Feature Fridays: Greatest Weapon of All Time

Hey ya’ll! It’s been a while since I’ve been here…a long while, and in my opinion, way too long. In order to interact with you all more, and to keep the place looking like something, I came up with the idea of starting a weekly series. I came up with an idea for a series to do two things: 1) it’ll get me in a consistent writing/posting habit (which is key as a writer), and 2) it’ll give you all out there an idea of where my head is on at least a weekly basis. I win, you win, all we do is win (x3). Khaled.

The name of this new series is called Feature Fridays. In the series, I’ve decided to showcase one song per week, give you the audio of the song, and also discuss why the song was so vital to my week, what the song means to me, and then give you a chance to maybe discover some new music and to learn something about me along the way. If you’ve been following me for some time, or you know me in real life, you know that I’m always surrounded by music. When I go to work in the mornings, I have my iPod in my ears, when I’m at work, I’m on YouTube for the music, and when I come home, I have music on in the car, and on my computer while I’m doing work. It, in a nutshell, is my life. What better way to dig deeper than to see what I have in constant rotation?

Without further adieu, I present to you the first Feature Fridays track: Zo! Feat. Sy Smith – Greatest Weapon of All Time

We all know how I feel about The Foreign Exchange and any and everything that comes off of their label, so it’s no surprise that my first song comes from an artist on their label. This song was vital to my week for a couple of very distinct reasons. For starters, I’ve been in a bit of a rut when it comes to my writing. It’s always been a dream of mine to not only write, but to publish a novel. I struggle with the thought that what I write isn’t up to par with what else is out there on the market, so instead of trying to write more to get better, I clam up and write sporadically (as we can se by how I tend to this blog). Needless to say, that’s completely counterproductive to what I’m trying to do, and I’ve gotten to the point where I need to change that if I ever want to see my dream come to fruition. There’s a line in the song where Sy Smith says “Don’t ever underestimate/the power/of your heart and soul/cuz they might write the greatest/love story that’s/ever been told.” Now I know I’ve heard this song countless times before this week, but for whatever reason, that line has been on repeat non-stop in my head! It’s almost like it’s exactly what I needed to hear in order to get some inspiration. Within the last seven days, I’ve done research on what is needed to create a successful story, read a book about how to properly set yourself up to write, and created a skeletal plot outline. Talk about motivation.

The song has also helped me on a more personal note. I have my days where I feel like I live the cookie-cutter life: get up, get dressed, go to work, come home, work out, play on the computer, shower, eat somewhere within the day, sleep, rinse, and repeat. It’s not a hard life to live in terms of work, but it’s pretty difficult to live such a structured life when I used to thrive on freedom, which allowed me to do the things I wanted/needed to do without becoming an insomniac. After listening to this song on repeat a few (read: many) times, it dawned on me that I still have the freedom to do exactly what it is that I want and feel like I need to do – I just have to be a bit more creative in how I approach it, and if I want it bad enough, I’ll have to make the time to do it. It starts within my mind, and telling myself that I actually can achieve the things that I want to do, and to stop underestimating myself and what I’m capable of and destined for. As someone who spends a lot of time in internal reflection rather than projecting feelings outward, it’s been a difficult task to convince myself that I have what it takes to be successful. Whenever I feel like I’m not cut out for my dreams, I cut this song on, close my eyes if I can, and envision myself living out the life that I feel inclined to live. It’s an amazing feeling to see yourself in situations that you never imagined possible before.

For those of you that have heard this song, do you see where I’m coming from? Have you ever had a song that gave you the right mix of inspiration and motivation to get you to where you wanted to go, even if it was a very short journey to get there? For those of you that haven’t heard the song, check it out above, leave some of your thoughts and comments, and be sure to follow Zo! and Sy Smith on Twitter to keep up with them! Until next time, folks…

Living for the Weekend…

Ah, the weekend. It’s the best part of the week if you ask me. Sometimes the work week can be so long and mundane that I’m practically begging for Friday to come back around. On the weekend, I don’t have to get up early (at least not early like I would if I was going to work), I can lounge around in bed if I want, and it gives me time to do the things I really love to do…like writing, taking pictures, and hanging out with my friends. But this past weekend? This past weekend was unlike any other weekend I’ve had in recent memory. It was chock full of things I’ve never done before. Now normally, I wouldn’t be particularly intrigued by me doing random things on the weekend, but this time is different. Things happened this weekend that I swore in a million years would never happen, and I’m still in awe that they actually happened. Well, are you going to tell us what happened?

