A Word With Derek Dixon

Every week I will feature the kind of everyday heroes I look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. I hope you’ll learn as much from them as I have!

 

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have someone in their life who will tell them the truth. Not the mean truth or the nice truth, but the true-truth. The kind of honesty that’s delivered when you need to heal or laugh or come back down to Earth. Derek Dixon has been my truth-sayer and best friend for almost 20 years. Can you imagine putting up with anyone through adolescence, hormones, college and your 20’s without slapping them? Somehow we did just that! We met in middle school and have remained thick as thieves through the years due to Derek’s uncanny ability to fight for that brighter dawn. Plainly speaking, you just feel better when you’re in his company whether over the phone, or sharing a drink. I think you’re going to love what he was kind enough to share with us this week. Read below to find out why I admire this guy so much!

 

What is your profession? Is it what you wanted to do?

I am the Residential Director for a home-based care organization that provides services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Although this initially was not what I wanted to do, I have always felt a call to help others. I went to school for psychology and music with the hopes of becoming a musical therapist. I initially got into the field to show that I’ve had experience on a resume, but then fell in love.

If not, what would you like to do instead? Why?

I went to school for psychology and music with the hopes of becoming a musical therapist. I got into the HBCS field for experience, but then I fell in love with this very special population. I have so many dreams, but so little time – the crux of everyone. Ultimately, if I were to help one person live a bold life, full of confidence and self-love, then I would die a happy man.

 

What are some ways you take care of yourself?

I love to be outside. The warmth of the sun, a nice breeze, fishing pole, and cold beer can be so therapeutic. I also love quiet time to myself, doing things like reading, writing and meditation. They’re activities that help center me.

Can you share a time or event you didn’t think you could survive?

The death of my father when I was in third grade was hands-down the most traumatic event in my life. The lives of my entire family changed after that. There were lots of dark nights, angry days, misplaced blame and confusion after that. It was rough.

What/ Who pulled you through it? What did you learn?

My mother’s strength and drive definitely pulled me through. I almost lost her that same day. Watching the process of her rehabilitation and seeing her bounce back after so many counted her out was awe-inspiring, and it was the first time I realized I wanted to help others. Watching my mother fight so hard to get back to her children was the first time I witnessed the transformative power of love.

 

How did the event/time shape the way you live now?

That experience made me aware of my own mortality. I try to live life fully. When it comes to friendship and the people I surround myself with, I prefer quality over quantity. I love strongly, laugh loudly. I live life on my own terms, and although that itself can be a struggle, I love myself. I embrace all aspects of the person I have become. Now, no matter what struggle I am presented with, I know that I can handle it.

What was the best/ funniest/ most memorable piece of advice you’ve received?

I was blessed to be surrounded by so many strong women growing up. My grandmother was one of those people that didn’t know a stranger. She was everyone’s “Momma”, “Auntie” or “Granny” regardless of blood relation or not. She gave so freely. Witnessing the way she lived her life was not only beautiful, but a perfect example of how to treat people. She is who I learned my colorful language and take-no-shit attitude from. Lots of gems were learned from that beautiful soul.

When do you feel most free?

When in nature and when on stage. Theater and music used to be such a joy for me, but something I haven’t done in a while. I should change that.

 

What do you want to be remembered for?

For living my life to the fullest and inspiring boldness.

 

Thanks for reading kids! I hope Derek’s words will carry through the rest of the week with a smile and some fire!

Hygge? Fika? Let’s Chill!

Taking it easy seems close to impossible during the week, especially when your practical survival depends on making that money! How often do you find yourself staring off into the void of your office, laptop or notes and thinking “how the hell am I going to make it”? How many times have you done that today alone? If the answer is “once” or “I’ve lost count” , then listen up! It’s time to reclaim your peace of mind.

We don’t all have the luxury of a stress-free life, especially in the places with crazy long work days. In the United States the average is 1783 hours per year at our jobs, but in places  like Mexico and Costa Rica the hours are well over 2000 per year. Add on the cost of trying to survive emotionally, then you’ve got a global society of people with white hair, nails chewed down to nubs, and serious indigestion.

There’s no solution to our work-life struggles that doesn’t involve some legislation (vote!), but until then I’ve got some tips for you to survive it all one day at a time.

