Day 19: In Honour of a Great Man…

Grandpa has ears that truly listen
Arms that always hold
Love that’s never ending
And a heart that’s made of gold

 I come to you tonight with a heavy heart readers; my grandfather passed away this morning. Although I am continuing with my journey, I will likely not be able to post every day on my blog as I may not have internet access AND because I will be with my family. I have experienced many different emotions today, sadness, relief, guilt but knowing that he is no longer in pain gives me a sense of peace. I am sad he’s gone, but he lived a long full life and the moments we’ve shared together will keep him alive in my heart.

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Grandpa was one of the sweetest men I’ve ever known. Loving, caring, and believed in putting family first. It is going to be a difficult week ahead, but I want to experience all of it. I want to honor the memory of my grandfather, his extraordinary life, be there to support my dad, and just say goodbye in my own way.

Grampa George, I love you. You will be missed.

 

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Day 18: I am not my hair…

Good Evening beautiful friends,

I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within

-India Arie

I warn you tonight’s post is long, as this has been an intense process, but I hope you read and enjoy it.

As a little girl, I had kinky curly hair, and quite honestly I don’t remember a ton about my hair BEFORE my first relaxer, but I do remember it tangled easily and whenever mom said “it’s time to do your hair” whether it was me, or one of my younger sisters, someone always cried.

I may not remember before the relaxer, however, I will NEVER forget the day I got my first relaxer. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, relaxers are harsh chemicals applied to curly hair to make it straight. I felt like such an adult; I would now have silky hair like Tatyana Ali (Ashley Banks from Fresh Prince) instead of this knotted nappy hair I was born with. My joy was short lived and quickly turned to pain, BURNING pain after about 15 minutes. I had scratched my scalp earlier in the day, and anyone who has ever had a relaxer knows the first rule of relaxer is ‘don’t scratch your scalp or it will BURN’. It felt like someone was holding a flame to my head, but I pretended be fine because I wanted straight hair more than anything. After that, I received numerous compliments on my hair and even my mom mentioned multiple times that my hair was now pretty. The pain was justified! At so young, I was willing to sit for 15 minutes with what felt like fire on my scalp for what? So my hair would be pretty?

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My medium length relaxed hair. The last Christmas I had Straight hair…

My middle sister didn’t get a relaxer until she was much older because her hair is much looser curls than mine and I was always so jealous of her hair. Why did she have to get the pretty curls? I remember one Christmas her hair was down and everyone kept stroking her hair and saying “I wish I had good hair like this”. I saw the hours of work black women put into their hair, be it weaves, braids, relaxers, etc. no one had their natural hair and the few who did received comments like “nappy headed” “lazy” etc. All I wanted was ‘good’ hair. There was no way in HELL I was going to have my nappy hair out for the world to see. If only I’d been born with hair that was pretty.

I should also mention, the media played a big role in my continued hair hatred as well. I’d see celebrities and models and they all had this gorgeous waist length silky hair, since I was a child I didn’t realize this hair was a weave most of the time and photo shopped, but I couldn’t understand why mine didn’t look like this. I did, know, that anytime my hair was straightened and silky looking I received compliments and that had to mean long straight hair was pretty, the curly kinky hair was not.

A few years go, Chris Rock’s movie ‘Good Hair’ came out, and I went to see it. I couldn’t believe just how accurate this movie was. Sure he made jokes, but at the core I was a black girl who straightened her hair because I was ashamed of what it would look like without it. I was reliant on this ‘creamy crack’ and it owned me.  One of the problems with relaxers is that they are similar to hair dyes in that, as your hair grows out, so does the relaxer. This meant every 2 months I had to ‘retouch’ the newly grown hair to keep everything smooth and silky. I don’t remember how old I was when I got my first relaxer, but I was probably 10 years old which means I consistently relaxed my hair every 2-4 months for about 17 years. CRAZINESS!!!

It was around this time that I started to wonder what my ‘real’ hair looked like. I mentioned it to my mom a few times and she always discouraged me from finding out claiming that it would be too much work, no one in my job would take me seriously, what would people think, and this one that stood out to me so much “WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO GO BACK TO YOUR KINKY HAIR WHEN YOU ALREADY HAVE THIS LONG BEAUTIFUL STRAIGHT HAIR?”

