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The Third Saturday in May

I thought I’d be walking down the aisle today.

Yes — that aisle. With my hair and makeup done, tears in my eyes, holding a lovely bouquet and wearing a gorgeous dress I’ve been waiting to show off since August.

It is hilarious, now, to consider how much stress was expended during the past eleven months on completely immaterial concerns. The possibility of foot pain from wearing brand-new shoes all day. Guests who might not be on their best behaviour. Questions of whether anyone’s heritage was being snubbed by the inclusion or exclusion of a particular song from the DJ’s playlist. And, of course, there was the big question of how much sun we might be able to count on — no bride wants her guests to be shivering as they wait for her to meander down the aisle of a patio on a golf course in a month that can be pretty moody, weather-wise.

The stress pivoted in March, spiked in April, and gave way to a dangerous cocktail of melancholy and rage by the time May rolled around. At first, I didn’t anticipate any kind of lockdown lasting for more than a few weeks. I made a point of getting my last fitting done and dropping my gown off at a dry cleaner’s on March 19, when most businesses were still open, so that it would at least be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Whenever friends checked in on me, I stated that Alex and I were just trying to control what we could control, and trying not to worry about what we couldn’t control. One friend of mine, scheduled to get married on May 9 on the same beautiful patio, was worried that there wouldn’t be enough time for the finishing touches of his wedding planning to fall into place by the time businesses opened back up — and I actually thought at first that this was an overreaction. His wedding, after all, was still seven weeks away.

Heh.

I should pause here and point out that my partner and I are comforted by the fact that many other couples are strapped into the same rollercoaster we’re on, and the ones we know have become an important source of support. (I mean, this would be some next-level panic if, for some reason, only our wedding plans had been tossed into a wood-chipper and every other large event could go ahead as planned.) In addition to the couple tying the knot the week before us, one of my church/music friends is ready to go on July 17th (in a venue large enough to accommodate plenty of extra space between guests, so I maintain hope that she and her fiancé can keep their date); and one of my bridesmaids has already moved her own destination wedding from this August to next May.

So there we (all) were, resigned to the fact that some adjustments and re-planning were likely. My bridal shower was given up on first … then, so was the shopping trip for the mother of the groom to choose her outfit … next to be wiped off the calendar were our respective bachelor and bachelorette weekends. I started telling people that I wasn’t above having these events after the wedding, if that’s the way it had to be (and I still refuse to be denied them completely, so just roll your eyes good-naturedly if/when I try to make the post-wedding-party-weekend-without-your-spouse into a thing). I was set up to work from home; church services and theatre rehearsals moved online; the number of countries cancelling their yearly carnivals started to go up as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Italy, then the global epicentre of the epidemic, horrified the world.

I don’t remember at what point I realized May 16th wasn’t going to be the dream of a wedding day I’d been working toward since September and dreaming of for decades. Sometime in mid-April, probably. Hope had persisted for so long — I mean, we were so close, all the plans were practically done! Of course, as I have been reminded numerous times since March: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans.” I’ve heard that saying, or versions of it, too many times to count over the years — and not until the garbage fire that is 2020 came around did hearing it make me want to scream as much as I do now.

Talk of wanting to scream usually leads to well-meaning friends and relatives offering a gentle or cheerful reminder that everything happens for a reason, or that God is in control. Yes, I am aware that everything — life, death, war, viruses, each individual human, each individual insect or piece of kelp or grain of sand — is in God’s hands. This knowledge does not currently comfort me. In fact, I’m the first to admit that many of my reactions to all this … like, say, intense envy of already-married couples whose wedding plans were never threatened by a pandemic, meaning they could choose instead to argue about stupid things like charger plates … are decidedly un-Christian. I also feel silly and selfish when I reflect on how much airtime I give to my wedding-related concerns, knowing there are folks with zero income while my paycheque simply got smaller without disappearing. (Plus, my commute has shrunk to ten seconds.) Knowing there are literally thousands of people dying and I’m perfectly healthy aside from a sore foot and a recurring headache. Knowing there are people all over the world who — and this is true every day of every year — would give literally anything to trade their problems for mine.

