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Photography Aspirations: My Latest Money Shots

So, a couple of weeks ago I decided to visit my regional park to do some thinking.  Just for kicks, I grabbed my camera making this the first time I've picked it up for the first real time in over a year. 

But afterwards I finally decided to stop being intimidated by photo editing software, went through and edited a good amount of photos and had some of my coworkers, who just so happen to be professional photographers, critique my work.  I promise I tried to stop bothering these guys by taking one of those photography classes that pops up in my Groupon feed, but somehow I had my zip code messed up in my profile and kept getting offers for a city two hours away. So yea, I guess it pays to be in the communication field and know people.  

Anyway, through group consensus, it was decided these are my money shots.

And just for good measure, my roll dog, Nellie got dragged on the trip so she deserves honorable mention.  This is her looking for the next squirrel to chase.

I was sick last week, but I'm going to do my best to post again this week.  If I don't get around to it though, have a very Merry Christmas.

~With ♥ from Halima

What do Nikki Giovanni and My Mom Have in Common?

The last year I performed in the Nutcracker.
I was a flower. 
As those of you who follow my Instagram account know (shameless plug; If you don't follow, please be inspired to do that and to check out my new Facebook page), Mom and I were hanging out last weekend.  We went to see The Nutcracker for old times' sake.  This particular production was put on by my current dance studios' students and it left us  trying to erase its memory through glasses of Hennessey and Malbec at dinner.

We started talking about the difference between this production and the one put on by the studio where I was trained.  One thing led to another and we started discussing the downside to my former studio.  If you haven't already, you can read about that in my post, Being the Token.  

I've never been much of a talker, so I guess I never told Mom about the things that were happening to me at the studio.  This weekend she asked.  I told her with the exception of my four or five friends, I hated the girls at the studio.  She asked if they had been mean to me.  Tears welled up in my eyes and I couldn't even put words the ways they purposefully tried to alienate me.  Mom said she was sorry she had to put me in a situation like that, but believes our community needs ground breakers and knew I could handle it.  Besides just being a ground breaker, she wanted me to get the best ballet training available.  She ended with the words, "You got the experience."

Mom's words reminded me of a statement Nikki Giovanni made at a lecture she gave at my college some years ago.  Giovanni told the story of a failed attempt at a love affair and ended with the sentiment that she didn't regret anything because she "got the story." At the time I thought getting the story was important as a writer.  Now I know getting the story is important as a person.  It's okay to be in a situation that's uncomfortable or even one that hurts or makes me angry because, like Mom said, I get the experience.  I take what I was meant to learn for those situations and use it to be the best possible me.

~With ♥ from Halima

Why Are the Holidays so D*!@n Hard??

I swear, holidays conspire to make us work hard at achieving their promised happiness. My best guess is it's some twisted scheme to make us appreciate them and each other more, but I digress.

So a day after my post about Thanksgiving and spending time joking with my Mom about last year, my Mom calls to tell me she's sick. By Wednesday of last week, we find out she has pneumonia. I try to make it to my parents' house to check on her and start prepping dinner the next day, but on the way am met by a snowstorm and overturned car on the highway.  By the next day, Thanksgiving, my brother and I were learning how to prepare Thanksgiving dinner.

Although a little disorganized, we managed to pull it together without any of the usual first timer Thanksgiving stories to tell.

The turkey was a group effort between my Mom, brother and me.
My mom was able to get out of bed, join us for dinner and truly enjoy herself, amazing us with how love and laughter could give her strength she didn't even know she had.

On my drive home that night, I was shaking my head and wondering why the holidays always throw something wildly unexpected my way. Then I had that moment where I realized I still love them because they end up bringing out the best in each situation. I smiled for two whole seconds before my car's maintenance light came on.

Meh, oh well...

~With ♥ from Halima

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~ With ♥ from Halima
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Black Lives DO Matter

I'm publishing a day early this week because Thanksgiving is fast approaching and I don't want to let a week go by without capturing my feelings about Darren Wilson not being indicted for the murder of Michael Brown.

Initially when I heard the news on Monday evening, I was numb.  That's the best way to describe it.  I say this because I was sad for the unjustified loss of life and the unimaginable pain of his family.  But after Trayvon Martin and countless others like him, I was not surprised.  It was kind like the grand jury was saying, hey we all know nothing is going to come of a trial, so let's just skip the charade this time.

But by Tuesday night I was a mess. I mean, stomach upset - tears welling up in my eyes - had to take my earrings off at work - mess.  I attribute this to two things. 

The first was the complete insensitivity and obliviousness of media coverage paired with the reactions it evoked from my coworkers and social media circle.  The best example I can give is when CNN aired the video of Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown's mother, reacting to news the Wilson would not be indicted.  Instead of the media capturing the real story - a grief-stricken mother trying to understand why she not only lost her child, but why she doesn't deserve to get justice for him - it focused on Brown's stepfather, Louis Head.  I'm not a man, but I can understand Head's anger at not being able to not only protect his stepson's life, but also protect his wife from the pain of her loss.  And as a human, I can understand people being upset about the riots and looking for someone to pin as the instigator.  In this instance, Head is a visible and thus easy target. 

But by doing so the media overlooks the fact that the riots are symptomatic of a larger problem.  The problem that young, black lives are being lost everyday and the black community is being asked, through lack of action, to take it quietly sitting down.  Do I agree with the riots?? Not necessarily, but I understand them.  There's only so many times you'll be silenced while trying to insert yourself before you do something to take the attention you need and deserve.  The fact that mainstream America doesn't get this is maddening. 

I sat by silently on Tuesday (at the risk of speaking up and becoming the mad, black woman) and witnessed people in my office watch this video and make comments like, "Look at [Head's] pants," is reference to his sagging jeans.  Completely oblivious to McSpadden's grief and Head grasping to try and fix it for her the best way he knew how in that moment.  Completely overlooking the roles of mother and man.  Completely missing that though they are brown people, they are still people what have emotions that are relatable if they could just be seen as such.