And there it is ladies and gentlemen, my mother truly believed that kinky hair was unruly and undesirable compared to it’s straight counterpart, so I also believed that. I am not angry with my mother, nor do I blame her for my issues surrounding my hair, but she’s not perfect either. She had her own ideas and beliefs and passed them on to me, and I just blindly took them to be my own.

It is not easy to walk away from this, and it kept bothering me until I finally made the decision to start all over. The day I finally decided to do it, to cut my hair off I was terrified. My mind was racing…

WHAT IF MY HAIR IS UGLY?

What if Andrew doesn’t like it?

What if people judge me?

I looked in the mirror that morning, said “you can do this” and went for it.  I went to the salon (ironically enough on my mom’s birthday) early in the morning, alone, and asked her to cut off all of my relaxer and leave me with only my ‘new growth’. The ladies in the salon thought I was crazy and even begged me not to ‘ruin my beautiful hair’, again just repeating the same things I’d already been hearing, but I stayed strong. I will never forget the moment it happened.

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

My hair fell to the floor as she buzzed my head. My eyes filled with tears but I contained it, somehow. I felt free. I walked out of the salon that day feeling very self conscious but free in a weird way I can’t explain. I kept my head down as I walked to the bus and panicked that i’d made a terrible mistake. Hell, i’d just shaved my head at 27. On my 4 minute walk to my bus stop, I was stopped by a lady who told me that I was beautiful, and that my short hair really played up my features.

Holy sh*t, I AM NOT MY HAIR.

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It has taken me a long time to learn how to deal with my curls and to this day, they still do their own thing. My hair is frizzy, it’s curly, it’s kinky, but it’s mine. I do not judge women who choose to wear weaves, braids, or relax their hair, I have worn braids since my hair has been natural and I will straighten it from time to time, the difference is I love my hair for what it is– mine. It doesn’t need to look like everyone else, it just needs to look like me.

I won’t get into the fact that my mom was NOT happy with me when I cut my hair, she was angry that I would part with my gorgeous locks not understanding that I needed to do this for me. She has since come around and loves my curly hair, but I love it, so she pretty much has no choice. I have not meant this post to sound negative towards my mother because she is one of my biggest supporters in life and will ALWAYS stand by me, but in this instance we have different opinions and that’s fine. At the end of the day she wants me to be happy, she was just under the impression that I’d be happier with straight hair. She was wrong.

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I have a niece now, who happens to have curly hair. What she decides to do as an adult is up to her, but I want to ensure she loves herself and understands that her hair is beautiful curly. There is nothing wrong with straight hair, or changing up your hair, but the hair you were born with is never inferior to another type of hair. Love yourself. ALL of yourself.

Ultimately your looks, your hair, your body, none of that matters, what truly matters is the person you are inside. If we spent as much time working on our spirit, our personality, our inner selves as we did the outer I feel the world would be a much more beautiful place.

Namaste friends.

 

Day 17: Inner Beauty does not require makeup.

Good Evening Beautiful Friends,

As I sit here bra-less in my old baggy sweats typing and quietly reading each typed word under my breath to ensure this post is somewhat intelligible, all the while balancing a chocolate protein shake in my lap with mascara smudged, hair a mess,  I can’t help but wonder “What would people think if they could see me right now?”

Not entirely sure why that came to me just now, but the mirror directly to my left allowing me to see exactly how UN-glamorous I look right now might have something to do with it. Speaking of glamour, I feel many women like myself, enjoy dressing up and looking pretty, but also have their hot mess casual moments. For many years being pretty meant my hair was always neatly straightened, my make up was ALWAYS done, and my outfits matched just a little too much. No one could every find my natural state to be beautiful right? RIGHT??!?!

