Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sibling Pride

Once upon a time,  I used to  live in the south.  Atlanta, Georgia to be exact and it was glorious. It's where my brother went to college and I soon followed in his footsteps. My life has pretty much been that in a nutshell. My brother did something first, tested out the waters and then I followed (slightly) in his footsteps. Going away to school was no exception. From the time he came back from his first semester at college I had already made up my mind that as soon as I graduated I was getting the heck out of dodge. Atlanta was at the top of my list with Spelman and Clark Atlanta University being my top two choices of schools. I ended up at CAU in the fall of 1997 with my brother across the way at Morehouse. It was a good time. I really liked being in college with my brother. Although we were still very different, suddenly the playing field was somewhat level and now we could hang out as peers. Not just me tagging along on my older brother's adventures.  We still butted heads and had our sibling spats but then he went away for a year to study abroad and we had to work at our communication.

When I found out I was pregnant my brother was one of the first people I told and although he was scared for me and my future, because he is a good brother, he was supportive of my life choices and has been the most amazing uncle.  Throughout the years our relationship has had it's ups and downs but in the end, it's always been just the two of us. We are like bookends, there may be some junk between us, but ultimately we hold each other up.
So when he told me he wanted to go back to school and get his masters but wasn't sure how it was going to happen, I told him to just go for it and we would help him in anyway we could. So he did. And he worked his ass off. Both at school and at his full-time job and then internship. I was beyond impressed.

When he told us his tentative graduation date, our family wasted no time in getting plane tickets for the trip out to see him. There was no way we were letting our prodigal son graduate without us. For me, it was beyond exciting. I am my brother's biggest fan (shhhh don't tell him that) and cheerleader and am so proud of him. He's worked so hard for this moment and he gave up a lot (like a full time job with flight perks) and when my dad got sick early last year, he wasted no time in getting on a plane and coming to help me out. So yeah, I am #teamolderbrother all the way.  Getting his masters has been a long time coming and I was 100% down to celebrate the occasion with him.
When we finally arrived in Atlanta Friday evening, we met up with the rest of my family in town and headed out for a  quick bite & drinks to kick off the weekend. Saturday was spent running around picking up last minute items for his hastily pulled together graduation party. This is where I have to sidebar to say: if he lived here it would have been a party of Pinterest like proportions but since I was slightly out of my element I just made do. Crossed wires meant we were running late as we headed to the graduation sans tickets hoping to meet up with the family that had them and then found out they weren't even needed. Womp womp.

We slid into our seats just in time for them to announce his major /concentration and then a minute later, there he was. Walking across the stage beaming proudly, hoping somewhere in the audience the people who loved and supported him were out there watching. And even though I had no screaming voice to speak of I was whooping & hollering with all my might. Being the ninja I am, I hustled my tush down to the front where they were having the grads walk back to their seats to snap a few rushed photos. He was two feet from me before he even noticed me I couldn't stop smiling and took a moment to wipe a few happy tears from my eyes. My cup was running over.

Immediately after the graduation we all spilled out into the lobby and began the tried and true tradition of trying to get great family photos in a sea of people. I think we did pretty well and loved our group selfie so much I'm getting it printed to send each person a copy. 

4 out of 6 cousins in one room? I'd call it a win!

Later that night there was small shindig my brothers home and a few of his fnds and our cousins stopped by and it was just a good time. I got to catch up with folks I haven't seen for the better part of a decade while spending time with far-flung family and friends. We laughed, we ate, we told stories of days long gone and we told each other how proud we were and how much we loved each other.
It was a good time and I went to bed with a slight buzz, a full heart and a smile on my face. 

