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Self-Esteem

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A Seed. . . Momma Maya

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For many Dr. Maya Angelou was more than a beloved poet, author, singer, dancer, actor, national treasure, educator, civil and human rights activist. Dr. Maya Angelou fulfilled, unknowingly perhaps, the role of mother / nurturer. She enlightened individuals across oceans from varying cultural backgrounds and religious affiliations, impacted consciousness of human existence by demanding of us an awakening. For that reason I have always seen Dr. Maya Angelou as Momma Maya. Over the years, Momma Maya's pen partially chronicled her pains, joys and successes. Each story reaching deep and stirring the seed within reader, listener, student or friend to recognize all aspects of life: the sun, the rain, the beauty, even the hell. Thus fertilizing our lives with the seeds from her own.

Her words, provocative; her voice, soulful; her essence, inviting. The reality of Maya far greater and grander than the idea of her. This day, with her passing, I, one among many, an admirer and lover of this phenomenal woman, cannot boast sadness nor feel a sense of loss because she is no longer physically here. What Momma Maya represents has always transcended physicality. She was never contained by it. Momma Maya is. And because of Momma Maya we know ... we understand the song of the caged bird and the joy experienced upon its release.

To a love beyond love.

Maya Angelou in San Francisco, at the time of the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1970. (© Bettman/CORBIS)

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Would You Consider A Change In . .

It is so easy to get locked into one way of doing, seeing, thinking, and even being because we believe there exists no viable reason to fix that which is not broken since the current way continues to serve us and has done so for so long for so many. Too often the common responses offered up to those seeking a change in perspective is "What for?" or "If it ain't broke, why fix it."

We follow traditions and customs, well, because they're traditions and customs. We're born into a way of life that will shape the way we view and define ourselves and those we encounter. With this introduction we are not only taught how to think, but 'what' to think. We fall effortlessly in line with ideals that imprison instead of liberate and the cycle continues. We live inside the box.

Question: If something is currently working does that mean we adopt a hands-off approach because clearly it is considered a waste of time to look to improve upon what is and entertain the possibility of what can come next?

Imagine if others before us believed this to be true. Would we still walk in darkness without the use of electricity? Would we still believe the earth flat? Would we still etch hieroglyphics in stone to preserve our stories for generations? Would we still be enslaved? Truthfully, we are in a different sense. We are prisoners to ideals and our programming; with one word we've determined whether we'll listen or dismiss the messenger.

What if the laws we believe govern us governed nature? Would the seed stop growing after cresting the soil? Would the chick remain confined in its shell for fear of the unknown? Would the fawn fail to stand upon birth because it believed the task too complex? Thankfully nature isn't restricted by our beliefs. All things of nature grow, becoming what they were intended to be. The elements innate. We, too, however, are nature and so it, too, is inherent.

Imagine our world if the dreamer believed change wasn't necessary and what is is what should continue to be. 

It's in the asking; the answers come when we ask questions that challenge conventional truths.

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Watch Me!

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Ever have someone tell you what you couldn’t do? How your dreams were too big? How what you wanted to accomplish was a veritable impossibility? How did what they share about your dreams, your aspirations make you feel? Did they empower you or did they make you doubt your ability? No matter what was said nor the message conveyed or who said it, those words had an impact. All words do. How you choose to allow those words to effect you is of importance. It is a matter of cultivating the graveyard of dreams or nurturing the birthplace of the greater tomorrow you envisioned.

This is one of the primary reasons why it is important to protect your dreams, your passions. It is also one of the reasons why many choose to keep their dreams private. In sharing, there exists the opportunity for someone to utter words that will snuff the kindling passion birthed in your gut, creating a mountain of doubt were only peaks and occasional valleys originally existed. Yet there are others who, upon hearing the naysayers list of reasons for caution or redirection, use those words as further motivation. Instead of snuffing out, the contrary occurs — the spark to succeed in spite of.

Regardless if whether the comments are external or from the internal monologue that, at times, plagues each of us, the internal response should always be the same: watch me.

Some people in their sharing of advice or counsel, honestly believe they mean well. They believe they have your best interest at heart. Cull through their words, determine what serves you. If there are words of truth, keep them. Analyze and see what adjustments, if any, are necessary. All words which do not serve you nor your intended purpose, shelve or dismiss.

