Going Natural: It's Not Just a Hairstyle, It's a Lifestyle

Saturday, March 29, 2014


It was the summer of 2002, and I was probably on hour three of the tedious process of attempting to straighten my hair with all the heat my scalp could stand. This, of course, was in addition to the chemical hair relaxer occasionally applied to my tresses. While I wrestled with my hair, my roommate turned to me and said, "Maybe your hair doesn't want to be straight. Why don't you just wear it curly?"

Those words changed everything.

I was 21 at the time, and in my two decades of living no one had ever suggested that wearing my hair in its naturally curly state was OK. Many black girls grow up with everyone from the media to their mommas telling them that pretty hair is straight hair. So when an African American woman decides - as I did that summer - to forego straightening her hair with chemical relaxers, it can feel like a revolutionary act. Or even a spiritual experience.

"It's not just a hairstyle, it's a lifestyle," says Victor Simmons. Simmons and his brother, Jeffrey Simmons, started the Visions Natural Hair & Health Expo in Birmingham three years ago.

In my latest post for WBHM I discussed my decision to go natural 12 years ago and chatted with the creators of the Visions Natural Hair & Health Expo. Read the complete post and hear an excerpt my on-air segment here.

How to Beat Feminist Burnout - Guest Post for I Am That Girl

Thursday, March 27, 2014

image via mauivents.com
I recognized the look in their faces. It was a look I’d seen in the mirror far too many times. It was the look of frustration and complete overwhelm. It was the look of feminist burnout.
The two young women standing before me were two students in the 10th grade English class I taught that year. They were two students that – after the school day was done – I had long talks with about feminism, activism, and art.  
These two students of mine came to me on this particular afternoon filled with rage about rape culture and feeling helpless to do anything about it or anything else. They began to rattle off all the injustices we women still face and the sexist attitudes that they felt would prevent our society from ever achieving gender equality.
Then they took a breath and looked to me, the grownup in the room, for answers.
I had none.
I don’t know of any simple ways to end rape culture or change the sexist attitudes held by both men and women.
But I do know how to beat feminist burnout. I know how to be a happy feminist.
Beating feminist burnout is the topic of my first guest post for I Am That Girl, a feminist website, book, and movement for teen girls. 
You can read the complete post here
I am so excited, honored and proud to be part of the I Am That Girl family. 

The Writeous Babe Book Club reads Jesus Feminist

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hey babes!

Last week I announced that I want to start a book club.

But this week I've been so stressed out I've been having facial muscle spasms, headaches, and dizzy spells. Thus this book club of mine needs to be as laid back as possible. So here's the deal: each month I'll read a book and post about it weekly. I would LOVE for you to read along with me and share your thoughts in the comments sections of the book posts or even write about it on your own blog and share the links to your posts.

For those of you in Birmingham, we'll get together at the end of the month to discuss the book IRL and nosh on snacks.

To kick things off I'm re-reading Sarah Bessey's Jesus Feminist in April.

Today happens to be Bessey's 35th birthday and to celebrate she's giving instead of receiving gifts: she's offering the Kindle and Nook editions of her book for only $1.99.

Get more details at SarahBessey.com.

If you plan to read Jesus Feminist with me next month, leave a comment to let me know.

Identify Your Dream

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Eunice Elliott

Last week I discussed having so many goals that I felt overwhelmed by them. I came to the conclusion that I needed to focus on my dreams one at a time by making one my top priority at least for 12 months. But then I had no idea which aspiration to concentrate on first.

Enter Eunice Elliott. This Birmingham-based motivational speaker helped me make my choice. Visit See Jane Write to find out how and what I decided.

The Bookish Babe

Friday, March 14, 2014

Let's start a feminist book club!

Because I'm an English teacher I read constantly. Each time I teach a book, I reread it. That means every year I read The Scarlet Letter, The Awakening, Fahrenheit 451, The Turn of the Screw, Anthem, To Kill a Mockingbird, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and a number of other works of classic literature.

Unfortunately, this doesn't leave much time for the contemporary fiction, memoirs, or feminist non-fiction that I long to read. But last month when I lead a group of women who were reading and discussing Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In I made time to reread the book. There was no room for excuses. If I didn't reread the material, I couldn't be a good group leader. I took the task as seriously as I take my job as a teacher.

And so I realized what I need to do to read more -- I need to start a book club.

But I also need your help.