Fast forward 12 years, and I still enjoy fashion, stilettos, accessories, make up, hair products, you name it. I like to experiment with new looks and ‘styles’. Some days I’ll wear a bold lip, other days I play up my eyes, depending on my mood. The difference between THEN and now, is that I don’t do these things because I think i’m ugly without them, I do it because I enjoy it. I like to play up my natural beauty. Some days i’ll wear make up, other days I don’t, but I am equally as beautiful and unique regardless. All to often girls feel they need to look like the cookie cutter celebrities with long straight hair, slim physique, lashes to your eye brows, perky full C cups, the latest in fashion, the list goes on.

I was once that girl. I essentially liked myself, as long as ‘myself’ looked like someone else.

Tomorrow til Saturday i’m going to discuss in greater detail different aspects of exactly what I mean. Starting with the big one, my hair which was a matter of great internal struggle for many years. I’m sure many girls out there have, at one point or another, wanted the hair of another girl. For a black girl who’s only wish in life is straight hair, this seemed like an “at all costs” situation. I plan to discuss the physical acceptance that took place, as well as the day I finally understood that true beauty isn’t in the way we look on the outside but the person we are inside. (Easier said than done).

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I have come to accept myself, flaws and all, and other than the occasional self conscious moment (Oh come on, don’t pretend you don’t have one too) I feel truly beautiful in my own skin. It has taken many ups and downs, some mistakes, lots of tears, and even more positive affirmations, but I’ve gotten to a place where I can just be apologetically ME.

To be continued.

Namaste Beautiful Friends.

Day 16: No need to whine about a little wine…

Good Evening beautiful friends,

Tonight I am thankful for my sisters. Whether they realize it or not, I think about my 2 younger sisters every single day. They live in Nova Scotia and I live in Ontario so we do not see each other often, but they are in my heart every minute of every day. We are only a few years apart, and we’ve had our good times AND plenty of bad, but I would do anything for those two girls.

For tonight’s post, I want to talk about #20 on my 30 things while 30 bucket list.

#20. Abstain from Alcohol. Drink no more than 12 times between now and next birthday (which works out to be once a month). 

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As you’ve probably guess I won’t be able to cross this off the list. I have definitely drank more than 12 times so far this year. Have I been partying like crazy? Going out all the time? Getting drunk? No to all of those. In fact, I don’t drink much, but I do drink ‘regularly’– calm down i’ll get into it.

First of all, I think it’s important to note that when I created this list I was insanely focused on having an 6 pack and realized that the drinking was an issue. It wasn’t because I was a binge drinker or anything, just that I went out enough that it was a problem for my diet and for my progress. I still want abs, but my focus is more on being healthy, being strong, and gaining muscle now. I will not allow my abs, or a lack there of  define me. So at first, I avoided all alcohol–easy peasy. Then I’d go out for dinner with Andrew or a friend and obsess over if I should drink or not because if I did drink it would subtract from my 12 total, and I knew that I’d want a glass of wine for my anniversary, another for my husband’s birthday dinner, Christmas dinner, New years Eve, etc. I planned it all out, when I could and could not have a glass of something and honestly it began to weigh on me.

You could say that I do not need alcohol to have fun, you are correct. I do not. However, I enjoy a glass of red wine on a Friday night while unwinding with Andrew and discussing my week. It’s nice, I look forward to it, it’s not in excess so then why should I be feeling guilty about it? I realized in trying to ‘better’ myself I had inadvertently created a problem–an OBSESSION.

I do not have a drinking problem. Although I do not NEED alcohol, I enjoy a glass of wine periodically with friends and with Andrew. There is nothing wrong with this, and so the limit I had imposed on myself was forgotten. However, I typically only have wine, all other forms of alcohol which I used to drink such as vodka are a VERY rare occurrence.  Some people abstain from all alcohol completely, others only have it once or twice per year because they prefer to, and that is great, but for me balance is key. So if that means I enjoy a glass or 2 of wine a few times per month with my husband and friends, so be it.

Moral of the story girls and guys, BALANCE.

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Day 15: The day I joined a book club…

Good Evening Beautiful Friends,

I am thankful for all of the healthy food I have readily available to me. If I want berries, I can have berries. My organic grocer has 10 varieties of greens on any given day, and I can find dates, nuts, seeds, basically anything a vegan girl needs to live a happy, healthy, well fed life. I am also grateful that I can afford these things.

