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Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Playlist: Artist Spotlight






















It has been a LONG week (though aren't they all long unless they are vacation weeks??). I've needed an extra dose of positive vibes and usually I turn to music for that. This week, Mali Music filled the need. 

I first found his music last year. I heard a song while in the car with my sister and asked who he was. My sister told me he does inspirational music and she loves him. I jotted his name down in my memo app and promptly forgot about it. (I should note I have about 30 notes with artists to look up in my phone--it's terrible). About a week ago, I was listening to a Gospel compilation and heard a song featuring him called, Give Me. I finally opened Tidal and looked for his music. I found his first major release, Mali Is...(2014), which earned him his first grammy nod.  Prior to Mali Is..., Mali independently released  The Coming (2008) and The 2econd Coming (2009), which I also found. These helped him develop a large underground following and I'm now on the Mali train. I created a playlist and it has been blasting through my speakers almost every day since. 

Mali sings, raps, writes and plays instruments. Most importantly, he inspires. He is a Gospel, Hip Hop and R&B artist and blends the three seamlessly. If you're not a fan already, check out the music below and become one. 

Book Club: August Selection



As promised, NCL Book Club is back on track for August. The lazy days of summer are coming (for those of in the Northern Hemisphere) and everyone is eager to spend as much time as possible in the sun. If you’re a reader, that pool or ocean side sun worship includes a good book. For August, I am suggesting The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.  

The story starts in the summer of 1974 with Julie Jacobson during her first time at an arts camp called Spirit in the Woods. She is a wallflower dealing with the death of her father and she comes into a group of campers—mostly rich—from Manhattan. The novel follows the lives of this group of friends—self -dubbed The Interestings—as their relationships and their broader lives evolve. The book deals with marriage, jealousy, friendship, success and finding happiness. I can’t wait to discuss it in the Discussion Questions at the end of the month. Happy reading! 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hey! There's No Crying In....



We, as women, are often pushed to swallow sadness and if we’re not pushed, we inflict the gulping on ourselves lest we offend people with our drawn out mushy sensibility. When emotions breach the surface, we fear we’ll be seen as the girl who can’t hack it rather than the woman who is complex and comfortable with her emotions. I’m not saying every mistake or failure should turn into a sobbing session but I do believe we have the right to have a wimpy moment. It doesn’t make us less bad ass. We don’t always have to have it together. No one does. Seriously, show me a person who always has it together and I’ll show you a control panel in her back. Who wants to be a robot?  

A life without emotion is not a life. Get through your issues however you need to. It’s your right. You have a right to be who you are. You don’t have to suppress yourself to a level of suffocation. You can still kick ass—even as you’re blotting the tears away.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Love List



























1. With all the hackers in the world, I'll admit I have a little fear about making everything electronic...then I get sucked in by how cool things like the plastc card are. How amazing is this thing? (Plastc)

2. Iodine is a great app. If you've been reading the blog for a while, you know I've had some health struggles. Trust me, I've been on my share of medications. But even if you're healthy and just want to check over the counter meds when you have a cold, this is really useful. (Greatist)

3. Years ago, a study came out stating that the most beautiful faces are symmetrical. This photo series shows that's absolutely not true. (MindBodyGreen)

4. Forget the delicate cycle. Trade your washer for a salad spinner when it comes to your bras. I promise, it's a great tip. (PureWow)

5. There are days when I fully want to give up on my heels and there are days when they just take an outfit perfect completion. Until I trade my heels for orthopedics, these heel hacks will have to do. The toe taping is life changing. (PureWow)

6. Tired of hummus (is there such a thing)? This yam and cumin dip is a great alternative. (Health)

7. I like to think I'm pretty good at being assertive but in reading this article, I realize that I am guilty of apologizing too much. This is a great read for highlighting what we need to stop apologizing for. (PureWow)

8. Making a projector is easier than ever with this cool pizza box. Order one and instantly upgrade your movie night experience. (Refinery 29)

9. If you scroll through Instagram for five minutes, you will find about 344,299 before and after fitness photos. If you're already feeling less than your healthy best or struggling to meet your weight loss goals, looking at drastic transformations (that happened in just 3 weeks!!) can screw with your self image and motivation. Trainer Sophie Kay is here to show you that often, it's just angles and outfit choices. Read more about her photo series here. (Greatist)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Food Tuesday





















It has been a while since I did a “food I cooked” Food Tuesday post. The reason is simple. I haven’t been eating.  Kidding! I’ve been really enjoying being present (and hungry) and have been forgetting to style and snap my food before digging into my mean.  I did cook a lot during our vacation a couple of weeks ago and one of the breakfast choices became a new, quick and easy favorite.  Pull up to the table. We’re having fruffins for breakfast.

