Here's to Creating New Family Traditions

"Let's put up a tree this year." 

The last time we put up a Christmas tree, our cat Egypt was only a few months old. All I can remember is how hard she tried to knock the tree down to steal the candy canes we hung on it as decoration. It didn't help that one of the 3 feet was missing from the tree stand. She succeeded in knocking that tree down every other day. 

Tonight, Devon and I noticed Christmas lights popping up around us, and he looked at me and said those words like it would actually be fun. I'm sure it would be, but what does that mean for us? The start of some kind of family tradition? 

For the first time, I realized that Devon and I don't really have our own set of traditions outside of catching all the latest Marvel movies as soon as they hit theaters. Somehow, him mentioning a tree took me back to the night he proposed. That night I was so overwhelmed with the thought of how everything would be so different and how I'd have to get used to this "new life" everyone was telling me about. 

We're almost 3 months in, and not much has changed. We've been together so long that the only difference has been me running around town filling out paperwork to shed my maiden name. Karmen and Devon swore off putting up Christmas trees years ago after one minuscule kitten ruined their attempts, but The Johnsons are apparently Christmas af.

Maybe this tree is our way of switching it up in this new phase of our relationship? Whatever it is, I'm down. I should probably hop on Etsy for a custom wreath for our door to really bring the idea home, huh? 

 Image by Believe, Love, & Inspire Studios

Image by Believe, Love, & Inspire Studios

5 Things You Should Have Tried From the 2018 Charleston Natural Hair Expo

This past weekend, I attended the 7th Annual Charleston Natural Hair Expo, and I'd say it was a great event overall. I only had one goal in mind, and that was to walk away with products that I would actually use instead of buying things just for the sake of buying. In past years I haven't been as discerning with my spending and left with things that I never even used once I got home. The items pictured below are ones that I've been enjoying since this past Saturday, and I think you'll be seeing a lot more of them on my Instagram feed. 

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  1. Celestial Beauty Goddess Glow in the shade "Heavenly"- This body highlighter comes in a variety of shades, so be sure to check out the entire line to choose the most appropriate shade for your skin tone. We're looking for maximum glow up out here these days! 
  2. Unorthodox Roots satin-lined headwrap- This brand creates satin-lined hats and headwraps, and I thought that the one I purchased was great for giving my durags a break.(For those of you who don't know this about me, I often wear durags underneath my regular headwraps to protect my hair from the drying fabric.)
  3. The entire haircare line from Femme Noire- The packaging grabbed my attention, and the ingredients made me stick around. My hair likes most of the oils in their products already, so I decided to spring for the entire line and give it all a try. The Flower Bomb Hair Growth Oil is pictured, but best believe all of those products took a ride home in my bag. I even purchased their travel-sized products, so I'll be doing a post on how my hair holds up during my next trip to Seattle! I typically do protective styles when I travel across the country, so this will be a completely new experience for me. Fingers crossed! 
  4. Lemongrass Leave-In Conditioner from Alikay Naturals- This is an old staple from when I made the decision to stop flat ironing my hair as frequently back in 2014. The scent alone made me want to twist my hair every night, and my hair was always moisturized and less prone to breakage because of it. Add a little oil to the ends on top of it, and it's a done deal. I like this product still in 2018 because it's a nice style refresher also. 
  5. Chewies (not pictured) from Brown Sugar Charleston- Since being in Charleston, I've developed a deep-seated love for chewies. I'm not new to Brown Sugar Charleston, but I was too excited to see their table set up at this years expo! I walked away that day with my sweet tooth fully satisfied, but you should contact Brown Sugar Charleston for your cake and dessert jar needs as well. Their key lime cupcakes are my all-time favorite.   

 

Wanna know the best thing about each of these vendors? 

They actually TALKED to me and my friends, and showed genuine excitement about what they were offering! Each one beamed when talking about how they were solving a specific need, whether it was protecting my coveted strands, nourishing them, making sure my skin was extra poppin', or ensuring that I didn't have to hunt any longer for the best sweets in town. Next year at the expo, I'd love to see more of that kind of energy from all the vendors in the room. These few from my haul definitely stole the show in my eyes, and I can't wait to see them again soon! 

 

What was your #1 purchase from the Charleston Natural Hair Expo this past weekend? Let me know in the comments below! 

