A New Leash on Life

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love dogs. It doesn’t matter what breed, size or age – they make me feel blissfully content and never fail to elevate my mood. I’m convinced that those male dating coaches who advise men on how to pick up women by walking cute dogs in the park, had women like me in mind. I’ll approach a complete stranger at a cafe, or on the street, just to engage their canine companions. I’m an equal opportunity animal lover, but if I’m being 100% honest, cats just don’t do it for me like dogs do. Cats always seem so aloof, so emotionally unavailable, that they

Jimmy Chew, my faithful protector and full-time family rejector.
“I like lil’ mutts and I cannot lie….”

represent men that I’d never date or friends that I wouldn’t mind losing. Dogs, on the other hand…well, there’s just something so pure about the raw expression of their needs, that they just seem so…honest to me. They’re often loyal to a fault, and the majority that I’ve come across, just love being loved. Luke Skybarker*, my German Shepard/Lab mix, lives to please and protect my family. He’s a “working dog.” One that’s been bred with a distinct purpose in mind, whether that’s herding animals or protecting its home and family. I cherish him, and, also, Jimmy Chew*, my chihuahua/terrier mix, although, he serves a completely different emotional purpose. His canine footprint is tiny, but his presence is large. I adopted him from a shelter, and lore has it that he was abandoned with his litter mates in a dirty barn somewhere in Modesto, California. I fostered this feral little dog, and he imprinted upon me like a newborn duckling, totally at the expense of loyalty and affection for the rest of my family, and feels no shame in his lack of familial warmth for everyone else. They could move out of the house tomorrow, and he wouldn’t miss a bark or experience the feeling of loss for the very people who keep him alive. Out of all the things that he’s expressed, he’s made one thing quiet clear: he’s a one woman dog. I guess this makes sense: The Maya used to view the ancient predecessor of the Chihuahua as guardians of the afterlife, and would often kill dogs after their owner’s death, and bury them alongside their masters, so that they could accompany them into the next world.  Frankly, I think this ritual wasn’t spiritually based, but, rather, recognition that no one else could command respect from these mercurial, little buggers and deal with them after their owners had passed. It was more of a mob clean up job, than an act of spiritual elevation. If nothing else, the chihuahua is a “ride or die” companion.  If I was bedridden with an illness, or stricken with a life threatening disease, I know that I would never be left alone with little Jimmy Chew in my life. Whichever the dog, or strange peculiarity of the breed, I am so grateful that they play such a selflessly pivotal role in my happiness and well-being. I hope that I do the same for them.

*I’ve changed the names of my dogs in order to protect the guilty.

additional articles on the health benefits of dog ownership:

10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Dog Owner, Mental Floss: http://bit.ly/MentalFlossDoggydog

The Ten Health Benefits of Dogs (And One Health Risk), Huffpost, http://bit.ly/huffpodoggydogs

More Evidence that Owning a Dog is Really Good for You, Time, http://bit.ly/Doggydogs

Fatherly Love and Female Responsibility: If you feel this photo is heartwarming, what are you willing to do to get it?

We live in a world full of blame and shame when it comes to parenting and fatherhood. It’s not uncommon to hear women complain about absentee fathers and dead beat dads, even though, wonderful, loving, responsible and attentive fathers, can be found everywhere. We need to praise and acknowledge these men on “Daddy’s Day” (That’s a Blackish reference, if you caught it!), and let them know that we appreciate the impact that good men and fathers have on us, and our children.