These little bites are really just mini frittatas that you can take with you on the go or enjoy while sitting around a table with family/friends. I’m also a big fan of sauces. For this frittata, I wanted a tomato based sauce that was simple to create while outside of my home kitchen so I created a chunky tomato basil sauce using smashed tomatoes and crème fraiche.

Fruffins (Frittata Muffins)

Ingredients
Cooking spray (I use the olive oil variety)
6 eggs
2 tablespoons plain, unsweetened almond milk
1 cup baby spinach, cut into ribbons
½ cup mushrooms, diced
1 cup chopped/crumbled protein (I recommend smoked maple tempeh or crumbled turkey bacon)
¾ cup of cheese of your choice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions
Heat oven to 350°F. Chiffonade the spinach and dice the mushrooms.  Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together until well combined. Stir together spinach, mushrooms and protein of your choice until well combined. Spray the cupcake pan with cooking spray. Scoop the meat mixture into each muffin cup, dividing them equally among each cup. Pour the egg mixture over meat mixture using the same dividing method. Stir each cup with the tines of a fork to settle ingredients and place in oven. Cook for 12-14 minutes. Each fruffin should  fluff up (almost like a popover but not as high). They will settle while cooling. Serve hot or warm.

Optional: Serve with a dollop of a tomato sauce. I created one with crème fraiche and smashed tomatoes with basil. 

Serving Suggestion: Serve alongside a fruit salad for a light healthy meal. (p/s the serving platters used here are actually pretty large...my poor last-minute-before-people-dig-in shot makes them look like single servings. I'd estimate about 2 frittatas per person and a cup to a cup and a half of fruit). 


Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Quotable



























I participated in my first live chat on Twitter yesterday for a podcast called Where There’s Smoke. The topic was vulnerability. You can find some of the responses by searching #WTSchat.  Some of the responses, including my own, got me to dust off the work I did towards becoming more vulnerable a couple of years ago. In looking at my file (yes, I have a file geared towards growth/self-help), I came across today’s quote from Brené Brown—arguably the queen of vulnerability research.

The quote is a good reminder for me about the work I’ve done in recent years. It also reminded me of places in my life that could still benefit from vulnerability. I believe I’ve dropped my walls a lot and I’ve seen the benefits. That said, there are places where I’m not comfortable showing my true self.  Usually, those places are ones where there can be consequences for being anything outside of the norm—work, for example.  


Ultimately, I think life is a journey towards vulnerability.  In my mind, vulnerability leads to the most open life—for better or worse—and allows you to be at peace with yourself and by association the world’s response to your true self.  I’ve done the work but like I said, there are still areas that require further growth. I’ve built walls in new areas that have me mired in the land of “stuck.”  I’ve also kicked down a few walls in relationships where I desperately needed to be free to be my true self. In some instances, I lost friends. In some instances, I found a closer bond.

If nothing else, last night’s live chat reminded me that getting comfortable can be the greatest challenge to vulnerability. It can make you forget the lessons you’ve learned and lead you back to old wall-erecting habits. You have to take a step back every now and then, dust off the resource file and do the work again but it is worth it. In the end, who wants benefits from a life of rigidity created only to ensure a sense of control?  I emphasize “sense” because the things that keep us from being vulnerable will be there whether our walls are up or not. We cannot possibly be in control of all things.  Knowing that, why not go through the challenges and good times as our authentic selves?

What prevents you from being vulnerable? When has vulnerability led to more meaningful moments in your life? What tips do you have for people who fear being more vulnerable? 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Storm



I debated whether or not to write this post and as I write it, I’m still not sure about it. My cat, Storm, passed away this week (7/22). She was old (18) but she was spunky and still full of energy.  Before I left the house Wednesday morning, we went through our normal morning routine. She woke me up everyday for breakfast and then followed me around as I went through the normal motions. She hopped up on the counter to drink from the faucet and trailed me downstairs as I was leaving. She was perfectly fine. In fact, she was fresh off of vacation with us where everyone was surprised and pleased with how much energy she had.

