Saturday, March 23, 2013

Our Love Story in Concert Pictures

Hello readers and friends!!! We survived another week! I hope that you all are enjoying your weekend. 

I was going through old pictures and reminiscing, and I realized just how many concerts this guy I was dating/boyfriend/fiance/husband/soul mate and I have attended.  I've come to learn that despite our differences, our love of music is something that connects us.  Here's a little bit of our love story(and my hair story) in concert pictures.

This was taken on our second date, February 14, 2009.  Not knowing each other too well, we decided to spend Valentine's Day together but to try to keep it low key. I bought him a coffee table book about Black history.  He gave me some chocolates. We went to see Bilal in concert at LIV Nightclub and had a blast! Well, we had a good time, minus the two guys standing next to us who almost had a fight.  They were fighting over space and the place wasn't full :-/. That male ego, I tell ya. Regardless, we had a good time, and thank goodness, the guys' female companions stepped in to end the drama. 
This pic was taken at Rock the Bells, summer 2009. We had a really good time!  The show included Nas, Common, Reflection Eternal and a bunch of other great acts.  We took this pic on the lawn when we bumped into some other couples that we knew.  This was when the romance was beginning to bloom. 
I can't remember the date/time of this concert, but given my hairstyle, I believe this is the summer of 2010.  We went to see Foreign Exchange at LIV. I remember that the show was great, and Shawn and I took some pictures with Phonte after the show. I had also recently decided to lock my hair, and I could finally style them a little bit. At this point, we'd said our "I love yous" and we were moving along enjoying the journey. 
Shawn always gets us tickets to see the HBCU Mass Choir at the Kennedy Center. This was taken in August or September of 2009 at our first time attending. It was awesome. I cried a little bit and felt a little nostalgic. Good gospel music does this to me. I knew he was a keeper. Despite not being a big gospel fan, he knew that this show would make me very happy. And it did.
  According to my hair, this was also in late 2009. I remember the show - Maxwell at the Verizon center. Hubs went all out and bought floor seats.  Sadly, we were not impressed. The show was just ok, but we had fun. 
Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton at Verizon Center, summer/fall 2010. I think we just have bad luck with shows at Verizon. I remember neither of us was too impressed with this show either, but we had a good time and made the most of a night out on the town. I also remember having a very good hair day. My locs were bouncing and behaving! 
Sade, summer of 2011. Please take note of Hubby's face. We were in the nosebleeds, and he was not happy.  He explained that he really wanted us to see Sade, but he bought the tickets after he bought my engagement ring, so he had to make some concessions. LOL. I'm looking at my left hand as I type this, and I'm glad he did. I was fine. The seats weren't that great; there was a speaker blocking our view of the stage, but all in all, Sade put on a great show and I spent half of it admiring my new engagement ring.   
This was at Watch the Throne, fall 2011. We went with one of Hubs' best friends, K. We had a blast. This show was also at the Verizon Center, but we had mid-level seats that were AWESOME.  We were by the stage entrance, and we caught a glimpse of Beyonce in all of her pregnant glory. She had that baby, y'all . . . for real.  She was big. She was beautiful! During that evening, I remember talking to K about our wedding plans and watching his eyes light up as he talked about his wedding to his wife, J. I love K and J. They are one of my favorite couples! 
This picture was taken in December, 2011, a couple of nights before my 35th birthday.  We went to see Gretchen Parlato at the Atlas Theater . My love affair with her music began that night. Right before the show, we had dinner at Acadiana. Hubs had the staff create a custom menu just for me that read "Happy Birthday 35th Birthday, TJ!" So cool and creative. He's always doing really cool stuff like that. Little did I know that the next night, he had planned a surprise 35th birthday!!! In the midst of wedding planning craziness, he took some time to celebrate little ole me, and it meant a lot. 
We took a break from concert hopping during the first half of 2012. All of our concert funds went to the wedding. But then we got back on it: 

These two pictures were both taken at the Brooklyn hip hop festival.  The one on the left was taken in 2011, right after our engagement in San Francisco. The other was taken in 2012, about a month after the wedding. We've been going with friends for the last two years, and we're keeping our fingers crossed for a good lineup this year! 
This was at a festival in Fairfax during the summer of 2012. It was our first concert after becoming Mr. & Mrs.  The show had and old school line up - Young MC, Flavor Flav, Slick Rick, and Digital underground. We sang and danced and felt like teenagers. Don't know why Hubs was giving the camera the stink eye, but I still love this picture.
If you don't know who Gregory Porter is, get to know him. He is a super talented jazz musician.  This picture was taken on a date night sometime in the fall of 2012. It was our first time going to the Howard Theater, a supper club that was renovated and reopened about a year or so ago. We had great food and met some really nice people. Hubs got to meet and take some pics with Dick Gregrory. He was there because his daughter opened the show.  We also decided Greg Porter's Real Good Hands was going to be one of our songs. Hubs felt the lyrics in his soul. Take a listen, and you'll see why.  
I've shared this pic before. This was taken at the kickoff of our 2013 Inauguration weekend.  Hubs bought me tickets to see Lalah Hathaway for my birthday. I was recovering from having my wisdom teeth pulled during my birthday in December, so he bought the tickets knowing that I'd be fully recovered and able to enjoy the following month. 
We also spent our (belated) Valentine's Day at the Howard Theater.  We had a study date on 2/14, so we celebrated over the weekend. We saw Kenny Lattimore who sang his face off that night. He is soooo underrated. I'd see him again.

