2017 Holiday Gift Guide

  Photo: Photo by  Kari Shea  on  Unsplash
Photo: Photo by Kari Shea  on Unsplash

I love the holidays. The home-cooked meals, cuddling up by the fireplace, the constant smell of cinnamon in the house. It’s my favorite time of year and as far as I’m concerned, November 1 marked the beginning of the festivities. 

One thing I don’t love about the holidays: finding the perfect gifts for my loved ones. While most people are probably cool with a card full of cash, I like to put a lot of thought into my gifts. So, I usually start a list for friends and family over the summer (yes you read that right). I’m hoping to get all my Christmas shopping done on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

I love shopping, but after six holiday seasons working in retail, I try to avoid malls during this time of year. So, if you’re trying to avoid the mall this year too, I’ve rounded up my faves from this year that I either hope to be under my tree or to give this season. And if you must go to the mall, here’s a pro tip: shop the deals online early in the week and try get as much online as possible. If you must hit up a mall make a schedule–in true Randall style from This Is Us. 

Now, onto the gifts! 

For the Techie

  Photo: Made with Polyvore
Photo: Made with Polyvore

Popsocket
These are a must. Seriously, they have made using my phone so much easier. Plus, they can add character to your phone with all the different colors and designs

Echo Dot
I rolled my eyes so hard when bae broke down and bought this, but it’s actually a really cool product. I recommend this smaller version for those with apartments or wanting one in their room. Spring for the light bulbs too. You’ll never have to get out of bed to turn the lights on and off again. 

Google Home Mini
I’m sure I’m committing some type of tech faux pas by including this and the Dot on my list, but I really like both of these products. I will say, this is more of a speaker than the Dot, so if you’re wanting something louder that can read your morning news and set the mood for date night, I’d go for this. It’s also important to be product aligned, so if you own a lot of other Google product, this is also probably a better bet.  

iPhone 8 Plus
Real talk time: I was underwhelmed by the iPhone X. It is definitely the most innovative design Apple has ever given us, but that’s about it. Facial recognition was not convenient, took longer and though making poop talk is entertaining, YouTuber MKBHD pointed out that the software could easily be included in the next update for all the phones since the camera is what makes the animojis possible. 

The 8 Plus and X have all the same specs on the inside. So the only real difference is the front facing portrait mode (which isn’t great), facial recognition and making chicken emojis talk like you. I say save the money and opt for the 8 Plus. But if you just have to have the newest thing, protect that thing with a case and screen protector ASAP. 

For the Fashionista/o

Dapper Black Box
I love supporting minority owned businesses as much as possible and this is a recent favorite I found for bae. Not only is the box put together by black men, but the products inside are all made by black men as well. Perfect for anyone who loves to dawn a suit and (bow)tie on the regular. 

  Photo: DapperBlackBox
Photo: DapperBlackBox

Black First Clothing
Shipping positive, identity affirming clothing in two days with Amazon Prime. Get this Black Boy Joy shirt for the black man in your life that brings you love and light. 

Old Navy Long Moto Jacket 
I tried this on in store when they had their first winter sale and it was so warm and comfy. Great for wearing to work! ON usually has a 50% off sale around and on Black Friday, so make sure to scoop this up then. 

Girlfriend Collective Leggings
These are THE BEST leggings I have ever had. They’re sliming, lifting, so comfy and made with sustainability in mind. You will never want to wear another pair. Trust me. 

Radical Dream Pins
Okay, so there are a lot of great pin makers out there, but my favorite so far has been Radical Dreams. Shipping is fast, the packaging is brand aligned and Tasha is just so talented. She also runs Black Pin Maker League for FREE to support other black pin makers. These gifts are such an easy stocking stuffer and there’s one for all personalities. 

  Photo: @townbizoakland via Instagram
Photo: @townbizoakland via Instagram

For the Secret Chef

  Photo: Made with Polyvore
Photo: Made with Polyvore

Chrissy Teigen Cravings
Besides the fact that everything Chrissy makes on Insta looks delicious, this is the gift that keeps on giving. Get this for the chef in your life, then plan a dinner party where they make a recipe (or three) from the book. They’ll get to throw down in the kitchen and your stomach will thank you. 

Food Processor
I may just be late to the party of this one, but a food processor should on every household counter. It’ll make chopping veggies and mixing ingredients so much easier. 

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
These take a bit more care than regular skillets, but I mean it when I say you will never buy another one again. Take care of this baby and you will keep it for life. My mom still has ones my grandma used with her mom growing up! Don’t forget the handle holders!

