Wednesday, November 30, 2011

(Not) Published By 2011

Last year I embarked on a campaign to get my work in print somewhere, anywhere, and labeled it Published By 2011. I was targeting small literary journals around the country, sending them what I considered to be some of my best stories. It is now November 30 and still...nothing. Usually I'm all for sticking it out until the end of a deadline but I'm going to call it- it's not going to happen in 2011.

If you're familiar with literary journals, then you know that when you submit the editors will take about three or four months to respond. If one doesn't hear back by then chances are your story didn't make the cut. And anything submitted after September isn't going to be considered for publication until the following year. So there it is.

Could a journal contact me tomorrow and say my piece will appear in their December issue? It is possible, yes. Do I think that will be the case? Only if they're disorganized. Any journal worth their ink would have notified me in October or early November to get my permission, bio, etc, none of which occurred.

I'm upset but not devastated. I could have been more aggressive in my submissions (I didn't send out stories as much as I promised I would) and I could have been more thorough in my search for a perfect home for my literary babies. My bad! But before I can embark on my new & improved Published By 2012 campaign, there have to be repercussions for failing myself this year. Otherwise, I'm just going to slack off every year without a care.

Not to imply that volunteer work is punishment, but this year, because I didn't work hard towards my goal, I've signed up to cook at a soup kitchen for "starving artists" in Brooklyn. Normally I'd use my writing as an excuse for not volunteering my time but CLEARLY I'm not working on furthering my writing career; might as well use that time productively instead. In addition, I will be packing up and donating at least 10 books from my own collection, which, because of my tiny apartment, is already limited. The empty shelf space will remind me that MY BOOKS belong there.

Finally, I figure some defined goals and the steps needed to achieve those goals need to be laid out. No more of this haphazard, submit-when-I-feel-like-it nonsense. A TO DO list must be made. So I made one.

Next year, my friends. Next year we'll celebrate good times for real.

*smooches...still hoping to get something in for December*
failure is never an option

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

You Do Your Thing And I'll Do Mine

Last week on the Twitter, I may have allegedly said some unflattering things about poetry. Namely that I don't like it and pretty much find it corny. This is not to discredit the work of poets around the world who entice, inspire and all that good shit- it's just not my cup of Malta Goya. I do enjoy an occasional verse, mostly in Spanish, and Shakespeare can do no wrong in my eyes, but otherwise I do not like poetry. I just don't get it.

For the record, I also don't like street-lit, weirdo performance art, country music, some modern sculpture (Oh. A big ol' wiry thing. How...nice...) and a slew of other so-called fine arts.

Here's the thing, though: I don't have to like your chosen field of artistic expression to support you as an artist. And voicing my dislike of poetry or urban lit or any of the aforementioned genres does not make me mean or a hater. It just means I have a different opinion on the subject than you do. There's no need to get butt-hurt if you're wrote "Make That Money" and the sequel "Make That Money 2: Hoes' Revenge" and I said it was garbage. That's my opinion! I'm sure you have a target audience that cannot wait for "Make That Money 3: The New Gs" to hit the barber shop. And I'm sure you're able to live a decent life with your book-money. So what the hell does it matter what I say about urban lit? Or poetry? Or your dumb, orange "sculpture"?

We can co-exist in a world where I think performance art is for crackheads and you think fiction stories and/or blogging is for people without a firm grip on reality. That's A-OK with me, booboo! I still believe any artistic endeavor serves a greater purpose, so I'll clap for you no matter what medium you choose. Even if you're the artist behind...whatever THIS is...

*smooches...setting the record straight*
this doesn't need to turn into some sort of Right Coast/West Coast beef, son! and shout out to the homie Fikriyyah for those hood novel titles. that mess had me giggling for days!

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Love The Smell Of Fresh Possibilities...

I have good people in my life. I really do. All of the friends I've had for over two decades have this vibe about them, and every time we're together I feel something new, another connection that binds us. And from that great feeling sprouts another.

This weekend I saw my dear love Alex (formally of Jack's Gay Chronicles, currently of The Refined Ghetto) and it was everything I thought it would be and more. Not only was he involved in the BEST. BAR FIGHT. EVER. (I'm quoting Smarty on that one LOL!!) but we discovered another parallel in the bizarro lives we've been living and everything just made so much sense.

Also, while out and about and on my way home, I was hit on by like three different guys. I mean, I'd never actually date any of them in real life at all ever, but I was flattered nonetheless because it hasn't happened in forever. I know, you're shocked because I'm a super-HAWT bitch and give off the impression that men throw themselves at me everywhere I go, but it's not the case and hasn't been for a while. I don't know if the 'fro was right or the makeup was bitchin' or my jeans were giving the illusion of a booty or if my aura was all aglow because I was spending time with Alex, but there it was, the ever-elusive male attention. I'd almost forgotten what it was like!

