Shit I’m Digging This Week: Volume Fourteen

Heeeeeeeey Party People! ๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿพ 

I promised monthly blog posts, and unfortunately, that didn’t happen last month. My sincere apologies. April was wild! My mom unexpectedly needed surgery, which meant I had to become her caregiver post-surgery. My dad is turning eighty in November, and him being a caregiver solo isn’t feasible, so Harper to the rescue! No cause for alarm, though. My mom is doing great! Her recovery has been spectacular. Shoutout to her stellar surgical team!

I also had multiple work projects and deadlines I needed to meet, so, unfortunately, I had to sacrifice a lot of my writing time. ๐Ÿ˜ซ Boo-hiss. Needless to say, a lot of things I had planned for the month got scrapped. My timetable is screwed, but I’m learning to pivot like a Jedi Master (Pivoting was one of my focus areas for the year, and it’s going okay). I’m not freaking out when things don’t go my way. Instead, I take a deep breath, step back, and re-evaluate the course to the finish line. I had to… my mama, and my job came first! Gotta pay bills and keep the lights on, right? On the bright side, the traffic to my website in April was ๐ŸŒ๐ŸŒ๐ŸŒ. When I got the numbers back from Google Analytics, I was hella surprised. My face reading the stats: ๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿคญ I’ve kept my head down, and I’m on social media rarely, so I don’t know what sparked the uptick, but whoever is whispering my name in the wind, THANK YOU! LOL, I’d like to believe it’s because readers are waiting with bated breath wondering when I’m going to drop a release date. ๐Ÿ‘€ *wishful thinking* (On that note, I’m desperately trying to finish the manuscript I have in progress and then get to the editing stage). I spoke with my editor earlier this morning, and I’m aiming to hand over the MS by June 1st, so I have a few weeks to write THE END and then dive into editing the behemoth. I fucking hate the editing stage. H-A-T-E. But it’s nothing a nice bottle of Shiraz can’t cure, amirite? I also have a project I want to turn my attention to in June, and I can’t do that if I’m still focusing on my current work in progress. Crossing t’s and dotting i’s, y’all. Streamlining is a motherfucker, but it’s my jam!

What else is up in my life? Tomorrow, May 16th marks a year since my sister’s passing. Let me tell you; this last year has been both insightful and scary. What I’ve come to realize is not everyone has their lives together. Of course, my realization isn’t rocket science, but my role has expanded. I’ve become many things to many people, and because of my role expansion, I’m thankful I have my shit together. If I didn’t, I couldn’t do most of what I’ve been doing for the last year. We craft the lives we want to lead, and whatever is important to us, we carve out time for. At least, that’s how it should be. In my case, my family comes before everything. I was under the assumption this is how it went for everyone, but obviously, that isn’t true. We neglect those we often say we care about. Not everyone prioritizes their loved ones. It’s not always malicious and intentional. But it’s even more reason to press pause and focus on what’s meaningful. Love can quickly become an abstract concept if you let it. I’m forty-three, and my goal has been to live my best life. I want that for everyone, but others have to want it for themselves. I can’t make those decisions on behalf of others. That’s been a hard pill to swallow. That may have been a tad cryptic, but the takeaway is to cherish your time. That’s how you show people you care, by being present. 

Presence and attentiveness go a long way which is an excellent segue into the shit I’ve been diggin’. So let’s start with the good stuff I’ve read, shall we? 

 READ ๐Ÿ“š

Romanticize Your Life 

Presence and attentiveness start with you giving yourself the time you deserve. Enjoy the mundane! 

โ€‹18 Little Stories That Will Have A Massive Impact on Your Life 

Great stories inspire great things. Read this article for a dose of perspective.

The Wedding Crasher  by Mia Sosa

Would the production company that purchased the rights to The Worst Best Man get this series on Netflix STAT? The Wedding Crasher was the incredibly delightful mood-lifter I needed. Mia weaves humor and culture wonderfully in this follow-up. Check out my full review on Goodreads.

WATCH ๐Ÿ“บ๐ŸŽฅ๐ŸŽฌ

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

I haven’t been to the movies since the fall of 2019. The COVID pandemic has changed how we navigate our daily activities. I used to love going to the movies, but with people being haphazard and often defiant regarding mask mandates, I wasn’t about to chance it despite being vaccinated. Well, I’ve been vaccinated, AND I received two boosters. Nevertheless, I still mask up in public spaces. So I felt now was the time to test out the waters. On opening day (I know, I know), I went to see Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and WOW, WHAT A RIDE! IT WAS SOOOOO GOOD! I won’t be that person who drops spoilers, but Sam Raimi brings a fresh take on Marvel movies. Also, if you haven’t watched Avengers: EndGame and WandaVision on Disney+, you will likely be confused and miss a lot of contexts. So be sure and catch up before giving Dr. Strange 2 a whirl. 