For the Magical (Natural) Black Girl 

Eva NYC Hair Masque
A new edition to my hair routine, I’m loving this product. Best of all it come in a 17 oz jar for only $12! 

  Photo: Eva NYC via Amazon
Photo: Eva NYC via Amazon

Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle
I am a product junkie to the max. I’ll try a new product real quick. Still, this conditioner is my holy grail, my one and only, my true love when it comes to co-washing. Best of all, it’s affordable. At $4 a bottle, this makes a great stocking stuffer for us natural girls with a lot of hair. 

Hot Head Thermal Hair Care
I’ve been eyeing this and it’s definitely on my list this year. I deep condition every week, but now that it’s getting colder out, some heat would do my hair some good for strength. 

Curlformers or Flexi Rods
If you’re buying these products for the natural in your life, don’t worry about how they’ll use them. That’s what YouTube is for. But if you feel led, look up some tutorials on YouTube and write down your favorites to share with the curly cutie in your life. Perfect way to add a personal touch. 

Curl Friends Pin
Full disclosure: I work for this brand, but I genuinely love this pin that celebrates, black women, our kinks and curls and friendship all rolled into one. 


What’s on your holiday list? Let me know in the comments below!

This posts contains affiliate links for Amazon, but all thoughts and reviews are my own. Items not sold on Amazon are not affiliate links and are based on my own opinions. 

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This One is for the Men

  Photo by  Brock DuPont  on  Unsplash
Photo by Brock DuPont  on Unsplash

Do better. 

I mean that as sincerely and genuinely as possible. Do. Better. Stop making excuses for yourself, stop waiting for someone else to speak up. Stop waiting for someone else to tell you that your actions are problematic and harmful. Read a book, do the work and then do better. 

Over the last few weeks, the entertainment industry has been shaken by accusations of rape, assault and sexual harassment. It’s disappointing that for those in the industry, most names haven’t been too shocking, even worse is how women of color coming forward have virtually been ignored, or straight up shot down

In theory, we all need to better. We do. We all know someone whose comments felt off to us, but we didn’t say anything. We’ve all been in a crowded club, or walking around town and seen a man approach a woman he did not know. Even if we couldn’t heard the words exchanged, we’ve seen the woman walk faster after those types of encounters.

It’s not okay. None of this is okay.

I don’t care how many survivors come forward, I will never normalize any of this that is happening. 

But what can you do about? Answer: anything. Literally anything. I can understand how that answer may be too overwhelming. So, I’ll here’s where you can start. 

1. Educate yourself. 

I’ll admit, it’s been very easy to scroll past allegations on social media, especially in the last week (more on this in a future post). But if you can stomach it–men, I’m talking to you–please do. Please read these accounts. Read what Ellen Page said over the weekend. Read Danielle Young of The Root’s account. Read Lupita’s. These stories matter, even if they were decades ago. These events stay with survivors for the rest of their lives. You may never be able to take their pain away, but you can educate yourself enough and fight back so more people don’t feel like them in the future. Initiatives such as Green Dot and It’s On Us are great places to start. 

  Last year, I participated in Green Dot's National Day of Action and received training on how to actively do better. 
Last year, I participated in Green Dot’s National Day of Action and received training on how to actively do better. 

2. Watch Your Language 

Words are often discounted when it comes to isms, but they have so much weight. Saying things like “I totally raped that final,” are how this culture of accepting rape and sexual assault begin. When your friends go unchecked for their harmful rhetoric online, you’re giving them a pass. You’re letting them know that if those words ever become reality, you’d be okay with it. 

Saturday night, a Twitter user said this: 

  Screenshot courtesy of  TheTamiJ
Screenshot courtesy of TheTamiJ

He eventually deleted the tweet after enough people told him that what he said he’d do is rape. I don’t know if him being called a rapist hundreds of times will stop him from doing what he described above, but I do know not calling him out makes what he said okay to him and all who retweeted it (too many y’all). We can’t have that. What you say matters. You don’t get to write it off as a joke and “it’s just Twitter,” is not an excuse. 

Watch what you say about women, think about the women you love and the men that love them, would you be cool with language that suggests it’s okay to assault them? 

