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A couple of years ago, the Cousins’ Group Chat turned into an annual trip. Last year, New Orleans (read about it here). This year, we decided to trot across the California wilderness also known as Los Earthquakeles (Los Angeles), almost wine country then San Francisco (why is it so hilly). Please note, there was a list of suggested cities, that I suggested San Francisco as well as the drive so any issues we encountered may have been my fault but I prefer to blame my cousins because I lack accountability, responsibility, and maturity. 

Cause it’s expensive AF to fly from Jackson, MS, I drove to my motherland (New Orleans) then flew to Los Earthquakeles. Several hours later, I arrived. We had lunch in Beverly Hills, then I had a minor heart attack as we drove through the Hills to my cousins’ new-ass, fly-ass pad, I died, came back to life, then took a nap. When I woke up, I put my toes and ankles in their new-ass, fly-ass pool but moved to the hot tub because I am more pleasant when broiled with light butter and cajun seasoning. Our other cousin later joined us but I was too tired to acknowledge her presence because I was tired and am a middle-aged woman. Note: I am not a middle-aged woman. 

Day two featured a moment in history that I will never forget. A mutha f***ing earthquake! Mom, sorry for cursing but it was a mutha f***ing earthquake, there is no other way to describe it. I added curse word pasties, hope that helps. Anyway, we woke up later than expected, I was hungry, then everything around me started vibrating. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. My spirit left my body and floated to the top of the bathroom while my physical body held on to the sink. I returned to my body in time to catch my cousin walking down the hallway and asked her “did you see that?” She turned to me, looked me in my eyes, and said “huh?” This is such a profound response that I have to type it again:


After, I was fed and had mimosas (but not enough to forget that just 24 hours into this trip, I died twice). We learned the Solvang leg of our trip was canceled due to the earthquake and because all of Southern California fell into the Pacific Ocean (also this did not happen). We spent the day hanging in West Hollywood and Los Angeles, returned to the new-ass, fly-ass pad for a 2-week nap, got back in the hot tub for a broil then to bed.

The next morning we packed the Prius and I was judged for getting a Starbucks breakfast over my cousin’s concoction. We hit the road for the six-hour drive to San Francisco where I experienced anxiety as we drove through mountains, hills, and canyons. I kept thinking a giant boulder would roll over the Prius as a result of another earthquake or aftershocks. Obviously, that didn’t happen because I have published this post.

About 45 minutes from San Francisco, my cousin asked a very important question. What were the plans once we arrived? Yes, we had planned this trip for several months and were reaching the city limits without any plans. YOLO! Our Airbnb was down the street from Dolores Park which we walked through then to the Castro District and Haight-Ashbury. During the very long walks that were supposed to be a few blocks away but were miles, I learned that I had lower body weakness. The hills and steps should be illegal yet here we are. We took a Lyft back to the apartment for obvious reasons.

A cool building in San Francisco

We got an early start on day two. We had breakfast at Pier 39, I looked towards Alcatraz and silently whispered “free JT,” we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf then back to the car to drive up to Coit Tower, then to the Golden Gate Bridge where we posed like this:

Cousin and I doing millennials poses?

The bridge and the San Francisco Bay is the third most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen (after myself and Baby Gumbeaux). After, we crossed the Bay to go to Oakland, CA for “soul food.” Please note my tone via the quotation marks. 

“Soul Food” in Oakland, CA

My cousin recommended Lena’s Soul Food Cafe. I got fried chicken, turnip greens (which I have tasted maybe twice before this visit), and mac and cheese. The portions were very large (even larger than what I’ve ever received in Mississippi). Naturally, when eating at a place like this you have to get a flavored soda. I got grape (and hated myself for it). The chicken was OK. I won’t comment on the rest of the food because I know gangs are a thing in California and I am not trying to get smoked behind “soul food.” What I will say is that it was a very black experience. In addition to the grape soda, the Color Purple was playing on the TV while Afrobeats blasted through the speakers. I think each visit should come with a certification in African American studies or something. After, we roamed a somewhat vacant and almost gentrified downtown Oakland. I asked to be dropped off to take a nap and recover from the AFRICAN AFRICAN American experience but never did. Note: African African is not a typo but the best way I can describe it.