I'm trying to decide on a few things about this little book club of mine.

Should the book club be virtual, IRL, or both? I could post videos and discussion questions online or if most of the people who want to participate are in Birmingham we could actually meet at a local coffee shop once a month. Or I could always do some combination of both. What do you think?

Should I host the book club here, on the See Jane Write Birmingham blog or at SeeJaneWriteMagazine.com?  

What types of books should we read? I'd like this to be a feminist book club, but will we read books on writing, creative non-fiction, fiction, or a mixture of all these genres? I prefer non-fiction (it's the journalist in me) but I do like variety.

I'd really appreciate feedback and feel free to suggest specific books too.

Learning to Say No… to Yourself

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Do you have a personal mission statement?

I do. I first drafted one about two years ago when I realized that having one would be the only thing that could help me learn to say "No." I was ridiculously overcommitted and realized that by stretching myself so thin I was living a life of mediocrity. I was good at a lot of things but great at nothing. With my personal mission statement in hand I cut out all commitments that didn't directly further that mission.

I recently revisited and revamped my statement in preparation for co-leading a workshop on the matter. Here's my current personal mission statement:

my personal mission statement, taped to my bedroom mirror

But this mission of mine still hasn't solved one problem: while this statement has helped me learn to say "No" to other people, it has not taught me how to say "No" to myself.

I have so many ideas, so many things I want to do and I'm trying to do them all at once. And that's not working. AT. ALL.

I want to take my teaching career to the next level.
I want to do more freelance writing and see my byline in all my favorite publications.
I want See Jane Write to offer more resources to its members and to the Birmingham community.
I want to host a See Jane Write conference.
I want to run a successful online magazine.
I want to be a blogging star.
I want to write a book.

I'm currently working on most of these in some capacity but not making much progress on any of them because I'm spreading myself too thin, just as I was when I was saying "Yes" to every single person who asked for my help or participation.

At the 2011 Skirt Creative Conference, which I had the privilege to attend, author Claire Cook told the ambitious ladies of letters in the audience that we can do it all, but not all at once.

It's time I took her words of wisdom to heart.

I'd like to accomplish all the goals listed above by age 40. That's seven years from now and I just so happen to have seven goals listed. So each year one goal will take priority over all others.

Now I'm going to go stare at the ceiling and try to figure out my focus for the next 12 months.

How did you learn to say "No" to yourself? 

Ban "bossy," but don't stop there

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I'm sorry to write about the Ban Bossy campaign two days in a row. But yesterday, after sharing my last post via social media I found myself essentially writing a second blog post in Facebook threads.  I figured I should get some of those pageviews and not give them all to Mark Zuckerberg.

Some people seem to have missed the point of the Ban Bossy campaign.

Firstly, #BanBossy, in my opinion, is not telling parents to stop correcting their daughters if they're being disrespectful or rude. 

Parents may look at this campaign and ask, "But what if my daughter is being bossy?" Then you need to do something about it. Nobody's saying let your kid be a jerk. 

Ironically, in her post The Problem with Banning Bossy, Ann Handley actually stated the point I'd like to make in support of #BanBossy: 

The campaign is really more about banning attitudes than banning the word, of course. In some people’s minds, “woman leader” (“strong woman”) often equals “bossy.” (Or worse.)

Handley said she discussed this campaign with her daughter Caroline and her response (paraphrased by Handley) was:  “But bossy girls aren’t leaders.” 

And Caroline is right. 

Let's look at the definitions Handley lays out in her post: 

Bossy (adjective): Fond of giving people orders; domineering. Synonyms: domineering, pushy, overbearing, imperious, high-handed, authoritation, dictatorial, controlling 

Lead·er·ship (noun): The action of leading a group of people or an organization. Synonyms: guidance, direction, control, management, supervision, superintendence 

But here's the problem. No, leader doesn't equal bossy, but society didn't seem to get that memo, at least when it comes to women and girls. 

If a girl is being bossy, if she is being "domineering," "pushy," or "overbearing" you should absolutely call her out on it and that behavior is absolutely not the makings of a good leader. 

But oftentimes girls offering constructive "guidance" or "direction" are called bossy too. And when those girls become women they're called "bossy," "aggressive," "intimidating" or even "a bitch." 

Secondly, I don't think Facebook chief operating officer and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg, Girl Scouts USA CEO Anna Maria Chávez, or any of the other women involved in this campaign are naive enough to think they will change the world simply by getting parents and teachers to stop calling girls bossy.