Candy

Lately, I’ve been watching crime shows based on a true stories, and Candy was the latest installment. Jessica Biel plays Candy Montgomery, a Texas housewife who one day takes a turn allllllllllllllllllllll the way left. ALL. THE. WAY. LEFT. It’s a doozy, y’all. You can stream Candy exclusively on Hulu.

The Thing About Pam

The Thing About Pam is in the same vein as Candy. A Missouri house flipper, Pam Hupp, decides to murder her best friend, Betsy. Listen, this story had me questioning what in the hell people consider ” best friend” and the competence of #everydamnbodyinthetown. With best friends like Pam Hupp out in the world, I’d rather live in Greenland and chill with musk oxen and polar bears. Best friend? Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. No ma’am. Like my goodness, I know the show was dramatized, but the fact that this woman was able to murder and get off without people seeing through her is problematic. The justice system is… well… you know. YOU KNOW. Reneรฉ Zellweger makes you loathe her as the lead character, so job well done! The Thing About Pam originally aired on NBC and is now streaming on Hulu and Peacock. 

LISTEN ๐ŸŽต๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽง

blue water road by Kehlani

๐Ÿ—ฃ๐Ÿ—ฃ๐Ÿ—ฃ PEEEEEEEEEEPS!!!!!!!!! I have been waiting for this album for what seems like forever, and it did not disappoint. I’ve also been screaming from the rooftops for everyone to buy and stream it! I know it’s early, but I think this will undoubtedly be my favorite album of 2022. Kehlani did the damn thing. They’ve (Kehlani goes by she/they pronouns) faced a lot of personal tragedies and hardships these last few years, and what better way to work through your tragedy than by putting pen to paper? The album is raw and, in my opinion, Kehlani’s best work to date. Favorite bop? wish i never. My 80s lovin’ heart was HYPE when I heard the Slick Rick sample. WWWWHHHHAAAAAAT?! *Sigh* the kids are putting some respect on 80s Hip-hop Icon’s names. I love to see it! ๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿ˜Š

Heart On My Sleeve by Ella Mai

Another highly anticipated album for me, and it didn’t disappoint! Ella Mai’s voice is smooth like buttah. The narration by Mary J. Blige was the icing on the cake. If anyone can teach this new generation of R&B singers how to channel heartbreak, it’s Queen Mary. 

This concludes the shit Iโ€™ve been digginโ€™. Iโ€™m off to get my word count in for the day! Iโ€™m almost at the finish line. ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ

Till next time, yโ€™all. Stay safe. Peace and blessings! ๐Ÿ’•



Shit I’m Digging This Week: Volume Thirteen

Hey, Folks! 

FINALLY, SPRING HAS SPRUNG!!!!๐Ÿ’๐ŸŒบ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ๐ŸŒฟ

We’re almost at the end of the first quarter. Goals are being met despite circumstances not being ideal. But that’s life, right? Lots of ebbs and flows, but you try your best to work with what you’ve got. As I draft this post, it’s about 70 degrees, Beyoncรฉ’s “Lemonade” is blasting in my earbuds, and I’m writing outside, which does wonders for the psyche. Life may ebb and flow, but at this moment in time it’s goodโ€”good good good.

My creative well is full. Wellness and holistic living are front and center, and Ms. Harper is thriving! Inspiration is everywhere. I’m still trying my best to help some of my family members get back on track (IT HAS BEEN A ROLLERCOASTER, Y’ALL) and take time out of daily activities to appreciate the little things. Most importantly, I’m pausing when things don’t go my way, pausing when others frustrate me, and figuring out the lesson in each of those moments. I’ve been slipping in the past and letting minute things throw me off, but I’m regaining my center. I believe many of us have lost touch with our emotions and fly off the handle when all it takes is a moment of quiet and solitude to reflect on actions before saying or doing anything to exacerbate a problem. Anywho, enough about my emotional and spiritual journey. I hope for next month’s post I will have an announcement regarding a release! WHEW. WOULDN’T THAT BE GRAND? In the meantime, let me tell you about all the shit I’ve been digging.

Music Related ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽค

While I love many new school girlies on the radio, I’m feeling these pioneering ladies hard. Dinah Washington’s “What A Diff’rence A Day Makes!” (Expanded Edition), Lena Horne’s “Feelin’ Good,” “Lena in Hollywood,” and Roberta Flack’s “Quiet Fire” have been in rotation. These albums are exquisite! Effortless singing. Talent unmatched. Add them to your arsenal. Also, can we talk about how fly Roberta’s Afro is?! That Fro is a thing of beauty. 