3. If You See Something, Say Something 

The entire premise of Green Dot and It’s On Us is bystander intervention–in other words, speaking up when you see or hear something that’s not quite right. Think about how many people weren’t and aren’t surprised by the accusations coming out, it’s because they’ve already heard behind closed doors, but didn’t speak up. While I strongly believe that a survivors story is not yours to tell, there are other ways to speak up. At work, when an inappropriate comment is made about a woman’s body, call out your coworker, report them to HR, do whatever it is you have to do to show them that their behavior is not normal and won’t be tolerated. If you’re out with friends and one of your friends keeps bothering a woman who’s mentioned she isn’t interested, tell him to back off. Don’t remove yourself from the situation and act like it isn’t happening, remove him. Remind him no means no. Don’t surround yourself with shitty people and then refuse to check them when they behave disgustingly. Be a friend. Tell them the truth. Call them out. 

The frequency of “Me Too” stories should’ve been enough to show the prevalence sexual assault and harassment have in women’s lives. You being a “good guy” isn’t enough. Congrats you’re decent enough that you’ve never made a rape joke or assaulted someone. Great. Now pass that decency on. It will take you “good guys” standing up for us women to send a message. So again, I say, do better. 

-BK


Are you ready to do better? Let me know how you plan to help in the comments below, then go help! 

You’re Not Alone: Access to Mental Health Services

  Christelle Bourgeois via Unsplash
Christelle Bourgeois via Unsplash

Originally published June 22, 2016.
Trigger: depression, anxiety, neglect, abuse

Deciding to seek out help to deal with anxiety or depression is tough enough. So, it’s hard to believe that some experience added pressures when trying to seek help. A person’s socioeconomic status and race can be huge factors when it comes to the ease of receiving help and that should not go unnoticed. While the prices of medication and therapy can break the bank, getting the runaround treatment because of your race creates an entirely new set of frustrations.

Last year, The Atlantic published an article about this very topic. The author described a study conducted by Princeton University doctoral student, Heather Kugelmass. Kuglemass selected 320 doctors in New York City from a directory of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield’s HMO plan. Next, she had voice actors call the offices asking to schedule appointments using different scripts. Two scripts were supposed to reflect white callers (working class and middle class) and two scripts were to reflect black callers (also working class and middle class). She found that 28 percent of the actors reading from the white, middle class script got called back. Only 17 percent of black middle class callers received a call back to book an appointment.

When it comes to both white and black working class individuals, the call back rates were the same, at eight percent.

While it is hard to assume race over the phone, even if dialects are changed, the study confirms what so many black people have experienced when trying to seek help; a lot of rejection. Based on these results, a middle class black man would have to call 81 different offices just to set up an initial appointment; a white woman would only have to call five.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to combat this. I’ve rounded up a few solutions for readers who may be struggling to get the help they deserve due to financial limitations or racial discrimination.

1. Check to see what your job can do

Familiarize yourself with your job’s health benefits. Many companies have health plans that include mental health help, meaning the cost of your therapy visits or medicine could be significantly reduced or free of charge. Some companies offer confidential help through EAP or Employee Assistance Programs. Check out your company’s human resources offerings to see all the benefits they offer. If it’s still unclear, speak with someone you trust at your job to find out more info. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

2. Benefits for students

This next tip is for students at any level; undergraduate, graduate, J.D., and even doctoral candidates usually qualify for free therapy through their university counseling center. Each school is different, but check your school’s student health website to get a full list of what is included and available to students. The stress of school can be a lot at times, and it is more than okay to see someone and talk about it.

3. Turn to toxic-free social media spaces

Social media can also be a source of comfort for individuals struggling with depression or anxiety. While it is not a replacement for seeing a professional, hashtags such as #MyDepressionLooksLike or #BreaktheStigma are full of people who are willing to be open and honest about what they’re going through and share what has helped them cope. Beyond these hashtags, virtual therapy is also an option. It is usually lower in cost, flexible so it works with your schedule and can be less intimidating than the process of going to an office once a week, which can come with its own set of anxieties.

4. Call a hotline

Lastly, there are a plethora of hotlines and online chatting options by which users can call and text anonymously to talk about anything they may be dealing with. This option completely eliminates the opportunity to be discriminated against because these resources are specifically set up to help anyone who may be struggling with their mental health. While there is no guarantee that one could call every week and get the same operator, this is a great resource for those times when a loved one when is not available or you just need someone to listen without any judgment. There are hotlines for domestic abusedepression, LGBTQ individuals and drug abuse.

If you’ve been completely ignored when trying to seek help, know that it isn’t your fault. Don’t let the ignorance of a few stop you from getting the help you want. There are people who want to help and will help. 

