Monday, January 31, 2011

"Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?"

 How many of you remember being teased or bullied?  Everyone was teased about something.  Maybe you were in honors classes, excelled at a sport or had unique physical characteristics.  It could be anything really.   When people are insecure, they think that the way to build themselves up is to break someone else down.  When people are pessimistic, they think that the best way to protect themselves from disappointment is to always expect it.  There will always be those people you come in contact with whose criticism will bring you down and even make you question yourself: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?  Maybe I'm not that special.

Today remember that no matter what anyone thinks or says, you are special and this is nothing to be shy about.  Once you begin to believe in yourself , you will be able to tolerate criticsm and rejection without losing faith.  Confidence and ambition are not only healthy, but they are necessary to stand up against all of the challenging people and situations that you are bound to encounter in life.  Don't dim your light for anyone, but always be willing to learn and recognize the light in others.  While it may seem easier to give up and fade into the background, you are built for so much more than that and you can be an example to others of how to shine with grace.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."    ~Marianne Williamson
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Friday, January 28, 2011

You Give Me Butterflies...Notes about Love and Relationships

Lately when I look into your eyes I realize
You're the only one I need in my life
Baby I just don't know how to describe
How lovely you make me feel inside
You give me butterflies
Got me flying so high in the sky
I can't control the butterflies
~Alicia Keys "Butterflies"

Difficult Relationships
Our relationships give us opportunities to explore the breadth of our own unique being and to become accepting of ourselves, which is the starting place for acceptance of others. Too often in our relationships, we focus on the disruptive behavior of others rather than our own...Read More

About Love
"To love is to risk being disappointed, let down and broken hearted and be vulnerable anyway. Love and freedom both require risk. It's not about whether someone else lives up to your expectations...Read More

Love and Sacrifice 101
Consider the idea that love is not about expectations and demands but finding a middle ground on which two people feel respected and treasured as individuals... Read More

The Start of Something New
It is always exciting when something (or someone) new happens in our lives. The pleasure and the giddy anticipation of what could be tickle our fancies and send our imaginations running wild...Read More

Me Me Me
It can seem like a difficult pill to swallow sometimes, but there's really no one on earth who can make us happy. We get trapped into thinking "If he would only..." Read More
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Defining Natural (Maybe I'm a Dreamer, but I'm Not the Only One)


Lately, there's a lot of discussion among black women about what is considered to be truly natural. There's umpteen ways to flex one's "naturalness" from how you wear your hair to what you eat to what kinds of products you use.  While these discussions are useful to the extent that we are sharing our diverse opinions with each other, at the end of the day how can anyone else define what is natural to me or to you? We must define that for ourselves.

I urge you all to veer away from any divisive thinking and define natural for yourself, beyond the context of how you wear your hair, eat, dress, etc. What if we all thought of natural as simply being the characteristics that bring out the best in us? As we evolve and grow, these natural characteristics evolve with us. So, what felt natural and authentic to me ten years ago may not feel that way today.  Growth and change is natural, isn't it?  Diversity is natural, too.

Think about the harmony that would exist in the world if we were all intimately in touch with what naturally brings out our best while being confident enough to share it with the world. If we all put these natural characteristics, talents, and gifts to use in this way, they would benefit us while also complementing the harmony that we all wish to see in the world. Unfortunately, we get caught up in trying to define ourselves on someone else's terms. Am I natural enough? religious enough? successful enough? What about asking ourselves this question - am I ME enough???

Spending all of our time seeking validation from each other slows us down. Instead of giving ourselves fully to our own process, we keep criticizing others and doubting ourselves. What's natural about that? If we could stop looking for one definition that suits us all (because it doesn't exist) and trust our own instincts, we'd all experience self-actualization (the achievement of our full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world.)

The most valuable gift you can give to the world and to yourself is the natural, unequivocal you.

Question: I'm obviously very opinionated about this idea of embracing what naturally flows from me and this topic often comes up in my writing. Awhile back, a reader on Curly Nikki left the following comment on one of my guest posts about defining what is "good" for yourself:
changing your mind about your appearance so that you accept yourself as you are (physically) is appropriate. we're all good from a physical characteristic perspective.

but that same logic does not apply to other characteristics - i.e., you may be naturally inclined to murder/rape/pillage - does that mean that "it's good" and you should just go for it? (I know that's drastic, but I'm trying get my point across based on your final paragraph).

what usually "flows" from us internally DOES need to be corrected and held up to a moral standard. this has NOTHING to do with how we feel about our hair.
She makes a relevant point. What do you all think? Is my idealistic ranting about being yourself at all costs too, well, idealistic???  I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

7 Reasons You Can't Leave Your Life to Chance

1. Chances are, when you feel like everyone else is out to get you, it's just you who's beating yourself up over something you haven't dealt with properly. (This is called projecting.)

