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Magazines for the Holidays: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Some of my favorite magazines. All would be perfect gifts!

Some of my favorite magazines. All would be perfect gifts!

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

It’s that time of the year again when we’re all supposed to focus on the reason for the season: consumerism. Yes, it seems to me that every year Christmas becomes more about gift giving than reflecting on the changing seasons, the birth of Christ (if that’s you’re thing), a celebration of light (if that’s your thing) and / or giving to the less fortunate and counting our own blessings.

But I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s gift giving parade. I realize there is something intrinsically wonderful about not only receiving gifts but giving them as well. And I think with a wee bit of thought, gift giving can be more than just hitting up your local mall or Amazon page. In fact, finding that perfect gift can be so satisfying not just for the person on the receiving end, but the giver as well. But what is the perfect gift?

I’ll tell you what the perfect gift is, dear readers, a magazine. Think about it, a subscription to a magazine is a gift that keeps on giving for 12 months after Christmas is over. Delivered right to a person’s door, a glossy new magazine chock full of information and entertainment is like a curated care package for the ones you love and all you had to do was send in a check with a delivery address. No worrying about the right size, or color, or whether they’ll like it or not. Who isn’t going to love a magazine? As long as you pick the right magazine, that speaks to the interests and/or hobbies of your loved one, you can’t go wrong. And trust me, there are magazines out there catering to just about every single hobby, interest, fetish and fan. Here are just a few ideas. You can thank me later.

1. Ebony Magazine – For your Black friend or Rachel Dolezal-esque friend who just loves Black people and Black culture. Kierna Mayo is the new Editor of Ebony and it’s better than ever before.

2. Afar – For your friend full of wanderlust, Afar magazine is a travel magazine for the traveler not the tourist thanks to its gorgeous photography and editorial content that goes way beyond the obvious, trendy vacation hot spots.

3. Poet’s & Writers – For your struggling writer friend who would buy their own subscription to this inspiration-packed, bimonthly magazine, but is a poor writer so can’t justify the expense.

4. Bust Magazine – For your funky feminist friend who still secretly wants to be Martha Stewart but also joined the local roller derby league and is about to start her own business.

5. Culture – For your foodie friend who loves cheese. Yes, this is a gorgeous magazine dedicated to cheese and the people who love to eat it. Seriously.

6. Catster and/or Dogster – For the cat and dog lovers in your circle, these new magazines take all the fun from viral animal videos, plus useful columns and advice and offer a bimonthly magazine for anyone who considers their pet a part of the family.

Okay, dear readers. What magazines do you think make great gifts? I’d love to hear any you think Ms. Meltingpot would like. I’ll pass the info on to el esposo. I’m totally listening.

Peace!

Five Radical Ways to Put the Black in Black Friday

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Artwork by Ernest E. Varner

Artwork by Ernest E. Varner

I’m sure many of you are getting ready for the holiday season, checking those turkey recipes, getting your cornucopia table decorations ready, yes, all the fun stuff that makes Turkey Day so very yummy and fun. But have you noticed that every year Thanksgiving seems less important while Black Friday gains in popularity. It’s like the only reason we’re feasting is to power up to shop on Black Friday. While I’m sure the spirits of Thanksgiving past are rattling their chains over this unfortunate turn of events, I’ve decided to embrace the fact that all of America is excited about anything with the word black in it. And on that note, I’ve come up with five radical ways to really put the Black into Black Friday. Try one or try them all, but just remember to do Black responsibly.

1. Buy Black. If you’re going to get up at the crack of dawn and spend all of your hard-earned money on consumer goods you may or may not need, why not buy stuff from Black-owned businesses? Then your Black Friday is like Black squared. And that’s cool. And luckily, other people had this idea way before I did and have already put together a list of Black-owned businesses to patronize on this special day.

2. Buy a book by a Black author. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement is all about the publishing industry’s lack of support of authors of color. Well, while you wait for mainstream publishers to get it together and start publishing a slew of books by Black authors, just go buy a bunch that already exist. And trust, there are a lot of books by Black authors on the shelves of your average Barnes and Noble. Books for kids, adults and teens. Yes, Virginia, there are books written by Black people out there and you should buy some on Black Friday. You should read them too.

