The Phoenix Rising Collective

Inspiring Women to be Self-Love in Action


3 Comments

She Makes It Beautiful – An Interview with Entrepreneur, Golda Smith – Fit Mommy Blog

GoldaSmith[phoenixrisingcollective]

She Makes It Beautiful (SMIB) encourages and inspires women to follow their entrepreneurial dreams by interviewing and sharing the phenomenal stories of women who’ve already taken that courageous leap and soared.

I ask entrepreneurs in diverse creative professions to participate, and they are more than willing to pay it forward. So, from opening a dance studio to starting a bakery to grooming pets and everything in between, you’ll read unique and empowering stories about how these women decided to make it happen!

Don’t forget! Download your free SMIB Bonus Materials below. Use them as your personal toolkit to help get that dream off the ground. All bonus materials complement the advice and tips given by each of the entrepreneurs.

GoldaSmithFitMommy[phoenixrisingcollective]

Golda Smith, Creator of Golda Smith – Fit Mommy Blog

This SMIB interview is with the dynamic and positive, Golda Smith, Founder, Personal Trainer, and Nutritional Cleansing Coach of Golda Smith – Fit Mommy Blog.

My first thought about Golda? “What a beautiful spirit!” Her smile is infectious and most certainly reveals her inner light. I was excited to talk with Golda not only to learn more about the incredible work she is doing coaching and supporting women in their healthy living journeys, but to also share her personal story of resilience, as it epitomizes what it means to be a Phoenix rising! She used her challenges (or what we often call failures) to propel her forward with more strength, clarity, and purpose. Her own transformation, of course, is an essential part of what makes her such an inspiring and effective coach.

Golda was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She went to college in the south and lived there for many years. While there she was in what she calls the picture perfect relationship with a man she was planning and building a life with. Two kids later their relationship took a turn for the worse and the couple eventually went their separate ways.

We all know that when it rains it often pours, so on top of a break-up, the condo she lived in flooded and with no emergency savings, unfortunately, Golda ended up on her ex-boyfriend’s couch. Not at all happy with her living situation, she made the decision to leave: “I humbled myself, packed my chocolate drops (that’s what I call my children), a few bags and moved back home to New York where I was blessed to have the support of family. What could have been a very stressful time was a blessing, not only did I have family but I also had time to get my head together.”

During the journey back to herself she took self-care very seriously – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Golda worked with a life coach and began working out again; it was during this time of transformation that Fit Mommy Blog was born.

______________

A Fit Mommy makes herself a priority because she can’t take care of everyone else and neglect herself; Golda’s goal with Fit Mommy is to “lock arms with awesome women (especially moms) to raise happy, healthy children and contribute to our communities in meaningful ways while creating freedom and leaving lasting legacies.”

When and why did you start Fit Mommy Blog? What sparked your interest?

About two years ago I started Fit Mommy Blog, and I started because I had GoldaSmith.com which is Social Media Management but kept being drawn to and finding my way back to health and wellness. I wanted to separate the two things and the name that kept popping up for me was Fit Mommy Blog. I kept seeing other moms who were not making health and wellness a priority. It was important for me to just share and show other women that it’s totally fine to make themselves a priority. It’s not just about having a hard, buff body but just about all facets of health and wellness – spiritual, emotional, food, and definitely exercise.

How did you know this is what you wanted to do for women and that you were meant to do it?

I’d say that’s pretty easy. They say that whatever you do that doesn’t feel like work then that’s probably what you should be doing. And this doesn’t feel like work; it’s something that I absolutely love doing. I love sharing with people. I love fitness. I love food – good food! And I really love inspiring people to just be more and to do more.

What was the process like getting the blog started and using your experience as a coach to get women on board with Fit Mommy Blog?

Definitely having a coach – someone who has been there and done that. Working with a coach is an investment in yourself. I always tell people never be afraid to invest in yourself. I always say to people whatever it is that you want to do there is someone else who has already done it. So, if you have to come out of pocket to pay a coach, a mentor then do that. If you can’t afford one then there are so many people who are doing great things that offer free information, but you always want to find guidance. Every great person who has done anything worthwhile has had or currently has a mentor.

Was there a pivotal moment when you recognized what you were doing would be successful?

No. And I’m being serious! There are so many days when I throw my hands up and say to myself, “Is anyone reading this? Does anyone really get it?” Then I’ll get an email or a comment that says, “Thank you so much for writing that. I really love what you’re doing.” And that feels like someone is giving me chest compressions; my heart starts beating again and I keep going. I do know there is a purpose, and I perhaps put too much pressure on myself sometimes because I have so much and I want people to receive it. However, it’s just about being consistent and knowing that whoever is suppose to get the message will get it.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love being able to help people feel better, just feel better in whatever way that is – whether it is fitting in their clothes better, being able to not have stress/handle stress, or just putting a smile on a client’s face. Knowing that I’ve helped contribute and not destroy (because there are enough people out there destroying). To be a part of the building up of someone, that is what I love.

GoldaSmithSMIB[phoenixrisingcollective]

Golda training with a Fit Mommy client.

How do you maintain a healthy balance in your personal and professional life?

My organizer! (Golda shows me her perfectly organized, color-coded, highlighted organizer). I schedule personal time for myself; I schedule work time; I schedule family time. Everyone has their own color and that’s non-negotiable.

Lastly, what advice can you give to women seeking to fulfill their own entrepreneurial dreams?

