Random Selection of Thoughts: Welcome to September!

So I haven’t forgotten about blogging about my yoga training. Suffice it to say: it’s intense. I’m in a group of 21 students, from all walks of life, different ages and professions and reasons for being there. The days are long and there is a lot to learn. But I’ll get into that in a different post.

Today’s post is about the random thoughts I have floating around that I want to share with the lovely people who happened to click on this link.

  • How is it September already? Though this year is flying by, I’m pleased about September for the following reasons: FOOTBALL and cooler temperatures (though not in Texas yet, sadly).
  • This has been the summer of reading. My recommendation for anyone looking to add to their Amazon Wish list: anything by Roxane Gay. Seriously, her book “An Untamed State” has been in my thoughts for over a week. I ignored social obligations, lunch time limits and loved ones to get through the book. And now I have to re-read it for the details I missed in my effort to reach the epic climax of the novel. Honorable “must-read” mentions:
    • “Where the Line Bleeds” and “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward. As a Southerner, especially being from Houston, the way that Ward describes her characters, families from the hardscrabble Gulf coast dealing with the choices of life (both legal and illegal) rang quite true. You’ll get caught up in the story line and start to identify with each character.
    • “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the prison of belief” by Lawrence Wright. One of those books where you find yourself yelping “That didn’t really happen.” and “Are these people serious?” after nearly every page. I sometimes forget that in a pre-Internet day, folks got away with making claims that today could easily be disputed. And boy did the founder of Scientology tell some whoppers!
    • “How to Be Black” by Baratunde Thurston. I’ve been picking up and putting down this book for a while. Unsure why I haven’t finished it, because it’s consistently hilarious and I find myself nodding along with the stories of Black childhood in America.
    • “Redefining Realness: my path to womanhood, identity, love & so much more” by Janet Mock. Though I’ve always been pretty liberal, this book opened my eyes. Mock’s journey tells the challenges she faced as a mixed-race youth in Hawaii, navigating the space between presenting male, which was expected by society, and presenting female, which was in her spirit. I have a six-degrees-of-separation connection through a friend of a friend, and the visibility of these stories matter.
  • Yoga is such a blessing. September is National Yoga Month, so grab a 10-day or one week pass if you can. My mom shared this great infographic about how yoga affects your body. I could easily add about 10 more.
  • If you’re like me, and you struggle with content scheduling, here is an excellent list of 30 content creation tips. I already hit you with #17 (book reviews) above and this whole post is #13 (list posts). See, it works!

Alright, off to prepare for this excellent four-day work week. Oh, and plot for my world take over. As always, I love your comments so please leave one.

What I’m Reading – August 5, 2013

I’m delayed, I know!


I’m currently reading “Open City” by Teju Cole, which transports me to the innermost thoughts of the protagonist. The layer by layer reveal of information about the narrator is suspenseful and keeps me coming back. Concurrently, I’m reading “Now Is The Time To Open Your Heart” by Alice Walker. Her narrative is so dense and packed with rich language and imagery that I must slow my speed and let the prose stay and rest in my mind so I fully comprehend her story.

I’ve been wanting to read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” for a while so I’ll likely have to renew that rental. “The Little Black Book of Success” is a classic personal development text and it came highly recommended from one of the best, my mom.

Finally, since I just finished reading “Super Sad True Love Story” and I love me some io9, I have to share this story. The book’s author, Gary Shteyngart, tries out Google Glasses, which are conceptually similar to the “äppärät,” a central device Shteyngart’s characters use to communicate with friends and family, blog, live stream and email.

What’s on your reading list? Any sci-fi or business books?

What I’m Reading – July 3

I said it would be semi-regular, so here is the latest passel of books picked up from my local library. I’ve been slightly biased to Black women writers in the recent weeks, aside from Karen Russell – Vampires in the Lemon Grove was excellent – so I’ll be diversifying soon. Perhaps mixing in some historical non-fiction; recommendations welcome! Additionally, I’m here for Octavia Butler and I recommend you get into her as well.


What’s on your list? My next quest will be for Zadie Smith’s short stories and some Margaret Atwood.

