Commencement Day

Today I “graduate” from the 31WriteNow Challenge! And just as an educational commencement exercise symbolizes the end of academic pursuit, but the beginning of a new chapter, so does today represent both an end and a new beginning.

After two straight months of daily challenges, first with July’s AudioMo daily audio challenge in July, and then August’s 31WriteNow Challenge, I am pleased to make the following announcement:

Introducing my new blog, my new baby – Liner Notes Lounge (http://linernoteslounge.com). The Lounge, is a place where music is explored and celebrated. Look for music spotlights, and more audio conversations with independent artists. I have decided to splinter off the Music Notes section of This and That With Calandra and create a site dedicated solely to music, one of my many passions.

So please go check it out. Here’s what you’ll find on the menu:

Liner Notes – general articles related to all genres of music

Mic One: Calandra Speaks – music-related podcasts

Mic Two: Artist Conversations – interviews with various independent artists

The Listening Suite – a regular review of the music I’m currently listening to

The Lyrics Spot – interpretations of some of my favorite lyrics

So, “…grab your favorite music, have a seat on the floor, get comfy and let’s go…” Welcome to the Lounge!

Teach ’em How to Study

Studying

Studying (Photo credit: scui3asteveo)

It’s back to school time for children across the country. My own children will be starting second grade and kindergarten next Wednesday. I ran across an interesting article/quiz in Scientific American about study skills. I believe that like learning, optimal study habits differ by individual. However, there are some basic principles of learning that can be applied to any student.

As our children head back to class, start instilling in them good study habits. Sometimes we get so caught up in them learning the material, we don’t help our children learn how to study the material. My son, who is entering the second grade, learned last year what it meant to study. He had quizzes on whatever book he had just read, and I had to remind him that yes, he read the chapters of the book, but he now needed to study them, so that he could be tested on specific events in the book. It helped for me to give him a practical example. Immediately after reading the material once, I “quizzed” him. Of course, he answered everything correctly; however when I asked him the same questions a few hours later, he found himself having to look back in the book for the answers. Though I sympathized with his struggle, I also looked at this as an opportunity to begin instilling in him the value of studying.

I am thankful for Mrs. Krutoy – my jet black-haired, hipster jeans and go-go boots-wearing 7th grade Social Studies teacher (mind you, this was in 1982!). We had biweekly exams and she gave us very specific study instructions. We were to give ourselves three nights before the exam to start studying. There were always three major sections of notes for every exam, so each night we could focus on a different section, each night adding the previous section for review. I aced most of her exams! I maintained this same three-day study rule throughout college and even in graduate school. I even remained diligent in dividing the readings and/or notes into three sections for easier studying.

When teaching the Three R’s, don’t forget to add an ‘S’ – for Studying!

How did you study for exams?

(31WriteNow Challenge Day 30)

Living the Dream

50th_anniversary_of_the_i_have_a_dream_speech-2072005.2-hp

Google commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the I Have a Dream Speech

Yesterday we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech, which was a part of the great March on Washington. There has been much recent discussion of whether or not Dr. King’s ‘Dream’ has become a reality. It seems the same conversation also comes every year in January as we celebrate his birthday. Of course, there is no pat or concise answer to this question. But there are several things to consider when thinking about realizing the Dream.

Firstly, on the positive side, African-Americans are clearly in a better position relative to where we were in Dr. King’s era. Is there still racism? Yes. Maybe we are missing burning crosses, water hoses, and attack dogs, but voting inconsistencies and glass ceilings  indicate that there is still discrimination against people of color. However, we are free from legal segregation and many of the atrocities that happened during the Civil Rights Era are now punishable by law. We have more opportunities – greater numbers of African-Americans in higher education, as corporate executives and in political offices. I believe we have made great strides and accomplishments.

However, there is also a dark side that negates many of the positive achievements. There are things going on now that were NOT happening back then and they are hurting our community. The disrespect of women we see now was unheard of in Dr. King’s day. Music and entertainment have glorified calling women ‘female dogs’ and ‘garden tools.’ And there are also women who feel that behaviors that actually degrade them are okay. Young men are glorifying ‘gangsta’ and ‘thug’ mentality, often imitating behaviors found in correctional facilities. We won’t even start in on the sagging pants issue…Using the N-word has become status quo for many, forgetting the hateful origins that brought the word into existence. No, my friends, there are many things going on today that would not have pleased Dr. King and other leaders in the struggle.