The difficult truth, is that women are often to blame for introducing poor fathers into children’s lives. We choose the men that become our children’s fathers, and, ideally, our husbands. We have the choice to continue our pregnancies, or to terminate them. We know the circumstances in which our children will be born. We know if we’re mentally, emotionally and financially able to support another life, and, if not, we know that we’re placing our children at a huge disadvantage that will affect them for a lifetime. We know in our heart of hearts, that if a man doesn’t commit to us, he’s also not ensuring a commitment to our shared child. Women, particularly, Black women, make it too easy for men to walk. We are not as discerning as we need to be in choosing fathers, which create strong families for us, our children and communities. We seem to settle for so very little.  Federal data states that 72% of Black children are born out of wedlock, so that says something about our choices as women. This open letter to Black women isn’t about shame, but one of empowerment. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. We have the power to choose great men, husbands, and fathers, which contributes to the development of happy, healthy, stable kids.  It’s our responsibility to make better choices, and to honor the “good guys” on Father’s Day, and every day, who satisfy the high standards that we need to set for ourselves and our children. So, cheers to the great fathers that love, respect, and protect their families around the world; and the smart women who have chosen them.

Happy “Daddy’s Day”

60 Activities and Boredom Busters for 2018. Who Knows? You Might Discover Your Next Side Gig!

Embrace nature!

With the start of the new year, comes 365 novel ways that you can spend your time exploring new horizons. January is not only a great time to assess your life; but it’s also a wonderful time to reach for new goals, develop new skills, and expand your financial possibilities. We’ve listed 60 fun activities and hobbies that might stimulate new interests, or lead to an unexpected business or even supplemental income. Alright, ladies, let’s do this in 2018!

  1.  Start a garden
  2. Coach a kids sports team
  3. Gather friends to play good ol’ fashioned board games
  4. Create a wine tasting club
  5. Take an art class
  6. Learn a new language
  7. Enjoy nature and join a birdwatching club
  8. Start scrapbooking
  9. Practice yoga
  10. Join a cool and obscure local Meet Up
  11. Become a tutor
  12. Create a YouTube channel (focus on your passion!)
  13. Learn sign language
  14. Make a beautiful, Pinterest-worthy display of your favorite collectibles within your home
  15. Take a Toastmasters class
  16. Start a monthly conversational salon
  17. Volunteer on Volunteermatch.com
  18. Make jewelry
  19. Bake dog biscuits for your favorite pooch
  20. Teach a youngster how to cook
  21. Assess your career and update your career skills
  22. Go camping
  23. Build your own coop and raise chickens
  24. Take a DNA test and document your family tree
  25. Monetize something you know how to do
  26.  Try carpentry
  27. Take an art appreciation class
  28. Make sushi and host a monthly sushi party
  29. Try your hand at investing. Motif is a great place to start
  30. Become a park volunteer
  31. Create a podcast
  32. Take archery
  33. Learn to sew your clothes
  34. Write a short story
  35. Join a running club
  36. Start knitting
  37. Meditate. Meditate. Meditate. Ommmm
  38. Take a cooking class
  39. Learn a new technology
  40. Start a pressed juice co-op
  41. Host a formal tea for you and your friends
  42. Create sachets of potpourri (give them as gifts)
  43. Learn to make homebrewed beer
  44. Volunteer on a farm
  45. Help build a tiny house
  46. Take an online photography class
  47. Join a supper club
  48. Make fresh baby food for your child
  49. Make natural, gentle (beautiful-smelling) soap
  50. Learn how to reupholster furniture
  51. Take a flower arranging class
  52. Learn how to make homemade jellies and jams (and sell them!)
  53. Make a terrarium
  54. Start a blog
  55. Create a conversational salon.
  56. Invite friends to a monthly board game night
  57. Create and distribute natural bird feeders
  58. Play a game of foosball
  59. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen
  60. Make a bird feeder

Is Your Hair Making You Fat?

Mannequin heads on display with wigs.

