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!

writing

Writers Wednesdays – Setting Up Your Own Writing “Retreat”

October 11th was a federal holiday in the United States (Columbus Day or, as the better informed among us prefers, Discoverer’s Day or Indigenous People’s Day). I initially planned to join a forest therapy retreat being hosted at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. However, the event was cancelled, and since I was off from my regular job, and I had already blocked off a portion of my day for the retreat, I figured that I shouldn’t waste the time.

So I planned my own retreat at home.

I planned this at the last minute, so the instruction I’m giving you all are close to what I did, but not quite the same. I did the best I could: after all, I had initially planned to be forest bathing in a gorgeous botanical garden, so this last-minute change was unexpected. When I take time to do this again (before the end of this year), I’ll use these points as a guide. Here’s how I would – and did – plan an ideal writing retreat.

Pick a day and time, and block it out on my schedule. I already had the date and time, based on the forest therapy retreat. I mentally blocked it out of my schedule, and made sure to plan my activities for after the retreat. I also took care of what I could over the weekend, and I scheduled anything that wasn’t pressing until the following day.

Select what I’m going to work on during your retreat. I already had three books that I am working on actively (as shared in the previous Writer’s Wednesday post), so I knew what I wanted to work on. However, if I was planning this during a month when I didn’t have a writing plan, then I would select the book I’d work on before I embark upon my retreat time.

Clean up the space where you’ll be writing and retreat-ing. Or, if your budget allows, get a hotel room for at least 24 hours (48 hours would probably be best). I didn’t want to book a hotel room, but I knew that I could tidy up my office and make it feel pretty and relaxing. I took some time during the weekend before the 11th to wipe down surfaces, unbox some stuff that was overdue for a permanent home, and clear space for my laptop and anything else that I may need.

Add things into the space where I’ll be writing that will make it easier to feel like I’m getting away from it all. Fragrances I enjoy (that make me feel creative or inspired), a tray of fresh fruit and sparkling water, a cozy blanket, a yoga mat, and a playlist of great tunes were all prepped and ready for my home retreat. I also brought in my Himalayan salt lamp and a few fun crystals, just for good measure.

Have a variety of writing equipment and material. Since my retreat happened in my office, I already had a plethora of pens, pencils, markers and even crayons nearby. I also have a variety of notebooks and journals nearby, for convenience. If I want to write by hand, I have everything I need, and if I want to type, my laptop is always nearby, too. And, if I feel like voice typing, my headset is in my office and ready for use.

Set a timer for my writing. I set my timer to start, and I stuck to it, just as I would if I was scheduled for a meeting at work, or if I had a tutoring student session on my calendar. I set the timer for the length of my retreat, and when the timer goes off, I do a couple of yoga stretches and then continue with the rest of my day. I don’t allow anything to interfere with my time during the retreat.

Last but not least, I prepped my loved ones. I told my beloveds that I was not to be disturbed during this time, and I left food where they could easily access it. I put up a sign on the office door to confirm again that I was not to be disturbed. I turned off my ringer and let them know that I wouldn’t be reachable until after my retreat time.

Those are my tips for creating a fantastic writing retreat at home. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below! Also, if you need a pretty journal for your own writing retreat I got a cute one for you. This journal has wide ruled pages and each page has an image of one of five Black American opera singers from the turn of the 20th century: Mamie “Bronze Melba” Flowers, Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones, Elizabeth Greenfield, Flora Batson, and Marie Selika Williams. The journal has 179 pages, so LOTS of writing space for your journaling needs. I think you’ll love it!

That’s it for today’s Writer’s Wednesday! I hope you got some tips that you can use. I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

***This post contains affiliate links.

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.

life curation · style

Welcoming Autumn

Well friends, it’s the first day of autumn. Some of you may be quite happy with this, while others among us (namely, me) are sad to see summer end.

Yes, I know that unbearably hot temperatures are challenging for most people, especially those that live in my region (Mid-Atlantic USA). But I love the hot days and steamy nights. I love having sunshine until nearly 9 PM every night, leaving my home with no need for a jacket, and seeing the plants around me bloom and hit their annual peaks. Summer is undoubtedly my favorite season, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.