Cool-Ass Building in Downtown Oakland

On our final day, we had breakfast and per my cousin’s request, attended church (aka vacation church which is attending church while you are supposed to be sipping mimosas on vacation). The East Bay Church of Religious Science was a new experience for me but I had been learning about similar beliefs via my cousin Rev. Karen Frost and Spirit Uncensored. The only expectations I had was that the service would be as quick as my cousin said it would be. I was surprised by the diversity and not because diversity doesn’t exist but because the church was clearly Afrocentric and unapologetic about discussing police brutality and immigration. They kept saying none of us are free until all of us are free. It was fascinating, the people were nice (a little too touchy), but I was glad for the experience; particularly, because several people called me beautiful.

East Bay Church of Religious Science

We left before the service ended and experienced traffic nearly the whole way back to Los Earthquakeles. I ate, slept for a few hours then caught a flight back to my motherland entirely too early. My Dad picked me up from the airport, we had lunch in Treme then I put the pedal to the metal back to Jackson, MS where I am still recovering. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and follow me @pinkgumbeaux on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Allen Toussaint Mural in New Orleans

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I’m taking an unprecedented approach to celebrating my 4 Year Sisterlocksary (something I am sure no other blogger is brave enough to attempt). Instead of listing the usual questions, benefits, and challenges, I interviewed my Sisterlocks. Although reluctant, my Sisterlocks can be easily persuaded with brunch and mimosas.

Pink Gumbeaux: Hello, gorgeous! Thank you for agreeing to chat with me. How are you?

My Sisterlocks: Hydrated, glowing and growing.

Pink Gumbeaux: Every time we’re out, someone compliments you. Why do you get so much attention? Is it always positive?

My Sisterlocks: I think it’s because I’m long and beautiful. People also like that I’m tiny and “neat.” It makes locs more palatable. When you first got me, people were asking if I was going to loc and obviously. I mean, my name is Sisterlocks.

Pink Gumbeaux: OK, I get that.

My Sisterlocks: And, I want to add that if you didn’t like me at my shortest, don’t compliment me at my longest.

Pink Gumbeaux: You seem upset.

My Sisterlocks:

Pink Gumbeaux: Ok, you look really pissed. Let’s take a break, order another mimosa.

My Sisterlocks:

Pink Gumbeaux: People are often flabbergasted by the cost and time it takes to get you installed. Why?

My Sisterlocks: Well, it took 20 hours to install me into your head. No one is doing that for $55.25. Also, consider the longterm benefits: minimum maintenance (we relock every 5 to 6 weeks and wash every 2 weeks), little to no product usage, and you barely style me because you’re basic.

Pink Gumbeaux: Well, I’m busy.

My Sisterlocks: Yes. Busy and basic. Do you even get paid for blogging?

Pink Gumbeaux: Do you get paid for that gray hair? I just dyed you two weeks ago grandma. You’re low maintenance but we break the rules every now and then. We do use products.

My Sisterlocks: Your mama and yes, you do dye me black *coughs* basic. You bathe me in Love & Beauty Planet’s Murumuru Butter & Rose Shampoo and spray me with Rosewater. It makes me feel beautiful and wealthy. Sometimes, you add Curl’s Blueberry Bliss Curl Control Paste and use what’s probably expired setting lotion when you want a wave. Most importantly, you recite affirmations to me. You tell me how long, beautiful, thick, and shiny I am. I really appreciate that.

Pink Gumbeaux: We were really concerned about your edges after your body was released from incubation (aka after giving birth). We read horror stories about women shedding and losing their edges. We had some thinning on a few locs but largely avoided it. 

My Sisterlocks: Honestly, luck and the Holy Spirit was wrapped around me.

Pink Gumbeaux: Any advice for someone considering Sisterlocks?

My Sisterlocks: Research. The Sisterlocks website (which needs a makeover), blogs, vlogs, the Better Business Bureau? I’m literally just hair. Like, figure it out.

