Quellie and Lena Try…Aqua Zumba

So here’s a bit of a little known fact about me for you all: I tend to stay away from doing much exercise in the fall and winter. Why? Well I know the reason may seem superficial to many people but it is because of my hair.  When the temperature starts to dip below 60 degrees I make a point to straighten my hair, be it with a roller-set or using my Instyler. As much as I love my natural curls, I started this cycle back in college as I found that having my hair straight in the fall and winter just made it easier to manage. While the overall time it takes to get my hair from curly to straight is not as bad as my curly routine, it is a lot of work that can easily be for naught if I so much as perspire a bit or let some water, like rain or snow, touch it.

Thus any strenuous physical activities, like exercising, are regulated to the warmer months in spring and summer when I go back to my natural curly hair routine. But even then gymtimidation keeps me away from  and using arm and leg weights while playing DDR at home can get pretty boring after a while. Which leads me to this post.At the start of the summer I did some research to find some out-of-the-box exercise classes preferably in water because let’s face it, summers in NYC are the worst. Thanks to Google I found out about Aqua Zumba. As someone who used to go to Zumba classes (on land) twice a week, I found the concept interesting so I mentioned the idea of giving this a try to Jonquel of Jonqel Art as well as to two co-worker friends of ours that have built in gym days to their weekly schedules. They all immediately jumped at the idea and we bought our first time passes for the following week. Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

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V-Day, Me-Day

Five years ago a close friend and I decided to give “us” a try and my first thought that spring was how I finally had someone to go on my “dream date” with. Christmas is the time of year I actually consider to be romantic so when we broke up a couple of months later that summer, not only was I heartbroken that our “relationship” never had a real chance, but being “alone” again meant that  I couldn’t go on that date. For the rest of the year I moped about this. Well, I did until I took myself on the date instead and I found myself loving every minute to it.

This has become a bit of a tradition for me since then, though I have branched out of doing this solely in the month of December. And while I learned that I can enjoy my own company, I love that in the five years since that day I have met people with similar interests that I also can share  experiences with. I also take great care to show them just how much their friendship means to me at every opportunity including Valentine’s day.
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Be Mine

When it comes to Valentine’s Day the immediate thought that comes to mind is the concept of sexy. I’m the kind of person that has never considered myself sexy by any means but I’ve noticed that what women in particular are drawn to is pretty uncomfortable. With the pencil thin heels, and revealing outfits in various shades of red and/or pink. There isn’t any necessarily wrong with that, yet I think being comfy, sexy and cute should always be an option if only to leave your date choices  open to some non-traditional ideas outside of a formal dinner and a movie. For me any potential date, be it for Valentine’s day or otherwise,  would involve a lot of walking since I love playing tourist in the city so in I would definitely reach for this comfy yet cute outfit.

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I Am Black and Latina Enough!

I navigate my life by doing two things consistently – explaining and apologizing. Its as frustrating and annoying as you can imagine, yet it becomes necessary when you navigate through life being constantly asked which one of your parents are white (the answer is neither) and how someone of my complexion is of Latino descent. In the United States skin color is your only identity so the moment that I enter a room the confusion starts.  Latinos come in various shades as we are the most racially diverse people in the world. As I mentioned in a previous post, it just goes back to history – 95% of the slave trade took place in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Wearing an authentic Panamanian Kuna mola headband my mother bought for me at a Latino Heritage event in Washington DC last month.

Panama, my parents’ native land, even has two significant waves of African/black migration* that helped shape the culture as we know it today. The first is known as the “Afro-colonial” wave in which slaves came with conquistador, Vasco Núñez de Balboa as he settled this territory for the Spanish crown during the 16th century. The second is the “Afro-Antillean” wave which took place around the time that Panama gained its independence and West Indian immigrants from neighboring countries like Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica, came over to build the Panama Canal. On my mother’s side alone we have family members that are black (primarily of Jamaican descent), white, Asian and indigenous. I think that is actually part of the reason why people have issues with Latinos, because unlike most ethnic groups we are just so diverse that we can’t be categorized easily. Not that we should be doing this but it is a reality, at least in the US.  Continue reading

Shining Some Light Into the Darkness: Mental Illness & Healthcare

Regardless of what many people may think, mental health is just as significant as physical health.  Especially within communities of color there is a stigma associated with mental illness and asking for help. I grew up in a household where depression and suicide was deemed issues that only affected privileged and non-religious people. In fact when I revealed to my family that I wanted to see a therapist at age 16 because of a recent suicide attempt, rather than getting any guidance, I was  reprimanded for not having faith in God and told to pray for forgiveness.

This is actually just one reason why I have yet to be officially diagnosed with depression, however, I have been for anxiety back in middle school by the school counselor who recommended that I go see a mental health professional after she witnessed me having a panic attack by my locker one morning. For some context I should note that by age 10 I had already attempted suicide three times. At the time I was struggling with self loathing, part of which had to do with my negative body image at the time, but it was also linked to my family’s homelessness. I don’t usually talk about this mostly because (until quite recently) I believed that this would reflect badly on my family. I became an overachiever, and a perfectionist that would break down at the mere idea of failing because in my mind I had to prove that I deserved love and to live. Failure meant that my existence was a mistake and I was a burden.

This was also when I was introduced to the alternative metal band, Linkin Park.  Having songs like By Myself, Don’t Stay and Numb made me feel like someone understood – something that I desperately wanted at the time. Lyrics like “I can’t hold on to what I want when I’m stretched so thin /It’s all too much to take in / I can’t hold on to end things watching everything spin / With thoughts of failure sinking in,” gave a voice to everything I was feeling that I couldn’t find a way to share with anyone. (To say I was obsessed with the band would be putting it mildly, their music and genre lead to my current taste in music which I will talk about in a future post.)  It may sound cliché but the emotion behind those songs just helped me kept pushing even at my lowest points because it proved that my feelings were valid and that I wasn’t alone.

Through cognitive  behavior modification, I did manage to work through my anxiety, during which time I actually moved on to listening to other bands, only going back to Linkin Park whenever I really needed them.  After all, anxiety and depression doesn’t  just disappear and there are times when your mind will take you right back to the same dark places you once left as if no progress was ever made. Fast forward to July 20, 2017. I was eating lunch with some co-workers when the news broke that the lead singer and songwriter of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington had committed suicide. We were devastated. Here was a man that opened himself up in order to help others not lose themselves in the dark spaces of their minds, who ended up lost himself.

That day at the office was the first time that I had the urge to cry at a celebrity death which is why I was happy that I had like-minded people around me that day to talk through the news. In our discussion the topic of mental health-care came up. Sure, talking things out with family and friends is helpful, yet there are times when you just need that extra professional help, which was something I always believed myself to be priced out off due to my low income, but, as I learned that July afternoon, it turns out I was mistaken. So I sat down with my friend and co-worker, Marjorie,  who actually worked in health insurance for two years, in order to learn more about what is covered for those of us that may not have the means to pay for services out of pocket. I hope that this information helps anyone that has been looking for resources to get the treatment and care they need.

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