Ban bossy, but don't stop there. BanBossy.com offers a wealth of information on how to encourage leadership in girls and even tips for girls themselves. Speak up in class, challenge yourself, ask for help, and don't do everybody's work -- are just a few tips the site offers for girls, tips I could have certainly used when I was growing up. As an educator I especially appreciate the tips for teachers on cultivating gender equity in the classroom. 

BanBossy.com also gives information on great programs like Black Girls Code, which seeks to introduce girls in underrepresented communities to computer programming through workshops and after-school programs. The site also includes links to books and films with strong female characters. 

Lastly, I'm frustrated that we're wasting so much time arguing over semantics. You may be thinking, "I don't think 'bossy' is the word we should be focusing on." And you're right, but you're also missing the point. We shouldn't simply be focusing on "bossy" or any other single word. The goal of the #BanBossy campaign is not to simply ban a five letter word but to start a discussion about and spark action toward encouraging female leadership. Again, it's not about banning a word; it's about banning attitudes that discourage women and girls to speak their minds and strive for lofty goals.

#BanBossy is simply a clever way to get folks' attention about this important issue.  Does this mean #BanBossy is a marketing ploy? Of course, it's a marketing ploy! But, unfortunately, we live in a world where everything, even movements for social change, need a PR plan. I'm not happy about that, but it's the truth. And I'd rather get behind a marketing campaign with a greater cause, a cause that I essentially devote my life to, than a campaign for something ridiculous that I won't give a shit about in two months. 

So remember, you can ban bossy, but please don't stop there because that's not the point. Encourage the girls in your life to be good leaders, whether they're getting called bossy or not.  

Why You Shouldn't Call Your Daughter Bossy

Monday, March 10, 2014

I'm not a parent, but should my life take an unexpected turn I become the mother to a little girl I pledge to never call her bossy. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer and author of the best-selling book Lean In, wants you to make that promise too. 

Sandberg has teamed up with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Girl Scouts USA CEO Anna Maria Chávez to launch a public service campaign called "Ban Bossy." The BanBossy.com website offers tips for girls, parents teachers, managers, and troop leaders on how to encourage young female leaders. 

And the website asks you to publicly pledge via social media to ban the word bossy. Why make such a big deal about such a little word? As stated on BanBossy.com: 

When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don't raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. 

The website also features a video that includes appearances by Sandberg and Rice as well as pop star Beyonce, actress Jennifer Garner and a number of other celebrities. Take a look: 

"I'm not bossy. I'm the boss!" -- that statement by Beyonce makes me want to pump my fist to the sky and yell, "Girl power!" But another thing I really appreciate about this video is that it includes men too. I believe it's important for us all to recognize that if the number of female leaders is going to significantly increase, men must be involved in this movement. They must be willing to mentor and support their female colleagues or employees and fathers must be willing to encourage their daughters to pursue dreams just as bold as the hopes they have for their sons. 

Currently - The Writer's Edition

Sunday, March 9, 2014

At the Vitalogy Wellness Center Open House Party and having too much fun on the job with my pal Tanya.

Currently is a feature Dani Hampton of Sometimes Sweet and several other bloggers I follow occasionally post on their sites. Currently is essentially a list of what you're into at the moment and is a great way for your readers to get to know you better. Today I decided to do a Currently post with a twist. And so I present Currently -- The Writer's Edition. 

Freelancing for UAB Magazine, along with several other local media outlets. Because I am a teacher, my piece State of Education: UAB Alumni Serve at Alabama's Top Teachers means a lot to me. This piece for UAB Magazine was one of the first opportunities I've had to marry my interest in education with my journalistic work. 

Brainstorming ideas for short stories and poems. This is something I haven't done since college, but lately I've been thinking a lot about getting back into writing fiction and poetry. Perhaps it's because I'm so inspired by my students in our school's creative writing department. Or perhaps it's because of all wonderful literature read by the women who participated in Phenomenal Woman, the African-American read-in See Jane Write hosted last month. The powerful prose and poetry read that night reminded me of why I fell in love with writing in the first place. It wasn't see my name in magazines or on the cover of books. It wasn't for blog page views either. I wrote because I loved to do so. Last month's See Jane Write event made me want to write like a girl again. I want to sit in my room for hours writing not because I need to meet a deadline but because I just can't help myself.