I just learned about hygge (pronounced HEW- guh) ,  the Danish word that encompasses the art of “cozy” living to promote wellness. Below is a video by Signe Hansen breaking down the delightful lifestyle.

What I love about hygge is how user-friendly the mindset is: you love that thing? Do it! Do the things you love! You’re probably thinking “But LaKaaaaaase. I don’t have time!” To that I merely say, yes you do. You absolutely do have time for you, you just might not feel comfortable taking that time for you. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my 30s is that I have to treat myself the way I would a brand new car, cleaning, tuning up, and monitoring the oil. The catch is, I’m worth more than any car, because I’m irreplaceable. So, I’m begging you to say no here and there for your own mental health. Go on a walk, call your bestie, watch a movie under the covers, wear a sleep mask to bed, put on a face mask, make your kids cook dinner or ask your partner to rub your feet in exchange for a back rub. Whatever it takes, chill those nerves!

Once you’ve mastered the hygge, you’re ready for the fika. Fika is the act of taking a proper coffee break, and it’s a big part of Swedish culture. You’re not just throwing back any brand on the fly, you’re committing to sitting down with your friends, coworkers or family to talk and luxuriate like the royalty you are. Listen to Jenny Mustard (love her name) below for the more detailed breakdown.

 

Isn’t that fabulous? I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but I think you can bring the spirit of fika to just about any drink or meal with others. Give it a whirl with your fellow overworked comrades in the office – you might be surprised how much smoother the rest of the day goes.

I’m sorely behind on these beautiful pieces of culture from our Nordic neighbors, but I’m so happy to have stumbled into them. I love that Swedish and Danish folks are pushing themselves – and the rest of us by proxy – to take good care of our hearts and minds. As I move forward, I plan to adapt hygge and fika to build the beautiful life I envision for myself.

What do you think? Will you be diving into these Scandinavian trends with me? Let me know in  the comments what you’re doing for yourself today!

 

In Honor of the Persistence Of Michelle McNamara

Content Warning: This post will address the Golden State Killer Case, rape, murder and violence. Please take care of yourself after reading.

Photo By Robin Van Swank for LA Weekly

I was glued to my phone yesterday. Every time I tried to put it down to stay on target with my blogging goals, my body was yanked back. It was all due to the news that the Golden State Killer had been apprehended. It was a moniker unfamiliar to me, unlike BTK or the Night Stalker, however I will never forget what I learned about this particular monster. From 1979 to 1986, a man terrorized the lives of Californians, raking up over 40 rapes, 120 burglaries, and 12 murders. He walked free until Tuesday evening. Now, as a relative of two victims aptly remarked, his reign of terror has come to an end.

I started this blog as a sanctuary from the storm for not only myself, but for anyone who might stumble upon it. The posts are lighthearted in nature and informative when possible. I’m prone to melancholia, so I really push myself to find the beauty in life and share it as often as I can. This topic is difficult, to say the least, but sometimes we can learn good things in the face of the worst of humanity. Today, I want to tell you what I learned from Michelle McNamara.

Michelle McNamara didn’t arrest Joseph James DeAngelo. She didn’t deliver his name to the authorities, or turn over his DNA, but what she did do was persist where others might not. For years, McNamara amassed thousands of files on the various cases spanning multiple counties in California in hopes she could reveal a missing piece, a new angle, anything she could to bring justice to the doorstep of a monster. Her tireless investigative work reignited interest in the case on a national level with her posthumous book “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark”. The victims and survivors would never forget, but now we had no reason to either. Michelle McNamara died in 2016, never knowing the name of the specter she chased.

Since yesterday I have been imagining what it must have been like for a person like Michelle McNamara; feeling so close yet so far from a resolution. Reviewing everything ten thousand times just to be sure you gleaned the right information. Wondering if you can make a difference at all with so much time and space separating you from the target. I know what it feels like to be a survivor, so, from that perspective, I honor and appreciate her. It means so much to know that the pain of a stranger is enough to motivate another to action; that some people will endure the race when you have lost the will or the resources to fight on is a lesson I’ll not soon abandon.