For the longest time, I've been channeling my energy elsewhere- my writing, my kids, my health and fitness- and ignoring the possibility of romance. Real romance. Like, look forward to seeing you romance and I'll even allow some nasty swine to be cooked in my precious kitchen because he eats pork kind of romance. Introduce him to my family romance. That shit really exists, apparently. Over bland Asian food and Dragalicious entertainment at Lucky Cheng's, I explained to Alex how for me, sexual relations have always been blah. Like, it's great the first few times and then I'm over it and I'd rather watch TV or eat some fries. He brought it home with, "Because you've never really felt a connection; with my ex it was fireworks every time because I felt a deep connection" and that was like WOW. He's right. I've never been in love or had real romance in my life with any of the men I've slept with. Not ever.

Confession, readers: I used sex as a validation tool. It was never because I felt this bond with a guy but because I knew it was something I could do well and men like sex, ergo men will like me and if I'm liked then DING DING DING I win the prize. Except there is no prize except that empty feeling deep in the pit of my stomach after he's "finished" and I'm laying there beside him looking for the nearest exit, knowing that what I just did had nothing to do with love and everything to do with just wanting someone to make me feel special. I'm sure addicts will understand that I was constantly searching for that unattainable high in all the wrong bedrooms, those butterflies I felt with my first real boyfriend, that innocent, gleam in your eye, sing from the mountaintops high a first love sprinkles over you like pixie dust. I miss that feeling!

(I can only imagine the looks on the faces of the guys with whom I've had relations right now as they read this. Sorry, boo, but at least you know why it didn't work, right?)

But my self-imposed hiatus from anything relationship-like has been so good for me. I see what I want, what I need and what I never want to have again and it starts with me being the best Raquel I can be so that I can find the best him the world has to offer. Because we deserve it.

*smooches...loving the clarity my friendships encourage*
it's only been a day and I miss Alex already...

Friday, November 25, 2011

An Open, Horizontal, Leaderless Process? Ummm...

I watched this clip and just laughed and laughed and laughed...

...and then I got a little sad because this screams of "Animal Farm" and "Lord of the Flies" and yeah, I'll say it, a little bit like communism. This is the movement that is supposed to represent me? I don't know, son, I just don't know...

*smooches...sitting back and taking in the organized chaos*
and the hypocrisy of some of these protesters! HMPH
shout out to The F$%k-it List for passing it on.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dar Gracias

Me siento dichosa por mi familia entera- los que van a comer demasiado conmigo hoy y también los que no pudieron estar con nosotros. Pero más que nada, doy mil gracias por ser dominicana y tener artistas como Moreno Negron representando a mi gente:

*besos...para todos ustedes en este dia de acción gracias*
get your Spanish/English dictionaries out because I'm not translating NOTHING!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Protecting Our Daughters

This is Part 1 of the documentary "Very Young Girls" (you can see the rest via Netflix or on YouTube) about girls as young as 13 in the sex trade business and their fight to get out.

I cannot tell you how much it kills me to think that kids barely older than N are turned out in this country and we can't (won't??) do much about it. I barely sat through "Born Into Brothel" without a box of tissues but figured our so-called First World Nation would be doing a better job of protecting our babies. Sooooo not the case, dude!

When The F$%k-it List brought this film to my attention I was all "I DON'T WANT TO KNOW" because once you know you can't sit there and ignore the problem. You have to do something. So here's what's what.

Through Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS), we're collecting item donations for these young women for the Girls Are Not For Sale campaign. GEMS is a NYS non-profit that specifically serves "girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking" and you can imagine how little they have in order to rebuild their lives.

If you can donate any of the items listed on the campaign page by December 15, 2011, I will personally show up at your door and French kiss you. Or if that's not your style maybe I'll just say Thank You. Either way, "tis the season" and all that good stuff. Let's show these girls that New York cares about their lives and we want them to be happy and successful. They are all our daughters and we owe them that much! 

*smooches...thankful for the life I've lead*
and all the people that protected me from harm throughout, allowing me to do the same for others.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Life's Poo-Pooers

There is much unavoidable unpleasantness in life- taxes, vomit, rats on the subway platform- but none is more annoying than a person raining on your parade. You know these people well. Sometimes they're related to you. Other times they're your best friend or coworker or spouse. Occasionally it's even a rude stranger at the mall. Trust me they're everywhere and their main directive in life seems to be: SHIT ON EVERY PLAN YOU MAKE.

