan in the future.

This entire discussion brings to mind the famous poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken. The poem references how the speaker, considering two paths, “kept the first for another day”, but he also knew well, “how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back”. I doubt that the Sussexes will ever decide to rejoin the royal family in the capacity that was expected of them, but their decision to step away is undoubtedly a choice full of promise and potential. They can make a bigger impact in the way that they see fit, and they can author a spectacular story that starkly contrasts anything that royal life could offer, yet remains true to them. That, I believe, is why they chose to step away, and that, to paraphrase Frost, will make all the difference.

beauty · culture · life curation · luxury

Five Easy Ways to Be More Like Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

Happy Monday, friends! I hope the beginning of your week is pleasant and everything that you need it to be.

Recently, I reviewed Archewell Audio, the podcast project started by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan. I’ve been fascinated with Meghan for quite some time: I love that she is graceful, elegant and intelligent, and she uses her influence to create positive changes in society.

As part of learning more about this brilliant woman, I read a bit about her and found that there are many things that she’s done to position herself as a woman of status and influence. I made a video highlighting five of those qualities.

The qualities I discussed are as follows:

  • Learn a foreign language
  • Take up a luxurious hobby
  • Eliminate or reduce meat from your diet
  • Wear blush
  • Start a blog

By engaging in one or more of these activities, you can live a little more like Meghan.

Do you have any Duchess-worthy tips? Let me hear about it in the comments below!

art · culture

The Scribe – Egyptian Keepers of Culture and Subjects of Timeless Art

I’ve started this post multiple times (and even accidentally posted it once or twice) but I struggled with putting this into words.

Until now.

A couple of years ago, I went to Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VMFA), my favorite local museum. I always try to spend a little more time in the permanent collection, so that I can be really familiar with the contents of the museum. On this particular visit, I focused more of my time on the Egyptian collection. I was struck by one particular piece.

Statue of Seated Scribe, Sema-tawy-tefnakht is more than 2500 years old, and appears just as wise and intuitive today as it probably did when it was first sculpted. The scribe looks toward the horizon, with a soft smile on his face and hands resting comfortably on his thighs as he holds a roll of papyrus. He appears to know a lot but, instead of it filling him with arrogance and an unapproachable energy, his face seems to invite you to ask questions that he will gladly answer. The piece is sculpted from alabaster, and still features the original text at the base, no doubt describing who he is and his role in the kingdom.

I loved, too, the plaque posted next to the Statue of Seated Scribe. The museum notes that being a scribe was often a hereditary role, with fathers preparing their sons for positions as bureaucrats for future pharoahs. It also touches on the significance of Thoth, the patron deity of scribes. Thoth himself was a scribe within Egyptian mythology, recording the judgments of human souls who had entered the afterlife.

What’s significant about this piece to me is the power held by a scribe. In the spiritual realm, it was believed that all information about whether a person would live in peace or eternal torment was captured by the scribe. It’s true, in a sense, that the “scribes” of today – journalists, novelists, memoirists, and the like – function much the same. We as writers keep the records of the actions of others, whether they be good, bad or neutral.

Another thing that really impacted me was the fact that this role was more than a job: it was an inheritance. Being the male child of a scribe meant that you were born into a legacy of being a gatekeeper of the empire’s history and secrets. This made me think of the children being born to us today: how many parents are preparing their children for their legacy? As a mom, I understand how overwhelmed we all are right now, with many schools being closed due to COVID. But what little things are we doing daily to prepare our children for the heavy roles they will have in the future, as responsible citizens, future artists and patrons, the builders and organizers of society, and possibly parents themselves?

It’s a lot to consider. I’ve been toying around with these ideas for years, which is why I knew I had to write this post. I’m just glad I finally got the words for it.

Anyways, that’s it for today. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, when I share with you all my amazing body balm recipe that is great for muscle and nerve pain. Take care, and I’ll talk to you soon.