Free Yourself

As a fad diet, wanna-be healthy person, I hear the word detoxify a ton! We often detoxify our bodies by drinking green smoothies or making those crazy teas. We try to sweat it out. We even stop drinking alcohol. I haven’t managed that one yet. I probably need to because of my belly size, but that’s a topic for another blog. We work really hard to fix the way we look on the outside, but have we worked on detoxifying the inside?

What do I mean? Well, some of us are in toxic situations or relationships. We have friendships that should have ended a long time ago because it’s damaging to our psyche. However, we cannot let go. Your friends pop up in your life, cause drama, then leave for a bit. That’s not healthy. It messes up your train of thought and your energy. I did a presentation a few years ago on energy vampires based on the book, “Energy Bus”. Although it was a presentation for others, I was also preaching to myself. 

I have a bad habit of getting wrapped up into things. I get easily attached. The bonus of my personality, however, is just as easily as I get attached, I can detach. But, there are some large gaps in time where I’m still super attached. When I meet people or friends, I only see the good things. I mentally block out the red flags because I enjoy the fun stuff. I enjoy the exchange of memes and the good morning texts. I enjoy the new activities we do together. But then, after weeks of the fun stuff, the red flags start blazing. 

I see that you’re on social media, but you haven’t responded to my text. I see how the mood and frequency of your texts change. I see that you aren’t as present as you used to be. But why? If you want to be a friend, why change?

With ladies, we see this happen so frequently. I’m in a group online where women are there to make friends. We plan outings and trips, then slowly but surely the number of people starts to decline. Why bother trying to hang out if you plan to disappear? In the words of Fantasia, “if you don’t want me, then don’t talk to me. Go ahead and free yourself.”

So, because of this, I keep my friendship circle small. I rarely invite people in. It hurts me when I feel that we are friends, but then you diss me. This week, I looked at my mood. My mood has been in a state of agitation lately and I think it’s because I need to detoxify my life. I analyzed some of my friendships and I decided that it’s time to let it go. Take my heart out of it. I’ll still be cordial and get work done, but I will focus my energy on things that serve me. Things that will improve my mood, my health, my mind, my soul, and my future. I cannot take your negative energy with me. 

As much as I love my people, I sometimes have to let them go. In the words of a bad breakup, “It’s not you, it’s me.” And, it really is.

Lost in My DMs

Social media is a funny thing. It’s good because you can market yourself to the world. Entrepreneurs thrive on social media. DMs can be used for direct sales and advertising. Sometimes, we get offers for endorsements, networking, and promotions. Some people have even found love on social media. However, there’s a dark side. 

Many people slide into DMs for nefarious reasons. Some people try to get you to sign up for inappropriate links. Sometimes there is spam for false promotions. Those false promoters have fake views and fake followers. Or, they tell you to DM their main profile. Ma’am, why didn’t you message me from your main page if you want to endorse me? Also, I’m not paying for a product you want me to promote. That’s dumb. Don’t fall for that trick. Or, you get the bitcoin or cash app people who claim you won a grant from the government.

Then, of course you have the creeps. I hate the creepy people who send messages like, “hey beautiful,” or “I love you.” Sir, how can you love me when you don’t even know me? My thing is, your account doesn’t even look real. The first picture was posted two weeks ago and it looks like it was stolen from someone else’s page. Your English is all broken and you say crap that doesn’t add up to our level of non-friendship. 

Typically, I delete dms from people who look suspicious. I’m not trying to end up on one of those locked up abroad or love the other way shows. I only use my dms for networking with other authors, by offering free promotion. So, if you get a weird dm from me, please know that it’s a hack and alert me immediately.

Hiking the Mountain of Success

Early Saturday morning, I stood at my kitchen island packing my hiking backpack. I gathered up all of my materials and mentally prepared myself for the day ahead. I was excited, but also nervous. I didn’t know what lied ahead of me. It was still dark as I headed out. The sun began to peek through as I made my way to Crowder’s Mountain. Someone who shall remain unnamed called me Dora the explorer, but that’s a story for another day. I frequently participate in activities that expand my circle of experience. As I pulled into the parking lot and saw my friends circled up, I felt my heart grow. Their friendship and this experience gave me so much insight into my leadership style and how I manage to find success in my everyday life. I hope that my thoughts and experiences help you find a way to trek your own mountain of success.

  1. Be prepared

There were different ways I prepared for this endeavor. I had to prepare mentally, physically, and literally put my backpack supplies together. For the weeks leading up to the trip, I trained. Albeit, it was probably not enough because I was sore as all get out for the following days. But, I trained. I ran and walked further and further on the treadmill and elliptical machine to help build up my stamina. I wore a mask to help simulate the breathing difficulties I might face. That morning, I had to make sure I had all of my supplies. I packed sunscreen, bug spray, hiking poles, a change of clothes, food/snacks, gum, Chapstick, a jacket, and water. Without all of these things, the experience would have taxing.

In life, you have to be prepared for whatever journey you plan to take. Your career aspirations will always match your preparation. What have you done to take your career to the next level? Are you working to reach your goals? You may need to take some classes, learn new skills, or change your circle of friends.

  1. Network

On the hike, I met some of the most amazing people. As we hiked, we talked about careers, our futures, money, etc. It was so nice to connect with people of varied backgrounds. Not only were they dope, but they also offered new insight. In order to grow, you must gain new insight into whatever area you’re looking toward. If your circle is not encouraging you to grow, you may need to look for new folks. Also, I made connections with people who offered skills I could bring to my school to enhance our community. In life, I like to constantly allow opportunities for me to grow and work with people of diverse backgrounds to help make the most of my leadership opportunity. 

  1. Don’t leave anyone behind

The trail that we took on Crowders Mountain is listed as strenuous/ moderately difficult. Our leader instructed us to think of others as we took this journey. We had to wear a whistle in case you got lost or there was danger. We were to exchange phone numbers with others for the same reason. The final thing he said before we began was to never leave others behind. Everyone was not on the same fitness level, therefore, we had to stop to let others catch their breath. We stopped for drinks and restroom breaks. We monitored how each member felt to ensure we were safe to move on.

Outdoor Afro Charlotte

In life, we need to check on our people. See if they are doing ok. How can you help? Also, If you know of an opportunity that your friend qualifies for, help them out. Mention it to them or mention them to the opportunity. Once we move up in life, we must find ways to reach back and pull others up. If you’re in a position to give knowledge or enhance others, do it!

  1. Overcome Obstacles

The mountain, like life, has many obstacles. Instead of rocks, you have racism. Instead of tree branches, you have limited opportunities. Instead of rain or fog, you have financial or health issues. We all have challenges to overcome, but like hiking the mountain you have to take it one step at a time. Start small and build up to where you need to be. It may take some time to get there, but like the peak, seeing the view made the hard work worth it!

  1. GPS

One thing our guide stressed to us was the importance of knowing how to use your map and your GPS. In life, you don’t know how to reach your final destination without following a plan. Talk to people. Do your research. Find the path that will allow you to reach your goals. Just like a map is printed, write down your plan. When you constantly see your vision, it manifests itself.

Whatever goals you hope to reach, I hope you get there. You can’t just hope, you have to put work behind it. James 2 says, “Faith without works is dead.” Once you create your plan, you have to go at it. Work your tail off. But once you obtain it, don’t forget to reach back and help others. That’s how we continue to grow as a community. We are not in a competition. If one of us wins, we all win!

15 Reasons Why Your 30s are DOPE!

I am currently thirty five and I feel that I am in a much better place than I was in my twenties. The biggest reason is because I have officially given up. Not given up on life, but given up on trying to live up to the expectations of others. I choose to live my life the way I want to. I choose to give myself the luxuries I was never afforded as a person who grew up in poverty. I didn’t realize I deserved this until I entered my thirties. At first, some of my peers made fun of my experiences. Now, that they see the joy I have in my life, they want to be a part of it. Well, I decided to let all of you in on my secrets!

  1. Finances

When I began teaching, I could barely afford my apartment. It was awful. I lived off of hotdogs and breakfast as dinner. So, I decided to go to grad school to earn a masters. The hope was to increase my salary. I did get a higher salary, but I also gained more student loan debt. I also traded in my car every few years. It created a ton of negative equity in each car I bought. But something happened. A few years ago, I had to file bankruptcy. It only cleared the debt relating to my business, but I still had to pay off my own personal debt. After hitting thirty, I noticed I was much closer to retirement (in EDU you can retire after 28 years, I’m in year 13). I became a little nervous and uncomfortable. So, I made a conscious effort to begin paying down debt. I followed the Dave Ramsey method. I’ve begun living off of a percentage of my income. I sent a percentage to savings each month. I pay down my credit cards little by little. So far, I have paid off two in the last year. Now, I’m also looking into stocks and rental investment properties to help me move into retirement more smoothly.

  1. Hair Stylist

I have locs, so I haven’t needed a hair stylist in years. However, since turning thirty, I have begun to need certain services. I started seeing greys! So, I periodically visit my hair stylist to get my hair dyed. I do not recommend doing this at home, by yourself. Allow professionals to handle chemicals.

  1. Skincare

I had a ton of acne growing up and my skin is sensitive. If I pick at a bump, it turns black. Now, since visiting my esthetician and getting facials, my skin glows. Peers from back in the day asked if I bleached my skin. I try to get facials every month or so. At home, I use a facial scrub twice a week to decrease new acne. I also use tea tree oil to moisturize my skin. I also use my exfoliator on my entire body once per week. It makes my body feel super soft.

  1. Get Checked

A few months ago, I had a health scare. I hadn’t been to the doctor in years. The only reason I went was because I had a UTI. After getting checked, I had early warning signs of cancer. I am so glad they caught that. I had to have minor surgery to get it removed. The scary part is that if I hadn’t had an issue, I probably would not have caught it soon enough. Don’t take your health lightly. Diabetes and high blood pressure plague our community. Get checked. For everything!

  1. Wax/ Vajacial

The older I get, the more hair I seem to have. After a while, I was tired of shaving. The hair grows back more coarse and more often. So, I decided it was time to make a change. Waxing was the best thing I could have ever done. I only have to go once every 6 weeks. The hair stays gone longer and grows in silkier. The vajacial helps your skin stay smooth and makes the color more even. It’s beautiful!

  1. Glasses

I began having headaches when I turned thirty. I thought it was high blood pressure or something. Then, one day I began typing my symptoms into Google. I made an appointment to get my eyes checked. Yup, I couldn’t see. I got my first pair of glasses and my whole world changed. I could see shapes and colors I couldn’t see before. I have astigmatism. The world isn’t supposed to jump…lol

  1. Social Media

Just like Marie Kondo tells you to remove things that do not bring you joy, you need to remove people or pages on your social media that doesn’t bring you joy. If you’re not vibing with someone or something is posted that offends you, delete it. Remove it from your life. That disconnect helps you clear out the negative energy.

  1. Friendships

Similarly to social media, you need to review your friend circle to see if anyone needs to be removed. Everyone in your circle is not rooting for you. If the conversation gets dry when you’re telling them something you’ve achieved, let them go. Also, your friends should be motivating you to grow. If they are doing the same things they were doing years ago, they’re stagnant. Get new friends. 

  1. Massages

This year, I put a lot of strain on my body from working out. It got so bad that I was limping. Epsom salt baths were not doing it for me anymore. I began researching the best masseuses in the city. I found one in University and it has been the best thing. I get a 2 hour massage once a month. It has helped me relax and deal with my stress. Best investment I’ve made in a long time.

  1. Travel

Like I mentioned in one of my previous posts, travel is paramount to my survival. My first international trip was to the UK in college. The bug bit me and I haven’t been able to shake it since. Travel gives me something to look forward to. I try to take mini trips once per month, like a road trip or weekend getaway. Then, like twice a year, I try to take big trips. International. Festivals. Either alone or with friends.

  1. Style

As a little girl, I watched a ton of movies and read a ton of magazines. I always wanted to dress like Robin Givens on Boomerang. So, when I became a professional, I began to find clothes to complete that look. I still follow fashion blogs and social media accounts for inspiration. What I have found is you feel better when you love how you look. If you don’t like how you look in your clothes, exercise. I work out at least 3 days per week. This keeps my self-esteem high!

  1. Homes

Find a home that feels good to you. Don’t live above your means. Make your home feel good to you. Decorate for your personal style. I prefer a home that feels lived in. I use warm colors that hide spills. I have two kids and pets! If you prefer fancy, though, go with it. I also chose to buy a home that costs way less than I can afford because I want to use my money to help me feel good. I’m barely home during the week, so I didn’t want a home that took all my money out of my pocket.

  1. Workshops/ Conferences

Always look for ways to improve yourself. Whether it’s work related or personal, do something that helps you grow. You’ll feel better. Plus, you’ll see the world through a new lens. You may also develop new skills that could profit you in the future.

14. Family!

Spend time with them. You never know when they will no longer be here with you. You begin to realize that in your 30s.

15. Toys

Whether it’s outdoors or indoors, find something you can enjoy. Outdoors, I enjoy my paddleboard and bike. Inside, you can play with something that makes you warm 🙂 Don’t feel ashamed to enjoy yourself, whether it’s with someone or alone.

What’s something you learned after 30? Like, Comment, Share 🙂

Spicy Honey

The spicy honey sent a chill down Tandy’s spine. She pulled her honey laced finger out of her mouth slowly and looked over at the young girl. “I think I’d like a jar of that to take home. $5 you said?”

“Yes ma’am. $5.” The young girl with blonde highlights smiled back.

“What’s in it?” Tandy asked as she reached in her purse and grabbed her red wallet. She slowly unzipped it, making sure to not drop any coins. “Do you have change for a $20?”

“Yes ma’am. It has a hint of jalapeno!” The young girl pulled her fanny pack around from her back to her stomach. She unzipped her pack and pulled out three five dollar bills. “Here you go!”

Tandy gave her the twenty dollar bill, trying to get another lick of her finger. She placed the three bills in her wallet and zipped it back up. The little girl handed her a jar of jalapeño honey. “Do you need a bag, ma’am?” She asked.

“Yes, please.” Tandy took the honey and placed it in the brown bag with string handles. The bag read “Brussel Farms”. This farm was known for their strawberry picking and perfectly manicured bee colonies. Tandy made sure to stop by their station each time she came to the farmer’s market.

Today, she was mostly just perusing, looking for nothing in particular. A few weeks ago she bought fresh fruit and a beautiful bouquet of flowers to place on her kitchen table. The flowers came with the most unique glass vase. It was curved, as if someone took the time to make it shaped like a perfectly beautiful ballerina. The vase made the flowers more beautiful than they would have ordinarily been. The colors danced like the ballerina’s legs; pinks, blues, greens, and off white baby’s breath.

Tandy licked her finger once again before walking off after giving the little girl a smile. She roped her in by giving her the free sample. You can tell this little girl has done this before. Tandy walked past the jewelry tables and the art tables. She walked through the many fruit and jarred pickle stands. But with the brightness of the mid-day sun, something caught her eye.

There was a table across from her with perfectly carved wooden decorative home pieces. Some were large, some were small. She saw bookends and figurines. Side tables and picture frames. But the item that stood out the most, was the wooden platter with golden handles. The handles shimmered under the sun. Tandy walked over for a closer inspection.

“Good Afternoon ma’am. Do you see anything you like?” Levi asked as he panned his hand over the display of wooden items on his table. He stood there staring at Tandy, admiring her thick, curly hair.

Tandy moved closer staring so intently at the platter that she didn’t notice Levi staring at her. “Yes, I like this one!” She said as she pointed to the platter. “Did you make these yourself?” At that moment, Tandy looked up.

Levi smiled. He had such a beautiful smile. His teeth did not have perfect spacing or optimal whiteness, but his smile was warm. It drew her in. “I do. Would you like to touch it?” He asked.

Tandy looked at him hesitantly, “The platter right?”

“Ha ha!! Of course.” He let out a belly laugh. “That’s the best laugh I’ve had all day ma’am.”

“I’m just checking.” She snickered feeling like he meant something more. Tandy reached out and picked up the platter. She rubbed her hand across the inside. “Sturdy!”

“Yes it is. I made sure of it myself.” He replied.

“How did you get the handles like this?” Tandy admired the spirals carved into the golden handles. She gently slid her pointer finger across the indentations in the carving.

“Ma’am, I don’t kiss and tell. I mean, I can’t share my family secrets. We’d hate for you to take our ideas and run.”

Tandy could tell he definitely meant what he said. She was about to open her mouth for a comeback when another gentleman interrupted.

“Ma’am, this piece is $25. Do you want it or not?” He asked abruptly, giving a stern look to Levi.

“Actually, we’re having a sale today. I’ll give it to you for $15.” Levi winked. The older gentleman pulled Levi’s arm and dragged him to the side.

Tandy stood there not understanding what was happening. She could not hear what they were talking about. She could tell there was some tension brewing. So, she decided to head out. She slid her bagged honey’s straps further up her arm and she began walking towards her car. The sun was beginning to show signs of evening coming.

Once she got in the car, she placed her bagged honey on the passenger seat and whipped the tendrils of her curly hair into a quick updo and secured it with the hair tie from her wrist. She cranked up the car and slowly made her way down the windy dirt road. It would take her more than sixty minutes to make it back to Philadelphia. She loved the quiet, country drive to the outskirts of Lancaster.

Once she got onto the paved road, she increased her speed. She drove bopping her head left and right listening to her favorite female MCs. Her music was loud, bass pumping so hard that the water bottle she kept in the cup holder vibrated in pain. Occasionally letting out plastic pops due to lack of water inside. So loud, in fact, she didn’t hear the beep indicating she needed gas. Her car began to slow down, which caught her attention. She looked at the dashboard, “Shit!” She slowly pulled her car to the side of the road.

It was getting dark. She pulled out her phone to call for help. Dead. Her battery was completely dead. Her car concert ended like a stripper who attended Junior’s party on Player’s Club. She sat there in complete silence, in the dark, crying. She decided to step out of the car in hopes of someone passing by to help her. She grabbed her light jacket from the back of her car and stepped outside, making sure to keep her keys in her hand. She did not want to be locked out of her car in the night, on this dark back road.

After pining a few minutes, she saw head lights coming around the bend. She raised her hands up waving, hoping to catch their attention. The car kept going. A short while later, she saw more lights. Then, she saw red as they passed her by. After waiting what felt like an eternity, she heard loud steps. She became worried because she had never heard anything like this before. She jumped back into the car for safety.

As the noise grew louder, she placed her head in the center of her steering wheel praying that it wasn’t a killer or a large animal that could maul her car open. Suddenly the noise stopped, but she was too frightened to look up and stare the monster in the face. She heard three heavy taps on the driver side window. She felt herself shaking uncontrollably.

“Hey, are you ok ma’am? It’s late!”

Tandy recognized the way the voice said ma’am. She looked up at the window. “Hey! How are you?”

“I’m good. Are you ok?” Levi asked.

“No! I’m out of gas. And I’m guessing, you don’t have any huh?!” She began to cry again.

“Can you open the door? I can barely hear you!”

Tandy opened her car door. “I guess you don’t have any gas, huh?!” She looked at the horse and buggy he rode in on. She sat with her legs hanging out of the driver side.

Thunder began to roar in the distance. Levi looked up. “We can’t stay here. There’s a storm coming.”

“What are we going to do? Is there a hotel nearby?”

“Oh girl! Do you know where you are?” Levi laughed.

“Not really. I’m not usually out here this late. I just live a few minutes away, in the city.”

“Listen, you are in the heart of Amish country. There aren’t any hotels near here. You’re will need to come with me until morning. It’s not safe out here for you, if you know what I mean.”

“What do you mean? What’s Amish?” Tandy was confused.

“Listen. I’m Levi. This community has strict rules. I don’t have time to explain everything out here or we’ll be spending the night in your car. Get in the buggy.”

Tandy grabbed her purse from the passenger seat and slammed the door behind her. She locked her car, then dropped her keys into her purse. She climbed up into the buggy and sat beside Levi. “I’m Tandy!”

The ride to Levi’s farm was bumpy, causing Tandy to occasionally bump into Levi. As the pair made the turn to pull onto his land, the sky broke open. Rain began to pour down and streaks of light danced across the sky. Tandy dropped her head down and covered it with her purse. Levi paused in front of the barn, jumping down to swing the large doors open.

He drove the buggy into the barn steadily, making sure to not cause a noticeable stir. He backed the wagon into a corner and jumped out. He ran over near the door and lit a small oil lamp; he closed the barn doors. He walked back over and unlatched the horse. Tandy watched his every move. He walked the horse over to the other end of the barn, where her stall was. Afterwards, he came back over to Tandy; he helped her get down.

As her hand was in his, she could feel the heat between them. She admired his half buttoned white textured shirt. One tail in and the other hanging out. His hair was going this way and that from the breeze and rain. She stared, taking all of him in.

“Wait here,” Levi instructed. He ran over to the other side of the barn where a storage locker was located. He grabbed candles and thick blankets. He walked over into the center of the barn and arranged the blankets. Setting the candles on the bottom of a tin, that had been flipped upside down. He lit the candles. “Come sit down. I’m going to run out to grab a few things, but I’ll be right back.”

Tandy sat on the blanket, looking around to see if there was an outlet to charge her phone. There wasn’t. She gave up and placed her purse beside her on the hay strewn ground. “I hope no one is worried about me. Right, I live by myself.”

Levi walked back in with a wooden basket filled with a bottle of Riesling and a collection of meat, fruit, and cheeses. “You hungry?”

“I could eat!” A smile grew on Tandy’s face. He walked over and placed the platter in front of her; he sat really close beside her. He smelled like a mixture of freshly cut wood and a hint of rose. Tandy breathed him in, enjoying his incessant smile and the hint of mischief in his eyes.

“Close your eyes and open your mouth!” He instructed with a seriousness in his voice. Tandy felt nervous, but did as she was told. He drizzled some spicy honey over all the fruit. Then, slid in a piece of strawberry into her opened mouth.

“Mmmmm…” Tandy released a low moan. He drew closer to her, gently rubbing her face as she savored the strawberry. They could still hear the storm brewing behind them, but Tandy was less afraid being with him.

“Want some meat? Open your mouth!” Levi said.

Tandy opened her eyes. “Huh?! What are you up to?” She was perplexed. On the one hand, no one would know what she did while she was here. But on the other hand, she didn’t want to have some weird take home gift she wasn’t prepared for.

“Tandy, I have slices of sausage. What did you think I meant?” Levi stared at her with that big smile. “I won’t make you do anything you’re not comfortable doing. Do you not eat meat?”

“Listen, this is too much. What is your end game?”

“I do not understand your question. Have I done something that offends you?”

“No, but I’m not used to this. I’m from Philly. I don’t know anything about you, but you in here feeding me fruit and shit. Like, are you about to kill me and feed me to your horses? What’s the deal?”

“What? I’d never do anything like that. Where would you get something like that from?”

“I watch a ton of crime shows!”

“What are crime shows?”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Listen, I am just an Amish country boy. I work hard all day long. When I saw you earlier, I felt a sense of peace. Maybe it was the glow of your skin or how your hair reminds me of pillows. But, I wanted to touch you. To feel the peace that radiating from your skin. I’ve never been this close to someone like you.”

“What do you mean ‘someone like me’”? Tandy became offended.

“You. A city girl. Once, during Rumspringa, I visited the city. The people were beautiful, but much too angry for me. You don’t seem like them. I didn’t last long; came back home. You have an inner beauty that I’m longing to have.” He grabbed Tandy’s hand and placed it on his chest. Tandy could feel her anger melting away.

He poured a glass of wine. “Tilt your head back, dear.” He began to pour the wine in her mouth, making sure to do small measurements at a time. She closed her eyes. Levi used this as an opportunity. He leaned in and used his free hand to pull her face to his. He kissed her lips, parting her mouth to feel her tongue. Tandy was taut at first, but gave in. He could feel the tension leaving her body.

He laid her down and played in her hair. She laughed. His hands moved lower. He admired her entire body. He played with her like a kid in KB Toys for the very first time. She allowed him; she hadn’t been touched like this in a very long time.

As the night drew on, the candles blew out. They knew each other. Every crease and intricacy. It seemed to still the storm.

By the morning, the wine and food was all gone. The light revealed the wildness of what the night held. Tandy woke up lying in Levi’s arms. He kissed her forehead. “I guess we need to get you squared away.”

Tandy pulled her clothes back on. “Yeah, I don’t want my parents to think something has happened to me.

“Go get in the buggy. I’ll bring the horse around.” Levi pointed as he spoke. He put the empty wine bottle in the wooden basket and rolled the blankets back up. He walked over to the storage bin and placed all of the items inside. At the bottom, he pulled out a gasoline can. He grabbed it and walked over to the horse. He brought the horse back to the buggy and placed the gas tin at the back of the buggy. Tandy’s view was constricted by the lack of continuous light. He connected the horse, then opened the barn doors.

It was early and the dew was still all over the grass. The farm was vast and there seemed to be no one for miles around. They drove out to Tandy’s car. Levi stopped the buggy in the middle of the road.

“But what are we going to do? I don’t see any gas stations out here.”

“I got you!” Levi sprung from the buggy and grabbed the tin can from the back. “Unlock your car!”

“Wait! You had gas the entire time?!”

“Yeah, we use gas too!”

“You mutherfucka!”

“Huh, what does that mean?”

“Just pour the gas!”

Levi smiled as he poured the gas. After he was done, he placed the tin back inside the buggy. “I have something for you.” He pulled out the wooden platter with the golden handles. “I hope you enjoy this. Every time you use it, I hope you think of me.”

All of Tandy’s anger began to melt away. Levi moved closer and went in for one last kiss.

“If you’re ever at the farmer’s market again, come see me.” He jumped in his buggy and pulled away.

                  If you enjoyed this short story, be sure to visit http://www.shanahannibal.com

I Am My Own Soulmate

I heard a song a few weeks ago that really spoke to me. The song is “Soulmate” by Lizzo. After listening to the lyrics, I realized something. We need to change our definition of soulmate. 

According to the online dictionary, a soulmate is, “a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner.” But why? Why do we need someone else? Why can’t we be complete by ourselves?

What if we are our own soulmate? Lizzo’s lyrics goes as follows:

“Cause I’m my own soulmate (Yeah, yeah)

I know how to love me (Love me)

I know that I’m always gonna hold me down

Yeah, I’m my own soulmate (Yeah, yeah)

No, I’m never lonely (Lonely)

I know I’m a queen but I don’t need no crown

Look up in the mirror like damn she the one”

I agree with Lizzo. I think I’m my own soulmate. I figured this out a few years before this song came out. A few years ago, I was so bombarded with life: A husband, children, grad school, and work. But, I wasn’t happy; I was losing my mind. 

Then, I did something that changed the course of my life. I found myself. I decided to take myself out on a date. I left everyone. I didn’t call any of my friends. I didn’t have any romantic partners. It was just me.

I had to decide what I wanted for myself. This alone time gave me the space to learn myself and love myself.