It's a running joke how much I talk about my brother but how little he shares about me. I once met a friend of his from college who'd gone to school with him for FOUR YEARS before he knew he had a sister. I used to be butt hurt about it but then he told me, he did that because he's my brother and protective about who he brings around me and vice versa and he never wanted to see me hurt in anyway or hear anything about me from anyone he might know. I thought he was just hating because I was crushing on his friends  but turns out, he was being a good brother. Who knew? I say that because he has always been my first proctector and my O.G. ride or die day one.  So while there was behind the scenes family drama and a sense of I told him not to worry , cuz I had it. The same way he's had my back for all these years. I got his. We ride together, we die together. Conley's for life. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Full Heart + No Voice

More than three weeks have passed since I spent my Saturday running my mouth from Scottsdale AZ all the way back to my driveway in California. It really wasn't my fault. I was with Xenia and Lori and we were just coming off of three days of laughter, learning, crying, drinking, dancing and networking with women who speak my language. 3 days away from my usual routine / daily work that had begun to press so heavily on me. For those three days I was IN the moment (a lot of which were captured and shared on Instagram) and overjoyed to be hanging with my people. I still haven't fully recovered my voice.

We're an interesting lot, bloggers. We spend a lot of time in solidarity tapping away at a keyboard and interacting via a myriad of social platforms but when we get together.... WATCH OUT NOW. Magic literally happens. You can see the sparks fly as people connect with brands and each other. Working on how to continue to use our voices and this space, this wild west of the web, to share our stories and rock the world.

Yeah, those three days were full of magic.

I was handed champagne upon entering rooms (by the way; that is tough to recover from) and was embraced for my zany and overzealous behavior. I stalked ALL of my faves and grabbed photos which then turned into real conversations and relationships that extend beyond cyberspace. To be surrounded by women I admire, hear them tell their stories and then watch them be recognized for that was something that I've never felt before. It feels a bit like parental pride; I've "known" some of these women for years  and watched their lives unfold in the cyber world as well as real life. I've seen them fall in love, get married, have babies, lose loved ones. All through the words on a screen and in images on social media. We've shared epistle style emails baring our souls and at times have never met in person. It's rare to get them all in one room and I absolutely soaked it all up. 

I didn't take a single outfit photo although I had every intention of doing so and was feeling every. single. one. of my looks. I brought the DSLR camera and everything and it stayed inside it's little bag all weekend. I just never wanted to take time away from what I was doing to snap any photos. I probably should have. It was a beautiful property with ideal spots for outfit photos but 'meh, I was just really in the moment.  A responsible/reputable fashion blogger would have. But I am not that. I'm just a mama who writes and is obsessed with honing her personal style. And that's cool, cuz I'm me. I promise I'll wear those same outfits again really soon so I'll take photos then.

For three  highly anticipated days I was in my element with my people. Even though we all blog about different things and come from all backgrounds we have this internet thing in common so we get it. We speak the same language and have the same concerns about traffic, photography and SEO. We get that friendships can be made and sustained even though you only see a person maybe once a year if ever, we understand that to be vulnerable on the internet is scary and to have to talk about that vulnerability in person is even scarier and we applaud that. No one in that space wonders what we did/ do to deserve a "lavish vacation"  - we know what we've done. And it hasn't been 'easy' by a long shot.

The late nights, early mornings, anxiety ridden rush to deadlines, struggling for the perfect shot/idea/project, missed activities for school or performances because of work commitments (albeit some of those commitments are super fun), missed deadlines and harsh words spoken because of them? These are all things we deal with everyday but in that space those were all things of the past. For three days we collaborated and celebrated each other and our successes.  But scrolling the hashtag on Instagram / Twitter it looks like we're just on vacay soaking up the sun and the swag. 

And I get it. I do. It's hard to understand a medium in which there is no real history and can only be defined in broad terms. I also understand how it appears to outsiders, and we bloggers don't help by downplaying what we do. We pretend the amount of time it takes to write, source images, schedule, photograph etc. for each post; is 'easy' and "no time really". Because, I don't know why. But it takes time to craft a beautiful post with content that is both honest and compelling and makes sense to your brand. 

So to be able to take time away from all that, the social media/blogger hustle, and our families, was a much needed break and yeah, we indulged quite a bit I'd say. But that indulgence was short lived in that it was all over as quickly as it started. But it was magic. And you know what, I'd do it all over again. In fact, I've already purchased my ticket for next year. 
If you're a blogger/writer/social media strategist and a mom interested in furthering your career I highly recommend looking into going to Mom 2.0 Summit next year It may be a sacrifice to make it happen but it will be a sacrifice worth making.

Do you attend any conferences for your line of work? 

