The Joy of Exercise

Friday, January 31, 2014

Did you catch me on WBHM today discussing my everyday fitness challenge?
If not, hear an excerpt of the interview here

This morning on WBHM 90.3 FM, Birmingham's NPR affiliate, discussing my 365 days of fitness challenge. As I announced at the start of the year, in 2014 I plan to exercise every single day. I am a guest blogger for WBHM's website and for my latest post -- Strong Is the New Skinny -- I explained why I'm embarking on this challenge and had a chat with fitness professional Kelly Creel for some guidance. Creel, who is the co-owner of Inspire Fitness Birmingham, actually doesn't think I'm crazy for planning to work out daily. 

"The human body was engineered for movement, so moving it every day in some form, even if that’s at a light intensity, is a wonderful goal,” Creel said. She did, however, give me some tips on how to prevent injury during my challenge. She recommended light workouts such as restorative yoga or a leisurely walk outside once or twice a week. She also said I should let myself off the hook and take a break if I’m sick.

At this point I've been exercising daily for a month and I'm loving it! If the idea of working out every day sounds absolutely miserable, you probably need to change your idea of exercise. If I were on the treadmill (or dreadmill, as I call) every day or the boring elliptical 7 days a week I would absolutely hate this and probably wouldn't have lasted one week. But for the past month exercise has meant going for a run on my favorite trail, going for a walk with a friend, and grooving and moving with the Wii game Just Dance. It's meant Spinning classes and yoga. It's meant building strength with Jillian Michaels DVDs.  

When I was in college I taught group fitness classes and each time I laced up my sneakers and put on that microphone headset I was in a zone. There was no care or concern that my Funk Aerobics class couldn't dance away. 

But somewhere along the way I started viewing exercise as something that I had to do to shed the extra weight I picked up over the years and tone up muscles that were no longer as firm as they were in college. 

This month, however, I have rediscovered the joy of exercise. Exercise is a privilege. It's a privilege to have a body that, for the most part, moves when and how I want it to. It's a privilege to be able to afford Spinning and yoga classes, running shoes and even $10 Jillian Michaels DVDs. It's privilege to have free time that I may use to do things I love to make my body feel good. Working out isn't something I have to do; it's something I get to do. 

If you missed my interview this morning, I believe it will air again this evening around 5:30 p.m. Tune in! 

I am proud to be a Southerner, especially during the "Snowpocalypse"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Yesterday my sweet home Alabama was hit with an unexpected snow storm around 10 a.m. This resulted in possibly hundreds of people stranded at work or on roadways as many highways and streets became impassable due to ice and abandoned cars. I was one of the lucky ones and managed to make it home in about three hours. (My commute is normally less than 15 minutes.) My younger brother, who was living a doctor's appointment when the snowfall started didn't make it home until about six hours later. 

Things got bad. Really bad. I think Birmingham columnist John Archibald described it best:  

Snowpocalypse. Car-mageddon. Our day of wreckoning. Children separated from their families, pregnant women trapped in SUVs, infants stranded without formula, traffic snarled beyond belief, icy cold misery from the Shoals to the shore.
In a state that always over-reacts, that sells out bread and milk days in advance of "a dusting" and calls off schools at the threat of wind chill, we were caught with our snow pants down.

Some Northerners may scoff at our panic over a few inches of accumulation and deem us as country bumpkins, but those people can suck it! (Oh, I'm sorry. That wasn't very Southern or ladylike of me, was it?) Just as people in some Northern states consider 85 degrees a heat wave because they don't have central air, the South is crippled by snow because we don't have the equipment or resources to handle it. And while I'm lucky enough to have had much experience driving in snow and ice due to my years living in the Midwest, most of my fellow Alabamians don't have such knowledge and thus have every right to freak out when white stuff starts falling from the sky. 

But in the midst of this mess Southerners stuck together. 

Image via The Daily South

Erin Shaw Street of Southern Living and Julie McKinney of Alabama Media Group both compiled examples of heartwarming southern hospitality. 

People were helping complete strangers push cars that were stuck. Businesses and churches opened their doors to stranded motorists who were hungry and cold. People even opened their homes to those who needed a place to sleep overnight. And teachers across the state stayed at school to take care of kids who couldn't make it home. 

