Simply Ari: Simply Me
The Inspired Thoughts of a Ready Writer
"My tongue is the pen of the Ready Writer"
Midway through November and all throughout the month of December, I really do go all out for Christmas. I rearrange my room to make if feel more Christmas-y, I purchase the presents to gift my family, friends, and loved ones, and my Christmas kick-off would not be complete without a onsie, a cup of hot chocolate, Christmas Carols in rotation, and Christmas Movies!!! My television stays between Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and my family's extensive movie collection around this time of the year especially. In Christmases past, we all sat by the fireside cozy and warm and would binge watch on all of our favorite holiday movies.
Here are my Top 5 Christmas Movies:
What are your favorite Christmas Movies?
There are certain things that just smell Christmas: a crackling fire in the fireplace, roasted chestnuts, hot wassail, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, pine and... BUTTER! Growing up, I loved watching how my mom and my grandmas gracefully went about in their kitchens creating and preparing meals for the family. It seemed so enchanted to me, they knew exactly what every part of a dish needed to make it taste delicious: a dash of this, a sprinkle of that, a pinch here, a touch there and then, Voilà! An elaborate meal would be presented to eat together. It was then when I realized that my favorite place to connect, was in the kitchen, the heart of the home. Through the rummaging of cookbooks and trial and error of perfecting recipes, I fell in love with the culinary arts; so much so that when it came time for me to choose a college, some of my first choices were culinary schools and institutes. During the holidays though, that's where my sisters take the lead and really shine! My eldest sister Rachel, bakes decadent and delicious lemon squares, gingerbread, and pecan bars, while my younger sister makes "melt-in-your-mouth" cookies and homemade ice-cream! What's not to love right? I can remember, one of the first recipes Rachel made was Russian Tea Cakes, these petite, butter cookies with a chopped nut center, cooked until light golden brown in color and then coated twice in confectioners' sugar once cooled. Those I think are my favorite. The smell of the melted butter warms your heart and comforts your insides all holiday season long!
Check out this Russian Tea Cake recipe from All Recipes and let me know in the comments what some of your favorite desserts are during the Christmas season!
Ray Charles once said, "Music is like breathing. I don't get tired of breathing, I don't get tired of music." The same sentiment is true when it comes to all things Christmas! For me, the Christmas holiday is not complete without its soundtrack. There are the catchy tunes that allow us to reminisce about our childhood like "Jingle Bells", "Frosty the Snowman", or even "Winter Wonderland"; however as a lover of words, more commonly referred to as a logophile, I am more partial to the lyrics that put us in remembrance of the true reason for the season and that is Jesus. Songs like, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" , "Away in a Manger", "O Holy Night", "Little Drummer Boy", "O Come All Ye Faithful" and others. These songs reverence the King of Kings majesty. Can you just imagine being there? How incredible it must have been to experience the glory of God Himself, the Creator of the all, becoming what He created, with a "soul mission" to unite Heaven and Earth together and allow us the opportunity to be in right standing and right relationship with Him forever? What a magnificent thing to have born witness to. Not to mention the faith and obedience it took Mary and Joseph and all those who came to worship Him that spectacular night. The wonder of it all excites me all over again, year after year.
What are some of YOUR favorite Christmas songs?
Merry Christmas! This holiday season, I wanted to devote some time to writing a blog series inspired by the 12-days of Christmas. I've called it, "The Carol of the Blogs." From December 12th to Christmas Eve (December 24th) I will be sharing a new written installment of the series here on the website! I am so excited about this project! I have some very special things in the works for this blog series that will hopefully keep you coming back, engaged and interacting with the content! I sincerely hope that these installments will warm your heart and will encourage you to share your own stories with me. I'd love to hear from you!!!
This first installment is a backdrop of what Christmases were like for me in my most formative years.
