Happy Birthday MJ!

Once many years ago when MJ was still with us, I remember being in one of my favorite music stores on Times Square. Virgin Mega Record Store. They had listening stations on the mail floor where you could listen to entire albums (if the headphones worked) before you decided whether or not to buy the CD. I loved it so much. I would go there and just listen to music and lose myself in a store full of hundreds of people. I would move down the line, listening to one album after the next. I remember on one particular day I was there wandering around when I began to notice that everyone in the store was facing the same direction, looking up at the large screens inside the store where they would play music videos. Like everyone! I looked up at the screen and a Michael Jackson video was on. I don’t remember which one. I don’t remember if it was new. All I knew was that I had never experienced anything like that before. Witnessing the attention and energy of such a large crowd of people be drawn to one direction was something I never forgot. At that time I probably felt that I had long since been flooded with Michael Jackson music and memories and as he was still alive at the time, whatever was playing on the screen at Virgin that day wasn’t that big a deal to me. But seeing all those people stop everything to look up at him was something to behold.

There are songs by MJ that move me in indescribable ways and sometimes I avoid digging back into the past because music can grab me and send me into a nostalgic wormhole for hours if I let it. But today I will allow myself to indulge in all the beauty that Michael blessed us with. I was so excited to hear Drake; track with MJ, “It don’t matter to me” off of Scorpion. It’s a beautiful tribute to all that MJ continues to contribute to music to this day. His work is universal, timeless, and unlike anything that ever came before it.

I remember seeing him moonwalk for the first time on TV and I think that I’ve never stopped feeling like he was this strange and beautiful and somewhat lonely human being (though he was often surrounded) who was never really understood but who made other people feel understood with his music.

Man, I am so blessed to have come up in the age of Michael Jackson. Yup, I’m starting to talk like an old person. LOL! As my physical therapist told me yesterday, aging is a beautiful thing.

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My First Ulta Beauty Visit!

I visited my first Ulta Beauty this weekend on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. This is only special because I’d started to feel like Ulta Beauty was only the province of those who live upstate, out of State or in Queens. LOL! I did peep one when I was in Philly but I was in the car with my husband and I know if I had asked him to double back so I could go to Ulta, he would have just given me a blank stare and kept driving. LOL!

I didn’t even know there was one in Manhattan until I Googled it last week. It is literally one door down from a Sephora in a neighborhood I used to frequent when I was in high school.

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It is huge. It is bright. And it has brands I have only ever seen before online, like Morphe, Colourpop, Flesh, Skinfood, Dose of Colors and more. But I didn’t really go crazy. I got a stick foundation I’ve been curious about, an eye shadow, a skincare item and like three sheet masks. Truthfully, I’ve been more skincare obsessed than ever lately, particularly since my skin has been experiencing the worst hormonal acne ever. I’ve just been applying Bentonite clay masks, toning, moisturizing and trying to cut down on too much make-up, which has been a struggle because I love putting on make-up.

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Jessica Pettway one of my favorite Beauty Youtubers!

It is good to know there’s an Ulta Beauty I can go to if I need to check out a new brand that only gets released there. But overall I sometimes feel like the beauty market is flooded with hundreds of products from a multitude of brands, both new and established that all claim to do the same thing and I’m like, how do you know what really works? All the brand reps are gonna tell you that their product is better than the next. I’m a packaging junkie so I get pulled in easily by color, and lettering and shiny, sexy containers. But I also read and watch reviews voraciously because it’s the only way I can narrow things down for myself.

I also have a pretty good idea what I need and don’t need. I don’t need any more lipsticks or glosses at the moment. I’m presently sheet mask obsessed and sheet masks are relatively cheap so I can stock up without too much guilt.

My haul was modest, though still pricey but I’m happy with it because it’s stuff I love as well as new stuff I’ve wanted to try for a while. So some Youtube reviews are on the way. Check out my latest video on three of my favorite Black owned bath and body care products.

Order & Space

I’m starting to feel really guilty about not having written on here in ages. I feel like I’m letting myself down by not doing what comes naturally to me because I’ve been processing multiple levels of grief. I’m still processing it.

But I’ve been doing other things as well. I’ve been on staycation for some time and managed to get some things done, practical as well as recreational. I think I’m starting to gain more respect for the staycation. It really has allowed me to focus on making my living space more livable by deep cleaning, dusting and most of all decluttering.