3. Put a #BlackLivesMatter sign in your front yard. Think of this as your decoration for Black Friday, like a Black Friday Christmas Tree, but without the messy needles to clean up later. Alternately, get a #BlackLivesMatter tattoo on your arm.

4. Capitalize the B all day long whenever you write something about Black people. If you are a journalist, you will really piss off the copy editors at your job, but that’s what makes this so revolutionary. It’s Black Friday, yo! You can also zip on over to change.org and sign my petition that’s still up asking The New York Times and The Associated Press to change their policy on keeping Black people in the lower case. Just recently Colorlines walked away from using AP style and decided to start capitalizing the B so there’s proof that these little radical acts can make a difference.

5. Binge watch as many Spike Lee movies as you can, then go outside and yell, “Wake up” as loud as you can. On Saturday morning see if you feel any different. Act as if everyday is Black Friday.

Happy Black Friday, people!

Happy Halloween! Make it Cheap and Easy

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Could this be my Halloween costume?

Could this be my Halloween costume?

Tomorrow is my favorite holiday, Halloween. It’s really about the kids, but I like dressing up and eating candy too. What? You don’t? I won’t judge.

Well, I wrote about why I love Halloween over at my new parenting blog, Philly Parenting on Newsworks.org. Feel free to check it out and share it with your friends. I’d love to hear how other parents feel about Halloween.

You know I’m listening.

Boo!

In Honor of MLK: Do Something!

Martin-Luther-King-Day-Quotes-10Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Happy MLK Day! I hope those of you with the day off, enjoyed a break from your regular routine, however you spent it, even if that meant catching up on your laundry.

Since I’ve been sick and missed an entire week’s worth of work, I spent the majority of my day at my office playing catch up. But that doesn’t mean I can’t find a way to honor Dr. King’s Legacy today, and every day for that matter, because I think that’s what this day is really about. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t wait for one day in January to do some great service project, instead we’d look at Dr. King’s life of protest and service as an example of what we are all capable of because at the end of the day, Martin was just a man. A man who looked around and said, enough. Enough of the injustice, enough of the poverty. Enough of the violence. And then he decided to do something. And he didn’t stop until somebody stopped him.

So, we all have busy lives and families. Most of us have to work to keep food on the table and a roof on our heads. And many people are already doing for others on the regular. But just in case, here are some things anybody can do to help Dr. King’s dreams come true. And none of them have a January 19 expiration date.

1. Go see the movie Selma to get inspired and understand that regular people make a movement, not miracle workers. And take a teenager with you if you know one. After the movie discuss over hot chocolate.

2. Educate yourself and read a good book about social justice, racism and/or poverty.

3. Volunteer at any organization that promotes social justice, even if it’s just once or twice.

4. Write a check for an organization that is doing good work. If you don’t have the time to do the work, your dollars can support those who do.

5. Sign my petition on Change.org to capitalize the B in Black when referring to Black people. And while you’re over there, sign some other petitions. Lending your voice to a cause is the easiest and yet potentially most powerful thing you can do.

What other things can be added to this list? Tell us how you celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. on this day and any day. I’m totally listening.

Peace!

This Thanksgiving, I’m Giving Thanks that I am Black!

Ms. Meltingpot and her Grandmother. Black and proud for almost 100 years.

Ms. Meltingpot and her Grandmother. Black and proud for almost 100 years.

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

There’s a lot of sadness and anger in the United States right now, most of it stemming from the situation happening in Ferguson, Missouri and the continual assault on Black lives. And then if you throw in the pathetic and disturbing downfall of Bill Cosby, as his secret life as a sexual predator comes to light, it’s enough to make any self-respecting Black person want to curl up and hide for the next 100 years or so.

