Category Archives: Lifestyle

It’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes staying fit, eating healthy, being in a peaceful state of mind and having a clearer and positive outlook on life.

4/30 #ARRAYNow Tweet-A-Thon …OMG yo…This is life changing

Quick disclaimer: I’m a storyteller & I know twitter is for short convo so I’m retelling the amazing experience I had during the #ARRAYNow tweet-a-thon, here. A very special thank you in advance for reading through if you stayed til the very end! Sections have headers if you’d like to skip ahead.

I’m writing this heartfelt letter of gratitude and thanks to everyone who participated and answered my questions & everyone elses during the #ARRAYNow Tweet-a-thon on 4/30/20. A special thank you to Ms. Ava DuVernay & The ARRAYNow team. I write this through fear of not wanting to be seen, but I also realize its something that has always held me back. The #ARRAYNow Tweet-a-thon inspired me to peek out from behind my little corner of the world and say,

“Hello. This is changing my life.”

I’m not extremely important outside of anyone who knows and loves me. I’m just a young black woman in New Jersey with a full-time job in pharma digital advertising in NYC. We’re all working from home now and isolation can be a little tough. But I found a little bit of time to escape during the tweet-a-thon and it was life changing!

Is 35 still young? My inner child is writing this since she’s a WHOLE lot braver than I turned out to be. She’s the only way I can share this story.

Inspiration & heroines

My brave inner self grew up watching beautiful movies with heroines who were the oddballs out on repeat, learning dialogue and melodic songs, life lessons from Annie, Pocohantas, Mulan, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Color Purple — so many movies with so many visions of strong young women who step out of the box to do something life-changing and different. I wanted to be like just them.

Through many obstacles, they each overcame impossible odds to grow into the courageous young women we saw at the end of the movies. The journeys are always rough. It takes courage to stand out because so often, you stand alone.

I fear many of us with big hearts are afraid to stand alone. That is a level of intense bravery and courage missing in this world. And when beautiful moments occur, they stand out from the rest. Change is soon to follow and that’s how I felt about Ava & the ARRAY Now tweet-a-thon. Change and history is happening in front of my very eyes and I want to be a part of it.

Quarantine. New Life. More Writing.

I’m usually off work late, but lately, with fewer distractions, I have just a little more time to do what I love. Write. Learn. Live. Laugh. Repeat…in my own corner of the country wfh during the pandemic. Something had inspired me to work feverishly on a TV treatment that I’m hoping will help to inspire the hearts of people around the world. I have no ill motives, no large connections, no aspirations of large fame. Just a big heart and a big dream that hurts so bad it won’t leave me.

Things outside of the #ARRAYNow hashtag are very sad and frightening. I’d been taking a break from social media because it was physically, mentally and spiritually making me weak. I don’t recognize this world at times and I often wonder who I am in it.

They say chose your heroes wisely

Like everyone else, I use social media but I try to control what I see and what I allow into my spirit. I don’t want to feel continuous anger and sadness so I follow things that bring me joy and inspiration. I only have twitter notifications on my cell for 2 people. Former President Barack Obama and Award-winning Filmmaker Ms. Ava DuVernay. Although my notifications are silent and I miss more than 75% of them, those are the people whose energy I choose to absorb most. I can feel the godliness and love in their hearts for the well being of all people, but especially for us black, brown, and women humans of the world.

Whenever I have time and energy (I’m having more now lately than ever #boundaries), I write tales of black and brown heroes and heroines rising up from the dust, remembering their cultural roots, writing a visual call to action to remind us of the ancient warrior spirits we descend from. I have to, that’s one of the only ways I keep myself from succumbing to all of the sadness surrounding me. Its to write my own hero story out of this mess through the heart of a young black girl that no one saw coming.

But as always, I work alone with no mentor to turn to, no one to ask questions. Just me, writing my own mini-revolution because I grew up watching the underdogs get their happy ending and I keep waiting for ours. The spark soon came in the form of a simple post from Ms. Ava DuVernay and I am forever grateful.

I chose to follow Ms. Ava because her life story says it all. It’s so damn inspiring and everything she continues to do amazes me. I wish I had as much courage as she does and those she works with. It’s weird admiring other people because it feels intrusive, silly even. I try to stay far away, hardly tweeting to people I admire unless I really feel moved to. I’m scared, but not scared enough to admire her from afar as a teacher in film and in life.

#ARRAYNow Filmmakers are heroes

I’m not a super fan of most but my heroes are the silent ones that get our hearts inspired, that share our hidden stories and inspire change. I love to inspire and I love to be inspired. That may sound weird but as a child, I was pumped with visions of great pioneers, revolutionaries, and leaders who were women who lead with their hearts. During this tweet-a-thon, we were granted access to chat with these real revolutionaries alive in our modern-day. Unhinged. I was so honored.

It was the greatest gift of all…using the greatest weapon of all, love. Love to me is being seen for who you are, for where you are, and embraced regardless of it all. Nothing was needed back in return. Just a simple kind gesture, and scrolling through the threads, those who were there — felt it. Its a shame it wasn’t trending in my feed. This was the most beautiful thing in the world, but so many missed it because of distractions.

Blessings of Manna from out of Nowhere

What Ms. Ava & her friends did for the spiritually starving creative community with that tweet-a-thon was such an incredible blessing it continued to overflow all day, night, weekend, and still continuing to for many days to come. The entire experience is immortalized on Twitter under the hashtag #ARRAYNow. Epic.

It has caused quite an immovable stirring in my spirit I just want to scream and cry at this priceless and selfless gesture, because this gives me hope. Always the optimist, I was running a little low.

Ms. Ava is my film teacher and she doesn’t know me but that’s ok. Because she’s the best teacher, the G.O.A.T to anyone who is paying attention. Her heart is as big and as beautiful as anything I’d seen in modern history, since of course the Obama’s and others like them. That’s why I follow them. They’re my anchors to what is still right with the world. Ms. Ava is one of my heroines in the dark.

