Toldjah turns the big 4-OH!

40 years ago today, a glamorous blogging star was born …. (*)

Baby ST

Baby ST

On the back of the picture, mom wrote “approx 6 mos. old’ – which tells me she didn’t write it shortly after the pic was taken, because she’d have known for sure. :D I think I may be a little older in the pic, but I get in trouble when I second guess my mother, so I probably should just accept what she wrote at face value. Heh.

It’s been a wild, mostly happy – if sometimes bumpy – ride. Most people lie when they’re asked whether or not there is anything they’ve done in their lives that they’d like to go back and change. They usually answer “absolutely not.” I’m not gonna lie. There are some things I’d most definitely like to change – decisions I’ve made, things I’ve said, mistakenly trusting some people and mistakenly not trusting others, opportunities missed, etc. Fortunately, the things I’d like to change but can’t I can live with. You learn from your mistakes, you mature, grow stronger and wiser, and move forward with your life. I’ve faced my share of challenges in my life like most people, but I’m at a comfortable place right now, and that comes from feeling secure in who I am and where I’m going – a mindset that has, in part, been fostered for 4 decades by a loving family and good friends.

For the last few weeks, my older sisters have jokingly stated that they can’t believe their “baby sister” will be turning 40. A few friends have joked with me in the last week that I am “finally catching up” to them in age, as most are already in their 40s. I certainly don’t feel my age most days, thankfully — and hopefully don’t look it either! ;) Ah, yes. The looks thing. What we women worry the most about as we get older. When will the wrinkles and gray hair start?

When I was a teenager, I used to get told all the time that I looked older than my age, mostly by older guys who were noticing my, um, advanced “development” (I realized this later in life, but did not at the time). As a young woman struggling to find her identity, I loved it because, like most teenagers, I wanted to give off the sense that I was “mature” – even though I most certainly was not. Nowadays, I get told I look younger than my age, for which I am very much grateful. If it’s true, I have to give credit to the folks at Oil of Olay and my mother, who gave me the one beauty tip EVERY gal should follow from the moment she first starts wearing cosmetics: Wear a good moisturizer underneath your make-up!

I’ve never been shy about telling people my age, but admit to saying in the last few years that I was a “thirty-something” rather than saying 37, 38, 39. People call me “ma’am” more often than they used to, which is obviously an indicator that I don’t look like I’m in my 20s anymore. ;) I find it perplexing that I, oddly enough, get more attention from college-aged guys now than I did when I was IN college. Must be the older woman/younger man temptation young guys deal with. I usually just smile and move on. But the flattery is nice all the same. ;;)

At Facebook, I’ve got an album full of what I call “Toldjah Memories” and it contains many pictures of the adventures and fun times I’ve had in my life, primarily up until my mid to late 20s. You don’t have to be a Facebook user to be able to view it. Do me a favor, though, ok? Don’t laugh at the hair.

Fast forward a little less than 40 years ago from the baby pic and you’ll get this:

Sistah

Sistah

Taken in mid October, a couple hours after my hairdresser had performed an absolute miracle.

More recent? This is the best I can do. From late December this year after a Duke win:

Sistah loves Duke

Sistah, leaving the light on for all on-court victims of the Duke basketball team. ; )

Yeah – me loves me some Duke basketball. :D

It’s funny. For the first few years I had this blog, I always posted a profile shot. Then I pulled it for a variety of reasons, mainly because I didn’t appreciate, er, “creative” edits done on it by some of the more extreme elements of the left (use your imagination). Last summer, I decided I no longer cared what they did. Not only that, but I was also desirous to have people stop emailing me to ask me if I was black. LOL. It didn’t occur to me that newer readers did not know what I looked like, or if I was even a “real person.” Around that same time, at her request I sent off a picture to Melissa Clouthier for use in the “panelists” section of the “20 Hottest Conservative Men of 2010″ list. The funniest comment I heard after that list was posted was from someone on Twitter, which went something like “the most shocking thing about that list was learning that Sister Toldjah was white.” LOL. So now, if you didn’t know – you know. And no, I didn’t pull a Michael Jackson, as the baby pic proves. :)