So. While I know myself too well to promise I won’t complain anymore, I am looking forward to having a dinner date with Alex in a few hours: on May 16th of 2020, with a venue change and a modified guest list. Wearing my comfiest pair of slippers.

Oh, and the weather today, despite steady rain yesterday and for the next three days, is clear and sunny and about 20 degrees. In other words, perfect.

photographer: Bisi Alawode

Unwritten

Man, I wish I’d written that song.

Actually, I’m using that title to refer to the six months’ worth of posts that I’ve skipped out on, and the fact that I haven’t written much at all since last month when COVID-19 took over everyone’s lives and drastically changed . . . well, almost everything. I’ve also avoided writing about how I’m processing these drastic changes, except perhaps in a journal entry from March when I didn’t realize how drastic said changes would be. Even when talking to close friends and family, I try not to get into too much of this sad stuff because really, what are they going to do to help? It’s more likely that I’ll just end up making them feel worse than they already do. So I came to my semi-retired blog, and I’ll see what I can piece together here in this little corner of the internet that seemed like a good place to process some thoughts and feelings today.

It’s April 26th, a Sunday, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I previously — like, six weeks ago — thought this weekend would unfold. Friday would’ve been one of those great days where I either left my day job early or didn’t go in at all, because I had a dress rehearsal for a play. Saturday would have been the day we presented that play, and the following day — today — I would’ve hopped onto a plane and kicked off my bachelorette celebration (the bachelor party having taken place last weekend).

For painfully obvious reasons, none of those things have happened. And while I have put a lot of energy into not complaining too much, fully aware that many others have sacrificed and lost far more than I have (I read just yesterday about one woman who lost her mother to COVID-19 after it also claimed her grandmother and aunt and I . . . cannot even imagine), these are valid emotions and this is an appropriate place to air them out.

March 3rd is my birthday, and I kept the celebrations low-key this year. After all, there would be plenty of partying to come, what with my bridal shower and bachelorette trip and rehearsal dinner and the wedding itself, at least two more weddings to follow (one of which would be in Mexico), and an as-yet-undecided honeymoon. My partner took me out for a delicious dinner at a great restaurant which was emptier than we’d seen it before not because of social distancing, but because it was a Tuesday evening.

My mom and my matron-of-honour/cousin didn’t end up making it into town that weekend, which was no big deal, because I was obviously going to see them both soon. Right now I am really missing Mom, who I haven’t seen since December, because with all those events coming up it didn’t feel urgent for either one of us to travel two hours for a look-in. For several years, Mom lived in the Middle East while I stayed home in Toronto, but even then it was unusual to go half a year without a visit; and at this point, I truly don’t know when I’ll be able to see and hug her next.

And here’s the funny thing: I wonder if there’s an alternate universe somewhere where none of these things are as much of a bother to me. See, there was a moment at my birthday party last year where it seemed like my partner might pop the question. He did it three months later. Imagine for a moment that our entire timeline had been bumped up by three months: that would’ve meant that the bridal shower and bachelor/bachelorette celebrations would’ve happened in January, the rehearsal dinner and wedding itself would have happened around Valentine’s Day (our anniversary as a couple), and we might’ve wrapped up our honeymoon later that month, or around my birthday, or in March right before lockdown commenced. So we’d still be stressed out today by . . . you know, the whole world turning upside down . . . but the wedding stress would be over with. In fact, we’d have plenty of time to write and send our thank-you notes.

Even in that alternate universe, though, I feel awful for my friends whose weddings (one originally scheduled for the weekend before mine in May, one in July, one in August) have also been impacted. I also feel blessed to have them as a support system, keenly aware of the additional stresses that have been created by the combination of wedding planning and global plague mitigation. It’s likely that I’ll blog more about that combination sometime soon, but for now I’ll leave that unwritten too.

Thanks for listening. <3

Tired, and thrilled about it

I promised myself a long time ago that I wouldn’t complain when my life finally reached the point where I was tired at the end of a day from doing things I love.

I think that point is here.

For details, may I recommend signing up to receive my monthly newsletter; right now, since I’ve really got to crash, here’s a quick explanation of why I am currently tired.