They complain about the caterer you chose for your wedding. "Oh, so you're NOT having a shrimp appetizer? But everyone loves the shrimp appetizer!" BITCH- are you paying for it? NO? Then have a tall glass of Shut The Fuck Up to wash down your crudités.

They side eye you when you substitute unhealthy food items for something more wholesome during brunch. "Oh look at Miss Fancy Pants getting the side salad! You're too good for potatoes all of a sudden?" [INSERT COLD STARE HERE]

And they always have a sideways comment for you, masked as a joke, said in a sarcastic tone in a public forum, that puts you down in some way, shape or form. "Oh is that the dress you wore at last year's Christmas party and to Susan's baby shower and to Karl's retirement dinner? Wow, you're really getting your money's worth on that one!" [prays to White Baby Jesus for some patience]

You get to the point where you don't ever bother sharing news with these people because you already know they're not going to be happy for you and they're not going to cheer you on. You got accepted to a doctoral program at Brown? They'll point out that you don't know anyone in Rhode Island and how your mom is old and has no one to take care of her but "Oh you must be so happy!" You're pregnant? "Well there goes your body and your freedom!" No one wants to be around that all the time. It's frustrating and it kills all the good vibes in the room.

But mostly it points out how truly miserable that person must be in their own life that, instead of being happy for others' good hair days or job promotions, they automatically find something negative to say.

I'm starting to notice these poo-pooers with every positive change I make in my life and you know what I've concluded? I must be doing everything right!

* my life like it's golden*
because it is...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Two Hungry Babies

K: Momma, can you order us a pizza?
ME: I could, but then I'd have to kill you.
K: Well, can we eat the pizza first?
ME: Sure!
K: I'm okay with that.
N: I'm okay with that, too.

*smooches...wondering when exactly my life became a sitcom*
I feel like the babies installed secret cameras and are reading from a script... sneaky heifers!

Friday, November 18, 2011

"I Really Don't Know Life At All..."

Part of me stayed because what else was there for me in this world? He was all I ever wanted and while he was mine it was beautiful. I fed off of the attention. Me- the girl who traveled through school hallways unnoticed; the girl who was just bank teller #6; the only child to busy parents. For once it was about me. He gave me that and it was perfect. Oh, but what a cost! I'd give it all up now to take back that look on Brian's face.

It is not better to have loved and lost. I would have preferred my position as bank teller #6 for the rest of my life; Thanksgiving by myself in that Chelsea studio; ignorant to the gentle caress of a man's hand across my cheek.

Why do we always think we can change a man? And why is the thing we wish for never really the thing we want?

* you another peek at greatness*
a quickie from the short I'm throwing together as a framework for a screenplay; i played joni mitchell for inspiration and to set the tone. it helps me set up the scenes in my head. just part of the process :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Am A Writer. And I'm OK With That.

Last week Bangs and a Bun posted a blog posing the question "Are you who you are or what you do?" It basically touched on defining yourself by your job and if that's good or bad. I think I've summed it up accurately. Just click the link and go read it for yourself.

When I got to the comments I noticed all the readers who left their two cents before me were all sort of apologizing for what they do. Maybe not apologizing, but rather writing things like "sometimes I hate to tell people what I do because of the assumptions" blah blah blah and I was a bit surprised that so many grown folks are going around feeling ashamed of their occupation.

I mean, unless your job is breaking into nurseries and stealing the still-beating heart of a baby and its mother, I don't see what there is to be ashamed of. Perhaps these women (I think they were all women) were confusing shame with dislike? Honestly if you are working a legit job- whether it be flipping burgers or teaching sixth-grade math- shame should never come into play. You're earning a living, helping to support yourself, instead of trying to mooch off of your parents or doing something illegal. Stand TALL! You may not like your job, but there's nothing shameful about earning an honest wage. Maybe you wish you had something more prestigious or higher-paying but again, there's nothing shameful about it.

I come from the kind of stock that considers you a winner if you're working. Plain and simple. If you're handling your business then you're A-OK. I've never been asked what I do by family members but only IF I'm working. That question would come eventually but it was never first. I was never ashamed of answering phones or filing papers or mopping floors or shelving books because it was all just a means to an end. I'm proud of every job I've ever had. Even that one job I can't talk about because I signed that non-disclosure contract and if I told you I'd have to kill you. Especially that one. So perhaps it's a cultural thing?

Or maybe my situation is unique because my occupation really is who I am. I'm a writer "for play and pay" as stated in my author bio. I create stories for a living- factual and fictional. I bring to life random letters of the alphabet and someone sees fit to pay me for it.

And in return I get to see my creations reach hundreds if not thousands of people. See that sentence you just read? That was one of my babies. I call her Melly. Say hi!