Tonight I want to dive into my ’30 while 30 list’. I am moving full steam ahead to reach my target, but that means a few of my items will be slightly altered. Here are the first 8 things. Some are COMPLETELY finished, others are a work in progress, and a few others haven’t even been started yet. Let’s make this happen.

  1. Perform a fully unassisted handstand. (No wall, just me, lifting myself straight into the air.)    I’m really close. I need the wall to get up, but I can hold myself up for about 10 seconds without falling over. I am getting stronger!
  1. Join a book club  As I wrote this blog post, I realized I still hadn’t joined a book club. For some strange reason i’ve been nervous about doing it, and so just now I stopped in the middle of posting and JOINED A BOOK CLUB. My first one is in a few weeks. I’m actually really excited.   Question: Why did the Romanian stop reading for the night?
    Answer: To give his Bucharest.                                                                                                                  Oh how I love a cheesy pun.
  1. Complete a 1,000 piece puzzle.( I realize this doesn’t sound like a ridiculously difficult feat, but I assure you for me, it is. )   Okay so here’s the plan, i’m going to make a 750 piece puzzle. Why is that extra 250 pieces so hard? No clue, but it is. BESIDES, at Christmas, I started making a 1,000 piece puzzle with my dad and i’d say we got at least 250 pieces in. Actually now that I think about it, I may stick to 500 pieces. Nope, 750 I can do this. I am going to pick one up and make it on my dining room table. (It will motivate me to finish it quicker)
  1. Volunteer. (This could be at a women’s shelter,  soup kitchen, animal shelter, etc. )   I am going to choose a particular cause later this week to volunteer for. I was thinking about an animal shelter, but my allergies may not allow that. I will look around the city and update you with what I find.
  1. Complete 5 Pull Ups. Initially when I wrote this, I meant chin ups and so I am now able to do 5 chin ups. However, since I’ve written pull ups, I am TRYING to get to 5 of those but it’s much harded unassisted. I am confident that I can do it! I am going to order a pull up bar online to practice at home.
  1. Try a new recipe each month from different Countries around the world.   I’ve actually been doing this pretty consistently, but without even meaning to. I love trying new dishes and so i’ve been experimenting with vegan versions of some favourites from around the world. Later this week i’ll post about the recipes i’ve tried so far AND the final 2 that I will make.
  1. Learn to play the guitar. (At the very least take lessons).   Uh oh. I used to work with a guy who was going to teach me how to play and we never got around to it. My new goal is to set up lessons for the new year. I know, it’s not the same as taking them before my birthday BUT it’s a decent compromise.
  1. Start a gratitude diary and write down something i’m thankful for each day. Each day has to be a different thing i’m thankful for.    I started a gratitude journal and for several months I was really consistent, then I missed a day, and then another. Before I knew it, I had missed an entire month, and then two. It’s not that i’m not thankful, I just stopped taking the time to write it down. I recently started writing in my journal again and i’ve been updating my blog each day with some of the things i’m thankful for. I am thankful in some form or other daily, but stopping for the 5 minutes it takes to write in my journal forces me to really appreciate something special in my life.

Well, i’ve finished my list, my eyes are blood shot and swollen, my head is throbbing, and I have the sniffles. I can’t tell if it’s allergies or Andrew has shared his flu with me, I guess i’ll have to see how this plays out. Lots of Vitamin C, echinacea, zinc, and oregano oil for this girl.

Sleep well friends.

 

Day 14: Live the moment…

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” -Michelle Obama

I love Sundays.  I love waking on my own without the aid of an alarm. It’s usually quite early, and since Andrew is still asleep, I sit in silence enjoying my morning coffee, browsing the internet, reading a book, or even just looking out the window. It’s completely serene.

I typically look forward to Sundays because it also means spin class! There are 2 back to back classes at 9 and 10 am and I do both of them. I am technically supposed to do abs as well, but I always skip them (oops) and get groceries instead. I don’t do both spin classes because I want to ‘earn’ treat meals later in the day, nor do I do them because I feel guilty about last night. I do them because I truly enjoy them. The regular instructor is great, she always picks good music, her energy is contagious, and honestly it just sets the tone for the rest of the day and week.