There is so much pain and sorrow blowing through our world, I don’t want to add to the negativity. It’s hard not to express my anger in a public format, but I am trying to offer something different here on the Meltingpot. So, I started thinking about the things I was truly thankful for this Thanksgiving. Being healthy and having my family nearby is definitely at the top of my list. The fact that my children are healthy and happy makes me incredibly thankful. And of course, the fact that I have a job that I love is indeed a glorious blessing.

But there’s something else I’m really thankful for that might not seem possible at this particular moment in time. I am really thankful that I was born Black. Despite the fact that I was born and raised in a state deemed the most inhospitable to Black people. Despite the fact that I grew up surrounded by White people. Despite the fact that my own country still has yet to recognize Black people as first-class citizens. Despite the fact that this nation currently seems to be at war with my people, I am truly, hands-down happy and grateful that I was born Black in America. Here’s why.

I am thankful that my skin is this warm chocolate hue that looks fantastic draped in bright, radiant colors. I am thankful that this brown skin is also aging so well, people think I’m a decade younger than I really am. (It’s true, my Black don’t crack.) I am thankful that my thick, kinky hair is so versatile and full of personality. I am thankful that I come from a large family with a distinct cultural heritage that pulls from our southern roots, African heritage and Midwestern sensibilities. I am thankful that I feel a genuine kinship with other people around the globe whose life journey parallels my own. I am thankful that Black men above a certain age give me the nod on the street. I am thankful that Black women above a certain age will smile at me and my children when I encounter them on the street. I am thankful that I can claim some of the most brilliant, strong, creative, dedicated, amazing human beings ever to walk on the face of this earth as “my people.” I am thankful that I am the offspring of ancestors who were battered, beaten and brutalized so terribly, yet they were never broken. Never, ever, broken. Imagine the physical and emotional strength necessary to not only survive the middle passage, slavery, and Jim Crow Segregation, but to thrive and create and surpass the greatest expectations placed on you by your oppressors. That’s like superhuman shit right there. And I have their superhuman blood rolling through my veins today. Hell yeah, I’m Black and I’m proud…and very, very thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! And please know I am extremely thankful that you all continue to visit the Meltingpot. I hope you have a warm and tasty holiday. (And pardon my potty mouth above.)

Peace!

Ms. Meltingpot is in a State of Grace

Just an image that reflects how I feel. But the work is by an artist named Ernest E. Varner

Just an image that reflects how I feel. But the work is by an artist named Ernest E. Varner

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Did you miss me? I missed you all. Really, I did. So much has been happening in my life, so many times I’ve wanted to write but literally couldn’t find the time for much more than a quick Facebook post or a tweet. That’s right, dear readers. I’ve basically only been able to dedicate 140 characters or less to writing these days. So, let me catch you up. But I warn you, I’m about to go a little spiritual and words like God with a capital “G” might come up. So, if religion and the like gives you hives, you might want to pass on this post. Otherwise, read on.

So, the week before Thanksgiving, my parked car was hit by a drunk driver who also hit seven other parked cars near Temple University. It was a total mess. My car had to be removed from the scene by a tow truck and the repairs still aren’t complete. Needless to say, the driver doesn’t carry enough insurance to cover the damage and all of the related expenses associated with the accident. But we still had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Then the week before Christmas arrives and babygirl comes down with a stomach virus that lands her in the hospital. Soon after, everyone in my family comes down with the icky illness, falling like dominoes, one after the other. Everyone that is, except son number two. But still, we had a pleasant Christmas. The barfing stopped for that one holy day, only to resume the following day.

Luckily, everyone in our little kinky gazpacho family seemed healthy enough to travel down to North Carolina to visit with my parents for New Years. We got into a rental car (remember my car is still in the shop) and headed south. Well, the universe wasn’t done with us yet. On New Year’s Day, my poor mother was taken by ambulance to the hospital with what we thought was a nasty case of the flu, but turned out to be far worse. I almost lost my mother, dear readers, but luckily she is projected to make a full recovery. It seems almost silly to add that the day after my mother went into the hospital, son number two finally had his battle with the stomach virus. At that moment, my mother fighting for her life in the hospital and my son lying in bed trying not to puke his guts out, I had a moment of despair. I wanted to ask God, the Universe and anyone else who might have some answers, what I had done to deserve all of this, all at once. But, dear readers, I didn’t have time for any sort of real reflection or even time for a good cry. Life kept handing me buckets of puke and desperate calls from the hospital, plus two other kids to take care of, so when was there time to cry? I figured I’d have my breakdown later, like when I was back home.