*smooches...sending out cyber hugs to remove your shame*
here; I'll even shimmy for you a little bit...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I'm Conceited. I Got A Reason.

Towards the end of the summer, one of my Twitter buds, Dash Harris, asked if I'd participate in a documentary she was putting together about Afro-Latinos and their identity issues. Yesterday she sent out a sneak peak of "Negro: A Docu-Series About Latino Identity" and there I was in all my curly-haired, dark-beigey, Brooklyn-accented glory.

In this episode I show up at the 20:00min mark,
but you should really watch the whole thing.

Yeah, I'm gassed. Especially because my "credit" says writer. HATE ON ME, HATERS!

Oh and if you're feeling generous and want to help fund Dash's project, click here.

*smooches...slowly conquering my fear of public speaking*
never in a million years did I think I'd agree to have my image immortalized in a film project where I'd have to speak words and shit. I blame Yoga! lol

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

She Always Comes Back For More, Though

"For every conversation I have with you, I have a longer one with god."
-Smarty P. Jones

*smooches...wondering if she knows we're going to the same place*
have all the conversations with god you want, honey. you're just as ratchet as the rest of us *side eye*

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Not Your Uterus

Guess who's pregnant again?! She of the magical reproductive organs, Michelle Duggar. And guess who was all over the news and interwebs judging her and calling her names? EVERYONE. I may have even made a joke or two on the twitter.

But here's the thing all of you who called her stupid (and much worse names) are forgetting- it's not YOU having this baby. It's not you who has to support it. It's not you that has to raise it. It's the Duggars; a family of 3trillion (sorry, I had to!) people strong who are self-sufficient, enterprising, God-fearing and debt-free.

Nothing is coming out of your pocket to care for this baby so why are you up her birth canal? If she wants to repopulate the planet with a bunch of pale-faced Duggar babies, so what? This woman isn't doing anything her body wasn't built to do. Just because the society you were raised in looks down on having more that 2.5 children doesn't mean that's how she wants to live her life. And lucky for her she lives in AMERICA where she has that choice. CHOICE.

When I was first introduced to this family via some morning news show, I was admittedly concerned about the resources they were bogarting with their big-ass family. But as the years moved on I let it go. India and China have 655 Gazillion folks already. Michelle Duggars 20 babies aren't going to make not even a blip on the overpopulation radar.

So go on, Duggars, have 20 more babies if you want. Ain't none of my business, boo. Live your life.

Unless of course you're a part of some government conspiracy to initiate a Robot and/or Race War. In which case I will team up with ALL BRANCHES OF MY FAMILY, which absolutely out-number your measly family of 22, and kill you dead.

*smooches...kinda tired of the internet's negativity*
I think I'm ready to bring more positivity into my Circle of Trust; blame yoga!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Healthy Jaded Week: Resources And Costs

Let's have a real conversation right now: living a healthy life in this age is expensive. It costs time and money and sometimes even relationships. It involves loss. It requires fearlessness and diving into unknown waters. EXPENSIVE.

Buying fresh organic fruits/veggies and meats means the corporations that mass-produce the hormone-filled foods we've been eating will lose millions. It means the pharmaceutical companies that treat (but never cure) diseases borne of poor diets and obesity lose money, too. Maybe even some doctors get laid off. The "diet" industry begins to die down. All the tools used to keep us dependent and then scare us into complacency gone. We'd start thinking clearly and seeing what's really going on instead of focusing on bullshit like expensive material shit or being a size zero or having Kim K. ass.

Being healthy and fit requires us to take the red pill. And for some that's way too expensive.

But let's put all my conspiracy theories aside for now and discuss the tangible and immediate costs and how to circumvent them so you can stop taking the blue pill which costs a trillion dollars + your soul.

When I began this journey I was like you, comparing prices of gym memberships and fresh produce and cringing. Then I remembered how much insulin costs. And dialysis. And open heart surgery. And all of a sudden the cost of organic vegetables didn't seem so high. I mean, yeah, they were still pricey but I decided it was worth more to me to buy these vegetables than, say, buy a few drinks during happy hour. Once I made peace with that (and accepted that coupons and comparison shopping would now be my BFF) I had to find a way to pay for the costly fitness classes (I live near Park Slope, which means I have to pay Park Slope prices even though I don't earn a Park Slope salary. BOOOO!)

If you find yourself in this predicament, please take your broke ass to Groupon, Living Social, Tippr, Lifebooker and all the other daily deal services your city has to offer. Sure, the emails can get to be too much, but it made all the difference. You can also try various gyms around town for a week for free on a guest pass. Outside of NYC I hear the Y is usually cheap, too. In NYC, the Parks Dept. has rec centers that will only put you out $75 a year. A YEAR! And they have group fitness classes, gyms and swimming pools. For $75 a year. I've even heard rumors that some insurance companies will pay for your gym memberships.