I get such a good feeling from getting rid of stuff. Clothes, make-up, DVDs and especially paper! OOOH PAPER! The bane of our modern existence! It also makes me look around and realize how quickly things accumulate and question whether or not we could be living more simpler than we do. I’m not talking about a forcefully restrictive or measured minimalist life, though I do respect those who subscribe successfully to minimalism. I know I’m not a staunch minimalist at heart. I like things. I have collections. What I do appreciate in a living space is order and space.

Order and space.

Minimal

I don’t believe myself to be inherently organized. But as I get older what I know is that when I have order, things are easier. You’re actively creating a situation wherein you are less likely to drive your own self crazy.

As for space, I’ve always loved space. I like there to be space in a room or home that is just elegantly dedicated to space itself, which is not to say that there shouldn’t be something in that room. Space is accentuated by objects. Without objects we would not appreciate space. It’s about the purpose and placement of those objects.

Sorry. I’m getting carried away in my own Feng Shui fantasy.

Space

Anyway, in addition to catching some great films, spending a weekend with my BFF and her family in Philly which I truly loved and creating some videos on my Youtube channel, we’ve been able to get rid of some stuff to make some space and also put things in order and dust places that have not been dusted in a while. It feels good. Never thought I would ever say this kind of cleaning gives me energy. But it does.

I will try to write more often before my staycation ends because I know right now I’m in kind of a bubble. I haven’t had to deal directly with people I don’t like in a while and well, that’s just not realistic. LOL!

But I’m on vacation damn it. I don’t have to be realistic.

Like Home

When I think of home,

I think of a place where there’s love everflowing.

I wish I was home.

I wish I was back there with the things I been knowing…

 

It started with “Love is the message,” episode 6 of Pose. I was crying through Billy Porter’s rendition of “Home,” which he sang to his lover who was dying of AIDs. That entire episode slayed my fucking life. Please stop reading this now and go watch it. I’m serious. It’s On Demand. I binge watched all the episodes until I was caught up.

The  episode after that ended with Electra Abundance and Angel being turned out by their respective sugar daddy/boyfriends and dancing in the peephole cages to Tina Turners “Private Dancer.”

Now,

I think I must have been like 10, 11 when that album came out? Remember, the one of Tina Turner sitting in a regular degular metal chair with a black cat superimposed at her feet?

Tina_Turner_Private_Dancer_US_CD_cover_art_1984_original

I-loved-that-song. “Private Dancer” just paints the whole scene like Mama Tina did her research! LOL! It’s a haunting and seductive and lonely but beautiful song. After that episode of Pose, I went and created a playlist of all my favorite Tina Turner songs on Tidal. Then I remembered Annie Lennox. Oh God, Annie Lennox. Man, did she get me through some times.

Whitney BW

Cut to last weekend when I went to see Whitney with my mom and dad and my God. All the feelings of what it was like to love Whitney Houston as a teenager just washed over me like monsoon. I remembered everything. I remembered singing her hit songs to my white wall covered with posters in my room. I remember singing songs about heartache I never even experienced yet. It was just that Whitney’s voice could do that, could take you there, could make you want to experience such heartache just so you have to this beautiful voice to lift in song to show for it.

Nothing will ever make me feel like “How Will I Know.” “I Get So Emotional” will always make me think of my very first boyfriend. “I Will Always Love You” and the entire The Bodyguard soundtrack will always go straight to my heart. I don’t care how much Cardi B, Drake (well Drake is different LOL!) or Migos I love and listen too. My music will always be the music of the 80s. “One Moment in Time” will always bring me to my knees. I think sometimes that this is the reason why I avoid the music of the 80s, because I know that just one note and I will be taken back in time, and I may never get anything else done that day. I’m dead serious. I can get shit done with Future and Big Sean or Kendrick Lamar on. But when Tina Turner sings “Beyond the Thunderdome” don’t you know I gotta close my eyes and belt it out? I never in my life even saw that damn Mad Max movie and never intend to, not it’s sequels, remakes, cousins or step-children. But when I listen to that song I feel like I understand all I need to know about it. Tina brought it the fuck on.

I guess I’m starting to age out of caring about keeping up with what’s cool. Who needs that shit when you came up at a time of artists who were legitimate megastars because they were talented as fuck with voices that, as Jackie Morena, the music producer on “The Get Down” were literally were a “public service,” performed actual factual miracles and changed lives?

Sigh…

Man, I can’t think of anyone who could ever step in their shoes, let alone walk in them.