Glad you asked! For starters, I went thrift store shopping for the first time ever in life. Peebz sent out a Facebook invitation for people to join her at the Unique Thrift Store in Silver Spring, MD, and I figured what the hell? I’ve never done it, I’ve heard that people have gotten great deals on clothes, and I wanted to go do something different. While there, I finally met my Twitter buddy Eric, and me, Peebz, her daughter Tee, and Eric all traipsed around the store, finding random hilarious things along the way, and having a ball roaming around that HUGE store. I had a really fun time thrifting with them, and I got somewhere around 8 pieces of clothing for just about $60. That definitely wasn’t the last time that I plan on doing that, and I now have friends and family members that want me to take them with me the next time that I go find some more things out in Silver Spring.

Although I’ve lived in the DC Metropolitan area my entire life, I don’t take the time that I should to properly explore my city and surrounding areas. Going thrifting on Saturday and taking Peebz back home allowed me to see parts of the city that I haven’t seen in a while, and I really enjoyed the experience. Far too often, I just hit 50 West, head onto New York Avenue, make a right on Florida, end up on U Street, or keep going to Adams Morgan, and I’d forgotten that DC is so much more than that. I saw parts of the city that I had never seen before, and other parts that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid…I’ve got to take some time out this summer to go to the less-traveled, but exceedingly authentic parts of where my family is from.

To round my weekend out, I went to and participated in One Degree From Me’s DC Quarterly Flow Dating event. Now, anyone that knows me knows that I don’t even go to work alone (my mom and I commute in together to save money – stop judging), much less go to a dating event alone, but guess what? I did it! And to top it all off, I had an amazing time doing so. It was so nice to meet different people from all parts of the country that ended up in DC, as well as people that had been here their entire lives. There were people from all different walks of life, from all different professions, and at all different points of their lives with one goal in mind — to have meaningful conversation with other like-minded individuals. I got to meet some very friendly men and women on Saturday evening, and the entire atmosphere was warm, inviting, and pleasant. I was especially proud of myself for actually engaging people in conversation…I love talking to people, but sometimes my introvert starts to show and I end up in the back of the room just taking it all in. I didn’t let that take me over this time. I started conversations with people, maintained ones with others, and ended up with contact information for a couple of guys and a couple of women. I’m sitting here in anticipation of the email that I’m supposed to get with my mutual interests’ contact information in it, but regardless of the outcome of that email, I’m extraordinarily proud of myself for getting out of my own way and doing something I never thought I was capable of doing. It was just the boost I needed to not only become an active participant in my dating life, but to get out there and to try new things and see what life has to offer me. I have to give a special shoutout to Paul Carrick Brunson and his One Degree From Me team for putting on an amazing event, and him for being such a warm and inviting person, and for striking up conversation with everyone that came to him wanting to talk.

Takeaways from the weekend? 1) Try new things – there’s no telling what can happen if you just go out there and do something that you were previously afraid/skeptical of doing. 2) Have some fun – I literally spent all weekend laughing, joking, talking, and with a smile on my face. That doesn’t happen often, but I’m making it my priority to see to it that it happens more often than not now. 3) Get out of your own way – I don’t know how many times I had to tell myself this on Saturday night, but I’m certain that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have had as much fun as I did. All of these lessons can be applied to my life, and I have faith that they can be applied to the lives of you all reading as well. If you’ve gotten this far in the post (I salute you), let’s talk about what things you think you can do to add some variety back into your life, or some things you’ve always wanted to do, but have always been too afraid to attempt.

Until next time…

Back Down Memory Lane

Picture it…
Sicily, 1932…

No really, I want you guys to come on a trip of sorts with me. We’ll start from last year…May of 2010, to be exact.

Beach 2010

Awww...:-)

Now this was me about a year ago. You see that color? See those bangs? See the waves? I was too cute for school, wasn’t I? 😉 At this point, I was trying out the idea of growing my hair out to try and go natural. I was concerned about length, so I wasn’t about to chop it all off, but I wanted to see what my hair would do in its natural state. So, I stopped getting perms, and started doing more roller sets, more crinkles thanks to my friend Vogue, and a lot more trying to hide the new growth coming in on top with the permed ends I had. Well, that eventually got really old, and really tiresome…so one day I went to the hair salon and decided, hey, let’s cut all my hair off, and go natural from here!

Something New...