I was up past 2am for a short-notice self-tape, then had a great meeting at 10:30am and worked an 8.5-hour shift, during which I learned that I have an audition tomorrow afternoon shortly after a pitch session beginning at 11 tomorrow morning, before which I’m hoping to squeeze in a jog and make my hair and makeup look great and pick up a thank-you gift for someone. After the audition, maybe I can work a half-day (this job, while I’m on the topic, is so flexible when it comes to gigs and auditions and has helped me tremendously with my pitching skills); if not, I might even be able to nap (whoa!) before watching a friend of mine in a play which was created in part by another friend of mine.

When I flip to next week in my dayplanner, I see the North American premiere of my most recent short film, some dedicated writing time, and at least one opportunity to use currently held talents in a new and exciting arena.

None of this is to say that I’m tired because I get everything done; I actually missed a blog this summer (even though publishing a post once a month should be super-easy), I won’t spend any time today on a new screenplay even though I’ve been pretty disciplined about working on that consistently so far, I’m weeks behind on a bunch of emails, and my room hasn’t been fully clean in the longest time. But what kind of fool would I be if I spent all my time stressing over those things instead of being glad for the important ones up top?

As we head into the final sixth of the year 2019, I truly hope you’re happy with what you’re doing now, or what you’ll be doing soon, or both.

Rest up. We’re all going to need it.

<3

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Closing out the best summer of my life . . .

. . . no exaggeration.

If we stretch the calendar definition of summer just a bit so that it starts on, like, May 21st =) mine included a dream proposal, wedding planning, future planning, the arrival of my unbelievably smart and cute godson, a diverse batch of gigs in which I was paid to sing and/or act and/or dance, my most recent short film debuting to “rapturous applause” in an Australian film festival, being chosen for the Reelworld Festival’s E20, seeing Hamilton as the highlight of a great weekend in Chicago, a wonderful family reunion on a beautiful secluded lake in eastern Ontario, a pretty great Caribana week, and some super-significant milestones for friends and family members.

So this next part will sound funny: I’m really hoping to slow down and not do as much over the fall and winter. Partially because the future planning and wedding planning is going to ramp up, and partially because it’s beginning to feel as though the more there is to celebrate, the harder it is to celebrate each thing adequately. If you have a month where one big-deal awesome thing happens, you can kind of bask in that thing for the entire month. And as deeply grateful as I am to have so much to celebrate in such a short amount of time, I want to make sure I don’t get to a point where I take any of these sorts of things for granted, you know? Plus, I have every reason to expect spring and summer 2020 to be even more full, and I’m not trying to be all run-down and sleep-deprived for that =D

My plan . . . as of right now, at least . . . is to spend a bit of time travelling and seeing family, and a lot of time doing things that it’s super-easy to put off (all the boring parts of adulting, like decluttering and having a garage sale and trying some new haircare stuff and expanding my cooking/baking repertoire and figuring out how to stay fit over the winter). This might mean my blogs and monthly newsletter updates are more boring for a few months, lol . . . sorry? . . . But I promise it’s temporary. And I suspect it’s necessary. I don’t think I’m anywhere near being tired of excitement yet, but I really want to make sure I’m at my best while living my best life.

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A Wonderful Week in the Life . . .

Let me start by quoting from the beginning of July’s post.

“A month ago, I was basking in the afterglow of The Silent Goodbye.” I’m still basking in it, a little bit. Such a great show and a great experience!

“A month from now, I’ll be reminiscing on Who You Callin Black Eh? and being grateful to have had great roles in live shows for back-to-back months.” Very accurate. We even won a Teen Choice Award for WYCBE! And yes, it’s been awhile since I had two back-to-back bookings . . . but read on . . .

“A month after that . . . well, let’s be honest, I’ll be excited for Caribana, but maybe there will be a new booking to celebrate then!” Again, accurate. And then there was a new booking to celebrate! That third booking started the whirlwind week that’s just now wrapping up for me, and I wanted to take a moment – and a breath – before plunging into a new workweek, so this is my chance to fill you in on everything about the Caribana Week.