In August, 2011, the former Surgeon General, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, attended the Bronner Bros. International Hair Show with a very specific platform related to health. She arrived at the event with a very specific agenda: to draw attention to the fact that many women, particularly, African American women, were foregoing exercise in order to preserve their hairstyles, and, thus, prioritizing convenience over health. Her message had some urgency and her concerns were backed by facts. According to the most recent data released by the National Center for Health Statistics (2011-2014), 56.9% of African American women over 20 are obese and 44.8% of women suffer from hypertension. Dr. Benjamin was criticized by some health professionals at the time for focusing on what they considered an issue that was far too hyper-focused in the global scheme of things, and only applicable to a very narrow audience. What her critics failed to realize then, which can be argued to a greater degree now, is that this wasn’t just a vanity health issue relegated to a small segment of the population. The hair vs. health issue has been raging within the Black community since the beginning of time; but given the fact that its ethnic dialogue had “inside baseball” status, few people outside of the Black community were aware of this global health challenge, nor could they personally relate, if they were. There are many reasons why this issue needs to resurface, and I’ll tell you why, but first, let me relay my own culturally insensitive hair nightmare, my dear readers. In Middle School, I was one of a handful of African American girls who attended a small, elite private school on the West Coast. I remember vividly dreading going to school, because I was forced to swim every day during second period P.E. class. I would get up in the morning and neatly prepare my clothes and hair for school, only to look a mess by the end of second period, because after I emerged like a wet dog from the pool I was given an insufficient 15 minutes to dry, dress and style my hair. Let’s add to the pressure the ubiquitously obnoxious drill sergeant whistle favored by gym teachers everywhere, to instill a sense of urgency and fear in students worldwide. I’m sorry, but fifteen minutes was not enough time for me to do my hair with any acceptable results, and it further marginalized me from my white classmates (at least in my mind), by highlighting a grooming and beauty reality that differed from their own. To further compound the situation was the fact that Middle School is often a time defined by rampant social insecurity. Add 1 part black girl to 10 parts white school + swimming pool + 15 minutes to dress, groom and go; and you have a problem. I could tell you then, as I can relay now in hindsight, that those years did not positively contribute to my sense of confidence or beauty.

How does this relate to weaves, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin or a Bronner’s International Hair Show that occurred over seven years ago? In my particular situation, I was just a child and had no control over my school’s rigid curriculum*. I didn’t hate swimming, in fact, I loved it, but it was a pain for the aforementioned reasons and time constraints. The problem that we currently face isn’t related to one kid’s horror story related to daily water sports. It’s the popularity and proliferation of weaves that have swept through African American culture and been adopted by a significant number of Black women. Weaves are semi-permanent installations, meaning that they’re not clip-ins that you take in and out at will. They are expensive, labor-intensive to install, and, are thus, not replaced frequently (months vs. weeks or days). They retain moisture (for the uninitiated, imagine a wig placed, and securely attached, over your real hair), and can cause health issues if not properly maintained. By now, most people who have an interest in African-American hair have seen the weave mold and maggot videos that have served as cautionary tales of extreme haircare neglect. I can imagine weave and wig wearers watching those YouTube videos and writing in the comments section, “SMH. That’s nasty…She waited too long to take that thing out!….Ugh…that would never be me!” That may be true, but Black women are doing something altogether more undermining and sinister to themselves. They’re elevating their hair and vanity well above that of their personal health. That’s a damaging position to take and the health stats for African American women don’t lie. I’m sorry, but we, as a community, aren’t in the position to play Russian Roulette with our health. There are many African American women who provide the sole financial support for their entire families, so their health and longevity is critical for the stability of their entire families. I’m not going to delve into stats regarding the Black hair care industry or the weave industry, specifically. I certainly have my own opinions, but the one thing that should be shared and encouraged is the message of health and wellness for women of color. Health isn’t determined by how you look in clothes, but, rather, how healthy and efficiently your body operates from the inside out; head to toe. Please  live your values and take stock of what really matters, because in the end, our health and families are the things we should cherish, because no matter how much we love them, as with all things in life, nothing lasts forever.

The Lost Art of Subtle Seduction


I don’t know where it went…Maybe it’s a generational thing or just a sign of the times, but I’m talking about subtle sensuality and the art of seduction. Make no mistake, there are still many women for whom “skilled” does not seem an apt adjective, and, for whom, masters of the “dark arts” of seduction is more accurate. I’m wondering, though, where it went for the most women? There was a time when women had less freedom in society, yet we managed to wield our power and influence over the men we found desirable in much more subtle, persuasive and effective ways. We couldn’t be too overt in our sexuality, or too aggressive in the workplace, but our power was unmistakable, and we knew how and when to leverage it. What is it, you ask? It is femme fatale in a bottle, that secret sauce, that smelled faintly of sex, but was far more suggestive and entirely more allusive. If Tribe Called Quest’s famous lyric, “Hot Sex on a Platter” applied to women, we were serving it up hot and fresh daily; even in our knee-length A line cocktail dresses. Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Lena Horne and Sophia Loren (including, contemporary actress, Diane Lane), all exhibited a self-assured, feminine sexiness about them, that many women today seem to lack. I’ll always contemplated Diane Von Furstenburg’s deep set, sultry gaze when she looked unapologetically into a camera to promote her iconic wrap skirt or latest collection. She’s no longer a young woman, be she still has it. It defies age and keeps you hot at 60, 70 and beyond. It’s the sometimes unspeakable appeal that both men and women find sensually appealing. As the world changed, what happened to subtle come hither looks or mildly suggestive body language that could be misconstrued to a man’s embarrassment, unless he sifted through a woman’s mystery, in order to unlock the keys to her heart, mind or body?

Somewhere along the way, we’ve given up our feigned modesty for naked Instagram photos, twerk videos and “belfies”. Oh, I should probably mention, that I could happily live the rest of my life without ever being forced again, to lay my weary eyeballs on someone’s butt selfies as a camera-facing portrait. Whatever happened to the power of suggestion? The mind is the most erotically sensitive place in the human body. Tapping into one’s personal fantasy, is far more alluring and powerful than appealing to one’s immediate carnal desires. Psychologists have supported the notion that men and women would be much more likely to work themselves into a hot lather imagining what someone had hidden under their trench coat; then be titillated by them walking down the street naked with their coat wide open. Today’s women need to embrace the allure of femininity and suggestion; not sex. Anticipation should be #goalsetting, as it’s the direct bi-product of seduction. Will someone please listen to Carly Simon? She wailed in frustration, “Anticipation is making me wait,” over and over again on the radio, for goodness sake, and, she was right! Sorry, JT, we don’t need to bring “sexy back”, we need to bring back the age old tradition of seduction.

Mindfulness & Planting the Seeds of Compassion

Prayer Position

Spring traditionally represents the season of birth and renewal. Although, this is usually associated with nature, you’ll find that life also operates in similar cycles. It turns out that Spring isn’t just a great time to reorganize and clean, but to also take inventory of one’s spiritual life. No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs, Run Stella Run wanted to share The Five Mindfulness Trainings observed and practiced in Buddhism, which operates on the basic precept that it’s critical that one lives in a state of compassion and self-awareness, given that all life is inextricably “intra-connected” or as expressed in Buddhism, a state of “interbeing.” The Five Mindfulness Trainings represent the Buddhist’s vision of spiritual and ethical behavior, and to cultivate a level of self-awareness about oneself and others is believed to help remove the presence of discrimination, fear, anger, intolerance, pain and despair.  Perhaps, you’ll find something in these teachings that resonates with you, your belief system, or religion. Whatever the case, no one has claimed that acting with compassion and love for others has ever hurt anyone. These five principals have been condensed in complexity, but they provide great guidelines for a healthy physical and spiritual life. Upon reading the five teachings, what are some of the ways that you can apply these teachings to your every day life? Perhaps, volunteer with an environmental organization? Behave with greater love, patience and understanding with a spouse or loved one? Refrain from gossipy, demeaning or mean-spirited behavior? Sorry, that means anonymous online trolling, too! Feel free to share practical ways that people can apply these principals in the comments section below, and good luck on your personal, spiritual journey this Spring and beyond.