 So this wasn't exactly a concert, but it was an important pic to share. Hubs and I went to a comedy show last month and stayed for the set DJ Prince Paul did after the show. He was grooving. I was smiling and dancing through the pain that night, y'all. I had just gotten some bad news about something that I thought was going to happen for me.  Hubs took me to the Hamilton and showed me a good time and bought me unlimited Pimm's cups that night. You've gotta love a guy who knows how to lift your spirits.

This is our most recent concert picture. We took this last week after the Gretchen Parlato show. Once again, she didn't disappoint. She and the band were awesome. If you haven't checked out her music, do so, like, immediately. Also check out her band mate Alan Hampton. 

I love this picture of us. It's one of my favorites. We've changed so much since our first concert picture.  We're married. We're certain about how we feel about each other. We want to share our lives with some little ones. We're still figuring each other out, but I think that's an ongoing process in a marriage. Our love and respect bind us to each other, but music is our "thing." It's another form of communication for us. When we're upset with each other, we use music to heal. A link to a great piece of music is a peace offering in our house.  Some couples go back and forth about decor and budget during a wedding. For us, it was the music list. We wanted to create a particular mood at our wedding for our guests, so we handpicked all of the music. Yes, each and every track. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what the next set of concert pictures will look like. We are trying to work out our summer concert schedule right now. Here's to the next set of concert pictures and the unfolding love stories that they will bring. What's your "thing" with your partner? Is it music? Fitness? Movies? I'd love to hear. 

Until next time . . . have an awesome weekend! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

It's Complicated: On Friendship and Forgiveness

Happy Friday people!

First a little mood music, Friends by Whodini:

Complicated is exactly how I would describe one of my friendships . . . VERY complicated.  After a year-long hiatus from friendship, a girlfriend and I had a much needed pow-wow about our friendship. There was laughter and tears and yelling and smiling. So much has happened in this last year, that before we could even have our pow-wow, we had to catch up and have some laughs. After about 2 hours of conversation, we were able to say our peace, bury some hatches, and extend olive branches.  We ended our conversation with love and forgiveness in our hearts but uncertainty about what lies ahead for our friendship.

After getting off of the phone, I realized that while we want all friendships to be perfect and drama-free, maybe that's not what all of our friendships are meant to be.  Honestly, I grew from our falling out, and she agreed that she did as well.  If we can take the good with the bad in our romantic relationships, shouldn't we be able to weather the storms with the friends in our lives?  I'm not saying every one deserves a pass, and some people need to be dismissed, but shouldn't friends be able to recover some of the time?

I'll admit that my female friendships are relatively drama-free, so I'm treading new territory.  I'm in the process of learning how to reconcile and possibly recover a relationship that isn't a romantic one.  Believe it or not, friendships with other women are vital to marriage.  My girlfriends keep me honest.  They remind me to give my husband a break sometimes.  They understand my struggles in ways that my husband can't and that I don't expect him to.  When I meet women who say they don't have girlfriends and can't get along with other women, I give them the side eye.  They seem less trustworthy.  I couldn't fathom living this life without sister-friends.

Now I'm not sure if my girlfriend and I will ever be the same as we were a few years ago.  Honestly, if how we were a few years ago caused us to fall out the way that we did, I don't want to be that way again.  Maybe we've tackled the complicated portion of our friendship, and now we can be in a better place.   Maybe we were just meant to make amends and move forward with our respective lives.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, however, I am glad that we were able to get a couple years' worth of hurt off of our chests.  At least now we can start with a clean slate no matter what turn our friendship takes.  Forgiveness is freeing.

Until next time . . . make amends and forgive! It's freeing

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Things I'd Love to Hear Thursday

First a little mood music, an oldie but goodie. I present Tell me Something Good by Chaka Khan & Rufus:

Here's a few good somethings I wouldn't mind hearing today: 

"Jiggy is in perfect health."

"Chapter 4 is perfect. I have no revisions."

"You lasted 30 straight minutes on Jacob's Ladder."

"The balance of your students loans is paid in full." 