#ARRAYNow TWEET-A-THON EXPERIENCE

So I’m changing some things around in my personal life to allow me more ME time to write my own lil masterpieces. No distractions, no deadlines, just me and my open imagination. It’s weird in here. Haven’t been in here in a while, so much to unpack, so much stuff to move around, so much growing to do. So much.

One night, just as I was really feeling alone without another creative soul to speak to (other than the BF), I get a random twitter notification from Ava DuVernay about the upcoming #ARRAYNow Tweet-a-thon on Twitter on 4/30/20. And I didn’t miss it. Wait.

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I couldn’t believe my eyes. I mean did she really just say she and 60+ of her friends are going to be online all day to answer anything we wanted? I’d lost my mind at that point. I knew I should’ve taken the day off but I still had to work. I was NOT ready or prepared for the steady flow, 1 after the other of epic filmmaker after EPIC filmmaker coming off the twitter press from Ms. Ava and ARRAY’s twitter accounts seconds and minutes apart.

I jokingly tweeted her out of enthusiasm saying that I should’ve taken the day off but that I’m a master multi-tasker so I’m ready. Ava liked it.

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I didn’t let her down. I juggled my responsibilities and this tweet-a-thon like the thirsty creative, professional, life student I am. Ok, I was savage. I was on a mission in #ARRAYNow and I’d never felt so inspired and empowered in my life! It was overwhelming. Between every other question I asked, I posted my disbelief at what was happening and met some cool new folks along the way!

As my boyfriend kept me fed and hydrated throughout the day (because he loves it when I dream out loud), I rode that twitter hashtag #ARRAYNow like a super magical black bull with bottomless rides spinning around from thread to thread asking as many questions as I could possibly type.

Frustrating myself to make sure I didn’t have any typos and I didn’t sound stupid, I pushed through my greatest fears and anxiety to ask even just 1 question. I conquered MANY fears that day, 1 after the other. It was extraordinary. Each notification from someone I admired giving me more encouragement to keep going. Something here is working.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Lemonade GIF by Alex Bedder - Find & Share on GIPHY

But these wonderful folks were only online for minutes. I needed a strategy. And I had multiple screens and asked specific questions to specific people based on their experience that came in the body of the post. I never recycled a question unless it was a burning one that hadn’t been answered yet. Just because you asked it, didn’t mean it will get answered and I asked those questions as if no one saw me, never expecting them to get answered. Leaving a trail of love and admiration along the way.

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A tweet-a-thon is not for the faint of heart.

Any marathon needs discipline but I grew up with it so I’ve got that in the bag and off I went. Then, 1 by 1 my notifications began to light up with answers and likes by people I never would’ve had access to, had I not been following Ms. Ava DuVernay.

It was pure overwhelming bliss to get answers or retweets by filmmakers Matthew Cherry, Tiffany Tenille, Numa Perrier, Lisa France, PJ Raval, Victoria Mahoney, Diane Pargas, Steven Capel Jr….liked by Stephanie Turner……..AND liked 3 times on Twitter and once on IG by the heroine herself, Ms. Ava DuVernay. It felt like the eyes of gods were upon me. How does one hold in all of this excitement?? It’s impossible. I am self-aware AF, and I know the precise moments when I face my greatest fears and walk through them. There are no words, only tears.

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Humble needs a new word

I have grown to have a horrible case of creative fear where I create in secrecy and I hardly show my work afraid my thoughts and big ideas won’t be as beautiful as the things & the people that have created the things that have inspired me. I’m also afraid of exposure, but I keep trying to work at it which is why I participated in the #ARRAYNow Tweet-a-thon. I forced myself to do what was uncomfortable and I loved and hated every second of it. It was beautiful.

I did self-publish a fiction novel a few years ago just to prove to myself that I could do something creative and special. I did it and was super happy about it but it was tough because I did it all alone. Writing, Design, launch, everything. Its got amazing 5 star reviews on Amazon and everyone keeps asking for book 2. Creative fear can sometimes feel crippling. Every day I’m working on it.

ARRAY Now Netflix film – Jezebel

After the #ARRAYNow tweet-a-thon, I created a list of #ARRAYNow films I wanted to watch. Almost right away I watched a movie that broke me down to the core. It was beautiful and raw. Something I realized I’d been yearning to see on TV, but never saw. I watched 2 black women bare their entire souls for the world to see in the ARRAY Now Netflix film Jezebel. I was so proud and ecstatic that they didn’t let creative fear stop them from making that film. I also recognized my own fear and it was both heartbreaking and healing at the same time. It was something I needed to acknowledge and release. I’d been ignoring it for far too long.

Growth hurts. I’d suppressed my creative spirit for years living that commuting-work-all-day-and-all-night-advertising life. I learned great new digital skills, yes, but I wasn’t feeding my creativity. I felt empty inside yet full of joy for everything else. For everyone else, always putting myself, my hopes, my dreams…last. The black women in my family are beautiful, talented leaders and strong women who continue to put themselves last. I’ve seen the outcome and I secretly grieve for us because I’m aware of it.

I was inspired when I saw Jezebel because it meant those black women put themselves first which is so rare and I applaud them. I am honored to have watched what I saw.

Gratitude for Jezebel

When I decided to emulate the courage of the ladies of Jezebel just to tell them how I felt from my heart, I received a reaction/mention from Tiffany Tenille & Numa Perrier by responding to and sharing my heartfelt gratitude towards them for having inspired me to bare my soul… simply by watching them bare theirs.

Healing was taking place within me and as I fought myself not to delete it, I noticed in myself I am my own worst enemy and she’s got to go and I simply just need to declare it. And I do. It’ll take a while but I’ll get there.

Impossible possibilities

When I sought help to manage my stress, a healthcare professional told me that my wildest dreams of writing for tv to help the lives of black and brown people were grandiose ideas because I had no connections. I knew he was wrong about them being too grand, but right that I had no connections. It was something that stuck with me. What I needed most was a mentor and guidance from someone who is inspiring, someone who believed the impossible was possible, just like me. I’d signed up for a screenwriting class at NYU & did a little more research into my craft. I didn’t need him to validate my dreams. I needed to validate my own.

