Good Behavior in FLOTUS’ comments

10.15.2014

Last night, FLOTUS sent us all into a tizzy with an unexpected and pop culturally aware Instagram video. I first saw it when my sister retweeted it onto my Twitter timeline.


It was the first thing I saw when I checked Twitter after a long day of class and work and it instantly made me smile. Plain and simple, it was just cool to see the beautiful, brown First Lady of the United States being…well, cool. I even left a comment.

OMG stahpCuriosity then led me to spend 30 minutes browsing the other comments. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t brace myself in preparation to come across some ugly, racist shit. Not only racist shit. Not mostly racist shit. But I totally expected to see at least one offensive racial remark.

Here’s what I found instead: Continue reading

Role Models Who Look Like Me: Myleik Teele of curlBOX

10.02.2014

As a young black woman who was raised by a phenomenal black woman, it is not surprising that I look primarily to black women as my role models. My mother showed me early on that being a black woman in a society run by white males means that I will have to work harder to be taken seriously. She also taught me that regardless of what society suggests, it only makes sense to make a habit of being excellent.

Put simply, why be average when you can be excellent?

Myleik Teele is the founder and CEO of curlBox, a haircare subscription service for women with curly hair. I’ve followed both Myleik and curlBOX on social media for some time now, but recent personal branding research led me to spend some quality time looking at Myleik as a self-made businesswoman and role model.

In the first episode of curlBOX TV, Myleik says, “I don’t think that people know the kind of rewards that they get in life by being excellent.”

Had I been at home instead of sitting at my desk at work, I would have yelled out, “YAAAAS, GOD!”

Continue reading

Smelling Good, Smelling Great––How Are You?

09.23.2014

aroma workshop

First things first: Can we take a moment to recognize that not only am I now in possession of the entire Adobe Creative Suite, I’ve also started fiddling with photo editing as you can see from the photo above. I am very proud of myself, so I’m boasting. *beams pearly whites all up in ya face*

Okay, now let’s talk about the Aroma Workshop. It’s a cute little shop in Lincoln Park where you can go to create a custom scent. Recently I’ve found myself wanting to be that girl who walks by and people think, “Damn, she smells good!” And autonomy is totes important, so the concept of making a unique fragrance really appeals to me.

As someone who suffers from migraines, I was worried the store would have an overwhelming smell that might trigger a migraine, but that wasn’t the case. Just a pleasant, spiced sort of scent that reminded me of Christmas.

Continue reading

Chicago Cheat Sheet: Museum Free Days

09.04.2014

Six years ago I moved to Chicago with the intention to take full advantage of all the city has to offer. Not so surprisingly, laziness, Netflix, and the bitter cold have all conspired to keep me pantslesss in my apartment far too often.

As summer draws to a close, I want to be more intentional about how I spend these last warm weeks and make the most of them. Chicago Ideas Week is in October and I’m very pumped to go to this event about neuroscience. Until then, my priority is to find time between work and classes to take advantage of free days at the museums!

There are a ton of museums in the city and all of them offer free admission to Illinois residents on specific days throughout the year. At first I thought to make a post and include the names of all of the museums and the dates that they offer free admission. But that would be kind of long and boring and has totally been done before.

Instead, I asked Caro to help me create a printable calendar.

Caro Cheat Sheet

Originally I envisioned a full-size calendar that can be put up on the wall, but Caro had the idea for a pocket sized calendar which is absolutely perfect. We’re both fond of hand lettering and Caro is a veteran zine maker, so it seemed only right to create a paper version and scan it. Here’s what we came up with! So easy on the eyes, wouldn’t you say? :)

September Cheat Sheet

 

You can print your copy here!

And if you don’t have a printer but you really really want one and I happen to love you, let me know. I might know someone who knows someone that has a printer (in other words, I just bought a printer and would be happy to print you a copy).

The calendar is just small enough to fit in your wallet (trust me, we measured it!) and includes all of the free dates for some of the major museums in Chicago during the month of September. Keyword: some. After all, there’s only so much info that can fit on a half sheet of paper.

