life curation

Peaks and Valleys

Hello friends! I hope you all are doing well and feeling great. I took a little break from writing because the past several weeks have been filled with highs and lows.

Within the past month, I’ve had to say my final goodbyes to several people, including my beautiful friend and one of my mentors, Lorraine Spencer. Lorraine was a devoted wife and mother, writer, former magistrate, and all-around brilliant woman. I spent time with her and her family during trip to Los Angeles last year. Little did I know that it would be the last time that I saw her. Lorraine’s health declined rapidly after my visit, and she took her last breath on July 22, 2020. I am still mourning this tremendous loss, as well as the loss of my best friend’s father, who passed in July as well.

On top of the grief that I’ve been managing, I was stressed out over unwanted contact from someone with whom I severed communication last year. The fact that this person has continued to violate my personal boundaries have been a frustrating experience. I still don’t have a long term solution for that, but using blocking measures on all of my social media has given me some peace of mind.

In spite of my sadness, stress and frustration, I feel very fortunate. I feel good about the fact that I regularly kept in contact with my friends, thus removing many of the “I wish I’d been more available” that I’ve experienced in years prior. I continue to improve my relationships by communicating on a consistent basis. This has made a tremendous difference in how I’ve been processing my grief.

Another “peak” I’ve experienced is improved physical health. I’ve been supplementing my prescription medication with herbal tea blends that provide crucial trace minerals. I genuinely feel so much better than I’ve felt in a long time. I’m still customizing these tea blends, but I’m looking forward to eventually offering them to others that are trying to manage their pain and improve their health.

So that’s my mini update. I’ll be back to my regular blogging schedule soon, but I wanted to drop in briefly to let you all know what’s been going on with me. I hope you all are doing great, and I’ll be back soon. Take care!

career · life curation

Ready to Change Careers?

Today’s post will be super-quick, because things have been very busy on my end.

A few weeks ago, I came across a link to a website offering various job seeker services, including interview practice, resume rewrites, LinkedIn makeovers, etc.,. I want to share this website with you, just in case you have the qualifications but want to ensure that you present yourself in the best light possible. Career Business Bar is a great resource for anyone that want to break into a new career but just needs a little help with their presentation.

You should check them out, if you’re ready to change careers and want a little help with polishing your skills and application documents (like your resume). I haven’t used this company yet, but I think the services provided are reasonably priced and worth the investment.

That’s all for today: take care, and I’ll talk to you all soon.

life curation · writing

The Key to Living Well

(This is the first of several reposted essays from my previous blog. I’m not sure if the hyperlinks still work, but I’ve kept them so that the essay makes sense. Also, this entry was initially written to encourage Black women to enhance their lives in any way possible, but I anticipate that some of these points will resonate even if you’re not a Black woman. Enjoy!)

Recently, I was brainstorming over ways to get my degree done faster during my morning drive to work. Well, somehow I started thinking about other people’s blogs, then I started thinking about Evia’s blog specifically, and how she implored black women to “increase their value.  I started thinking: How does a woman increase her value? How does she go from average to above average to excellent? Why is it important to increase your value? As I continued driving, it occurred to me: I have the answer! Eureka!

This woman looks like she knows how to reach her goals!

The short answer is this: figure out what is important to you, then plan on how to excel in that area. There’s more, of course, to this, and I plan to go into it fully throughout my blog. “How to increase your value” is going to be the main theme here on this blog. That’s what I’ve always wanted my writing to be about: becoming a better version of ourselves. I’m going to give you a little teaser for what’s to come:

Why is it important to increase your value?

Value is both objective and subjective: value can be recognized in almost anything, but what is valuable to each person is an individual choice. Value is an awesome thing, in that it can be added and not easily taken away. We all want to be valued and to have valuable people in our most intimate circle. It’s easy to see why value is important.

However, increasing our value is a different thing, and can be very confusing. Black women, in particular, have an interesting history and shared culture when it comes to increasing our value: many of us come from communities that tell us to become more valuable in very specific ways: go to school, have a great career, and give generously to the church and community of origin. However, when we attain a certain amount of value markers, we can find ourselves feeling very lonesome. We hope and expect those in our circle of friends and family to be attaining greater value as well, but oftentimes this journey to higher value is a solo mission. In our community, there is a sad conditioning going on: this very community encourages Black women to be as valuable as we can, but to simultaneously lower our expectations and standards when interacting with others in the community.