I watch the impossible happen every day around me and I secretly create my own possibilities when no one is watching, if I can just bust through this creative fear, I know I’d become unstoppable.

I’m Private AF, I’m funny AF and I’m weird too.

I secretly know I’m odd so I’m afraid to be seen. I’ve never been this way. Always the outgoing type, life has changed and me along with it. I died a lil bit every time someone I admire liked or shared 1 of my posts. I just want to create amazing, beautiful, life-changing, and inspiring pieces of art. I want the world to begin healing with love and I’m ready to create those lovely things, NOW.

The #ARRAYNow experience showed me that there ARE others out there like me, and I’m so excited because I didn’t know where to find them! Yet here they are!

My creative spirit is full of hope.

That’s a great Twitter notification couple right there. Barack Obama & Ava Duvernay, creative hope. People really should choose their heroes & heroines wisely. Soak up all that love, light, intelligence, boldness, and creativity. It’s amazing what you can create when you can put the pieces together if you know where to look.

From the bottom of my now full creative spirit, thank you Ms. Ava DuVernay, filmmakers, ARRAY Now, and everyone else who asked amazing questions that I can now go back and study. This just changed my life. Thank you.

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XO ~ Toi P.

Bracing For Impact

Life throws you curve balls. How you brace for impact is what matters most.

How does one brace for impact when life throws us curve balls on our jobs, in our home, with our family and friends?

Below, I’ve listed a few examples on how we can take precautions so life’s blows don’t impact us so severely.

Bracing for Impact on your Job

Always keep your resume up to date. Even if you’re so happy where you are and you can’t see yourself leaving any time soon, update that bad boy. You never know when budget cuts are coming or when they’re starting the 1st round of layoffs. It’s best to update it when you’re in a good place rather than after you’ve been let go and you’re rushing and frustrated. Besides, if you do it now, you’ll have all the time you need to embellish or add in new roles & responsibilities as you’re currently doing them.

Have you ever tried to remember all of the things you did at a job when you no longer work there? It’s a pain in the butt. So get it out of the way and update it when your mind is at ease. You’ll thank yourself later.

Do a LinkedIn endorsement and recommendation swap with your favorite coworkers. That’s a sure fire way to get faster results and feedback for top recruiters and jobs to see how great you are. Also, if you’re currently on the market for something new, here are the top 3 job search sites to get you started: Robert Half, CareerBuilder, and Indeed. Happy job hunting!

Bracing for Impact in your Home

My home is my safe haven. TOI House is literally Toi’s House. Its where I live, eat, breathe, create, write, laugh and love. I feel safe here and I decorate my home to fit my mood and personality. Cool, calm, serene, a touch whimsical with splashes of color and my focus color is various shades of blue. Blue is calming and soothing.

Find a color that exhibits the mood you want to feel when you walk in the door from a long day of work. Better yet, hop onto my Pinterest Home Decor page for some ideas. Follow me of course! I love Moroccan themed decor so you’ll get a sneak peek at what my place sorta looks like.

The best way to soften the blow for anything related to your home is to:

  1. Decorate with budget-friendly decor:

    Decorate so your home looks and feels great. Setting the mood always helps your mindfulness state of being and you’ll always look forward to going home. Less time in the streets means less money spent!

  2. Create a budget for your bills:

    Create a budget so your bills are always paid and all costs are accounted for. There’s nothing better than a peace of mind knowing you don’t need to do anything else but lay your butt down and relax or get up and create.

  3. Leave stress at the door:

    Any job and outside stressors, leave it at the door. Of course, you want to talk about your day and that’s fair but the point is not to let it consume you or your family.

Bring in the best, leave out the rest.

Bracing for Impact with your Friends

This is a special one. Do you know that saying about family and friends? “You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family.” This is very true and we’ll get to the family part in a sec, but to focus on friends, when you pick good people, it’s certainly a blessing. You control the caliber of people in your life. Let me say this again and I’ll put it in bold quotes too…

You control the caliber of people in your life!

If you let cheery, fun, life loving people into your space, you’ve invited in cheer, fun, life, and love into your life. If you let in Debbie Downers and Sulking Steve’s <—- (I made up Sulking Steve because there has to be a co-part to Debbie. Every negative thing can’t be female. That’s not even realistic! So Sulking Steve it is. I digressed.) naysayers and jealous people, you’ve invited in downers, sulkers, naysayers and jealousy into your life.

The latter makes for more arguing, tiresome proving, coddling, enabling and nurturing negative behavior from your end. That sounds like a full-time job in itself, right? Indeed. (like my pun? lol) Wouldn’t you rather have fun with fun people? I know I would! Don’t be afraid to cut off people who were once fun and cheerful and have become bitter old bats. Some serve their purpose for a season and others we outgrow. This is not you being mean. This is you living life.

We all have to be mindful of the relationships we keep and know whether they are super supportive or if they are super toxic. This can be difficult given how long we’ve had these friendships, but your emotional and mental health is way more important than any relationship you will ever form. You come 1st.

Place the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others.

Bracing for Impact with your Family

The family is a hand dealt by God. We love em and we can’t stand some of em but the fact is nothing can separate us from them genetically. If you are strong enough and have enough courage to stand up to the ones who seem to be out to destroy you, you can certainly love these individuals from a distance. Those type of family members can think they have your best interest at heart but their delivery is only in their best interest, not yours. Being able to articulate this, however, can be a huge challenge. If they’re already difficult, you telling them,

“Uncle, I hear you but I’m not liking your tone. As a matter of fact, I never did. Just like that time at our family BBQ back in 2007 when you said XYZ, and I was like…”

Yeah, none of that is going to work. And if you do try it, hit me up so I can be a fly on the wall, because that is some TV drama I may need some buttered popcorn for. Sometimes limiting visits and conversations help create distance, but that can also feel like you’re running from your problems. Either way, It’s better than being confrontational in a never-ending battle with Uncle so-and-so.

Therapy is also a great tool and helps in this area. If you can convince your family members to go, that’s the biggest step you’ll make here. Because participation is key to rehabilitation. Here’s a link to The Key to Fixing a Dysfunctional Family.