The second thing that had me messed up on Tuesday (and I apologize for the length of this post, but I HAVE to vent) was the reactions of my friends who have children.  They are now tasked with explaining a monumental event to little people who see life in black-and-white, fair and not fair.  And that's not fair.  It's not fair for my friend, the father who has to explain to his son that he can't wear his hat backwards like his white friends because to do so may be a life and death decision. Or my other friend who just taught his son about slavery on Monday and assured him that everything was much  better for us now, but has to go back and add a caveat.  It's not fair to any parent who has to raise a child to not only be successful, but also how to appear non-threatening and how to stay alive. It makes me anxious about considering having my own children and taking on that task.  Even more so, it makes me anxious about the state of our country.

I don't know what's going to come next and what it's going to mean for us or for me.  What I do know is I'm going to support a push for justice by contributing to the Legal Support Fund for Justice for Mike Brown.  This fund is being used to provide legal aid to those who have been arrested in Ferguson while protested Michael Brown's murder.  I urge you to join me.

~ With ♥ from Halima

This Thanksgiving I'm Thankful for Last Thanksgiving

We're coming up on Thanksgiving and I'm pretty sure you know I'm ecstatic. Not only because it's a holiday, but because it's a holiday that brings good food. Lots of good food. 

But similar events trigger memories and I can't help but think about last year's festivities.  I spent Thanksgiving day with BF and his family; the plan was to drive to my family's beach house in Delaware the next day.  Of course I still called my family on Thanksgiving, but didn't get an answer, so I left a message.  Hours later my mom returned my call, leaving a voicemail as well.  I thought it was strange, but chalked it up to her being upset that I wasn't spending the holiday with my family.

After an eventful drive up (that's a story for another day), BF and I pulled up to the house, said Happy Thanksgiving to my Dad who was outside doing yard work and rushed into the house screaming "Happy Thanksgiving."  We were met by an empty, silent house.  I ran upstairs expecting to find my Mom in her room, but again was met by emptiness.  I came out of the room and bumped into my brother who was sporting a very strained smile.  I asked him where Mom was and he said she wasn't feeling well and had stayed in Maryland.  Of course, I jumped on the phone with my Mom and discovered she was in so much pain, she couldn't move. I told her I was driving back down to Maryland to take care of her, but she said she didn't want that.  She wanted the family together for Thanksgiving and she knew if she told us before we arrived, we wouldn't have gone.  Ever the matriarch. 

That weekend, my Dad showed  he can be quite the host.  Not only did he do his regular yard work, he also warmed up most of the food and insisted on cleaning up after dinner so my brother and sister-in-law could have some time to catch up with BF and me.  We even had time to decorate the house for Christmas.

Here's Dad putting up the tree, with BF and my nephew who is always photo ready lol
This was a good reminder of what a blessing not only a family, but a good partner is.  My parents have been married for 42 years and at times it seems all they do is annoy each other

[Like the Thanksgiving after I graduated college and my parents ditched us to go on a cruise of the Mediterranean.  But not before my Dad forgot his passport and had to drive home from the airport leaving my mom to fly to Venice and enjoy a romantic hotel suite by herself.  Boom.  There you go, two Thanksgiving stories for the price of one. You're Welcome.]
But when it comes to making this life work, they've mastered putting in the effort to make things happen. 
Lame as it is, I was watching a Lifetime movie, A Day Late and a Dollar Short, earlier this week.   In short, Whoopi Goldberg and Ving Rhames are parents to four kids (Kimberly Elise, Mekhi Phifer, Anika Noni Rose and Tichina Arnold) who have families of their own.  All of their families are dealing with something from physical, sexual and drug abuse to unemployment, teen pregnancy and marital unfaithfulness (I know, it's a lot. You know Lifetime gets extreme) on top of the familial problems they have within the core family.  Goldberg wanted to keep peace and bring the family together, but in the end she dies and in true motherly form is able to smooth over all the family tensions through her final instructions.  The last scene is Rhames standing at the head of a dinner table with his family all around. 
It was all so very corny, but it still caused me to tear up thinking about my own family.  Although we all have our own problems, we're able to come together to find support and love and that's what it's all about. 
~ With ♥ from Halima
What are you thankful for?

Being the Token

On the list of things I'm passionate about, race relations and dance rise to the top. So, it's no surprise that both of these areas played an integral role in shaping who I am today. And having done ballet for most of my life, it doesn't surprise me that the two intersect. See, ballet is infamous for being one of the least diverse dance forms.  I have my share of stories about this, but even though you all have let me know that you really like my dance stories, I'm only going to tell you the two that truly burned themselves into my memory.

The first happened when I was about 10 years old. American Girl had finally released an African American doll, Addy, and I had been begging my mom for her for months. Christmas morning came and so did Addy. And my mom even outdid herself by getting me my own cowrie shell necklace that matched the one Addy's great-grandmother brought from Africa. I was happy to have Addy, but also understood how special it would be as an African American to have something like a necklace to tie me to my roots. So, I wore my cowrie shell necklace with pride every day of Christmas break. But during the pliƩ combination of my first ballet class after break, the teacher spotted my necklace and in front of the whole class told me to "take that crap off my neck." I was so embarrassed and confused. My mom had me wear jewelry almost from the time I was born, so I regularly wore necklaces to class without being directed to remove them. The only difference was this one was an African style and therefore "crap," not worthy of being worn or seen by those in a ballet studio.