Yikes, I really am sounding like an OG.

Well…I am.

I love singers. I always have. And frankly I miss them. Not the auto tuned, synthesized, sound engineered sound alike singers, but just a Mariah Carey ass diva and a mic with music, some back up singers, a band or orchestra and nothing else, just the power, the mastery, the heart and soul of a ballad that lives on forever.

Oh it’s definitely going to be a memory lane night.

 

Urban Eve

I’m Black and I like Korean Skincare

I was resistant to Korean skincare for a while because I felt like, how can a people so fair have skincare rituals that would benefit melanated skin? But after visiting the Korean Spa so many times, I started to notice that Korean skincare is onto something. I mean do you ever look at Korean women’s skin? They be on their skincare game! And it’s not that complicated. It’s just that they do what they do on the regular. They treat it like a job. And I really like that. I mean just the fact that Korean Spas are such a thing tells you that they dedicate more time to being purposefully pampering to their whole bodies in the East than we do here.

Sheet masks are a craze for a reason. They are a very superficial version of a more involved process of skincare that Korean women do every day. But there are some sheet masks that I absolutely love for my skin, particularly those made my Dr. Jart, Boscia and It’s Skin and I Dew Care. I generally go for the ones with hydrating, pore minimizing and detoxifying benefits.

In America, we’re so preoccupied with obsessions and crazes and instant gratification. A lot of the time, I want something to treat whatever is bothering me immediately, otherwise I’m like, this shit don’t work! But in my skincare routine, which borrows from Korean skincare, I’ve learned that you have to stick with something for a while before you see results and whatever works overnight may not be the best thing for your skin in the long run.

Blk Skin

I try to use products with the most natural ingredients I can find, though I will say that even natural things can harm you, so I no longer place all my faith in that something has to all natural ingredients in it in order for it to be beneficial.

There are a couple of books I want to read on Korean skincare this summer and then I just want to look into understanding the skin as an organ in general. I met a man recently who explained to me that collagen, a protein that our bodies naturally produce, and a skincare ingredient most of us are familiar with, is the underlying foundation which acts as a scaffolding to maintain the condition of our skin. The nerd in me was fascinated. Also the vain narcissist.  LOL! So I need to learn more about collagen production as well.

As an American born woman, I don’t know if I can ever completely curb my desire for fast results but I do know that when I try something for a while and see it working, I’m more likely to keep doing it without fail. And the thing is, I really enjoy it. And if you can do anything purposefully and religiously in a joyful way, you’re already benefiting greatly.

Dear Khalilah, It’s been weird…

My feelings are complicated. This whole thing has been surreal.

To say that I lost a friend is a glaring understatement. To say I believe it is even more of a stretch.

I haven’t been counting days or moments since Khalilah’s home going. There are other methods of measurement.

Text messages. Voice messages, Pictures. Email accounts. Social media.

Music…

Drake, The Carters, Nas, so many things I know she would love, that I would want to hear her thoughts about or get her feedback and approval on.

I worked for her. We worked together. Our things were close together. We did Soul Sistah Series together. Sometimes things were too close. It was what it was. We learned as we went.

She wasn’t an easy person and she knew it but her hard won approval was worth  everything. She pushed because she loved.

“Iron sharpens iron” she would say a lot. Arguments weren’t a big deal to her. She wasn’t scared of confrontation. She welcolmed it. It was the only way to grow she would say.

I’ve had so much other stuff going on. Heavy, grown, complicated stuff. Still going on. And all I can do is take everything as it comes and be thankful for everything, the pain, the uncertainty, the regret, the way that light affects my mood, morning showers that cleanse and rebirth me, keeping myself hydrated, taking in things that touch me and stretch my heart, know when to stop holding on to what no longer serves me.

It’s not easy.

Occasionally I will wake up angry, looking for a fight, clenched fists, impatient, ready to push. Sometimes I’m numb, on automatic pilot, didn’t even notice where the day went. Other times I hear the voice inside. I stay connected to what makes me smile, laugh, cry, feel anything. But it’s strange, painful, inconceivable to think that you won’t be around in my future. Not the way you were.

When I’m stalking you across time I stop short at a cliff looking over into infinity. Where did you go? Did you fall? Did you fly? What’s out there? Will you report back? You always shared so much. I honestly expect you to let me know what it’s like wherever you are. But I’m also scared. So maybe I won’t hear. You know me. Perpetually torn.

You know me.