Pitching to WBHM. Each month I'm pitching story ideas to my city's NPR affiliate. Each month you can find a new blog post by yours truly on WBHM.org. And on the last Friday of each month you can catch me on the air at 90.3 FM (or on the website if you don't live in Birmingham) discussing my latest post. Last month I explored the meaning of feminism and womanism in a post called In Search of My Womanist Self. You can hear an excerpt of my radio segment here

Blogging about wellness. Not only am I'm writing about my fitness adventures as I attempt to exercise daily, but on March 6 I had the opportunity to cover the Vitalogy Wellness Center Open House Party as part of B-Metro magazine's Blog Team. While I was there I even had my first Ashiatsu massage. That's right; I let somebody walk on my back for the sake of a blog post. It was worth it. 

What's going on in your writing life? 

Fight Like a Girl

Saturday, March 8, 2014

This is supposed to be my tough girl face, but it's hard to look mean when you're having so much fun
(and wearing pink boxing gloves, which, of course, I requested).

I have yet another reason to love Jillian Michaels.

Today I took a boxing bootcamp class at Juarez Boxing with about a dozen members of the Birmingham Girls Club. It was one of the best workouts I've had in a long time and I left the boxing gym feeling like I was Laila Ali. I plan to start taking classes at Juarez Boxing at least once a week. (Birmingham babes, let me know if you'd like to join me for a class.)

Before today I hadn't taken a boxing class in years, so as gym owner Martin Juarez helped me with my boxer hand wraps I felt a bit of trepidation in my belly.

Then our warm up began. Jumping jacks! Quick punches! High knees! My heart rate began to elevate, but as I repeated these exercises for our warm-up circuit I was able to do each move with relative ease. Though I hadn't boxed in years, for my body, this warm up was nothing new as I often do the same exercises when working out with Jillian Michaels DVDs in my living room.

Jumping Jacks! 

After the warmup we gloved up, found a partner, and did a series of workouts around the gym punching heavy bags and speed bags, working on our foot work, jabs, and cross punches in the ring, and jumping rope. And every now and then Juarez would yell, "Stop, drop and give me 10 push ups!"

And I could do it all! In fact, the only time I even had to take breaks was when I was jumping rope and that was due to joint pain, not because I was out of breath.

Martin Juarez (left) demonstrating some punches for us.

Exercising every day and suffering Jillian Michaels screaming at me through my television have really improved my endurance. Don't get me wrong; my skin was still glistening and my clothes soaked with sweat halfway through the bootcamp. This workout was tough, but made me realize that so am I.

This couldn't have happened at a better time. I had been feeling a bit discouraged regarding my goal of exercising every day this year. I haven't missed a day, but when I stepped on the scale at the doctor's office recently and saw that I hadn't lost any weight since my last visit, my heart sank. I know I said I wasn't taking on this 365 Days of Fitness challenge to shed pounds and I meant that. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't hope weight loss would be a side effect.

But today's workout reminded me that weight ain't nothing but a number. My clothes fit better. I feel better. And today I would have made Jillian proud.

Wellness Is Not a Luxury

Friday, March 7, 2014

Last night I let someone walk on my back.

Kao Lee, massage therapist at Vitalogy Wellness Center
Yesterday at the Vitalogy Wellness Center Open House Party I got an Ashiatsu massage from massage therapist Kao Lee. The massage was so wonderful I wanted to ask Lee to marry me, but I figured my husband wouldn't like that very much.

At first I was a bit reluctant to try Ashiatsu, figuring that having an adult stand on my already aching back would be pretty painful. But Lee explained she wouldn't be stomping on me as if smashing grapes, but instead using her feet to make long, gliding strokes across all my aches and pains. Lee also   would not be using all her body weight. By holding on to bars in the ceiling, the Ashiatsu massage therapist can control how much pressure is used during the massage. 

And so I faced my fear and I'm sure glad I did. The tension in my back and shoulders melted away during the massage and the dull ache I'd had in my low back all day was gone. And I got these results without even having a full hour-long treatment!

I attended yesterday's Vitalogy Wellness Center Open House Party as part of the B-Metro Blog Team. It was our job to cover the event live through social media outlets like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

The B-Metro Blog Team having too much fun

Massage therapy is just one of the many services offered at Vitalogy Wellness Center, which opened in Homewood last month.