If all of this is still too much money, you have the great outdoors and public parks that can easily turn into your personal gym- pull-ups on the monkey bars or swings; lunges and sprinting up hills; push-ups off the benches; brisk walks around your block. Hell, if lakes and rivers are your reality then jump in that bitch, too, and do some laps!

Basically, there are ways around all the excuses you have that keep you from working out and eating right. And if you have a killer support system like I do, it can't hurt. If you don't, here are some great blogs run by people who like to inspire- get you some:

Bangs and a Bun
Thru the Blue
Casa Robertson
Mark's Daily Apple
Bodhisattva Yoga
Circuit of Change

(feel free to suggest other sites in the comments)

I really hope this week of #HealthyJaded posts have made you think, promoted discussions and opened up a fitness pathway for you, too. I'm feeling so good about myself these days and I know it's because I'm taking better care of my body, which in turn is taking care of my mind. I want this for you. It feels awesome and I get to experience it without drugs, alcohol or McDonald's.

*smooches...ready to get back to triflin' shenanigans next week*
this was fun, but, errr, I need to make fun of someone quick before I have a stroke...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Healthy Jaded Week: Hitting The Wall And Surviving Setbacks

You've been so good about moving your body on a regular basis, and the foods you've been eating are of the utmost quality. Your fitness journey is total perfection and you're so proud of all the work you've done. And then it happens- the unexpected event that interrupts your schedule and your new lifestyle, and you forgot to plan for it! (#sarcasm)

Setbacks will happen. Relapses are real. And their cousin, what runners refer to as The Wall, is, too. You'll come across these obstacles eventually or even daily on the road toward optimum health but I don't want you to freak out (like I did). THIS IS NORMAL. Also, you will not gain all the weight back overnight so chill the fuck out Raquel.

When coming face-to-face with The Wall, Setbacks and Relapses (the power of McDonald's fries is STRONG. I know!), just take a minute to re-examine your routine. What used to work? Why doesn't it work now? How can you tweak it to get that joy back? It really is as simple as all that.

For me the change in weather was a huge deterrent to working out and proper nutrition. In the summer I had longer days, WATERMELON and the great Brooklyn outdoors to motivate me to eat right and stay fit. But this chilly weather is some ol' bullshit! All I want is my duvet & pillows; thick soups w/a side of steaming white rice; hot chocolate laced with whipped cream! Also, I keep trying to fit in some rigorous workouts (listen- I bought some vouchers way back when and I don't want to waste them...even if the thought of having to take this boot camp class makes me want to punch kittens in their nut sacks) and I'm so over it! Finally, I'm needed at home more this term because of the girls' schedules so, yeah, BOOOO!

But there are ways around all of that and I'm currently very close to cracking the code, allowing me to get back on track. It's just a matter of not losing it over a tiny mistake and taking a moment to collect yourself.

We're not perfect (well, you're not...). We're going to err on the side of deep-fried Oreos from time-to-time. The trick is to not let it stop you. "Yeah, I ate the fried cookies. It was dipped in dough and sugar and made my tummy happy. AND WHAT?!" Chalk it up to a moment of depravity and then keep it moving. Literally, keep it moving...move that ass, Lardo! I saw you eat that entire pizza...

*smooches...proving what a great motivator I am*
if you don't like the name Lardo, I can also call you Fatty, Tubbo and my personal favorite: Jabba the Hut. your choice.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Healthy Jaded Week: Food, Glorious Food!

Today's post will be short and to the point, because there really isn't that much I can add about eating for optimum health other than:

1- only eat when you're hungry; not because you're bored or angry or sad.
2- chew slowly; savor your food. hoovering it will cause you to choke! oh yeah, and you'll overeat.
3- eat things that contain as little ingredients as possible; 5 is a good number :)
4- run screaming from prepackaged, processed foods; eat food in it's natural state when you can. If you can't pronounce it or define it when reading the label, RUN. AWAY.
5- always eat breakfast. it took me a while to really follow this one but trust me- eating first thing after you wake up can make all the difference for the rest of your day.

6- do not partake of fad diets that ask you to do something for a set number of days. it's all about maintaining a new way of eating for the rest of your life- not just a week or a month!
7- proper fasting & cleansing never hurt anyone.
8- real butter will always be better than butter substitute. in fact the REAL food is always better than its substitute. this includes eggs, meat and especially sugar.
9- whole grains and soy products are not the friends we thought they were. I just learned this and it broke my heart.
10- a steaming cup of ginger and cinnamon tea will make your tummy SO HAPPY!