On tap for the morning and afternoon: Girls day out with my sisters and mom. Later tonight, however, is a mystery. Strangely, no one will tell me what’s going on …

Anyway, as I wrote on Twitter yesterday, I’m happy and thankful that the Lord has allowed me to be around for this long. I hope he grants me many, many more years – if for no other reason than to continue to irritate the you-know-what out of liberals for a whole lot longer. Here’s to decades more of me doing that – and to my awesome readers sticking around for the ride. <:-p

I’ve got my white Christmas :)

Started very late in the afternoon (after 5, if I remember correctly) but it’s coming down. :) Here’s a short video I took earlier when it first started:

Photo of the flakes taken around the same time as the video:

White Christmas in Charlotte

White Christmas in Charlotte :)

Just read a recent weather update – the snow is supposed to start picking up here a bit. At this point I’d guess we have about an inch on the ground. I should have better pix tomorrow.

Last but not least, here is one of my favorite photos taken from earlier today at my sister’s house, where we all gathered for Christmas lunch:

Toldjah sistahs

Toldjah sistahs :)

My sis on the right is a huge Tarheel fan, and of course everyone knows how huge the rivalry is between the Tarheels and Duke. So imagine my surprise when she and my bro in law gave me that adorable, awesome Duke vodka bottle lamp! They did the same for my other bro in law with a Georgia Bulldogs lamp. So it was a given that we had to take a picture of our “team gear.” The lamps were custom made by the mother of a guy my bro-in-law works with. It is pretty darned awesome. :D

Hope everyone has had a great Christmas!

Things I am thankful for

Posted this on Twitter, and wanted to make sure I posted it here as well :)

— Thanksgiving week has officially started. Here are a few things I am thankful for, in no particular order: Electric blankets. Never have been interested in those before, but mom has 1 & it makes sleeping in autumn a lot easier-along w/ Muffie snoozing at my feet :)

— Excellent, upbeat nurses. Can’t say enough about how well my dad has been treated by the nurses at the hospital. Great ladies.

— Work colleagues, managers, etc, who have told me to take all the time I need when it comes to dad. Their understanding means the world.

— Friends & in some cases total strangers who have put up w/ my occasional ramblings & nervous chatter. It really is true what they say about knowing who your real friends are during the times you need them the most.

— Also, the prayers and well wishes – words can’t express my gratitude enough. I know the prayers have helped, because dad is getting better. Hopefully tomorrow he’ll be able to come home.

— Last but not least, I am thankful for my lil smartphone, which has helped me stay connected via email, text, Twitter, FB … being able to maintain those connections has helped me keep my sanity (& sense of humor!) this past week. :) Y’all are great.

— This wk, things shld be close to getting back to normal – as normal as it gets for the Toldjah family, anyway, assuming dad gets to come back home Mon., of course. Anxious to get back into the writing groove. I need that release right now.

— PS: I’m also thankful for my co-blogger Anthony aka Phineas manning the blog fort in my absence … you should make sure to bookmark his blog.

Will be headed out a little later with mom to watch some of the Panthers game at the hospital with dad. He’s requested we bring his Iron Man 2 DVD with us so I doubt we’ll be watching the game for long. ;)

On oak trees, weeping willows, and the fragility of life (FRIDAY UPDATE)

Friday Update – 10:00 PM: Dad willl be in the hospital til Mon. when biopsy will occur. Got news tonight that was grounds for cautious optimism but we won’t know for sure until biopsy results come in. Thanks again big time for the prayers & well wishes. Y’all are AWESOME. :)

——————

Hey y’all. I rarely make prayer requests here but need to do so tonight. My dear old dad (who I’ve written about him a little here at the blog, usually on Father’s Day – see here, here, here, and here), is going through some health issues related to his diabetes. Specifically, he’s having trouble with one of his kidneys. He was in the hospital today at the insistence of his primary care physician and will hopefully be released tomorrow. There were some tests and scans run on him today to determine the problem. He’ll have to have a biopsy next week to determine whether his condition is manageable with medication or whether more drastic measures have to be taken, like dialysis or even kidney removal. Obviously, we’re praying it can be managed via medication.