Thick Thighs and Booty Cheeks on the Beach

I’m still pretty self-conscious and don't frequently wear form-fitting clothing from head-to-toe or show a ton of skin, but I'm working on it. Self-love is an ongoing, ever-changing process, right?

 

If you've never seen me in person, I pull a decent-sized “wagon” behind me, and in the country my body type is referred to as “stout” (meaning “thick”). I’m technically one of those girls who was skinny and just got a little bit bigger. These days, I’m smiling a bit more when I walk past the mirror. And that’s a huge deal for me. The stretch marks don’t bother me anymore, and I think I look pretty dang good at this size. Walking around the house most days in lingerie probably helped. And I mean all day long, lounging in faux fur sets and satin robes and what not.

 

Y’all should try it out. Seriously.

 

A while ago, I wrote this blog post about my body image issues. There were some who felt where I was coming from, but more often than not I was met with comments like,

 

 ”Girl, talk to me about body issues when you’ve had three kids and look like me.”

”Chile, you are SKINNY and you look good!” 

”You don’t even know what big is.” 

 

I'm not about making other people's expressions of what's bothering them about myself, so I wasn't a fan of it happening to me. I basically did the same as most people in the "whose body is worse" olympics and shut the hell up. 

 

 

It took me YEARS to start gaining weight. I didn’t reach 100 pounds until the second semester of my freshman year of college, and in all the years prior I remember eating nonstop because summer two-a-days and after-school practices as an athlete left me hungry. For years I couldn’t break 90 pounds. I remember being so excited to call home and tell my mama I couldn’t fit my size 0 skinny jeans anymore back in 2011 because I was finally in the triple digits.  

Today, I’m at 137. 

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Since moving to SC back in 2014, I’ve fluctuated between 125 and 135 frequently. Each time I've passed 130 it's freaked me out. Every time I believed that I was too overweight and looked sloppy, so I'd eat less and try to work out to get the weight back off. It never mattered though, because I just didn't LIKE my body at any size. Right now I’m at my heaviest, but I’m HAPPY. Not having a super flat stomach anymore isn't even on my list of stressors now.

It's taken me all this time to talk about it again online, because people think if you have a “nice” body (which is all kinds of subjective depending on your visual preferences) then you should have zero worries related to looks. Add to that the bonus, unwarranted comments from family members about how skinny you were for years, but how you've gotten so fat now when all you did was grow up and finally develop a pretty standard “99s and the 2000s” type of body. What y’all really want from me, man?  

I recently bought a bathing suit style that I NEVER would have considered wearing when I was thinner, even though it probably would have been more “appropriate” then by some standards. Back then I had enough breasts to warrant a bra, but not enough to create resting, unforced cleavage. The suit came from Aerie, and it plunges in the front, is backless, and is a cheeky cut. The cheeky cut back then wouldn't have raised any eyebrows.

Cheeky cut on me in 2018 turns into a semi-thong in 10 steps or less, but this past weekend I said screw it. The boobs and booty were POPPIN’ on Sullivan’s Island, y’all! I had zero worries about the cellulite and stretch marks, and guess what else?

 

 I DID THAT, SIS!  

 

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So here’s to walking past the mirror this summer and saying “DAMN GIRL! YOU FINE!”

There are a million ways to be a baddie outchea.   

 

So When's the Wedding?

As a newly engaged woman who worked with her partner to do things on their MUTUAL terms, I'm telling you to mind your business if you're thinking of butting in or questioning anyone's relationship. A lot of us won't go home to family dinners now because you and the aunties are probably going to ask: 

  • why they're still single
  • when they're gonna marry their "lil friend" (they've only been dating for a year)
  • when they're gonna have a baby

I started getting the "when's the wedding?" question before the ring had even warmed up to match my body heat. I figured it was just a knee-jerk reaction to the news, so it wasn't too difficult to overlook. There weren't any cameras around the evening Devon proposed, and I'm so glad we'll always have that moment between the two of us. The only reason I changed my relationship status to 'engaged' on Facebook that night was so that my parents didn't announce the news back home before I could. I thought I was doing a good thing by getting ahead of it, but I didn't expect to be so turned off by some of the underhanded congratulatory comments. The one that hurt me the most? 

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"Bout time!"