Use of “I” Statements

Check out this link on “I” Statements which is a style of communication focused on the feelings and beliefs of the speaker using the word “I” rather than the word “You” which would focus on the thoughts and characteristics the speaker attributes to the listener.

This is especially helpful when talking to co-workers, friends, and family. Basically, in any relationship you value, these “I” statements come in handy.

There are many other areas in life where you may need to brace for impact. But if you’re proactive and can find tools to put into practice before and during, the impact should be less damaging.

What are some things you do to soften the blow of life’s curveballs?

~ Toi Powell
Author

Just For Today…

I’d recently done an exercise to help lift my spirits after going through some hard times. I decided to share because we all go through tough times. None of us are exempt from stumbling and falling down in our paths and journey’s, but it’s nice to remember that everything doesn’t need to be done in a day. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were we.

To think that all of our problems, trials and tribulations will be resolved in a flash or a blink of an eye is a gross misjudgment of our fragility as human beings. Everything great in this life takes time, effort, reshaping and molding. Reshaping and remolding can be painful but as long as we learn from our struggles, we can endure what it takes to move onward and trek through each day one day at a time.

Don’t tackle it all at once. Make a list of what you want to accomplish, Just For Today.

Just For Today

By Toi Powell

Just for today, I will try not to be afraid of the unknown.

Just for today, I will try to put my best foot forward and put my past behind me and move forward with optimism and purpose.

Just for today, I will allow myself to acknowledge my vulnerabilities and allow my strength to come back gradually and not forcibly.

Just for today, I will not think about work, disability, who hurt me and why.

Just for today, I will not think thoughts of fear because it doesn’t exist and the fear of what isn’t will only manifest if I continue to be fearful.

Just for today, I am not who I was a week ago and for tomorrow I will remember that I am stronger than any weakness I acknowledge.

Just for today, my faith is stronger than ever. I will not fear God but respect him because God is not a God of fear. I rebuke anything that is not of him in the name of Jesus.

Just for today, my heart is strong, my spirit is stronger and everything I experienced is just that and everything happens for a reason.

Using the phrase “I will try” takes so much weight off of the actions that follow because realistically, every day will not be peachy. Allow yourself the space to be human and start the next day anew. Who knows, your next day may be your next breakthrough. Have faith and stay blessed.

What’s on your “Just For Today” list?

~ Toi Powell

Being Human is NOT cute.

Let’s get direct, right in the beginning of this post.

Being human is not cute.

What do I mean by that? Simply what it says. It’s a get out of jail free card. When someone does something wrong or says something horrible and ridiculous, the next line that follows is usually, “Hey, I’m only human.” If you’re the one making excuses for everyone else’s faults, the line is, “We’re all human.” “No one is perfect.” And here’s my favorite for the saints who blog…“We all fall short of the glory of God!”

True, true and true. But it’s an excuse. Being human doesn’t give you the right not to strive to become something more. It doesn’t give you the right to be a horrible individual without 1st looking at yourself to see where you can improve to be better.

There’s 2 categories of people I want to call out here for obvious reasons. Way Makers and Nay Sayers.

Way Makers are the type of people who strive for perfection. They make a way out of no way and don’t let their human weaknesses keep them from achieving a greater goal. No’s are challenges to them, and they eat it up for breakfast. It’s like they go out hunting for No’s just to turn it into a Yes! Nothing can stop this person if they have their heart and mind-set on a goal. Not a job, not a family member or friend, not a penny in the bank, nothing. They’re resourceful, frugal, DIY, dreamers, movers and shakers. If a door they want to enter is closed, they bust it down!

Those people get somewhere if not everywhere in life. Those people see an impossible opportunity and get excited at the thought of taking it on. Other people can’t understand how they work, how they manage, how they’re so talented, how…how…how. And because they’re so often misunderstood, they’re treated like a unicorn surrounded by greedy, nasty, vile gremlins trying to get what they have, but have done none of the work.

Hence why most of the Way Makers you know or have heard of move alone or in a very tight circle of trusted associates. If you’re not a part of the process, you’re part of the problem.

That’s when we get to our favorite and most robust group of people…

Nay Sayers. Beware of the Nay Sayer for they say no to things. No to your things, no to your ideas, no to your dreams, no to your goals, no to your life and no to your progress. These Nay Sayers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, colors, genders and relations.

Believe it or not, the biggest Nay Sayers will be those closest to you. Family and friends alike. They’re quick to judge you, to remind you of who you were, remind you of where you’re from. They’ll project their own fears and ideas onto you because that’s all they know how to do. If they knew how to be anything else, they’d be a Way Maker. Get me?

Either you do or you don’t. Either you is or you aint. You’re either a Way Maker or a Nay Sayer.

Nay Sayers will feel like they have your best interest at heart. They more oftentimes don’t even realize that the vile spewing from their mouths has discouraged you from even putting pen to pad to work out the idea 1st before they’ve already killed your dream.

Tip: Don’t share your ideas with anyone unless you’re working with them.

Nay Sayers also have a nasty habit of thinking they know everything, yet they know no things at all. How can they? They’ve never even tried. And if they did try to be a Way Maker, at some point they found it too difficult because failure hurt their pride and ego. Ohhhh boo hoo. (No tissues for you friend. Suck it up)

Failure is my BEST FRIEND! I absolutely LOVE failure. It helps me to grow. It shows me the faults and cracks I must fill for next time. Failure means I TRIED. And when you try, you learn things you never knew before. You may not need the information right now but somewhere down the line, it WILL come in useful. Trust me.

The Nay Sayer gave up. Failure was too much and what made them feel better about failing? Saying these lines…

“I’m only human,” “None of us are perfect,” “We all fall short of the glory of God”.

So that just gives you the right to stay content with not trying to be a Way Maker? Without striving for success? Perfection? Even those of us (not me) who don’t believe in Jesus say, “Only Jesus was perfect.”

And whether you believe the bible or not, I know you’ve heard that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light.