The second instance came as I was entering my teen years and my body [finally] started developing. I was doing an exercise facing the barre when a different instructor came up behind me, placed either of her index fingers on each of my butt cheeks, poked both and matter of factly said, "Your butt is getting fluffy." You can only imagine the body image problems I developed after not only having to deal with my changing body, but also being concerned that my butt was getting too large for ballet.

There are a couple of occurences I credit with giving me the confidence I needed to continue dancing through these and other horror stories. The first, of course, was my time spent studying with the Dance Theater of Harlem. But that's to be expected when you're studying with dancers with similar body types and experiences. More undexpectedly and therefore probably most helpful in boosting my self-esteem was a class I took the Kirov Academy of Ballet. After class, the instructor told me and my mom that I had the perfect body for Russian ballet!! I was blown away. Russian ballet is not only difficult, but also the standard for ballet. And I was perfect for it.

Even now, out of a ballet class of about 30 students, I'm the only African American dancer present. I handle it by remembering two things: the first is what my mom told me when I was younger, to be seen as an equal, I have to be the best. And the second, that I am perfect for this.

~ With ♥ from Halima

Can you remember a time when you were discouraged from pursuing a passion? How did you handle the situation?

Halloween Starts the Countdown to Festivus

It feels weird saying because I'm such a spring/summer person, but we're actually going into one of my favorite times of the year - holiday season.  For me, it starts with Halloween.  I feel like despite its dark disposition, it still has the ability to bring friends together for happy times.

This year, I had a small, Halloween-themed football get together with my girls on Monday for the Redskins vs. Cowboys game. 

I had a lot of fun pulling this together, because as many of you may remember, I'm pretty festive.  Here are some of the decorations:

And of course, as the new girl in the crew, Nellie decided she had to be the center of attention.

So as you can probably tell, we had a lot of fun made even better by the fact that the Redskins finally beat the Cowboys :-)  I definitely look forward to happy times like this to combat the routine of everyday life.

~ With ♥ from Halima

What are you doing for Halloween?  What are some things you do to make special occasions special?

The Power of Saying What You Want

I sent a three-word text message this weekend that reminded me of the power of words. What could I have said that was so powerful, you may ask?? To which I would answer, none of your dang on business; I gotta keep some things for myself ;-) What I can tell you is, I expressed exactly what I wanted.

And as you all know, I think too much. So I started thinking about how simple it was to have said what I wanted and wondered how the world would be if everyone stopped beating around the bush. My first reaction was, the world would be pure chaos because everyone would do any and every thing they wanted. But then I remembered everyone would have the power to accept or not accept things with which they were presented. In short, you can ask and the worst that can happen is someone says "No."

So what would be the downside to living in a world like this? I think most indirect speak happens because for the most part, people try to spare others' feelings. Can you imagine how awful it'd be to have anyone say whatever they wanted to you? Everyone would probably be walking around with either no self confidence or so insensitive from having developed tough skin, you wouldn't be able to have a meaningful relationship with anyone. And that's the power of words - as much as we hate to admit it, they can make or break us.

So yea, I think I'll leave things as they are, deciding when it's necessary or beneficial to be straight forward and choosing words more carefully when my words have the power to hurt.

And with that I leave you with the video below. Every time I'm having a conversation where I know my direct input is needed, but I'm hesitant to give it, I think of this, it makes me laugh and I can just come out with whatever needs to be said. Enjoy!!

~ With ♥ from Halima

What tricks do you use to say words that are difficult to say?
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Monday's Muse: The Cost of Devalued Lives

Last week when I ran across the story of Lennon Lacy, a young man found hanged near his home in North Carolina, I was overcome by so much sadness.  Stories of people losing their lives or going missing without much mass, public outrage have become more and more common. Is this what our society has come to? The value of life has been so diminished we think it's okay to numb ourselves to stories such as this?

And even worse than public response is police response.  One of the main sticking points of this story is Lacy's family continually mentioning how excited he was for the start of football season in the face of authorities being ready to write this off as a suicide.  Last time I checked, people who are preparing to commit suicide tie up loose ends, they normally don't display excitement over starting new endeavors.

This story struck close to home because I've personally known a family whose 20-something son was found hanging from the loft in his condo.  The police ruled his death suicide as well even though things surrounding his death did not add up.  One example was two wine glasses found at the scene -  the young man did not drink.  Even if he did drink, the second glass suggests someone else was at his home around at the time of his death.  So, either someone else caused it or at the very least, they have information on events leading up to the time of his death. But police never even looked into finding that other person.

The difference between this young man's story and Lacy's story is the latter was romantically involved with a white woman while living in a community that is admittedly unfriendly to minorities.  I'd love to know what really happened with Lacy, but because it doesn't look like his death will ever be seriously investigated, all I can say is, this sounds like a dead ringer for a repeat of Emmett Till's story. This terrifies me as I move forward in my adult life and consider marriage and a family.  I'd love to give my future husband a son, but nearly 60 years after Till, I can't believe part of my life plans are troubled by the same issues my ancestors faced - how to raise a boy child in a world where his life unfortunately holds little value. And this is the true cost of inhumanity and subsequent disregard - people not being able to fully live their lives for fear of losing them.

~With ♥ from Halima

Do you think there is a resurgence of unchecked violence in our nation or do you think it is simply receiving more media (whether mainstream or social) attention? Why do you think either or both are happening at this point in time?

Does Life Imitate...Chess??

Lately I've been looking at the characteristics of my professional role models. The one thing they all have in common is the ability to think strategically, an area where I can definitely stand to improve. So, I've been asking myself, how can I think more like them??