Do it! Do it because this is it. You could be gone at anytime. You could be gone tonight; you could be gone tomorrow. You don’t know when. My greatest fear is dying not doing half the things I say I want to do. As I get older, the reality of death is REAL. Not that I know when it’s going to happen or anything, it’s just the reality – that wake up call that says, “What are you waiting for?” You might not be able to do everything but at least try – nothing wrong with trying. You never know, so do it!

Don’t allow your “isms” to stop you – whatever nonsense you’re telling yourself about yourself. I always say on social media, “What you say about yourself is more important than what other people say about you.” You have to believe in yourself. Speak confirmation to yourself, and even if you don’t believe it now if you speak it enough your conscience will begin to believe it.

Whatever the dream is don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Take advice from people who have the results you want to have and not “Pookie” down the street who doesn’t have any ambition. Sometimes you are going to be your only cheerleader and that’s OK, too. Everyone isn’t meant to understand your calling, your dream that’s been given to you.

 

For more on Golda and the inspirational work she’s doing to keep busy moms healthy and happy, please visit Golda Smith – Fit Mommy Blog; and by all means, follow her social network, HERE.

Now, take a look at the free SMIB Bonus Materials that complement Golda’s interview.

SMIB_Banner[GoldaSmithWorksheet]

Remember, you’re building your SMIB Entrepreneurial Toolkit! Didn’t get your bonus materials from the last interview? Well, go back, recap, and download it HERE.

Tell us what you think, Phoenix!

We want to hear about how you are inspired by Golda Smith, as well as your progress building your toolkit, so tell us in the comment section below. You can also share a snapshot of how you used the SMIB bonus materials on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag: #SMIB #thephoenixrisingcollective Tag: @thephoenixrisingcollective

 


About the Contributing Writer:

Ayanna_Prof_Headshot[Mktg_Phoenix2]Ayanna Jordan is founder and self-esteem education consultant of The Phoenix Rising Collective; she is also the editor-in-chief for Phoenix Shine, The PRC’s blog and spirit-affirming online community. She has always had a passion for inspiring others through writing, coaching, and teaching. Her diverse career experiences have positively shaped her overall perspective on what it truly means to be a change agent: “I believe a change agent is someone who is in alignment with what she loves to do, and then connects, utilizes, and shares that love to make a difference and transform lives.” Learn more about Ayanna HERE.

 

 


Leave a comment

Love Yourself First! [FLASHBACK] Friday – Today’s Phoenix is Natasha

natasha_LYFF[poster]

Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of our Shed Light series collection. We invite diverse women to tell us their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to  “shed light” on the diverse ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority. This beautiful Phoenix is Natasha:

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

Like so many women, loving myself first has been a challenge. Women, in particular, are socialized to care for and assume responsibility for others in ways that can be detrimental to wholly loving and caring for ourselves. We’re conditioned to be “givers.” This isn’t a bad thing. It’s a wonderful quality but women should also be encouraged to be givers to ourselves as well. At 33 years old, I am finally learning this lesson. I have finally heeded the advice of my husband, mother, and friends. I now take time to nurture myself through writing, performance, and other creative pursuits. I read, meditate, and do yoga. I make the time to regularly get with my close girlfriends (see photo below of Natasha with her Goddess Squad) who provide me with constant encouragement, enlightenment, good food, and laughter. Loving myself first also means treating myself with compassion. So often, I would beat myself up trying to be the perfect mother, wife, career woman, friend, mentor, student, daughter, etc. I’m getting better at saying “I’m doing the best that I can. That’s all that I can do, and it’s enough.” Loving myself means honoring my process and embracing my authenticity. It means knowing that I am abundant and absolutely worthy of giving AND receiving.

Goddess Squad 7-9-2013What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc.)

I am very big on meditation, mindfulness, and yoga. I jump between Iyengar, Vinyasa, and Kundalini yoga. I also do strengthening core exercises. I don’t follow any particular diet but I am mindful of what I put in my body,  and I eat in moderation. I love creating a very Zen-like environment in my home. There is lots of natural sunlight.  I like fresh flowers, candles, and art. It’s important to me that my space reflects the beauty of nature. I am heavily influenced by indigenous spiritual practices and am an I-Ching practitioner. I also like to sing, dance, and play with my kids.

Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that has led to a deeper love for who you are?

I am learning the importance of emotional self-sufficiency. It involves honoring my emotions by owning them.  It’s really rooted in the understanding that others are not responsible for my emotional health.  I now understand that having an emotional state that is predicated on other people’s actions is like living your life on shifting sand; you will always live in that unstable and reactionary place. I’ve made a conscious decision to shy away from that kind of co-dependence and to know that authentic happiness comes from my internal source.

What have you learned from self-love?

I’ve learned that self-love is not a destination. It’s an ongoing, lifelong process. There will be an ebb and flow to it. There are so many elements in this world that work very hard to prevent us from fully loving ourselves as we are. So, it’s a constant challenge. There will be days where I won’t be so good at it and that’s okay. It’s really all about the process of constantly growing in ways that require me to keep unveiling and rediscovering myself. _________________________________________ We asked Natasha to also submit photos demonstrating self-love in action or even photos that radiate the feeling of loving who she is. We created a collage (shown above) of the awesome images she chose to share:

  1. Top left – Showing a naturally beautiful representation of happiness
  2. Top right – Sharing her Mala prayer/chanting beads and rice bowl for meditation
  3. Bottom left – Spending time with her son and the participants in her RAISE IT UP! program; Natasha is the co-founder and executive director.
  4. Bottom right – Meditating with her sons

Thank you Natasha for sharing your LYFF story with us. You are a Phoenix rising! Happy Friday. __________________________________________ Love Yourself First! Friday is a bi-weekly self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Diverse women tell their stories of triumph, share their personal affirmations, and declare their love for their own lives! The series is meant to inspire and empower women to fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self-esteem.  Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories


Leave a comment

It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Faith

 

Faith_LYFF

Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of our Shed Light series collection. We invite women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to  “shed light” on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

This week’s awesome Phoenix is Faith:

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

For me, self-love is very much intertwined with self-acceptance. Part of this is simply being my authentic self instead of trying to be the person others want or expect me to be – something I’ve struggled with in the past.