We’re considering doing another one next month because why the hell not? And perhaps we’ll branch off from museums and include other free stuff to do around the city?

Stay tuned. And in the mean time, go to a museum!

Walking: A Gift From My Mother

08.11.2014

Walking is something we all do, some more than others. Now that I live in Chicago, I walk a lot more than when I lived in suburb and drove nearly everywhere.

Because of my mother I’m always very aware of my body and its presentation while walking.

“Push your shoulders back!”

“Turn your feet in.”

“Don’t drag your feet!”

For a long time, I hated it when she’d point those things out. She never did it in front others in an embarrassing way, but in my young mind it always felt like harsh and unnecessary criticism. But that’s my mother so I listened obediently.

No slouching.

Feet pointed straight ahead.

No schlepping.

Apart from consciously heeding my my mother’s instructions, I subconsciously inherited the rhythm and essence of her gait–the result of watching and walking beside her my entire life.

Now my walk is steady. Fluid. Pointed yet easy.

I carry myself like a young woman who knows who she is and where she’s going, literally and figuratively.

My feet move with certainty, my head held high. Why should it be any other way?

I’ve even been told that my presence is compelling. Draws people in and sets them at ease. Just typing that out feels arrogant. It’s a weird thing to say about oneself, even if I’m just repeating what I’ve been told. And I find it kind of ironic because for as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with being myself at all times.

I like me. I enjoy who I am. But I feel like certain facets of myself should be reserved for certain times and places. So, at any given moment I’m likely considering how to behave based on the present company and situation.

That being said, I never forget the importance of being authentic. There is a way to to be genuine and honest without sharing too much of yourself. This is yet another thing that I picked up from my mother.

I consider it hugely complimentary that someone would speak so highly of my company, but if anyone deserves credit for this aura of mine, I chalk it up yet again to my mama and what I’ve learned just by watching her.

She’s the type of woman who walks into a room and everyone notices. Not just because she’s six feet tall and gorgeous. She’s six foot tall and gorgeous and assured. And it radiates. The brilliant smile doesn’t hurt either.

Her laugh will fill any room right up. Full to the brim. It’s pretty unexpected.

My mother isn’t quiet or reserved by any means. She’s poised and calculated. And although she can be quite personable, her giant unrestrained laugh catches people off guard and everyone nearby can’t help but to laugh along with her. All of us smiling, even if we’ve no clue what’s so funny.

Sometimes I open my mouth to laugh and hear my mother. The tone, the cadence, the size of her laughter all come spilling out and it startles me. Has it always been this way and I’m just noticing?

As time passes, I see just how much she is weaved into who I am. In some places the stitching is intentional and precise. In other places I’m surprised to find her there. Though 900 miles and several states away, my mother is with me wherever I go.

These days I can even see her face in mine. It happens mostly when I’m walking past a shop window or a mirror and catch a quick glimpse of my reflection. I see her near my jawline. The cheekbones. Eyes. And definitely the smile.

I was given a lot as a kid. Spoiled for sure. My upbringing was privileged in that I never wanted for anything and as an only child and grandchild, I always made out like a bandit on birthdays and gift giving holidays.

Pink Barbie dream car. A bike that I didn’t learn how to ride for the longest. A Nokia brick phone, complete with bejeweled rhinestone cover. And even though my first car was a shitty ’87 Corolla that used to belong to my grandfather, my mom and grandma bought me a new Mazda before I started my senior year of high school.

They gave me so much.

As an adult, I recognize that the most valuable things they’ve given me are intangible.

From my grandmother I received a love of words: poetry, reading, writing. She taught me to enjoy learning at a very early age.

My mother has given me an infallible sense of self worth. Even when I question myself and path in life, it never takes too long to regroup and find my center. My resilience, consideration for others, and the unmoving belief that I can do anything are all gifts that were given to me early on and will continue to impact my life every day.