Monday, May 25, 2015

ATL Shawty: It Was A Different World

Over the last two weeks I have spent more time living out of a bag than I have at home and this past weekend was the first time I was home on a Saturday in two weeks. It was weird. Both being away and being home. While you read a bit about my Arizona adventure, the very next weekend I hopped on a plane to Atlanta with my dad to see my brother receive his master’s degree. It was a proud sister moment and I was happy to make the trip even though back to back traveling isn't my favorite thing to do. But hey it gave me an excuse to break in my new favorite sweats and keep using my new tote so yeah, don't mind if I do! 


Oddly enough, I happened to be scrolling FB late Thursday night and saw my NYC bestie had posted a photo of her and her sisters. I saw in the comments it said she was in Atlanta and I immediately lost my shit and subsequently startled my father with my excitement. I haven’t seen Pie since I went to visit NYC last summer for Blogging While Brown so this was a real treat. Of course I began to send a flurry of texts immediately to confirm we were indeed going to be in the same city for a few days in hopes we could hook up. Excited doesn’t even begin to cover what I felt. My trip just got that much more exciting.

The sad truth is, I haven’t been back to Atlanta since I left, 13 years ago. We packed up the car + truck and I pretty much never looked back. I flew through once about 5 years ago but that was it. It’s weird when you think about it since Atlanta was my home for so many wonderful years. It’s where I went to college, found myself, met my husband and gave birth to my daughter. It’s also where I met the majority of the women I consider lifetime friends. My love for Atlanta is entrenched not just in the city itself but what it represents to me and mine. We all grew up in Atlanta. We lived, we loved, we learned.

By the time the plane touched down I was beside myself with excitement over seeing my brother and anticipation in seeing my Pie baby. I’d put out the word that I was going to be in town so a few of my other college friends reached out so we could hook-up.  When I finally met up with Pie and Keya during dinner we squealed like teenagers as we hugged and fussed over one another. These were my people and as soon as we embraced I could feel that bond re-strengthen. We have been through a lot together and even though we don’t talk everyday (or even as often as we should)  it’s like no time has passed when we get together. 

Because we are grown ladies we ditched my family and headed out for quick ‘mom/auntie’ ATL turn up. Because memories y'all. Because we are young-old and have been partying since 1997 we quickly realized the "graduation celebration" club/lounge street scene was not for us (I see you young man puking in the street. Shout out to your homeboy for patting your back and walking you to the car.) and opted for what my brother calls “a cool lounge spot”.  We ended up at someplace called The Sound Table, good music, great drinks, EXCELLENT company. It was an all-around good time.We danced a bit then headed outside to talk some more. There aren’t even words to convey how good it felt to be back in the A. So much of who I am is because of that place. So much of who I am is because of Pie.  To be in the city where the party don’t stop, did something for my soul. To be there with my girls and my brother, was mind blowing to say the least.

Following our ‘evening turn up’ the girls had to take me home and at some point we realized it was well after 3 in the morning. It seemed only appropriate to take the party to Waffle House on the way to taking me back to my hotel. Waffle house did not disappoint with colorful customers, an entertaining wait staff and of course, quality food!!! I mean, where else can you get a waffle, bacon, o.j. and bomb hashbrowns for under $6??? Scattered smothered and covered Yo!

As I sat in the airport on the way to go home after three whirlwind days in a city that basically made me, I couldn't help but chuckle at the memories both old and new that happened here. Sitting outside well into the morning hours, feeling the humidity like a faint warm breath on my neck, taking in the glory of the scenery, the sights of city and the sounds of the people and I felt like myself. I could feel the changes and could see myself timeline from my arrival as a bright-eyed 18 year old with PLANS for her life and how that life deviated from the 'vision' and became something so much more.  I looked out the window of the plane and reminisced on a life gone by and thanked a higher power for looking out for me all those years ago. I don't know who I'd be if I hadn't had Atlanta and all it's many trappings. 