Imagine my shock when Ash called to tell me he got home and found her struggling to breathe. He rushed her to the vet (and then to an emergency vet when the first place wouldn’t see her without appointment--don’t get me started on that piece).  I got in the car to rush there myself and as I sat in traffic, Ash and the vet called to say she’d stopped breathing and her heart stopped.

I asked them to give her CPR and continued my drive, devastated. Twenty minutes later, they called me back to say her heart briefly started again but then stopped again. They would wait for me to come in and fill out forms before taking any other steps.

I pulled up to the vet with a sense of emptiness. She’d been my baby since my teen years. I couldn’t fathom that she was gone. I walked in and the vet greeted me with news that her heart restarted but that she was barely holding on. I went in to see her holding on to a bit of hope but when I saw her laying there—essentially lifeless—that drained out of me. They unhooked her and let me hold her, which I did until her heart stopped and she drew her last breath.

It was a horrible moment for me. We filled out the necessary paperwork, made decisions about cremation and went home. I got there and the silence pressed down on me. Her things were there but she wasn’t. Even Lola (our puppy) quietly approached and just cuddled up through my intermittent moments of crying. The next day after Ash cleared her things out (at my request), I was even more distraught. The empty place where her house was, the empty corner of the ottoman she loved to lounge on, the absence of her food and water bowl…it just all took my breath away and led to another sobbing session.

Some might say we were on borrowed time with Storm. I mean, she was 18. Truthfully, 2 years ago, a vet told me she had 4-6 weeks to live after I took her in for throwing up. He couldn't tell me why. He just said, she'd old. She probably has cancer. Two years later, she seemed to have more energy than she did in her younger years. So it never felt like
borrowed time. 

Ash and I are dealing with things differently. He was there to see her scared and panicked and is a bit traumatized by it. He feels like he should have been able to do something. I’m dealing with not being there to comfort her while she was scared.

It all brings up a weird thing for me. When I was young, I sympathized for people who lost pets but I never really got it. As much as I love my pets, I imagined I’d be a little sad but would be ok. I mean, animals live relatively short lives. It’s a known thing. Over the years though, they’ve come to represent something else to me. They are a constant and they love unconditionally. Through my illnesses and changed life plans, they took on more significance. The cuddling meant more while I was bed ridden—if that makes sense.

I don’t expect non-pet lovers to understand—nor do I need it. I just needed to put out there that my little Storm will be missed. She was in my life against all odds. I was dropping off donations to an animal shelter in connection with some work I had to do for honor society. As I helped the manager bring the supplies in, I passed the cat cage and Storm was the only cat left. She was tiny and jet black and just started at me. The manager asked if I’d consider adopting her as she was coming close to the euthanasia period. She said she wasn’t getting adopted because she was the runt of the litter and people are leery of black cats.
I don’t believe in superstition and even though I wasn’t a cat person (and wasn’t supposed to have pet in the on-campus housing I lived in), I couldn’t imagine the tiny little thing getting killed. I took her. As I filled out the adoption paperwork, she pooped in the mail tray on top of the manager’s desk.

I giggled and thought, at least she’s litter trained. I took her home and headed out for supplies. She’s been with me ever since.  I love her for all of the terrible boyfriends she hissed at, the ankles she nibbled and cords she destroyed in her youth, the nuzzles and purrs when I was bedridden and the eventual acceptance of Lola. I miss her today and I’m sure there will always be a little twinge of sorrow every time I wake up and she’s not there nudging me or licking my arm to let me know she’s ready for breakfast.  Rest in peace,” Storm-baby.” I’ll never forget you.



Artist Spotlight




































The Internet is one of the many groups that make up the Odd Future collective, which also includes Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator. The group has three albums but their latest effort, Ego Death (released June, 2015 on Odd Future/Sony) is what reeled me in. Group members Syd Tha Kyd and Matt Martians released the first album off of the Odd Future label. They generally tour with other band members including Patrick Paige, Christopher Smith and Jameel Bruner and are known for their Alt-R&B sound—though they seem to buck that label a bit.