Been difficult seeing him in the hospital in his hospital gown in the hospital bed. No one is really fond of hospitals, but I am especially not – haven’t been since I was a teenager having to wait in a hospital as my grandmother slowly died from lung failure that stemmed from some 30 years of smoking. Hospitals smell like, well, hospitals – not only that, but dad has looked so fragile laying there, trying to be brave.

Dad’s always been like an oak tree to me; solid and strong. The last couple of days he’s displayed a vulnerability that is rare for him. As I’ve written before, he’s been dealing with issues related to his diabetes for years, and it – along with decades of working hard labor jobs – have taken their toll on him (he’s in his mid 60s) and it has been hard watching him no longer be able to do some of the things he used to. To his oak tree, I’ve been a bit of a weeping willow for the last few months. I have tried not to think too much about the health issues he’s been battling, something that is easy to do, because you wouldn’t know he’s got the issues he does just by being around him.

I guess I’ve sort of been in denial about his condition, not wanting to acknowledge to myself that dad is indeed mortal and, unlike an oak tree, will not be around forever. When I do allow myself to think about all he’s gone through health-wise, it makes me cry. I talked to my mother about this today and she told me she felt similarly when her mother (my grams) as she got older. She didn’t want to imagine her mother not being around, so she kind of had it in her mind that if she could keep grams active that grams would be ok. I’m not delusional and have known for a while about the affect diabetes was having on him, but my (naive) thoughts were that as long as he continued to eat right and take his medication it wouldn’t get worse.

And to see my mother and the emotions she’s going through, wondering and worrying and trying her best to stay strong for my dad’s sake … well, let me just say that on that basis no one would ever know that I was her daughter, because she is way stronger than I am when it comes to these types of things. She just has one of those inner strengths that mothers/wives typically have, and all I can do is watch and (hopefully) learn.

Anyway, sorry to be rambling. Just wanted to explain what was going on, and ask for thoughts and prayers. Next week’s biopsy will tell us a lot. Once dad’s back home (hopefully tomorrow) and gets settled in, I’ll be back to blogging. Writing is a form of release for me no matter what mood I’m in, and it’ll be good for me to get back into that groove.

Thanks for listening. :)

The evolution of Sister Toldjah blog design

ToldjahSo footerTonight, I was digging around for an image stock photo I thought I had saved somewhere on my computer and in the process came across some screen caps/image graphics of all of my old blog designs. Boy, it sure brought back some good memories, memories I’d like to share with you – fond ones that go back to when I first started the blog and no one was reading it aka “The Early Daze.”

Bear with me as I take a long-winded trip down memory lane.

A little to-not-known-at-all-factoid about yours truly is that LONG ago, well-before I became a political junkie, I dabbled a bit in web design, but it was all HTML-based and – frankly – not that great. Creative, yeah, but great? Nah. Blog designs are (or at least mine have been) CSS-based, which I didn’t (and pretty much still don’t) have a clue how to work with. For that, I turned to the immensely talened Lisa Sabin-Wilson at Elegant Webscapes. She is the only one I have ever trusted to do skins for my blog because she has always done outstanding work, taking the rough sketch ideas I give her and turning them into beautiful displays of “blog art.” It’s also important to mention that she has always been patient with me when it comes to blog design, because I am so particular and want everything “just perfect.” Most other designers would probably tell me to take a hike! :">

There are some who say “don’t worry about the design and instead just focus on the content.” I think it’s possible to have both. You can have a great blog design that stands out from the rest, one that isn’t too “showy” or cluttered but that will instead give away hint or two about your personality, while at the same time being reader/commenter friendly. The functionality for blog visitors has always been important to me, especially as the blog evolved and more people starting commenting. Readers like to be able to edit their comments. They like to be able to format them. They like to be able to preview them – even delete them. All those are things readers of this blog can do. Believe me, I hear it when the functionality of any of those options isn’t working right, especially the comment editor. :)

