Itoja’s Top Blogs + My Number 1 Blogging Tip!

If you’ve been following me for some time now, then you are aware that I’ve written about everything under the sun.  If you can name it, I’ve probably written about it or given my two cents about it in some form or another.  This is one reason why I like to call myself your virtual best friend—because I’m here to give you the 411—and one of the reasons why you’ll never catch me conforming to a niche.

With that being said, I wanted to highlight a few of my top blogs thus far.  Perhaps there is one on the list that you didn’t get a chance to read or maybe you’re just interested in seeing the blogs that has gotten the most love over time. Whatever the case may be, I have them here for your review.  Believe me, they range from Love and Romance to smoking weed.  It’s a wide spectrum.  It truly makes me laugh out loud!  But, I now know what you guys are into! HAHA.  Listen, this is a no judgement zone so no worries here! Continue reading

Brick by Brick

When a relationship doesn’t pan out to be what we expect it to be or what our version of a particular relationship should look like we begin to build mental walls.  The walls that we build are set into place brick by brick; because while we hope the relationship has potential we don’t want to personally set ourselves up for failure.  At best, we are trying to protect the heart.

I believe this to be true for all relationships.  Whether it’s a romantic relationship, a friendship, family, business, or casual. Continue reading

You’ve asked; I’ve answered! (Getting to know Toya)

In just a few months I’ll stumble across my one year anniversary of blogging and I believe there is no better time than now for you to get to know me a little better.  If you’ve been following along and enjoying this journey as much as I have then you may know a little about me,  but perhaps we could dig a little deeper.  So that’s what this blog is all about; getting to know me better!

To assist me in this project, I asked my readers some time ago to send me their burning questions, and like always, they came through.  Additional questions were added by me and then some were taken from The Fab Files.


Why do you blog?

In short, I love to write.  There is a ton of stuff going on in my head, often at the same time.  I realized that I needed a place to unpack my brain at any given moment of the day.  I want to somehow, someway, empower young girls and women across the world.  Perhaps, even men too.  I’m not opposed to that.  I wouldn’t say I’ve had a rough life, actually, I think it’s been pretty good for the most part.  But I have experiences a lot of things and I want to talk about it all.

What are your goals when it comes to blogging?

My goals are:

– To be a sounding board where we can all come together in one place.

 -To be as relatable as possible to my readers while also representing the black culture.

-To grow as a blogger and to network more.

-Ultimately, my goal is to be the Oprah Winfrey of Blogging! Plain and simple.

What are your nicknames? What do you prefer to be called?

I have a ton of nicknames; Toya, Toja, Toj, Loli, Hash Brown, Jamaican Toya (inside story).  I prefer to be called Toya or Toja.  But when I’m at work in a professional setting I prefer Latoya.

How do you come up with your blog ideas?

Inspiration mostly.  I also think about what do I want my readers to learn from me after reading my blog?  Which is why a lot of blogs are centered around my everyday life or experiences but hopefully written in a way to where the readers can learn from or at least start a conversation.  Sometimes I’m giving suggestions on blog post from readers.  I really love when my readers give me suggestions–this is what helps me grow.

What is your zodiac sign?

I’m a Taurus.  I’m a bull but I think for the most part a nice one.  I can be very stubborn and standoffish at times.  I’m not easily moved.  I don’t necessarily make friends easy.  I think the Taurus has a lot to do with that.

Who performs the most random acts of kindness out of everyone you know?

It would have to be a tie between my mother and grandmother.  They are huge givers and they inspire me to be like them, probably more than they know.

Favorite sound?

My favorite sound is silence.  I really don’t like a lot of noise.  There are moments when I will sit at home with no TV or anything on.  I love being in the quiet and stillness of my thoughts.  My phone is ALWAYS on silent.  Which is why I miss a lot of phone calls.  I don’t like to hear it ring constantly, I don’t like to hear text message chimes, or email chimes.  I’ll see it when I see it.

Favorite pastime thing to do?