We are encouraged to marry any ol’ man, even if he isn’t high quality, just for the sake of procreating and “building up the community”. We are expected to “upgrade” everyone that we meet, while never expected anyone to pour back into us (talk about non-reciprocity!). We are encouraged to live in dangerous physical settings around “our” people, because moving to a safer neighborhood makes us “snobs”. We discouraged from speaking intelligibly because we “sound White” when we do. We’re given the greenlight to have children even if we are woefully unprepared for them (religiosity is a huge factor in this) and we are criticized when we expect our coparents to contribute financially to the care of the children. We are encouraged to make spectacles of ourselves for the sake of “keeping it real”, and we are told that unhealthy eating habits are fine since being “thick” should be our goal (I have slim friends who were teased mercilessly for not having curves, despite being healthy and normal in all other aspects).

Confusing, huh? How can one expect a valuable person to keep their expectations and standards low? Unfortunately, some have fallen victim to this trap and did everything to become valuable yet squander their resources on a community that doesn’t not provide anything in return – not even safety and a measure of unity. (This comes to an important point: VALUE SHOULD NOT BE WASTED. Not on an individual, not on a community, not within a society. Even after becoming our most valuable, Black women should use their value where it is appreciated and can benefit them. More about this in an upcoming post.)

The good news? Once a person is valuable, the individual can escape whatever toxic or nonreciprocal environment she is in. The most important point is: VALUE IS FREEDOM. Valuable individuals can leave harmful situations and select/create healthier environments. Valuable individuals are welcome additions in most communities: it won’t be hard for a valuable person to be welcomed into a social construct, so long as the person holds value for those within that construct. Increased value is increased freedom: the ability to choose from more environments and more favorable circumstances. That is why increasing one’s value is so important.

life curation

Are You Ambitious?

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you all had a safe and fun weekend.

Today’s post is courtesy of a fantastic free workbook that I downloaded from the Tory Burch Foundation website. As a newbie female entrepreneur, I’m constantly on the lookout for information that can help me to successfully grow my businesses. I’m fascinated by how many individual “parts” need to sync in order to create business success. So I read a lot of guides and do any of the associated exercises to ensure that I’m testing the theories and learning – for myself – what works and what doesn’t.

The Tory Burch Foundation’s Ambition Guidebook is a wonderful resource for anyone beginning on the entrepreneur path. The exercises in the booklet lead you through self-discovery, and if you do the exercises, you’ll eventually reveal to yourself the strengths that you possess, potential roadblocks on your path, and actionable steps that you can take to achieve your goals.

That leads me to the title of this post: are you ambitious? Many of us have been taught to shy away from this personality trait, out of fear of offending others. Women, particularly, may have gotten the messaging that ambition is a “masculine” trait and thus undesirable in any authentically “feminine” woman. For those that are still a bit nervous about the word “ambitious”, you can easily substitute the words “passionate” or even “enthusiastic”. When substituting different words, it’s clear that ambition is a good thing: one could even say that ambition is the spice of life!

Yes, so many of the things that we enjoy are the products of extreme ambition. Strong desire is what inspires us to create new things, even in a world where it seems like “everything” has already been created! One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen what someone that no longer had any ambition: a lack of desire leaves a person feeling lost and disinterested in life. Most of us have had brief periods when we don’t feel very ambitious, but that’s not an energy that we want to linger in. We want to always find something to “light us up” and inspire us to do/have/be MORE.

So, I’m going through the exercises in the guidebook and enjoying it so far. I love how user-friendly this is, and the fact that it’s free is definitely a good thing! If you have a few friends that are interested in finding their life’s purposes or rekindling their passions, this booklet would be great for you all to download and complete together as a group. If you decide to download it, let me know how you enjoy it!

life curation · writing

Revising and Republishing My Essays

I think I’ve mentioned it previously, but in case I haven’t, I used to write on my (now defunct) personal blog several years ago. I discussed a variety of topics, but my main focus was life improvement. In short, that blog was a bit of a precursor to this one.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked to to one of my good friends of several years. She specifically mentioned some of my writing and how she wishes that she could view those essays again. As a special favor to her (and because I think that some of those essays have aged VERY well), I will be revising and republishing my essays over here.

I’m excited to revisit the topics that used to interest me, and I’m eager to share those discussions over here! What will really be fun is reflecting on the actions that I planned to take back then and comparing those intentions to the things that I’m currently experiencing. I can comfortably say that I followed a lot of my own advice and those decisions have paid off for me.

Look out for those revised essays starting next week. Also, if you have any topics that you would like to see discussed on this blog, please don’t hesitate to let me know!

art · life curation

For The Love of Letters

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a touching appeal posted by Victorian Senior Care, requesting letters to be sent to their elderly residents. I have a soft spot for the elderly, and writing letters has always been something that I wanted to do more often, so I quickly decided to participate. I mean, why wouldn’t I spend some time connecting with someone older that could use a little conversation?