2. Chances are, that person who was rude to you on the phone or in the checkout line was really just worried about something in their own life and it had nothing to do with you. Don't take it personally. Brush it off and move on.

3. Chances are, the person you spend so much time being jealous of and comparing yourself to isn’t who you think they are. He or she is likely to have a host of their own issues now; or they have grown past more hurdles than you can imagine getting to where they are. Just be you and your time will come.

4. Chances are the person who undermined you at work, is worried about potentially losing their job and not being able to feed their family. Continue to do your best work, and your opportunity will come--and it will probably be better than the one they blocked. (Shhhh! Don't tell them that!)

5. Chances are that worrying about that problem isn't going to solve it. Seek solutions and take action toward them.

6. Chances are that he isn't going to change if he's already treated you poorly for this long. The good news is that you can change yourself and your situation even though you can't control him.

7. Chances are they’re not going to communicate the way you want them to, or behave the way you think they should; so release your expectation and accept them for who they are and what they are capable of. No matter how much you’d like them to change, you can’t force them to.

The likelihood is slim that your reaction to your external circumstance is ever actually a result of anything external. We can control what happens on the outside, by how we conduct ourselves on the inside, since all the situations we encounter are experienced the way we perceive them. Each day we have the opportunity to choose to try or not, to react or not, to change or not. You can play the victim, or you can turn your focus inward because this is where you’ll experience your breakthrough.

The moment that you own your feelings, you will stop being controlled by them. When you view strangers or people who upset you with love you will be able to sympathize with their pain. When you love yourself unconditionally, you will see your own gifts and move forward with the confidence of knowing that you are (or are working toward) being the best version of you. When you treat yourself more kindly, others will follow suit because you have set the standard.

Chances are you will experience a more peaceful and fulfilling life, when you take control of the reigns and live it from the inside out.
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Love Notes - Friday 1/21/11

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Start Living!

In this PLPT guest post, Professor/Pastor Lawrence Ware reminds us to stop complaining and make changes in our lives.

Do you know anyone that seems to be stuck on stupid? Someone that is seemingly content in a situation that is beneath them?

It can be in any facet of life: employment, relationships, and friendships. There are people who consistently find themselves frustrated and anxiety ridden because of the choices they make.

I call it the Tubman-Boy condition. Let me explain.

When Harriet Tubman first achieved freedom by escaping from the plantation, she brought her three brothers with her. Her brothers were big, brawny, and seemingly courageous. Yet, when they left the plantation, they were unsettled by the idea of something they never had to face before: freedom.

When confronted with the truth that they would now have to provide for themselves what was once given to them by the ruler of the plantation, they decided to make a U-turn and go back to what was dehumanizing and demoralizing. They chose to go back to what she had delivered them from.

Now, we should not judge them too harshly; because we may not have chains on our legs, but many of us have chains on our brains. We will often times choose to stay in situations that are beneath us because we prefer comfort and security to risk.

We will stay with a man that cheats and is out all hours of the night, because his craziness is the kind of craziness we know. Instead of striking out and starting the business about which we have always dreamed, we will stay in a dead end job and complain daily.

The Tubman-Boy condition: choosing to stay in situations that are beneath us.

How do we break free? It is so simple; I am almost embarrassed to write it. Make better choices. Take a chance. Step out on nothing and believe in yourself. You are worth more than what you have settled for. Complacency is not contentment.

If you want to be married, do not settle for a man who is happy merely living together. If you want a higher degree, apply for graduate school. If you want to live in a home, start saving money. Simply put, stop allowing short-term comfort to distract you from your long-term goals.

Make plans, stop complaining, and build momentum toward your dreams.

You only get one shot at life; stop existing and start living.

Lawrence Ware is lecturing professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University and Pastor of Christian Education at Prospect Church. He writes for Tikkun and Religion Dispatchers all while living in Oklahoma City with his wife and sons.
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Love Notes - Friday 1/14/11

Have a fantastic weekend!
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy Black Girl Day: Top Black Girl Pride Moments of 2010

***We are still under construction!  Bear with us as we continue to post during our makeover!!***
***Today's post was originally posted on The Fresh Xpress on 12/30/2010***

In 2010, Black women had a rockin', self-lovin', no limit kind of year. Is it just me, or is there a refreshing energy pulsating through the collective spirit of black womanhood these days? More of us are realizing that we each have a unique purpose and the capability to realize it in spite of the obstacles that once held us captive. There are many examples of excellence, individuality, talent and grit from last year. These are just a few.