When I first started blogging, it was somewhere around September 2003 and it was a personal blog – not political at all – and for the life of me I can’t remember what I called it. I just remember it was on blogspot. The next month I created a political blog at blogspot and called it “Prezeedential Aspirations.” The “zee” part of it came from a political forum I frequented (and in fact, still frequent) where I logged in under the name “zeewoman.” I used an awful homemade design until a few months later. I don’t have a screenshot of the first official design, but at the time (Feb 2004) I picked it it was a “stock” design at Lisa’s site, and I asked her to customize it a little bit for me. Below is one of the banners she did for the blog, which appeared at the top of the page, as well as a small version of the pink pearls jpg that came with the design:

Prezeedential banner

Prezeedential graphic

I thought it was classy, elegant, sophisticated-looking. But, over time, I came to the conclusion that I wanted something a little less starchy and a lot more fun and playful – not to mention more functional. At the time, blogspot blogs had very little useful functionality for both the blog owner and commenters. Of course, I had zero commenters at the time, as evidenced by the fact that no one commented when I asked if they liked the new look! LOL. But I kept hoping they would come.

In August of 2004, the sistertoldjah.com URL was born.

That same summer, I decided that if I wanted to better promote and “sell” my blog, that it might be a good idea to not just get a domain, but to get an updated design, as well as start using a new blogging platform (Word Press). Well, I ended up getting three new designs, to be exact (I got a little crazy that summer and beyond). Below are the three skins Lisa designed for me between the summer and the fall of 2004, the first one debuting in August and the other two in October.

Skin 1

Skin 2

Skin 3

Don’t ask me why there are 2005 dates on the posts in the screencaps, when the skins debuted in 2004! No idea. Oh wait – maybe I took the screencaps right before my next design was put on the site? Dunno.

Anyway, the purplish looking one (see a bigger version here) was my favorite of the three. It was stylish, flirty, and I really dug the colors. All three of them featured the image of a woman: On one, all you saw was a teasing wink, one was an image of a funky college-aged gal on her laptop, and the other looked like a sassy, sexy, take-no-prisoners type ;) . All of the designs were three columns. At the time, there were a lot of two column blogs blogs but not a lot of three column ones. I was somewhat inspired to have a three column design done after seeing La Shawn Barber’s original site design, which she no longer has. The reason for wanting more than just two columns was so I could add more links and info to each side for people to read/view/click on. In other words, I was able to maximize the amount of blog content by adding that third column.

In December, I had Lisa design a two-column theme for me for my now-defunct “Cozmic Blonde” blog. It was a personal blog I wanted to do to separate my non-political ramblings from the political ones. I only blogged there for a few months – starting in Jan 2005 – before deciding to devote all of my attention to this blog. Below is the image Lisa worked off of to create the design for that blog, which I do not have a screencap of:

Cozmic Blonde image

Lovely, fierce, beautifully bold, fearless, superhero-y, just a hint of vulnerability. I love that image. My Twitter followers should recognize it as I am using it now for my Twitter avi. I think the blog motto was “Space. Time. Continuum. Whatever.” ;) I still have that domain name, and am not ruling out a return for the Cozmic Blonde at some point in the future!

I enjoyed the three Toldjah themes for about a year, and readers did too as it gave them a little variety when viewing the blog. I had a “skin changer” which allowed readers to click between the three of them whenever they wanted to. The only problem was that the formatting for two of the skins was slightly off in some browsers and screen sizes, and as a result the content would look like it had been dragged to outside of the columns. This was a persistent problem that at the time Lisa could not quite figure out how to fix. It was during the latter part of this design phase that blog readership began to tick up some as I had learned more about how to promote my blog. At that time I decided the design needed to be stepped up a bit.

My next design, which was installed in August 2005, was a lot more grown up and as I had come to believe that I would be taken more seriously if I had a blog design that was less “cutesy” and more polished. I was partially inspired by a design Lisa had done with her own blog (a design that is not up anymore) in which she had her link sections in what looked like tables. I loved it. So I picked out the image that was used in the design as well as the background you see on either side, and she came up with this marvelous creation:

Gray theme

I really felt like I had hit the jackpot with that one, and I did. I have always been a fan of stock images that show whimsical women footloose and fancy-free, with their hair blowing in the wind and not a care in the world, and that one was one of my favorites at the time. Lisa could not have done a better job on that one if she tried. Often when I visited the site, I would just stare at it and think: this is mine! Readers often complimented me on it, but I would make sure they knew that it wasn’t me who came up with the design – as much as I would have liked to have taken credit for it! Again, I sent Lisa a few ideas – and graphics this time – and she worked her magic. As a result of this new design, I blogged a lot more, because I was so excited about the design. So it’s no small wonder that blog readership really started to pick up even more later that year.