And as the universe would have it, I was provided two things. The first was a renewed interest in chess. My father always had an interest, so there was always a chess set in our house when I was growing up. Of course it only attracted me because the pieces could be used as little dolls. But it's funny how genes work; in my mid 20s the same desire my father had to learn the game awoke within me. I'd like to say it was because of classic movies like Fresh, the story of a young New Yorker who takes down a drug dealer and escapes the lifestyle by using a chess-like strategy. But in reality my interest was probably more fueled by pretty things again; I bought a mother of pearl, inlayed chess set with wooden pieces. Hey, a zebra can't change its stripes. Anyway, I started learning the game and talking about it with people. The one thread of thought that ran through all of the conversations was that chess develops life strategy skills.

I got it, but I didn't really get it until the universe provided me with its second gift in response to my question of how I can be more strategically effective. A couple of weeks ago, I checked my inbox and an email with the subject "How to think strategically" was sitting there. It contained a link to a Harvard Business Review blog titled, Strengthen Your Strategic Thinking Muscles. Perfect, right?? Except the article didn't contain anything groundbreaking. What I will give it credit for is making me think about if I am a planner or proactive and if there is a difference. I decided there is. Not saying this applies to me but, a person can make plans all day but it does no good unless action is put behind it. In my case, I am at my best when I have the luxury of having time to thoroughly plan something. In contrast, when put in a situation where I have to move quickly from one task to another AND be ahead of the learning curve, situations that call for being proactive, I sometimes drop the ball.

And so, when playing chess on my tablet today, I had that proud moment when I was able to anticipate my opponent's goal three moves out while also developing my strategy. That's like thinking of six things at once - not only how to stave off something conducive to someone else, but harmful to me (reactive), but also how to position myself for my best end result (proactive). It was my aha moment.

~With ♥ from Halima

What is something you need to work on? What steps are you taking to improve in that area?
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Monday's Muse: Wanted - Robin Hood

Has anyone else heard about this JPay scandal that is ripping off the families of inmates nationwide? Apparently there has been some focus on it for the last year or so, but it didn't reach my radar until I ran across The Center for Public Integrity's feature story, Prison bankers cash in on captive customers. It follows the story of a woman, Pat Taylor, and many other families like her, who because of fees to send her incarcerated son money, now has to choose between that and going to visit him. She can't afford to do both.

In short, JPay has taken exclusive control of depositing funds into prisoners accounts at most prisons nationwide. But they've made any form of money transfer, such as money orders, so inconvenient that families are pushed into using their high-fee electronic transfer method. The cost to utilize this method can skyrocket up to 35 percent of total amount of money sent in Virginia. It's as high as 45 percent in other states. To make matters more complicated, the funds are put into an account that basically has a lien against it for such things as intake fees. To grasp how problematic this is, think about this - one family in Florida was trying to get underwear to their incarcerated son, but once fees to JPay and the prison were added onto the cost of the underwear, it would have had to send $100. Makes trying to help your family member in need a hassle, right??

To add insult to injury, JPay's CEO Ryan Shapiro basically holds the belief that despite $50 million in profit last year, the company is largely charging to cover overhead expenses. So this isn't about business, huh?? Except that according to CNBCs article, The big business of selling apps to prison inmates, America's nearly 320 million people only make up about 5 percent of the world's population, but our prisoners make up 25 percent of people incarcerated worldwide. With 6.94 million people (1 in 35 adults) being supervised by the U.S. adult correctional systems in 2012, it was only a matter of time before someone recognized these intended rehabilitation facilities as cash cows.

Listen, I firmly believe that if a person does something wrong he or she should be punished in hopes of correcting behavior. I even think part of the lesson should involve a portion of the financial burden of doing so falling on the person who did the crime. What I don't agree with is people getting rich off of poor families and calling it justice. Because let's be honest, poor criminals go to prison while rich ones get probation and move on to find new ways of exploiting our consumerist society. And this JPay scam falls right in line with that; they're the real criminals here.

~With ♥ from Halima

What do think it will take for this country to reverse the trend of gaining riches at the expense of the less fortunate?

Hindsight is a B*@%h

The picture to the left is me at my first ballet recital.  I was 6 years old, and if you can believe it, a mere 7 to 10 years from making some life changing decisions. It ties into the story I've been dying to tell you all because honestly, I've never told it full out, in its entirety.

Recently I was talking with one of my co-workers about light-weight regretting my decision to enter the world of business. He asked what I meant and I explained that I had the opportunity to be a professional ballerina. I went on to say that because I'm still dancing, it would've been so much better to have been in that world while being paid to be there.

But it goes so much deeper than that.

When I was 13, I was offered a scholarship by Dance Theater of Harlem to go to New York and study ballet at their school. From there, I would've moved into their professional company. At the tender age of 13, I was standing at my career's metaphorical fork in the road. My mom made the decision that I should go left because I was too young to go to New York by myself. And you know what?? Although there are times I wish I had gone into dance as a profession, I don't blame her for making that decision for me; I was way too young to make career decisions.

At 16, I came to another fork in the road, this one of my own making. I was preparing to enter the "Release" level at my ballet academy. This literally means my school was preparing me for release into the professional dance world by doing things like teaching me famous choreography. I was also enrolled in a college preparatory high school. So again I felt the need to make a career decision - continue dancing or focus on the steps necessary to pursue an academic-based profession. Again I went left.

I didn't do ballet for at least five years after that.

And now here I am, taking ballet classes three times a week, rediscovering pointe and laughing at how truly young I was when trying to make life decisions. People always say you can't have your cake and eat it to, but at 16, something about that just doesn't ring true. Thirty-two year old me knows I could have had a dance career, retired and had plenty of time left over for the cube farm. It definitely would've made for some much more interesting stories. But I couldn't see that then, at a time when 23 seemed old and 32 unfathomable.  I guess that's just the nature of life - racing the clock so you don't miss out on something only to look back and realize you had all the time in the world.

~ With ♥ from Halima

Looking back, can you think of a time when you were in no place to make a decision? What was the outcome and are you okay with it?