Ego Death features Janelle Monae, Tyler the Creator and Vic Mensa. The group has said the album is vulnerable and honest in its account of the band growing together as musicians and as individuals. It deals with challenges and acknowledges their egos and those of the people around them. The album has been described as “spare and quietly musical, its crisp low end anchored in hip-hop as the rest of the band cooly branches out into jazz, funk and rock. Think of it as an offspring of an early neo-soul pillars like Groove Theory and Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, bedroomy but also lush and progressive.” 

If that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will. Check out some of their music in the playlist below.



Thursday, July 23, 2015

Love List




























1. Venmo allows you send money securely by using a Venmo account or linking to your own account. You can use it to split the check with friends, send birthday gifts or transfer money. (Venmo)

2. Ever wonder what your neighborhood looked like way back in the day? Old NYC shows you. Just type in your address (or any location you want) and get transported back in time with historic views of the city. Hopefully other cities will jump on board. (Old NYC)

3. Suddenly, I feel the need for a laughing alarm clock and bubble blowing appointment reminder. (Quartz)

4. If you're like me, summer is prime time for me to be critical of my body. It is when I see myself in a bathing suit and in tons of pictures. Caroline Rothstein's series about body empowerment is here to help us through it. (YouTube/Caroline Rothstein)

5. Lemons aren't just for lemonade (or citrusy sangria). Check out this list of alternative uses for this powerful little fruit. (Tasting Table)

6. The Flatterbox is a new way to step up your gift-giving game. The person receiving the gift gets a set of cards with positive messages either from you or from several people. It will lift them up for years to come. (Flatterbox)

7. This video goes through the dance scenes from all of your favorite movies. It's a great opportunity to take a moment to smile. (YouTube/MsTabularasa)

8. Who doesn't want to live in a floating house? Leave it to Dubai to make it possible. It may not be practical but I don't think you'll care when you wake up to a clear view of beautiful sea life all around you. (Thrillist)

9. Tired of your traditional ice bucket? Try this cool wine/alcohol chiller tutorial. Trust me, your guests will be impressed. (The Chic Site)

The Plight of the Crowd Pleaser


I’m happy to say I just got back from a vacation that was covered in a sense of calm. The only aggravation came up while trying to decide what to do at a restaurant with an hour plus wait. I put our name on the list. Then, we found a high top with enough stools to accommodate our group in the bar. We had a choice to sit in the bar area (not at the bar itself) and contend with the crowd to order food and drinks on our own OR wait for the table. We decided on the bar area, turned in our table alert buzzer and tried to wrangle the bartender. After failing to get attention, we decided to get back on the list, grab another buzzer and order appetizers at the bar while we waited. My sister went to order where she was accosted by a group of drunk people that included a woman who wanted to pet her hair to see what it felt like. Yes, I’m serious. No bueno.

As soon as she got back from ordering, the table was ready. The discussion turned into who was cashing out and who was heading to the table and of course touched on the inevitable, “we should have just waited for the table.” Everyone was scrambling and a little miffed.

In the midst of it, I recognized any and all aggravation related to the table debacle was based on everyone trying to please everyone else. No one would speak up for what they thought was the best course of action so no one was invested. When things went south, mental finger pointing began. We all kind of lingered there, biting our tongues until we were caught between the two options and still having to wrangle a bartender to cash out and have our food transferred to an unknown table.  I was most affected because I took our name off the list originally. Once I acknowledged it though, we all kinda blew it off and felt the frustration melt away over a bowl of crab dip and a basket of pita bread.



One the one hand, the circumstances reminded me that we are all responsible for the energy we bring with us. If I remained mired in frustration, I’d have killed everyone else’s experience. The situation also reminded me of a former blow up (about 6 weeks ago) I had with Ash over the same thing. Family was visiting and everyone wanted to start exploring different things. I made a decision and headed off in one direction and, Ash said, “I guess we’re not going to the beach club to eat.” Who knew that’s what he wanted to do?  No one…because he didn’t speak up until we passed it and even then, only to me. My frustration came out as “If you want to do something, say it.” My tone was admittedly sharp. That annoyed him and then it became a “tone” argument, which (while controlled) made the family feel the kids of parents who are having an argument in public. I realized later that my anger/frustration came from that little crowd pleaser inside of me. That realization helped me do the work that prevented any such arguments while on vacation last week.