  1. Reverence for Life –  Acknowledge the suffering caused by the destruction of life and commit to expressing compassion by being a loving and responsible steward and protector of people, animals, plants and living things. Understand that harmful and damaging behavior arises out of  greed, anger, intolerance and fear-based emotions, so try to be open-minded and unattached to ideas in order to live without the cloud of bias and discrimination.
  2. True Happiness – Commit to practicing generosity in thought and deed and understand that true happiness is only possible with understanding and compassion. Suffering is universally shared, and not separate from your own, so reducing other peoples’ pain, also reduces yours. Live in mindfulness that pursuing wealth, fame, power and physical pleasure can lead to negative, unintended consequences and suffering. Also, understand that true happiness is a state of mind and can be achieved in one’s current state of being, and is not dependent on external conditions and material possessions.
  3. Loving Speech and Deep Listening – Listen to others with respect and compassion to help eliminate division, suffering and pain, and to help promote healing and reconciliation. Words can create happiness or suffering, so be conscious of the words that that you use and refrain from speaking in anger, pain and untruth. Words have the ability to spread happiness, joy, encouragement and inclusiveness, and, also create the opposite; so refrain from using words as weapons of individual or mass destruction. If you feel that you’re tempted to speak in anger; breathe, take stock of your emotions and refrain from speaking until you’re in a more positive frame of mind.
  4. Nourishment & Healing – Commit to cultivating good physical and spiritual health for yourself, your family and society; and be conscious of engaging in needless consumption, which can cause pain and suffering. Seek and consume mentally and physically nourishing things and eliminate those things that are toxic to the body, mind or spirit (food, drinks, drugs, websites, electronic games, magazines, etc…). Establishing a greater level of mental and physical peace, happiness and joy, will have a positive impact on oneself, other individuals and society at large.


Smiling African American woman enjoying in sauna.

When people think of spa experiences images of peaceful settings, luxurious surroundings and pampered service come to mind. If you think that restorative trips to the spa are only reserved for ladies who lunch, then think again. Spa services are surprisingly within financial reach of most people, and with a little research, can be more affordable than one might think. According, to research commissioned by the Global Wellness Institute, the global spa market grew from $94 billion in 2013 to $98.6 billion in 2015 and the global wellness economy, which includes alternative medicine, workplace health, preventative medicine and other aspects of personal health and wellness, grew 10.6% in 2013-2015 3.36 trillion to a 3.72 trillion market. With little evidence that the spa market is slowing down, the key to uncovering great deals is to forego the typical trappings that you think your spa experience should entail, and find a professional spa with helpful services that are kind to your wallet.

The great thing is that many spa facilities have changed their marketing and business models to accommodate a broader and more diverse consumer audience. Destination spa resorts and day spas still exist, but the market has expanded to include hour-long, no frills services that are oftentimes performed in modest surroundings with an emphasis on their wellness related services, as opposed to pampering and indulgence. This is not to say that the treatments, themselves, are any less relaxing or effective.

Facilities are popping up all over the country that specialize in these spas, in what’s now commonly marketed as “foot spas,” even though services extend well beyond massaging just the feet. They’re typically known for offering fully-clothed body massages on soft reclining chairs in non-private treatment rooms for as low as $20.00 per hour. Often, for just a slightly higher fee, these same spas offer traditional full body oil massages in private rooms for as low as $30-40 per hour. Why are these foot spas becoming increasingly popular? Price and convenience are two reasons. Another reason is that more and more people are hacking their healthcare by taking it into their own hands, researching alternative treatment options and comparing prices. Whatever the reason, the benefits are indisputable. It’s been clinically proven that massage can dramatically improve emotional and physical health. Massage has been linked to the reduction of stress, anxiety, headaches, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, soft tissue injuries and joint pain. So, if you still think that spa treatments are only special occasion splurges, then simply consider that for the cost of a weekly latte, you could be receiving a well-earned, hour long deep tissue massage. Now, that’s a relaxing thought.