The Finale: Trust Issues

I truly enjoyed the process of writing my Loneliness Series, The Science of Loneliness and The Science of Loneliness Part Deux, because as my writing evolved, I saw my thoughts do the same.  But it also slammed me headfirst into something I constantly struggle with.

Should I trust someone until they do something to break that bond or mistrust everyone until individual trust is earned??  I'm not proud of it, but I'm a member of the latter school of thought with aspirations towards the former.

So, the dilemma I faced after writing about reconnnecting with and loving the world was, how do I love a world that doesn't know how to love me?? Who, because of this, has hurt me to the point that I feel the need to disconnect, build up walls to shield myself from pain and at times, feel lonely.

My answer was trust. Not so much trust in inherent human goodness, but a trust in myself.  I have to trust that my character will remain the same no matter how many times I'm in a situation where I could - and in some cases will - get hurt. 

It sounds like a dumb plan, and there will undoubtedly always be those who mistake kindness for weakness, but I'm almost 100 percent sure this is the path that will lead to that coveted camp of trust first, ask questions later.

~ With ♥ from Halima

Do you give trust on credit or does your trust need to be earned? Has there been a time when this has served to your benefit or detriment?
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Monday's Muse: Love My Pit Bull

Last night I watched Cesar Millan's National Geographic documentary titled Love My Pit Bull and really, it couldn't have come on at a better time. See, Cesar Millan was discussing the history of Pit Bulls and how a host of high-profile, negative incidents related to bad training, have resulted in an adverse, public perception of them.

This show aired only hours after I had to speak up for Nellie, my pit bull. My boyfriend and I were going out to dinner yesterday and decided because it was a beautiful day, we'd find a restaurant with a patio so we could bring Nellie. Unfortunately, not long after we were seated, it started raining. The restuarant manager was able to relocate us to a table, still on the patio, that was under an awning. As my boyfriend got up to get Nellie, I started gathering our things. That's when I heard the man seated at the table behind us say to his friend, "Is that one of those dogs that rips children's faces off." At first I tried to let the comment roll off me, but it wasn't long before my mama bear instinct kicked in. (I was surprised and pleased with my reaction because as many of you who have been following my blog for some time know, I've been working on establishing and enforcing my personal boundaries. This was definitely a huge achievement for me.) As I stood up to move, I turned around and said, "She actually loves children and is a very friendly dog."

After watching Love My Pit Bull, I wish I had said more. See, in the documentary Cesar Millan said, despite how people humanize most dogs, pit bulls aren't usually given this same luxury - have no one to give them a voice. This made me wish I had told that jerk Nellie's name, so she would become more than just a pit bull and he'd know she is loved the same as any fluffy, lap dog. And I wish I had told him how much she loves everything and everybody...including ignorant people who think it's okay to judge others' characters based on appearances. But most of all I just wish people would keep their prejudices to themselves.

~With ♥ from Halima

Have you or something you love every been judged based on something superficial?? How did you handle the situation??

The Science of Loneliness Part Deux

When I wrote last week's free think post, The Science Of Loneliness, I didn't plan for it to be a two-part series. But my sister-in-law made a comment on the piece that made me think more about loneliness. In short, she offered two solutions: The first, "you are responsible for connecting yourself" and the second, "you have to be your own best friend."
Initally, I looked at these two nuggets as mutually exclusive -you either subscribe to the first school of thought or the second. But, the deeper I thought about things, the more I realized they go hand-in-hand.

I'm going to back into how I came to this conclusion by expanding on my theory of what causes loneliness.

Originally I stated that it's a disconnect. But what causes this disconnect?? I believe it can have three sources:

1.) You legitimately do not to care about people or causes outside of yourself - I'm not going to focus too much on this group because it often goes hand-in-hand with immaturity. Really the solution for this is just to grow up.
2.) You're out in the world but choose or pretend not to care about people or causes outside of yourself - this is far more likely because people use it defensively to protect themselves from being hurt.
3.) You purposefully isolate yourself from the world - although common, a smaller number of people inhabit this group. These individuals are highly empathetic and experience emotions, especially pain, on a deep level. As a result, they build up walls around themselves for the same reason as the individuals in the second category, to protect themselves from being hurt.

To quote my recent tweet,
So many people in the world and so many are lonely for fear of being hurt. - @midnytebloom June 7, 2014

Regardless of what type of walls you build, once they go up, they not only disconnect you from the bad in the world, they also sever you from the good. And once you allow negativity to impact you this way, your light dims and you're not able to connect with yourself.

I'm finally to my point. Last week's post was the first step to reversing feelings of loneliness - if the last effect in feeling alienated was not being able to connect with yourself, then the first step on the road to reconnecting is re-developing that relationship with yourelf. Do this by exploring and expanding on the things that made you who you are, love that person and be your own best friend. But expand on this, the purpose of this blog is to look at how we can contribute to the larger journey. So in the spirit of collective positivity, and in the words of another of my tweets:

Let's stop this cycle of hurt or be hurt. - @midnytebloom September 4, 2014

Let's do this so we can all go back to being connected.

~ With ♥ from Halima

In part one of this series, I asked what you've done to connect with yourself recently. This time I want to know what you've done to connect with someone else today??
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Monday's Muse: Why is Black Hair Everyone's Business??

About a year and half ago, I began allowing the relaxer to grow out of my hair.  This is the second time in my adult life that I've gone through this process. The first time, I was in college and everything was easier; from making it through the awkward, half natural-half relaxed, transitional phase gracefully with the help of headwraps - to others', for lack of a better word, acceptance of my hair. I was fortunate that the only reaction I received was something akin to awe from professional, black women who expressed a common wish of being able to rock their natural hair at work while remaining respected. Being in an academic environment where everybody accepted everything, I couldn't understand this desire until recently.