Alabama School of Fine Arts kids spending the night at school

We Southerners even used the Internet as a way to help, tweeting out traffic information and details about shelters.  A Facebook page was created to help stranded motorists. 

So, no, we may not have the equipment to deal with snowfall and ice, but we have hearts of kindness that can weather any storm. 

Women Who Rock My World

Monday, January 27, 2014

In honor of last night's 2014 Grammy Awards I thought I'd pretend to be a music blogger and write about some of the female musicians who rocked my world last year. 

First, however, I must digress for the dudes, because my favorite performances last night were all by men in music. Metallica's set made me miss the days when I (believe it or not) was really, really into rock. And didn't you just love the performance of the hit song "Get Lucky"by Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Niles Rodgers and Stevie Wonder? They hit the stage and suddenly the Grammys turned into a big party with all the audience members on their feet dancing and having a good time. With songs like "Get Lucky" and the Oscar-nominated "Happy," Pharrell is making music fun again. (And considering how many awards he won last night, it seems the Grammy folks agree with me.) 

But that Kendrick Lamar/Imagine Dragons collaboration was the best thing I've seen on television in a long time. That performance gave me chills and had my heart racing like I was running a half marathon. In fact, I felt like I could've run a half marathon in that moment.


Now back to the ladies. 

When last night's 2014 Grammy Awards opened with a performance by Beyonce and Jay-Z my hips and shoulders just started shaking and swaying on their own. That's what happens whenever I hear "Drunk In Love" or just about any other song from Bey's latest album, the album that I'm still listening to at least twice a week even though it was released a month and a half ago. 

Although Beyonce's performance was a bit lackluster compared to what we've come to expect from the Queen, I will continue to rock out to her unapologetically feminist album. (And no, I don't think Beyonce's sexually explicit songs or last night's sensual performance makes her less of a feminist. Women are sexual beings just as men are and, guess what, that's OK.) Also, I must admit that the way Mr. and Mrs. Carter were gushing over each other throughout last night's show had me gushing too. Remember, y'all, feminism is for lovers

Later in the night Sara Bareilles had the chance to perform her song "Brave" with her idol Carole King. Bareilles has been wowing me with her songwriting and her vocal prowess since her debut album Little Voice with ballads like "Gravity" and feminist tracks like "Fairytale."  

I've seen Bareilles perform live twice and she's one of those few artists who actually sound better sans studio help. I stood in line for hours before the show so I could be front and center for the performance and for hours after the show so I could get a snapshot with her. 

She signed my CD too. 

New and edgy pop singer Lorde took home the Grammys for best pop solo performance and song of the year. She also performed her hit song "Royals" which was my anthem this summer. You can find Lorde's debut release Pure Heroine in heavy rotation in my Mazda. This 17-year-old won me over with her interview last year with Rookie Mag when she stated: 
I’m speaking for a bunch of girls when I say that the idea that feminism is completely natural and shouldn’t even be something that people find mildly surprising, it’s just a part of being a girl in 2013. 

Yes. Feminism is natural. That's music to my ears.

On Battling the Birthday Blues

Friday, January 24, 2014

So…during my 30th birthday celebration this happened.

For the first time in my life I am not looking forward to my birthday.

If you know me well, you know I love birthdays -- not just my birthday but everybody's! I consider a birthday a perfect reason to have a party. But in about two weeks I'll be turning 33 and this year I don't feel like celebrating.

It's like I'm having the blues most folks get when they're turning 30, but three years later.

As my 33rd birthday approaches I've been sitting around thinking of all the things I had hoped to accomplish by now that I haven't.

I realize this makes me an ungrateful brat.

I realize that instead of dwelling on dreams that haven't come to fruition I should be thanking God for the ones that have. Instead of focusing on the things I don't have in my life, I should be counting my blessings.

I have lived all over the country and traveled to Puerto Rico, Nicaragua and Canada.

I have a master's degree from one of the best public institutions in the country -- UC Berkeley.

I have interviewed celebrities like Jamie Foxx and Ani DiFranco.

I have seen my byline in the Chicago Sun Times, The Seattle Times, USA Today and a number of national magazines.

I married my best friend.