This past February made 7 years in our relationship. I feel like most people think marriage should be implied after a certain amount of time has passed. We'd talked about it in year 3 of our relationship, but we both agreed that we weren't ready yet, even though we knew we wanted to be together. And THAT was the best decision for us. 

To be honest with you all, I wasn't completely sure that I wanted to get married until late last year. I was battling a lot of things, and Imposter Syndrome was very near the top of the list. No matter how many sweet things he'd say or do, I'd always speak unkindly of myself and question the good things he saw about me. I didn't want to bring someone else into my mess and age them faster than necessary if I could do myself a favor and work it out beforehand. He's already grown two gray hairs since I've known him (don't tell him I told you). 

My point is, we took our time because we were still growing together and working through  our grown-up personalities. We're very different from that 18 and 19 year old who crossed paths all those years ago, so we needed to make sure that we still meshed well with each other. Things change when you throw a mortgage and careers into the mix. Each time I read "bout time," I wondered how long people had been talking crap in the shadows about us not being married yet. It made me defensive, because (although he might live to annoy me sometimes) I refuse for ANYONE to speak ill of him and think I'll be silent about it. It made me livid when people who don't speak to me otherwise reached out to me the next day to ask if they were getting a wedding invitation. 

No couple owes you a wedding, ya'll. My friend married her husband almost 10 years ago for $30 at the courthouse, and they're pretty dang solid. Right now, the plan is to elope. That could change, but we're in no hurry to make plans. It's been seven years, so we can wait another one if we go down the road of planning. We're millennials through and through, and we take pride in saving our coins where we can. We'll make sure to post some pics on social media when I officially become his Mrs., but in the meantime I promise y'all will be ok. 

 

 

Now, stop asking people why they're single/ where their "lil friend" is and let them eat Thanksgiving Dinner in peace this year. 

 

    3 Ways To Support Entrepreneurial Women

    This entrepreneur life ain't easy outchea. 

    It didn't really hit me until I started my own business last year, but late nights of brainstorming and early mornings before the regular 9-5 spent writing dope sales copy left me feeling spent. Why? I was pouring everything out of me, but nothing was being put back in. On my own journey, I learned a ton about what I needed as a business owner, but more importantly as a WOMAN who owns a business. Once my eyes were opened up to the struggle, it helped me understand what fills my cup and how I can pour back into other lady entrepreneurs. Today, I do the following without hesitation: 

     

    Celebrate Their Wins.

    Recently, one of my friends got some amazing news related to a huge goal she set for herself last year. I full-out cried when I was alone in my car because I knew how hard she worked to get to this point. It felt like a win for me, because I see all of her successes and frustrations as my own. You have to be able to put yourself in someone else's shoes to understand them, so doesn't it make just as much sense to do the same so that you can better celebrate their accomplishments? 

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    Show Up for Them.

    It makes a lasting impression to entrepreneurs when they see you jumping at opportunities to support everyone but them. While it's true that you may never be in need of the services a lady entrepreneur is offering, or into the products she might be hand-crafting, there's still nothing stopping you from sharing a recommendation to others who might be interested.

    Refuse to See Them as Competition.

    Believe people when they tell you that there is space for everyone to succeed, but understand that it will never happen if you're sitting in your corner envious of how the next woman was able to cultivate roses from her own patch of concrete. Your personal success isn't dampened by the next person's come up. Redirect that energy into something that's a better use of time, like...idk...worrying about yourself and doing the first two items I mentioned (I said what I said).

     

    Let me know one thing you plan on doing today to show your love to a money-making lady! 

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    A Must-Read Before Touching My Hair Without Permission

    I see ya'll are still out here cutting up when it comes to black hair. Here we are, almost halfway through 2018...

    AND HERE I AM STILL TELLING SOME OF YA'LL TO KEEP YOUR PAWS AWAY FROM MY FRO. 

    Truth time: I don't like being touched by strangers. Who does? I don't know what kind of actual filth someone might have been rummaging around in right before coming out of the restroom and NOT washing their hands. My fight or flight was tested for the first time a few months ago when a coworker tried to 

    GRAB. 

    MY. 

    HAIR. 

    Before that day, I'd NEVER experienced it personally. I'd always heard the stories from other black women and thought "hmm...glad this hasn't happened to me. Sounds terrible." I mean, black women are already labeled as aggressors even when we speak in the calmest Toni Braxton tones in stressful situations. Often, it doesn't matter what we do anyway since Carol will always find a way to be the victim.