I LOVE traveling.  If I could travel for a living that would be my job.  I enjoy going to new places and learning about their culture.  It’s exciting and fun.  I also enjoy going to wineries.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud to be a mom.  It is truly one of the greatest blessings and definitely a true way to learn how to love unconditionally.

Name a time when you were really afraid?

This may seem really funny,  but it when I was Jet Skiing in the Florida Keys.  It was the most scariest things I had every done.  I was terrified.  I was cussing and praying at the same time.  I was so afraid.  All I saw was water and I am not a swimmer.  I was on the back of my sister and she didn’t know what she was doing although she tried to act like she did.  I thought I would die.

Are you high maintenance? Explain.

I would say, perhaps, a little.  I enjoy really nice things but I do ball on a budget.

If you could restore one broken relationship, which would it be?

I don’t want to say that it’s broke, but I would make the relationships between my brothers and I a lot stronger and closer.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I would have 3 homes.  One in Virginia, my home state.  One in Florida, because that’s where the hubby wants to live.  Then one in California.  I love vacationing in California, the weather is perfect and I love the atmosphere.  In my dream world we would rotate homes about every 4 months!

What is your go to TV show when nothing else is on?

My go-to TV show is most likely any 90’s sitcom from when I was growing up.  I can usually sit and watch those shows for hours.


Did I leave off anything that you really wanted to know?  Leave a comment and I’ll be sure to answer.

Oh, and I’d like to know a little about you too.  Tell me where you’re reading from?

 

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Life happens and then what?

Typically, this blog is fun and light-hearted.  Sometimes it’s even sassy and mischievous. To be honest, I love all of that about this blog but I must be real and say that sometimes, LIFE HAPPENS!

We find ourselves living our “Best Life” and suddenly we are faced with what looks like turmoil.  Not just with me but with all of us and we have to dig deeper and reach a little higher.  So today, I want to present a different side of this blog.  I want to present a place of refuge.  I want to remind my readers that no matter what you are going through at any time of your life that God is sitting at His thrown and he sees and hears all of your cries.

There are times when I must be willing and obedient to the Word of God and bow down to his authority.  That time is now.  On a daily basis we all go through so much.  It can be on the job, at home, or within our own minds.

The great thing about God is that He will never put more on you than you can bear and often times we have to remind ourselves of that.  Sometimes God has to break us all the way down so that he can build us back up and make room for overflow in our lives.

So whatever you may be going through today, I want to suggest to you to surrender that THING to God.  Whether it’s your marriage, finances, a job, your children, your health, an addiction, your mental state, etc.  Maybe you’re just constantly on the go and you’re so busy with your every day activities that you haven’t even had a moment to think about your day or what is consuming all of your time.  You’re so distant from the world and the word of God, you don’t know whether you are coming or going.  Whatever it is, we need to surrender.  When we surrender to God we then make room for whatever that is profitable in our lives.  Whether it be peace, or love, or joy, or deliverance, or just time.

We have the power to face our situation straight in the face.  I tell Satan all the time, not today!  Hell nah, to the nah, nah, nah!

There are also times when I have to reconnect my faith.  As an adult I tend to let my worries or doubts do the thinking for me.  I know that is not right.  I have to remind fear that it is not the GPS system of my life and therefore I will not be following along its path.

Like the Prodigal Son, I have to go back to what I know and what I know to be a constant in my life; and that is, that God cannot be moved.  He is still like the tree planted by the waters. He is still the beginning and the end.  He is still the only living one.  He is still Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  He is still my rock!

Can I get an Amen?

In closing, I would like to say this prayer for all of you:

Dear God,

I thank you for the readers of this blog.  I ask that you touch them wherever they may be in this appointed time.  I ask that you give each of them the strength to surrender to you and your will.  I pray that you take what was and make it be better than what you said it was going to be.  Turn their test into a testimony.  Turn their pain into joy.  Lord God I pray that as they go through this storm called life that they would come out as pure gold.  We thank you for your power, for your grace, and for your mercy.  We ask that you see past our insecurities so that we can learn to grow again.  We ask that you give us peace that surpass all of our understanding.  But most of all we just thank you for being you.  In Jesus name, Amen.