Clive Davis, The Soundtrack of Our Lives

I mentioned my love of documentaries in past blog posts, but music documentaries are a next-level love affair. I recently watched Clive Davis, the Soundtrack of Our Lives on Netflix, and it is PHENOMENAL! That man’s career is glorious! His contributions to the music industry are legendary. I mean, damn, the man had no interest in being a music mogul. He was a lawyer who didn’t have any knowledge of the inner workings of the business. What I find most interesting about Clive’s story is how plans are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. We’re all guilty of going through the process of mapping out our lives at a young age based on societal and family expectations. The goal is to set ourselves up for a life of comfort. The Universe then steps in like, “Sure, you thought you wanted to do this, but… LET’S TAKE A DETOUR, SHALL WE? This may be better suited for you. Stay awhile. Let go of preconceived notions and go with the flow.” Imagine unlocking a gift you never knew you had. Truly amazing.

Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James

I have been a Rick James fan for a looooong time. Music has always been a part of my life. Growing up, my parents used to throw house parties most weekends, and when they didn’t have parties, our record player (later cassette player) was ALWAYS on. Rick James was in heavy rotation in our household. His brand of funk was unlike anything my parents had heard. They could identify with Rick. “Street Songs” was a gamechanger. If you have Showtime, you have to stream Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James. A tragic ending to a great career, but the hustle mentality was strong in that one. If you believe you have what it takes to change the cultural landscape, nothing’s gonna stand in your way. Nothing.

You’re Watching Video Music Box

If you grew up in NYC in the 80s/90s, Video Music Box with DJ/VJ Ralph McDaniels was a thing. Channel 31 for the folks that didn’t have cable. My parents didn’t get cable until 1993, so MTV was non-existent. This was especially true in many Black and brown households. My sister was a teenager in the 80s, and I was always glued to her side, so whatever she watched, I watched. Viewing the doc was bittersweet because I know she would have loved the trip down memory lane. Ralph saw hip-hop as iconic before anyone realized the possibilities. Another reason why representation matters. Despite dominating radio airwaves, MTV refused to play music videos by Black artists. CRAZY. Still, when industries do things like this, they leave money on the table. Leaving money on the table presents an opportunity for hungry artists. When you don’t see yourself reflected in larger conversations, you find a way to bring the people what they want. Sad that this is an ongoing issue in most industries. 

Clive Davis, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, is currently streaming on Netflix. Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James was available on Amazon Prime, but I believe it is now exclusively available via Showtime. You’re Watching Video Music Box is also available on Showtime, but it can be purchased on Amazon.

Podcasts ๐ŸŽง

Hidden Brain

Minimizing Pain, Maximizing Joy (Jan 24 episode) is all about learning how to cope with what life hurls at you. Remember at the beginning of this post, I mentioned I’ve been taking moments to pause and reflect before reacting? This episode focuses on techniques you might find helpful when dealing with conflict and tragedies. 

Post Reports

The Washington Post looks into The hidden cost of police misconduct (Mar 9 episode). Cities around the country have spent more than 1.5 BILLION DOLLARS between 2010-2020 to settle claims involving officers who have repeatedly been accused of misconduct (REPEATEDLY?! ๐Ÿ‘€). Fair warning, this episode was one enraging wild ride. I find it remarkable that in 2022 there are still people who believe police officers are above scrutiny. We can scrutinize virtually every industry, but law enforcement is somehow off-limits? Make it make sense. *headdesk*

Movies ๐ŸŽฅ๐ŸŽฌ

Spider-Man: No Way Home

I haven’t seen the inside of a movie theater since 2019. It doesn’t sit right with my spirit to go to the movies or an indoor concert venue these days. Even with masking. I haven’t reached the point where normalcy has returned. Everything still feels odd. In any case, I’d much rather wait until I can view a title On Demand. I desperately wanted to break my streak and see Spider-Man: No Way Home on IMAX, but I held tight. I even managed to avoid spoilers which is a miracle within itself. First, let me say it’s such a good movie! I loved how the previous Spider-Man films were incorporated. The entertaining plot + Tom Holland and Zendaya’s cuteness overload = So much to enjoy. Spider-Man: No Way Home is available for purchase at most major e-retailers as it’s not available on any streaming platforms and probably won’t be for a long while. ๐Ÿ˜ฃ Sony and Columbia need to make a deal with Disney+ so that I can get my Marvel fix all in one place.