So what do we do, 50 years and one day after that great call for action? First of all, we need to continue to celebrate our achievements, but never rest on our laurels. Continue to work hard and make strides. More importantly though – we need to instill in our young people the sense of pride that was instilled in us. They need to know ALL our history – not just about Dr. King and Rosa Parks. They need to understand that even before our ancestors set foot on slave ships, we were corraled into pits and cells and treated inhumanely – in our OWN land of Africa . Teach them how we were separated from our people, our home and our culture. We were brought to this country as animals, and many didn’t survive the Middle Passage, their bodies thrown into the ocean. We would be more respectful of our women, and our young women would be more respectful of themselves if we remembered how Black women suffered in silence as they were raped by slavemasters and overseers, forced to be ‘breeders’ and then nurse their owner’s children. Our young Black men would be more respectful of themselves and each other if we remember how our men were stripped of their place in the family. These men had to watch, defenseless, while their women were raped and their families divided when children and wives were sold to other owners.

How do we teach? We teach respect to our own children, in our own homes. We exhibit respectful behavior. And where the family unit has failed, it is up to the community, our churches, fraternal organizations and community groups to stand in the gap and educate our young people. They can no longer grow up thinking they are less than who God created them to be! They can no longer be claimed by their environment, believing the lie that they cannot rise above their present condition to a brighter future. Yes, we’ve come far, but we have a lot of work left to do. Let us not just remember the speech – let’s live it!

(31WriteNow Challenge Day 29)

The Art of Spontaneity

My sister and I often compare the various combinations of traits we each inherited from both our parents. Like my mother, I am an avid planner. She has mastered the art of packing her clothes in her head, making packing her suitcase a breeze. At the same time, I carry the gene of spontaneity from my father. Daddy always had a way of just coming up with surprises. One Christmas, he decided to forego the annual pilgrimage to my aunt’s house, and we packed up the car and drove to Atlantic City for the day. My mother was not too happy with his decision, and she was quick to let him know that. It was a rather tense day, but in my heart, I was happy. Daddy had come up with one of his spontaneous plans and I loved the idea that it was just something different. He decided to go against the grain and do something he thought would be fun. By the end of the day, even Momma admitted we had a good time together as a family.

Well, that’s me…Ms. Spontaneous. I love to surprise people with off-the-cuff antics – a phone call/text message from out of the blue, a surprise lunch/dinner invitation, an email or hand-written note just to say “Hey!” Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with advance planning. For me, that is a priority! But I also remember to not get so caught up in planning things that I forget to periodically let things happen on the fly. When you have children, being spontaneous can bring them an added sense of joy. That surprise trip to McDonald’s (hey, don’t judge me!), cute little toy or book I bring home from work can make their day. For most of us, it is often the spontaneous moments that are remembered most.

What was the last spontaneous thing you did?

(31WriteNow Challenge Day 28)

Gratitude

thank-you-18872533Last week was one of highs and lows for me, but with the net result being an overwhelming sense of gratitude. The week began with homegoing services for my husband’s 90-year-old great Uncle. I was sad to say goodbye, but rejoiced in the fact that he had lived a full life and that he no longer had to endure the pain of his illness.

I then had the awesome opportunity to interview Doug Ramsey and Dan McCollum of AfterSix Productions. It was a wonderful conversation! I am so thankful to Dan and Doug for giving me the opportunity to share thoughts on the music industry, as well as allowing me to share their music with our TTWC family. A few days later, I reached 200 subscribers on This and That With Calandra’s Facebook page! Honestly, I had not been paying attention to the Facebook numbers lately, so it was a real surprise! I would like to take this time to thank EVERYONE who has ever had a kind word of encouragement for, subscribed to, posted a comment to, shared a post from, or contributed in any way to This and That With Calandra. I am ever grateful for your support!

Over the weekend, my business partners from SGF Events and Make Beauty Your Business hosted another Beauty 101 event, this time in Nyack, New York and it was a great success. We are already making plans to return in the next few weeks, and we are preparing for our next event, a trunk show in Arlington, Virginia in September.