11- you don't need carbs for energy.
12- homemade is better than store-bought.
13- cilantro (or any fresh herbs) and garlic are your best friends.
14- in season fruits and veggies are EVERYTHING. but if your local market's produce looks like it lost a street fight w/a hooker, frozen will suffice.
15- an occasional indulgence won't kill you or your fitness goals. unless that indulgence is shooting up heroin. that might very well kill you.

*smooches...wishing you all bon appétit*
and if you have your own food tips or recipes, leave it in the comments!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Healthy Jaded Week: Physical Activity

Whenever people talk about getting fit, one of the main suggestions they make is to exercise. This is what I understood to be one of the main, if not most important, ingredient to turning my couch-potato ways around. And by exercise I meant the kind of workout that hurts and makes you sweat like a slave in the fields at high noon and leaves you sore and broken for days. I thought this was the only way to fix myself.

Let me save you some time and painful, IcyHot nights: that no pain, no gain motto is a farce.

I began my fitness journey with boot camp classes after being diagnosed with plantar faciitis and let me tell you- OUCH! I hurt from top to bottom not just from the workout but from my broken body parts, which included a bad back from having babies, bad knees & feet from poor footwear decisions and weight gain and a ball of tension strangling my neck and shoulders. I was miserable. But because I saw the pounds melting away I kept going, applying heat pads and buying all manner of devices to keep the pain at bay long enough for me to return to class. I even went so far as to take a painkiller. ME! I took a freaking painkiller!

At this time I was also taking pilates, yoga and socacize classes, but it was the brutal boot camp classes that were doing the most damage. Then, after having to purchase sleeves for my shins, which were throbbing in constant pain from boot camp, I decided there had to be a better way. It all felt counter-productive. I hated the workouts, hated going to class, dreaded the feeling I'd have afterward and that made it easier for me to quit. After all, constant pain and injury is a valid enough excuse for me to stop doing something.

Around this time I discovered Mark's Daily Apple, a website by the author of The Primal Blueprint, and his theories on physical activity helped me see that yes, I should listen to my body and stop doing bad things to it. I decided to quit boot camp right then and there, opting instead to continue the activities that brought me joy and allowed me to be in tune with my body: dancing and yoga.

After I left boot camp I still managed to stay in shape and lose some weight, proof that I didn't need to be in pain to fix my body. Also, my knees, shins and feet weren't in constant pain anymore so I started doing things like walking home from work and taking the stairs at least once a day. It was a whole new fabulous world for me and what you'd call exercise. Except it doesn't feel like exercise, to me. I'm just moving around to allow fresh blood to flow to all parts of my body and it's pretty awesome.

This is my long-winded way of saying find something that works for you and stick with it. Swim, jump rope with your kids, play basketball with your friends on the weekend or get a good sweat going on the dance floor during happy hour while everyone else is drinking. Or maybe for you boot camp feels right. Whatever the case, move for enjoyment and forget about what the scale will say as a result. And most importantly, listen to your body. It knows best.

*smooches...inviting you all to come dance with me every Saturday night*
you + me + the dance floor. be there or be square!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Healthy Jaded Week: Preparing Your Mind And Body

This week we're focusing on health and fitness. Why in November? Why not? Everybody likes to wait for the New Year or a Monday or the 1st of the month to finally join a gym or get on some random diet. But will your heart attack wait until New Year's? Will that diabetes hold off until Monday? Is your blood pressure going to chill because it knows on the 1st you're going to start eating low-salt foods? No. Everyday you don't do something about what you put in your mouth (HEAD OUT OF THE GUTTER, BITCHES!) or how often you get up off the couch, you're doing yourself a disservice. I know this because it's what I did for 36 years. Don't be like old me.

It's hard, yes, to go from a life of comfort food and inactivity to getting up early to work out and passing on the fried foods for greens & the like, but it's not impossible. It's all mental.

I bought my first fitness voucher via Groupon in January, but I didn't take the actual class until the end of April. Why? My brain wasn't ready to leave behind my unhealthy life. That way of living served its purpose: the food made me feel better AND kept me too fat to want to be out socializing, hence I wouldn't have to deal with people and rejection. I could just stay home with my jiggly belly watching movies and missing out on everything. That was no kind of life. I had to make a change for my own sanity if not for my physical health.

Besides all that, there were a bunch of strange aches and pains all over my body and the fear that there was irreparable damage in me was the right amount of push I needed to finally get serious. That was my rock bottom- fear of having to take medications for illnesses I'd brought on myself, knowing damn well it's what killed my grandmother.

And while sometimes it's a rock bottom that is needed for most people to make a decision, you don't have to wait for that tear & alcohol soaked day to make changes. Stand in front of a mirror and be honest with yourself. No one needs to know the contents of that conversation; it's just you, in a room, with some truth.