The Prestige

A historical about rival magicians? Snoozefest, right? Noooooo! I wrongly judged this movie, folks! My friend Felicia suggested years ago that I watch it because it’s good, but I was stubborn and refused because, again, rival magicians? Girl, bye. ๐Ÿ˜‚ Well… Fee was correct, and I was left eating crow. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale held my interest the entire time. AND THE ENDINGWOW. LOL, I screamed at my TV, “WHAT THE FUCK?” I wasn’t ready, peeps. If you want something intriguing and suspenseful, I highly recommend The Prestige. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime. 

Read ๐Ÿ“š

Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by Pema Chรถdrรถn

Every day it seems like the world is filled with terrible news. Inflation is on the rise after damn near 40 years. People who were already struggling since the COVID pandemic hit are finding it more challenging to make ends meet. It was inevitable things would change after 2020, but as much as we like to think we were prepared, sadly, we were not. Stupidity is running rampant in our political spheres. First, it was masking of children in schools. Now it’s Critical Race Theory being taught in schools, banning books, bringing criminal charges against parents of transgender kids, and Don’t Say Gay Bills. People fear what they don’t understand. And please believe most politicians do understand the power behind their words but instead choose to insinuate untruths because it suits their agenda. It gets them votes. Controversy is what leads folks to the polls. Not equal access to affordable healthcare, not social justice, not financial stability. Logic and logical viewpoints have no place in politics, and it’s maddening. Then, we have the war raging in Ukraine. Most of the international community has sided with Ukraine because Russia’s president is a power-hungry troll. Overall, it’s a sad state of affairs. So many lives lost, and there seems to be no end in sight. It’s overwhelming. People are suffering all over the world, and it’s hard not to feel helpless. I picked up Taking the Leap to provide some perspective, and it was a great decision. The message of the book is summed up in one quote: 

 “The primary intention is that we might follow the advice contained here in order to prepare ourselves to look beyond our own welfare and consider the great suffering of others and the fragile state of our world. As we change our own dysfunctional habits, we are simultaneously changing society. Our own awakening is intertwined with the awakening of the enlightened society. If we can lose our personal appetite for aggression and addiction, the whole planet will rejoice.” 

Beautiful, right?

Being kind is free. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes who lives an entirely different life from you is free. 

We’re all works in progress but wouldn’t it be great if we could all become 1% better each day? We wish for better days, but a better world starts at the individual level.  

Till next time, y’all. Stay safe. Peace and blessings! ๐Ÿ’•


Podcasts You Should Know: The Black History Month Edition

Hey Party People! 

IT’S BLACK HISTORY MONTH, aka, the most ๐Ÿ”ฅ month of the year! ๐Ÿ™Œ๐ŸพโœŠ๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ‘Š๐Ÿพ #melaninonfleek 

I figured I’d share what’s been playing in my earbuds aside from music for this month’s post. I’m a podcast junkie, y’all. My Spotify Unwrapped stats will have you like ๐Ÿ˜ฒ… 

Speaking of Spotify, their CEO, Daniel Ek, is ๐Ÿ—‘ and deserves all the backlash he’s getting for doubling down and backing that former Fear Factor host. I was PISSED when Spotify signed him and even canceled my premium account. I gave them another chance to do better, and here we are again, same shit, new day. PSA: You cannot claim to “support” Black Lives Matter and then pay the dude 100 million dollars to spew misinformation and racist ๐Ÿคฌ a few months later. 

BUT WHAT ABOUT CENSORSHIP, HARPER?

Censorship my arse. Sure, in America, everyone has the right to speak freely, but speaking freely sometimes comes with consequences, especially when “free speech” is nothing more racist dog-whistling riddled with ignorant stereotypes coupled with misinformation. Daniel, in this instance, “support” does not mean what you think it means. Corporations engage in performative nonsense and then backtrack with the quickness. Anywho, let me not further digress because I could go down a rabbit hole. Fortunately, some of the podcasts I’m hyping address the hypocrisy.

I love giving my people shine, and by sharing these podcasts, I hope you expand your horizons and add some new faves to your list. So without further ado, check out these Black podcasters that keep me entertained:

I do not recommend listening to this podcast if you’re a commuter who uses public transportation. There have been too many instances where I’ve laughed so hard I was on the verge of hyperventilating on the subway. I guess I should be glad people were genuinely concerned for my well-being! Kid Fury and Crissle address pop culture in a way that’s nothing other than unapologetically Black. They give it to you straight, no chaser. And honestly, Crissle and Fury kept me sane during 2020. They showed up week after week and gave the public moments of joy when the world was a flaming pile of rank Cheetos. 