"We'd like to offer you the position." 

"How much weight have you lost?"

"Welcome to Las Vegas." (I'll be hearing this one soon!)

You know what's interesting? I have control over most of the things I listed above.  So even as I type and daydream, I'm cognizant that I can make most of these things a reality.

Until next time . . . I'm off to work on the things that I CAN change.

Feel free to share some of the things you'd love to hear today.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On Why Writing is Scary

So yesterday I was a bit more personal than I normally am on here. I shared a bit about our desire to have a family and our plans for the near future to start one. I almost didn't click the publish button. Later in the day I realized that my husband shared the link on his Facebook page. He has over 1,500 "friends." It took everything in me not to delete the post.

I always have a tinge of anxiety when I write. Every time I press the publish button, I feel butterflies. Every time I or someone else tweets or posts a link to a blog entry, I go into a slight state of panic. Writing and sharing in a public space opens me up to scrutiny from strangers and friends and family. Writing about things I'm passionate about opens me up to naysayers and critics. I know all of this, and yet I can't stop writing. There's something so freeing about having a space to share what's on your mind. You toss it out to the world, and you see if anyone is on the same page with you.

I'm so new to this, but even in my short amount of time I've had the opportunity to "meet" some really sweet folks - some from other blogs I really love, others who are complete strangers but tweet and/or comment to say, "Hey, I like your stuff." I've even gotten some texts from my husband's our friends to tell me that they enjoy reading the blog. As I've said before, had I known writing was this freeing, I'd have started a long time ago. Even though I'm damn near on the verge of fainting every time I press the publish button, I'm going to keep writing . . . and surviving.

Until next time . . . I'm gonna keep pressing "Publish."

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On Little Crumbsnatchers

Happy Tuesday! First, a little mood music for this post. Today I present Talib Kweli's Oh My Stars for your listening pleasure: 

This is one of my favorite songs about parenthood. 

Dear friends and readers: This is NOT a pregnancy announcement!

Above is a picture of my newest little friend and me from the weekend. I met him at one of the BEST BABY SHOWERS EVER! This wasn't one of those little run-of-the-mill type showers. Uh-uh. It was in a gorgeous space with great food, fun games, and awesome cocktails.  Well, I noticed this little guy giving me the eye all afternoon, so I finally went over and said hi and we became fast friends, and my ovaries started doing cartwheels.

Being at the shower and talking baby talk with other newlyweds has me thinking about the near future and what's in store for us. Hubs and I want to take the plunge and start a family. We have almost a year under our belt, graduation is on the horizon, and we're in a place financially and emotionally that we could handle it. I'm really excited about the prospect of the motherhood, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that I also have a million questions. Some of the most pressing include:

~ Am I ready to give up all of my free time?
~ How do moms make time for themselves it with little ones? I'm tired from just taking care of Hubs and myself.
~ How do I navigate a job hunt if I'm "with child"? ("With child" sounds so grown up!)
~ How does one stay at the top of their career while caring for little ones? (Yes, oneS.  We'd like a couple of kids)
~ How will children change our marriage? Our friendships?
~ How will motherhood change my personality?

We live a relatively carefree life. We sleep in whenever we have the chance. If we don't feel like cooking, we order out. We come and go as we please. We have a fair amount of disposable income. Hubs and I know that having babies will change most of this, so we plan to live it up until we get the big news. We have plans to travel, and concert hop and get in shape. I'd personally like to go into pregnancy at bobble head status a lower weight for health purposes and the hope of being able to snap back in reasonable time. Hey, I'm in my  mid-30's, and I'm trying to preserve.

Any mommies reading this blog? Any answers to the questions above?

Until next time . . . I'm over here thinking about baby names.

Friday, March 15, 2013

On Hip Hop, Coming of Age, and Absence of the Feminine Voice

I have a new favorite song of the moment, which means that I am running said song into the ground, listening to it on repeat and breaking down the lyrics. Song of the moment, Sing About Me by Kendrick Lamar. It's been a long time since a hip-hop song made me want to cry. Here's Sing about me (warning: STRONG language ahead):

Here's Kendrick's breakdown of the song.

This song, followed by a road trip my husband and I took a few weeks ago and the anniversary of Biggie's passing got me to thinking about hip-hop and how it's a medium for young people to tell their coming of age stories.

A few weekends ago, Hubs and I were driving back from New York, and he was DJing.  He played Nas' Ilmatic, followed by Mobb Deep's The Infamous and Hell on Earth, followed by A Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory.  While listening to the music, a couple of things crossed my mind. All of these albums captured these young men's realities at really pivotal times in their lives - crossing the threshold from boyhood to manhood.  They were trying to make sense of life while trying to stay out of trouble (see: Big's Everyday Struggle, Nas' The World is Yours and Mobb Deep's Temperature's Rising). They were making sense of male and female relationships and the music that drove their passion (See: ATCQ's Excusions, Jazz We GotButter and The Infamous Date Rape). I can recall being in college and watching young men in a trance, fully engaged with Tupac and OutKast albums, identifying and empathizing with the lyrics.