Jesus was a WAY MAKER. He walked in his truth and he lit the way for the rest of us so that we can be more like him. He lit the WAY so that we may be WAY MAKERS like him. Perfect like him. Even though our humanity keeps us from being so, we still have to try.

Our humanity isn’t a choice, but it’s nothing to settle for. Being human isn’t cute. Settling for the basics in life isn’t cute. Not contributing to society and your communities isn’t cute. Going to work and then going home to do nothing else isn’t cute. You may try to look cute, you may try to act cute, but when your humanity is all you have going for yourself, cute just doesn’t cut it.

Be a Way Maker.

Tips:

  • Brunch – You like going to brunch? Go. Then figure out how to host one.
  • Bars – You like going to bars? Go. Then figure out how to own one.
  • Beauty – You like hair and makeup?  Go. But learn how to do it yourself so that you can find a WAY to teach others.
  • Reading – You like to read? Read. Then figure out how to write a book.
  • Food – You like to eat? Eat. Then figure out how to make it. Once you do that, figure out how to share that skill with others or open your own catering business.

MAKE A WAY. If not, you’ll just be another human taking up space and enjoying the products of WAY MAKERS.

~ Toi Powell
Author

Merry-Go-Round and Round

I started to write this post about something else that was inspired by a merry-go-round until I experienced yet, another situation which also fits this round and round scenario.

A merry-go-round is an entertainment device that has lots of moving parts, lights, music and people just enjoying the time of their lives. It’s an apparatus of distractions. If you’ve ever been on one, you’d understand the concept of being spun around in a circle going up and down on a horse or what have you, laughing ever so gleefully but until you get off, all you’ll ever see is the same scenery with the same people listening to the same loud music on the same white horse.

As a spectator, from the outside looking in, it seems like fun until you realize, they’re all on a machine that’s taking them in a circle over and over again. What’s so fun about that? It’s not going anywhere, it’s not taking them from point A to point B. If anything, it’s dropping them right back off where they first began.

But you can’t tell that to the people having fun. They don’t see it from that perspective, at all. And the moment you try to tell them about this circle of distractions, they bite your head off because they LOVE this merry-go-round. They always have. They’ll also remind you, that you too used to love this merry-go-round as a child. You used to ride it together.

“Yeah”, you say, “But there are other thrills, other rides, other amazing things other than this same merry-go-round that takes you in a circle over and over again.”

It gets frustrating when you see your friends and family going around in the same circle over and over again. You’ve tried to interject and say, “Hey, there are other thrills, other rides in life…” You’ve tried to point over to the horizon to show them something else greater or even just to show them the merry-go-round itself. But they won’t listen. You are the odd man out.

People keep making the same mistakes, with the same people, using the same distractions on the same horse that takes them up and down and nowhere at all.

When you love them so much, it’s painful to watch. When you love them so much, you passionately want them to see the horse, see the same people hearing the same music. You want them to see the circle. But they still can’t. It hurts.

At this point, you have to make the decision. Do you want to stay standing outside of this circle, pointing to something greater hoping and praying they’ll see, eventually? Or, will you turn away with a broken heart and march on towards something great, alone?

The invitation to join you is always open, you can love them tremendously from your next adventure, still praying that their merry-go-round stops. Opening your arms to welcome them when they do, but you must still move forward.

Sometimes our love for people will drag us back onto that merry-go-round with them because we want to see them happy, all the while we’re miserable because we know better.

Don’t get dragged back into something you know you’ve grown out of for the sake of someone else’s happiness.

If they reject you, yes it will hurt. If they attack you, it will hurt even more, but the mend is on the way to the next thing where you’ll find others who’ve stepped off of the merry-go-round and are willing to enjoy this next adventure with you!

I pray this makes sense to you and gives you guidance in whichever area of your life this applies. I know as I write this under the guidance of the divine, I have answered my own struggle. I too shall apply this with you.

Like I said in a previous post, as I learn, you will too. Spiritual growth isn’t easy. Growing pains are real. But when you go through anything with anyone else who can relate, it makes the journey that much more tolerable.

I pray I helped someone other than myself today. Amen.

~ Toi Powell

Dig deep – Hidden Pain

Have you ever had a splinter? Doesn’t that joint hurt like a …? And it’s so amazing and frustrating at how easy it was to get in there but once you’re ready to take it out, you have to go through so much work? It feels like an impossible task. Sometimes the splinter is in a place we don’t think we can access on our own, but it’s much more painful having someone else do it than to do it ourselves.

Removing splinters is so time-consuming. It takes precision and patience. Sometimes it takes forever, but if you really want it out, you’ll put forth the effort. If you can see it and it’s close to the surface, you have a better chance at getting it out much easier and faster. But what about those that are so far beneath the surface, you literally have to dig deep to find and remove it?

That’s what I think of when I think of pain. Pain is like a splinter. It’s literally a pain in the behind, toe, finger, leg or wherever your splinter is, but let’s associate this splinter with the pain of the heart.

There are so many things we keep deep down inside of us. We know it’s there, we can see it, we can feel it, but it takes too much work to release it. Why is that? Because we have to pull back so many outer layers of skin to get to the source/root of the problem. So many of us aren’t willing to take the time to unpack our pain. So, we leave it there to fester and fester and fester and fester until it gets to a point where we can no longer walk, run, breathe, live. The pain is so strong it interrupts our lives when we least expect it.

Have you ever gone off on someone and was surprised at your own reaction? Was it really that serious? Did they deserve the name calling? Did they deserve the sharp tongue? Did they deserve…any of it? You’re holding on to something you need to let go.

Are you reacting to someone the way you react to everyone when they say a “trigger word”? Guess what boo boo? The trigger is not the word. The trigger is you.

You are holding onto something you need to let go of. The dictionary is full of words and no one is going to sit there and figure out what triggers you or not. If you don’t even have the patience to address your own pain, what makes you think others will? They’d quicker leave you alone so you can figure out your own problems than to figure them out for you unless you’re paying them to.

In order to release yourself from this pain, you need to take the time to unpack it.