1. Are you really happy this way?
2. What are you willing to do to make positive changes?
3. Do you realize that this needs to be a lifelong commitment and not something you do for a month?
4. Can you accept that your fitness approach must be one that fixes things from the inside out? Mentally and physically?
5. Are you prepared for the "loved ones" who will unintentionally try to derail you?

These are just some questions that should come up in your mirror talk. Personalize it. Realize that this isn't a vanity quest, this is a quality of life project. You want the remaining days of your life to be amazing. You don't anything to hold you back from experiencing whatever comes your way. Being unfit and unhealthy, for me, was a way to avoid the real world and just live in my head. And we all know what a dangerous place that is!

So what are you waiting for? Go have your mirror talk. Go get a physical to make sure all systems are go. Treat yourself to an outdoor solo date and breakup with that person you used to be, the one who can eat an 8-piece bucket of chicken, and some sides, in under an hour. Let them down gently but be clear: the relationship is over. They are a toxic friend and you deserve better. You deserve good health.

*smooches...hoping something hit home for you*
you can do it! take it from your friendly neighborhood recovering couch potato!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Jaded Photographs: November 2011 Edition

"Remnants Of Revelers"

*smooches...still in a Carnival mood*
even though I was shot at, I had a blast!

Friday, November 04, 2011

We Were Already Civilized. Thanks.

A while ago, The F$%k-it List sent me this comment she read somewhere regarding gentrification in BedStuy:

"There is a general Brooklyn blog media/press fascination with white 'hipsters' and other perceived 'gentrifiers' versus the stable, moderate earning black people who own the majority of the residential real estate in parts of Bed Stuy and Crown Heights. The implication seems to be that these neighborhoods are finally being "civilized" by trendy, wealthier white folks. It's truly tiresome."

Look here, I hope this person was mistaken and that this isn't what people are thinking about BedStuy, but just in case, let me explain something to you.

BLACK doesn't automatically equal uncivilized. The neighborhood may have been poorer with only a handful of businesses and services here and there that only catered to inner-city tastes (take-out Chinese joints, laundromats, bodegas on EVERY corner) but it wasn't uncivilized. There was (and probably still is) a huge drug problem all up and through the 79th Precinct's jurisdiction, but it wasn't uncivilized. There were many more abandoned and overgrown lots back then, but we were NEVER uncivilized.

We had jobs. We cared for our families and knew our neighbors- even the criminals- if not by name then by face, and they'd never let bad things happen to good people. Our kids played outside (well, not me...) and decorated our windows during the holidays. We had block parties that lasted from sun-up to sun-down every summer (or so I know I wasn't allowed to go, right?) with great music and fun and food.

To say that all of that was uncivilized because there were no wealthy white folks buying up shit and opening quaint little coffee shops and Ethiopian restaurants would be to call us folks from BedStuy animals, and frankly, I pity the fool that would have the audacity to call me an animal to my face.

So to the people that think the new white residents of BedStuy make the legendary (yes, motherfucker, LEGENDARY) Brooklyn neighborhood more habitable because FINALLY THE ANIMALS ARE TAMED, let me introduce this size 10 Doc Marten to your anus.

*smooches...beaming with pride for my neighborhood*
it was a tough place but I'd change NOTHING I experienced growing up there. BK STAND UP!!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

I Expect My Man To Call Me.

I'm not that needy of a person. I have my bratty moments when I demand attention and all, but overall you'll find that I can entertain myself just fine. So when I say I expect the man with whom I'm in a relationship (or even the man who's wooing me- this applies to him, too!) to call me, I mean this:

You're not fitna have full conversations with me via GChat or text. A full conversation needs to be spoken. I don't mean a "thinking of you" or "I just saw a man in a fur coat with a Jheri curl and a fuchsia poodle" because that's a cutesy sorta text that I would read, smile at, respond with a "me, too" or "NO WAY!" respectively, and not expect another text in return.

But on a steady basis, dude will need to call me. Ask me about my day or week and actually care about what I'm saying. He won't be fitting me into his TV-watching time or catching up with emails time, it'll just be us having a chat on the phone (or face-to-face, but that goes without saying: if I don't SEE you on a regular basis? You ain't my man.).

Electronic conversations are impersonal. Twitter serves its purpose because I'm not real-life friends with the 200+ people I follow. GChat works when I have downtime at work but still need to appear professional at my desk. However the folks that I truly call friends get a call from me, even if it's once a month. Is it too much to ask that a man who's trying to wife me up adhere to the same level of communication expectations? I don't think so.