I love each and every one of you and I pray that this blog will be beneficial in your life today or whenever “Life Happens”.

XOXO,

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Inspiration for our Young Men who are off to College!

Connecting with a person to get your point across is as easy as getting on their level?  Especially, when you’re trying to relay a message to the opposite sex or to a person who may be younger or older than you.

When it was finally time for my nephew to walk the stage after completing High School, I knew I wanted to leave him with a message.  He was completing one goal and getting ready to start another; as he’ll be heading to college in the fall.  Society loves to down play achievements such as these for African-American males but on the flip side they are quick to say one is a thug of sorts.  Therefore, it was my goal to inspire him! Continue reading

Ancestry DNA provides the missing pieces to my family puzzle!

Disclaimer: This is a longer read than normal; but it’s a great one!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and just assume we’ve all worked a puzzle at some point in our lives.  Puzzles tend to range in size with as many or as few oddly shaped pieces imaginable.

Connecting smaller pieces together in order to create a larger masterpiece is the goal when working any puzzle.  Like most, I start with the border; because in fact, that’s the easiest part.

From there I begin to concentrate on certain areas of the puzzle and I begin filling in the center by gently pressing two pieces together.  I can sit in silence for hours focusing on matching one correct piece with another, and another, and another.  For weeks, one puzzle can consume most of my time. Continue reading

Have you been to the underground?

Knowing your history is important.  Whether it’s your families medical history, your credit history, or the history of your ancestors–when you are in the “know” you’re allowing yourself the opportunity for growth.  In addition to growth, you’re preparing yourself for any obstacles that may come your way in advance.

This is why I’m not quite sure why it is being asked that the black culture should forget about slavery and forget about the many roadblocks that black people have had to endure over time.  I ranted about this a little on Facebook but figured this was the better platform to vocalize my opinion.

Let’s face it, we are ONLY 54 years out of segregation.  Meaning, my living parents and grandparents have all lived through a divided world and are all here to share their stories and experiences whenever they feel the need to.  The life of a black person isn’t a made up thriller story that people are fabricating just for the heck of it.  It’s easy for people to say that we (black people) should forget about “color” whenever black people decide to talk about slavery, the past, or racial issues but do you see white people forgetting “color” when blacks are harassed for being in a store for too long?  Or for being killed for having a toy gun?  This all boils down to fairness.  Equality.  Checks and balances.

Just because a person may not experience racism/oppression/bondage (or whatever it is that you have endured) doesn’t mean it is not true.  The fact that people are trying to say that slavery didn’t exist, that it was choice, and that we should forget about it, truly baffles me.

This brings me to the gist of this blog.  While hanging out in Northern Virginia for a quick weekend trip my family and I made our way to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), located in Washington, DC on the National Mall.

img_3976I’ve been itching to make it to this museum since it opened in September of 2016.  I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried to get tickets online to no avail.  One year and 7 months later this museum is still one of the hardest museums to get into due to its popularity and the length of time attendees are spending inside.

Instead of attempting to get tickets online, we thought we would just try on a random Saturday since we were already in town.  We arrived at the museum midday with no tickets.  While the men searched for a place to park, the ladies approached the gentleman working and asked if there were any day passes left.  He gave us what he had, which were only three passes but we needed seven!  He advised us to try back in a few hours.  Taking his advice, we took the three tickets that were available and decided to venture around to other museums.  Before heading back to NMAAHC we enjoyed lunch at Ben’s Chili Bowl and enjoyed the beautiful Spring day in the States Capital.

Once we returned, they had exactly four passes available.  With those four passes plus the three we had from earlier, we were now ready to go inside!  We took a chance and luckily, it worked in our favor.

So here I was.