We haven’t spoken in a few months, my mother and I. But we will. I think of her often, especially when it comes to walking.

Many times we’ve laughed together while observing someone whose stride doesn’t quite match their frame. Plenty of times I’ve been without her, seen a person walking and thought, “Mommy would get a kick out of that.”

And sometimes I think of her randomly. On my way to the bus stop or walking back to work after lunch.

Shoulders back. Feet pointed straight ahead. No schlepping.

I’ll hit my stride and think, “I bet I look just like my mom right now.”

A thought that always brings a smile.

 

 

 

#ThePlaylistProject: Birthday Edition

04.18.2014

In 2009 I moved to Chicago to attend college. I was an eager 22 year old who had never lived in a *big city* before. I knew no one here, but I had this idea in my head that I’d get to school and meet lots of friends and everything would be perfect.

That’s not exactly what happened.

Yes, I met people, but I didn’t organically gel with them like I’d hoped. Don’t get me wrong–I made friends, but not close ones. I ended up with a handful of acquaintances and often times found myself very lonely, wondering if maybe I’d made the wrong decision by moving to a city that is 900 miles away from my family and loved ones.

Then, during my second year of school, I met Charrise.

First I met Spif when I interviewed her for a class assignment. She invited me to a natural hair “tweet-up” event that Charrise had planned. To this day, I’m so happy I went. The event was held in an adorable art gallery space; the turn out was fantastic, and I met some amazing women, including Charrise. Not only was I impressed by her ability to plan a successful event, but she was well dressed and had this great energy about her. I was like, “I want to be friends with that girl.” So I introduced myself, we started following each other on Twitter, and the rest is history. I’m not quite sure how we transitioned into the kind of friends who spend hours on the phone several times a month and end our phone calls with “love you” but she’s become the sister-cousin I never had. After the tweet-up, I got home and called my mom raving about how wonderful it was. Beyond having a great night at the event, I gained a lifelong friend.

Today Charrise turns 25! Feel free to seek her out and buy her liquor/send strippers to her apartment. Or, I guess you could just simply wish her a Happy Birthday but that’s kind of boring…

Yesterday she texted me: “I want people to truly celebrate with me when they listen to the list. It has a lot of my favorite party songs as well as songs that have meant so much to me over the past quarter century of my life.”

You heard her! Turn on the music and get to celebrating in honor of my sister-cousin. It’s going to be a good ass year.

#ThePlaylistProject: Album Cuts

04.15.2014

I’d never heard the term “album cuts” until Charrise suggested that we do a playlist full of them. Naturally, I googled the term, and the top, most relevant result was on Urban Dictionary. Go figure.

A song that is found exclusively on an album and was never released as a single. Sometimes filler, sometimes under-appreciated, sometimes well-known and equally amazing, album cuts are what fill the spaces between the singles you may have initially bought the album for.

Sometimes under-appreciated–totally.

Per usual, Charrise put me on to some songs I’d never heard before. The Emeli Sandé song is fantastic. And the M.I.A. joint at the top of the list is a banger. It could actually fit in well on the workout playlist as well. I was also reminded of the non-stop movement that occurs when I listen to “Millionaire” by Kelis and Andre 3000. Actually took a ten minute dance break while typing this post. It’s that serious.

I’d write some more, but let’s be honest–you came here for the music. Not the 200 words that I write above the  playlist ;)

Enjoy the list. Happy Tuesday <3

 

#ThePlaylistProject: The Sampler

04.08.2014

Nothing is truly original. Keeping that in mind, it should not have been so surprising to me that “Cherchez LaGhost” includes a sample from the 70s hit “Cherchez La Femme.” Yet and still, my 20-year-old mind was blown when I went into the office one day and heard the original song playing. Unfortunately, my only coworkers were two men over the age of 50, neither of whom had ever heard of Ghostface, so they couldn’t appreciate the magnitude of the situation.