Keep in mind that these masterpieces were written when these young men were probably around or under the age of 23.  The more I listened, the more I wondered where the similar coming of age stories for young women were. I mean, late adolescence/early adulthood is a pivotal time for young women as well.  This query gets to the heart of one of my biggest qualms with hip hop. While I am a hardcore hip hop junkie, I often battle with the lack of feminine voice.  You can't tell me that young women don't have coming of age tales that are just as powerful, vivid, and expressive as the lyricists mentioned above.  After all, women were referenced in all of the songs I mentioned.  Think of how cool it would be to hear how young women were interpreting the same events, or better yet, to hear what was happening in their hearts and minds during the time these classics were written. Overall, I feel like women's voices in hip hop are either saturated with sexual innuendo, or women are reduced and objectified in the music.

Now, let me put it out there that I'm no saint. I've danced and sung along to my share of b**ches and ho3s in my day, but as I was telling my husband, as I've gotten older and matured, I just can't dance and sing along in the same way anymore.  I'm one of those people who can filter through the profanity to hear a message or to enjoy lyricism, but even I've come to a point where I draw the line, and misogyny has become my line.

So we had MC Lyte, Salt & Pepa, Queen Latifah and YoYo.  Eve made some noise, but think of how few female hip hop greats get acknowledged.  Think of how few of them are brought up in the greatest MC of all time debate, not because there aren't women with extraordinary lyrical gifts, though.  Women MCs just aren't really acknowledged and held in similar esteem as their male counterparts.

So today, as I enjoy Kendrick Lamar and his music, I'll also bump a little Jean Grae. She's amazing, y'all.
Another favorite of the moment. Yeah it's not new, but it bumps.

I'll also play a little Na'Tee, who always keeps it (extra, extra) grimy, but she's a lyrical MONSTER.  Plus, she's Southern (NOLA), and I'm biased toward Southern rappers who can really rhyme!

Any favorite female MC's you want to share? Feel free to let me know, and I'll give them a listen.

Until next time . . . Ladies first!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day!

Amen, and amen again! 
Today is 3.14 or Pi Day in the world of mathematics enthusiasts and nerds. 

What is pi? Glad you asked. Pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.
Borrowed from It really is! 
Pi is irrational, meaning that when we express it as a decimal, the digits do not terminate, nor do they repeat. Did you know that the decimal representation has been extended to over 10 trillion decimal places? I didn't either. I just learned that on Wikipedia. 

Today is one of those days when I miss being a teacher. I know that if I were still working in schools, I'd be hosting a celebration and wearing one of my numerous Pi t-shirts. 
Pi Day, 2007 or 2008

My kids and I would be eating pie of some variety. Somebody's mom would bake something, and I'd probably make (or bring) a few myself.  And, of course, I'd sneak some mathematics in along the way. Here's a few pictures of my final Pi Day celebration that the other math teachers and I threw at my former school.  Each teacher had his or her students draw a digit of pi.  We all met at the football stadium and strung all of our digits together like so: 

We even got press coverage! The news sent a film crew in a helicopter to shoot footage of our celebration. 

So although I'm fighting a stomach bug and working on my dissertation, I'm thinking of all the teachers and kids celebrating Pi Day.  I'm celebrating in spirit. 

Until next time . . . I'll leave you with a corny cheer I used to teach my students.

Do you know the digits of Pi?
Did you get it? 
Well I guess. 
Mathematics is the BEST!!! 
(***cartwheels and toe touches***)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

One Day . . .

Happy Wednesday, good people!

When I was on campus yesterday, my advisor started talking about how she and her husband went to see Life of Pi over the weekend.  I said I wasn't going to see the movie until I read the book, but given that I rarely read for leisure these days, I just don't think that's gonna happen.  Hubs bought the Blu Ray, and I want to watch it.

Thinking about how I rarely read books for leisure anymore made me think about all of the other things that I want to do once this wear-out called graduate school is over.  And so on this hump day, I present some of the things that I daydream about doing once I defend this dissertation.