Part of that work was in realizing I will never please everyone and I don’t have to. The important thing was to unlearn all of the lessons that taught me to put everyone else first and focus on the lessons that tell me to speak up. I certainly can’t control everything but I can control my reactions. 
The best way to control my reactions is to take a step back, realize when a decision isn’t a big deal and brush off minor inconveniences. Life’s just too short to be a crowd pleaser. It’s great to try to make others happy but it’s absolutely ok to leave it to people to pipe up and pursue their own pleasure.  


Are you a crowd pleaser? How has it affected your life/sense of well being?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Six Weeks to Wellness: Skin Health





















So…I missed a few weekly updates on my Six Weeks to Wellness Journey because I all but pressed stop on blogging for a couple of weeks save for a couple of quotables. I did stay on my journey to wellness though. This week, I’ll give you the download on my hair, skin and nail health. Let’s start with a confession. I am hard on my skin. Translation: I am lazy. Most days, my routine goes like this:

SKIN

When I am rushing (most of the time), I shower with an anti-bacterial bar soap. It’s fairly drying but it’s an old faithful and I know I’m clean after using it. When I have more time, I use either a sea salt scrub or an argan oil-based body wash.  

I wash my face with a deep cleansing, over the counter creamy soap on most days. I have almond oil and used to use it daily. I got lazy. I also suffer from sleep-in-my-makeup syndrome.

If I have time, I use an in shower lotion. If not, my skin just goes dry all day. I do apply moisturizer with SPF 15 to my face daily.

In terms of make-up, on most days, I use a pore minimizer, foundation, concealer and mascara. I add eye shadow, lip balm and lipstick on date night. On weekends, if I’m not doing anything but running errands, I use a BB Cream or go bare.

NAILS

Polish, polish, polish. I do my own manicures/pedicures and use all types of colors and textured polish. I usually give myself a manicure once a week—rarely with a clear base. During the week, I file and clip as needed.

HAIR

When my hair was long, I rarely used heat on my hair. Now, with this short, summer bob, I use heat (blow dryer and flat iron) to straighten my curls a couple of times a week. I only wash my hair once or twice a week so it’s not a complete frizz bomb and my natural oils can do their job. I use a color preserving shampoo and conditioner…they come up as a 7 (high hazard) on EWG’s Skin Deep toxicity scale. I was BPA and paraben free for a while but when I dyed my hair, I opted for color preservation over the less toxic stuff. Terrible, right? Ugh.

I thought I was doing pretty well before starting this wellness process but I also knew from other things I’ve tried that I could be doing better. It really boiled down to taking time to better care for myself instead of pressing snooze a few more times. So, here are the changes I made.

THE CHANGES

SKIN
I started putting my skin brush to use again. It really only adds a couple of minutes to my morning routine and the impact it has on the softness of my skin is worth it. It also helps with lymph drainage. I also slather on jojoba oil and then hop in the shower. I know it seems backwards but it helps moisturize as your pores open in hot water. I still use my antibacterial soap and argan oil-based cleanser.  I use the sea salt scrub once or twice a week. I try to work in an Epsom salt or sea salt bath once a week. I moisturize my skin with oil or low toxicity lotion every day.

I am drinking water like someone whose been in the desert for months. I drink a lot of water generally but I'd gotten bad about getting up from my desk to refill my 24 oz. cup a few times a day. I'm better now...and less thirsty. 

My makeup routine is largely the same.  I have gone back to using almond oil to remove makeup and to cleanse my face. I also—at the very least—use a make-up remover towelette to remove makeup at night if I don’t feel like going through the whole oil cleansing routine at night. I also added a dead sea mineral mask to my routine once a week. Finally, I’m testing new, less hazardous make-up.

Confession…I did get in some tanning while on vacation. I used a 30 SPF sunscreen at first and then moved to 50 SPF when I started to burn a little. I also wore hats most days. I know tanning is bad but I wanted a little color. It’s a vice. Sorry. In addition to oil, I’m using aloe to soothe my skin as needed.

Result: I'm feeling soft and glowy. The dryness (ashiness) on my legs is gone. I'm also breakout free. 

NAILS

I’ve incorporated coconut oil into my manicure/pedicure routine for its antibacterial/anti-fungal properties. I’ve also gotten a LOT better about using a base coat to prevent staining. Like with my skin, I’m trying low toxicity polish removers and polishes. It working out just fine. I also try to let my nails “breathe” for a couple of days by keeping polish off and coconut oil on.