Ready and anxious to explore.  I had an idea of what to expect but at the same time I really wasn’t sure.  The museum was ten years in the making.  Not ten years to build but ten years to go from a thought, federal laws, funding, and to finally being able to build.  Another few years would pass as they began construction and collecting over 35,000 artifacts.

We were advised to start from the bottom floor and to work our way up to the higher levels.  I would also advise others to do the same if they are ever visiting the museum; I think that was a great idea looking back.  We all (my family plus other attendees) gathered on a huge elevator and traveled downed to the bottom floor, which is actually underground.  The elevator was glass with a black wall behind it.  As we traveled down to the underground floor we began seeing the years printed on the walls.  The years would scroll down in descending order as if we were going back into time. 1900s, 1800s, 1700s, 1600s, 1500s, 1400s!  Then the elevator stopped.

img_3950.jpgWe were dropped off in slavery.  It was dark and gloomy.  Dark in spirit and dark in light.  The area was tight, which I believe was done on purpose.  As you walked around you felt a sadness all around you.  So many words to read, so many things to see, with a double dose of heartache.  I’d stand there stunned trying to comprehend but really I couldn’t.  I could barely fathom the pain and to think that for hundreds of years MY ancestors had to live through this.

img_3949Slaves were traded for goods. They were beaten and abused and owned by slave masters.  Auctioned off like old cars.  Slaves were not given the privilege to learn how to read or write because slave masters were afraid the slaves would figure out how to escape.  Viewing the shackles and the mistreat that was bestowed upon our ancestors made me feel like I was living in that moment for just a second.  Everything felt ten times more real just by walking through exhibits in a museum.

img_3951Imagine actually living during those times.  Nothing about being a slave was a choice.  When they came over on ships, tied together and malnourished, many didn’t even make it over.  Some jumped off ships as dying was better than having to suffer.  They didn’t know the language and had nothing.  Slave masters left slaves in their wills as if they were pieces of property passed down through the family.

img_3956It was a lot to take in.  So much so, that we chose not see the entire slavery portion of the museum.  We wanted to have the chance to see the other floors within the museum and decided to move out of that era.  We also decided to skip the next floor which was the Jim Crow segregation floor and the Civil Rights era.

We headed our way up to the 70s and 80s.  The era of “I’m Black and I’m Proud.”   We strolled as we “ahhed” in amazement.  The progression that black people had made over the years was substantial.  For once, it felt good to see positive images of the black culture.

img_3970We kept moving up into the 90s and the 2000s steadily progressing but at times feeling like our black culture had become stagnant, again.

We strolled around the sports section…..

Film…..

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Music…..

and just black people at its greatness, in every genre and facet imaginable.

Indeed, the culture has come far.  The museum also highlights President Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States.

img_3964There wasn’t enough time to really take in every aspect of the museum.  We needed more than the 2.5 hours we allotted ourselves.  I’ve read that many people have spent around 8 hours in the museum.  With its own Café, plus a theater, I can see how easily this could happen.

I would advise anyone to visit this museum.  I guarantee you will leave with a different perspective on things.  I remember seeing some white people browsing the museum as I was.  I thought to myself, “maybe they get it.” Maybe they understand the importance of knowing the real story.  No matter your color you should visit this museum and allow it to be educational for you.

img_3962As a proud black woman I realize how far we have come but at the same time I realize the additional steps we must take in order to continue to move forward.  The NMAAHC does a great job of chronologicalling the Aftrican American history.  It is up to all of us to continue to strive for complete freedom.

My heart has been heavy since our museum visit because I just don’t understand why or how individuals could be so ignorant of the black struggle.

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The term, “started from the bottom; now we’re here” fits the mold of most black people’s life as well as this museum.  Which is why starting from the bottom underground floor and working your way up is key.  And yes, there is a lot of pain associated with those dark days of slavery.  Century after century we’ve taken two steps forward and then are somehow knocked back one.  But one of the greatest assets of black people is that we never give up.  Even when we have to start from the bottom, we make a way out of no way and we rise up!!

 

 All opinions in this post are of my own!

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