When others put limitations on the heights we can attain, there is a moment of defiance each individual feels. In those moments, you believe in the possibility of your dream. So much so, you can taste it and may have even imagined what it feels like to walk in it. Remember these moments and set out to bring your dream or next greatest achievement to fruition making it your reality. Develop a plan, endeavor to accomplish something every day that places you one step closer to your goal. Outline your steps. Your intention will drive your outcome.

By sheer will, perseverance, hard work and determination, with eyes set on an what can be, move forward and walk into your tomorrow. Enjoy every success of each completed phase. When you've accomplished your task, achieved your dream and are able to live in its reality, there is a no need to gloat. Your success will adorn you and will serve as a catalyst for shifts in the lives of others you, directly and indirectly, impact. Make sure to listen to the stirrings of a new dream, a new height and move forward blazing a trail for yourself and others. And if you're ever privileged to hear another's dream, be on the receiving end of a 'Thank you' and not a 'Watch me'.

So what do you wish to accomplish today? Tomorrow? In five years? Ten? Think about it. It isn't selfish to desire a better life; it is disheartening to deny yourself the possibility of experiencing one. In receiving and achieving, you're able to give and inspire.

* Originally posted on BlackHairKitchen.com March 29, 2013 *

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Judge. Jury. Verdict.

  • Did you see her last night? I can't believe she allowed herself to be filmed wearing that?
  • You got a mirror? I suggest you look in it, because clearly you did not have an opportunity this morning.
  • Wait? Tell me she isn’t wearing white after Labor Day? Who told her that was acceptable?
  • She lip-synched the National Anthem? And with all that pageantry. What the hell? Chile, puh-leez! She needs to go sit down with that foolishness.
  • She should just slap a perm on that crazy mess of hair! Walking out the house looking like that. It's embarrassing.
  • You know she should just go on and BC. Remove all that chemically processed hair and embrace her natural beauty.

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The verdict has come in. The gavel has come down.

We are GUILTY.

What’s sad? It doesn’t matter if we don’t know the details, or perhaps we have a few or we know the entire story, we (me, myself and you) render ourselves judge, jury and issue a scathing verdict, broadcasting worldwide via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and some other social media site sharing our judgment on the matter. Sometimes it's regarding a primetime reality show and sometimes it's our relationships with each other.

In Los Angeles and New York, media moguls are reclining around the table in a boardroom brainstorming possibilities for the upcoming spring and fall season television line-up, hoping to bring to market the next big reality show. Armed with data reflecting the viewing habits of certain demographics they know that cattiness and bitch fests are slam dunks. Their bottom line is increased because cattiness sells and bitchiness sends the ratings into the stratosphere. Female viewers are more interested in watching women gouge out another woman’s eyes, tug hair, kick arse or speak words that incite rage, fury and are blatantly disrespectful.

With all of our daily chatter, I do believe we make their jobs easier. We provide them with the narrative and from this they storyboard, focus group and package to the masses. Do we object? Or do we subject ourselves to hours of watching? What's worse? When the show is over, we cut a side-eye at a sister on the street and wonder what her objective could be.

What was once man’s ultimate fantasy has become our own: Women wrestling in mud, slipping and sliding all over the place in bikinis and the like. When did that become something we actually enjoyed? The catfights? The name calling? The neck rolls? The eye rolls? The ridiculousness of it all?

Now I know I probably stand alone on this limb — with a few million women — but watching that is not my idea of entertainment. Regardless of race, I do not want to watch my sisters treat each other in disrespectful ways. Granted, reality dictates there will almost always be someone who aggravates us and steps on our last good nerve, but why broadcast the fallout in such grandeur. What's the objective? To hurt? Or perhaps laugh at someone's pain?

You want more responsible programming? We have to be responsible consumers. I still believe in the power of the people. Television programs require viewers. These programs require financial backing from advertisers. Advertisers remain vested based on numbers. With dwindling numbers, programs are cancelled. It has been proven throughout history, when there is enough of an outcry or demand for change of any kind, the most beautiful thing imaginable occurs: revolution.

Once upon a time, we moved mountains, changed laws, redefined a people and that's only in this nation. Don't tell me it cannot be done. The world over we've seen proof that mountains of impossibilities are scaled by perseverance and determination of a united people.