Sometimes it means accepting my limitations and not expecting perfection. My best is enough. I’ve learned to set boundaries and not take on too much, just to make someone else happy. Sometimes you have to say no.

At the same time, I think self-love is partially what enables me to push myself to achieve. I grew up knowing I wanted more for my life than I felt I was being offered. Because I love myself, I have worked hard to accomplish many goals. I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished so far, and I love myself enough to continue to strive for more.

Recipes

“I’ve found that the larger variety of healthy foods I eat, the more I enjoy making healthy choices and love to try new recipes.”

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practices, etc)

I put a lot of emphasis on mental self-care. I try to keep my self-talk positive. If I wouldn’t say something to a friend or to my daughter, why should I say it to myself? Speaking of friends, I try to nurture my relationships and surround myself with positive influences as much as possible. My friends are a priority in my life and I feel lucky that they make me a priority, too. I think that a good laugh or conversation with a friend can soothe the soul like nothing else.

I love to eat healthy (and delicious) food, and drink lots of water. I don’t believe in “dieting” or depriving myself of food. Instead, I try to incorporate as many fruits, veggies and whole grains as possible- and when I want something less healthy I eat it, too. I’ve found that the larger variety of healthy foods I eat, the more I enjoy making healthy choices and love to try new recipes. I hate the way society has taught so many women and girls to count every calorie and associate food with being “good” or “bad.” I try to eat for longevity and health – not what society says I should look like.

I try to work physical activity into my life, although in my current state (month 9 of pregnancy) I have been slacking. I’m not a person who enjoys traditional exercise and I hate running, so I have to find ways to make being active interesting for me. I really enjoy taking long walks (especially with my family). I also like participating in classes at my gym, like yoga or Zumba. I really want to get a bike, too! Anything that feels more like an adventure or experience rather than work is right up my alley.

Finally, I make sleep a priority. I recently heard someone describe sleep as the only basic human need that we tend to delegitimize or look at as a weakness. Most nights I am asleep not long after 10 p.m.

Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that led you to a deeper love for who you are?

As a mother with a full-time career outside of the home, I face many demands and really have to work at balance. There have been days when I cried after dropping my daughter off at the sitter’s in the morning and there have been days when I cried when I had to leave a work meeting early to pick her up. Not many of my co-workers have children (and most of those who do have much older children), so there have definitely been times when I worried about how my commitment outside of work as a mother impacted perceptions of my job performance. There have been times that I felt guilty for being away from my daughter during the day. At the same time, I enjoy and am proud of both aspects of my life, so I’ve learned to allow myself to embrace the positive feelings that both working and being a mother bring into my life and let go of the negative feelings of self-doubt or not being “enough.” I show myself love by giving myself permission to focus on the task at hand – whether work or being with my daughter- without guilt. It helps having an awesome and supportive partner (my husband, Matt).

Motherhood has actually had a strong impact on my self-love in a lot of ways. I think one of the things I was afraid of before becoming a mother was losing a sense of myself. Instead, I’ve discovered a lot about myself that I didn’t know before. Sometimes I’m amazed at what I’m capable of. The amount of love I have for my daughter has given me confidence that I didn’t know I had. I make better choices because I know she is constantly watching and learning from me. Also, some of the things I love most about her are traits that I can also see in myself. How can I not love the things we have in common?

What have you learned from self-love?

Simple gratitude. I am more grateful than I can express for all the beauty in my life. It really is reciprocal: The more grateful I am for my life, the more I love myself. And the more I love myself, the more grateful I feel.

________________________________

Join the Collective. Share your self-love story with us. Send an email HERE. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and we’ll send you follow-up info. Sweet. Short. Simple!

Love Yourself First! Friday is a bi-weekly self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Phenomenal women who fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self esteem share their stories‬.  Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.


Leave a comment

Daily Inspirational Reminders from My Sons

Daily_Inspirational_Reminders_from_my_Sons[phoenixrisingcollective]

I laugh out loud at even pondering this subject. BUT, If I dug deep enough and really tried to muster up a precise calculation of how many times I hear the word “Mom” in a given day, I’d argue that it’s minimally between 30-40 times – and this is during a school day. Please note: my children are at school for at least seven hours out of the day. On the weekends its usage must peak somewhere in the hundreds (sometimes it feels like thousands).

That said, there normally isn’t a monotone inflection in the young voices that have acutely etched the word “Mom” into their consciousness. The sound ranges from a high pitched yell, “MOOOOOMMMM!”, when I am being beckoned to solve a math problem, bandage a profusely bleeding bruise, extinguish a small kitchen fire, OR most importantly, when the iPad chargers can’t be found in the collective messes called bedrooms. Then, there’s the alto scale. This is typically used when pleas of hunger are being expressed (a half-hour after said culprits have eaten a four course meal with dessert), snuggling, kissing on the cheek, a wrestle-tickle-pin-down ensues, or some other form of physical affection is warranted, and lastly, when my 12 year-old is “putting me up on” the dopest Eminem lyrics from the song Rap God circa 2013 (he was 10 years old and completely absorbed in superheroes when the Marshall Mathers LP 2 was released).