Clearly I loved that design because this site wasn’t redesigned until January 2009 with the brilliant four-column layout you see now. Sorry if I sound arrogant about the designs; it’s more pride than anything. This one is, by far, my favorite, because of all the content options. Lisa took a lot of time to get it right as I gave her a very detailed marked up graphic of a generic four column design, and sent along with it the graphic you see in the header, requesting that the theme be in sepia-tones, of which I am a big fan. To my knowledge, there are very few four column political blog designs out there, so perhaps I “broke ground” with this one? :D I asked Lisa to start on it in plenty of time for me to be able to debut it before the inauguration of Barack Obama. And she did – reskinning the site on January 19th, 2009.

Sepia design

The headlines section was inspired by numerous sites I saw with some form of a headline section at the tops of their respective pages, including HotAir.com. It’s an easy way to update the site when I don’t have a lot of time to put up a post with content included. The header graphic I adore. Doesn’t she look like she’s the happiest person on earth, tiptoeing through the field, completely uninhibited? And on top of the world. You would not believe how many people have asked me if that was me in that photo. My response? I WISH! LOL.

The absolute coolest thing about this design? 75-80% was paid for by readers who contributed to my tip jar. Prior to that point, all previous designs had been paid for by me and/or by what little ad income I had coming in. But this design was sponsored in large part by readers, and I am still profoundly grateful not just for that kind of support, but for the support y’all bring me every day just by reading, commenting, emailing, Tweeting. For someone who is almost never at a loss for words, I get a little tongue-tied when talking about how much it means to me to have people interested in what I have to say, to have people come back on a day to day basis to read what I write (and to now read what my awesome co-blogger writes!).

You and me, my dear readers, have done a lot of growing up together. To date, 11,686 posts have been written here – 98% of them by me, and 73,166 comments have been posted, 99% of them by readers (1% are my responses).

WOW.

To quote Sally Field, “They like me, they really, really like me!”

Thanks. Let’s keep it going, shall we?

Update/PS – 11:32: How could I forget to mention my newish (started in April 2009) personal blog Velvet Lair, which I (obviously) don’t update much? The design was an existing one found on a WP design site, and I modified it a little (created the header, modified the font colors, etc).

Happy Father’s Day!

I’m a wee bit behind on my Father’s Day post, primarily because I’ve spent most of the last 24 hours with mom, dad, and the rest of the familia. I don’t have much to add to what I’ve written since last year’s Father’s Day except to say that dad is in semi-retirement now, mainly thanks to losing his job back in March because he had missed so much work related to some health issues he was having. It sorta kinda turned out to be a blessing in disguise because now it gives him a time to relax after working manual labor jobs most of his life, which has taken a toll on his body. He works a lot more in his garden now, and has become a “house-husband” of sorts to my mom, doing a little more around the house than he used to. He’s only halfway there, though. Mom’s still trying to train him on the half he’s not helping with ;)

Anyway, happy dad’s day to all the wonderful dads out there, especially those who are serving overseas and who can’t be home with their little ones, or their dads, to celebrate the occasion. God bless all of you.

Introducing Velvet Lair

Velvet LairI wanted to take a few minutes to introduce y’all to a blog I have started as a “companion” of sorts to this one. It’s called “Velvet Lair.” I started it earlier this year because 1) I have started back (after a long hiatus) to creative writing in my spare time and wanted to document my journey back to that at the blog, and 2) there are things I sometimes want to write about that don’t always fit into the political theme of this blog. You’ll know what I mean when you take a look. I sometimes write there about music, movies, human interest stories, cutesy stuff, etc. I suspect it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. Don’t feel like you are insulting me if you aren’t interested in what you see there. I understand that my rambling on can be a turn off sometimes ;)

As you can see, I haven’t updated it much at all and don’t plan on it. I may post there four or five times a week at most. This blog has and always will get my full attention.