Growing up, Christmas was my favorite time of the year. Our family celebration would kick off early, starting with the Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. My mom always makes a big breakfast on Thanksgiving to watch the parade with: fluffy delicious pancakes, bacon, eggs with your choice of juice, tea or coffee. Together, my parents, my sisters and I would sit in our family room and watch the Parade together, and when Santa waved to the crowd at the very end, for us, Christmas was in full effect!
I can remember being really excited to receive the American Girl magazine(s) in the mail during Christmas time. They were never addressed to me, always to my older sister Rachel, but I loved to flip through them with her to read the short stories inside, and see all of the new dolls that were available for that year. For many years, those magazines served as coffee table décor. I took a particular liking to American Girl, because of the monogrammed items in the back of the magazine, American Girl and I share the same initials, and in some way I suppose, I felt a sense of belonging or connection to the brand because of it. The dolls were beautifully crafted, their stories, well written, captivating and educational; they would transport you to new places all from the comfort of your own imagination.
Music has always been a huge part of my life. It just wouldn't feel like Christmas if there wasn't music playing from every area of the house, the warm melodic tone of Nat King Cole, singing all of the holiday classics filled our home, and of course the BeBe and CeCe Winans Christmas album was a staple of our Christmas season. As a musical family, we never go a day without music, we are either singing it, playing it, recording it, or enjoying it together.
What I appreciated about our Christmases growing up, was the cultural exposure that my sisters and I received, and that our parents made us privy to. For instance, bundled up in our winter hats, gloves, scarves, and coats, we would travel to Washington, D.C. to see the National Christmas Tree. Hand in hand, we would walk around to see each state's tree, and how they differed from one another. With the biting nip of a D.C. winter's air, we would sip hot chocolate, firmly grasping the cups to warm the tips of our fingers. There were those special occasions too, when we would get all dressed up to go to the theatre, to see The Nutcracker or see our church's annual Christmas play production. The getting dressed up part, as a little girl, I think was one of my favorite parts.
At home, even before opening presents, as our family tradition went, we would pray together, and then there would be a Bible study after the reading of the birth of Jesus in scripture. Keeping Jesus at the center of everything was of utmost importance. There was also an aspect of our Christmas season that was devoted to giving, I can remember packing up clothes to give away, or collecting canned goods to give to the homeless. Participating in works of charity at home or in our community, seemed to always make the holidays more meaningful.
In my adulthood, the excitement of the Christmas season is still there, however my expressions of love have changed over the years. What I look forward to the most is spending quiet time with the Lord in the stillness of the early morning, having the opportunity to give more to the ones whom I love, spending quality time with my family in more simple ways like a movie night with hot chocolate, wrapped up in blankets sitting next to a crackling fire, and being more active in my community, partnering with charities and brands who desire to give to those in need. Those are the moments that I have learned to cherish.
Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/p/CGS35RgBHxG/
For as long as I can remember, I have always admired a beautiful smile. There is something about a genuine smile that makes people feel warm, welcomed, and a bit more comfortable in the world. Over the years, as a communicator, I have learned that a smile serves as a business card of sorts; it can tell you a lot about a person, before he or she ever utters a word, and it has the potential to open the door to endless possibilities. That's why, I am so humbled to be partnering with Brytn Smile; a company that provides a premium, at home teeth whitening kit, that helps brighten your smile within 15 minutes or less!
The kit comes in a sleek black box with 3 gel whitening pens and one LED mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is unique in that it provides two methods of cleaning. The blue light mode focuses on the whitening of your teeth. The treatment only takes 15-minutes and is self-timed to shut off after the treatment is complete. The red and blue light mode, is more detailed, as it targets more areas in the mouth, providing a more full oral hygiene experience. In addition to teeth whitening, this full mouth treatment aides in the "elimination of bacteria and odor" and is completed within 10 -minutes time. The kit also comes with a charger and a professional 3D teeth shade guide, so that you can track your results.