The incomparable Octavia Spencer is portraying the legendary Madam C J Walker (an African American beauty and haircare entrepreneur who built her own fortune in the early 1900s) in a new Netflix series, and I was cast in it as a dancer in a juke joint. Loved being a part of this project! The costuming and wardrobe was out of this world in its authenticity and, well, fun =D Plus I got to meet and work with some fantastic and incredibly talented individuals. (I particularly loved my cute little button-up leather heels, although I do wish I’d figured out a way to stop my feet from hurting — this, as you’ll see, was a recurring theme for the week.) I’m not allowed to post any pictures from set, but stay tuned — the air date is this fall!

So that was my Monday: being on set in Hamilton. Tuesday (and from this point until the end of the post, you can keep an eye on my Instagram page for more pics and video) was my Caribana kickoff, first finally visiting Maracas in Kensington Market for some delicious roti and doubles (I’m going back there SO soon, lol), and then finally attending a Toronto edition of Tuesday on the Rocks and thoroughly enjoying every minute of it (I mean, it’s KES the Band, so how could I not??).

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I haven’t gone to Sweetness on the Water in a few years, and it was nice to spend a Caribana Wednesday night admiring the city’s skyline with soca blasting once again =) Unfortunately, this is the night my feet started really giving me trouble, with the parade itself still three sleeps away .  . .

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I had some hope that soaking them in a pool for awhile would help. Hello, Soca Or Die =D (and a chance to take photos with KES bassist Riad and Shal Marshall!)

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The pool definitely helped. Gumbo, however (one of the best dance parties you will ever go to), did not. Oops! Haha . . .

Up next: Friday Night Mas! I’d heard about this event last year and decided to give it a shot. I still think my section should have won (Old Town Jab forever, lol!) but I’m definitely glad to have been able to check out such a fun take on Grenada’s Monday Night Mas, close enough that I could walk home afterward ;-)

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Then, at long last, we woke up on Caribana Saturday morning and I prepared to play mas for my fifteenth year in a row. I jumped up with Saldenah for the first time, opting to match my fiancé for any pictures taken and be able to keep him close ;-) I have a lot to say about the parade itself, so I’ll probably do a separate post on that topic alone.

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And — sorry, tortured aching feet — the weekend wasn’t done yet!! Sunday ended up being a marathon of a day: a farewell breakfast for my friend and her partner as they left town (no pics taken), church (no pics taken), the closing performance of The Lion King’s 2019 Toronto run (didn’t get pics of all my family who attended), and a lovely family get-together to celebrate my uncle’s birthday (out of the few pics I took that I’m permitted to share, here’s me with a cousin who lives in Edmonton and who I am SO glad I got to see before she leaves again).

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And after lots of food and baby cuddles and a sleepy drive home, I let myself sleep in. My feet are grateful and my heart is full.

Now . . . after a breath or two on this holiday Monday . . . let’s see what else August has in store!

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Curtain Up!

A month ago, I was basking in the afterglow of The Silent Goodbye.

A month from now, I’ll be reminiscing on Who You Callin Black Eh? and being grateful to have had great roles in live shows for back-to-back months.

A month after that . . . well, let’s be honest, I’ll be excited for Caribana, but maybe there will be a new booking to celebrate then!

For a more thorough overview of the awesomeness piling up in my life these days — especially this June — make sure you’re added to my email newsletter, because the July mailout is going to be one to remember. For the purposes of this blog post, though, I want to focus on the show that will be on stage just one week from today =)

Not going to lie – I’m very tired from rehearsals and tech, and the rest of this blog post just got deleted, so I’m going to bang these details out for you (again) as quickly as I can, but please reach out if you have any questions at all.