  • Why did I go off on so and so?
  • What did they say to make me feel that way?
  • Why do I feel that way?
  • Who did what to me in the past to make me feel this way?
  • What did I do to fix it? Did I address it, or did I just ignore it?
  • Now that I know what it was that hurt me, how do I move on from it?

These are the layers of skin you need to pull back to get to the splinter, the root, the source. When you find the source, you have a few steps you can take.

  • Address this issue with the person who hurt you.
  • Forgive them with all of your heart.
  • Forgive yourself for holding onto it.

It’s important to note the space you’re in when you do address the issues with the people who hurt you. If you take that route, you need to be in a space of true transparency and with the effort of moving forward, past this in love and light.

You can’t call up your old best friend or baby momma or baby daddy cussin them out and blaming them for everything in the world that happened to you since they did what they did.

You simply explain to them…

“I’ve been holding onto something that happened between us in the past and it hurt me badly. This is not a call to confront or blame you for anything. I just want to make amends and say I forgive you for whatever I feel you’ve done to me and I hope you can forgive me for holding onto it all of this time.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re friends anymore or not. What matters is that you’ve addressed it, and you want to move forward without it weighing on your heart and spirit from now on. If they accept it, great! If they don’t, you’ve said your peace and you can still move on.

Trust me, it works. I’ve done it myself and you can literally feel the weight melt right off of you. Next!

Now that you’ve gotten that terrible splinter out, you can walk freely. You won’t be “triggered” by words or phrases since you’ve located the source and have moved on from it. Now you’ll be able to live a healthier lifestyle with friends who don’t think you’re crazy because your eye starts twitching every time someone mentions xyz.

That’s just the beginning of a journey of self-healing. A lot of self-healing you can do on your own, but it helps with trusted professionals. You just have to know where to start. Start with you and simply ask yourself, “Who am I?”

~ Toi Powell

Let me grow or let me go

Growing is something we all must do at some point in our lives but, it’s important to know that growth is different for everyone. Some people grow faster and some slower than others but growing is still an important part of life.

Physical growth, of course, is visible to the naked eye. Maybe a child gets taller, someone grows stronger, someone grows bigger and some grow smaller. It’s easier to accept what we can see but what about the things we can’t see. For instance:

  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

These are all areas that you or someone you know has to work on for themselves.

We all carry emotional baggage and we tend to think sometimes that we’ve let it go, but seriously. Did we really? If you still feel the heat of anger rising up in your chest when you think about what so and so did to you and what you wish you would’ve said and done, guess what? You’re still holding on to it. Let it go.

Mentally, when your perspective and knowledge increases, you’re the 1st to know and everyone else is the last to find out. No one likes to be the last to find out anything, so it makes sense to experience some pushback there.

Spiritually – woah! When you become more aligned with God, you change. You become a new you. This can be scary because you find yourself at the crossroads between old and new and you have others trying to pull you back when God is trying to move you forward. It’s a tug of war but only you know what’s best for you. You already know what lies back there but only God knows what lies ahead. Don’t you want the answers to everything you’ve been asking for? Don’t you finally want that business to take off? That special career you’ve been longing for? Behind you is your past and although it prepared you for what lies ahead, it’s time to put your skills to the test and walk in your purpose.

When you begin to “go with the flow” of where God is guiding you, others who “knew” you are so quick to remind you of who you used to be. They throw things at you that make you question yourself based on your old self. But growth, especially spiritual growth is a process. Say it with me… a process!

How others grow is and will be completely different from how you grow. You have your own talents, skills, thoughts, drives, and ways you’d like to share this with others. Just because you don’t grow like them and vice versa doesn’t mean growth isn’t happening. It just means perhaps keep your distance for a while until you are steady enough in your course and have faith that God has seen something special in you and he wants to work with you in wonderful ways.

While you may have looked like a strong tree prior to your transformation…

Photography: Toi Powell

The transition into the new you can look, not so strong…

Photography: Toi Powell

But when you’re allowed to grow in peace and able to spread your roots,  where an old tree last stood, sprouts something beautiful and new.

Photography: Toi Powell

You may not look like the old tree but you’re growing and that’s all that matters. It may take months, it may take years but if you find someone constantly reminding you of who you “were” simply tell them… Let me grow, or let me go.

If they truly love you, they’ll be amazed at the person you’ve grown to be.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 

2 Corinthians 5:17-21  (NKJV)

~ Toi Powell

Veronica & Compassion

Who is Veronica?

Why do we care about Veronica? What has she ever done for us?

These are some of the questions we ask ourselves when we don’t understand why we need to do something nice for someone who has never done or said a nice thing about us. In fact, Veronica or Victor (if you want to put a gender to this topic) is sometimes at the head of the snake, the head of the problems in your life. But what you don’t understand is that sometimes our reactions to these problems and problem makers is what extends the life of the issue.

We like to talk about Veronica to everyone. We need a team of “Ummm Hmmm-ers” or “Are you serious, she said WHAT-ers” to validate the offense and don’t realize, we’re spreading our own issues like wildfire. Maybe it doesn’t get back to Veronica that you were offended or maybe it does, but the fact of the matter is, you also had a hand in your own undoing.

When we talk to others to share our pain, why are we doing it?

  • Are we looking for validation?
  • Are we looking for guidance?
  • Are we looking to gossip?

There are too many reasons to list but not enough solutions. When you judge Veronica for being a horrible person and you stand around with others who do the same, do you see yourself as the crowd holding stones? If not, you should ask yourself why not? Because that’s exactly what you’re doing.

While you’re pointing the finger at mean old Veronica, you haven’t been able to pay your own bills on time for months. Your friend you go to lunch with hasn’t seen his kids in just as long if not longer. Your other co-worker is sleeping in her car because she lost her apartment. Meanwhile, Veronica may be dealing with issues unseen, unheard and she has no other outlet than to let it out on you because misery likes company and you don’t even realize you’re in the company of misery.

Where compassion comes in is, you can see, realize and understand that all people have issues. Everyone falls short. Nothing you do or say will ever change that. So,  when you went looking for compassion because Veronica slammed her laptop on your desk and asked you something for the fifth time, or maybe it was the first, you denied her the same right you have. The right for others to have compassion for those in the midst of their own struggle.