Perpetually seeking…

5:32

 

All I’ve been doing is texting and taking calls and making calls and then sleeping. Just passing out from sheer mental and emotional exhaustion. Going through motions, not really in my body. And then sleeping. It’s 5:32. T. texted me. I had a strange dream that I can feel but not quite remember in detail but it was a far out one. It was in Brooklyn. There was music and a lot of Black people, dancing. And floating.

It’s only Monday. One day since I called your mom and she told me you were gone, suffered cardiac arrest. My body aches. I can’t put my feelings into words. I have not engaged with social media because I can’t. Every time I think I’ve called everyone I know you would have wanted me to, everyone that you connected me to while you were here on this plain, there’s one more. My heart aches. My chest is tight. There is a hole in me.

My eyes are wet.

I get up to write this. It’s all I know how to do right now.

I saw you on Friday at a beautiful event where you were both the host and the guest of honor. So many beautiful Black people, friends and educators gathered on a beautiful Friday evening to hear you speak. You moved around the room, networking, laughing, connecting, doing what no one else can do the way you do, a force of love sweeping through, fierce and full of integrity.

I saw you on Saturday at Mamajuanas, which is right by my apt. You texted me that afternoon to say you were having lunch with a colleague. I was on my way downtown with my husband but I came out and popped down to see you and we spoke briefly about a great visit you had to a school in the Bronx that morning. I had watched a video you made about it on IG and I remember thinking, wow she don’t stop. She don’t stop ever. I remember looking at your face and just feeling that energy of yours that seemed to come right through across the screen and into me as you talked about how Bronx schools always seem to be neglected. I remember what a huge response people had to the content we put up from the Friday event. Someone who taught in the Bronx said they needed this to happen there. You were like bet, let’s make it happen.

You made things happen. You made things happen all the time.

And I still don’t understand how this happened. I keep wanting you to call me, text me, send me something from wherever you are to explain. Explain yourself. I think I even know what you might say. That you didn’t plan for this. That you didn’t mean to leave in this way, that you wish you could be here to help us cope.

No one understands. No one can believe you are gone. A part of me feels you, ever present. A part of me waits for you to tell me, what to do next, how I should do it, what are we working on next? What do you need me to create, to edit, to put together, to send. I cannot conceive that you will not ever give me something to do again. I can’t.

It’s 5:50pm. I’m in bed with my husband as I write this. He has been the perfect supporting counterbalance to my grief. I don’t know what I would do without him and I don’t know what I’m going to do without you. But I don’t intend to ever be without you. In many ways, you are more alive than ever, and yet still, I cannot bare the thought, I will never hear your voice, your laughter, your Ago, Ame, or see your face, dip into hot spa pools with you, talk waist beads, coconut oil, shea butter and ancestors and Black liberation with you again. I cannot believe it.

It’s 5:54.

I didn’t go to work today and I don’t know how I’m going to be able to go in tomorrow. I’m afraid for emotions that I don’t have control over. I need to see the rest of the CREAD team soon. I need to see so many people who knew and loved you as I did. I need to be around people who understood how dedicated and passionate and unyieldingly loving you were. I need that and I need rest.

And I need you. I don’t think I ever expressed to you how much.

What I’ve been Reading

Women Code by Alisa Vitti

Woman Code

It’s lead me to have the fullest understanding so far of how my cycle works and to realize that my cycle is happening all the time in four very specific phases (Menstrual, Folicular, Ovular and Luteal) not just when I’m bleeding which is the only phase of a woman’s cycle that education usually focuses on after she begins seeing her period. The MyFlo app designed by Vitti is also like an advanced Period Tracker in that it notifies you of which phase you’re on once you enter your own period dates and of how you should be eating, exercising, loving, caring for yourself, working and planning during those times. It’s very much a game changer.

The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Beautiful Struggle

A few nights ago, I got in bed and found absolutely nothing I wanted to watch on television or the internet. Nothing. So I did something I haven’t done in a long time. I pulled a book off the shelf (The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates) got under the cover and  continued reading where I left off nearly a month ago before things got really busy.  I sat and I read and I read a few beautiful paragraphs aloud to myself which I also haven’t done in ages because Coates just writes some dope beautiful shit that has to be heard aloud.  Shit like:

Ma would arrange us into a giggling pyramid , with Menelik up top. Dad would flick away until Kelly, John, or Kris–someone at the bottom–would get restless and shook the core. We’d tumble to the grass like clowns out of a rainbow colored car, then shove, stumble and laugh. Ma would step back and pull Menelik close. Dad just flicked away, until these moments were encased in Amber.