Who You Callin Black, Eh? is a searing comedy about a young woman trying to claim her identity as an individual amidst the smothering influences of her white mother, her black father, her mean-spirited high school peers, and the larger-than-life characters she meets when she moves from Atlantic Canada to Toronto. It’s written by Rita Shelton Deverell, who is one of my mentors, so I’d be excited to have anything at all to do with it — much more so to be playing the role of Our Heroine, and with my very own dear old Dad as our musician! We have 7 shows for you to choose from, so please let me know which one you’re coming to and I’ll look for you in the theatre =D

Factory Theatre (Studio), 125 Bathurst St (at Adelaide)

July 4th at 10:15pm, July 6th at 6:45pm, July 7th at 1:00pm, July 9th at 8:00pm, July 11th at 5:45pm (relaxed performance), July 12th at 4:15pm (relaxed performance), July 14th at 12:15pm.

Tickets are $11 each plus taxes/fees, I advise you to purchase ahead of time at www.fringetoronto.com 

Bye for now!

 

*topples into bed*

 

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Oh, what a night . . . (lucky for you there are two more!)

You guys.

I am tired, footsore, slightly throatsore, and so deeply happy. (I know the pic doesn’t look like it, but we can go ahead and blame that on pre-show nerves.)

A few hours ago, I was performing in front of a live theatre audience for the first time in years. Though my songs and my scene were far from perfect, I’m extremely proud of what the cast and crew were able to pull off, grateful for the energy we received from the patrons, and excited to do it again three more times in the next 48 hours – phew!!

I’m yawning as I type  . . . and I’ve got an important audition tomorrow before reporting to the theatre . . . and it’ll take some time to redo my hair after my morning jog . . . so I’m going to sign off real soon! But let me make sure you have all the details you need before I go.

The show, presented by High Society Cabaret, is called The Silent Goodbye. As my burlesque alter ego, Isla Caine, I play an ambitious jazz singer named Lovey St Claire whose boss is the John Doe in a murder mystery set in 1930s Chicago. Not just for Lovey, but for the entire cast, this is a show full of wonderful characters and costumes, great music, and a surprising amount of emotional highs and lows as well as lots of laughs.

We’re at The Commons, 587A College St (upstairs) in Little Italy, across the street from Café Diplomatico. Tickets are $35 in advance or $45 if you pay at the door, and arts workers as well as sex workers may be able to take advantage of special pricing so contact me if you belong to either of those categories. You can click here to order your tickets for Friday May 24th at 8pm, Friday the 24th at 10:30pm, or Saturday May 25th at 8pm (almost sold out). Please do me a favour and answer, when asked, that you found out about the show from me, Chattrisse! =)

Here’s a sneak peek from rehearsal . . . now claim your ticket and come see the real deal! ;-)

*goes to bed, finally*

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Try, Try Again

Here in southwestern Ontario, we’ve had a couple of recent cold snaps – after springlike weather started to feel normal, we were reintroduced to snow, cold wind and even some freezing sleet. In fact, this morning I heard that some parts of the GTA might see snow this weekend – and this weekend is practically going to be May!

This makes so many of us irritated or even downright furious . . . which, now that I think about it, is kind of funny. As someone who sometimes needs 4 alarms to get out of bed, how dare I be mad at nature for not flawlessly transitioning from winter into spring in the blink of an eye?

Full disclosure: one of the lessons I’m trying to learn lately is that of patience and compassion. This applies both to other people and to myself, because I realize that being so short on patience with other people and being so short on patience with myself are two sides of the same coin. Sadly, I’ve noticed that I’m great at maintaining high standards . . . let’s be honest, it’s a habit that’s led me to accomplish most of the things I’m proud of in my life . . . but I really want to get better at being understanding too, the kind of person who you’d feel okay coming to and saying “I made a mistake and I don’t know what to do” because you’re pretty sure I wouldn’t just say “Well, what’d you make such a dumb mistake for??”

I’m good at maintaining patience with children (so far; I know the real test will come when I’m a parent or similarly invested and exhausted) . . . not nearly as good at being compassionate toward teenagers and adults . . . good at keeping my cool with employees who I train, but only to a point. And I fear that some of the people I love the most are also those for whom I don’t show nearly enough compassion . . . which does worry me somewhat about my temperament as a parent, a spouse, an older creative professional, etc. I really wish this were something I could just learn and be done with learning, instead of something I seem to fail at continually.

But no matter how many tries it takes, spring always comes. And for an entire season to turn over requires countless miracles; so I continue to remind myself that my task of becoming more compassionate is far from impossible.