Dr. Farah Sultan, the medical director and founder of the center, said she opened Vitalogy hoping that it would be a place to inspire Birmingham residents to be more proactive about their health and wellness. In addition to spa services like facials and nail care, Vitalogy also offers fitness and nutrition programs. 

While talking to Dr. Sultan and touring the facility at Vitalogy I began to think a lot about the importance of self-care. 

We women are often not proactive about our health and wellness because we convince ourselves we don't have the time to do so. 

We say we don't have time to exercise; we don't have time to try the yoga classes at Vitalogy that begin on March 18. But Vitalogy yoga instructor Lisa Bridges said it was after the birth of her fourth child that she became dedicated to the practice. As a mother of four Bridges could have definitely determined she was too busy for yoga, but she says it was yoga that helped her relieve stress and balance the demands of motherhood. Today Bridges has 1,000 certification hours in yoga.

Vitalogy yoga instructor Lisa Bridges shows shows B-Metro blogger Lauren Lockhart a few yoga poses.
Photos by Kelli Taylor of Kelli + Daniel Taylor Photography

If you're interested in starting yoga but intimidated by the idea, Bridges can certainly help you with that. Through a program called Body Work, Bridges will meet with you to first evaluate your posture, strength, and flexibility and then will develop a yoga practice customized to fit your needs and teach you how to continue this practice at home and even how to take these methods and modifications into group yoga classes. 

Oh no! Lauren and I need to detox!
We tell ourselves we don't have time to eat right. At the Vitalogy Open House Party last night I took a quiz that would help me determine if I needed to detoxify. 

According to the quiz you should consider a detox if you answer "yes" to four or more questions on the survey. I answered "yes" to nine! 

Personally, I've always been against detox diets as they often require you to starve yourself and drink disgusting concoctions. But Karen Bishop, the registered dietician who helps with Vitalogy's nutrition programs, informed me that when you detoxify with Vitalogy you are not asked to fast. Instead they focus on helping you replenish your body with the nutrients you need and they help you learn to make healthful eating a lifestyle, which, of course, is much better than trying some fad diet. A detox, Bishop said, shouldn't make you feel sluggish and sick. It should make you feel energized. 

When I left last night's event I had one thought reverberating in my mind: Self-care is not a luxury. 

As I've written before, yes, I do believe exercise is a privilegeIt's a privilege to have a body that can move about. It's a privilege to be able to afford yoga classes and even fitness DVDs. And these days it's a privilege to have access to healthy foods. We who have these privileges should not take them for granted. 

But don't misunderstand this to mean that wellness is a luxury. It is not. Wellness is something we all need and deserve. And the key to wellness, I believe, is self-care. 

So take the time you need to exercise. Do what you must to change your diet. And if you can afford it, pay someone to walk on your back. Massage, Lee said, can not only help relax your mind and muscles but can even boost your immune system. 

Remember you can't take care of your loved ones if you don't take care of yourself first. 

100 Happy Days

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Can you be happy 100 days in a row?

Ask me this question and the cynic in me wants to exclaim, "Did you just meet me? Of course I can't be happy 100 days in a row!"

But then I realize that the cynic in me is also a brat, a brat who often ignores all her blessings when one  thing doesn't go her way.

So tomorrow I'm beginning the 100 Happy Days challenge.

How does it work? Every day for 100 days you submit a picture via social media of something that made you happy. It's that simple.

Visit 100happydays.com to sign up.

And I leave you with this…

3 Things Currently Making Me a Bad Blogger

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I'm a freelance writer and small business owner and this is all in addition to my full-time job as a teacher. In other words, my days have little to no downtime. There is always something I could or should be doing.

Yet, lately I've been spending (wasting?) way too much time on three things -- three things that are making me a bad blogger because I should be using this precious time producing blog posts. 

Netflix. About once a week you will hear me loudly declare "Netflix is ruining my life!" People who know me well know there was a time when I hardly ever watched television. I once went two years without even owning a TV. Netflix has changed everything. I watched the first season of The Following in a day and a half. I have a crush on nearly everyone on the show Arrow (including the girls) and 24's Jack Bauer regularly shows up in my dreams to help me fight bad guys. In fact, whenever my husband is watching anything on TV other than 24 I'm thinking to myself "We could be watching Jack Bauer right now." 

Buzzfeed. Oh Buzzfeed, I wish I knew how to quit you. But it's imperative that I take your quizzes to know what state I actually belong in or what woman from the Bible I would be. And when I read that article for people with unusual names it was like you had crawled into my soul. 

Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg, you are my pusherman. Facebook is feeding these additions of mine, alerting me to new Buzzfeed quizzes that I MUST TAKE RIGHT NOW and reminding me that 24: Live Another Day premieres on May 5 and thus I have exactly two months to finish all seasons of 24.

How are you wasting time these days? 

Girls on Film: The Bechdel Test and the Oscars

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It's two days after the Oscars, but I still have movies on my mind. 

2013 has been deemed a great year for the ladies of film as writers of some of the most celebrated movies were praised for including strong female roles. 

As a feminist, I'm sad to say that I saw hardly any of the movies nominated Sunday night including Gravity and Philomena which centered on female protagonists. Life has been quite chaotic over the past year and didn't leave much time for trips to the theater. 

As a feminist I'm also sad to say that despite claims of this being a banner year for women of cinema, most of the movies nominated for Best Picture actually failed the Bechdel Test. 

The Bechdel Test, named for its creator, cartoonist Alison Bechdel, is a very simple test of gender equity in film. To pass the test the a movie only needs to meet three basic requirements: Does the film have at least two named women? Do they talk to each other? Do they talk about something other than a man? 

Sounds easy right? Wrong. 

Here's how this year's nominees for Best Picture measured up according to the BechdelTest.com database: 

Gravity — FAIL
Captain Phillips — FAIL
American Hustle — PASS
The Wolf of Wall Street — FAIL
12 Years a Slave — PASS
Philomena — PASS
Dallas Buyers Club — PASS
Her — FAIL
Nebraska — PASS

If you skim the commentary on the ratings you'll find folks challenging the verdict for several films. American Hustle shouldn't pass, some commenters say, because "the portrayal of women was very sexualized and degrading" and the conversation that two women have about something other than a man is about nail polish and perfume. Meanwhile, others argue that Gravity should pass because the primary protagonist is "a nuanced, interesting, sympathetic woman." 

So does this mean that the test is flawed and perhaps even useless?

Not necessarily. The purpose of the Bechdel Test isn't to judge the quality of individual movies. The point is to highlight a systemic problem within Hollywood as a whole. The fact that most movies fail a gender equity test that sets the bar so ridiculously low is, well, ridiculous. 

But I am optimistic.

I do believe that the strong female roles of 2013 show that things are changing, even if that progress is steady and slow.  

Join Me at the Vitalogy Wellness Center Open House Party

Monday, March 3, 2014

On Thursday, March 6 from 4 to 7 p.m. B-Metro magazine will help host the Vitalogy Wellness Center Open House Party and I'm excited to announce that I've been selected to be on the B-Metro Blog Team for this event. 

Vitalogy Wellness Center, located at 2704 20th Street South in Homewood,  is a state of the art center for restorative and regenerative medicine and is led by Dr. Farah Sultan, a board certified physician who is passionate about women's health and a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle.

Join me at Thursday's event for wine and cheese and to learn more about the services offered at Vitalogy Wellness Center's, which include nutrition and weight management programs, as well as spa services such as facials, manicures and massages. 

I'll be on site interviewing the staff at Vitalogy and sharing information on women's wellness via my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. 

I hope you'll join me either virtually or IRL for tips on how to live a healthier, happier, more beautiful life. 

Rediscovering the Magic of Storytelling

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I want to be a cello. 

At Saturday's TEDxBirmingham conference 12-year-old cellist Malik Kofi wowed audiences as he flawlessly played compositions by music greats ranging from Mark Summer to Johann Sebastian Bach. 

Between performances, this child prodigy told a captivated audience in the Sirote Theatre of the Alys Stephens Center that he fell in love with the cello because of its wide range of tones and commanding presence. He saw the possibilities and the power of this instrument. Some people think that the cello is only for classical music. But Kofi and Summer know better. 

The message Kofi indirectly conveyed to me yesterday was to pick my instrument and use it in a surprising way to inspire others. 

I want to be a cello. I want a wide range of skills and a commanding presence. But my gift is not in music. My talents lie in the realm of the written word. But it turns out that storytelling just may be the key to changing the world. 

The theme for the conference was "Rediscover the Magic"with the goal of reigniting a fervor for helping our city. But in his or her own way, each speaker at Saturday's TEDxBirmingham event demonstrated the power of storytelling and helped me rediscover the magic of this timeless art form. 