As we can see from this picture up here, it didn’t quite happen that way. I saw my stylist’s haircut, and BAM! I wanted almost the exact same one she had there. She had to put a perm back in my hair in order to achieve desired results, and while it sucked at the time, I was genuinely happy with the haircut I got. I loved how vastly different it made me look, how easy it was to deal with, and the feeling of getting a shape up. Why didn’t any of my guy friends tell me how awesome shape ups were? What I didn’t like was the amount of money I had to spend on the upkeep. My hair grows extremely fast, so every trip to the salon included a cut, which brought my grand total to around $60 every two weeks including tip. Needless to say, there were other places where that money could be going.

And that brings me to today…

This is me...now!

Yep! You guessed it folks, as of Saturday, April 30, 2011, I cut about 90% of the perm out of my hair…there’s still a few strands that are not like the others, but that’s quite alright. I am so happy with how it turned out! I’ll be honest, I was scared of what I was going to think, scared of going shorter, scared I wasn’t going to know what on Earth to do with my hair…but you know what? I absolutely love it. It’s so me! (Ironic, right?) Of course, I’ve already got the faces that look like O_O when people see that I’ve cut it again, but I don’t care…I’m ready to see what my hair looks like, what it does, how it reacts to certain things…it’s been a long time coming, and I’m glad that I finally decided to cut my hair and see exactly what I’m workin’ with. 🙂

Until next time folks!

Sometimes It’s Better To Lose

Even though it’s now May, it feels like January was just here, and we were all doing the ever-so-famous New Year’s Resolutions. Some of us vowed to make better choices, to let some tagalong people go, to save more money, or the ever so popular one: lose weight. Now, if I remember my New Year’s correctly, that was the farthest thing from my mind (mainly because I was too focused on the alcohol and the appetizers and avoiding the police – another story for another day), simply because I didn’t want to make a cliché promise to myself that I knew I couldn’t keep. So, I downed a few more chips, meatballs with dill sauce, and drinks, and kept along my merry “not caring about my weight” way.

That is, until February. I was sitting at my desk, talking to Cheekie, when I realized that I needed to join a gym. I’ve been the same size since about 2005, and that’s two full sizes bigger than I was when I graduated from high school. My eating habits had gotten terrible, and my physical exercise was at an all-time low. I figured that there was no time like the present to take matters into my own hands and do something in order to put my life back in order.

Needless to say, the gym worked…somewhat. Though I recognize and appreciate the value of a good gym, I will be the first to let you know that I get bored very easily with conventional exercise. Getting on the treadmill was cool, burning calories on the elliptical was motivating, and getting on the weight machines was more challenging than I expected, but for the most part, I was doing it alone, and felt pretty unfulfilled. That’s when I got the bright idea to pay attention to my high school classmate Deanna’s Twitter page and eventually went to her website. I registered (and coerced one of my best friends into registering) for the April session, and determined that April was going to be the month I got my act together. I joined a kickball league, an aqua class, and resolved to go to the gym to supplement it.

Can I be honest with you guys for a second? I walked into Deanna’s class that first Tuesday and was PETRIFIED. I thought I was too fat, too out of shape, and too physically weak to actually make it through an hour and fifteen minutes of constant exercise. When was the last time I did that much exercise at once?! High school, that’s when. I just knew that day one, I was going to pass out, see stars, and run away from the class kicking and screaming, begging to never go back.

But I didn’t. I actually made it through! I was sore, tired, and wanted a hug and some juice afterwards, but I made it! And four weeks after the start date, I am still sore, still tired, and still would like a hug and some juice, but I’m noticing drastic and subtle differences. For one, since February when I decided to do something about this weight of mine, I’ve lost 10 pounds. Five of those came between April 3 and April 28 while in My Fitness Boot Camps. Five pounds? In twenty-five days? What? Talk. About. Motivating. I’ve changed my diet (mostly), changed my relationship with food, and I can feel my confidence rising and my self-esteem lifting after every single class I take.

The environment that Deanna has created in class is one of true camaraderie, true support, and most of all, it’s a lot of fun. Yeah, even when I feel like my arms and legs are going to fall off, it’s still one of the best ways I can think to spend time getting myself in shape. Her and her entire team of trainers are extremely helpful, and push me to be successful, work through the pain, and achieve the goals that I want to achieve as it relates to weight loss.

I’m far from where I want to be, yes. But I will never, ever go back to where I used to be. Now that I know that I actually can lose weight, and that I can do some of these exercises I never thought I could…I’m so motivated to actually see this thing through. It’s my goal to be in a size 12 by my birthday, and with the structure of Boot Camp, and the changes I am making outside of the classes that I am taking, I’m certain I’ll get there. My family and friends have been there every step of the way, and I’m so grateful to have them during this journey. Ten down, about thirty to go…and with that said — sometimes, it really is better to be a loser.