And maybe, like summer, I’ll appreciate it even more after all of these false starts and setbacks . . . right?

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Reflections on a Very Artsy Weekend

Wow.

This past week was super-tiring. The week coming up will probably be equally tiring, for different reasons. So I’m proud and gratified that I made/took/created time for a variety of artistic pursuits in between, especially in the last 48 hours or so.

Friday night I came home from work and watched one of my fave films with Dad: The Devil Wears Prada. It’s so well-done, and it’s held up really nicely over time (can you believe it’s 13 years old?!), and since I’ve only watched clips of it lately (thank you, Lessons from the Screenplay; thank you, Dylan is in Trouble) it felt good to take the whole thing in.

Saturday I spent basically the entire day at the Canadian Film Fest, which is such a fun, well-organized event that I’m astonished I’ve never been to it until this year! Over the three screenings I attended I was able to watch 20 short films and a feature, projects that some of my friends and acquaintances were part of won awards, and neither my tiredness (nor my bummed-out-ness at not having won the $10,000 prize I was hoping for as one of the Top Ten Semifinalists for their Script Contest) were enough to keep me from the afterparty, which I THOROUGHLY enjoyed. (That’s in all caps because it’s surprising; normally I’m super awkward or even bored at industry parties.) My boyfriend and I had some great conversations, only about half of which concerned filmmaking and storytelling and art, and I was reminded that I’m still on the right track even when I don’t feel like I am — plus, I was inspired to add a new tidbit to that same Top Ten screenplay.

Right before I left for church this morning, a neighbour of mine tipped me off that today is the last day to see Femmes Noires, the stirring Mickalene Thomas exhibit at the AGO. I made my way there after services despite the dozen tasks already in my dayplanner, and I’m so deeply glad that I did. Femmes Noires reminded me that it’s really easy to overlook the celebration of black women’s bodies and the amplification of our voices unless you immerse yourself in work like this once in awhile — because our bodies are so often exposed and our voices routinely caricaturized. These are actually themes which show up in that same screenplay as well, so the timing of this visit was perfect. Also, out of the kindness of his heart and without me even asking, the gentleman who greeted me at the desk gave me a complimentary ticket! So I was smiling even before I checked my coat, and was happy to do a bit of shopping in the gift store on my way out. ;-)

I did just a little bit of writing a few hours later, adding to some thoughts on a new project which I’ll write either for TV or for film. And finally, though certainly not least,  literary art has been a big part of my weekend, as I’ve been keeping a promise I made to myself that I’ll read at least a few pages of a book (yes, it has to be paper held in my hands) every day. The Handmaid’s Tale has been getting most of my reading attention lately. So, from commercial film to indie film and indie filmmaking to visual (and audiovisual) art to the literary arts, I feel like I’ve really listened to that part of me who’s always asking to be immersed in the artistic world(s) this weekend. I might even carve out the time to play some piano before calling it a night.

And maybe all of that will make the upcoming week, which so far looks decidedly non-artsy, a little easier to handle.

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Minding my own Business?

. . . in one sense, I haven’t been doing enough of this. Actually, later this month I’ll be renewing my ID number with a great line of personal care products because I miss buying them at a heavily discounted price =D

But that’s a network marketing company, which makes it different from what I want to talk about here. I set (and blogged) myself a goal in January 2018 to spend more of my money with small-time, individual or family-owned businesses; black ones in particular. Since I did actually remember to keep notes on my first-time small-business purchases throughout the rest of 2018, I thought I’d give a quick report on that . . . and you may want to go back and peruse that post, because it’s one where I wasn’t quite satisfied with my “resolution” of the topic. I found it really interesting to read again 13 months later.

Anyway! Here are my first-time purchases from small business for the year 2018 (not counting random suppliers on sites like AliExpress).

1. Very soon after that blog I purchased a lovely black mermaid pin set from Oh Plesiosaur, and was extra happy to do so because of what that business and its owners represent (they’re definitely allies). They’ve changed their name to Shoal, but you’ll see the same great items if you want to check out their new site.