As an avid tea and coffee drinker, my curiosity was peeked to see just how well an at home teeth whitening kit could work. I recognize that a poppin' red lip and coffee stained teeth just don't mix. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was the 120 LED light mouthpiece comfortable, the product itself did in fact make my smile whiter! I started on the teeth shade guide at a 10 out of 15 (the lower you go, the better the results) after using this system consistently for 3 months, once every Saturday during my morning regimen, I have gone from a 10 to a solid 7. Though I like both modes, I have found that the blue light mode has provided more favorable results. The red and blue light mode, causes a bit of teeth sensitivity, so I rotate my treatments between the two.
I feel good about supporting Brytn Smile because not only are they providing pearlier whites, through their philanthropic efforts they also donate charity. Brytn Smile donates to a oral surgery every month as a partner with Operation Smile, regardless of how many products they sell.
To get started on your teeth whitening journey, I encourage you to use my discount code SIMPLYARISMILE25 to get 25% off of your purchase. Be sure to tell them that Simply Ari Media sent you, using our referral link: https://brytnsmile370.grsm.io/SimplyAriSmile
Remember, a healthy smile is a beautiful smile, and a whiter smile gives you the confidence you need to conquer and overcome every day!
Please Note: As a partner, I do receive a small percentage of commission for everyone I send Brytn Smile's way.
“But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.”
I have a wooden crate filled with notebooks, some are a bit tattered and filled with dreams and visions, others are filled with prayers and insights that I received in my devotional time with the Lord, and still others are filled with miscellaneous content: inspired quotes, doodles, and notes from workshops, webinars, or networking events I've attended over the years. Then there are those precious few that are beautiful, unused, and don't yet have a purpose. Their blank pages are filled with potential, discovering what that could be is the exciting part!
Recently, as I was scrolling through Pinterest for some DIY inspiration, I came across a "pin" for junk journaling as a way to fill unused notebooks. I thought this would be the perfect way to busy myself whilst still in quarantine, and challenge myself to get into a creative rhythm and write on a more consistent basis. Junk journaling can easily be defined as upcycling for your notebooks. You fill the blank pages with really anything you want: scraps of paper, old book pages, material, cut outs from magazines, stickers etc. The initial challenge for me was deciding on a theme and making sure I had the right materials to complete the project. I found some invisible tape, a few glue sticks, and scissors, and I purchased some markers, sticky notes, burlap, lace, and created an inspiration board on Pinterest and began creating! My theme was entitled, "Sincerely and Lovingly Yours." I decided to write a total of five hand-written letters. I think that letter writing is a lost art form, but the sentimental gesture and therapeutic, fluid motion of putting pen to paper is almost poetic in its composition; which is something that I have grown to appreciate and quite enjoy.
These five letters were each different in their content. My first letter was a Break Up Letter to Fear, the second was a Letter to My Younger Self, the third was a Letter to My Future Self, the fourth was a Dear Hubby Letter, and the fifth was a Letter to The Courageous Dreamer. These letters were significant because they served as touchpoints in my life. I struggled with fear a lot growing up: fear of failure, fear of not being enough, fear of the unknown, fear of being a disappointment, even a fear of being successful. As a child, I often coped with hurt, sadness by suppressing my honest thoughts and opinions (if I knew what they were), in order to keep the peace, which was a habit developed out of fear, that really was to my own detriment moving into my adulthood. The letter to my future self, was an acknowledgement of where I aspire to be. It portrays what success looks like to me. I learned that you can't know where you're going, if you have not first acknowledged where you've been. Each of the letters were composed organically and contained surprising revelations, and sincere sentiments. The most revealing letter that I composed was undoubtedly the second one, a Letter to My Younger Self. As I was composing it, what was revealed to me was how much stuff I had not forgiven myself for. This letter I believe was important and necessary for me to write because it provided a way for me to acknowledge suppressed hurts, gain clarity, to heal and to let go of the past in order for me to move more freely into the destiny that the Lord has prepared for me. I got the healing I never knew I needed in that one exercise, and that is a priceless gift, for which I am grateful.