Today’s class was fantastic, hot, but fantastic.

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But first, let me take a selfie.

If you’ve ever done a spin class, or any class such as yoga, body pump, etc. you probably know what I mean when I say ‘sometimes I get caught up in my thoughts’. I am trying to remain focused on the instructor and the rhythm, but i’m tired, i’m gasping for breath, and there it is…those random idle thoughts filling up my head. Sometimes it’s about that chore I still haven’t done, other times it will be some revelation about my life, eating, etc. that apparently can only come about when i’m covered in sweat and don’t have a pen handy. Either way, I will at least once per class be standing when I should be sitting, be slowly pedaling when I should be racing, etc and all because I have zoned out and haven’t heard the cues.

Most of the time it only lasts a few moments and I quickly catch up, but I often wonder if I have a dazed look on my face, if I drool slightly (just kidding), or if I think out loud. Oh god, have you ever zoned out on a bus and then when you realize what you were doing everyone was looking at you and you can’t be quite certain if you said something? No? Only me…  well that’s obviously an issue for another day.

Today, like any other day, I found my mind wandering on a million other things at once and then it happened. I made a conscious decision to stop them; to be fully present in the moment—enjoying the pain slowly creeping into my quads and glutes thanks to built up lactic acid.

Mindful

I want to be fully ‘there’ in all situations. I think i’ve mentioned before that I usually have several “to do” lists going at the same time, and i’m working on learning to chill out, but it’s a work in progress. I set my intentions for the remainder of the class, enjoyed every moment of actively participating, and it was so nice to workout without thinking of everything else that usually crowds my mind. I can’t say i’ll never get distracted or sidetracked, but I have made it my mission to focus on what i’m doing and enjoy being in the moment WHILE i’m in the moment; to be fully present in all situations. As should you.

Namaste.

Day 13: “I love you from my head tomatoes.”

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo

 

I love my husband. Today, I am thankful for my health and for the opportunity to be an attentive wife to a rather sick husband.

Andrew has the flu and is feeling incredibly run down, achy, and all that other fun stuff. I made him soup today, fluffed his pillows, listened to him whine (if you’ve ever experienced “MAN SICKNESS” you know what i’m talking about shhh…..) and checked on him constantly to make sure he was always as comfortable as possible. I cannot make him better, but I can make this experience as bearable as possible.

Water-check. Soup-check. Books/Tv-Check. Kleenex-Check Check. Snacks that appeal to a sick person-i’m working on it. Echinacea-CHECK! I’d say i’m doing pretty well so far.

I sincerely hope that I can avoid getting sick, but the way i’ve been going my immune system probably isn’t at it’s best. Knowing that he was starting to get sick actually forced me to sleep in today and for the first time in a week I felt truly like myself. I haven’t felt TERRIBLE all week, but I haven’t felt great either. I often force myself to workout, eat, work, etc even when i’m barely functioning and it’s a really bad habit. I know this, you know this, we all know this but it still happens. I have been working on it. I’m not perfect, but it’s getting better.

Seeing other people sick, and not at the peak of health forces me to come to terms with how badly I sometimes treat my body. I woke this morning at 5 am and forced myself to go back to sleep, I woke again at 7, at 8 and at 9. At 9 I got up and had some water and chatted with Andrew who was already awake. Cuddling made me sleepy again (No, cuddling is not code in this case), so I went back to bed and didn’t wake until noon. Typically i’m already finished my workout by 12 and at first I was pissed at myself. Then as I was getting ready for the gym, I realized how great I felt. How truly full of energy, strong, and alert I felt. It was nice. Why should I be upset that I allowed my body to rest? Sure I had chores to do, but were any of them so urgent that they can’t wait until tomorrow?

You know the answer to that. I tackled as many things as I could today, but I focused on Andrew and getting him better. I also could have done more, but decided to just CHILL. So, as I head off to bed, I want to remind all of you workaholics out there–IT’S OKAY TO TAKE A DAY OFF. There are far more important things in life than checking off a list and that is what I focused on today.

I hope each of you are well, and rested. Have a wonderful Sunday beautiful friends.

May you always know health, happiness, and love.