I don’t judge you, my sister. Here’s my hand. I stand with and walk along side you because you are a reflection of me.

The revolution must be televised! Let’s script it.

* Originally posted on BlackHairKitchen.com March 12, 2013 *

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Hello Gorgeous!

When you recognize and acknowledge beauty, worth, and/or value in yourself, you’re more prone to notice these attributes in others. I’m not talking about cultivating narcissistic and haughty tendencies. I’m talking about recognizing and cultivating the good within you. Whatever you need, realize you have it within. Tap in to it, acknowledge it and give it to yourself daily. Be it a kind word or a wink in a window as you pass by or a smile because you woke up this morning and was greeted with another day, another opportunity. Allow this positive energy room to blossom, grow and affect those in and around your sphere. You have the power to influence by example. We all do.

Hey beautiful! How are you today?

Don’t turn around. I’m talking to you! Yes, you … in the mirror.

All to often we seek validation, compliments, adoring looks and words of praise from spouses, peers, colleagues, friends, family members.... I can go on, but you get the general idea. We seek it from others. In many ways, sometimes daily, imploring them to acknowledge how fabulous, grand, gifted or talented we are. We can easily fall into the pit of “I do and you tell me” mode, where we’re looking for some thing, some one or some word to plug the hole in our soul and gently stroke and soothe our ego. We do great things and want others to tell us how great we are. We embody the very definition of fierce and want others to acknowledge our fierceness. Why is that?

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Love of others, starts with love of self. I cannot give what I’m an unable to give myself. It has even been said, we can’t give beyond what we know. While that is true, here’s another truth: The good news is every single day we are above ground, sentient and willing, we can grow beyond where we currently are. It is your choice.

Mirror, mirror on the wall—stop. There really is no need to continue. Look in the mirror. Love what you see. Give it to yourself and repeat after me: I am.

* Originally posted on BlackHairKitchen on on February 13, 2013 *

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The Importance of that Deep Breath

Breathe.

One simple word. One unconscious act. We do it anyway. Yet sometimes we neglect to realize just how vitally important breathing is.

The other day traveling to my doctor’s office for my annual physical, I was stuck behind—on two different occasions—not one, but two slow moving vehicles. To know me means you know my blood was singing in my veins well on its way to hitting some note that’s off the register; I’m talking higher than a note Rachelle Ferrell can hit in REM sleep.

Why is it when you need to be somewhere at a given time, obstacles pop up invariably slowing down your progress? Good question. Another post; not this one. Now if I’m being truthful, I was running late. Left the house, drove a few blocks, realized I’d forgotten the daughter’s school medical form I needed to drop off at her pediatrician, swung a U. When I finally made it to my appointment, I was ten minutes late. Sat my butt in the waiting room where I remained for another ten. Ask me if I took a breath.

Finally I was ushered into the exam room after all routine procedures were completed with the exception of one. When chick—the nurse—pulled out the blood pressure monitor, I grunted. Literally grunted. I knew what the reading would be. I didn’t need a monitor to tell me a thing; my body already informed me. So before she placed the cuff around my bicep, I drew in a few shallow breaths as if that would help.

185/92. Hmm. Chick looked at me and walked out with “The doctor will be with you shortly” falling from her lips. That afforded me about a minute or two of laughter and a few deep breaths.

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When we tense up, our breathing is stilted if not halted for a time and bizarre things take place in our bodies. If you’re in tune with your body you’ll notice, almost immediately, the subtle and not-so-subtle changes. We can attribute this tense state to numerous factors and variables: stress, anxiety, worry, career pressures, deadlines, an overactive mind and, even slow a** drivers. The moment you feel off kilter, edgy, or antsy, it is important to consciously breathe—draw deep breaths in and out through the nose. This act alone is a calming and centering one.

Sometimes early in the process, my mind has yet to quiet. Distractions vie for attention. As a result, my breathing is shallow. I repeat the breathing technique until I’m able to draw in deep, full breaths that naturally lift my chest and expand my lungs before slowly releasing. So wherever you are, I’d like you to close your eyes and breathe with me. A deep, slow breath in through your nose, hold for a count and out, slowly releasing the breath through your nose. Let’s try that a few more times. After a few minutes, notice the difference you feel in mind, spirit and body.