Until next time, folks…

Happy Birthday Dad!

I’ve been wrestling for a few days about just how I wanted to tackle this post. It’s a hard one to write, simply because this time of year is never an easy one for me. There was a part of me that wanted to solely go the route of expressing how much I miss my dad, and how I wish I could spend his birthday with him, and how not a day goes by where I’m not reminded of him or where it feels surreal that he’s not here anymore. Now, all of what I just said is true, but for once, I think I want to write something that speaks to who he was as a person and what was important to him. My dad’s birthday is today (April 21), and he would have been 62 if he was still with us on Earth. Do I think he was taken too soon? The selfish side of me says yes…the spiritual side of me knows that things could have gotten much worse for him had he stayed with us, so in that respect, I’m ecstatic that he’s not hurting anymore.

But I miss him.

Luckily, he gave me a gift from the day that I was born that will never leave me. It’s so much engrained into who I am as a person that I feel it is an integral part of my personality, and it has a hand in every single aspect of my life. The gift he gave me was the gift of music. Whether it was me having to hear him practicing songs on his bass for church on Sunday, or going with him to watch him perform with choirs, or singing in the car with him on the way to the grocery store, music was our thing. So on this day, on what would have been the beginning of the 62nd year of his life, I choose to celebrate him through song. There are so many songs that I learned through him, or that spark some memory of him when I hear it. There is one song that every single time I hear it, whether it be on my iPod, on the radio, or me randomly choosing to listen to it on YouTube, that feels like he is reaching down from the musician’s stand in Heaven to give me a hug. That song is The Gap Band’s “Yearning For Your Love.”

If you actually want to hear the song, click the link to go to YouTube — it won’t allow playback on the site.

Now, I have no recollection of the first time I heard that song, or even if my first time hearing it was with him, but no matter where I am, what I’m doing, who I’m with, or what’s going on, if I hear that song, I automatically feel at peace. I’m thankful every day that I had him in my life for the 16 years that he was with me, and that he passed on his genuine love for music and his talent down to me. Every time I hear a song with an amazing bass line, or a tenor that can really sing, or see someone playing a bass guitar or an alto saxophone, I’m reminded of my dad and just how much of an impact he still has on me to this day. It’s not an easy thing to realize that the only way I can tell him happy birthday is through my dreams and my thoughts, but this year, I choose to celebrate his life and his legacy. He left me with so many stories to tell my future children about who their grandfather was, and how awesome of a man he was.

To the best man I’ve ever had the Earthly privilege of knowing, I miss you. You live on in my heart and in my mind every day, and it is my earnest hope that I am making you proud down here. I wish I had one more conversation, one more hug, one more cheer from you in the back of the auditorium after concerts, one more ride down the highway listening to the radio together…I love you so much, and I take comfort in knowing that one day I’ll see you again, and we’ll get to do a whole lot of catching up. Happy Birthday Dad!

4.21.49 – 7.25.03

I Wanna Be She…

Unlike a lot of people in my circle of friends, I got introduced to certain amazing music pretty late in the game. It wasn’t until last summer that I was introduced to the amazing, talented, and gifted Eric Roberson. And let me just say that the first time I heard his music, I was completely blown away. Now, I’m not ashamed to admit, it took me a while to buy his album Music Fan First. I don’t know what the hell took me so long to get it, but once I did, I was pleasantly surprised, taken aback, and almost immediately fell in love with the album. As on any album, there is typically one song that stands completely out to me, and becomes my favorite track on the disc. In this case, the song off of his album is “She.”

This song is just…beautiful. I don’t think that there is another word that adequately describes the song. It’s simple, it’s poignant, it’s direct, and it spoke directly to my soul. I’ve known since the first time I heard it that it was a special song to me, but it wasn’t until I was driving home from Baltimore on Friday night that it really resonated with me why the song was so special to me. Mind you, I have listened to this song countless times, have listened and processed the words of the song, and have committed most of the song to memory, but it never really hit me why I was so in love with the song. It dawned on me that I want to be “she.” In every single line of the song, I long to be that woman to someone (who deserves it from me). For the first time in a very long time, I actually think I’m capable of being “she” to someone, which is taking some getting used to on my end. Once I came to that realization, I also noticed that it’s the simplest yet most powerful declaration of love I’ve heard laid over music in a very long time, and I can see myself in every note, melody, and rhythm of the song.