I rented a hotel room. I went to a book signing. I ate chinese food in bed. I sat and figured out what goals I wanted to accomplish. This was the best thing I could have ever thought of.

I learned a few lessons:

  1. Love who you want. This doesn’t only apply to sexual relationships, but it could. Build relationships with friends, lovers, etc. 
  2. Forgive yourself. Every situation teaches you something. Don’t regret your choices.
  3. Love yourself. Despite anything you’ve done, love yourself and your decisions. You’re the one who will be with you for the rest of your life. You shouldn’t be the one hating yourself.
  4. Go solo. Sometimes you don’t have friends who want to attend certain events with you. Who cares? Go. Enjoy yourself.
  5. Set goals! Reach your goals. Live the life that you want.

You only have one life to live. Love yourself and enjoy!

Self

Published


For many of us, publishing the traditional route is not an easy option. Some choose to send their manuscripts to publishers or participate in #pitmad on Twitter to see if a literary agent requests a manuscript. For those of us, like me, who are impatient, eager, and sometimes frugal, there are other ways to publish and get your work to the masses without breaking the bank. 

A friend of mine said that if a publisher asks you to pay for them to publish your book, you may want to investigate. When I initially wanted to publish my first book, I researched local Charlotte publishers. I met with this “publisher” who wanted to charge me $3000 to publish my book. When I turned down the offer, he blocked me on all social media sites. Weird right?!?! Why bother doing business with a person like that? So, I decided to go the Indie route. I spoke with other authors and followed people vigorously on social media. Because of this, I was able to chart my path and learn a few things along the way.

What to write?

First, you need to decide whether you want your story to be fiction or nonfiction. Then, you’ll need to decide the genre/ age group. Either way, your story must incorporate a problem and solution. 

A great story has a problem that needs a solution. Some stories may have more than one problem. This is the first thing I think of when creating a story. Depending on the genre, the problem can be anything. Some of the problems of the recent projects I’ve been working include remembering, loss, and relationships. I tend to write in the genres of romance and suspense. Other problems can include dominating a culture (king, queen, etc), finding someone, trouble at work or overcoming obstacles. Whatever you decide, it cannot be a straight path solution. There should be twists and turns.

Characters

The next thing I like to do is name my characters. Or, if you’re writing nonfiction, you’ll need to research your subjects/people. I begin with my main characters. I name sub-characters once I actually begin writing the story. The names just come to me. I feel like they match the character’s actions and motives. Some people create this list ahead of time. I don’t have that type of foresight. I have to see how the name feels in a situation. Make sure to write down traits of the characters and keep the list close by. It would suck to write the wrong name or get your characters mixed up throughout the story.

Writer’s Block

Have you ever had this great idea and boom, you’re stuck. Yes, most writers have. I preach about this on my Twitter and IG page all the time. Whenever I hit a wall, I have to do something exciting. I’ve gone to retreats, paddle boarding, vacations, riding ATVs, tubing down rivers, etc. I have to spice it up. Stepping outside of the norm opens you up to new experiences. It helps you write through new eyes!

Steps to Self-Publish

Cover design, editing, and formatting: I would find someone on Fiverr. Some people on social media are fine, but some will just take you money and run. To have a safety net, I prefer to do business through a trusted site. On the site, you can see samples of their work and you are not charged until you see the product and approve it.

Copyright: To avoid anyone stealing your work, you definitely want to copyright it. You can do this before or after you publish. You can do it yourself on the website. Do not waste money paying someone to do it for you. Make sure to include a copyright page in your book with your information before publishing. For sample pages visit here. To copyright your work, simply create an account on copyright.gov and plug your information in. The fee varies depending on your final product, but starts at $65.

Self-publish: There are several websites where you can self publish. The most popular are Amazon (KDP), Lulu, Ingram Sparks, or Barnes and Noble. The cost varies from different sites. I chose KDP because you only pay for your printed copies and your book is available within a few days online or print. Author copies typically cost under $5. With Ingram, the package costs more. Also, with KDP you do not have to purchase your own ISBN. They will assign one for you. Even Though I published with KDP, my book is available on Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and Indie bookseller websites.

I’m published, now what?!?!

The first thing you need to do before publishing is develop an audience. You’ll need to create pages on different social media platforms and tease your audience about your pending project. Make memes, give inspiration, show artwork. Anything that can entice your friends to want to buy your book. If you’re doing a children’s book, post unfinished drawings. 