Pink Gumbeaux: Any plans for the future? Color? Maybe shave the side?

My Sisterlocks: *stares in you only wear your hair in two hairstyles so why are you even asking me this*

Pink Gumbeaux: Well, thanks again. Where can people follow you?

My Sisterlocks: Obviously, everywhere they follow you.

Well, that was probably one of the most challenging interviews I’ve ever had. I’ve already written a ton about Sisterlocks, check it out here and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @pinkgumbeaux.

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I’m done with this year, throw the entire year away.

Photo Courtesy of my friend Natalie and Soul Synergy Center. Also, my ponytail is cute.

A combination of rave reviews and a shit week resulted in me booking an appointment to visit Mississippi’s only salt cave located inside of Soul Synergy Center in Flowood,  Mississippi.

WTH is a salt cave? What are the benefits? Such an inquisitive little reader. For more information (including cost), visit their website.

The Friday before last, I sashayed into the center in camo and platforms, with the appropriate clothing in tow. I arrived earlier than expected so I walked around their store, checked Facebook to judge you guys then walked around a bit more. I didn’t really have any expectations, was borderline skeptical but was hoping to be surprised. I thought it would be cool if I floated out of the session, glowing.

While waiting, I was informed I could get a foot massage while in the salt cave and because Husband doesn’t rub my feet longer than 3.2 minutes, I thought why not? Once in the cave, I picked one of the several zero gravity chairs, was given a warm compress for my neck and a blanket (because it’s a bit chilly in the cave). And, because I had a bit of a stressful week, I did not do a great job relaxing. Basically, my brain did the following for 44 of the 45 minutes in the cave.

And when I was finally able to clear my mind and relax, the bell rung. My time was up. I wondered if it was a waste of time and money but once I left the cave, I was able to breath better (I was a bit congested when I first entered). While my brain was still a bit frazzled, my body felt completely relaxed. Once home, I was super shocked that my eczema outbreak had completely dried up. I had a patch that had been there for a couple of weeks, most likely triggered by stress.

There was a group meditation in the salt cave the following week so of course, I went and arrived 2 seconds before the session was scheduled to begin (Flowood is far AF). I didn’t want to attend because my sucky week rolled into the new week but that was also the reason I needed to go. Once again, I really didn’t have any expectations and was too stuck in my head to wonder what group meditation would be like.

I was not as successful at clearing my mind but thanks to the instructor’s reminders to clear our thoughts (hey Beth), I took those as opportunities to start again. A few times during the meditation, I felt chills and was later told there was a lot of energy in the cave. I thought I was just cold, should’ve wore a sweater. Maybe, it was my pony tail growing to the butt-length I’ve been desiring for the last couple years. Either way, I’ll be back.

If you’ve ever been to a salt cave, tell me about your experience. If you’ve been to the one in Soul Synergy Center, how was it? If you want to buy my friendship, please buy a session for me.

Follow me everywhere @pinkgumbeaux.

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Note: This does post not contain any pictures or videos of me on the pole because I can’t trust you guys (not you mom, I can trust you).

Last Thursday, my “friend” at Silent Socialite asked me if I knew about Taboo Dance and Aerial Fitness‘ Holiday Pole Jam. I was like nah but that seems fun. Another friend encouraged it, stating it would be a great opportunity to make new friends and I love making new friends because I am so friendly (I’m not). Then, I decided it would be too much socializing, I didn’t have any shorts (which was suggested on the site), plus it cost $35. Do you people think I’m Bill Gates? But, I was unsuccessful in getting out of it, took out a second mortgage and bought my ticket (first of all, I don’t have a first mortgage), and bought shorts from Old Navy that showed more thigh than I was comfortable with. I invited the friends I thought was most likely to have rhythm.

It was Friday night and I was wondering what should one eat before swinging around a pole. I settled on wine and a baked potato Baby Gumbeaux ate most of. Upon arrival, my “friend” was just getting out of her car, we entered the building together, and was encouraged to drink. Drinking then hitting the pole seemed dangerous but whatevs.