KaNeesha_Sons[Nasr_Mikah]DailyInspirationalReminder[phoenixrisingcollective]There’s also my personal favorite! The deep Barry White meets Darth Vader baritone breadths of “MUUUUMMMM” that are echoed in great annoyance most Saturday mornings when I’m fussing about chores going undone, pulling the cantankerous five year-old away from Clifford the Big Red Dog re-runs to eat something more nourishing than Honey Nut Cheerios, or when I decide to jokingly reverse the parent-child dynamic. I become self-absorbed, nonchalant, and quasi-aloof during my interactions with the usual suspects for the sole purpose of giving them a taste of their own medicine. As you could imagine, this role reversal doesn’t last too long. My children become completely fed up and disinterested when my world doesn’t revolve around them.

Throughout the challenging moments, the days I wish I had more patience, the tears from extreme feelings of being overwhelmed, the WTF thoughts of “WHY GOD didn’t he turn in his homework?!”, and the somehow-reaching-profound epiphanies from dialogues in which the main subject is who said “booty, doo-doo, and you farted, EEWWW!” –  I wouldn’t trade in the experience of mothering for anything in the world. Ausar; 12 years old and Mikah; five years old are exceptional human beings in every way imaginable. I give thanks that they chose me to act as one of many facilitators in the global village that nurtures, provides, and empowers them to live according to their hearts’ desires. These two guys are creativity, raw energy, and stand-up comedy; they are Neil DeGrasse Tyson meets Steve Jobs intelligent. They are personified beacons of hope in a chaotic world.

It is clear that their charge, along with many youth in this generation, is to re-create a new realm that wholeheartedly welcomes expansion of ideas, redefined identities, assorted spaces and places of existence, and mutually beneficial social exchanges unlike anything humankind has ever experienced. Many days Ausar comes home raving about the latest technological advance in gaming or smartphones in a language that I have minimal knowledge; thus, he has started learning computer coding with his first project being developing an app for Apple iProducts.

As for my little rambunctious one, Mikah, I’m completely amazed at the usage of his extensive vocabulary while explaining to the lady standing behind us in line at Barnes & Nobles the difference between toy trains made from wood and die-cast metal. As much as I attempt to teach them, it’s returned in abundance ten-fold.

Here are Five Inspirational Reminders from My Sons:

  1. Express Daily Gratitude– Joyfully expressing gratitude for all things and all beings in God’s creation. Mikah loves to sit in the dirt and dig (and would until he reached China – if possible). Through this he finds great solace and demonstrates his appreciation for the beauty that is Mother Earth.
  1. Unconditional Love– Loving someone when it’s most difficult to do so. You’d be surprised, but your kids love you in spite of your fussing, limiting their screen time, or burning the brownies for the school bake sale. Perfectly imperfect I am, and my boys love me still. They even tell me sometimes!
  1. Forgiveness– Fully letting go of the past (even if it was yesterday) and accepting the present. Kids get over things quickly. They don’t hold grudges, and they accept you just as you are each day. Extend this same grace to someone you know.
  1. Mindfully Living in the Moment– I observe my children when they are focused on something. Learning a new game, playing with friends, drawing, or riding a bike. They are completely absorbed in that one task with full enjoyment. The concept of multitasking has no meaning in their scopes of comprehension. Yesterday is the past, tomorrow isn’t promised, all we have is the NOW. Be present.
  1. Playtime– Stop taking yourself so serious and have fun! Remember what life was like when you were seven, 12, or 16 years old? Stomping rain puddles in freshly ironed clothes, rapping freestyle lyrics to the Ne Ne song after a long day, or posing for a family collage of selfies are cool ventures that have landed me a membership into the “Cool Mom” club. It’s good to let your kids see that you know how to have a good time. Too, it balances out the other times when you have to lay the smack-down. “DO YOU HEAR, what the MOOOOMMMM IS COOKING?!”

___________________________________

About the Contributing Writer:

d81392516be0b26c1094730815028b17W. KaNeesha Allen is an educator with extensive project management, student support services, and community outreach experience in K-12 and higher education institutions.  She is also the mother of two extremely rambunctious and fun loving boys – Ausar and Mikah. While often seeking to master the balance between being a highly engaged mother and taking time to BE with herself in the divine energy of the universe, KaNeesha finds peace, solace, and regeneration through meditation, Vinyasa yoga, and her “Sistah Circle”. As the Motherhood Empowerment contributor, she welcomes mothers from everywhere to join her on a journey of self-discovery and evolution towards harnessing, embodying, and emoting the Goddess power within. Read her latest posts.

 


1 Comment

Don’t Look Too Far: Black Her-Story is in Your Own Backyard

Black_Women_History[phoenixrisingcollective]

Each year I welcome the national recognition of Black Her/History month with such reverence, admiration, and reflection. While I strive to honor the significant contributions my ancestors have made EVERY month, this year is quite different. Why? Well, for one, my role as contributing writer for The Phoenix Rising Collective has provided a platform to discuss all things pertaining to motherhood and its intersections with race, class, gender, love, health, wealth, and education, to name a few. But secondly, The PRC also allows me to inform readers by spotlighting how the extraordinary contributions of our foremothers have tremendously influenced our modern world, as well as the Divine Goddess DNA that flows through our bodies as women of color.