What does this mean to me at this very moment? It’s hard to tell…I know that I do desire something meaningful at this point in life. As I said above, I also recognize that I’m capable of providing support, love, and companionship to someone. I desire someone that likes me, wants to get to know me, and respects and cherishes me, but I know that that process takes time to get to and through. Am I in a particular rush? Not necessarily. I do think it would be nice, and every time I hear this song, I feel a little twinge of hope that it can happen for me some day.

I know I can’t be the only one out here who relates to a song on a deep emotional level. What song is it for you, and how does it make you feel? If this song spoke to you, what did it say? Leave me some thoughts in the comments.

Until next time, folks…

Finding My Way Back…

Like most of the people that I know in my age demographic, I grew up in the church. Grew up going every Sunday with my parents (sometimes multiple services in one day), going on Tuesday/Wednesday for Bible study, going on Thursday with my mom to meetings, going on Saturday for dance practice, and back again on Sunday for services. Rinse, repeat, and add in a sprinkle of Christian school from 3rd through 6th grade and you have most of my childhood. I grew up in the AME Church and in a non-denominational church all of my life, and I naturally thought that I was going to be extremely active in church through high school, into college, and into my adult life.

Then…well…then my dad passed away. And to make very long stories short, that’s not how my high school, college, and the beginning of my adult life went. Both of my parents played an equal role into how I got to church, but my dad provided me with more of the presence, if you will. You see, my dad was a musician. Every single church that I stepped into that he was in, he was always playing something. Whether it be bass guitar, alto saxophone, lead guitar, keyboard, piano, drums, or any other instrument you can think of, he was always in the front playing. My sister and I would stand in the back of the church and imitate him and when he caught us, he would always grin and laugh at us, and whenever we would be in the hallway during the sermon, he would talk trash about us being there even though he should have been in the church listening to the sermon as well. (All you musicians, I know the musician’s code, I get it! Lol) Needless to say, my father was really influential in my perception of church…he was a familiar figure in the church to me, and losing that familiarity rocked me in a way I never thought possible. Not only did I lose the desire to go to church, but I lost the desire to want to commune with God and be in His house or in His presence. I felt like he took someone away from me way too soon, and I had no understanding of it, and couldn’t fathom how He could claim to love me, yet snatch away the only earthly man that had ever loved me away from me.

The first time I stepped into a church after he passed away was one of the most brutal experiences I’ve ever gone through. I had to not only face the fact that I would never see my father in the musician’s corner again, but I also had to begin to come to terms with the fact that God does everything in His own perfect timing, and that my father’s death happened for a reason, even if I didn’t understand it. A soloist was playing a soprano sax during praise and worship and I simply lost it. I cried and froze up all at the same time, and I subconsciously knew that it would be a long, hard journey to experiencing church the same way ever again. For years, I’ve struggled with going to church for some time, then not going at all…tithing sometimes, then barely putting enough money for an offering in my wallet…listening to nothing but gospel music, then forgetting gospel music even existed…my life for some years has existed in these polar opposites, and only recently has it dawned on me that too many bouts with polar opposites lead to utter chaos in my life.

Was my father’s passing (or my grandmother’s or great aunt’s for that matter) any excuse for me to backslide on my church attendance and on my relationship with God? Absolutely not. I knew better – or at least I thought I knew better. It’s taken me years to admit that his death was the underlying reason as to why it was so hard for me to go to church. I miss him being there, I miss laughing and joking with other musicians, and I miss making fun of him every Sunday like I used to do. Though I miss him like crazy, I know that I can’t use that as an excuse to not be in regular attendance in a church somewhere on Sundays. I’m finding that my quality of life is severely lacking, and this is the one area where I have not been nearly as diligent as I should be.

Am I having a hard time finding a church home? Yes. I’m flighty like that sometimes. Am I more comfortable just watching from my computer in my bed? Yes. Sometimes I don’t want to be around people – I just want to get what I get from the sermon in my own home. Am I trying to actively fix this? Yes. I think. I’m about to buy my first Bible in years…I’m making active decisions to treat myself better, and to try and learn some more about God and the role that He should have in my life. Am I perfect? Nowhere near it. Am I trying to do better? Every day that I wake up, you can count on the fact that I’m trying. Is it easy? No. I haven’t been to an actual church in months. But, God willing, and with the support of others, I’ll make it back into a church on a regular, consistent basis.

I know this was a long one, but it was something I needed to get off my chest. If you made it this far in reading, I salute you! 🙂

Until next time, folks…