Monday, January 19, 2015

Stay Ready So You Won't Have to Get Ready

A close friend of mine has this saying: "Stay ready so you won't have to get ready."

Over the past year I've taken this to heart, making sure I always look nice when I leave the house -- even if I'm going to the grocery store. You never know when or where you'll run into someone who could lead to your next big business deal. And it's important to look your best because, as this friend also says, "You are your brand."

But lately I've realized that the concept of staying ready applies to so much more than your appearance. As a writer, my blog and website must look their best, too. After all, you never know who's looking.

This morning I was featured on ABC 33/40's Talk of Alabama. I was discussing how I succeeded in exercising every day for 365 days. This segment came about not because I pitched the idea to the show. It happened because one of the show's producers read my blog post about my fitness challenge and she contacted me about coming on the show. What an honor! But this is an honor that wouldn't have happened had I not been updating my blog, had I not had current contact information posted on my site, and had I not checked my email.

ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Think about how you feel when your house is a mess and an unexpected guest drops by. The same thing can happen with your blog. In 2013 my blog was featured on Clutch Magazine. I had no idea this was about to happen and so my site wasn't really ready for guests. I got a TON of traffic from this article and, believe it or not, I still do. But I always wonder how many of the people who visited my blog from that article didn't stick around because my site wasn't at its best.

Here are five tips for how to keep your blog ready for guests:

1. Be sure your About page is interesting, informative, and up-to-date.

2. Be sure your Contact page includes an email address that you check regularly.

3. Be sure you have high quality content on your home page.

4. Be sure your blog doesn't look like a ghost town. Either update it regularly or remove the dates from your posts.

5. Be sure you have a way for people to subscribe to posts by email or to subscribe to your email newsletter.

What tips do you have on how to stay ready so you won't have to get ready. 

My Hair Is My Brand and That's OK

A few years ago I realized that, whether I like it or not, my hair is part of my personal brand.  Even though I want to be known for my writing, teaching, and feminism my curly coif frequently steals the show. I could pout about this or I could roll with it. I decided to go with the latter and I often use conversations about hair as a way to break the ice when meeting someone new or when at a networking event. 

I'm a member of a Facebook group for naturalistas like myself and was recently put #OnBlast. This means I had to answer some questions about my natural hair journey. And when you put a writer on blast she's going to turn it into a blog post! So...

How long have you been natural and how did you come to the decision to go natural?

I started wearing my hair in its naturally curly state in 2002. Back then "going natural" wasn't a thing. I didn't even say that's what I was doing. I just said, "I'm wearing my hair curly now." While I did have a relaxer when I was younger, I got relaxers so infrequently that I never had an addiction to the so-called "creamy crack." My drug of choice was heat. I basically tried to burn my hair into submission using the hottest blow dryer and flat iron I could find. This process was ridiculous and, of course, very damaging to my hair. During the summer of 2002 I was living in Louisville, Kentucky for an internship and my roommate at the time, who was watching my tussle with my tresses, said to me, "Maybe your hair doesn't want to be straight. Why don't you just wear it curly?" 

Her words changed everything. As crazy as it might sound, in the 21 years I had been alive at that time NO ONE had ever said to me that it would be OK for my hair to not be straight. Growing up I had always been made to believe that pretty hair was straight hair. But in that moment I decided to embrace my curls. What was amazing is that after embracing my natural hair I began to embrace my authentic personality as well. Accepting your hair is a great first step toward accepting yourself. 

Did you big chop or transition? 

I transitioned even though, as I mentioned, this is not terminology that I used. I just stopped getting a relaxer and stopped straightening my hair. And then I went to a local drug store and just started experimenting with hair care products. At one time I even used mousse! 

What advice do you wish you had but didn't at the start of your journey?

Any advice would have been helpful! There were no natural hair blogs or YouTube channels to help me back then, Fortunately, my cousin Tasha went natural at the same time so she was my support system and my partner in hair product experiments!

What's your favorite product, style, regimen, and/or tip? 

People who know me well know that I get bored very easily. I think this character trait has been transferred to my hair because after using a product for a long time one day it will just stop working on my hair. So I change products every year or so. That said, I am a walking, living, breathing advertisement for Shea Moisture. Even when my hair or I get bored with a product I just switch to another Shea Moisture product. Previously, I was all about their Coconut & Hibiscus line. I used the shampoo, conditioner, Curl & Style Milk, and Curl Enhancing Smoothie. Recently I've replaced Curl Enhancing Smoothie with the Superfruit Complex Hair Masque (which is supposed to be a deep conditioner, but I use it as a leave-in). I really like how my hair shines when I use that. And I've recently started using the Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Conditioner. It's great for dry hair and it smells so good I want to marry it!

The main tip that I would give to naturalistas is "Do you boo!" Seriously. Find the products, regimen, and styles that work best for you and don't worry about what everyone else is doing. I love Shea Moisture, but you may find that those products don't work for your hair at all. Yes, it's fun to get tips from friends and if their suggestions work for you -- great! If not, that's OK too. Going natural is about being authentic.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

3 Must-Read Pieces on Selma

On Friday night I saw Selma, Ava DuVernay's film that depicts the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. 

I cried off all my mascara less than ten minutes into the film.

As I left the theater I knew there was no way I would be able to write a blog post about that movie. There simply are no words to express how powerful it is, no way to describe the impact it had on me.

Fortunately, others have been able to find the words that escape me.

My husband, who is a columnist for The Birmingham News, wrote a compelling piece on why the movie is especially important at such a time as this -- in the wake of Black Live Matters protests and other modern-day civil rights issues.

Birmingham-based blogger Alexis Barton wrote a great review detailing the many reasons you should go see this movie RIGHT NOW, including the fact that DuVernay highlighted the contributions that women made to the movement.

And in his piece for WBHM 90.3 FM, Birmingham's NPR station, Andrew Yeager captured the reactions of Selma residents who saw the movie, some of whom were actually involved in the marches and have the scars to prove it.

I am disappointed that some people are attempting to discount the movie due to "historical inaccuracies" such as President Lyndon B.  Johnson's portrayal and the exaggerated tensions between President Johnson and King.  First, as my husband states in his article, the movie is a drama not a documentary. Second, as Barton writes, "I don’t hear these arguments around films or television shows like Gone with the Wind or Mad Men, pieces of pure fiction which also play fast and loose with historical characterizations." And finally, such complaints completely draw attention away from the true message and purpose of the movie.

This is not President Johnson's story!

This is the story of the men and women who put their lives on the line for a right that many of us today take for granted. This is a story about the courage and dignity of a people determined to no longer be treated as second-class citizens.

And this is a story that everyone should see.

Help Me Run Like a Girl

Here are three things you should know about me:

1) This year I am striving to walk/run 1,200 miles.
2) I must listen to music when I run. My body is incapable of making the motions one must make in order to run without music playing in my ears. Seriously.
3) The last time I updated my running playlist the United States hadn't yet had an African American president.

OK. That last statement is a bit of an exaggeration, but Nas' song "Black President" (which was released during Obama's first campaign) is on my playlist.

My point is this -- I desperately need some new music to run to!

I'd love a list of girl power anthems to listen to as I run the Hot Chocolate 5K in Atlanta on January 25.

Can you help?

Here's a list of some of songs I currently run to so that you can get an idea of what I like:

"Run the World (Girls)," Beyonce (I'm probably never replacing this song.)
"Fergalicious," Fergie
"4 Minutes," Madonna ft. Justin Timberlake
"Bang Bang,"
"Boom Boom Pow," Black Eyed Peas
"Countdown," Beyonce
Everyone Nose" Remix,  N.E.R.D. ft. Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Pusha T. (No, that's not a typo in the song title. Yes, this is a song about using drugs.)
"Eyes Like Yours," Shakira
"Headsprung," LL Cool J
"Hero," Nas
"Lights Camera Action," Mr. Cheeks
"Street Lights," Kanye West
"Streets on Fire," Lupe Fiasco
"Stronger," Kanye West
"Tunnel Vision," Justin Timberlake
"Yellow," Coldplay

What songs should be on my new "Run Like a Girl" playlist? 

Friday, January 9, 2015

5 Things That Made Me a Happy Feminist This Week

1. Clarissa Explains White Supremacy. Yes, you read that right. Here are two of my favorites from this new meme series.

2. This Vine video.

3. The Body Love Conference asked us all to add one more resolution to our list -- #lovethemirror.

4. 12 Historical Women Who Gave No F*cks. This BuzzFeed article by Hannah Jewell may have the faint at heart clutching their pearls due to all the f-bombs, but it is inspiring nonetheless. I am currently working on perfecting the art of not giving a f*ck, so this was perfect timing.

5. And finally, I saved this to make me laugh when lupus and I are in battle.

What made you a happy feminist this week?