As you know, I have been participating in Luvvie Ajayi’s 31WriteNow blogging challenge during the month of August. At the end of July, I was just coming off my 31 Day AudioMo challenge, where I created an audio post every day for a month, when I joined Luvvie’s blogging challenge. And a challenge it has been. I am grateful not just for being able to stretch my creativity each day, but I am also thankful for all the new supporters, subscribers, and commenters to This and That With Calandra. I have never had to juggle so many notifications at one time. I certainly do not take it for granted.

By the end of the week, I began to finally embrace things I had been reluctant to embrace in the past. I am energized and recharged, ready to face the next episode. My new mantra: BRING IT ON!

So yes, it was a phenomenal week!

(31WriteNow Challenge Day 27)

31WriteNow Challenge Day 26: The Home Stretch

WriteNowAs we approach the last week of the 31WriteNow Challenge, I have to admit that I feel like a runner on her last legs during a marathon. Unfortunately, I feel like I’m approaching the finish line WITHOUT that rush of adrenaline most racers seem to exhibit as they come into the home stretch!

This challenge was truly a challenge for me. I had just completed July’s AudioMo challenge – a month of daily audio posts. I confess that during THAT challenge, which was something I had NEVER done before, I thought to myself how interesting it was that I could more easily think of things to say. I also silently thanked God that I didn’t actually have to write on a daily basis! So on July 31, as I prepared my final audio message, I read about Luvvie Ajayi’s blog challenge. It almost felt like a personal punishment for wishing I didn’t have to write! That’s when I knew I HAD to participate in 31WriteNow. I found my inner-voice saying to me, “So you say you can’t do it? Well prove  that you CAN!” Being that it was the day before the blog challenge was to begin, I didn’t have time to contemplate or chicken out. I felt like I had no choice but to participate…and I’m glad that I did! Not only have I experienced tangible benefits (increased subscriptions, comments and other stats), but I have felt an extreme sense of personal accomplishment. A confirmation, if you will, that I have the passion and ability to write!

The road is getting a little rough in the home stretch, but I’m almost there…and I know I’ll make it to the end!

(31WriteNow Challenge Day 26)

Pampered Joy – Update

529403_560659263965296_23743744_nA few weeks ago, I posted the following review of Pampered Joy skincare. Since then, owner Felicia Thomas has opened a shop on Etsy! Please check out her site and look for an upcoming sale in order to make way for her Fall collection. 

Felicia Thomas is a Brooklyn, New York-based makeup artist with a passion for beauty. Her company, Pampered Joy, specializes in “naturally handmade body products to rejuvenate and replenish your skin.”

Her products include handmade whipped body and hair butters, foot and body sugar srubs, body massage oils and bath salts in a variety of exotic scents, such as Lavender with Lemongrass, Fresh Mango, Peppermint with Eucalyptus, Coconut Litsea and Vanilla with Sandalwood and Frankincense. Pictured below are her whipped body butter and sugar scrub.

Whipped Body Butter, Body Sugar Scrub

Whipped Body Butter, Body Sugar Scrub

I finally got to purchase two of her products, the Whipped Shea Butter and Body Sugar Scrub, both in Coconut Lavender. I have used whipped shea butter in the past, but never of this kind of consistency. Imagine a product just slightly denser than whipped cream, and a tad lighter than fluffy cake frosting. This body butter is MAGIC! The scent is just strong enough without being overpowering, and the consistency is to die for! I use it SPARINGLY – as if it were a pot of gold that I want to keep forever. By the way, her prices are very reasonable; each jar was only $10. The essential oils added to the butter leave a nice sheen that melts onto your skin, leaving a dewy, not greasy glow. And the scent…my my my!!!

I usually use sugar scrubs sparingly, but this one is SO natural, I think it’s just sugar and essential oil! It’s gentle enough to use daily. It does a wonderful job exfoliating the skin, using natural abrasion and leaving your skin feeling smooth and not stripped. Again, the essential oils provide the luscious scent as well as lock in moisture.

As in past product reviews, there is usually something that stands out OTHER than the products themselves. Pampered Joy is often found participating in community programs. Below is a photo of Pampered Joy products on display at a local church event. She recently joined forces with a Brooklyn elementary school teacher who sponsored a day of pampering and trip to the American Girl store in New York City for 27 young girls. (Read about the event here)

PamperedJoyDisplayI wish Felicia much success in her venture. Pampered Joy will continue to grow and thrive as it continues to provide natural products made not just by hand, but with love!

(31WriteNow Challenge Day 25)