Consider incorporating this technique into your daily routine. It does wonders. When time permits, find a quiet space, sit in a comfortable position, back straight and begin this breathing exercise. Be sure to empty and quiet your mind of all noise and distractions. The stresses will still be there when you’re done, but now you’ll be in a calmer place to deal with them or perhaps, have a new perspective on how to. In addition to rocking the proverbial ‘S’ on her chest, she is also rocking the word ‘breathe’ as a gentle reminder to do so.

By the way, the two readings my doctor took on either arm were met with approving nods. 112/70. Go Michelle! Now back to my car. Damn! Just breathe.

* Originally posted at BlackHairKitchen.com on January 28, 2013 *

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Meet the Ladies

The Harlem Holiday Doll Show was this weekend at LeRoy Neiman Art Center and as you read in a few Facebook updates or news posted on this site or by virtue of knowing me, I have developed a healthy obsession for these dolls. Tanya Montegut, creator of these precious, unique and splendid pieces, is the bomb diggity.

So as promised, I attended the event and did so with every appendage of limbs crossed in hopes of rounding out the females of the Experience Life from a Different Perspective series with a Megan and Stephanie acquisition. Well, guess what? I have indeed found my chicas! Meet the ladies in all of their fabulosity (don't give me the stank side-eye; look it up, according to Webster it truly is a word):

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Now in all honestly, I'm not sure if I'm done acquiring all of the women. There are still a few sisters who require representation and who knows what individuals will pop up in future novels. I certainly don't; we shall see.

Right now I'm all about acquiring the mens. So who's up first? Chase, of course. Then Derrick, then Peter, then David....

Interested in your own DollsbyMonTQ contact Tanya. The holidays are right around the corner ... think books and dolls!

Toodles!

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Introducing . . .

 
She was the complexion of a Hershey Kiss with black shoulder length wooly hair. Her hair had natural waves that came from opening twists and running your fingers through them to give them a bit of body.
— Never Said It Was Easy / mr
 
Katherine Richards

This description references Katherine Richards. While writing the sequel, the second Kat made her appearance, she quickly became one of my favorites in the series. I'm sure that as you read she will maneuver her way into your heart, as well. In my opinion, she is that good. Here she is in all of her fabulousness.

So what about Megan and Stephanie? What happened to them? In December I'll be attending the Harlem Holiday Doll Show at Leroy Nieman Art Center, expect for me to return from this event with a few more characters. Fingers crossed for Megan and Stephanie miniature embodiments to jump out at me and scream for me to take them home. We shall see.

Love Kat? Let Tanya know. Interested in attending the doll show, here's the information:

For three days I had the pleasure of attending (thanks to a friend) the Arts Off the Main exhibit at the Jacob Javits Center. While I was able to speak with many about my novels, I was in attendance to lend my support. This year, three shows were combined into one and some of the hottest talent in Crafts from around the country were able to share the spotlight with the likes of Woodrow Nash, George Nock, Franco Castelluccio, Stuart McClean and Edwin Lester. Well, Tanya Montegut of Dolls by MonTQ was present and you know the rest ... her dolls were a hit! What's not to love about sisters captured in miniature?

Although a number of Tanya's dolls spoke to me, they always do, one in particular held and kept my attention. My original thought was to round out the cast of It's Simple with either Megan or Stephanie or acquire both, so I was surprised when I found myself coming back to this doll and recalling a passage from the sequel, Never Said It Was Easy.

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MR Interview with Jamie Fleming-Dixon of ForColoredGurls.com

Michelle was recently interviewed by Jamie Fleming-Dixon for ForColoredGurls.com to discuss her novels It's Simple and Never Said It Was Easy. ForColored Gurls.com was founded when Jamie noticed that mainstream magazines for teens and young adults did not feature and showcase enough positivity and/or substance in their messages nor did they include a significant representation of women of color. Only recently have these glaring disparities gotten mildly better. Jamie's immediate remedy to this issue was to create For Colored Gurls (a play on words from the 1975 stage play for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange).

Her website is about inspiring and empowering women to live their most fabulous lives now so it is fairly easy to see how Jamie and Michelle would have lots to discuss since they share a common passion to empower women of color regardless of age.

Click on the ForColoredGurls logo below to read Michelle's candid interview with Jamie.

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