Fast forward five years:  recently I was riding around with my 17-year-old sister and “Poetic Justice” came on. Imagine my shock/surprise/horror when I discovered that she had never heard “Anytime, Anyplace.” I quickly filled her in, explaining that Kendrick’s hit song samples a classic Janet Jackson track. I was also floored when my two other youngest sisters told me that they thought Brandy was solely an actress until they heard her sing, but that has nothing to do with this post, so let’s move on, shall we?

It must be mentioned that this playlist–and this project, essentially–is Charrise’s baby. I came up with the idea of hosting #ThePlaylistProject on my blog, but I was inspired by Charrise, whose mental musical catalogue is crazy expansive. She straight up schooled me with this list, and it’s been a joy to come up on some musical knowledge. Did you know that Justin Timberlake sampled Prince? And Destiny’s Child sampled Stevie Nicks. Cam’ron sampled The Commordores, and the list continues.

Literally…the list continues. Down below. Go listen. Then go thank Charrise for putting you on! Happy Tuesday <3

#ThePlaylistProject: Johnny Cash

03.31.2014

This week’s edition of #ThePlaylistProject is courtesy of my friend–and Johnny Cash enthusiast–Caro. She took time out from her internet home to diversify our musical tastes a bit and drop some knowledge about a folksy, country, rock & roll legend from Nashville. Enjoy! –lex

As anyone who tried to have a conversation with me last week quickly found out, a new Johnny Cash album was released on Tuesday and I’m having trouble focusing on anything else.

The posthumous release isn’t that out of character, as it’s his third. What sticks out about Out Among the Stars is that unlike the other two, it’s not a continuation of the American Recordings series he worked on in the last decade of his life.

Instead, it’s an album that was originally recorded in 1984 during a period of discontent between Cash and his label. They shelved the record before it was even finished and that’s where it sat for the last three decades. His son John Carter Cash recently dug it out of the archives AND THANK GOD HE DID.

Pre-80s Cash (husky, bluegrass-y) and post-90s Cash (gritty, stripped down) are very different animals and Out Among the Stars is an interesting album because it’s smack dab in the middle both chronologically and musically. It’s not exactly cohesive (which is to be expected) but there are a couple gems that I’m glad we’re not living without. “She Used to Love Me A Lot” has quickly become one of my all-time favorites.

Even if you think Johnny Cash isn’t your thing, I encourage you to give him a try. He’s one of the most prolific artists of all time (96 albums!) and his genre-spanning sound means there’s really something for everyone.
[Hey, it's lex again. So, Johnny Cash isn't "my thing." Charrise's either. But after listening to the music and to Caro gush about Johnny's relationship with his wife June, I found an appreciation for the music and Johnny Cash as an artist. Plus, he performed concerts for prisoners. It's hard to not develop a soft spot for the guy.]

I admit to being partial to his later albums, but I made an effort to include not just my favorite songs, but ones that accurately sample his varied sound. But first, let’s watch a few videos.

Hurt

“Hurt” is a haunting cover of the popular Nine Inch Nails song. Recorded just a few months before he followed June in death, the video is often referred to as his epitaph and no, I’m not crying. You’re crying! And so is Trent Reznor, who admitted to tearing up when he first watched the video. “I pop the video in, and wow… [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore.”

God’s Gonna Cut You Down

If there’s any doubt in your mind that Johnny Cash is an icon, all you have to do is see who turned out for this equally powerful posthumous release.

Out Among The Stars

Continuing the tradition of using other musicians as a mouthpiece for the posthumous releases, this video has Brandon Flowers, Father John Misty, and the Local Natives each picking a song from the new album. The ensuing covers are pretty interesting, but the old pickup makes me particularly nostalgic. My dad had a similar truck growing up and I remember spending many a Sunday peering over the dusty dash, us belting out “Ringo of Fire” on the way to the dump. And now that you’re just as heartbroken as I am (you’re welcome), here’s the playlist!

*If the full 20 track playlist isn’t showing down below, you can listen to the entire thing here.