But guess what? The breakdown never came. Instead, I made it back to Philly and I felt an unexpected sense of calm. After all that, I didn’t feel the anger or disappointment or depression I had expected. In fact, just yesterday I had such a moment of clarity about what has transpired in these last few weeks, it made me want to write it all down. Here’s what I realized. Yes, my car was totaled by a drunk driver, but I wasn’t in it and neither were my children. Yes, my whole family got sick at Christmas time, but we were all healthy enough on Christmas day to enjoy the magic of the holiday. And yes, my mother almost died, but she didn’t die. She is going to be okay. Dear readers, what I think I’ve just witnessed is grace. Yes, an incredible showing of God’s grace. I have seen the worst life can offer, but have been spared experiencing it fully. It’s like I’ve been taken to the edge of a cliff but a benevolent hand has kept me from falling.

I don’t know about you dear readers, but I think God/The Universe wants me to use this life to do great things. I don’t think I’m here by accident. I have seen how fast and easy it is for this life to be taken away, so I’m here testifying that I’m not going to waste my time here on earth. Every minute should count for something. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to sign up for bungee jumping lessons, nor am I going to write a new novel every year. I just mean that I’m going to make sure I love the people I love. Hard. I will write the books I want to write. Well. And I will give myself permission to experience the things in this world that tickle my fancy. Now. Not later. Because clearly, later isn’t guaranteed.

So, this is really already too long for a blog post. If you’re still reading, thank you. If you have a story of your own to share that you think will make me smile, please share. I have a little bit more about the way I’m embracing this state of grace, but I’ll wait for the next post to tell you about it. Welcome to 2014, Meltingpot readers. I’m glad you’re here with me.

Peace!

Happy Holidays from Ms. Meltingpot!

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

I hope you are all having a happy and healthy holiday season. I’m definitely happy, but healthy is proving to be a little bit harder. My whole family, minus son #2, has been hit with a stomach virus, starting three days before Christmas. Thus, I haven’t had a moment to write here. I apologize.

And for the record, I probably won’t make it back to the blog before the new year begins. So, just in case, merry, merry to all and here’s to a happy and peaceful 2014 filled with generous amounts of laughter, love and light.

Peace!

Ms. Meltingpot

On Blizzards and Birthdays

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

This weekend two big events are occurring, the winter storm of the century and my birthday. Sadly, the snow storm is getting more attention. I don’t mean to suggest that the entire eastern seaboard ought to be thinking about me on February 10, instead of whether or not they can tunnel out from under 36 inches of snow, but still, a girl kind of hopes that any semblance of a celebration in her honor wouldn’t get dashed by Mother Nature.

Seriously though, I’ve never been a big birthday party girl, but I do like my day to be special. Because el esposo is embroiled in studying for his exams, the storm of the century is probably going to shut down the entire city, and because my older son woke up this morning with the telltale “Mom, my throat is sore,” I’m not thinking this year will be the year that I go big for the birthday.

Instead, I’ll probably unplug from all devices, stay in my jammies as long as possible, watch silly movies with my kids all day and give myself permission to take a nap with babygirl. If the city streets are clear by Sunday night, my cousin has promised to watch all three kids and el esposo has promised to peel himself away from his books long enough to take me to my favorite ramen noodle house, followed by a stop at the Chinese bakery for egg custard. Yum! I’m cheap and easy. But I’ve learned the hard way, that by keeping my expectations low for birthdays, it will take a lot more than a blizzard to ruin my fun.

What about you, dear readers? What’s a perfect birthday look like for you? Do you want the big celebration? Or is a day to yourself more of a treat?

I’m listening. (and humming “Happy Birthday to me…)

Peace!