I don’t plan on promoting VL in any way outside of the occasional link here – and the RSS feed will be posted underneath the archives and categories section on the far left column (and no, the “far left” is not symbolic of anything – LOL) and it will show when the blog has been updated. I’m not submitting it to Google, or anywhere else. In fact, you guys and gals are the first to know about VL as I’ve been its only visitor for months. At the moment, I’m not interested in a lot of traffic outside of the readers who already read and post here. It’s my little haven away from politics, even though sometimes a thing or two I might post there will have a slightly political/cultural angle to it. In the off chance that traffic does pick up there, I may reevaluate the promoting end of it but I suspect that will be a looong way off.

A little known ST factoid: When I first started blogging back in 2003, I had a “companion” blog titled “Cozmic Blonde” (still have the domain name, in fact) but I was too lazy to maintain two blogs at a time so I pulled it down so I could focus solely on this one.

Anyway, let me know what you think. Please don’t laugh! It’s a work in progress, and still “under construction.” It’s got an existing WP theme that I have heavily modified myself (including the cool header graphic). I’ve set the comments section up there just as I have here, with the exception of the Yahoo smilies, which I have not figured out how to add – so the WP generic smilies will have to do, and I’ll add the popular Ajax comments editor later this week. First time commenters to VL who I know will have their first comments approved (if they are posted overnight, I will get to them in the morning) and then after that shouldn’t have a problem with them showing up without my assistance. Newbies who I don’t know will stay on moderation for at least a week until I determine whether or not they are there to converse or start trouble.

See ya here – and there :)

Sister Swine Flu

Rumors of my blogging demise have been greatly exaggerated :D

I’m not down for the count, but am down for the moment. Thought I was valiantly fighting the common cold this week, but decided to go to the doctor this morning because I was not getting any better, and after tests were run, I hear the big news:

“Your test was flu-positive.”

(Me) “Oh, ok – you mean the seasonal flu?”

“No – H1N1.”

*Stunned look.*

Fortunately, the PA I saw eased my fears on the hype surrounding the swine flu, so I’m calmer about it now than I was when she first hit me with the news.

I’m on three prescriptions, the main one being Tamiflu, one of the side effects of which is mood swings. Lucky for me my mother has the patience of a saint.

And speaking of, I’ve tried to keep family and friends far away from me this week, even going so far as locking my glass door when mom and dad came by and dropped off a few groceries I requested. I asked them to put them on the porch, and mom kept insisting on trying to come in and I (for once) won the battle. I hated doing that.

But I’m here at mom and dad’s now, as they both did not want me to battle this alone over the weekend. I did not have a choice in the matter. Dad had to drive me, as luck would have it my car wouldnt’ start this morning as I was headed out for my appt. Sigh …

My family, friends, and employer have been fantastic through all of this. Totally understanding, and totally not putting any pressure on me to do anything but get some rest and eat plenty of chicken soup (I’m so sick of soup right now – not even going there).

I have slept a vast majority of this week, and today was the first time I had stepped outside into the fresh air outside of taking out my “sick trash” yesterday. Too bad it had to be raining today :(

Mega-props to Anthony and Steve for taking care of my baby while I’ve been under the weather, especially doing so on such short notice. I miss blogging so much, but it takes a lot of energy for me to sit up and do anything for any length of time right now (primarily due to the meds and just flat out being zonked).

I also appreciate very much the well wishes and prayers that have been posted here at the blog and via email. They really do mean alot. I miss y’all and thank you so much for your patience. I hope to be back to normal in a few days, but in the meantime Steve and Anthony will hold down the fort. Even when I do return, it’ll be light because I’ve got a lot of things personally to catch up on as well as a lot of things to catch up on at the 8-5. I will have to learn to pace myself.

Oh, and on Barack Obama winning the Nobel? I’m trying not to think about it. I’m already sick enough.

Later, y’all.