Since beginning my latest hair transformation, I've been put in at least two very awkward situations. The first came when frequent CNN contributor Michaela Angela Davis appeared on our office's TV screen to weigh in on a subject. The first thing that flew out of one of my coworker's mouth was how she didn't like Ms. Davis'hair:

Possibly realizing her mistep, she seemed to try to validate her statement by asking me what I thought. I stood there cognizant of every wave and curl on my head, told her I never judge people on their personal preferences and walked away furious.

My second incident occurred when a young man I don't work with directly, but who shares office space with my office passed me in the hallway and asked if I ever straighten my hair. Why is this his or anybody's business??

But as the Michaela Angela Davis incident with my coworker proved, you can be an authority in your field, but if you don't conform to Western beauty standards you can be deemed incapable. This then seems to give people the pass they need to overstep boundaries. I mean, obviously you don't know better and are in need their input, right??

A wider-reaching example of this is the recent case with Navy Sailor Jessica Sims, pictured at the top of this post. Ms. Sims was honorably discharged from the Navy for refusing to cut her dreadlocks or cover them with a wig. I understand the need for military regulations, but I also agree with Ms. Sims that the only difference between her bun and a regulation bun is her choice to lock the hair contained in the style. Also, it's telling that she wore her hair like this for 12 years with no repercussion until she changed commands and someone made it their business.

It's 2014 and I feel crazy having to say this, but the countless number of people who have said it before me haven't been heard, so I'll say it again - Hair choices are nobody's business but the person on whose head they reside. And yes, this statement includes black women. This though society would have us believe every decision we make about our hair is a statement and therefore public property open for discourse.

The first time I went natural, it was more of a spiritual decision. I relaxed it again purely to flip up my style. And I'm went natural this time because my hair began falling out in patches due to stress - part of the autoimmune disease I was diagnosed with over a year ago. At that time, I decided it was better to protect scalp from chemicals than worry about what my hair looked like. (Things have improved for me and as my hair has been growing back, I've been focused on loving every curly, untame tuft.) The point is, people make decisions for different reasons and outsiders may never know the logic behind them. I don't expect others to understand or even, in some cases, accept these decisions, but I do ask for tolerance. I give this to cultural aspects woven into others' lives that I may not understand and I don't think it's too much to ask to get it in return. Let's stop focusing on our differences and make tolerance everyone's business.

~ With ♥ from Halima

Have you had an experience when someone made an unsolicited comment about your personal decisions?? How did you handle the situation??

The Science of Loneliness

I'm lonely. No matter where I am or who I'm with - both in a given moment or in the larger scheme of life - I can be lonely. And you know what else? Ironically, I don't think I'm alone when it comes to this.

The prevalence of social media addiction reinforces the knowledge that humans are social creatures. Yet studies like the one done by University of Michigan show that increased social media usage correlate with an increase in depressed feelings. So what does this all mean? How can we be in constant contact with others, sharing what makes our lives so great and still be so lonely?

Despite all the luxuries life has to offer, I don't think we are meant to be comfortable in this life. If we are, we'll never strive for change. Loneliness is a trigger to remind us that no matter how much we have, if we're not changing ourselves - growing - we can never feel balanced.

Loneliness is spiritual starvation.

It's for this reason, when I'm in funks like my current one, I have to remind myself that instead of trying to fill a void using the company of others, I need to do something for me; read, write, start a project, anything to feed my spirit.

What will you do to feed your spirit today??

~ With ♥ from Halima

P.S. If you need help deciding, you can visit my reading room or crafts room for suggestions on books and projects.
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Monday's Muse: Selfie Nation

The other day, I was flipping through my September issue of Essence when an article titled Selfie Nation caught my eye.  Though I've taken a selfie or two in my day, I'm not a huge fan of the practice. But, this article still managed to strike a nerve with me. Especially this quote by psychologist Dr. Karen Streeter,
Black women have suffered a lot of attacks on our self-esteem...when you experience that you can develop a need for positive reinforcement on a regular basis.  
Although I agree that this can be the case with some women, I truly dislike studies like this because they create blanket theories.

First, I understand Essence is a magazine for black women, but by singling out this group, the theory seems to say, if a black woman posts a selfie it's something deeply psychological that needs to be studied, while if a member of any other group posts a selfie, it's simply another way to document life.

Second, it overlooks the subgroups within the black woman category.  There are those that take selfies because they're having fun, or they like the way they put their look together that day, or they may be, dare I say, a little stuck on themselves.

Lastly, it ignores the fact that though many black women are hard workers, by nature of our ethnicity AND gender, most of us have not been able to secure the same wages as peers of other groups who do the same work.  This means, we're unable to lead lifestyles that the mainstream apparently regards as selfie-worthy.  In taking photos of our lives, perhaps it should be considered more of a testament to what we've been blessed with than as some sort of cry for help.

By overlooking these, Dr. Streeter adds yet another innocuous item to the list of things it's socially unacceptable for black women to do.

So, although it's annoying to see the same faces streaming across my timeline day-after-day, ladies, if you're doing it for the right reasons, keep those selfies coming.  Because I do agree with Alisha Tillery, the author of Selfie Nation when she says,
Selfies provide an opportunity to exhibit self-love and create our own communities in which our standards of beauty can live and be accepted.
~ With ♥ from Halima

What do you all think of Selfie Nation?  When you see selfies in your newsfeed do you think there's an underlying message the poster is sending or do you think it's another way for them to stay connected?

Dog Days of Summer

Right before I went on my summer hiatus, I adopted a dog, Nellie.

The last couple of months have been tiring as we've been adjusting, training and making vet visits, but this dog has still managed to steal my heart.  So much so that I'm going to bat for her.

Nellie loves other dogs so it makes sense that one of her favorite things is going to dog parks.  But what I found out was although Nellie loves dog parks, dog parks apparently don't love southern Prince George's County, Maryland, where we live.  We have not one dog park.