So, in celebration of Black Her-story Month 2014, and rolling with the theme of honoring our foremothers every month, this Motherhood Empowerment article will be about, none other than, MY MOTHER!

mom_barber

Marilyn Clarke cutting a client’s hair. Photo Credit: Flint Journal Archives

According to a February 12, 1972 Flint Journal (Flint, MI) newspaper article, Marilyn Clarke was the first black woman to graduate at 19 years old from the predominantly (99%) white Flint Institute of Barbering Inc. since the 1920s. And, she was distinctively known as the shortest female barber in Flint, Michigan during that time, measuring 4’11. She had to stand on top of a box to reach the top of many of her clients’ heads. My mom began cutting hair as a teenager for my uncle and grandfather, as well as young men from the neighborhood where she grew up – located on the Southside of Flint. She immensely enjoyed cutting hair during this epic era of Afros, blowouts, tapers, pompadours and Caesars (better known as the quovadis back then). However the quick and precise cut of the Afro was my Mom’s claim to fame! She was able to shape the finest, roundest, symmetrical Afro in the city. Hilbert Hambrick the owner of Personality Hair-styling, who was her boss, had only one major complaint: she only spent 15 minutes on an Afro versus the suggested 25-30 minutes. She responded, “Time is money!” Charging $4.50 for an adult haircut and half that price for a child’s haircut, my mom was determined to keep her services quality yet fast paced. The result?  A thriving clientele of black, white, young, and old customers!

Being able to work creatively with one’s hands, in whatever capacity, is an exceptional gift. This is a gift my mother has passed down to all of her children and many of her grandchildren. We have all been blessed with the ability to create just about every hairstyle for just about every texture of hair. While none of us at this point in our lives have decided to pursue careers within the hair and beauty industries, we’ve definitely acquired the necessary skills to do so thanks to a little old woman named Marilyn Clarke who broke ground in a male dominated field during the 1970s.

IMG_20140219_002453

Baby Marilyn Clarke

So, as a follow up to one of my recommended tips from the November 2013 Motherhood Empowerment article, extend gratitude, gratitude, and more gratitude to your mothers, grandmothers, great- grandmothers, great-great grandmothers, and so on and so on. Simply reflecting on their greatness, strength, wisdom, and accomplishments can help ease what appears to be your most challenging moments, heal what feels like your deepest wounds, and shine light on your darkest hours.

This month (and every month), Mom, I honor and salute you! Thank you for lasting legacy in our hometown and within our family.

______________________________________________

About the Contributing Writer:

KaNeesha_reflectW. KaNeesha Allen is the Motherhood Empowerment contributor for The Phoenix Rising Collective. She is an educator with extensive project management, student support services, and community outreach experience in K-12 and higher education institutions.  She is also the mother of two extremely rambunctious and fun loving boys – Ausar and Mikah. Seeking to master the balance between being a highly engaged mother and taking time to BE with herself in the divine energy of the universe, KaNeesha finds peace, solace, and regeneration through meditation, Vinyasa yoga, and her “Sistah Circle”. She welcomes mothers from everywhere to join her on a journey of self-discovery and evolution towards harnessing, embodying, and emoting the Goddess power within.


1 Comment

Bouncing Back After Baby: Learning and Loving the Skin You’re In

post_pregnancy[black_women]“Beauty is present in all creation, but the danger lies in the fact that, because we human beings are often cut off from the Divine Energy, we allow ourselves to be influenced by what other people think. We deny our own beauty because others can’t or won’t recognise it. Instead of accepting ourselves as we are, we try to imitate what we see around us.” – Paulo Coelho

It has been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. My response to this statement has always been, “Well, it depends on what or who I’m trying to imitate and why.” What is the intention behind contemplating imitation in whatever form(s) it may manifest? What do I stand to gain, if anything? How much of myself will I potentially lose and/or sacrifice?

Through my personal experiences and observations, I’ve witnessed some women, particularly mothers, and more specifically mothers who are of color, attempting to imitate the images defined as beautiful by mainstream American and European cultures. The images painted are very vivid and could lead us to believe that there is a one-size fits all model for our bodies and what they should look like in general, moreover, what they should look like after 10 months (yes, I said 10 months after pregnancy) and a year or two of breastfeeding.

I’ll examine our conditioned thought processes around what our bodies should and/or should not look like post-pregnancy, as the post-pregnancy time frame can range from six months to six years after childbirth. I’ll also travel briefly through history exploring the journey of a specific woman of color and how her life experiences largely contributed to western cultural misconceptions about our bodies. Lastly, I want to offer some recommendations that could shift our views about our bodies and help us learn to fully love the skin we’re in!

Hottentot Venus

sarah baartmanHaving extensively studied Cultural Anthropology in undergrad, I’m an advocate for the ‘Out of Africa’ theory. This theory simply posits that human life originated in the region currently known as Africa. Thus, many of the people who were and are born in this region have distinct physical features that may help to distinguish the specific area/country they are from. One of the key features for many people born in this region of the world (especially those located south of the equator) is brown to dark brown skin complexion. Furthermore, a key feature of some of the brown to dark brown skin women from southern parts of Africa are broad noses, thick and full lips, tightly curled hair, wide hips, medium to largely rounded buttocks, and medium to large breasts that may or may not appear less perky or “sag” before or after childbirth.

At the point that European colonists “explored” various countries in Africa during the 1400s – 1900s, the physical characteristics of many women as described above were of vast interest to them. So much in fact, a Khoikhoi woman of color and mother named Saartjie “Sara” Baartman, from what is now known as Eastern Cape, South Africa, became a spectacle on exhibition throughout London and France during the early 1800s. Saartjie, who became known as “Hottentot Venus,” possessed a dark skin complexion, thick lips, tightly coiled hair, and a natural full figured physical structure. Her size could be comparable to a modern-day woman wearing a size 16. Apparently, this was something these Europeans had never seen so they coerced her into involuntary servitude. This form of slavery was for the primary purpose of marauding Saartjie’s body in caged environments that also showcased other “oddities” and “animals” for public viewing. Saartjie’s treatment during her tenure in Europe was less than that of a zoo animal. The intention was to convince themselves of racial superiority; and more specifically in this case, to convey that African women’s bodies were naturally of lesser human value – primitive and animalistic.