2. My dad’s birthday is early in the year, and I decided to incorporate some punny Dad jokes into his gift by carefully perusing the socks available at YoSox, then buying 4 pairs.

3. My boyfriend celebrated a milestone birthday, and I started buying his gifts early – beginning with this dope pin which any hip hop head would love (there are different ones for East Coast and West Coast albums, so everybody wins). I also scooped a birthday present for one of my best friends, and in both cases the giftees absolutely loved them. Good lookin out, Good Dope Supply Co!

4. While in Haïti, I visited the Ogier-Fombrun Museum, formerly a plantation. One of the things that struck me in their gift shop was a selection of locally handmade cards, with designs which were created from banana leaves . . . so naturally I bought a bunch (ha ha).

5. Remember that milestone birthday from #3? I decided we needed some big numeric helium balloons. I received great service from TO Balloons (and their location was perfect for me), so . . . check!

6. I’m pretty sure that non-franchised vintage or thrift stores count as “small businesses,” since they’re essentially ongoing garage sales. This year I discovered Public Butter and I’ll probably take a third trip over there pretty soon, as my first time there I was just a spectator and my second time I only bought a couple of bandannas.

7. Festivals like Afrofest are great places to shop small and local – this year I ended up seeing one of my high school friends and she was selling the most delicious-smelling body butter I have ever encountered, so of course I bought some from her Diva Creations booth. Give their Mango Burst Body Butter a try and see if I’m exaggerating!

8. Speaking of festivals (we’re almost done speaking about butter), my mom helped to organize a music festival in Windsor, so in July I spent some time there and was extremely disciplined, buying only one thing. It was this pretty reversible ring which I can’t describe very well except that due to a clever hinge construction, you can choose which of two stones to showcase each time you wear it. Here’s the thing though . . . I don’t remember their name. So I hope Google is somehow able to help you out if you want one of your own. Sorry!

9. Probably the first purchase on this list that I’ve already repurchased: Curl Quench Hair Butter from EarthTones Naturals. My girlfriend invited me to a demo at her home where Dr Susan Walker came and spoke with us about our hair textures and needs. I bought a tub of the Curl Quench that night and then ordered two big ones on Black Friday weekend. Absolutely love it – still!

10. My hair was a topic of concern for sure, because I noticed it thinning over the summer. Eden Kingdom Essential sells a few products to help with this, and I’ve definitely seen a positive change with consistent use of their Formula D hair regrowth serum and shampoo. (Good thing I typed this up today, because I’m reminded now that I need to re-up on both.)

11. One of my faves! For years now I’ve been wanting to support a particular acquaintance of mine who sells beautiful things – formerly it was clothing which I wasn’t able to justify because it was basically so gorgeous I didn’t have enough places to wear it, and now it’s jewellery with a message. So I prowled the Omi Woods website, saved up and bought myself the Queen of Sheba coin necklace in October, and every time I wear it feels like a special occasion.

12. The One of a Kind Show is another great chance to support local and/or small business owners, and back in 2017 I’d watched my friend buy a glass straw from Glass Sipper, then gone home and thought, Huh. I kinda wished I’d grabbed one for myself. So this year I did =) I admit I don’t use it super-often, but every little bit helps when you’re concerned about the environment.

13. Also at the OOAK Show, I met Lana of Lana Betty Geometric Contemporary Jewellery and she did a fantastic job making me a birthstone ring. I wanted to go back and visit her booth again before the show closed – maybe I’ll be able to reconnect with her at the spring 2019 edition =D

14. I attended the Black-Owned Holiday Market in December, and while my first purchase there doesn’t count (I bought a necklace from a vendor who is both black and Afrocentric, but it’s not my first time purchasing from her), this tignon I bought from My Tignon sure does! It was cool that they even sat me down and showed me a couple of different ways to wrap it.

Is there a Small Business Challenge that could be woven into this? Will I hit 20 in 2019, even with my caveat that they have to be people/business I haven’t purchased from before? Guess we’ll have to stay tuned to find out . . .

. . . but the answer is probably No, because we’re halfway through February and I haven’t been keeping track the way I did last year. Lol, sorry!