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I'm fed up with PG County's tax rate in relation to the amount of, or lack thereof, amenities we receive. I think one of my neighbors summed it up best in an online forum, "More nice facilities attract a better crowd for our community! More dog parks, less liquor stores!"  

I contacted our region's Maryland Park and Planning representative to complain. He said this is a problem they're aware of, they have dog park planning consultant in mind, but they need to have money budgeted for it during their annual budget meeting occurring the end of September.  He welcomed me and my neighbors to the meeting to voice our opinion and hopefully convince the board to budget a decent amount of funds to a dog park.

Since speaking to our representative, I've asked some neighbors with stories of being made to feel unwelcome in dog parks in other communities to attend the meeting.  I also recognize many people will not be able to attend the meeting, so I've started a petition so their support will also be recognized.

If you live in our area, please sign the petition and share it with your neighbors. And everybody join me in welcoming Nellie to the fam. 

~ With ♥ from Halima

My Latest Thing, Doll Clothes

I get more junk mail than a little bit, but the other day when I was clearing out my gmail inbox, something caught my eye - an email promoting a book of patterns for 18 inch dolls (think American Girl size). Somehow this just seemed right; quick, cute projects to relieve stress.

I quickly set about trying to find a brown skinned doll with natural hair. When I say quickly, I actually mean this took all day because that combination is damned near impossible to find. But, I finally found a beauty on eBay, won her during the auction and purchased the pattern book.

Because the doll would be arriving with no clothes, I thought it was the least I could do to have some waiting. I went online, found a free pattern for a jumper, made it and came out with this:


Lucky for you all, I've just launched two pages on this here blog to provide some of my favorite books and craft projects. So I'm saying all of that to say, you can find a link to the jumper pattern on my new crafts page.  You're welcome and enjoy :-)

Until next time... 

~ With ♥ from Halima

P.S. Still looking for a name for my doll clothes model. Suggestions are most definitely welcome. Please leave them in my comments section.

Hidden Track: Coping

If I had something, anything on my stomach, I probably would’ve thrown it up. Instead I’m left arm-in-arm with my despair. It whispers, everyone has their way of coping. Some shop, some smoke, some drink, some eat. Me?? I cry and talk to God. Ask him if it’s all even worth it when despite my best efforts, it seems like I’m doing more harm than good. Ask him about these insecurities and shame. Where’d they come from and are they justified?? And how should I react when people insist on giving me all their shyt and expect me to keep smiling and asking for more?? What’d I do to deserve this?? Must be something because it keeps happening. But mostly, I ask how to go on when I’m so daymn tired. When I have nothing left to give.
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When Flipping the Script Goes Wrong: Review of 'The Isis Papers'

I'm a little embarrassed to say that as a scholar of African American Literature, I'm just getting around to reading Frances Cress Welsing's The Isis Papers: The Keys to The Colors. I'm also a little reluctant to admit that just about every one of the 206 pages I've read so far has been a struggle.

As a brief overview, The Isis Papers is a collection of Welsing's essays pertaining to white supremacy, its effect on blacks and what we can do to break this cycle. Summarized, this sounds like a good look, but upon reading it, I've discovered this book comes with its own set of problems, two of which I'll address here.

1)You can't address hate with hate
If an individual gives you reason to dislike them, fine. But hating a group of people has never solved anything. And it may just be my perception, but I feel that in trying to define and break down the white supremacy structure, the author has to categorize all white people. I don't know about you, but I'm not aware of any people that are so homogeneous, they don't mind being categorized in a negative light. Do I believe all white people have benefited from their push for power? Yes. I also believe there are those who haven't actively contributed to the movement and aren't aware of the extent of their privilege. I can't hate them for this, all I can do is try to educate them and in turn hear their experiences.

And while we're on the subject of my beliefs, I believe every group has their good and bad and as is often true in this sinful world, the negative gets more attention. I also believe God made us all and made all of us different for a purpose. And I believe we all share the common purpose of love.

All that being said, the best way to address people and situations is as they come. Goes along the lines of one of the book's gems.
"Truth is 'that which is.' It is specific energy in the universe"
- Paper Money and Gold As Symbols
Frances Cress Welsing
2) You can't define yourself through someone else
The above statement is something I couldn't quite put into words until I ran across this statement in the essay Justifiable Homicide:
"Black manhood does not mean macho or money, but instead it means warrior or soldier against white supremacy."
All of which I agreed with up until the last part. Manhood should mean all that all the time not just in the face of white supremacy. Definitions like this one are scattered throughout the book and have left me thinking, if we define ourselves solely in the context of fighting white supremacy, we're left without anything outside of this struggle. I'd like to think that I'm so much more than that. And based on Welsing's call for black self-respect, I'd like to think that she wants all of us to know we're much more than that.

That's all the analyzing I have energy for. Like I said previously, there were some gems in this book. I highly recommend The Symbolism, Logic and Meaning of "Justifiable Homicide" in the 1980s. Taken with a grain of salt, it's a very interesting essay.

I almost didn't write a review for this book because it's been so hard for me to read, but then I realized it deserved more than that. Although I didn't agree with a lot and found many of the metaphors stretched to the point of being loopy, this book opened my eyes to different schools of thought and forced me to analyze my own belief system. It tested and taught me. And after all, nobody said growth was easy.

Dance Fever

Earlier this year, while I was being lazy and not posting to my blog, I was actually not being lazy in other areas of my life. After 10 years, I've returned to my first love - ballet. I started taking two ballet classes a week, so now I'm dancing three days a week (yaye!!).