When I cross over to the other side, I want to:
1. Read for leisure (duh, already said that)
2. Take a ballet class -  Years ago, I used to dance - tap, jazz, high kick (for real), lyrical. I was even a  lieutenant on my high school's dance team. I can't wait to slip back into a pair of dance shoes and leap and twirl.
See that first little chocolate drop seated on the first row? Yup, that's me!
3. Re-take some high-level math courses and enroll in a few world religion courses -  This will probably happen once there's been some good distance between me and the doctoral program.  I want to do them at my own leisure, minus the pressure of grades and pleasing a professor. I just wanna do it for the love of knowing more. 
4. Use all of the cool kitchen gadgets we got for our wedding - We use a lot of them, but some of them haven't even been unpacked. 
5. Learn how to really bake, and bake the good stuff, too! Biscuits and cobblers and stuff
6. Shop for "real clothes" again -  The laid-backness of grad school is nice, but I can't wait to dress for success again.  I was a teacher who wore suits and heels to work, and I plan to be just as sharp in my next position. 
7. Hang out more with my girlfriends -  We hang out now, and I see some more than others, but I don't see any of them as much as I'd like.  
8. Travel - Hubs just sent me a link to a cool concert in the UK this summer. I'm planning to go dissertation free!
9. Get Invisalign -  As soon as I'm done and I'm back in the world of work, I want to straighten my teeth. I've been for the consultation, and I'm ready! 
10. Get back into wearing makeup - between writing and exercising, I don't get the opportunity to get glammed up as much as I'd like. I plan to revamp my look when I'm all done. 

These are a few of my ever-expanding list of "to dos."  But as the saying goes, I'm doing what I have to do in order to do what I want to do in the future. What about you?  What kinds of things are on your "one day" list? 

Until next time . . . I'm off to do what I have to do. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Motivational Monday

Here's a little something to get your Monday going, to remind all of us to stay in the good fight.  Today I'd like to share two pieces of art that I use for personal motivation and encouragement.

This right here is about to rock your world:

Every few months, I have to revisit this video.  This is Sunni Patterson - New Orleanian, poet, word magician.  I love every word of this poem.  I love the way the performs it with her son nestled against her chest. I love how she rubs his back from time to time as she recites words that feel like an elixir.  She offers her thesis on humanity and suffering and standing for each other and loving and protecting our young.  She leaves us with the charge to serve.  She takes us to school.  She touches my heart.

My favorite lines:
"Wherever you go the holiest of holies is present in the form of you."
"They can spare us the drama. We got the hearts of them field-workin' mamas." Yes!  Gives me chills every time I hear it.
"Who will stand in this hour?  Who will protect our babies from the system that devours?"

I've been getting all of these little messages about perseverance and persistance.  It's amazing how we get the right word at the right time.  On Saturday night, Hubs and I went to hear Gretchen Parlato (learn about her, PUH-LEASE! It'll make your ears so happy. Promise.).  In the midst of all of the love songs, one line from one song, Circling, has been playing in my head over and over.  First, here's Parlato's Circling:
Her lyric " 'Cause when you think you've lost, you've won. You've found another chance to see sun." These words did something to me the other night.  They reminded me to stay in a place of gratefulness.  I live a wonderful, full, and blessed life, but sometimes all of the surface BS can cloud my vision.  Just the blessing of seeing a new sunrise (at an earlier hour thanks to Daylight Savings Time) is a blessing because we get a chance to start over and try again.  There is no losing if we think this way.  Yes, there are detours, and we may have to reroute, but this Monday morning, I'm thankful for the chance to see another sun. I'm thankful for the opportunity to reboot.  Do the same and let me know what comes into fruition in your life.

Let's go kick this week's a$$!

Until next time . . . be grateful for the rising of another sun.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

On Red Pumps and Awareness

Happy Sunday!!! 

I'm a huge fan of Awsomely Luuvie's website.  She's smart, HILARIOUS, and has a writing voice that is all her own.  You know when you're reading a Luuvie post.  Well, back in January, she mentioned that she was looking for bloggers to "rock the red pump" to raise awareness about HIV and its effect on women and girls.  Well, here are my pumps in support:
Gosh I love those red tweed slacks! 
HIV/AIDS deserves our attention.  It's not something that happens to "those people."   It's not a "gay" disease.  It's not a disease that "dirty" people get.  We live, work, and worship (yes, worship, saints!) next to those who infected or affected.  I know and love people who are living and thriving while living with HIV.  Living happily and living with HIV are not mutually exclusive.  We must all do our part to raise awareness and keep the issue at the forefront. 

I also visited the Red Pump Project website where there was lots of informative information about HIV in the lives of women.  These statistics are from the Center for Disease Control.  I've added emphasis to those facts that stood out to me. 