    We're wrong for hurting a person's feelings by saying "no."

    We're responsible for how you react to being told "no." 

    We can say "no," but it has to be in a way that's pleasing to you.

    Sounds mad predatory and kinda victim-shamey, right? Man. That's crazy. 

    But back to Stacy, ya'll.

     

    So here Sarah comes, asking questions about work processes.

    Cool. 

    Then, out of nowhere, I hear "Wow! Your hair looks amazing!"

    I looked up to see a hand coming straight for me as she's simultaneously asking, "Can I tou--." 

    You know what I did? 

    I slid straight back in that rolling chair like she had the plague. I rolled all the way backwards to the other cubicle. Because what is you doin, baby? 

    That embarrassed her (of course, because how dare I), and I swear Emily went through a few stages of grief while miraculously dodging the acceptance part of it all. 

    1. Shock- What's wrong with letting her touch my hair? Why was I overreacting? 
    2. Denial- Susie tried it again, and I leaned all the way to the left in my chair and gave her a cold ass stare that said, "Try it a third time and we're both getting escorted out of here." 
    3. Bargaining- She ACTUALLY told me "the other girl" lets her do it all the time. I'm still trying to figure out what someone else's hair has to do with mine. But...go off. 
    4. Anger- You know that typical thing all the Samanthas do. They get loud, make a little scene because you denied them, and tell everyone who will listen that you don't like them/ are mean to them. No, girl. I'm just not your pet. 

    She asked me “why?” several times, and each time my response was "no." That's all Shannon deserved from me.

    Sometimes it isn't just hair that people might be after without permission, and it's scary to think about how inappropriate people are when it comes to personal space. Think about how often you see grown-ups giving children kisses on the face, how the kids CLEARLY don't want to be bothered, and how these kids end up getting in trouble because they were "rude." Some of ya'll are mad cringy and need to rethink some things. 

    You don't owe anyone an explanation. Your "no" is always enough.

    As for me and my fro? You ain't touching us. 

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    How I Learned about Real Black Love

    To that special guy:

    Almost seven years after becoming your partner in crime, I feel like I get what black love is really supposed to be. I'm so thankful for you, and here's seven reasons why: 

     A throwback pic of us at Centennial Park for the culture. Ya'll see the matchy-matchy fly! LOL! He was 21 here, and I was 20. 

    A throwback pic of us at Centennial Park for the culture. Ya'll see the matchy-matchy fly! LOL! He was 21 here, and I was 20. 

    1. YOU'VE GROWN WITH ME: We were babies when we met each other the first time. I was eighteen, and you were nineteen. As a country girl, the whole "ATL dude" thing took some getting used to. We've been through some crazy moments together, from surviving on ham sandwiches for our rescue kitten's surgery to me throwing your phone into the woods at our first apartment because your 22-year-old self was a complete idiot. I love that we're SO grown now and can laugh at our younger selves. 
    2. YOU'RE A NATURAL PROVIDER: The first time I went to your grandmother's house and saw you working on her car, I knew I wanted you to stick around. I'd never seen a guy close to my age who actually enjoyed getting their hands dirty. Where I come from, everyone only wants to be seen. I knew that someone who was willing to not be 'perfect' all the time might be the change I needed. 
    3. YOU'VE BEEN MY NURSE: Two years ago, I almost died from a clot in my lung. The ER doctor told us both that if it hadn't been caught that night that I would have been gone within 2 days, and it was the only time you've ever cursed me out. I was in shock and couldn't speak, but you were afraid. Your eyes always say so much without you opening your mouth, but you had TIME that day to let me know that you weren't with my hush-mouth behavior, and you sat in the hospital bed with me and hugged me tight. You told me to never suffer in silence if I felt like something was wrong. Now I tell you every time I crack my knuckles too hard LOL! 
    4. YOU LISTEN: I'm hard on myself, and never think I'm good enough. You never put me down for my feelings, but you're quick to remind me of all the things I'm capable of doing. You always encourage me to go after the ideas I have, and you're always there to support me when it gets hard to handle. 
    5. YOU SEE 'ME': So often I lack self-confidence. I'm not the same 90-pound girl with killer 8-pack abs from years ago, and I scowl at myself most days when I walk past the mirror naked. I always catch you staring at me with a grin on your face when I'm standing in the mirror picking myself apart, and I'll ask "WHAT?," ready to defend myself against the opinions of myself that I project onto you. You always say, "Nothing. Just felt like staring at you." You don't think my legs are too big, or my thighs too wide. For almost seven years you've said I'm "just right."
    6. YOU TEACH ME: You've taught me to stay patient with myself, to treat myself, trust myself, challenge myself and cherish myself. When I learned how into cars you were, I was excited but worried. I wanted to learn way more about them, but was always told that it wasn't for girls. We talked about it on one of our late night phone calls as I sat on that hideous hot pink comforter in my freshman dorm room. A few days later you called me and said to come over, "but don't wear anything nice." YOU TAUGHT ME HOW TO INSTALL A CAR RADIO THAT DAY, and I remember being so proud of myself. Now I know how to rewire steering columns, too! What are we learning next? 
    7. YOU'RE MY BEST FRIEND: Now, I now it might sound corny to say..but it's TRUE! I come to you for advice on everything. When we started hanging out at the end of August 2010 (yep, I remember), I knew you'd always be my friend. We hung out almost everyday, even if it was just you helping me study for a test, playing pool in the student center or walking around the mall to talk about life (because #teenagers, right?). Six months later when you asked me to be your girlfriend I was shocked. You'd already told me you loved me three months in, but it was never weird. I remember you saying, "IDGAF if you ever say it back to me. I'll still tell you every day!" You never pushed yourself onto me, and I was never worried about you trying to harm me in any way. 