In my Monday evening class, I've noticed a silver-haired dancer with pretty good technique. Curious on if she is a former pro with exotic tales of the ballet of old, I approached her and asked how long she'd been dancing. She told me she danced a little as a child, but didn't really pick it up until her 30s. She's now in her 60s.

30 years of dance.

And then I got to thinking - at 32, I'm a 29 year vet myself. Although in different stages of our lives, the silver-haired dancer and I found our passion around the same time.

We talked about how you may leave dance in pursuit of other life interests, but somehow it's in your bones, embedded in your very essence and so it always pulls you back. And I left our conversation hoping I'll never need to give up this feeling, praying that I'll dance into my twilight.

The next morning, I ran into this video of a 79-year-old woman with such a story. She left dance to raise her family, then years later and after the loss of her husband, she learned to do this

The Classics: 'Infra 5' - Max Richter

I always say if someone were ever to make a movie about me, this song has to be in it. Love how it mimics life. Everything starts out so simple and layers keep getting added until you have a beautiful creation which quickly morphs into the chaos of every day life.

[My] Definition of Friendship

Sometimes the easist way to define something is to list every thing it's not. So here goes.

Having just entered my 32nd year of life, it's as good a time as any to reflect on one pressing lesson I've taken from the past year. That being, I've confirmed I truly cannot exert energy on those who wouldn't do the same for me.

I've always maintained a select group of friends and was quick to cut people off if they showed an inkling of disloyalty. But this past year or so, I made an effort to be forgiving and cultivate relationships I would've ended in the past. This decision was based on my acceptance and love of my own perfect imperfections and realizing those around me have resolved to do the same for me.

I've come out on the other end having defined these philosophies about selfishness and friendship:

Every relationship is selfish. We have other people in our lives because of how that relationship makes us feel. The problem comes when someone consistently feels it’s okay to ask of you without ever providing energy in return. No relationship is ever going to be equal, but it should always be a give and take.

Which brings me to this: I can’t be in any type of relationship where I’m putting more into a person than they’re willing to put into themselves. We all had to start from somewhere, but at this point in my life, I can’t be around people based on their potential. I have my own work to do on myself and relationships based on bettering someone else do nothing but take energy away from this. It’s selfish for someone to expect me to do the heavy lifting in their life. And simply put, I cannot love anybody more than they love themselves.

So, to get to my final point and to end on a light note – thank you to all of my loved ones who made my birthday celebration unforgettable. You’re exceptional people and even more (and selfishly) so, you’re great friends.


Okay, so my posts this year have admittedly been pretty somber. The last one was therapeutic, but especially hard to publish.  And for the past couple of months, I've been writing a post of similar emotional nature. Guess I'm not ready to address its subject because every time I sit down to work on it, I catch a severe case of writer's block.

So, to lighten the mood and let myself off the hook from the unfinished post, I'm going to show off the photography skills I've been working on by posting pics I took at Christmas.

The first also shows off my Christmas tree decorating skills.  The challenge in capturing this photo was lighting.   After about five attempts, I got the settings on my camera right so I could crisply capture the tree lights and fireplace. 

My parents got an espresso machine for Christmas, so not only did I have a ball learning how to make cappuccinos, but I also had the opportunity to work on focusing on an object while blurring the background.

And last but not least, this photo shows of my mad table setting skills and also gave me the chance to work on capturing photos in the correct light so the colors are accurate.

Something Like Group Therapy

Less than a year ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. In short, this means my immune system has identified my body, the body it resides in, as an enemy and has begun attacking it. My body is attacking itself. Maybe one day I'll feel comfortable writing or even talking more about it, but for now, it took everything in me to write that first sentence.

Since my diagnosis, my life has changed. I go to my doctor's office once a month for a treatment which hasn't been proven to do any good, but is considered the best available option for a disorder with an unknown cause. I've changed my diet. I have to limit dairy products, sugar and processed foods. I've had to give up my beloved cognac and am confined to wine and champagne. And I've had to adopt a gluten-free diet. To give you some idea of how frustrating this is: I went to a restaurant two weeks ago and was only able to eat one item one the menu. I ended up eating a basket of fries.

Imagine how frustrating it is to endure the constant eye rolls I get from people who think I'm just another person on a trendy health kick. The embarrassment of trying to explain myself. The sadness I feel when I have to turn down many of the foods I love and replace them with constant supplement popping. Vitamin D, Omega 3, Zinc, the list goes on and on.

I've been coping by continuing with life as normal and doing my best to learn what I can about autoimmune disorders, but all this makes me feel some sort of way. Mostly upset and scared, but sometimes extremely tired, uncomfortable and even sometimes in pain.

And so I turn again to writing. Hoping admission leads to healing because I can't wait for the day I walk out of my doctor's exam room and continue straight out the door without stopping at the receptionist's desk to schedule a follow-up appointment.

Until next time,

♥ from Halima
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Sign of the Times

Happy New Year!! I think it's fitting that my first post of 2014 be about my first dream of the year.

On New Year's morning, I had a dream I was back at my grandparents' home with my entire family. I was sitting on my cousin's lap when the most unique bird I'd ever seen appeared from nowhere. It was almost completely gray, but its face had an intricate, baby blue, swirl design. Also, its tail feathers were unique in that three segments made up the shape of a fan, but the middle piece was shorter while the two outside sections were taller. This is one of those times when I wish I could draw so I could try to capture and share how beautiful this bird was. Anyway, right when the bird landed in my hand, I woke up.

As you can probably imagine, in looking into the meaning of birds in dreams, I came across many different interpretations. The overarching theme is that they are either the carriers of news or they represent goals and aspirations. In both instances, the intent of the bird is based on its beauty and manner. Because my bird was both beautiful and peaceful, it would imply a good omen. And because it was the first dream of 2014, I'm taking it to mean prayers will be answered in a couple different areas of my life this year.

Here's to a very prosperous New Year.

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