HIV/AIDS and women:
  • There are approximately 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. & almost 280,000 are women
  • In 2006, there were 15,000 new HIV infections and 9,801 AIDS cases diagnosed among women
  • There were 3,784 deaths among women with AIDS in 2006
  • Among those who are HIV positive, 35% of women were tested for HIV late in their illness (diagnosed with AIDS within one year of testing positive)
  • HIV/AIDS is the 5th leading cause of death in women in the United States, ages 25-44
  • High-risk heterosexual contact is the source of 80% of these newly diagnosed infections in women
  • According to a CDC study of more than 19,500 patients with HIV in 10 US cities, women were slightly less likely than men to receive prescriptions for the most effective treatments for HIV infection
  • Women with AIDS made up an increasing part of the epidemic. In 1992, women accounted for an estimated 14% of adults and adolescents living with AIDS in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. By the end of 2005, this proportion had grown to 23%
  • From the beginning of the epidemic through 2005, almost 86,000 women have died of AIDS and AIDS-related complications
  • The largest number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses during recent years was for women aged 15–39
  • New York has the highest number of women living with AIDS – 22,532
  • Seven of the 10 states with the highest case rates among women are in the South
  • The rate of women in D.C. infected with HIV/AIDS is nearly 12 times the national average
HIV/AIDS and Women of Color:
HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects minority women in the United States. According to the 2005 census, Black and Latina women represent 24% of all US women combined, but account for 82% of the estimated total of AIDS diagnoses for women in 2005.
HIV/AIDS is the:
  • Leading cause of death for Black women (including African American women) aged 25–34 years.
  • 3rd leading cause of death for Black women aged 35–44 years
  • 4th leading cause of death for Black women aged 45–54 years
  • 4th leading cause of death for Latina women aged 35–44 years
  • The only diseases causing more deaths of women are cancer and heart disease
  • The rate of AIDS diagnosis for Black women was approximately 23 times the rate for white women and 4 times the rate for Latina women
  • In 2006, teen girls represented 39% of AIDS cases reported among 13–19 year-olds. Black teens represented 69% of cases reported among 13–19 year-olds; Latino teens represented 19%.
Wow.  I knew some of this, but it's still startling to see it all in print.  Say a prayer today for those who are living and thriving with HIV.  Say a prayer for those who are hurting suffering from illnesses caused by the virus.  Say a prayer for family, friends and love ones whose lives are also affected.  Say a prayer for those who are ignorant and choose to discriminate and discard those who need our love and support. Use your voice to raise awareness! Thank you Red Pump Project for taking on such an awesome endeavor.  

Until next time . . . Go rock your red pumps! 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

On March 9th and Biggie

"The greatest rapper alive died on March 9th." ~ Canibus, Second Round Knockout

Biggie was a genius.  While I would not consider him the greatest, he is definitely one of the best to EVER do it.  Today marks the anniversary of his passing away.

Picture borrowed from here.
I still remember where I was March 9, 1997.  My roommate and I had decided to spend our Spring Break in Texas with my folks.  We packed up the car and headed down I-10, singing and laughing with the sun shining brightly on our 20-year-old selves.  Somewhere between Mississippi and Louisiana, we heard the news. The Notorious BIG had been shot in Vegas. Some speculated it was Suge Knight's payback for Tupac's death in September 1996.  Some accused Biggie's confidant, Diddy (Puff Daddy at the time), of being involved with the melee.  Either way, a YOUNG soul was gone. I once heard Erykah Badu say something about how one has to be careful when you tell the world you're "Ready to Die" via an album title. Words have never been truer.

My personal Biggie favorite, Everyday Struggle, captures the angst of being young and making decisions you're not exactly proud of because you feel trapped.  All of that angst, of course, is put to a beautiful track and expressed with awesome lyrics. Warning: STRONG language ahead!

Instead of lamenting about violence and the demise of youth culture, I'll instead focus on Biggie's brilliance.  His music at the time, like many of my other favorites, was like his rite of passage.  He wove together vivid stories infused with what it meant to be a young 20-something, confused, afraid, and surviving in tough times.  The beats he chose for his albums were crazy, but strip away the beats and tune in to the words. He was a griot.  He was a master at words. Who knows where his genius would have taken him.

So, in remembrance of the young, yet troubled, brilliant mind that is Biggie, let's end with one of my Hubby's favorites, Sky is the Limit.  He loves the line "Stay far from timid. Only make moves when your heart's in it, and live the phrase 'Sky's the limit'."

Until next time . . . Keep on, just keep on pressing on.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Lights, Camera, Action: Let's Support Camp Diva!

Remember when I talked about Angela and her girls and dancing with my dad? (If you don't, go here and come back). In that post, I introduced Angela Patton and her UH-MAZING TED talk.  I thought about Angela and her girls for the rest of the evening. I reached out to Angela via Twitter, and we've become Twitter pals.

If you know anything about me, you know that I love living in this Black female body, so anything I can do to uplift Black girls, sign me up!  I want this little blog space to be a positive place that promotes positive things, and Camp Diva and the Dad & Daughter Dance it hosts is about changing the course of girls' lives.  We often talk about fatherhood in terms of boys and their needs, but as a woman who has a dad who's active in her life, I can attest that the benefits for littler girls are immeasurable as well.