It was time to start and opposed to the traditional stretching, we twerked it out to City Girls. This, I can do. I had been waiting for an opportunity to twerk outside of my living room. Now, to the pole. At this point, I would like to explain why my friend received quotation marks. There was a lot of chorography to be learned in two hours, is this the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater? Not to mention, I had to keep spraying rubbing alcohol on my hands to grip the pole. I thought I should arrive like a melanin goddess so I applied Vaseline, cocoa butter and glitter before arrival. It should’ve been common sense that arriving as a greasy and glittery chicken strip would prohibit me from gripping the pole but sense isn’t always common.

We were split into two groups and each time it was my group’s turn, I envisioned killing my performance and I most definitely killed something, just not the routine. Overall, I had fun. So much fun that I was ready to join the class and become a competitive pole dancer, my true purpose. But first, I need to ditch the basic bitch gym membership I have so if there are any doctors or lawyers who can get me out of this contract, email me.

Side note: I was sore af the next day. Not sure I left the bed much that day. To be quite honest, my knees still hurt. Why do my knees hurt? Anyway, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @pinkgumbeaux. And, I have a podcast! It’s for transplants and sometimes locals which may never apply to you but check it out anyway, I need the numbers.

I love us for real.

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I turned 33 on October 12th and almost instantly, I had my shit together.

Just kidding, clickbait.

Per tradition, I reflect on the previous year and set goals for the next year. Obviously, becoming Baby Gumbeaux’s mom and adjusting to motherhood was the biggest event of the year. To compliment that adjustment, I resigned from every organization and board, with the exemption of PTA . My true calling (Read: 10-Months-Old, Parties Like a Rockstar & Does Not Care If We Get Sleep). As a result, I am spending my time the way I want. Well, with the exception of the time I spend working for the man. Anyway, I have more time to focus on family and my personal goals which include, but are not limited to:

Not complaining. Complaining about being in Jackson, lack of advancement in my career, not being able to find a foundation to match my skin tone, etc. Now, I am only discussing what I want and taking action which often includes balancing a shitload of stuff, because I want to accomplish a shitload of things. To compliment this change, I recite affirmations every morning but then I found out Baby Gumbeaux was slapping her classmates for touching her hair and bib so I started reciting them with her, on the way to school. Naturally, we started including Husband Gumbeaux or should I call him Daddy Gumbeaux? Zaddy Gumbeaux?

Launching my podcast entitled Jxn Transplants. Now, I get to be honest about my struggle to adjust and know there are other transplants who relate. It also gives a ton of recommendations to transplants, Jacksonians, and even people who want to visit Jackson. Apparently, that is a thing.

Taking pictures more often. Not for you weirdos, in general. I detest taking pictures. I don’t know how to pose, my eyes are usually closed, terrible angles; mostly importantly, I don’t like smiling. Thugs don’t smile. I think it’s because I have become increasingly uncomfortable with my body; particularly, after incubation.

Last and least but certainly not least, I have to finish writing my dissertation. I’ve been talking about this for the last few years (I enrolled in the program a year after starting this blog). I have tons of excuses: sick and tired, interested but uninterested, dreams and goals have changed, struggling to find the relevancy of having a PhD, drained, merely thinking about it is exhausting. Actually, I’m going to take a nap.

And, I’m up. Fun fact: I am still paying tuition and have to remain enrolled if I want to finish this very last step. As a result, I will finish. Prayer warriors, reach your hands out to me and help me get through this. I may include you in the acknowledgements. Side note: it’s super annoying when people who have never been enrolled in a doctoral program ask me what’s taking so long. What’s taking so long for you to mind your business? 

Yeah, so… I accept your belated birthday wishes. I am still accepting gifts and money. As stated many times before, my friendship can be bought. Listen to my podcast and tell me I’m doing an awesome job. Read and share my previous post: Fun Facts My Parents (and Grandparents) Don’t Know

Follow me most places @pinkgumbeaux.

Ashlee, out.