The Power of Asking for Help

One of the most powerful messages I got last week was from KERA’s Think program. The exchange begins around minute 39 of this podcast, when guest Ben Hewitt said:

I hear a lot from people, what can I do to strengthen community in my area. One of the things that I think is really profoundly effective is to ask somebody for help. And the reason it’s so effective, I want you to think about the last time you offered help to somebody and what they probably said, which I’m guessing was ‘Oh no, I’m all set, thank you very much.’ I also want you to think about the last time somebody came to you and asked you for help, and how it made you feel. Which I’m guessing was pretty good.

Hewitt continued, saying that on an innately human level, we have a need to be needed. As I listened, all I could do was nod to myself because I’ve seen the effect that asking for help and offering help can have on a relationship. When I realized that it was time for me to make a change, I knew I would have to tap my network. The thought of asking for assistance set my teeth on edge; it felt like I was essentially going forth naked and begging in the world, without a cloak for shielding my need.

I took it slow, sending  a message to a longtime friend and sometime collaborator. As I hit send, I said a silent prayer that he wouldn’t recoil from the screen and feel insulted by my request (which was, in hindsight, truly very simple). Almost immediately, my message received a reply of support and agreement to assist where possible. Now, I’m not a huge crier, but the sense of relief was so strong that I let out a few watery drops.

Since that moment, I’ve made other requests from business associates and college friends alike, and I’ve never run into anyone who isn’t flattered and ready to offer help where they can. Instead of feeling putting upon, which is the reaction I expected initially, people were eager to assist, whether through an email introduction, recommendation and reference or just feedback to make sure I wasn’t going into left field with my ideas. As these favors have grown, I’ve made an effort to balance my requests with offers of assistance. Ben Hewitt is right, it is a pretty good feeling to help.

Oh, and since I talked book recommendations in my last post, Ben Hewitt is the author of Saved: How I quit worrying about money and became the richest guy in the world. It is most definitely on the must-read list!

Comment time: do you find yourself asking for help? If not, what holds you back? How does helping others make you feel?

What I’m Reading – A (Kinda) Regular Feature

I realized today, as I backed up from my local library branch, that I had an adrenaline rush that was likely akin to what shopaholics feel when they leave the mall. Slightly flushed and smiling to myself, I looked over at the short stack of books I checked out and imagined the perfect silence in which I wanted to read them, curled up on the couch with the sunlight spilling through the living room window behind me. Ever since I finally figured out how to use the online request system for Dallas Public Library, I’ve been tagging books and eagerly awaiting their arrival at the nearby branch.

Much like a overly enthusiastic shopper, I also like to share my finds with the world. As an effort to share with the audience outside of my Instagram and Twitter followers, I’m going to begin posting photos of my loaned treasures on here.

My Latest Haul

I’d love to hear what you’re reading as well, since word-of-mouth is often how I discover new writers. Well, word-of-mouth and my sister who truly will one day bury herself, Hoarders-style, in her living room with the amount of books she has.

What Reading Means to Me – Then And Now

You can only imagine my pleasure at reading this headline: “Generation Read: Millennials Buy More Books Than Everybody Else.” As a person that currently has books in my passenger seat, ready to head back to the library return slot in exchange for another round of new picks, I can’t say I’m surprised. My sister described her weekend as a three-hour over-stimulated journey through Waterstones (the British version of Barnes & Noble). But the way people speak of my generation, you’d think we were dolts who cannot operate anything that doesn’t have an electronic touch screen.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are the visits my mom, sister and I made to the library, a red lacquered building that held so much wonder to me. It was the kid version of “Cheers,” where you walk in and the proprietor (the librarian in this case) knows your name and your favorite selection (The Babysitters’ Club in this case).  It never failed that every Saturday, after the morning cleaning frenzy, there would be the reward: hours of time to wander around for new titles and authors. And at the end, you get to take some home with you. That was all the motivation I needed to make me do those dishes faster.

Though my desire to write wanes with the cycles of the moon, I never will turn down the opportunity to get lost for hours in a book. It is a trait that my sister shares as well – if the book is in my face, chances are I’m not hearing a word you’re saying to me. It’s never one book at a time. I like to imagine I can take on all the stories at once, letting my desire for adventure or romance or history decide which book I’ll pick up each time. I love the moments spent looking for my previous place, reinserting myself in the narrative and aligning my thoughts with those of the characters. And when I find the transformative story that draws me in, erasing time and other forms of entertainment…well that’s the ultimate experience.