Guess what?  Camp Diva is trying to make a movie, y'all!  Angela has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 to make the project happen, take a look at the video from the Kickstarter website: 

The movie title: Locked In NOT Locked Out. Yesssss!!!! Angela is amazing!  She gets a "Werk!" from me.  Donations can be large or small.  To make a pledge, go here.  Funds will only be deducted from her account if enough funds are raised by the deadline.  I made mine, now go handle your business!  I wanna flex on the red carpet :).

Until next time . . . let's be the change in our communities like Angela and Camp Diva.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

On Being Blindsided: Our Engagement Story

Hello readers!
Yesterday, March 6th, marked 2 years since Hubs proposed to me. I've decided to share our engagement story - AKA, Hub's ultimate surprise.  He totally blindsided me. I've decided to share an entry from our wedding website so you can hear it from a his-and-her perspective. Enjoy!

TJ's story

I was becoming antsy about a proposal, but I didn't want Hubs to feel pressured or coerced. I tried to remain cool, but every once in a while I'd give him the side eye or make a smart remark about getting engaged. Little did I know he already had a plan in the works. He had one of his friends, Erin, pump me for information about engagement rings. I thought we were having girl talk, but she was collecting data! 

In March 2011, we were SICK and TIRED of the cold weather. Hubs suggested we go to California to get away. We planned to hang out in San Francisco and go to Napa for wine tasting.  It was romantic, fun, and a great getaway from the winter weather in the East. On the last day of our trip, Hubs arranged for us to take some photos. I was excited because I had been telling Hubs that we needed some nice pictures. It was a rainy San Francisco afternoon, but we didn't let that deter us. We met our photographer at San Francisco City Hall and managed to even work our umbrellas into the shoot. Hubs asked me if I could think of anything that would make our trip any better. In the back of my mind I was thinking "a proposal," but I wouldn't allow myself to say it. We finished the photo shoot with no proposal, and I was glad that I hadn't mentioned it. A couple of my favorite pre-proposal shots: 

The photo shoot was over, but as we were leaving the building, the photographer asked us to take one last photo to take advantage of the great lighting. I removed my raincoat and sat on a bench for a few quick shots. As I was posing, Hubs came over and presented me with a photo album that captured some of our great times together. The last page of the album had a poem that mentioned something like, "And when I see you at the aisle..." and that's when I really thought something was up. As I stood to hug him and tell him thanks, he dropped to his knee. I almost joined him. I was near fainting from shock.

Somebody asked me where these pictures staged. Look at that face. Does that look staged to you?
The proposal felt like an out-of-body experience. A perfect ending to a perfect weekend. Not only was I shocked by the engagement, I was shocked by the beauty of the ring. It was what I wanted and more than I ever would have asked for. We'd never tried on rings, but he got it right, y'all! 
Thank goodness for the seat!
Hub's story:
The ending of The Sixth Sense, Darth Vader’s revelation at the end of Empire Strikes Back, and finding out the identity of Keyser Soze had nothing on the surprise proposal I planned for TJ one March afternoon in San Francisco.  I had known for a long time that TJ was "the one," and I wanted to plan a proposal that showed her how special she was to me.

The plan was put in motion back in May 2010 during a dinner with some of my friends I used to teach with, Dana and Erin.  During dinner I had them talk to TJ about whether I had started any wedding talk (which I hadn’t). During that conversation, they discussed what kind of ring TJ wanted as Erin took detailed mental notes.  After a debriefing with Erin it was time for the first part of the plan, which was buying her engagement ring. Erin was very instrumental during this time going with me to jewelry shops and helping me navigate the 4C’s. I felt the ring I purchased had everything TJ had envisioned as the perfect ring (and a little extra by yours truly).
This pic does the ring no justice. Hubs showed out!!! Had I known I was gonna meet this little beauty,
I would have gotten my nails done :-/. He asked me if I wanted to, but I missed the cue! 

Next, I asked myself how I would pull off the proposal. Those that know me would say I have a thing for the theatrics. Some of the ideas included renting a theater to show our favorite movie, Up (Damn you, Pixar, and your strict copyright laws!), and doing it during a concert (Since we both love music so much). These plans posed two problems; first, while I wanted to do something big, I know TJ doesn’t like to be the center of attention. Second, how would I record this event for our family and friends?  During the attempt at renting a movie theater, I thought of having someone take photos of the event to catch everything. I decided to plan a whole engagement photo shoot that TJ didn’t know was an engagement photo shoot. TJ & I had both talked about doing a photo shoot, so the idea was already in place. I decided to do it in San Francisco since it was known for being such a beautiful city. Prior to flying out there, I contacted a number of photographers before settling with Jean Philippe (JP) Dobrin. We decided to take the photographs on the last day of our trip outside of City Hall.