Over the span of two weeks, I was able to complete a majority of the junk journal, leaving only a few pages left untouched. I wanted to leave room for more all the possibilities that are yet to come!
Check out a few of my junk journal pages below and let me know what you think! I'd love to hear from you.
“Your very existence is wrapped up in the things that you are here to fulfill.”
Picture if you will, a dark room filled with candles, flickering strong burning flames. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 reminds us that we are “Children of the light, and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” I imagine you and me as those flickers of light in the world, and when one light goes out, it is the job of the others to shine even brighter.
The recent passing of actor, philanthropist, cultural activist, justice gatekeeper, and trailblazer, Chadwick Boseman hit me exceptionally hard. I confess, with all that is going on in the world: the injustices, racial discrimination, division, and senseless killings at the hand of crooked cops that have seemed to plague the African-American community, to me his death felt personal. Not because I knew him, but because he embodied on a larger scale, the values by which I live. Chadwick’s light felt familiar, and I think that we all could have benefited from his light a little longer.
Then the idea came to me, we originated as a thought in the heart and mind of God. We were created by His hands and He breathed into us the breath of life. Therefore, we are on loan to the world. What is of the utmost importance is how we live our lives between the dash. Boseman stewarded his gift and honored the Lord through it, never failing to glorify Him publicly on the platforms he graced. He chose to accept only the roles that he believed would showcase the Black characters he portrayed in a positive way. He took the responsibility of being a strong Black lead seriously on and off the screen. Part of Boseman’s purpose, I believe, was to help change the Black narrative, and to tell our stories with integrity, authenticity and respect.
There was a statement issued by his representative on the day of his passing that said, “A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther. He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side.” (https://www.instagram.com/p/CEdLs05FWTn/)
Sometimes God’s plan is hard to figure. The sting of this loss is something with which we will have to grapple, but the legacy and the incredible art that Boseman created, should inspire us all to courageously pursue our purpose, to push a little harder, and run the race that has been set before us, with strength, endurance, and most importantly with the faith that we will be victorious in the end.
Thank you for your strength, for your integrity, for your grit, for your fight, for your light, for your art, for your passion, for your profound and prolific words of wisdom and encouragement, and for sharing your gift with the world. Know that your impact stretches far beyond the 43 years that you graced the earth. We are inspired by your brilliance. Your name is forever engraved on our hearts. Thank you for leaving the world better than you found it. We are all grateful that you existed.
"Into this atmosphere of overconfident nationalism, steps Amos, a shepherd from the southern kingdom of Judah. He stands in the great royal temple at Bethel and announces that God is stirring up a nation to conquer Israel.-- Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream."
We are in the 12th day of a nationwide quarantine, and cautiously operating in a very unique and perilous time in history. The coronavirus pandemic has haulted life as we know it, and as we take greater precautionary measures to stay safe: practicing social distancing, practicing better hygiene habits, wearing masks and gloves, paying better attention to our bodies needs, and showing greater empathy to those who are at greatest risk of contracting the virus, we must begin to inquire,"What is it that the Lord is trying to teach us through this?" Though I do not believe that God caused this virus to be globally spread, I am of the opinion that He allows certain things to take place to get our attention. As we have been instructed to self-quarantine, we are provided with a great opportunity to seek the Lord fervently and in earnest, spend time in His presence, inviting Him into our lives and into our spaces, perhaps like we should have been doing all along. In my heart of hearts, I believe that what the enemy meant for evil, God is going to use for a good that we have yet to see. Our best days are still ahead of us, and God is with us. God is stirring some things up, causing our attention to be on Him: I believe the nuclear family will be restored, doors of communication will begin to open and supernatural healing will begin to take place. I encourage you to get into the Word of God, spend quality time with the Lord, check-in with and if you are able, spend time with your family, friends and loved ones, read a book, learn a new skill, or dust off a dream that has been left dormant. Know that God is good, and like my mom says, "Though not all things are good, God uses those things to work out for our good." I pray your safety and peace in Jesus Name. Love to all of you.