I have the privilege of teaching smart, funny, kind, and unbelievably talented teens every single day.

I am thankful for parents who hugged me every day and told me they loved me every night.

I am grateful for my love for the written word.

I am thankful for the people who read this little blog of mine.

I am grateful for my body and its ability to walk, run, and dance.

I am thankful for the wonderful women I've met through See Jane Write.

I am grateful that I live in a country and in an era that afford me the opportunity to look at my life and reshape into exactly what I want it to be.

Style and Substance - Can Women Be Celebrated for Both?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Image by the USDA via Flickr/Creative Commons

Last Friday Michelle Obama celebrated her 50th birthday. Many people -- from journalists to politicians to everyday citizens -- sent the First Lady well wishes via social media. 

Alabama-based writer Cassie Fambro, however, felt that many of these good intentions missed the mark. Most people seemed more focused on Mrs. Obama's sculpted triceps and trendy frocks than on the work she's done over the past several years, Fambro laments in her article "Twitter wishes Michelle Obama a happy birthday, but makes it about style over substance."

Fambro writes:

Instead of linking to the efforts Michelle Obama has made to promote healthy eating and exercise with "Let's Move," mainstream media was guilty of linking to which dresses they liked best that the first lady wore., for example, shared 15 style lessons from the First Lady.  CNN focused on "How Michelle Obama used style to move a nation." 

Fambro says at least Bill Clinton got it right. He tweeted: 

Happy 50th to @FLOTUS Michelle Obama. Thanks for the great work you do with @LetsMove to help our kids get healthy.

Fambro's article, made an excellent point but also made me wonder if it will ever be possible for a woman to be celebrated for both style and substance. I certainly admire the FLOTUS for both. I applaud her efforts to end childhood obesity, the successful career she had before becoming First Lady, and the moving speeches she has given while on the campaign trail for her husband. But I also love that she bucks the typical First Lady attire and rocks a style all her own. And, yes, when I'm working out in my living room to Jillian Michaels DVDs I am usually thinking about how I really want some Michelle Obama guns. 

But, again, is it possible for women to be generally recognized for both substance and style? 

I'm a girl who loves fashion. Though I don't claim to be a style maven yet, I do put thought and careful consideration into what I wear - striving to assemble outfits that are both fashionable and functional. So, yes, I walk a little taller when someone compliments what I'm wearing. But to be clear, I don't wear what I wear simply because I'm fishing for compliments. I wear what I wear simply because I want to. Wearing cute clothes is fun and makes me happy. The compliments are just an added perk. And I love Mrs. Obama's style because she seems to be the kind of lady who wears what she wants, also.

And while compliments on my clothes are great, I want even more accolades for my writing and my teaching. My point is I want to be sharp in every sense of the word -- a sharply dressed lady with a sharp mind.

But women who take pride in their appearance are often considered self-centered or vain or less intelligent. 

Even some of my fellow feminists claim that women who bother to paint their nails or pick out pretty pencil skirts are wasting precious time that should be used on writing, organizing and smashing the patriarchy.

So often women are told that we must avoid trendy attire, clothes that accentuate our femininity and colors like pink in order to be taken seriously. 

In her TED talk on feminism, that's now famous after being featured on Beyonce's new album, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie admits that even she has struggled with this: 

The first time I taught a writing class in graduate school, I was worried. I wasn't worried about the material I would teach because I was well prepared and I was going to teach what I enjoyed teaching. Instead I was worried about what to wear. I wanted to be taken seriously. I knew that because I was female I would automatically have to prove my worth and I was worried that if I looked too feminine I would not be taken seriously. I really wanted to wear my shiny lip gloss and my girly skirt, but I decided not to. Instead I wore a very serious, very manly, and very ugly suit because the sad truth is when it comes to appearance we start off with men as the standard, as the norm.

Adichie goes on to point out the fact that when a man is getting ready for a business meeting he never has to worry about looking "too masculine." 

If Adichie could go back in time, she'd wear her shiny lip gloss and girly skirt. 

She says:

I wish I had not worn that ugly suit that day. Had I then had the confidence I have now to be myself my students would have benefited even more from my teaching because I would have been more comfortable and more fully and more truly myself. I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and for my femininity. I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be. 

And so I want my writing and my wardrobe to look good. I don't think I should have to choose between one or the other. 

On Being a Role Model

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mrs. Bowser in her classroom

I came to a frightening revelation the other day -- I am a role model.

I never set out to be, but if you are a teacher you are a role model, whether you like it or not.

Chances are, you're a role model too -- whether it's to your colleagues, your children, or even your neighbors.

Instead of shirking this responsibility as so many celebrities attempt to do, I have decided to embrace it -- even though the thought of doing so is terrifying.

This weekend I spent some time thinking about how to be a better role model to my students in hopes of offering suggestions of how you can be a better role model to the people in your sphere of influence too.

Don't pretend to be perfect. I am vulnerable with my students and while some may consider this a weakness, I do not. I admit when I mess up. I ask my students for help (especially when some piece of technology in the classroom is, once again, not working). And I don't pretend to have all the answers. If I don't know something, I say so. Being a role model doesn't mean having it all figured it out. No one has it all figured out. My students need to see that it's possible to be confident and successful without being perfect. The people you're influencing need to see that too.

Listen. In my class I do not stand up and lecture every day or even most days. Instead, my English classes involve a lot of discussion of the literature that we study. I sit down with my students and we talk about the literature -- the symbolism, the implied stories, the historical context, and the relevance to current culture. I listen to what my students think about the works we're studying and I respect their opinions even if they have some really wacky theories about what really happened at the end of The Turn of the Screw. Listen to the ideas of others. You'll help them feel empowered and you'll probably learn something too.

Listening and being vulnerable are two things I believe I do well. But there is always room for improvement. There are some things at which I need to be better.

Keep reaching out. It's natural for a teacher to be closer to some students than others. Some students only talk to me about literature and essay writing while others cry on my shoulder after breaking up with a boyfriend or having a fight with their parents. I never let such relationships influence my grading, but I do need to get better about striving to build meaningful relationships with the students who are all business too. I need to have more conversations with them between classes about the books they love to read, their favorite subjects in school, and their plans for college. I need to make sure they know they're important to me. Likewise, keep reaching out to the people around you -- even the people with whom you don't feel you have much in common. Make sure everyone around you knows you respect and honor them for who they are. I believe that will encourage them to respect and honor others too.

End negative self talk. The student population at my school is predominantly female, so I am a especially mindful of the kind of example I'm setting for the girls in my classes. I need to be sure that I never say negative things about my weight or my looks in front of them. I would never want the young women in my classes to take negative things I say about myself and repeat those phrases to the mirror. So please make sure you're promoting positive self talk around the girls in your life too.

What tips do you have to offer on being a positive role model? 

5 Things That Made Me a Happy Feminist This Week, vol. 2

Friday, January 17, 2014

When I wrote about five things that made me a happy feminist last week, I didn't intend to make this a regular feature of the blog. But things keep bringing joy to my feminist heart. So here we go

1. Gabby gets the  last laugh. 

When some Twitter trolls had some not-so-nice things to say about Gabourey Sidibe as she walked the red carpet at the Golden Globes on Sunday, Gabby's response via Twitter was perfect: 

"To people making mean comments about my GG pics, I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night. #JK," 

Love it!

Haters gon' hate. 

2. Beyonce wrote an essay. And since I too write essays I decided this must mean I am Beyonce. (Just let me roll with this.) 

3. A colleague of mine asked me to come to his class give a guest lecture… on Beyonce! 

4. On the same day I wrote a post on why I believe Christian men should want a feminist wife, Sarah Bessey, a.k.a. Jesus Feminist, wrote an acute post in response to Candace Cameron's comments on submission and "biblical marriage." Bessey and I both believe marriage is about mutual submission. As Bessey states in her post: 

My husband and I submit to one another as we both submit to Christ. We learned that from our Bibles.

5. An acquaintance of mine sent me a Facebook message that read: 

"I did not know I was a feminist until I met you…you have rocked my world."

And with that she most certainly made my week. 

What made you happy this week? 

"Gender equality is a myth," Beyonce says

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Beyonce and I have yet another thing in common. Not only are we both 32-year-old married black feminists with unique names and a love for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk  “We Should All Be Feminists,” but now we both write essays! (This is all leading to the day we become BFFs. I can feel it.) 

Mrs. Knowles-Carter penned an essay titled "Gender Equality Is a Myth" for The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink. The complete report can be downloaded for free through today.  I plan to read and write about the full report soon. 

In her essay, Beyonce states that "We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn't a reality yet. Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes." 

She goes on to say that in order for gender equality to be achieved one day, men must take a stand on the issue too:

"Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters earn more—commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender," she writes. 

Beyonce believes gender equality starts with how we raise our children: "We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible."

Bey's contribution is short, sweet, and to the point and as The Hairpin noted, "Bey is as completely right as she is obvious."

The ideas she puts forth are simple. Quite frankly, they're common sense. But sadly I fear there folks out there who would still disagree. There are people who still see gender equality as some radical notion from us "crazy liberals" and not the simple notion that women are people too.  

As Beyonce states in the piece, "Humanity requires both men and women, and we are equally important and need one another. So why are we viewed as less than equal?" 

Can you be a feminist wife?

Monday, January 13, 2014

At the launch party for my online magazine -- with my man by my side

"Can you be a feminist wife?"

Apparently this is a question some people were discussing one night last week on Twitter. I believe this conversation was taking place in the wee hours of the morning, but I'm a 30-something English teacher which means I am in the bed (not on Twitter) in the wee hours of the morning. But I awoke Wednesday to find that a male friend of mine (who knows I'm a feminist and a wife) had tweeted me about this topic, wanting me to comment.

My response was simple. It had to be. This is Twitter we're talking about. I simply replied: "Yes, you can be a feminist wife. Anyone who says you can't doesn't understand what feminism really is."

But here's what I would have said if I had had more than 140 characters with which to respond…

Yes, a woman can be a feminist and a wife and, quite frankly, husbands should want their wives to be feminists.

Just so we're all on the same page, feminism is not a movement about hating men, marriage, motherhood and makeup. Feminism is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Period. Now, things get complicated when we start discussing how women (and men) go about living out feminism in their everyday lives. But if we always come back to that notion of equality, we feminists can always find common ground.

According to feminism a woman is equal to her husband. I realize some men may have a problem with this notion but, fortunately, I didn't marry a man with such issues. I married a man who doesn't want me to shrink myself down so he can puff himself up. We build up each other.

In my marriage, my husband and I are partners. We make decisions and plans together. We respect each others' gifts and goals.  We support one another always. And our marriage and our lives are better for it. I could not be the strong and supportive partner that my husband needs, wants, and deserves if I didn't view myself as his equal, if I didn't view myself as a full and complete person worthy of freedom of love.

As British suffragist and journalist Rebecca West famously said, "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."

As a Christian, I know that the implication that we women are not, in fact, people -- the implication that the wife is somehow beneath the husband --  is loudest, unfortunately, in the church. Men and women alike love to trot out Bible verses about women being submissive to their husbands and the need for women to basically sit down and shut up. People who use (abuse?) these verses tend to ignore the cultural context of these verses and, in some cases, even ignore the other verses that follow.

Yes, Ephesians 5:22 says "wives submit to your husbands," but just a few lines down in verse 25 the Scripture reads, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." When you put these verses together they do not produce an image of a tyrannical husband lording over his weak doormat of a wife. These verses paint a beautiful picture of two people -- both created in the image of God -- living a life of love and mutual submission.

I put my husband's needs before my own. My husband puts my needs before his. And God is the spiritual head of our household. Our relationship isn't perfect. Sometimes we get selfish, mess up, and step on each other's toes. And then we forgive, forget, and keep dancing through life, hand in hand.

When reading Sarah Bessey's book Jesus Feminist I was brought to tears as she described her feelings for her husband because her words perfectly described my feelings for the magnificent man in my life:

I trust my husband completely -- with every bit of our life and with myself. My trust is not because I must, not because I believe God commands me to submit without question to his leadership because I am easily deceived or weak. I submit because I am walking in the Way of Jesus. As a man of God, [my husband] serves me, too. 

Men, don't you want your wives writing words of such beauty and grace about you? Or do you want your woman to simply shrug her shoulders and say, "Well, I just let the man be the man."