For me, Atlanta is pure poetry. Everything from the restaurants, highways, byways and streets has meaning. At one point I was with my family and we were turned around over by the Georgia World Congress Center and we landed on a street that just, felt familiar, I looked up and a flood of memories came rushing back. I KNEW that street. Random as it was, I knew it and figured out our way back to the freeway. Driving to my brothers house further out in the sticks with the windows down and the smell of the country (hey, allergies) filling my nose I was reminded of the summer I turned 21 and how it felt like I was on the verge of something great. I remembered how magical this city used to be. And then I wondered if it was the city or if it was us. Because whenever we are together or I come back from having spent any time with my college crew I feel that same sense of starry-eyed magic. But being in the place where it all began, hitting corners and spying old haunts while reminiscing about days long gone was exactly what I needed and the timing was just right for it all to happen the way it did. So yeah, when people ask I say I still consider Atlanta home, not because I live there, but because who I was when I was did. 

Do you have another place, other than where you currently live, that you call home?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Road to Mom 2.0 - Live from the 10 Freeway

Y'all this month is FLYING by. Hell, the year really. Hard to believe we're already halfway through May and things just keep ticking along. Our social calendar has been out of control lately, our communication was out of whack and I was longing for a little R+R that could not come soon enough. Luckily, on the horizon was a highly anticipated trip to Arizona with some of my blogging loves as we ventured off for Mom 2.0 Summit at The Phoenician Resort + Hotel. I was VERY excited about this trip.

I desperately needed the break in routine and to get out of my head.
When we were just about two weeks away I was "ready to start packing NOW". . but I refrained although I studied my closet like I was going to be tested on it's contents. I tend to get either really cutthroat with my packing and do an excellent job(blissdom) or go a little nuts and bring a workable mish-mash (blogging while brown) because I can't commit. I tried to only shop my closet , with maybe one exception as I've had my eye on a TopShop tank for a while now and had planned on getting it for this occasion. And I already had my hair done (thank you crochet braids) the car was been rented, hotel booked and we had a rough idea of what time we wanted to hit the road.
Oh yeah, that's right, my faves Lori (Mommyfriend) and Xenia (Raised By Culture) and I hit going Romy and Michelle style all the way to AZ. It was a grand adventure.

Of course things didn't go as planned. The rental car wasn't ready, I left my driver's license at home, then couldn't find it, back at my house we discovered I left my CAR &HOUSE KEYS in Lori's car. Fingers and ankles were crossed that he hadn't left for work yet and you better believe I did a praise dance when he showed up with them. When we finally got on the road it seemed surreal. Like any minute now we would be stopped and told to turn around and go back to our everyday mom life. It never happened.

Now, a lot of people cringed when I told them we were driving but I was excited. I'm kind of a fan of road trips and I like nothing more than chatting about random ish as you gaze at whatever scenery there may be whizzing by. Admittedly it was my first ladies road trip (in a long time) and I get why a  lot of people get nervous about being in the car with people you only know online (Lori & Xenia had only met in person "officially" that morning), or don't know all that well. Music becomes a question and how do you work out who's paying for gas/ how often will you stop, who's driving and if you're required to bring your own snacks. The list goes on and on. But we had none of those issues. Both ladies are beyond cool and got along famously as we chatted amiably while we cruised along the 10 freeway heading east to whatever might wait for us at the foot of the mountains.

It seemed to take us both forever and no time at all to get there fortunately the conversation and company were equally awesome since the scenery was not. Once we were on the property you could literally feel the energy shift within us. We were here.Nestled in the foothills of some picturesque mountain range the Phoenician hotel rises against the backdrop like a bird from the ashes and it was here I could feel myself be renewed.
I knew that once I stepped through those doors I was going to come out a changed woman. And I was right.

Not all conferences are created equal and over the last three years I have been to my fair share and learned ever so much. Not just about the business of blogging but the space in which I live the majority of my life (the internet) and about women as well. This conference though, this reminded about the sisterhood of motherhood and the digital sisterhood/sorority that we've sort of formed. No, we're not all friends and some of us blatantly don't like others, while some feel there is a cool girls clique happening, but at the end of the day, NONE OF THAT MATTERED.
As Laura Mayes said during the opening keynote : forget about it. all of it. You got here. And that's all that matters. So enjoy yourself.