Michelle Obama - An Iconic First Lady
As expected, Michelle Obama has been a First Lady that we can actually relate to and emulate. She is adored for her intelligence and accessibility. She is loved not just because she's Black, but because she is Michelle Robinson Obama - working mom, loving wife, lawyer, community activist, and stylista. She takes her daughters to Beyonce concerts and has date nights with her husband. We've seen her advocate, dance, nurture, cry, educate, sass the press when necessary and ride or die with her man with the cameras rolling and not a hair out of place. Because of her example, many young black girls are saying "Yes, I can."

Mo'Nique - Best Supporting Actress Oscar
Mo'Nique beat the odds and silenced the critics this year by winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Precious. She shocked all of us when she became Mary Jones, an ignorant, wretched character, whose very existence offended and outraged audiences. As a woman who had also been abused and misguided, Mo'Nique was able to draw on personal experience to bring the character to life. Mo'Nique shows us what can happen when we tune out negativity, work hard, and dream the undreamable.

Gabourey Sidibe - Elle Magazine Cover
Elle Magazine included Gabourey Sidibe, another breakout star from Precious, in their 25th anniversary October issue, which featured 25 women in their twenties who were doing big things in entertainment. This was a worthy nod for Gabby, particularly after Vanity Fair snubbed her earlier in the year for their Fresh Faces of 2010 issue. Regardless of what we think about how Gabby was styled and made up for the Elle cover, she was included and that's what matters. Let's focus on the accomplishment and celebrate her for making strides in a biased industry with a narrow perception of beauty. Her talent speaks for itself, and her gracious, self-loving personality will continue to sustain her through the critical acclaim that will surely follow her career. In her own words, “When I was 14 or 15, I saw myself in a different way. Back then, I envied a life that I’d made up in my mind. I broke free of that unhappiness and I decided to change—I was going to be happy with myself. No matter what I look like, no matter what people think.”

Beverly Bond - Black Girls Rock Awards
Black Girls Rock, Inc. is a non-profit organization founded by DJ Beverly Bond to inspire and empower young girls. The Black Girls Rock Awards was nationally televised on BET in November, and was a phenomenal celebration of Black women and girls who are lighting up the world with their gifts, giving back to their communities, and just being generally outstanding people. It isn't that Black women didn't know that we rock prior to the show, or that we were previously insecure about our beauty and strength; it was simply that we loved seeing our fellow Black women being appreciated, loved, and revered by each other. So often our haunting issues are highlighted in film, in music etc--here was a moment where only our beauty and accomplishment were the focal points. Even now, three months later, my five year old daughter is constantly telling me all of the reasons why she rocks. Apparently, she got the message loud and clear.

Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls
Tyler Perry's movie is based on Ntozake Shange's Tony Award-winning Broadway play, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf." Thank you, Tyler Perry, for bringing together this all-star cast of talented and revered black actresses to create a milestone moment in black film history. Thank you, Ntozake Shange, for writing such a painful, soulful piece of performance art that would stand the test of time and give voice to the silent suffering of so many Black women. Let's not miss the brilliance of the forest for the criticism of the trees with this one. Whether or not you appreciated Perry's adaptation, the reincarnation of this piece of work is something to applaud. The mental and emotional health of Black women is such a taboo subject in our culture and it needs to be uncovered.

Willow Smith - Whip My Hair
Willow Smith took the airwaves by storm this year with her girl power anthem, Whip My Hair. Whether she knows it or not, little Miss Willow just whipped her hair right into role model status for other little girls. All over the world, little girls have found an exuberant, creative hero whose message of individuality and determination is clear. The song represents the freedom to be unique, to defy stereotypes and labels, and to believe in the power of self-expression.

Sesame Street - I Love My Hair
Sesame Street writer Joey Mazzarino created this song/video with his adopted black daughter in mind. When his daughter began expressing disdain at her naturally curly, textured hair, Mazzarino took a creative approach to boost her self-appreciation that would resonate with his daughter and ultimately Black America as a whole. So, maybe it is just hair, but we can't deny that as Black women, our hair identity is connected to our self-image and esteem. It is deeply ingrained in our culture that nappy hair is bad hair and silky hair is good hair. In order for us to change this destructive belief, we have to condition our children to believe their hair is beautiful in its natural state. Natural hair acceptance can really be a building block for healthy self-esteem in all aspects of a young girl's life. As the song says "My hair is part of me, an awesome part of me, I really love my hair."

The Natural Hair Movement
However you choose to rock your tresses, you couldn't miss the widespread natural hair movement if you tried. There are more celebrities rocking their natural hair, more images of natural women on television, and a more widespread acceptance of curly, kinky hairstyles. This is a trend that should make us all proud as we evolve from the idea that only straight hair is beautiful. As women of color, we will become a stronger force in the world by welcoming our own diversity and honoring the many manifestations of our beauty.

Comeback Queens - Monica, Brandy, Fantasia
Celebrities go through the hard knocks of life like we all do, but they are forced to do it with cameras and reporters in their faces. These songstresses have all gone through personal tragedy in the public eye and emerged powerful and resilient. Brandy came back with a successful stint on Dancing with the Stars and her own reality show. Fantasia and Monica both released new albums—each garnering two grammy nominations. These ladies are still standing and still thriving. While there's no true inspiration in perfection, we can be inspired by stories of faith and survival. The lives of these women are human interest stories for those of us who may feel beaten up by life and need a reason to believe that we too can overcome.

As you can see, 2010 showed us that our Black is most definitely beautiful, enlightened and well-positioned for unprecedented change. What moments in 2010 made you proud to be a Black woman?
For more information on Happy Black Girl Day, visit The Beautiful Struggler.
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Stress-Busters: 5 Useful Tips to Help You Cope

Some days can just be more difficult to get through than others, because life throws what I like to call “learning opportunities” our way when it feels like we need them. Because I am practicing speaking only positivity into my life, it is my goal to not refer to these moments as stressful; but the reality is they can be both physically and emotionally taxing! What makes the difference is how we deal with them. We can give in (as I almost did today after a particularly trying day at work) or we can go to our list of things that bring us back to a place of peace:

1. Walk away. One of the most helpful things you can do when encountering something that upsets you is to walk away from it. Take a walk, go to lunch, window shop or sit in the park if the weather permits. The important thing is that you change your environment, which may also help to change your perspective on the situation when later viewing it with “fresh” eyes.

2. Listen to music. This is where your “positive perceptions” iPod playlist comes in handy! Play things that uplift you or make you smile; they’ll help to lighten your mood.

3. Treat yourself to something small. Grab a coffee, tea or a smoothie. Pick up something that doesn’t violate your regular diet, but that you consider a treat. Many herbal teas, especially ones containing chamomile or lavender, are very calming. Today, I opted for a blueberry protein smoothie from my favorite natural foods store just to remind myself that I deserve good things, however small.

4. Talk to someone. Call a friend, a parent, your pastor or anyone who you can rely on to talk you through it, help you to calm down and aid you in coming up with solutions. If you’re a parent, sometimes even calling your child can help! The sound of my son’s voice brings me joy, and is always a gentle reminder of why I do so many of the things I do.

5. Read, watch or listen to something with an uplifting message. I like to watch/listen to messages from Gabrielle Bernstein because I find them to be empowering. She has a YouTube channel dedicated to Vlogs and recordings of her lectures. Immediately channeling these messages and flipping your thoughts around from negative to positive will go a long way in helping you to deal with the situation that has been bothering you.

We may not be able to break out into full-on meditation in the middle of the day, or go and work out when we find ourselves suddenly stressed out; but we can find comfort in little things, using tips like these, until we can fully deal with our emotions.

How do you combat emotional overload?
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Friday, January 7, 2011

Love Notes - Friday 1/7/2011

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reactions to “Princess Boy” Story

I watched a video yesterday about a little brown boy who calls himself a "princess boy" because he loves pink and sparkles and wearing dresses (If you haven’t seen it, click here).

Social media outlets have been abuzz with people expressing their reactions and opinions--some intelligently and others ignorantly; but what most of the responses had in common was the strong stance on one side of the issue or the other. I, however, have mixed emotions.

On the one-hand, it's just a dress. It's just clothing--just something we use to cover ourselves. Who initially decided that girls and women were to wear dresses and men were to wear pants? While the answer to this question is probably available somewhere on the internet, the point is that it was just some other person who made the decision--not a deity; "Thou shalt not let men wear dresses" was not one of the Bible's 10 Commandments as I recall them. So who's to say the rules can't change? It used to be unacceptable that women wore pants. Now many of us don them daily. What is it that makes the custom unacceptable in reverse?

On the other hand, I can't say with certainty that I would be instantly at ease with my own son wearing dresses. Not because I would love him any less, but because of my fear of the judgment he would face (a fear that Princess Boy's mom expressed initially as well). Princess Boy is currently 5 years old, so he is still in a heavily sheltered world created by his parents. I shudder to think what types of cruel judgment children will pass on him once he enters school, or what judgment other adults will pass on him when he becomes an adult. Further, how will this judgment be expressed? Children can be especially cruel to other children who are "too" different by teasing, name calling and bullying. Adults are exclusive in other ways; for example: What will happen to the man who arrives for a job interview wearing a skirt?

I also have to wonder at the psychological implications—good or bad--this whole ordeal (the media attention and promotion of the book his mother wrote) will have on him later, particularly if he should outgrow his penchant for dresses. He’s being essentially paraded in front of the media, and no matter how old he gets, he will always be “Princess Boy”. And then there’s the issue of the profit from sales of the book. I believe the intention of publishing it was to draw attention and awareness to a social issue, but the family profiting from it becomes a gray area for me.

What I do know for sure is that I admire the mother of Princess Boy. It can't be easy to be aware of all the potential consequences of the decision to allow her son’s self-expression, and to be brave enough to do it anyway. It can't be easy to take in the stares and the questions without reacting negatively, but instead handling them in a way that sets the example for her son to handle them on his own if/when the time comes. While I can't be sure of the implications of this mother’s/family’s decision, I can and do hope that Princess Boy becomes confident in his individuality, and is able to remain strong emotionally due to the love and acceptance of his family, despite what anyone else may think about the way he feels most comfortable. And, whether or not I agree with their decision, I applaud this family for stepping out of the box and giving themselves the freedom to make their own rules.
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My word for 2011: Persistence

Last year, my first post for 2010 was all about my declaration to develop an energized state of mind.  I was about four months pregnant at the time, so it doesn't surprise me that I was craving energy!

Seriously though, ENERGIZED was my word for 2010. I set my intention with the following statement:
"This is my word of the year. I will no longer call myself lazy, tired and old, because I am truly none of these things! The first step is to stop thinking of myself this way and replace those thoughts with appropriate contradictions that affirm my limitless potential and energy to live, love and experience all that life has to offer!"
Throughout the year, when I felt overwhelmed I told myself "Just try."  We tend to underestimate the personal satisfaction that comes from simply trying, even when we don't get the results we want.  I also truly began to believe and live out the truth that I could change my life if I changed the way I thought about it.  My old thought pattern of being tired and lazy came from the draining and defeating thoughts that I repeated to myself day in and day out.  No wonder, right?   It just makes sense that energized thoughts will lead to an energized life.

I stopped trying to control everything.  I wasn't always successful, but I tried.  I made a conscious effort to avoid people who drained me with their complaints, guilt and narrow-mindedness.  I can't say that I got more sleep in 2010 or exercised more (unfortunately!); but I definitely can see the improvement in my energy level and motivation.  This came from making the decision to believe in myself without limitations.

This leads me to my word for 2011:  Persistence.  I'm energized.  I've given up limiting thoughts.  And now I must stick with it.  I'm going to need determination, patience, resilience, mindfulness, and eternal optimism to keep the negative thinking at bay and my face turned to the light.  The source of all these things is Love.

Do you need to focus on persistence and determination in your life?  Do you not start things because you are afraid that you won't finish?  Reflect on the following affirmations:
* I am not where I want to be, but I have come so far from where I was.
* I am on the right path. All I have to do is keep walking.
* Everytime I fall down, I get back up a little wiser.
* We all have a unique purpose, so I can never be too late, too slow or too ME to achieve my goals!
* The problems that plague me the most are the ones that hold the keys to my self-discovery.  I won't retreat.  I will keep pushing.
If you had to choose a word to be your theme for 2011, what would it be?
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And our First Winners Are...

Happy New Year Everyone!

First, I apologize because I was supposed to announce the winners on Monday, and technically right now it's Tuesday.  Thanks to all of you who left a comment and shared your reflections and words of encouragement.  Thanks to all of you who read our blog, follow us on facebook or twitter and let us know that we make a difference and add some love to the blogosphere.

For this giveaway, we randomly chose two of the commenters from the giveaway post.  Without further ado, the winners are JessJ and ljkelly!  Ladies, please send us an email at with the following details:

*which print you would like and in what format
*name and shipping address

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