Meanwhile at my house …

However, since my ability to bend time, space and nature hasn’t fully developed yet, I will have to contend with the seasonal changes that come from living in this region. And, instead of being resistant to the point of obstinance, I felt that my best approach would be to embrace the change and make it feel festive. After this past year or so, who doesn’t need to feel more festive?

In honor of this seasonal change, I filmed a YouTube video featuring the autumn wreath I made for a family member. Also, I included a picture of my own autumn wreaths above (I had to make two since I have double doors). The video is a very easy and inexpensive DIY that can add a darling touch of autumn to your doorways, signaling the change from hot days to cool breezes, and lush green foliage to brilliant displays of gold, copper and cranberry. I hope you enjoy and, if you decide to make a wreath of your own, please let me know! I’d love to know how it turns out for you.

Have a great day, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

life curation · relaxation · style

Making a House a Home

Happy Monday, friends! I trust that your weekend was safe, happy, and relaxing. It was another hot weekend in Virginia (my favorite type of weather!) so the weekend started and ended on a great note, as far as I’m concerned.

Today’s post is the first domestic one that I’ve done in quite some time. There would have been far more of these sort of posts this summer, but I ended up not planting my garden, so there were no flower or herb pictures to share. Also, a lot of my time during the pandemic was spent care for my grandmother and great-aunt. For that reason, I didn’t have much time to focus on the “fun” domestic activities that I’ll be talking about today.

That being said, my life is returning to normal. My grandmother and my great-aunt returned to their home, my health started to improve, and I finally had more free time to explore my creativity leanings. This newfound time freedom gave me the space to play around with craft ideas that, at one time, I didn’t think I’d have the time or energy to do.

So, in the upcoming weeks and months, I’ll be sharing all sorts of domestic posts and videos. I have an upcoming video where I feature a do-it-yourself autumn wreath that is beautiful, easy and inexpensive. I’ve also been tinkering with some foraging and wildcrafting recipes that I’m eager to share with you all. Today, however, I’m going to share a super-simple autumn-inspired tea recipe that I filmed last year, that will be perfect once the air starts to cool and the leaves start turning to red and gold.

I hope you all enjoy the video! I’ll talk to you all tomorrow. Take care!

art

A Trip to the Dirty South

After many months of staying inside and avoiding gathering in public places, I finally ventured out and visited my beloved local museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). The museum reopened a while ago but it’s been well over a year since I’ve visited. It was a little eerie to return to the museum: it took me a moment to reacquaint myself with the layout. But once I started walking around a bit, it all came back to me.

For anyone that has not visited VMFA before, let me tell you, it is a gorgeous museum with incredible permanent and visiting exhibitions. If you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth checking out. And, if you’re visiting anytime before September 6, 2021, you can view a very special exhibition that highlights Southern artistry and creativity. The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse gives visitors a peak into the energy and dynamism of 20th century Southern Black American culture and artistry. According to VMFA’s website, the exhibition, “[…] chronicles the pervasive sonic and visual parallels that have served to shape the contemporary landscape, and looks deeply into the frameworks of landscape, religion, and the Black body—deep meditative repositories of thought and expression.” This fascinating exhibition combines both visual and audio art, to create a truly immerse creative experience.

Naturally, I took pictures while I was at the museum though, for this visit, I focused more on savoring the fact that I was finally visiting this beautiful space after a long year. Here’s a little bit of the Dirty South experience:

Cadillac in the museum atrium that greets visitors
Southern Landscape (1941) by Richmond’s own Eldzier Cortor (1916-2015)
House Sun Tree (Landscape with Sun Setting, SC) (nd) by William H. Johnson (1901-1970)
Saint Expedite I (1971) by Joe Overstreet (1933-2019)
Khemestry (2017) by Sanford Biggers (born 1970)
Gamin (1940) by Augusta Savage (1892-1962)
From Asterisks in Dockery (2012) by Rodney McMillan (born in 1969)

I hope you all enjoyed the photographs! And if you have a chance to visit the exhibition, I highly recommend that you check it out: it’s worth a visit, for sure!

life curation · luxury · style

My Luxury Purchase Goals Are Changing …

This one published before I could finish writing it! Here’s the finished post.