And I did.  For 3 days I talked, laughed, danced, cried, guffawed, learned, questioned and supported my fellow woman while I drank my fair share of champagne and let my tongue turn blue from cotton candy. It was marvelous and magical and all the things I imagined it would be. And then some.
On the way home we stopped at this cute little cafe Kitchen 56 we'd seen on the way to the hotel and since they had brunch, we decided to partake and ohmyword were we so glad we did! The food was A-MAZING. We all zeroed in on the chilaquiles and Lori and I decided to split an order since we also wanted the creme brulee french toast. Well the staff was so courteous and just all around awesome they went ahead and split the order for us. Meaning we each got our own plates of both options. No messy table splittage! It was kind of awesome. That the food was stupid good was just icing on the cake and made us actually look forward to the impending ride home.

So yeah, the road to Mom 2 was a little bit rough even though we did a good job of planning and coordinating schedules. But thank goodness we have partners who were able to hold down the fort while we worked on our craft but then again I guess that's what real life is like right? Sometimes it's a little rocky and things don't go according to plan but we adjust, make do and pull together to make it happen.
I think that's kind of cool.

Have you ever done a girls road trip?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

This is how WE play + LEGOS save the day

I'll admit that when we received our first LEGOS gift one Christmas I was nervous about bringing it  home as all I could think about was all the  mommy horror stories I'd heard about pieces spread all over the floor . It's practically written into the motherhood handbook to : BE WARE THE LEGOS.

But then we opened up the box and discovered a whole new world of play with Baby Ninja. LEGOS gave us the ability to really get down on his level and let our imaginations and his run wild.  At first it was all about building and stacking to make the highest tower  possible and then promptly knocking it down but then something really cool happened.  He started to do more imaginative play and add other 'fwends' to the mix. and one day as he played and I listened absentmindedly to his toddler chatter I realized how much the LEGOS were actually teaching him. More than just something that I avoided/ dreaded stepping on, these colorful blocks were giving him a voice to act out the scenes in his head. 


I watched him do what in "real life" would be a complex geometric equation and work on spatial reasoning, fine motor skills and imaginative play all in one sitting. I was blown away. This was a legit learning tool! What the what! Maybe I'd never really paid attention to it before but you better believe I was paying attention now. This kid was actually doing things beyond the "norm" for his age simply by playing. I mean, what's not to love right? And to be fair, a little LEGO time has bought me more than my share of a few moments peace when I need to get some work done. I always know he'll play with them.


Additionally, LEGOS have been the common factor between Sweet Pea and Baby Ninja, even back when his sole enjoyment was to knock them over, they have always been able to connect while a stack of blocks lay between them. My mother-in-love is HUGE fan of playing with the LEGO Duplo blocks with Baby Ninja. They build these elaborate structures and then tell stories about the people who may live there or bring in the dinosaurs and cars to make a "town". I love that she gets down on his level and really gets into playing with him. I also love getting sent photos when I'm away of how they spent their morning listening to music and playing "building castles/houses/towers" with the blocks.

This year, for his 3rd birthday we took him to the LEGO store at Downtown Disneyland , upon which he promptly freaked out and didn't' want to leave, and treated him to one of the holy grail of toys for a young boy - the train set, complete with conductor, gas pump, a passenger and livestock to transport. Talk about hours of fun! I don't know who was more excited to get it all set up, him or my husband! They spent all day watching the train go 'round the tracks and building a train tower and more buildings for the train to roll under.  And I'll fully admit I was pretty excited to see it all come together as well. LEGOS are kinda fun man! 

So when I came home from Mom 2 Summit with the My first Playhouse set, he took one look and said "open it. Have to pway Mommy." Obviously he took me being gone for 3 days in stride.
He wasted no time in getting the box open and then dumping out the rest of his collection so he could build whatever was in his minds eye. 

A week later I was back out of town and kept getting texts from home of what they'd been building and how much fun he was having incorporating his new set. And when I walked in the door after three more days gone, he was so eager to show me his latest creation and how it all worked and what was happening  and it was so freaking cute that I completely forgot about my need for food and a long nap. I loved his excitement and hearing all about why the tools had to go in the red door and that the train was going up, up, up with the people. His little voice gets me every time. So yeah, I have no problem placing an order for another set of tracks to expand his train. I can't wait to see his face light up when we make it bigger and see what kind of other fun we can have with all the blocks.

Are you a LEGO family? What are your favorite sets?


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