Whoever or whatever you fight for, know that even if you never know what your actions mean for others, your time is well spent. Michelle McNamara didn’t get to see Joseph James DeAngelo walk into a courthouse in chains, but the survivors of his crimes will. I’ll never know Michelle as a friend, but I’ll never forget her as an ally.

Fight on, dream big, and, above all else, stay strong.

Beautycon Is The Event I Didn’t Know I Needed

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I used to have a seriously sketchy relationship with makeup. I’m talking never wearing it (not a bad thing) unless one of my friends slathered it on me in a shade too light for my skin. I once put blush on so harshly that I looked like Chris Farley after getting hit by a 2×4 in Tommy Boy. Real talk.

So….. I stayed away from the brushes and palettes.

It wasn’t just the struggle of makeup that kept me from doing anything considered really feminine: I didn’t think I was pretty enough to be “girly”. From the very beginning we’re inundated with images of beauty that are light years away from what I see in the mirror; it’s all about being tall, thin, white or lighter in complexion and definitely fine-featured. Add on top of that the positively LOVELY tendency of some folks to tell me I look like a guy, and you’ve got an adorable complex. So, when I did wear makeup, it was to hide or reduce the features that set tongues wagging in ridicule.

It’s taken a long time, but I’m unwinding all that programming and replacing it with the knowledge that beauty isn’t about what you put on your face or body – it’s all about what you radiate from within. I’ve learned a few things along the path of life that make looking in the mirror a joy rather than a nightmare:

A) The way others see me isn’t really about me. They’ve been shaped by the same beauty standards as I have, and some people will never shake that.  

B) Calling myself ugly isn’t just a diss to me, it’s a diss to the people I come from, and they surely don’t deserve nastiness. 

C) Loving myself is my right. Plus, it gives other people permission to love themselves, especially if they look like me. 

Now, I can look at makeup and beauty routines as fun, rather than necessary to gain someone’s approval. Instead of hiding my big nose, I part my hair down the middle to let it shine. I rock my hair free and dreadlocked because it makes me feel like a warrior. I wear lipstick when I nothing else will brighten my day. These days, I love how I look at my most discombobulated just as much as when I get my makeup done professionally, because that’s when my strength really shines through.

Yet, even with my mind where it is now, I still look to the media for inspiration when I want a push to glam up, which is where Beautycon comes in! I have not been able to go to the event yet, however reading about the programming has me salivating for the chance to join the masses. Beautycon is something I sorely wish would have been available to me during those ashy foundation days and moments of self-doubt. I love that they’ve got role-models from all walks of life talking about real-world issues like body image, colorism, representation, and self-love. It’s so wonderful to see leaders pushing away from one type of beauty being the standard.

I truly feel the most rebellious thing a person can do in this life is to own and proclaim their own beauty. It’s not easy, but I’ve found it is so rewarding. If you’re like me and need to feel inspired to keep going or just want to learn, click here to watch videos from Beautycon! What makes you feel beautiful these days?

 

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Uppity Women Unite!

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Every Friday I will feature the books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art that have been inspiring me, or that I’m looking forward to experiencing. Please share your suggestions below!

Good morning, my fellow badasses! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling particularly bedraggled. This last week left me feeling stretched thin and dusty, so I decided to return to a book that really pumped me up when I first read it.

Uppity Women Speak Their Minds by Vicki Leon is a collection of quotes from unstoppable women of various time periods and cultures. The short read is from her Uppity Women series, and it touches upon the struggles they faced to survive and thrive regardless of their lot in life. What I loved about the book then, and as I rediscover it now, is how easily I could apply their desires to my own life. If nothing else, don’t we all simply want to live life on our own terms? Through highs or lows, prosperity or struggle – the human desire to fight on never ceases to amaze me.

 

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While some of the featured ladies might have a bad rap today (Marie Antoinette), we can still learn a little from their stories. Being uppity doesn’t mean you have to be a snob – on the contrary, I think it means knowing your worth, holding onto it, and demanding you be treated with the respect we all deserve. You also uplift others, because you know their shine can never dim yours. I’m not suggesting you transform into some kind of tyrant, but I do encourage you to hold your head high in the face of those who would rather you shrink.

I hope you’ll give the book a read! It’s short enough to finish over the weekend, but just weighty enough to stay with you for quite some time. Let me know in the comments what you’re reading this week! Enjoy your weekend!

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