La_Belle_Hottentot

After Saartijie’s death at the young age of 26 in 1816, her remains were dissected. Her brains and vagina were pickled and placed in jars, and a plaster cast of her body was displayed in the Musee del’Homme (Museum of Man) in France until 1971.

No, you’re right. You didn’t ask for a history lesson; however, highlighting the tragic story of Saartjie Baartman is important to understanding the ideological framework behind her inhumane treatment, and is central to recognizing that we are still being delivered the same exploitative, unrealistic messages about our bodies; furthermore, within these messages lies the idea that we are somehow abnormal.

Redefining Beautiful

Take a moment and think about the last time you watched TV.  As you very impatiently waited for Liv and Fitz’s next scene to continue on Scandal, you were hit with at least five different commercials telling you to nip, tuck, pluck, straighten, lighten, lose, cover up, conceal, brighten, whiten, leave in, take out, and permanently say goodbye to SOME part of your body. This message was more than likely presented to you by someone that physically did not look like you, obviously doesn’t wear your size, has no visible stretch marks after claiming to have given birth to two or more children, and apparently has A LOT of time on her hands.

Similar to Saartjie Baartman, the divine essence of who we are as mothers and women of color with distinct physical features is rarely embraced and portrayed as naturally beautiful. Instead there is a great imbalance within American culture and mainstream media depicting us as exotic, hypersexualized, long-haired, weave-wearing, big breast and big booty divas – when the reality is that our physical beauty ranges in all shapes, sizes, skin complexions, hair textures, and facial features.

So, when we learn stories about women like Saartjie Baartman, we must honor her legacy by drawing upon her strength when our inner struggles with our post-baby bodies get the best of us. We can challenge the images that suggest we subscribe to insane workout plans and diet regimens to lose the extra 10 to 15 (or even 20 pounds) that may have been gained during pregnancy.

By deeply looking within and truly accepting the inherent beauty present in ourselves as vessels created to carry life, we will realize that there is no need for imitation or replication. There is only room for extending ourselves grace, for remaining patient with our natural physical changes and transitions after child birth, and for doing the best we can to maintain healthy balanced lifestyles.

Pregnancy Facts

So, let’s quickly recall the key facts we learn from our doctors, as well as books about what an average healthy pregnant woman “should” look like:

  1. Expect to gain minimally 25 pounds which is comprised mostly of fluid and actual weight of the baby.
  2. Eat healthy balanced meals during pregnancy and try to maintain an active lifestyle which could possibly facilitate an easy pregnancy and labor.
  3. Moisturize the belly with cocoa or shea butter to prevent stretch marks.
  4. Breasts will begin to swell from milk production primarily during the third trimester.
  5. Breast feeding after childbirth for up to six months to a year will help the uterus contract and return to its pre-pregnancy size as well as help burn calories encouraging weight loss.

 

My reality looked like this during my pregnancies:

  1. I gained an average of 45 pounds between both pregnancies because I ate everything in sight!
  2. I was not very physically active before pregnancy, so I was not intrinsically motivated to become more active during or after pregnancy.
  3. I breast fed both of my boys for two years (don’t judge me). I returned to my pregnancy size after having my first son. I was in my early 20s, not fully into a career, had more free time, and enjoyed the nesting phase. My six pack returned and my breasts remained perky.
  4. I was in my late 20s when I gave birth to my second son, fully into a career, had a whole lot less free time, already raising a very active child, and didn’t allow myself to enjoy nesting time. He is four years old and my body has not (and very possibly will not) return to how it looked before pregnancy with him. My six pack is quite questionable and my breasts although small in size, now sag.
  5. I have stretch marks on every part of my body that was literally STRETCHED during each pregnancy!

 

Life After Birth

PhotoGrid_1386818902866This may sound a lot like your reality as well, so please believe that you’re not in this alone. I have definitely fallen into the abyss of mainstream media messages, and thought that if I forced myself into some extensive workout regimen and low carb diet, I’d miraculously lose weight, gain self-esteem, and become more beautiful. However, after each failed attempt, I found that I felt spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically worse than I had before I even started having children.  In fact, it was my children, my boys, who taught (and continue to teach) me the very lesson I still struggle to internalize, “I’m perfectly fine just the way I am, and I’m loved unconditionally.”

During other times of vulnerability and insecurity about my body, my significant other quotes the comedian, Katt Williams, who talks about women with stretch marks, “Either you was big and got small, or you was small and got big – either way, I’m loving on you.”

And finally, I’m blessed to have other women of color who are mothers in my Sistah Circle that affirm my body and me. We share stories about how our hips, no matter the size, possess the cradle to bring forth life and how our stretch marks are love scars gifted to us by God as we carried and birthed future generations. We explain how our breasts have metaphorically nursed generations of kings and queens, Gods and Goddesses, and how each time we look into our children’s eyes, we are reminded of how amazing and miraculous we are as human beings because we can contribute such goodness and greatness to the world.