That whole scene plays in my mind as if I was there. Makes me remember why reading was first obsession.

Fire Feels

Smudging prayer

Recently, in a Facebook status, I shared a moment I had one morning when I was greeted by the manager at my local Pret. She exclaimed about how nice I smelled after we hugged and then asked if I had smudged that morning. I’m pretty sure I did a double take. I was like…ummm yeah, last night. How in the heck did she know? No one has ever asked me that before. She told me that she smudges in her space as well, which I know that many Black people do. But I came up on a very Hotepy household attending a lot of cultural events, meditations and chantings so it was always around me and now I understand that though many of us don’t always talk about it, we do it.

I’ve just never had anyone smell it on me before.

“Do I smell smokey?” I asked.

No, she said. It’s that smell after the smoke has gone out. It’s a cleansing.

Okaaay….I kinda got but I was still stumped at her sensitivity in picking it up so accurately. I had a few people in my Facebook network ask what smudging was to which I googled and tagged a few articles. And this morning as I think more about smudging and smoke in general, it’s got me thinking about the overall sacredness of smoke and how my earliest memories of it were watching the smoke from incense sticks that my parents bought, seemingly in bulk from Rastafarians in Brooklyn rising, and floating, morphing into endless shapes before fading into the air in our apartment. It was meditation before I was conscious of it, like watching clouds in the sky.

Since man’s first fascination with fire, which remains at the heart of civilization, smoke has been seen as the embodiment of this powerful element. We can imagine early man sitting around life-giving fire, watching the smoke rise and appearing to reach to heaven when man could not. Rising into the atmosphere, into mysterious realms that man could not comprehend.

-Jenny Smedly

 Stove lit

It’s made me think about the double sided gas burning fireplace in the middle of the house where I grew up in the Bronx and how I loved to sit and watch it in the Winter (in the mornings I would sneak down and cut it on even though my dad was trying to avoid a large Con Ed bill) the large roaring bonfires on sprawling back yards that we would sit around during dorm parties when I attended Bard College and the pit fires we made when on the few occasions my husband and I have gone camping with friends.

Candlelight

Aside from a candle I burn regularly in my home, I often forget how much I love fire. Like smoke, it changes shape, only more rapidly, sometimes with more volatility depending on the air, but it also provides light, hypnotically vibrant color, warmth, fuel and power. It’s easy to imagine indigenous people watching objects and bodies burn and believing that the smoke has transformed the physical into the realms of the spirit world. So it would follow naturally that certain natural elements symbolizing earthly properties when left to dry would be burnt to transfer their individual properties to bodies and spaces and things as a way of blessing, honoring, warding away negativity or drawing attracting abundance.

The nature of fire and candlelight has always made it a little easier for me to get still inside and in some cases for me to forget myself and become one with its movement. From the act of striking a match, to building a fire, to lighting a stove, I have a very respectful relationship with it. When nature is respected, it will serve and when it is abused or neglected, well…

Burning can be both destructive and cleansing. Fire like all natural elements will reflect its traits in the intention of the user, but it will never stop being fire.

Retrospection

You ever look back at a situation or a relationship that caused a lot of tension and foreboding and recognize that you can no longer even remember what that felt like anymore? Something or someone you couldn’t even imagine getting over at the time has now faded into the background. You have let it go.

And have you ever looked back at yourself in a time when you were so unsatisfied with your appearance or so insecure about something, no one else even noticed and realized, wow I looked great. What was I worried about?

I’ve noticed a lot lately, because I’ve been busier than I’m used to and often in a bit of a zombie state that when I take a moment to reflect back at the past, things always seem like they were better. Now, I’m not going to lie. There are things that happened, situations I had to deal with and several people who I do not ever want to deal with in my life again. But I’m always amazed by how unsatisfied I was with things that now I would give so much to have again; health a sense of security, confidence, purpose…less weight. LOL!

Dwelling on the past is a waste of time, it’s true and it usually means that the present is either lacking in some way or you’re having trouble meeting it or yourself in it fully or both.

Maybe right now is not as challenging as I think it is. I’m certain I’ll look back and wonder why I thought it was so challenging, why I was so full of doubt, fear and insecurity. Maybe that’s part of growth. I just sometimes wish I could skip ahead to that part, the part where I feel like I know what I’m doing, where I’m going and that I didn’t feel so alone.