However, before I could write my letters, I saw that Victorian Senior Care was inundated with letters from other well-meaning folks like myself. This got me to thinking, maybe there are other senior facilities looking for pen pals. And, as it turns out, a simple search of “letter writing to seniors” on Facebook pulls up several different senior facilities that have letter writing campaigns currently. However, you don’t have to go to Facebook: you can always reach out to a local nursing home if you want to connect with isolated seniors.

I’m mailing a bundle of letters this week. I’m looking forward to writing to elders that aren’t able to connect with people outside of the facility. Letter writing, as an art, is dying and I am glad that COVID and the subsequent quarantines have brought to light this precious form of communication and how it can connect unlikely groups of people.

In this age of social media, who would have thought that letter writing would bring us together? I could have never seen it coming, but I’m glad that it’s happening. I hope you all join me in writing to the elderly.

beauty · health · life curation

June Empties

Hi friends! I was feeling a little unwell, so I skipped yesterday’s post, but I’m making up for it by posting a HUGE June empties post! I am amazed at how much product I emptied last month. In a future post, I’ll explain why I’m focusing on empties and the overall goal of this little project. For now, here are my thoughts on my June empties. Enjoy!

So I have a LOT of perfume samplers/minis. I adore scent so I like to purchase trial sizes so I can try a fragrance without having to make a huge commitment. I had a trial set from Commodity which I had planned to review but I ended up disliking most of the scents so I didn’t bother to write about it. However, there were three fragrances I really enjoyed, and I ended up using the last of those this past month. Magnolia, Mimosa and Tea were lovely fragrances that I look forward to wearing again. On a side note, I saw that Commodity closed unexpectedly on March 31st, but the brand was saved by an investor and is experiencing a reboot, so the fragrances can still be purchased at this time.

Magnolia by Commodity
Mimosa by Commodity
Tea by Commodity

Onward to skin care . . . I really love The Ordinary, and I’ve discussed it multiple times so I’ll spare you my profuse praise. However, I used up my Argireline Solution this past month. I love to use it on my smile lines and forehead creases. I’ll purchase more after I use up some of my other products for facial lines (like The Ordinary’s Alpha Arbutin).

Argireline Solution 10%

As far as body care goes, I finished using my mini L’Occitane Amande Shower Oil. I got this as part of a L’Occitane gift set earlier this year. This product smells incredible: floral yet slightly musky at the same time. The scent doesn’t linger, but the moisturizing effects remain after scent dissipates. Once I use up some of my other body washes, I’ll repurchase this.

L’Occitane Amande Shower Oil

Now onto hair care. The funny part of my hair care is that it’s minimal at best: I don’t spend a lot of time on my hair, though I anticipate that will change in the upcoming months. I use these very inexpensive conditioners to detangle my hair prior to shampooing. My hair is kinky/curly so I use a lot of product to detangle and moisturize. VO5 and Pantene are low-priced so I don’t mind being a little “heavy-handed” when applying. When I’m running low on deep conditioner, I will use the Pantene to help “stretch” the product.

VO5 Passion Fruit Smoothie conditioner; Pantene Curl Perfection conditioner

After shampooing, I apply a deep conditioner to help moisturize my hair and restore the protein balance. I recently finished this jar of Aphogee Curlific Texture Treatment and I must say that I’m VERY impressed with this product. I noticed that my hair retained a “stretched” state once dried, and my post-shampoo detangle session was a breeze. If you want a product that can help elongate the hair in preparation for stretched or straightened styles, this is a great product to try.

Aphogee Curlific Texture Treatment

After shampooing and deep conditioning, I moisturize using the LOC method – Liquid, Oil, and Cream products, applied in that order. My liquid product of choice is Infusium 23 Leave In Treatment. This bottle was large, so it took a while to use it up. I occasionally tried other liquid leave-ins, but I always end up coming back to Infusium 23. I only wish that the product was in a different bottle (with a spray top). I ended up transferring the liquid to a spray bottle for easier application.

Finally, I finished a tube of an eco-friendly toothpaste that I purchased. Hello Epic Whitening Toothpaste has activated charcoal and acai berry, along with mint for freshness. The product is black but it brightens the teeth as you use it. I love the flavor and I enjoyed the results. I’ll certainly use it again, but I have a TON of toothpaste that was gifted to me (long story LOL) so it will be a while before I do a repurchase.

Those are my empties for June! I love that I have so many items that I’m using up completely before repurchasing. It feels good to know that I’m being smart with my money and purchasing from an empowered, instead of desperate, emotional space. I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

***Post contains affiliate links

life curation · Uncategorized

Welcome July!