“Success is when preparation meets opportunity. Prepare yourself for the next opportunity.”
The highly anticipated Netflix Original rap competition reality show series, Rhythm & Flow, hosted by T.I., Chance the Rapper and Cardi B, aired on October 9, 2019. These three, searched in their hometowns, Atlanta, Chicago, and New York respectively, and were hard pressed to find the next voice in Hip Hop. As a fan of music, pop culture, and hip hop, I’ve been hooked. I literally binged watched the whole season (yes it’s that good)!
First let’s talk about the judges. Each one offers a different point of view, and represents the diversity of Hip-Hop’s ever evolving sound. Chance the Rapper, represents the independent sound and wave of Hip-Hop culture, where as Cardi B., represents the trendy sound of Hip-Hop “Kulture” and the space for female MCs right now in music; and T.I. represents the authenticity and innovative sound of Hip Hop, the consistency that it takes to remain in that space and the longevity that one can have within the music industry.
At its core, Hip-Hop is the expression of cultural experience set to a track. To convey the story well, and bring awareness takes a tremendous amount of practice, skill, preparation, and talent, and marketability. In Rhythm & Flow, each judge was looking for that whole package. Who could best represent what Hip-Hop is, what it stands for, and where it has the potential to go? The eclectic group of talent that T.I., Chance, and Cardi found truly makes for a great show. These individuals are artists in their own right, doing what they love, and have now been provided a platform to showcase their talent on a grander stage. Guaranteed, you will vibe with, champion on, and have your favorites, but one thing I appreciated is that you will learn to respect the hustle of each upcoming MC.
In this series, viewers get a bit of everything: passion, respectful rivalry, tension, suspense, honest insight about the music business, surprise guests, mega producers, great storylines, and perhaps most importantly, real hip-hop. Each challenge given by the judges builds on the next, and their criticism is in love, but its also no cut cards. The show is exciting, because it feels like you, as the viewer, are getting a front row seat to something historic.
3 judges. 30 contestants. 10 episodes. 1 winner, and a non-contractual prize of $250,000 dollars at stake.
If you are a true music lover and seek to get a deeper look inside the industry and what it takes to make it in this musical climate, I encourage you to watch Rhythm & Flow on Netflix.
“True to Your Word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.”
Recently I have been restless, feeling unsure about this season and my place in it. There have been many things happening around me, but I’ve been internally feeling overwhelmed by it all. It has felt like my mind, my body and my spirit have been sending out an emergency signal that I have been ignoring…avoiding because I didn’t know which one needed the most attention. You can always tell that you’re in a low place, when you don’t even consider checking in on yourself, asking yourself if you are ok.
Quite honestly, I’ve felt depleted. I’ve been running on empty for weeks, and despite my best efforts I have not felt like I have been my best for those I love nor for myself. In casual conversation, I mentioned that I needed a staycation, a local get away to reconnect with the Lord and myself, away from all distractions and where I can get some much-needed rest. My parents heard my desperate request and graciously assisted in providing me an extended weekend respite. That was the first step. Now begins the process of a more balanced journey: where I cease to carry burdens that are not mine to shoulder, become a bit more selfish with my time, my space and my energy and learn the power of no.
In some time of worship and reflection, I was reminded of a lyric by Jonny Diaz that reads, “Let your weary spirit rest, lay down what’s good and finds what’s best; Just Breathe.” And another by the contemporary Christian group, Hillsong United that says, “If you gladly chose surrender, so will I.” Both sets of lyrics serve as beautiful reminders and offer sage instruction for when our hearts become overwhelmed by life. I want to learn how to breathe into the peace of God, set aside all of the things that I consider “good” to make more room for God’s best, and gladly choose surrender so that He can work in me and through me more fully.
My emergency respite has gifted me more clarity and perspective. I am grateful to the Lord for allowing me to catch my breath, helping me to regain some of my strength, get replenished in His presence and for setting me in the direction that He would have me to go.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.