Result: My nails aren't stained yellow and are buffed and neat. They are strong and today, they are under clear polish. I will be painting them this week though. 

HAIR

My hair has been curly through 95% of this wellness process. I’ve been using Shea Moisture products, which are a 0 on the EWG toxicity scale. They make my hair manageable and frizz-free. I also deep condition once a week. I’m going to start doing that with coconut oil this week. (I swear that stuff is miraculous.) I will say, I am going to keep up with dying my hair because I love my new color but I will be as kind as possible so my hair doesn’t give up on me and fall out.

Result: My hair actually feels thicker. I don't mind it curly and short anymore. The color needs to be refreshed so that's coming up but the rest of the routine will stay the same. I'll also do a deep conditioning about a week after coloring (since they do it for me at the salon on the day of). 

Overall, I'm really happy with the changes I made. I even feel a little pampered. What do you do to keep your skin healthy? Any additional detoxifying skin routines worth trying? 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Club: Discussion Questions-The Invention of Wings


I can’t believe how late I am with the June book club discussion post. Shame on me. I promise I’ve been reading like crazy but I’m so behind with blog posts in general that I’m scrapping July as a book club month. We’re 20 days into the July and it’s the middle of summer. I’m guessing that you’ve grabbed your own selection and are already deep into a good page turner that’s been with you poolside for a few weeks now.  I’ll post the August book in a couple of weeks. I PROMISE...I'm actually preparing the post now. In the meantime, here are the discussion questions for The Invention of Wings. Feel free to share your thoughts about the book in the Comments section or ask more questions! Also, SPOILER ALERT!! THIS POST DISCUSSES PARTS OF THE BOOK IN DEPTH AND MAY REVEAL KEY PLOT POINTS. CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED. 

Discussion Questions

The title The Invention of Wings was one of the first inspirations that came to Sue Monk Kidd as she began the novel. Why is the title an apt one for Kidd’s novel? What are some of the ways that the author uses the imagery and symbolism of birds, wings, and flight?

Wings are a metaphor for freedom throughout the novel. They show up as blackbird wings in Handful’s life through her mother’s quilts and stories. They are a sign of freedom of the soul despite the restraint of their bodies through slavery. For Sarah, they show up in the fluidity of her speech in her mind and in the expansion she feels through education. She is restricted by the view of women’s place in society in her time and is given wings through religion, which eventually gives her purpose and a freedom/wings of her own.

What were the qualities in Handful that you most admired? As you read the novel, could you imagine yourself in her situation? How did Handful continue her relentless pursuit of self and freedom in the face of such a brutal system?

Absolutely. The courage she had initially came from her mother but after her mother’s disappearance, I think she found her courage through her desire for a better life. Her assistance with the rebellion, her determination to flee to freedom…even her pursuit of education despite getting caught and punished as a child were all inspiring. The relentless pursuit comes from the spirit of her grandmother and later, her mother, which was impressed upon her from the time she was old enough to understand.

After laying aside her aspirations to become a lawyer, Sarah remarks that the Graveyard of Failed Hopes is “an all-female establishment.” What makes her say so? What was your experience of reading Kidd’s portrayal of women’s lives in the nineteenth century?

At the time, I’m sure it felt that way. The world was an oyster for white males at the time—though professions may have been chosen for them based on social status (like Sarah’s brother who wanted to be a minister but was forced to become a lawyer). Women, however, were expected to be wives. All of their grooming—at least at the level of aristocracy Sarah grew up in—was geared towards finding an appropriate husband. Any dreams a woman may have had were cast aside as nonsense. I think Sarah’s remark sums up that situation quite nicely. It didn’t seem to her that men had any failed hopes because they were free to pursue what they wanted. The quote doesn’t factor in the plight of the slave, which eventually became part of her life’s work but I think it is appropriate. Reading about women’s lives in the nineteenth century was maddening and discouraging at the same time. It amazes me how women were marginalized and discouraged me that in present times, we still have so long to go. Yes, we can vote and work in our chosen professions but we still make less money on the dollar for the same jobs and we still are looked at as less capable of leadership. It’s a constant struggle that continues to evolve slowly all these years later.

In what ways does Sarah struggle against the dictates of her family, society and religion? Can you relate to her need to break away from the life she had in order to create a new and unknown life? What sort of risk and courage does this call for?

She fully struggles against all that her family stands for. From the beginning, she doesn’t fit in because of her looks and her speech impediment. While she wants to be loved, she knows its unlikely and when she is duped by the one serious male caller she had, she is heartbroken but not quite surprised. She expresses she should have known his love couldn’t have been real. She doesn’t want to own slaves and when it is forced upon her—despite her crafting a document freeing Handful—she buts the system by teaching Handful to read. She would never be allowed to be herself in that environment and so she chases a new life. It takes lots of courage to break away from the norms of your life and pursue the unknown but I imagine the story was the same for most abolishionists and women’s suffragists in that time. Arguably, however, taking the risk is worth it. It’s better than living a life where you’re drowning in beliefs that you don’t support.

How would you describe Sarah and Angelina’s unusual bond? Do you think either one of them could have accomplished what they did on their own? Have you known women who experienced this sort of relationship as sisters?

I don’t think their bond is unusual. My sister and I are seven years apart and there is a bit of a mother/daughter element to our relationship though it was stronger when she was younger.  I do think each of them could have accomplished a lot on their own but their power is in how they compliment each other. They stand out as a pair and Angelina can speak up where Sarah may struggle because of her speech impediment. I do think Sarah would have moved in the same direction even if she did it alone. Her passion was largely the result of her childhood and the way she was disregarded. I think it gave her more fervor. Angelina developed the same passion but I think it was initially developed because of her love for and dedication to Sarah.

Contrast Handful’s relationship with her mother with the relationship between Sarah and the elder Mary Grimké. How are the two younger women formed—and malformed—by their mothers?

I think both mothers have a firm view of what their daughters’ lives should be like but one mother (Charlotte) is working to break away from the norm—to make sure her daughter finds freedom. She grooms her from early on and teaches her the story of her past. She pushes in the message that her soul/spirit are not tied to her body through her quilts, stories and the spirit tree. It is a way to give her some freedom in the midst of the horribleness of slavery. It is that sense of spirit that comes to her when she is punished, beaten and sent to the grinding wheel. It is that same sense that gives Handful the strength to help with the slave rebellion. Her mom also pushes on Sarah to make sure Handful is freed one day.

Sarah’s mom is working to push Sarah into the normal box. She wants her to fall in line and be a typical aristocratic woman of the time—to be fine with slavery, to pursue marriage first and to be satisfied with that. When she isn’t, Mary searches for new ways to punish Sarah. While she became protective of Sarah at the end—when the Mayor told her Sarah wouldn’t be allowed into Charleston—she still wished she would have conformed to the Grimké way of life.

I’m not sure either woman was malformed. I think both Sarah and Handful found their wings despite the circumstances around them.

How does the spirit tree function in Handful’s life? What do you think of the rituals and meanings surrounding it?

I think the spirit tree is a way to remind Handful that her spirit can soar even if her body can’t. The wrapping of the string is almost like a binding of the harm that comes her way and a bold, bright statement for those looking on that her spirit shines through despite her circumstances. I think all of the rituals are a way to hold on to her history and after Charlotte disappears, to her mother and the strength she instilled in her. It is a reminder of her own wings and their independence from the horror of slavery.

Had you heard of the Denmark Vesey slave plot before reading this novel? Were you aware of the extent that slaves resisted? Why do you think the myth of the happy, compliant slave endured? What were some of the more inventive or cunning ways that Charlotte, Handful and other characters rebelled and subverted the system?

I hadn’t heard of Denmark Vesey prior to The Invention of Wings but I was aware of slave rebellions throughout slavery. I think the myth of the happy, compliant slave is bull and that it has only endured as a means of soothing guilt. The idea that a particular owner treated his slaves well is a farce and an insult to the truth really. The slave still wasn’t free and isn’t even considered a human being. I think Charlotte and Handful’s quilts, spirit tree and even sneaking off to find some form of humanity—whether through the affair with Denmark Vesey (Charlotte) or the planning of the slave rebellion with him (Handful) were some of the ways they rebelled and subverted the system. The book got me a lot more interested in Vesey’s story and recent news events (the shooting at Vesey’s church in South Carolina) piqued that interest even more. I think it is a part of history that get’s dropped from textbooks and it is important as an example of the strength and resilience of an entire race of people. As a person of color, I think I owe it to myself to know the things about my people that standard public school history classes didn’t teach me. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday Quotable


Today’s quotable is part two to a Pico Iyer quotable I posted a couple of weeks ago. The quotes are part of a commencement speech. Part one was about taking a step back to really take stock of your life. This week, it’s about taking time to stop going through the motions of life to find what you’re really meant to do.

I am certainly guilty of having a vision for my life that I am not honoring. There are many times when I’ve brainstormed ideas for getting to the next step in my career or for completing passion projects. I get really inspired, make lists and actually start tackling that list until the mainstays in life—the daily routine crap—take over and the inspiring things take a backseat again.

I’m not sure if you can relate but if you can, it’s exhausting, right? Don’t you get tired of giving your dreams second chair in your life? I sure do! While I was on vacation last week (see pics on my Instagram or in the preview box to your right), I had yet another epiphany about the need to let go of the daily monotony/programming and to really push for the life I want. It’s been a struggle for years and I’m just tired. I think I’ve hit the wall.


So…let’s get away from the regularly scheduled programming and change the channel to what we REALLY want to do. Dream big and chase hard. Happy Monday! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Food Tuesday: Outdoor Meals



























We’re well into summer and as I prepare for vacation, food is on my brain. A lot of that is because I am the designated “chef” on family vacations and part of it is because I’m more than ready for some fresh, casual meals based on local favorites. A big portion of those meals will be enjoyed during long days at the beach.
 
Whether you’re preparing for vacation or thinking about grabbing friends for a day trip to your local beach or lake (or even the pool), here are some of my (and my family's) favorites that travel well and hold up in the sunny days of summer.
 
I'd also suggest investing in  a good cooler and some cool utensils to make beach dining easier. Examples include the Beach Glass and a cooler equipped with a blender.  Seriously though, I recommend individual wrapping and and bento boxes or compartmentalized tupperware so everyone can have servings when they want. You also want things wrapped to keep the sand out (at least if you're on the beach). 

No matter where you are, these recipes are great for any outdoor gathering. Enjoy!

1. Honey Roasted (No Mayo)Chicken Salad
2. Mediterranean Orzo Salad
3. Chipotle Lime Salmon and Avocado Salsa Quesadillas 
4. Oven Roasted Pesto Shrimp
5. Sweet Potato Black Bean Quesadillas
6. Bottled Cocktails
7. Super Power Vegan Bars
8. Honey Lime Rainbow Fruit Salad
9. Salted Fudge Brownies


Monday, July 6, 2015

Monday Quotable


Hi guys! I’m back after a two week hiatus that I used to get healthy and refocused. Sometimes you just need a time out. During my time out, I had plenty of time to sit and listen to uplifting things. One of the things I came across was a commencement speech givenby Pico Iyer. It was filled with all the hope typical of these speeches but one two lines really jumped out at me. The first one is today’s quotable. Next week, you get the other one. Bonus!

I think we often get caught up in single moments. They can be big, life altering moments or they can be little things that won’t matter in half an hour. The point is we rarely step back to look at the bigger picture. Instead, we give our energy to things moment by moment and get lost in everyday dramas, mundane moments and big, life shifting happenings. Then, one day (usually after one of those big, life shifting happenings or in old age), we take a step out to look at the whole of our lives.

If you’re luckily, when you step out, you see yourself kicking ass at life…and I need to schedule a life coaching session with you ASAP…no, really. Teach me.

As you can guess, I do not step back and see a woman kicking ass but I do see a beautiful life. I just know I could be doing things better. There are so many projects on the metaphorical shelf. There are so many wasted moments (exercise, writing, recording, home improvement) that get sacrificed to TV and let me tell you, there are a million moments where I could choose peace over annoyance and I don’t. When I see that, my tendency is to say, “I’m a work in progress.” Taking the step out helps me identify where there has been progress and where I’m stuck.  Ultimately, I want to live a life I’m proud of. Right now, I’m stuck in a lot of areas but I think I’m dealing with some fears that seem major but are just a splotch on the canvas of my life when I take a step back. They’ll ultimately contribute to the beauty of my life’s story. In the meantime, I’m working to be at peace with where I am both in the close up of my problems and in the stepped back view.