PhotoGrid_1386818817811

Loving the Skin I’m In

So the next time you look at your post-pregnancy body with disgust and disdain:

  1. Challenge yourself to question the intention behind the thoughts. Then refocus and attempt to think of affirming and positive sayings or mantras to bring into awareness the true beauty you possess. This really works! Classic case of mind over matter.
  2. Learn to listen to your body. Silence the thoughts in your mind when necessary and listen to your womb, your digestive tract, your shoulders, your back, and your feet – to name a few. All of these areas are in alignment with each other and can offer very real suggestions about what type of foods and exercises that work specifically for YOU to gain optimal health. I highly encourage you to work with healthcare practitioners to develop a plan designed to cater to your body’s needs.
  3. Surround yourself with uplifting and encouraging women and mothers who can relate to your experiences and challenges, but who also are actively striving towards maintaining healthy and balanced lifestyles such as you.
  4. Make time to connect with your children to do fun activities. My boys have me rollerblading, skate boarding, playing soccer, attempting to swim, wrestling, climbing monkey bars and many other extra-curricular goings-on. Much of these things I recall doing in my youth but gave up once I entered adulthood. You’ll spend quality time with your children, burn some calories, and admire their greatness in helping you become the woman and mother you are today.
  5. Extend gratitude to all our foremothers through prayer, meditation, visualization, or other methods. They labored HARD for us to be in many of the positions we’re in now. I know that we still have quite a long way to go, but their contributions to the world and contemporary American society have afforded us the right to vote, to educational access opportunities, to quality healthcare and housing, and to make informed decisions about our bodies and how we’re portrayed.
  6. Last but not least, be easy on yourself, honor your heart, and breathe.

 

To learn more about Sara Baartman:

Race and Erasure: Sara Baartman and Hendrick Cesars in Cape Town and London, Pamela Scully and Clifton Crais; Journal of British Studies , Vol. 47, No. 2 (April 2008), pp. 301-323

 ______________________________

About the Author:

Kaneesha_bio_pic[shine]W. KaNeesha Allen is the Motherhood Empowerment contributor for the Phoenix Rising Collective. She is an educator with extensive project management, student support services, and community outreach experience in K-12 and higher education institutions.  She is also the mother of two extremely rambunctious and fun loving boys – Ausar and Mikah. Seeking to master the balance between being a highly engaged mother and taking time to BE with herself in the divine energy of the universe, KaNeesha finds peace, solace, and regeneration through meditation, Vinyasa yoga, and her “Sistah Circle”. She welcomes mothers from everywhere to join her on a journey of self-discovery and evolution towards harnessing, embodying, and emoting the Goddess power within.


Leave a comment

The Balancing Act: 7 Tips for Creating the “Me-Time” You Deserve

balancing_act[KaNeeshaOCT]Like hunger or thirst, the instinct for balance is built into the human body.” These words spoken by Deepak Chopra express the very essence of what I strive to manifest each day.

Establishing and maintaining a balanced lifestyle is an extremely prevalent theme in my life and should be in all our lives if we choose to commit to honoring its significance.

As mothers we often get so overwhelmed with responsibilities and expectations involving external variables that we tend to neglect the single most important factor of the equation – ourselves. We forget that our identities are not solely mom, career woman, spouse/partner, daughter, life coach, problem solver, love maker, cook, house cleaner, and a slew of other titles that come with specific expectations.

Truthfully speaking, women take on these identities and try to live up to the expectations associated with them because we start believing that we’re supposed to be Superwoman, that our DNA is a mixture of extraterrestrial-Zena-Warrior-Princess-medicine-woman-big-sister-Almighty-Goddess-with-super-duper-unbreakable-strength. We also buy into the notion, “If I want anything, and I mean anything done right, I HAVE to do it myself!”  Whelp, my dear sistas, I have breaking news for all of you. While, I too, truly believe that I embody many (if not all) of the aforementioned extraordinary out-of-this-world powers, I equally have to recognize that each day that Father Sun graces me with his presence, I’m human. I have feelings. I’m imperfect. I make mistakes. I fuss at my children. I get too tired to express intimacy towards my significant other. I sometimes burn the chicken for dinner.  And dang on it, “I should’ve worn flats instead of these four-inch heels to work, knowing good and well I’d be standing up most of the day! Now my feet are killing me, and I’m giving everybody the look of death each time I see another hand go up to ask a question or voice a concern.”

So, the million-dollar question is, how and when can I get some time for me, ALL by myself with absolutely NO interruptions? Well, I’ve learned the billion-dollar answer. Are you sitting down? Fully tuned in? Got your smartphone on silent? Waaaait for it. We have to TAKE the time.

It’s that simple. I know. I know. You were anticipating something a lot more complex and profound. But it’s really that simple. Taking the time to fully nurture, nourish, balance, and heal ourselves each day, of every week, of every month is absolutely imperative to our womanhood. We commit so much of our time to and expend so much of our energy on those around us – family, friends, careers, etc – but how often do we make ourselves the number one priority? How often do others make us the number one priority? That’s an “ah-ha moment” (said in my best Oprah voice). The light bulb comes on.