As I mentioned in last week’s post about my 2021 goals, I reflected upon my luxury purchase goals and something about it just didn’t resonate anymore. Make no mistake: I still LOVE luxury and I enjoy spending a bit more in order to have something truly unique or expertly crafted. However, I noticed that nowhere on my list were any designers of color.

And that, dear friends, is unacceptable.

I realize that there is a need to shine a bigger spotlight on creatives – especially in the fashion world – that are also people of color (POC). As a Black American woman that enjoys supporting local Black-owned businesses and creatives, I am eager to extend that same energy into my bigger purchases. So I’m revising my luxury purchase goal list to reflect only Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) designers. My purchase priority is also in that same order: I’m prioritizing Black American – specifically, American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) – creatives, then Indigenous creatives (especially Native American and other people indigenous to the Americas), and then other POC.

I’ve decided to rank my purchase priority in this way (placing special emphasis on ADOS creatives) because oftentimes these designers end up reinvesting into other ADOS designers. I admire any group that prioritizes the fostering and development of talent of individuals that share their background and culture. As someone that admires this trait, I’m delighted that I as an ADOS, can participate in encouraging the development of ADOS talent by supporting ADOS designers.

While I’m excited to start actively supporting BIPOC designers, that takes me back to teh drawing board as regards my luxuruy list. I need to research new designers and figure out who excels in the kinds of designs that I favor. On the bright side, this exercise will force me to be more specific when it comes to filling gaps in my wardrobe. I’ll be more focused on getting items that truly “complete” my closet, instead of just buying things because I feel like spending some money.

In the weeks to come, I’ll share more details as I craft my new luxury purchase list, and I’ll let you all know what items I’ve purchased as I go through the remainder of the year.

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

art

The Met Turns 151!

Happy Tuesday, friends! On this day, 151 years ago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City was granted an Act of Incorporation. This means that today is the Met’s birthday!

Google Doodle commemorating the Met’s 151st birthday

Now, I’ve not been to the Met yet, and, seeing as how I probably won’t be going to New York this year, I can’t say for sure when I will visit. But this impressive museum is on my bucket list, and for good reason. The museum has over 2 million works in its permanent collection and is by far one of the most famous art museums in the United States. As a matter of fact, they have multiple works by my favorite Neoclassicist, Jean-Leon Gerome (you all remember that I wrote about how much I love Gerome’s work in this post and in this one).

However, my admiration of the Met includes a serious criticism. One thing that has made me raise an eyebrow at the Met is the decision in 2018 to start charging $25 for most out-of-state and foreign visitors. The original Act of Incorporation indicates that the Met should be free in perpetuity, but museum president Daniel Weiss decided to break tradition and start charging fees. At first glance, it seems like a shameless money grab (and in many ways, it is), but it’s a little more complicated than that. This decision to charge fees was allowed by the City of New York, in exchange for decreasing the Met’s funding from the city. These funds that are no longer going to the Met have been allocated to increasing “artistic diversity” and will support other facilities that give a platform to more diverse creatives.

However, ever so often, we get to see balanced restored in our world, and what seems like fairness reappears for a brief shining moment (if you know the reference, leave it in the comments!). Yes, the Met collected fees in 2018, 2019, and the early part of 2020. However, COVID-19 reduced the annual visitors from nearly 6.5 million per year to just over 1 million. The loss of revenue has left the museum in the awkward position of deciding whether to deaccession or sell of part of its collection, just to cover their expenses.

I can’t say that I’m not partially amused that greed came back to bite the Met, but my chuckles are tempered by two things. Firstly, this loss of revenue caused 20% of the Met’s staff to lose their jobs (this saddens me tremendously). Secondly, this is even more motivation to keep the admission fees, as the Met will need to build up its cash reserves and avoid becoming insolvent as best it can. Now, I’m sure that the Met will do just fine (I don’t foresee any long-term closures, especially now that there are safe visiting procedures in place). I’m just concerned that COVID-19 may have built a stronger case for admission fees than anything that the museum could have offered in a public statement.

So, today, I’m celebrating the Met, praying that they eliminate the admission fees, and keeping my fingers crossed that I may be able to purchase a Gerome sketch during some sort of auction of the Met’s works. A girl can dream, right?

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.

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.