My hope is that one day conversations about feminism and marriage would not focus on who's in charge and instead shift to a discussion of how a husband and wife can uplift each other and use their talents and strengths for the benefit of their relationship, their family and the world around them.

Bessey, of course, explains this best when she writes:

If a woman is held back, minimized, pushed down, or downplayed, she is not walking in the fullness God intended for her as his image bearer… If we minimize our gifts, hush our voice, and stay small in a misguided attempt to fit a weak and culturally conditioned standard of femininity, we cannot give our brothers the partner they require in God's mission for the world. 

What are your thoughts on feminism and marriage? 

5 Things That Made Me a Happy Feminist This Week

Friday, January 10, 2014

1. On Monday, it was announced that Saturday Night Live has FINALLY hired another black woman. Sasheer Zamata will be the show's first black female cast member in five years. I later learned the show has also brought on two black female writers -- LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones. 

2. On Tuesday, Google recognized the 123rd birthday of Zora Neale Hurston by honoring her with a Google doodle. Hurston, the Harlem Renaissance author best known for the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, was arguably the most widely published female writer of her era and is one of the women who inspired me to write.

3. On Wednesday I cried like a little punk while watching an inspiring video of Lakeisha Shurn, who recorded a video diary every day for 100 days of her efforts to boost her self-esteem and discover self-love through daily exercise.

4. On Thursday, my blog post on learning to love my name was featured on

5. Also, on Thursday I found a list of 15 awesome Golden Girls items that I'm now adding to my birthday wish list. Here's a sample:

Available via the Pick Me Cups Etsy shop

Available via the Toastertees Etsy shop

What made you happy this week?

Sasheer Zamata -- The Woman Who May Get Me To Watch SNL

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Twitter always finds a way to distract me.

It was Monday, Jan. 6 and my phone was abuzz with notifications alerting me that several people I follow on Twitter had started following @thesheertruth. Being the journalist/social media junkie that I am, I had to investigate why.

I soon discovered that @thesheertruth is the Twitter account of Sasheer Zamata -- Saturday Night Live's newest cast member and the show's first female black cast member in years. The late-night sketch comedy show hasn't had a black woman as part of its case since Maya Rudolph left five years ago.

SNL has faced criticism for its lack of diversity for a long time. There have only been four women of color on the series in its 38-year run.  Recently Kenan Thompson -- the black male actor who often plays black female characters on the show -- suggested in an interview that there where no black actresses on the show because there were none qualified for the job.


Zamata's first live episode will be Jan. 18, featuring Drake as host and musical guest.

I'll be honest, I typically only watch SNL when I know a celebrity I like will be on the show. But now I may be tuning in more often and not simply because Zamata shares my skin tone.

I think I'm going to really dig Zamata. First of all, her Twitter bio reads: "Comedian, Actress, Writer, Beyonce."


She's also one of the masterminds behind "Pursuit of Sexiness," an Internet-based show she created with Nicole Byer.  "Pursuit of Sexiness" received rave reviews in HuffPost and The Hairpin and was named one of the Top Web Series of 2013 by Variety

I spent some time on her website viewing some of the hilarious videos she's created. Here's one of my favorites:

I'm really looking forward to January 18.

Monday Motivation: Confidence Is Contagious

Monday, January 6, 2014

I'm so proud of Cydni Robertson and the success of her Serve and Strut Birmingham Brunch.

As a writer and English teacher I'm constantly thinking about theme and I have a habit of not only searching for motif in works of literature, but in my life as well. The theme for my day on Saturday, January 4 was clear: beauty. 

I woke up, opened my prayer journal and at the top of the page for January 4 I found this verse: 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11 

I later headed to the Birmingham Serve and Strut Brunch, an event hosted and organized by my friend and fashion blogger Cydni Robertson of The brunch featured a three-course meal, a comedy act by Emana Rachelle, and door prizes. The event also included a video and inspiring words from Cydni that could put some strut in any woman's step. 

Cydni wanted the women attending to have the opportunity to "give the gift of style" too and we were asked to donate a pair of new or gently used women’s shoes that will be given to Birmingham-area women’s charities.

But as I sat at the event I realized that there's an even greater gift we women can give to one another: confidence. 

