• New Life Stage and a Black +Country Playlist

    New Life Stage and a Black +Country Playlist

    Beyoncé said “screw genres,” releasing her country album this past week . With it, for me, comes a new life stage and a Black + Country Playlist. To be fair, my new circumstances are not connected in any way to Cowboy Carter. Neither the artist nor the album served as the catalyst for my decision. But I admit the changes have been less stressful thanks to the album and the opportunity to refresh my playlist.

    The History

    We’ve been through a lot over the last year. My mother died in January 2023. I chose to go No Contact with her for a long time, but her death still hurt. Andrew, my husband and best friend, had two surgeries in two months after enduring acute pain, fatphobic medical staff, and the loneliness of crises.

    Things got better for a while. I had weight-loss surgery in November but then got pneumonia the day before Andrew went for his own weight loss surgery in December. I also ended up in the hospital for three weeks (last two weeks of December 2023 into Jan 2024), and went back to work two months after taking off for the surgery in February 2024. The amount of emotional baggage I am carrying from the last year is heavy. And I am drained.

    New Life Stage

    So I resigned from my teaching job. I’d been with the company for about a year and I did enjoy it. It wasn’t the company nor the students that pushed me to quit. Not really. I enjoy teaching despite not enjoying judging or grading students on their understanding/performance of the material. What I did not enjoy was the anxiety and stress associated with masking for a job and being on for students who are struggling with their own lives. I didn’t enjoy feeling “too smart” for help when I needed it (and asked for it).

    I’m not in a great place- not depressed but definitely not level. There are a lot of things I don’t know. I don’t know what comes next nor do I have a plan for the future. But what I know is that I am not good for my family in my current state.

    Luckily, Andrew is supportive, capable, and a provider. It also helps that he received a raise that covers what I was bringing in from my teaching job. His dedication to his family and his desire to take care of me has made it possible for me to resign and figure things out.

    My plan is to write using Tome., an app (I’m not sure if I recommend it yet so my linking to it is not an endorsement), working on the podcast I wanted to launch March 1 but pushed back to April 1 and now am pushing back for another two months, and listening to music (yes, I am enjoying Cowboy Carter).

    Black + Country Playlists

    Speaking of Cowboy Carter, Beyoncé’s new studio album, released on March 29…. I am a country music fan (to my husband’s chagrin) and I previous said on Threads that Beyoncé’s Texas Hold ‘Em and her country album may make me a fan and I am not disappointed. I’m enjoying the creativity of this album. While I am not a Bey-hive member, I’ve always held space for her as a creative. She’s nothing if not inspirational.

    Because I am a Country Music fan and people were asking about Black Country artist, I am sharing my ever-changing country music playlist(s) on Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and YouTube Music. They are roughly the same depending on the availability of the songs on the different platforms. This playlist is Black artist-centered and while it is not a historical lesson of the origins of country music, it’s definitely one that includes a variety of country styles. Enjoy!

    Black + Country YouTube Videos

    Black + Country via Tidal

    Black + Country via Spotify

  • Black-Centered Books I’ve Enjoyed

    Black-Centered Books I’ve Enjoyed

    Must Reads

    These books are from my “Really Enjoyed” list and come highly recommended. I have linked each title to the audiobook on Libro.fm (affiliate). When you buy audiobooks from Libro.fm your purchase supports a local bookstore. Better than that other site.

    • The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake about a dark-skinned Black girl who grapples with white supremacy and the effects of colorism. Good to pair with The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison as both explore the pervasiveness of racism.
    • Beloved by Toni Morrison follows the life of Sethe who escaped slavery and is haunted by the ghost of her baby. (For more advanced readers/thinkers)
    • Kindred  by Octavia Butler is speculative fiction about a woman who, at random time, is catapulted back into time and faces the horrors and truths of slavery and the systemic racism. Also available as a Graphic Novel
    • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward about an impoverished family in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. It explore what it means to be a community/family.
    • Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron is a retelling of Cinderella where teen girls must find suitors or are never heard from again.
    • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison an unnamed narrator shares his experiences of not being seen for who he really is and is expected to conform to the identities and expectations of mainstream society.
    • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (read the summary here https://ta-nehisicoates.com/books/the-water-dancer/)
    • Amari and the Great Game by BB Alston Artemis Fowl meets Men in Black
    • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia Three sisters go from Brooklyn to California to live with the mother who left them seven years earlier and attend a summer camp run by The Black Panthers.
    • The Deep by Rivers Solomon Yetu, the historian of her people (pregnant enslaved women thrown overboard by enslavers) flees to the surface to escape the horrors of her memories and the expectations of her people. In doing so, she learns about her past and the future of her people and the importance of reclaiming memory.
    • Anything by Jacqueline Woodson (Red at the Bone, Remember Us, Brown Girl Dreaming, Another Brooklyn)
    • Don’t Cry for Me by Daniel Black is an epistolary novel in which a father makes amends with his gay son for the way he reacted and treated his son.
    • The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monae Afrofuturistc collection os stories taking place when the world is controlled by a select few through e Dirty Computer, which can control and erase thoughts.
    • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia (series) Tristian helps gods and folk heroes.
    • The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow The daughter of a Danish mother and a Black Veteran moves to a new city with her strict paternal grandmother where she lives in a mostly black community after tragedy. As a biracial girl she struggles to understand society’s expectations of race and class.