     

     We turned into some good-looking grown-ups, huh? We're both 26 now, but his 27th is coming soon and it's going to be AMAZING!  Image by  Aneris Photography  

    We turned into some good-looking grown-ups, huh? We're both 26 now, but his 27th is coming soon and it's going to be AMAZING! 
    Image by Aneris Photography 

    Best Friend,

    I'm thankful, grateful, and lucky to call you my person. Here's to 70 more.

    Love,

    Karmen

    PS- Bet I'll smoke you on my Hoveround years from now! 

    We Are NOT Your Costume.

    Y'all. Halloween is still one of my favorite times of year, even though I'm a smooth 26 years old now. And even though I enjoy myself, I always have to stay on guard and prep myself mentally for the inappropriate and downright ignorant ways that some of your friends out there try to outdo themselves from the previous year. This post isn't about your obvious blackface that happens every year like clockwork, because #idiotsgonnaidiot. I'm not wasting my time on y'all this year. 

    Who I DO want to address, though, are the ones who run from criticism and choose to belittle the feelings of others by hiding behind the shield of "I'm a person of color, too!" I want to address those of you out there who try to drown voices like mine out by saying things like "I'm black, and I don't find this offensive." And let's not forget those of you who run to support your tone-deaf friends in their public "apologies" in droves by further drowning my voice and others like it out by saying: 

    "You don't need to apologize for anything! ESPECIALLY when it wasn't your intention to hurt anyone." 

    "People these days are always trying to find something to be offended about." 

    "Haters gonna hate. I think your hair looks amazing in this picture!" 

    Let's be VERY clear: NONE OF YOU SPEAK FOR ME. None of you speak for anyone except yourself. It's pitiful to see how black voices respectfully (because y'all always stress that we have to be, right?) share their real, valid feelings repeatedly just to have them square-danced around in order to enthusiastically acknowledge those voices that support a dry afro wig for the sake of getting in touch with an inner "soul sister (look that one up if you don't know the origin of the term)," and even going as far as using the AFROPUNK hashtag to widen the reach of said tomfoolery. Use that same energy to respond to feedback like mine, because it's all about learning from each other, right? Or is that just something y'all like to say that sounds good? 

    When you know better, you do better. Or...you delete posts and go into hiding until you've come up with a good enough angle to make yourself out to be the victim "attacked" by fed-up individuals who simply want you to pay more attention to what the hell you're doing.

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    In the spirit of not speaking for anyone else, I'll just say that I, myself, am tired. Do with it what you will, but please make an effort to make it positive instead of pretending to build bridges by starting one-sided "conversations."

    After all, "We are community that needs to come together to move forward," right?