You pray for Veronica’s healing. You pray that she’s removed from the struggle. You pray that anything not of God that’s holding her down is removed from her life so that she may prosper and bring light instead of pain. You pray for yourself and ask for further clarity and understanding that you may identify in yourself and in others the block that is keeping you from living your greatest life.

Compassion for your enemies. That’s the lesson. And when you learn that and apply it, see how things begin to shift in your own favor.

And congratulations! Those tangled headphones just got a little more unraveled. That is our purpose after all isn’t it? To be unraveled enough to be more aligned with God and our purpose.

~ Toi Powell

Unraveled

Most of us think of being unraveled as coming undone. But what if coming undone is exactly what we need?

When we think of unraveling something, we think of taking it apart. Why would we need to unravel anything, you ask? Hmmm, perhaps your phone charger cord is in knots or how about those headphones you throw into a bag when you’re in a rush, just to realize, by rushing and not paying careful attention, you’ll have to unravel it later on when you need it most.

Think about the amount of time you could’ve saved in the beginning if you just took your time and carefully placed it where it should’ve been in the 1st place.

To unravel something, it takes intense scrutiny, intense observation, struggle, frustration and at times we even think about giving up. But we need those headphones, right? What are the typical steps we take?

Praying for a Miracle

We’ve got a mess, so we figure if we roll it around in our hands really fast, in some miraculous way, it’ll come undone.  That’s wishful thinking and hey, sometimes it works, especially if it’s not as knotted up, to begin with (follow me here). But if it’s like most headphone wires, you’ve got some work to do.

Time is of the essence

Why do we need these tangled up headphones so badly? Perhaps there’s something important we need to hear. We get frustrated because we want to hear it so bad, but we’re not in the atmosphere where we can hear it out loud. We need privacy, so we continue to struggle and then thoughts of makeshift ideas set in like, “Maybe if I unravel it enough to get the buds to reach both ears, that’ll do.” But who wants to sit there looking like the struggle? To everyone else looking at you from the outside, you look disheveled and lazy. You keep this in mind and either run away to be disheveled in private or you decide to take the time to unravel it now, or you decide, “It’s not worth it, so I’ll listen to it some other time.”

Divine Intervention

This is the moment when you’re at your wit’s end and have decided that you are out of your league here. You’ve given up on your own ability to figure it out for yourself and you turn and ask someone for help. “I’m sorry, I’ve tried and tried to unravel these knots and I just can’t do it.” For whatever reason, you’ve given up on yourself and your hope is that someone more qualified can help you. Here is where you decide one of the most important things in your life. Are you going to stand there and watch how they unraveled it for you or are you going to be distracted while someone else does all the hard work? I can assure you, if you allow yourself to be distracted, you’ll end up in the same position later on with tangled headphones, without the skill to unravel them. If you really need to learn the life lesson, no one will be around when you need the help. And then it’s just you and those tangled headphones ready to drive you crazy until you actually learn to sit there and figure it out.

It’s important to note here, that going to just anyone for divine intervention can tangle those headphones up even more. Use caution and the spirit of discernment to guide you. If you feel worse, if those headphones look worse, that’s not the one. If you feel good around the person you asked for help and you leave feeling refreshed and wonderful, Good for you! That’s it!

Why in the world is Toi going on and on about these headphones you ask?

Because it’s not about headphones sweetheart. It’s about YOU. Our lives are a set of tangled up headphones. It’s a mess and it’s ok to admit it. We’re human and unfortunately, that’s all part of the deal. But at some point, we have to evolve past frustration, past hurt, past guilt, past everything that holds us back from our full potential of being our best selves.

Ask yourself. Do you want to be the person who’s always trying to unravel headphones or do you want to be the one who is cautious in the 1st place #1 and/or #2 the person who has learned the lesson and is able to help the next person unravel their tangled headphones?

The world is a huge distraction

The world is a huge distraction, everything in it, everything about it. It’s built and made to distract, but what they don’t teach on a large enough scale is that the most amazing experience in life lies within you! You already have the juice! Everyone has the juice, but the world is built to convince you that you have to do the most extreme things to get it. You need trillions upon trillions of dollars to live your best life, you need undeniable fame to be happy and well loved the world over. But when you truly love yourself, you don’t need the love of others.

Self-awareness is knowing there is a higher power

I call him God. He’s created you in his image which means although your vessel (humanity) may not be perfect, what lies within you, your living breathing, thinking spirit is something truly amazing. It’s outright phenomenal. Our spirit is who we are, sometimes we confuse our identity for spirit, but it’s not. We can’t fully understand who we really are until we begin to unravel it like the headphones (just making sure you’re still following).

You know you’re on your spiritual quest when you begin to question everything around you. I’m aware this sounds like the Matrix movie, but writers of that movie were truly insightful. If you’re very surface and literal about things, you just see Neo flying around like a superhero trying to save Zion. But if you’re one who begins to question everything, you see yourself as Thomas A. Anderson (Neo’s birth name), looking for answers, afraid to step out. But, the overwhelming feeling of curiosity of what else there is, and who you really are leads you to your true destiny. If you’re really bold and want to be the one who helps unravel the headphones, you’ll see yourself as Neo wanting to save Zion and release as many people stuck in the Matrix so that they too will be saved (Mr. Anderson has evolved into Neo – wanted to make that clear).

When you begin to question why, to everything from politics to religion, to workplace habits, to why humanity is the way that it is (that was my catalyst – what is wrong with humanity?), those who “know” you begin to look at you like “What’s wrong with you?

“, “This is the way it’s always been.” “Why are you treating me differently?”  And you begin to realize that the world you’ve been blissfully living in, feels like a sham. It walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, but is it really a duck or is it a rabbit? <—– I’d enter a  hyperlink here to take you somewhere else to explain this reference but, let’s keep it cool and simple for now. If you already know what that means, kudos to you. I’m still grasping it myself.