We all know that texts and IMs can get misconstrued- what's the tone behind that? Was that "LOL" sarcastic or genuine? WHAT DOES S/HE MEAN BY 'WHATEVER'??? A phone call or face-to-face conversation solves all of that. Well, most of it. If you're dating a crazy person there's so solution for that...

My point is, if you expect to have your bodily fluids anywhere near my bodily fluids, and want to parade me all over NYC as your woman, I'm going to expect a certain level of actual contact that doesn't involve a text, computer or messenger pigeon. Call me. If I'm available I will answer the phone. If I'm not I will call you back as soon as I can because, if you're my man, I really do want to hear from you.

*smooches...pulling away from technology one post at a time*
women, we have to make these demands from men these days because they're getting too lazy and too comfortable with all these gadgets.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Four Pounds Of Excuses: A Healthy Jaded Update

Take a good look at what weeks of skipping workouts and eating like a fat pig look like:

I don't think you're ready for this jelly... I'm not even ready for it!

YUP. I've gotten bigger since my last fitness post and I'm pretty disgusted with myself. All that hard work this summer and for what? Sub-par pizza and wings from Dominoes? FOR SHAME, RAQUEL, FOR SHAME!

::takes a moment to admonish self some more::

OKAY. Now that that's over and done, let's make it all better by getting back on the right path. The whole trying to work out at night didn't work for me because really- who the hell wants to put in a full day and then go work out? That's that bullshit! (c) Smarty P. Jones

Yoga at night is not a problem. I pretty much look forward to it at night even though it can be a tough workout; it's still very relaxing and centering. But boot camp and all that? AT NIGHT? Pffft!

So I asked another parent if N could tag along with her and her daughter to school in the AM and that is working out beautifully. HELLO FREE MORNINGS! Now I just have to come face to face with the fact that I must part ways with my bed (my flannel sheets, jammies and duvet cover are EVERYTHING) before the sun's out. Plus:

1- I'm back to a modified Primal eating style, 80/20 to be exact, because strict diets are for people who have nothing better to do than harp over ever morsel of food they eat. I'm going to sprinkle cheese on something once in a while. I will eat a bag of Fritos during PMS Week. And Baby Jesus help you if you try and come between me and my momma's yellow rice on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

2- I shall brave the darkness and go back to my classes. BLAH. I already explained how awesome my bed situation is but in addition to that cottony heaven, there's a rapist loose in Park Slope. I didn't want to act like I care but I CARE and it's rather scary. But I'll put on my game face, carry a weapon and just do what I gotta do. If you see an angry Dominican walking along Fourth Avenue before dawn just steer clear.

3- I've joined up with other bloggers/twitter friends on that 30-Day Ab Challenge I mentioned yesterday, which will be a true test of my ability to workout at home. I have limited space and even less discipline (especially if no one is standing over me yelling "COME ON, PENZO! GET THAT FAT ASS OFF THE GROUND!) but it is something I am going to have to overcome ::sings Negro spirituals::

4- Sundays will find me cooking and food shopping as if a hurricane's a-comin'! I find that it's always when I don't have anything convenient to make for dinner that the credit card comes out and the Dominoes appears at my door.

5- I don't have a #5 but yesterday I did a list with only THREE items... you can't expect me to only have one with FOUR today. My entire world will implode. Is that what you want? An imploded Jaded Empire?!?!?!

So this is it; this is how I shall greet the holidays: fit & fabulous! I'll have a regular, sustainable routine and you will BOW DOWN TO MY AWESOMENESS once I reach my fabulous goal (which now has an ETA of May 23, 2012). You will wish you were me. You will cry in your pillow because you can't be me and you will hide ya kids, ya wives AND ya husbands from the greatness that is Healthy Jaded.

OR you'll make sure and read the blog all next week in order to get your shit on point, too, as I devote it to all things fitness. Just one week, though, I promise, then I'll go back to yelling at kids on the subway and threatening your lives.

*smooches...ready for the homestretch*
this must be what it feels like to run a start out strong, start to lose it somewhere in the middle and then see the finish line and get this sudden surge of determination...

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Three Challenges (A Devil's Number Post)

I always do things in fives, but today I'm going to step out of my comfort zone and try something different: a list of three things I'm working toward November. Very simply...

1- I'm participating in a 30 Day Abs Challenge organized by my twitter bud @thrutheblue.

2- This year, I'm taking NaNoWriMo seriously and completing the first draft of my novel.

3- Come February 2012, I will get my full tax refund; it will no longer get hijacked by Sallie Mae n dem.

That is all.

*smooches...hoping your bad juju stays away from me*
normally I don't let you all up in my specifics, but again, I'm trying something new. I hope when you wish me well you ACTUALLY wish me well.