The Read is part of the LoudSpeakers Network and can be found wherever you get your favorite podcasts.

I visited New Orleans for the first time in November 2008 with my then boyfriend. The trip took place about a week after Obama won the election and three years post-Katrina. Culturally it’s amazeballs, but then we went to the Ninth Ward, and it was shocking to see that THREE YEARS LATER, the community hadn’t been rebuilt. Hell, even buildings belonging to nearby Tulane University were still boarded up. It was weird walking from areas that were still in deep need of repair and then later coming across a Saks Fifth Avenue still intact doing business as usual. Priorities, amirite? ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ

Floodlines is SUPERB. Vann Newkirk II talks with residents about where they were when Katrina hit and how the aftermath of the hurricane changed their lives forever. Unfortunately, not everyone was lucky enough to pick up and move on.

Initially released in early 2020, Floodlines was sponsored by The Atlantic.

Fiscal responsibility isn’t intuitive for a large portion of the population. Fortunately for me, my parents instilled excellent money management skills. Still, learning is an ongoing process. Bola Sokunbi gives women the tools to get their finances in order. I subscribe to the Clever Girl Finance Newsletter, and I love the gems of advice enclosed. LOL, I legit get happy when I get a newsletter. It’s always an enjoyable read. Did I mention Bola’s website has free courses? OH YES YES, Y’ALL! The Podcast extends all the wonderful nuggets of knowledge found in her newsletter and website. And if you’re down for a massive financial cleanse, pick up her book!

Aside from being a sincere and lovely person (I’m biased; she’s cool af), Leslye, aka L. Penelope, is one heck of a storyteller. If you like your fantasy with romance attached, she’s an author you want to add to your TBR pile. THIS WOMAN STAYS HONING HER CRAFT! Her podcast is so fun to listen to, and I feel like I always need to have a notepad nearby because she will drop a helpful tidbit in a minute! I love her candidness as well. Not everyone has this writing thing figured out, but many of us rarely share the highs and lows publicly. One more reason I dig My Imaginary Friends. My editor also enjoys Leslye’s podcast. If she can get a hardcore Editrix on board, you can’t resist. Go listen, and then check out her backlist!

I’m always impressed (and scared) by journalists that do whatever it takes to chase a story. MSNBC Correspondent, Pulitzer Prize, and Emmy Award winner Trymaine Lee hits the road and heads straight to the people to get their perspectives on issues in America. I’m not talking mainstream cities. My dude goes off the beaten path to get to the nitty-grittyโ€”profound respect.

WHEW, if there was ever a time to invest in mental health… now is it! Neeooooowwwww!!! Black women are many things to many people. Unfortunately, it’s ingrained from a young age for us to be the “strong one,” the “support system,” that “holds everyone down.” It’s a toxic mentality, and in the end, it leaves us drained. When are we allowed to relax, be soft, and express vulnerability? Dr. Joy Harden does a beautiful job of helping Black women center themselves. Personal development, self-care, pop culture, and various topics are discussed weekly. I am also a subscriber to the Therapy for Black Girls Newsletter. If you’re interested in finding a Black female therapist and you’re not sure where to begin, here’s a precious resource: TFBG.

If you’re a sports fan, you’ve probably heard of Jemele Hill. Since leaving ESPN in her rearview mirror, Miss Thing has ELEVATED her game. Her interviews feature a who’s who of Black Excellence.

I โค Investigative Journalism. It’s why I’m a big fan and supporter of Reveal and ProPublica. They can get all my coins! *Sidenote* Please donate so these types of stories get told. Mississippi Goddam was my favorite podcast of 2021. Journalist Al Letson travels to Mississippi to explore the death of 17-year-old Billey Joe Johnson Jr., who died in 2008. Billey Joe was a high school football star that seemingly had everything going for him, except he was a young Black man who lived in Mississippi and was dating a white girl. 

Be prepared to be enraged at our Criminal Justice System and the fact that after a 400-year-old institution based on dehumanization and oppression was eradicated, people truly believe there aren’t ANY residual effects. Uh, Jim Crow? The War on Drugs? Stop and Frisk? ๐Ÿ™„ Racism didn’t suddenly pull a disappearing act, peeps. My heart goes out to the Johnson family and many others who lose loved ones by suspicious means, and their deaths aren’t given the attention they deserve. Sadly, it’s a tale as old as time for many Black families. Justice isn’t something we’re equally afforded.

And this concludes Podcasts You Should Know: The Black History Month Edition. You can stream these podcasts on services such as iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else you find your faves. Till next time, y’all. ๐Ÿ’•

Go the way your blood beats! โœŠ๐Ÿพ 

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