Anywho, it can be difficult when you begin on this journey of self-discovery because your self is alone. You came into this world alone and you’ll do what? Yeah, I knew you knew the phrase. So to everyone else you seem unraveled.

To them, unraveled means “Uh oh, he/she is losing it.” But to you, it should be the greatest compliment!

You have chosen to unravel yourself and you’re “losing it”, congratulations!

That’s breaking the chains of everything holding you back. Depression, anxiety, frustration, anger, confusion, disillusionment, distorted self-images. You’re breaking through. If you’re familiar with spiritual leaders and you hear them “pray for your breakthrough” they’re not praying for your new car, your new house, your new job, your new friends. They’re praying for your unraveling, for you to see through this disillusionment we call the world. They’re praying that you have an open and pure relationship with God for yourself who will supply all of those needs you thought they were praying for. They’re praying for better decision making, praying for healing your mind, body, and spirit. Praying that the woes of the world break from you so that you may break – through into the glory of who God set out for you to be.

Now, before you think I’m getting all preachy because I started typing the letters G.O.D at the end of this post, you feel like I suckered you in, think about this. Are you the headphones or are you the unraveler? Because I once too was the set of tangled headphones, but I stuck around and still am to see how to unravel them. But my spirit is relentless and I am the head and not the tail. I’ll show you how to unravel them as I Iearn. Will you stick around too or will you allow yourself to be distracted and have to do this all over again, 10 years from now?

~ Toi Powell

#ThisIsWhat Democracy LooksLike – Women’s March 2017 – NYC By Toi Powell

#ThisIsWhatDemocracyLooksLike

Women’s March 2017 – NYC
By Toi Powell

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Tasheea N.
Author, Toi Powell at the Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Tasheea N.

There are a million words I could choose  to describe my experience at yesterday’s Women’s March in NYC, but I feel they just won’t be poetic enough. My best, is to string together enough of them to help paint a picture for those of you who couldn’t or didn’t attend any of hundreds of sister marches held around the world. Millions of women and men worldwide descended upon their cities in solidarity and if my words aren’t enough, I put on my photographers hat in hopes that you could feel through my lens what I felt in person in NYC that day.

On Saturday morning, on the 21st of January, my Aunt Amanda, my friend Tasheea and I journeyed into Manhattan from NJ to march the streets of NY in support of the rights of women and everyone else who has felt the sting of discrimination, racism, sexism and all of the “isms” that are unfair and unjust to all human beings.

Book bags filled with our cameras and Project Pixie care packages of tampons, pads and wipes to distribute to homeless women in need of menstrual products, we marched onto the crowded streets to serve our purpose and the purpose of those around us. Women’s rights.

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Tasheea N. 1
Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Tasheea N. 1

My friend Tasheea has founded such an amazing campaign soon to be an organization to help women with low income- to none at all -access feminine hygiene products. This march is what we stand for, and what an amazing sight it was when we arrived. Tasheea’s campaign is called Project Pixie. Visit her website at iheartprojectpixie.org to see how you can make a change in the lives of women in need today.

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Toi Powell
Tasheea N. Founder of Project Pixie at the Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Toi Powell

When we arrived, the air buzzed with electricity, hummed with voices of every race, creed, gender, religious background and sexual orientation. Flags waved from poles, bridges, store front windows and apartment balconies. Witty posters, relate-able phrases, fists and handwriting on thin white pages soared through the air, thrust upwards by passionate demonstrators. Demonstrators who merged onto the streets of NYC to voice, shout and demand fair, equal, justice for all including gays, African Americans, women, Muslims, and anyone who has been discriminated against and whose very rights have been threatened by this incoming administration.

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Tasheea N.
Author, Toi Powell and her Aunt Amanda at the Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Tasheea N.

Men joined us in step, marching a long side their wives, friends, daughters, girlfriends and children. Chanting and demanding justice for us and for all.

My favorite chant of the day was the call and response from men and women, “My body my choice” as the men would respond with “Her body her choice.” Empowering and uplifting, every person there, sharing the same positive contagious energy.

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Toi Powell
Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Toi Powell

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Toi Powell
Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Toi Powell

Without typing a long drawn out story, I must say my experience will stay with me forever. There were occasions where I teared up as I captured special moments through my camera’s lens. Moments that were not meant for me, but were being experienced in real time by my focal subject. Seeing the amazement, the love, the pride, the teaching, the curiosity and the awe in that “split” second where I was able to capture a moving target is what you will see in the galleries below.

Some of my favorite shots were on the bridge as we walked down 5th Ave, as I used my long lens to capture a group of young men above me, chant to the sea of demonstrators below, “Show me what Democracy Looks Like!” and the crowd responded with love, cheers and chants “This is what Democracy Looks Like!” The pride in their eyes is what held my heart.

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Toi Powell
Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Toi Powell

In a similar shot you can see them engaged in  chanting, but it is the gentleman to the far right in the red jacket who caught this moment. I felt a similar feeling when I went to higher ground to capture the sea of people. Yet, higher than I was, I can only imagine what he is feeling in that moment. Awe.

womens-march-2017-nyc-photo-credit-toi-powell
Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Toi Powell

Seeing the amazement on the faces of these children below was priceless. Mouths gaping, a sight to never forget I am sure.

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Toi Powell
Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Toi Powell

Even those who could not join us in the streets, witnessed the magnetic demonstration from buildings above, joining us in spirit and solidarity.

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Toi Powell
Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Toi Powell

Symbolism in architecture and art, lined the route, giving us more purpose, more energy and more strength to stand, march and fight for our freedoms and rights.

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Toi Powell
Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Toi Powell

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Toi Powell
Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Toi Powell

As we come together for a common cause, with branches of injustice written upon boards, shouted from every mouth and supported by every stranger who marched shoulder to shoulder, the message is clear…

Love Trumps hate. We will not go quietly into the good night. My body My Choice, and this…is what democracy looks like.

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Toi Powell
Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Toi Powell

Women's March 2017 - NYC Photo credit Toi Powell
Women’s March 2017 – NYC Photo credit Toi Powell

View My Special Gallery Below

Take a look at these cool shots from the entire day. (Read the signs!)