I was proud to receive a scholarship to attend TEDxBrimingham
and to be recognized at the event as an Educator Fellow.

Graham Boettcher of the Birmingham Art Museum shared stories about the process of authenticating art, but through these anecdotes revealed that a work's true worth isn't in its monetary value but the experience of the beholder. 

Jen Barnett of Freshfully, the Birmingham local food market that closed in late January, ironically used the story of her business failure to encourage everyone in the audience to be brave. "We need a city full of brave people," she said. "Think of the one thing you're afraid to try and ask yourself, 'What could happen?'" Getting lots of laughs from the crowd, Barnett said if neither early death nor imprisonment are risks, go for it!

Glenny Brock's heartfelt yet humorous stories about her love for the Lyric Theatre have helped raise the $7 million dollars to restore this historic landmark and on Saturday she shared many of these stories with TEDxBirmingham attendees. Brock comes from a family of "show people," she said, people deeply entrenched in theater. And, as she said in her talk, "show people show people." They show people what they're passionate about and why so they'll be eager to support those passions too.  

As Larry Lawal, founder of the medical research crowdfunding platform Healthfundit, spoke I realized storytelling could even help lead to cures for diseases. It’s through storytelling, Lawal said, that people are motivated to help fund the research that could lead to lifesaving discoveries.  

Emmy-nomiated filmmaker Michele Forman left a job working with Spike Lee in New York to return to her hometown of Birmingham and co-found the media studies interdisciplinary minor at UAB. She returned because she wanted to help tell Birmingham’s story. And after listening to her talk I became inspired and determined to do the same.

But I can't tell these stories alone. Victoria Hollis reminded me of this. Just as all parts of the human body must work together to function well, change makers must work together too, she said in her talk. Hollis is the program manager at the Birmingham Education Foundation and is dedicated to transforming the city's public education system. And she urged the audience to share her concern. Whether or not your child is in Birmingham City Schools is irrelevant, she said. If you saw a child fall on the playground and no one rushed to his or her aid, most likely you'd go over to help. Likewise, you should feel compelled to help a child in a struggling school even if it means getting out of your comfort zone. 

"Our city won't reach its full potential if the ones who will inherit it don't reach theirs," she said. 

Just a little #TEDxBham selfie with the hubster.
Check out his recap of the event for AL.com.

The TEDxBirmingham conference was organized into three themed sessions -- Mystify, Evoke, and Transform. As TEDxBirmingham co-organizer Matthew Hamilton explained near the end of the conference, ideas mystify, words evoke, but only action transforms. 

The folks behind this conference wanted us to all leave the Alys Stephens Center ready to do something to transform the city. In fact, we were all asked to fill out a slip of paper declaring what we will do over the next year to help people rediscover the magic of Birmingham. 

I committed to telling the stories of the women of Birmingham through a new See Jane Write Magazine series I'm calling the Birmingham Jane Project. Taking Hollis' advice I'm going to step out of my comfort zone by exploring new ways to tell these stories and exploring a variety of areas in the city to find them.

Striking a pose with fellow ASFA teacher PJ Godwin.

Throughout the day we attendees not only listened to 15 live talks but also viewed a few extraordinary presentations recorded at larger TED events. One was by Japanese world yo-yo champion BLACK, who mixes dance and sport to create performance art with, yes, a yo-yo. He shared his journey to mastering the yo-yo then dazzled the crowd with an unbelievable performance.

See for yourself…

Watching this the thought once again crossed my mind that a change maker is one who chooses his or her instrument and uses it in a surprising way to inspire others. 

My instrument is storytelling and I will use this instrument in innovative ways to evoke, just as Kofi does with his cello and just as BLACK does with something as simple as a yo-yo.   

What's your instrument?

March Intentions

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Image by Angst via Flickr/Creative Commons

Happy March!

I can't believe we're already into the third month of 2014. Here's what I hope to accomplish over the next 31 days.

Blog every day in March.
Attend TEDxBirmingham and leave ridiculously inspired.
Burn 3500 calories each week.
Attend four Grand Jete classes.
Be more active in the BlogHer community.
Guest blog.
De-clutter my closet.
Host a See Jane Write members-only workshop.
Visit my friends in Louisville.
Attend the Natural Hair and Health Expo.
See Joyce Meyer when she comes to Birmingham.

What are your goals for March?