As a page-turning enthusiast, my initial reaction to e-readers was one of “Ew, why would you do that? “ Nothing excites me more than when someone asks me “What are you reading?” Much as some people like to share their vacation photos or their kids’ soccer game video, I want to tell you about this great book. Some of the best conversations I have with my family begin with “So, what are you reading right now?” This usually leads to many shared Amazon.com and NPR books reviews, discussions about the genre, the background of the author and the best place to store stacks of the current reading list. (For my sister, it’s pretty much anywhere that you won’t trip over.) Over time, I was worn down and when I gifted myself an iPad, it was over. I downloaded the Kindle app and discovered that traveling with a tablet full of downloads beats lugging loads of novels any day and I didn’t look back.

A nugget of information highlighted in the Good article is that more and more readers are reading electronically, spelling doom and disaster for the brick-and-mortar bookstore. I wish I could say I was helping that cause but the lure of the library is still strong in me, and I’ll continue to go where everyone (at least in my imagination) knows my name.


What’s on my mind – December 19, 2011

This week has been full of pop culture conversations. Just wanted to share some of the things I’ve been discussing with friends.

The “If I Were A Poor Black Kid” article: No one article has been more discussed and derided in my circle of friends and on the blogs I read than this article from Forbes writer Gene Marks. Upon reading it, I initially shook my head and gave it a simple “really dude?!” and kept moving. However, over the days following I read some very impassioned responses to the uninformed ignorance that Marks tried to pass off as actionable advice for children in poverty. The Root has done a nice roundup of the articles; my favorite is from Cord Jefferson at Good. I’d love to see an actual response from Gene Marks. I may be wishing upon a star for that one.

The recent report on obesity, Black women and self-esteem: I had mixed feelings about this report. On the one hand, it’s fantastic that these women, according to the findings of the study, don’t feel that their feelings of worth are dependent upon their weight. On the other hand, the staggering numbers about obesity in the African American community cannot be ignored. Shaming women into weight loss is not a solution. An honest conversation about how to improve access to fresh foods, knowledge about fit lifestyles and changing values about childhood nutrition is the beginning.

The This Week in Blackness blog: hilarious and I almost cried laughing while listening. A definite must-read blog.

Total Recall: Thoughts on Chapter 1 & 2

So I sat down with “Total Recall,” excited to learn about the rationale behind recording everything in life in the name of science. In chapter one, you gain an idea of the advances in technology that allow the scientists to even consider recording their lives on the scale with which Bell does. (As a note, the book is written by two people, Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell but is narrated by Bell.) Increasing available storage, both in devices and online, the decrease in size of phones, videocameras and other recorders and the ubiquity of PCs are all cited as ways that we’ve become normalized to the idea of connection.

I appreciate that they recognize that even the younger generation like me can find this a very frightening prospect, to live not only in a physical sense but an digital form. Who controls this information? More and more cases of one’s online identity having an effect on the physical realm are being discovered and the “delete” button doesn’t exist when you can cache information.

Chapter two finds Bell taking the first steps to digitize everything in his life. This process begins with correspondence and work files, leading to receipts, awards, transcribing conversations and the minutiae of life. In my own life, I am encountering this more and more. I went to the Apple store (s/o to Steve Jobs) to replace my iPod and had the cashier ask me if I wanted a printed copy of my receipt or if I wanted it emailed to me. Since I hate collecting loads of loose random papers, I said email. That immediacy, and the fact that I didn’t have to keep up with a physical paper, appealed to me. However, this wasn’t limited strictly to a tech company, which was my first thought. Just last week, while at a clothing store with my mom, they asked her the same question. She is more reticent to give out her information, so she chose the paper copy. But clearly this will become the norm for companies who recognize that their customers are increasingly online and would prefer the option of digital receipt. It’s also a great cost cutting idea; think of how many reams of receipt paper one store must go through. Sending emails not only eliminates that waste, it helps build a database of customer information. Of course, the issue becomes marketing to them; if I give you my email address is this an implicit “yes” to sending me your newsletters and offers? I would err on the side of no, but that’s because I hate most marketing emails (seriously, please stop 99 percent of companies, or do a better job of targeting your message).

But I digress! Bell goes into classification and hierarchical organization in the growing database that contains gigabytes of information. That’s all fairly interesting, if  a bit dry. I’m moving on to Chapters three and four, but I’m starting to give priority to necessary graduate reading. Thanks for patience while I took my good, sweet time to finish this post.