Can you all believe that we’re halfway through the year? This was the LONGEST six months ever! How are you all holding up?

It’s been a difficult year for most of us so far. We’ve been challenged with natural distasters, health pandemics, and political upheaval. Yet, we’re still here. We are survivors, and that is reason enough to celebrate.

In spite of the year we’ve experienced up to this point, there is no reason to have a negative perspective for the months to come. We can still plan to have a beautiful summer, a gorgeous fall, and a spectacular winter. There is so much to look forward to: let’s embrace it!

As for me, I’m rewriting some of my 2020 plans, as I have gotten some additional clarity on some of my goals. I’m excited to incorporate more beauty, relaxation, and quality experiences in my life during the upcoming months. The first order of business is enjoying a luxurious picnic as soon as the weather is a little more favorable (it’s far too hot to enjoy outdoor dining at this time).

Do you all have any plans for how you’ll make the most of the remainder of this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

life curation · travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: New Orleans, Part Deux

As promised, I’m sharing the second part of my photos taken during my trip to New Orleans several years ago. These photos were taken at Woldenberg Park, which is on the Mississippi riverfront. I loved the statues and beautiful setting. The only thing I wish could be improved was the cleanliness of the Mississippi River. Such a striking body of water deserves to be cleaner and beautified. However, only time will tell if this is possible. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these pictures!

life curation

Feeling Uninspired?

During this time, I’ve seen a myriad of articles (heck, I’ve even written a few posts!) that assume that being in quarantine automatically means that we have both time and inspiration to finally go after the things that light us up. It’s assumed that (prior to COVID-19) the only thing that was missing from our big dreams was the time to pursue them. And, for some of us, that is true.

However, there is a far more insidious culprit that many of us face when it comes to pursuing our dreams. There is a not-so-small group of us that have lots of time due to being quarantined but almost ZERO inspiration. Oh sure, we see something cool and inspiring online, or we get fired up when we listen to our favorite podcasts. But, when it comes to actually implementing our OWN ideas, we find ourselves feeling stuck and not particularly interested in walking that path just yet.

Some of us aren’t feeling very inspired at all.

I have a couple of theories on why that is, and I’ll share those in a moment. But first, let me state that even though I’m currently working on a side project that I adore, I did not feel inspired when quarantines were first implemented. I was still dealing with managing my fibro symptoms (which were intense at the time) and trying to find a compromise between my need to earn a living and my physical limitations. To say that I was uninspired would be an understatement.

But, something changed. My grandmother and her sister began staying with me, so that I could care for them while the world dealt with coronavirus. I found myself hearing stories that I’d heard before, but I was hearing them as an adult, and gleaning new lessons from them. In the midst of these conversations, I found my new inspiration. The unexpected effect has to be the single most motivating thing that has occurred in the past few years.

Now, back to why many of us aren’t motivated. Most of us are TIRED! Think of the intense schedules that most of us had pre-COVID; we needed some time to decompress and finally BREATHE after living hectic lifestyles. At this point, the only thing that can lead us to inspiration is giving ourselves room to rest and just take care of ourselves. If you are taking care of yourself, you are already doing enough. Give yourself credit and don’t worry about “inspiration”: inspiration comes in when you have room for it. It’s difficult to make room when your basic biological needs (like rest) haven’t been properly met for an extended period of time.

Exhaustion can impact our ability to create and be inspired

Another reason why many of us aren’t motivated and inspired is due to the fact that we feel anxious about the current state of the world as well as our personal well-being. This goes back to biological needs (think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid): security is a basic need. If we don’t feel secure, it can be challenging to ascend to those higher levels of the hierarchal pyramid (which is the space where inspiration usually resides).

Yes, it is possible to be inspired by feelings of insecurity and exhaustion. There have been many products developed out of these emotions, and those products have been wildly successful. But it’s important to note that inspiration – the spark that makes you want to get up and do something incredible every day – doesn’t play well in spaces of insecurity, exhaustion, anger or depression. Not to mention, these emotions tend to deplete your energy, while inspiration tends to fuel it. Basically, the energy of inspiration runs counter to the “lower” feelings that you may experience. I’ve found that I’m more inspired when I’m feeling calm, healthy, and secure. However, that’s been my personal experience: if you’ve experienced something different, then completely disregard when I’ve stated and continue doing what works for you.

So, if you haven’t feel feeling inspired, give yourself a break and a little grace. We’re all doing the best we can. Eventually, our world will return back to the hectic, exhausting place that it was before (albeit with additional safety precautions) and we may not have another opportunity to truly GO SLOWER and take time to appreciate what really matters. So enjoy this time and continue doing your best: that’s inspiring enough.