    Honorable Mentions

    This are others that I really enjoy. All are linked to Libbyapp.com which allows you to borrow audiobooks and e-books from your local library. All you need is an active library card.

  • Booktalk November – December 2023

    Booktalk November – December 2023

    If you haven’t read the first post in this series, please do so here.

    Here is my 6-5-4-3-2-1 list for November – December 2023 This list does not represent all the books I’ve read since the last post, but it is a snapshot. I read a lot of books. In fact, if I am doing things that don’t require all of my attention, I am usually listening to an audiobook.

    Book Resource Key

    Where I borrowed or purchased the book.
    Note: links to commercial sites such as Chirpbooks.com and Libro.fm may be affiliate links for those sites. If I am not an affiliate, those links, and links to Audible.com are Amazon Associate program links.

    (L) = LibbyApp (H)= Hoopla Digital (C)=Chirpbooks.com (A)=Audible.com (LF)=Libro.Fm (P)=Personal Library

    6 Books I’ve Finished

    1. The Coworker by Frieda McFadden (L)
    2. The It Girl by Ruth Ware (L)
    3. The Fine Print by Lauren Asher (L)
    4. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (LF)
    5. Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff (L)
    6. The Viper by JR Ward (L)

    5 Books On My Shelves

    1. Clotel by William Wells Brown (C)
    2. The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott (C)
    3. Always Coming Home by Ursula Le Guin (LF)
    4. Noor by Nnedi Okorafor (LF)
    5. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim (L)

    4 Books I’m Waiting On

    1. Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up by Alexander Potter (A)
    2. Justice is Coming by Cenk Uygur (P)
    3. Empire of the Damned by Jay Kristoff (L)
    4. Intermission by Phyllis R Dixon (L)

    3 Books I’m Reading Right Now

    1. Dracula by Bram Stoker (L)
    2. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid (L/Ebook)
    3. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (L)

    2 Books I Highly Recommend

    1. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (H)
    2. Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

    1 Books I Abandoned

    1. The Most Beautiful Girl by Mayte Garcia
  • BookTalk: August – September 2023

    BookTalk: August – September 2023

    When it comes to reading books, I prefer audiobooks over ebooks and use the Libby App and Hoopla Digital platforms to borrow books from my local library. Although I enjoy e-books, reading them on my Kindle Paperwhite isn’t pleasurable. I made a mistake by purchasing the new updated version of the device, as I don’t like it as much as the previous one. That’s a topic we’ll discuss on another occasion.

    If you don’t have a library card, I recommend you sign up for one. Libraries are so important as they provide safe spaces for children who don’t feel like they fit in elsewhere. But also, they preserve media. In an age where we discard things with little effort, media preservation provides a record of human growth. But also, books are expensive. Books are available at libraries for free or for a slight fee, making libraries a valuable service.

  • Things I did and thought upon learning of of my mother’s death

    Things I did and thought upon learning of of my mother’s death

    *Yesterday, a childhood friend asked me to call her. I did. She let me know that my mother died on January 14. Because I’ve been no-contact with my mother and her side of the family for almost 20 years, I was not told immediately. What follows is a list of things I did and thought in the immediate aftermath of learning my mother is gone. I took to writing on my phone, in the Notes app, because writing helps me process but also because it felt as if I wasn’t experiencing this in real time. I am sharing this in its unedited form although all names except my husband’s have been removed.