The trip was wonderful including massages at the spa, wine tasting in Napa, and a trip to the Museum of Modern Art. We concluded the trip with our photo shoot. The surprise was almost ruined by an early gift of Champagne from hotel staff. Luckily I answered the door and shooed them away. I can tell you that I’ve never been more nervous than I was that afternoon.  Towards the end of the shoot, I gave JP the signal, and everything goes pretty blank for me after that. The next thing I remember was seeing the look of joy in TJ’s eyes and celebrating with a toast.

I am so grateful to be with someone who thinks so much of me to plan something this amazing. I'm also so thankful to have these pictures so that I can go back and relive the day over and over and over. Time flies; this feels miles away. Since these pictures, we've moved, married, supported each other through illness and family woes.  We've argued, made up, and laughed and laughed some more. If I could bottle how I feel for my husband and give it to those who want love, I would. It's funny how marriage found me. I wanted to go on a couple dates to break up the monotony of grad school, and ended up with a husband, y'all. God's plans are always bigger than what we plan for ourselves. I believe this and live in expectation and anticipation of what's to come.

Until next time . . . I'll be over here reminiscing. 

Feeling Good!

Hello readers!

I'm feeling good today.  Hubs and I got a little rest thanks to the snow day yesterday.  The forecasters totally overestimated how much snow was going to hit our area, but I'm not complaining.  I was able to reorganize Chapters 5 and 6 of my dissertation.  Hubs and I started watching a great new show, House of Cards.  HOC is a Netflix-produced show about life in the White House and the major players.  Yeah, another show set at the White house, but sorry folks, this one gives Olivia and Fitz a run for their money.

I woke up pumped. Yep, I was feeling like my girl:
When she gets to that crosswalk, I start crying from laughter. 
I haven't left the house yet, but I'm trying to step out like her. My favorite lines:

"Walk, honey, walk. . .and walk, and walk. . . "

"Two people can't be out here killin' em."

"Hit it, hit it, hit it. . ."

I'm getting an early start.  I'm headed to the grocery store, the gym, and the library.  I have so much to do today, but I'm ready.

Until next time. . . hit it, hit it, hit it, and flow, and flow!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A New Winter At-Home Workout

So here's what the forecast looks like for tomorrow:

If you know anything about snow in the DC area, know that we shut it DOWN when it snows.  Even as a Southern girl, I sometimes roll my eyes at the ridiculousness.  Overcrowded stores. People rushing around frantically looking for shovels.  Empty shelves on the aisle where water is stored.  In my time here, I can recall 2 or 3 storms that even warranted the craziness that ensues at the word of oncoming snow.  With all of that said, I'm still grateful for the time off.  Snowpocalypse of 2010 taught me that Hubs (then boyfriend) and I could be under the same roof for extended time and be alright.  

Because I don't plan to go anywhere tomorrow (fingers crossed), I feel the need to come up with an at-home workout because I'm supposed to go to the gym tomorrow.  I've posted about working out at home before, but I want to try something new.  Shout out to Hey Fran Hey to save the day.  I will be partaking in one of these tomorrow: 

Yeah, ouch.  I'm thinking I'm going to try the Total Body Toner.  I'll report back soon. 

Until next time . . . If you're in the path of the snowstorm, stay warm! 

What is marriage?

Hi folks! It's been a minute since I've posted. Things have been busy around here.  We did a bit of traveling over the weekend, and I'm trying to get back into the dissertation groove.

It's March. Can you believe it? I always get really sentimental around this time of year.  Hubs and I got engaged in March of 2011.  I'll be sharing our engagement story in a few days.  I've been reflecting quite a bit about being married over the last few weeks, as my husband and I have been having great, long conversations about how to make our marriage even more successful.  I think Grover and Jesse nail it on the head:

Yeah, Jesse, it's when two people get married. 

Right after the ceremony. The newlyweds (and the pooch)! 
And they kiss and hug . . .
Taking a detour to smooch on the way to our wedding afterparty ;)
 They live together:
Hubs giving a toast in our new home!
We were having dinner on the floor in the dining room because our furniture hadn't arrived. 
And they help each other.
A "date night"  - chasing our dissertation dreams! 
They're friends:
Hanging out at the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival. 

Yes, Grover and Jesse, there's a lot to marriage, and it's SO worth it.  We've become family. 

Our friends and family. 
I'll take it all - the highs and the lows, the sacrifices and the rewards.  Though marriage is not always a walk in the park, the good ALWAYS outweighs the bad, and I'm so glad to be taking this journey with my guy! I thank God for the lessons that come from being a wife. 

Until next time . . . I'm about to go doodle some hearts on my notebook and write Hub's name in them :)