At the start of the event Cydni said something that really stuck with me. She said that insecurity is contagious, but then she reminded us that confidence is contagious too. How true this statement is!

Think about those people in your life who seem confident but when you're around them you feel worse about yourself. Think about those people who try to lift themselves up by putting other people down. Those people clearly aren't truly confident. They're insecure -- very insecure -- and you feel like crap around them because their low self-confidence crud is making you sick. 

Now think about that woman in your life or that speaker you heard at a conference or even a friend you had back in high school or college that made you feel beautiful and bold. That's a woman secure in who she is and you felt like you could do anything when you were around because you were catching a bit of her confidence. 

I felt this happening even as I sat in my seat at Saturday's brunch. Cydni showed a video for which she interviewed female family members of a variety of ages about beauty and self-esteem. You could feel the confidence of these women leap off the screen and land in your lap.

Though the holidays are over, gift-giving should continue all year long, but not in the form of material goods that "moths and vermin destroy" and that thieves can "break in and steal." This year I want to give the gift of confidence by exuding the very confidence I hope to inspire in others. I want to give the gift of confidence to every woman around me -- to the young women that I teach, to the women who attend See Jane Write events, and to the women who read this blog. 

Insecurity is contagious. Confidence is contagious too. What are you spreading? 

Everyday Feminism, Everyday Fitness

Friday, January 3, 2014

To kick off my 365 days of exercise, my girls and I took a class together from my favorite spin instructor Gabe Rios. 

In 2014 I plan to exercise every day. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I’ve challenged myself to work out for 365 consecutive days before and each time I failed. But I think the clean slate of a new year will give me the motivation I need. There’s something about hanging a new calendar that makes me feel as if I can do anything.

As I mentioned in my list of resolutions, I’m not exercising daily in hopes of one day being skinny. In fact, I don’t plan to weigh myself all year.  I’m exercising daily because I want to be strong.

I’ve written here and for See Jane Write Magazine about how exercise (specifically my Jillian Michaels obsession) helps me as a writer.  But I believe fitness is a feminist issue too.

As Dr. Caroline Heldman says in her TED Talk, “The Sexy Lie”

We raise our little boys to view their bodies as tools to master their environmentsWe raise our little girls to view their bodies as projects to constantly be improved. What if women started to view their bodies as tools to master their environment? As tools to get you from one place to the next? As these amazing vehicles for moving through the world in a new way?

I want to work out every day because I believe doing so will help me see my body in a new way.  I believe daily exercise will help me begin to see my body not as something that needs to be fixed but as an amazing vehicle for moving through the world. And I wish the same for you.

It’s time for feminists to reclaim fitness.

I’ll be sharing my workouts on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtags #feministfitness and #everydayfitness. I hope you’ll join me and share your workouts too.

My Feminist Resolutions for 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Queen Javacia: Yes, I wore a tiara to brunch. No, I didn't care that people were staring at me. 

Happy New Year!

News Year's Eve and New Year's Day are my favorite holidays. I love partying with friends on New Year's Eve and I have a tradition of going to brunch every New Year's Day.

I also love making New Year’s resolutions, but oftentimes they don’t love me back. Let’s face it, most New Year’s resolutions are based on the notion that you’re just not good enough. You’re too fat or too skinny. You’re too loud or too shy. You don’t have a man and you need to fix that fast.

So this year my goals and resolutions are all about empowerment.  

I shared my writing resolutions earlier this week at

Here are my feminist resolutions for 2014: 

  • I will exercise every day, not to lose weight but to gain strength.
  • I resolve to eat right, finally, not because I want to be skinny but because I want to be healthy.
  • This year I will pitch story ideas to all my favorite women’s publications and websites.
  • I am determined to land my own column on women’s issues in a national or local publication.
  • In 2014 I will re-read my favorite classic and contemporary feminist texts.
  • This year I will cherish my friendships and make more time for my girls.
  • This year I will cherish my marriage and make more time for my husband.
  • In 2014 I will embrace being a sexy feminist.
  • I resolve to spread the gospel of Jesus feminism and show my Christian friends that feminism is not a dirty word.
  • This year I will make a difference in the life of a girl.
  • This year I will make a difference in the life of another woman.

What are your resolutions for 2014?