Striking a Balance, Concocting a Goddess’s Brew

KaNeesha[meditation]Mothers, I challenge you to embark on a journey with me to explore the essential ingredients necessary for concocting the sweetest, tastiest, healthiest, soul shaking, lip smacking, energizing, regenerating, spirit filled Goddess Brew of what I like to call, Me-Time. Since all of us are unique, and have our own desires and needs, each Goddess Brew of Me-Time will consist of different ingredients, and that is totally fine. What works for me may not resonate with someone else, but the idea is to take the time. I repeat. Take the time you need to be with yourself while doing, thinking, acting, and feeling exactly what you want, when you want, how you want with no judgment – no judgment from others, and especially no judgment from you. This is your time to convene with the Goddess within, to reclaim your identity, and to unpack and sort through unnecessary baggage while loving and healing you. My Goddess Brew is a blended mixture of the following:

  • 10 to 30-minute morning meditations and/or visualizations
  • Prayers of gratitude
  • Vinyasa and/or Bikram Yoga at least 3 times per week
  • Dining at my favorite restaurants; either Thai or Eastern Indian cuisines
  • Consignment/thrift shopping
  • Creating my own facials with natural ingredients like avocado, honey, and Greek yogurt
  • Jogging
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Cutting my hair
  • Dream charting

These are all major activities that keep me in alignment with the divine energy within. However, my daily and weekly must-haves are morning meditations/visualizations, gratitude prayers, yoga, reading, and newly added to my list, dream charting. By making very intentional efforts to engage in each of these, I’m allowed to unabashedly honor, love, and dote on myself. I’m reminded of the beauty that exists within, without, above, and below. I’m able to see through and own all of my imperfections and insecurities. I’m open to be completely and utterly vulnerable with myself and God. As a result, I’m learning to wholly understand myself, my emotions, my gifts, my limitations, my place in the world, and ultimately the true connection I share with other entities – especially the people I spend time with and the things I expend energy towards.

So, you’re probably wondering, WHEN do I take time to do these activities? Great question! Here’s what I do, and I’ve added a few suggestions for you, too:

  1. Make the initial commitment to whip up a batch of Goddess Brew; Me-Time. Your mind, body, and soul may be shocked at first, as your ingredients may appear to be foreign substances. But, after a few more sips each day, your body will get used to the transition, happily comply, and become so very thankful. Trust me!
  2. I wake up 30 minutes earlier than anyone in my home. This time is very quiet and peaceful. The sun may be dawning and nature begins to sing her morning hymns. I can pray and meditate in front of my window that faces east while basking in the sun’s rays.
  3. I create a structured weekly routine that consists of a set bedtime for my boys. At 8:30 PM, its lights out! Yes, even for my  11 year-old. Moms, be mindful that your growing children between the ages of one to 13 require minimally nine to 12 hours of sleep at night. Even if they’re not actually falling asleep at 8:30 PM, at least their minds and bodies are peacefully resting until R.E.M. is in full effect. This allows time for me to catch up on my reading and possibly get a quick 20-minute Vinyasa yoga session in with Gaiam TV.
  4. Develop a schedule at least two months in advance for your Me-Time with the disclaimer, “non-negotiable.” Unless something earth-shattering happens, commit to your schedule, and others will too.
  5. Say NO! And mean it! You truly don’t have to be everywhere, doing everything, ALL the time.
  6. I’m more transparent and authentic in my communication about what I need and how I am feeling. If I’m too tired to cook, we order takeout. If I get frustrated at my children or significant other, I attempt to calmly communicate that and go into a different room or outside until I calm down. If I truly don’t feel like going to work, I contact my supervisor and tell her I won’t be in the office.
  7. If ever in need of a reminder, refer to numbers 1, 4, and 5. Especially 5!

 

I hope these suggestions provide a strong foundation for beginning or rebooting your journey to establishing and maintaining a healthy balanced lifestyle.  Before we finish, let’s do a couple of quick exercises.

Managing Your Stress, Practicing Deep Breathing

meditation_book[KaNeesha]Sit still for a moment and pay attention to your breath. Not recognizing how it smells (although that’s important too) but more specifically, assess the depth or lack thereof of your inhalation and exhalation.

Notice if your breaths are short and shallow or long and deep. Does your breathing flow freely or is it restricted? Does the capacity in which you breathe expand down to your abdomen or does it start and stop at your throat?

Now, try to recall during stressful and challenging times whether you’re even aware of your breathing patterns at all.

The answers to these questions can paint a very vivid picture about your overall health, how you manage your stress levels, and if the seven major centers (known as chakras) in your body are functioning at their highest potential.

I won’t delve extensively into the various spiritual and metaphysical practices that focus primarily on unblocking and balancing the chakras and other energy points in the body, but there is a plethora of resources available and books written by amazing healing practitioners/authors on this subject.

I would, however, like to challenge moms to take the time to participate in the following breathing exercise for managing stress, at least four mornings out of each week. This exercise is from one of my favorite websites: MindBodyGreen.

  1. Sit up straight in a chair.
  2. Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Keep it there through the entire breathing process.
  3. Breathe in silently through your nose to the slow count of 4.
  4. Hold your breath to the count of 7.
  5. Exhale through your mouth to the count of 8, making a slight audible sound.
  6. Repeat the 4-7-8 cycle another three times, for a total of four breathing exercises.

 

If you’d like to learn more about these breathing exercises, read MindBodyGreen’s full article, How to Manage Stress in 76 Seconds.

Moms, what will be your Goddess Brew for creating Me-Time? We want to know what ingredients you’ll mix into your daily self-care routine! Remember, you deserve it.

_______________________________________________________

About the Contributing Writer:

Kaneesha_bio_pic[shine]W. KaNeesha Allen is the Motherhood Empowerment contributor for the Phoenix Rising Collective. She is an educator with extensive project management, student support services, and community outreach experience in K-12 and higher education institutions.  She is also the mother of two extremely rambunctious and fun loving boys – Ausar and Mikah. Seeking to master the balance between being a highly engaged mother and taking time to BE with herself in the divine energy of the universe, KaNeesha finds peace, solace, and regeneration through meditation, Vinyasa yoga, and her “Sistah Circle”. She welcomes mothers from everywhere to join her on a journey of self-discovery and evolution towards harnessing, embodying, and emoting the Goddess power within.