After you publish, shout it from the rooftop! Post it everywhere. Tell everyone. You can even run ads on social media sites. If you don’t have a large budget, it’s fine. You can run ads as low as $1 on Facebook/Instagram. I believe it’s a minimum of $50 on Twitter. If you publish through Amazon, you can run ads on there too. One thing I highly recommend you NOT do, is pay some random on Instagram to promote your page. Many of them are scammers and know how to make it look like their page has high engagement. Stick to something where you can see the metrics. Make sure you learn your target audience, so you’re not wasting money on uninterested people.

Happy Publishing!!!

The Rainbow at the End of the Storm

My birthday is kind of a big deal to me. Let me explain why…

Growing up, as you know from most of my other posts, life was stressful. I grew up in a single parent household. That means finances were tight and my mom was not about to “waste” money on frivolous things. We never had birthday parties growing up. She would simply come home with a small cake. She and the four of us would gather around, sing happy birthday, then eat it. No balloons, no friends, no party, etc. However, we appreciated it. It was all we had. We were more concerned about what we would eat daily, school supplies, and paying all of our monthly bills. From an early age, we knew the essentials.

Fast forward to my early twenties, I had the most horrific birthday of my life. I was a younger person, living my best life. Trying to figure certain things out. I was giving my then “boyfriend” a ride to the dentist in Charleston. We turned towards James Island and stopped at a stop light. All of a sudden, an SUV rammed into the back of my car, nearly pushing my car into the intersection. Thankfully, we stopped rolling.

I jumped out of the car to go and check the damage. My trunk was pushed all the way into my backseat. The young lady and her male friend jumped out of their car. She came up to me, clearly upset, and said the most absurd thing you can imagine. “I’m so upset. Is it possible for you to run into the store and get me a cigarette to help me calm down?” 

I nearly knocked her out on the spot. Thankfully, clearer heads prevailed. I just glared at her until she walked away. We called the police and took care of all the formalities. But that’s not where the story ends.

Later that day, my birthday, I suddenly stopped feeling so well. I got up out of bed, I needed a nap after all the action, and I was dripping all over. I was not sure what was going on. So, my boyfriend took me to the hospital. Y’all!! I had a freaking miscarriage. I was only a few weeks and barely knew anything. I was so heartbroken. I was devastated. On my birthday! The only positive, I was surrounded by people I loved.

Although tragic, now, I choose to look at the brighter side. I look at it as the lord allowing me more time in life to get myself together before having children. We received a large settlement from the situation. It doesn’t fix the hole left from my loss, but at least I was able to use the money to secure a home and car after graduation. 

A year after that situation, I wrote a letter to my lost little one. I promised her (we found out later that it would have been a girl) that I would live my life to the fullest. I would celebrate myself. I would put forth the effort to live the life I want to live. And I am proud to do just that. I have a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees and am an assistant principal. Each year for my birthday, I take a trip or do something unique. I’ve been to Aruba, Spain, United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Las Vegas, Miami, and countless other cities/states in the US. I’ve ridden ATVs, paddle boarded, flown in planes and helicopters, and tubed down rivers. I am proud of the person I’ve become.

Since the incident, I’ve been blessed with two beautiful children. Previously, I was not sure if the accident would have impeded that, but thankfully it did not. I’m grateful for God giving me a second chance. A second chance at creating the life I wanted to have and a second chance at having children. I never take anything for granted. Each morning, I tell God thank you because I truly am grateful. So, if you ever wonder why I laugh and smile all the time, just know that I’ve been through so many things and survived. And for that, I’m grateful in every situation.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

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What’s Under That Mask???

I’ve always had terrible skin.

Before

However, after having kids, my skin began to clear up a ton. Maybe the hormones; I don’t know. I was on a smooth ride for years, minus the occasional outbreaks during shark week, until Covid hit.

Once Covid hit, march 2020, we began wearing masks. The masks were making my face break out. So, once my former esthetician opened back up after the semi-quarantine was lifted, I went in for a facial. She “cleaned” my face, neck, and chest area. Worst Idea Ever!!! She used all sorts of scented products and it made my skin worse. 

I began to breakout all over my face, neck, and chest. When I get a break out, it sucks because my skin gets dark where the bumps were (hyperpigmentation). I was so distraught. So, I tried a few different products until I hit the right combination. FYI, I tried Fenty Beauty and it made me break out really badly. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with that $40 set that was only used a couple times.

Tiktok @divaap85

The best solution for my face was Urban Skin Solutions! Keep in mind, I’m not a dermatologist. This simply worked for my skin. These products work best for oily, blemish prone skin.

Directions:

Morning

  • Wash your face with charcoal soap
  • Use serum
  • Lotion

Night (before bed)

  • Use cleansing bar 2 times per week
  • Use coconut oil or tea tree oil

What do you do to clear up your face? Like, Comment, Share…