  • Open Book Blog Hop – What I Wish I Knew

    Open Book Blog Hop – What I Wish I Knew

    I stumbled up the Open Blog Hop while chatting on Counter Social the social networking site I use instead of the bird site. It’s a blogging circle in which writers answer a question on their own blogs, linking the post via InLinkz, connecting us all in one list. You’ll find the link to all the posts below.

    Today, the question is:

    What is one thing that you wish you’d known about writing before you started?

  • 5 Proven Techniques for Writing a Compelling Story

    5 Proven Techniques for Writing a Compelling Story

    Are you struggling to keep your readers engaged in your story? Look no further! Below, I share 5 proven techniques for writing a compelling story that will keep your audience hooked from start to finish. From crafting a strong hook to creating tension and conflict, we cover all the key elements that make a story truly captivating. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned writer, these tips will help take your storytelling to the next level.

    If you prefer video, scroll to the bottom of this post to watch the YouTube video I put together.

    Tip 1: Create a Strong Hook

     A strong opening is crucial for capturing your reader’s attention. A hook can be dialogue, a provocative statement or a question, or a shocking fact. Whatever you choose, it should be something interesting enough to make readers want to keep reading.

    Tip 2: Create Complex Characters

    You’ll want to develop well-rounded characters who are complex and multidimensional. Flawed characters are more relatable and real to your readers. Without tension, your story will be flat and won’t keep readers interested so be sure to include both high and low stakes obstacles the characters will need to overcome.

    Tip 3: Add Tension

    Flawed characters are nothing without tension and conflict to keep your story moving forward. And without tension, your story will be flat and won’t keep readers interested. Including both high and low stakes obstacles the characters will need to overcome will move your plot along and entice the reader to continue reading.

    Tip 4: Show More Than Tell

    No matter how well you do wit the previous tips, if your writing is boring and lacks descriptive language or vivid imagery readers will DNF. Keep your story interesting by engaging your reader’s senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Readers must feel as if they are experiencing your story for themselves.

    Tip 5: Fulfill Your Promise to Readers

    Wrap up your story with a clear and satisfying ending that fulfills the promise of your story’s genre. For example, if you are writing a work of romance, there should be a happy-ever-after. If you are writing a mystery or a thriller, the crime must be solved. Break the covenant between readers and writers, and your readers will lose faith in you as an author.

    Do you have any tips to add to my list of 5 Proven Techniques for Writing a Compelling Story? Let me know in the comments.

  • Another Blog Post About Coming Back to Blogging

    Another Blog Post About Coming Back to Blogging

    This post may not make sense because I’m in the throes of hormone-induced insomnia. Despite completing my bedtime routine which includes reading for two hours and taking a sleep-inducing cannabis gummy, I could not sleep. Even the Grand Daddy Purple (BakedBros is usually very helpful with sleep) hasn’t helped and I find myself in sensory overload/overwhelm hell. My mind questions every sound in the area. Dogs barking. My husband breathing The whirring of the heat as it starts up to warm our too-large apartment. The smells are even stronger. Sandalwood, coconut oil, dust, sweat, toothpaste, deodorant, soap. Even the air is heavy on my limbs like I’ve stuffed myself into a can, limbs spilling over the brim like biscuits, yet unable to move.

    Previously, I’d stress myself out about my lack of slumber. My preferred activity during the first two days of my period is to eat-sob-worry about how my body has betrayed me. My hormonal shifts tests my mental health and my ability to bounce back. Most days, I struggle with all of it. I give into the anxiety of pain and fatigue. It’s a never-ending cycle.

    But I’ve been reading Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” in which Covey writes often about the importance of choice and choosing. He says:

    “But until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise.’”

    The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey

    This quote has lived rent free in my head for almost a week. I’ve mulled the words over, reflecting on how I have tried to change without owning my previous choices. Which brings me to this post.

    I’ve toyed with starting a blog again. I’ve missed the writing I did back in 2004-2008 when blogging and the Internet were very different, and, dare I say it, better.

    Before blog posts became brag posts. Before every thought became monetized and every insight curated to appease the keeping-up-with-the-joneses vibe. During those early days of blogging, we connected over shared experiences and giving voice to our secret struggles and wins. Of course people have been acting foolish online since Al Gore founded the World Wide Web, but I’m choosing to ignore those users and focus on the kind and good ones. I miss connecting with those people.

    So here I am, blogging again, writing my way through pain, anxiety, depression, and happiness. Sharing my life. And this is as good a first post as any, no?