-BK


Know of any other affordable services for those seeking mental health help? Share them in the comments. This post originally appeared in Ourselves Black.

Now What: What to do After Being Laid Off

   Photo by  Trent Erwin  on  Unsplash
Photo by Trent Erwin  on Unsplash

This post is long overdue. Like, three months overdue. But I think I needed this time to focus on other things and now that I’m closing the Columbia, MO chapter of my life, I’m ready to share this. 

If you’re new here, welcome! I’m glad to have you and I hope you’ll stay a while. If you want all the dirty details on what inspired this post, start here

Anyway, have you noticed no one ever really talks about the bad stuff that happens to them? I get it, sharing that a relative has died or that you lost your job is not as exciting as sharing news about your engagement or the new house you just bought. But I’ve noticed because we tend to publicly share only the good things in our lives, we feel extra crappy when things don’t go our way. Even though setbacks are totally normal. 

When I was laid off a few months ago, I felt like I had no choice, but to be public about it. I was living in a small college town that just couldn’t stay out of the news and I wanted family, friends and the few randos I’m still friends with on Facebook to know that I was actively looking for a job and looking to move. So, I wrote a status about it. 

 It took me three days to muster up the courage to post this. 
It took me three days to muster up the courage to post this. 

The outpouring of love was amazing. It made me wonder why people weren’t open about their struggles more often. Not necessarily on social media, but with friends and family. I’ve gotten better in my adult life, but I remember there was a time when I was embarrassed to admit anything negative about my life. I’d lie about how I did on a test, or if I’d been losing weight, just stupid stuff.

My theme for this season that I’m in right now has been honesty. I’m never going share everything, but I do want to be as open as possible about my struggles because I never know who I could be helping. At any given moment half a dozen friends on our Insta feeds are on the beach, brunching with their besties or getting engaged, it’s unrealistic to think that those same people aren’t also going through some pretty crappy times as well. But no one posts the video of them having a panic attack, no one uploads their denial letter from a really promising job, that’d be weird, but it’d also be incredibly humanizing. After all, everyone is going through something and it’s easy to forget that when our social feeds show us all good all the time.

So, now that I’ve had some time to sit with where I am in life, I’m ready to pay it forward. I do have a caveat though: advice is never one size fits all. What works for me, might not work for you. So try some of these, or all of them and let me know how it goes. 

1. Go do something you love. 

Question: What is your favorite thing to do? What brings you the most peace and reenergizes you in the best way? Whatever it is, do it as soon as you can after losing your job. I mean ASAP. If you love baking chocolate chip cookies, go to your favorite grocery store, get your favorite ingredients and go HAM in the kitchen. If you love pampering yourself and heard a new spa opened up, treat yourself to a facial (check for coupons and deals first!). Why? Because dammit you deserve it. 

When I got laid off the first time and the second time, I could feel that it was about to happen. The writing was on the wall. It had nothing to do with me and was truly a situation of wrong place, wrong time. These type of work situations tend to come with an amazing amount of stress. So once you’re released from that stress, do something that physically releases you from it as well. 

2. Count your coins. 

I’m not sure there’s been a point in my adult life where I haven’t been worried about money, but being unemployed takes it to a whole different level. Take inventory of what you have, what’s due and how long your severance will cover the bills. If you live with roommates or an S.O., include them in the conversation, you don’t want the first time they’re hearing about it to be when a bill is past due. 

3. Pick back up a project that you never finished. 

Got an unfinished novel? Started a couch to 5K and quit halfway through? Time to start back up again. You’ve now got a lot of unexpected time on your hands. Looking for jobs eight hours a day, five days a week is not realistic. So spend some time with the project you’ve been putting off.

4. Say it with me, BLOCKED.

Maybe this is a little extreme, but I was devastated the first time I lost my job. So, I blocked the company and a lot of my former coworkers on social media. I didn’t want to relive the stress and that’s okay. You can always change your mind and undo it. If you aren’t sure you should go this route, pay attention to whose profile you start to creep on when you’re bored. If you find yourself in a rabbit hole of old office drama, time to block. 

5. Lastly, keep a schedule. 

It’s really tempting to sleep in until noon and eat ice cream for breakfast because no one is around to see (or is this just me?). But sticking with a schedule is key. It’ll be that much easier to fall back into work when you land your new job. 

Losing a job is never easy and sometimes it makes you feel like the biggest failure, but know you aren’t alone. It’s all part of your journey and you will come out on the other side of it. 


Have you experienced a layoff? What advice do you have? Share it in the comments below and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram