Knowing Yourself College Edition

What I know now is no where what I knew in college about myself. In college is where you begin to take the veil off of your eyes to what you learned all your life to what you want to be in life. It’s a line that crosses to merge the two and the journey is a battle!

I left high school and entered Penn State university and this was what I knew at the time: I was a straight A student since 2nd grade, I was a daughter of ministers, and I was goal oriented. That was my identity. I didn’t know I could be Toi and have my past be my identity while learning who I wanted to be. I could date if I wanted to and define what dating meant to me. I could party and still be an amazing student. I could be goal oriented and want to find joy in all things and I didn’t have to choose.

Growing up in a strict household and having everything be about church wasn’t the issue. The issue is my church in particular only preached Hell and marriage as the basis of life. Everything was Hell and being married because marriage was great was the focus. I watched couples who shouldn’t have been married run and get married just cause they wanted to date and dating wasn’t allowed unless it was for the purpose of marriage. Most of those marriages didn’t make it! Truth hurts! You wasn’t allowed to date just because two people had an interest in one another! You couldn’t see where things went. Every date doesn’t end in a proposal! It actually breeds unhealthy dating relationships in other areas!

As a college student my focus was going to college, completing a degree and finding a husband. The reality is I could form my life on my terms and college is where SOME find husbands but the reality is getting my degree was key, finding myself, and enjoying the experience should have been the focus. Now that also means learning how to incorporate my love of God into a balanced life. No one not one preacher at my church taught it. So many of us went to college and struggled. Some dropped out! Some completed and got shunned for breaking away from what we were taught! Some still have resentment for that period of their life.

I struggled without support. I should have been supported into being able to be an adult and make healthy choices instead of thinking even healthy choices were dooming me to Hell. I should have also been encouraged to just be free instead of this pressure of if you are dating and it’s not for marriage than I was doomed. Great respect to those who married young but as an 18 year old passport stamps, girl trips, and fun while maintaining my grades should have been the focus! I choose to try to please everyone and in the end I wasn’t happy!

So freshman year I meet this amazing guy. Rewind, I met amazing guys. I literally messed up relationships because the thought that I could multi date was foreign. Men do it and are applauded. Women do it and they are a hoe. You do know women can date multiple folks and not have sex with them if she doesn’t want to? It exist! Women do it all the time. I lied to my parents about my relationship with my then boyfriend who is now my husband and then covered it and that was one is the most horrible experiences I went through! Shout out to the folks around me who called me out! Grateful for getting through! Grateful for even the friends lost during that heavy transition if I’m honest!!

Why am I talking about this for college students?! Take your time to enjoy your time on campus. Even if you find an amazing person you don’t have to commit to them right off the bat. I love my husband now and then as a boyfriend but I should have allowed myself the opportunity to do whatever I wanted. Our love was intense. College years are different than normal dating time. The connection for me was intense. We were in classes together, we were in the same scholarship program, so we were together alllll the time! When we loved hard it was great and we fought hard too! Instead of being sneaky just be an adult! It’s understandable that you are going to find yourself in situations that your parents aren’t going to approve of. I would be lying if I pretended that wouldn’t happen. No matter what you get into I know you will be okay. You will find a way out! Don’t do anything you as an individual aren’t proud of. Do what you can stand on. If you can’t be proud of a decision don’t do it! Don’t do anything to make someone prouder than you feel looking in a mirror-EVER!

Make every decision on what makes you happy, safe, and fulfilled! Stay on top of your studies! You are there to learn. Don’t start the journey by going into a field that someone else has for you. The biggest lie you can tell is the one that has you lying to yourself! You can’t keep up a lifestyle that only honors those around you! Trust me the heartaches, lost friends and friendships, broken promises, and general dishonor to yourself isn’t worth it. When I think about those beginning years of how in the end I dishonored myself saving my reputation from folks I later found out was doing the same makes me parent my kids differently, live with purpose and makes me grateful I figured it out!! FYI this isn’t about my parents doing something wrong this is about a I needed to do right by me!

For every decision right or wrong I fully own! As a college student I learned how to break out and be okay being who I wanted to be. I learned that I like what I like and daily instead of packaging myself to make others happy I make sure I can live daily with myself! College is more about getting to that aha moment than what your GPA is! But don’t sleep on your studies! The best opportunities come for those who do the work. So do your work literally. Don’t skip a bunch of classes-at least not all the time. You get out what you put into it in every aspect!

If you’re returning to campus return and start the process of what makes you-you! Don’t show up on campus for your parents, your church, your community more than you show up for yourself! Not one person is getting your grades and they definitely won’t help wipe shame off your soul when you live on their terms. Not one!

To my parents who send your kids with the do as I say do cause I’m paying for it: you will get a better child, a better person; when you support your child where they are. If you want to not “waste” your money invest in your adult child where they feel like they will thrive. Support them in mistakes. If your child has to lie to you it isn’t just because they are a liar it too may mean you aren’t fostering an environment conducive to having an open engaged communication!

To my husband who at the time was my boyfriend-you stuck by my side and didn’t hold it against me when I couldn’t be authentic! You loved me during that time and hadn’t we not married now I would have still had nothing but the most upmost love and respect for you!

To my parents: the life you gave me protected me for a point of life. As much as I could easily blame you for my inauthentic ways life showed me that I would be faced with more inauthentic areas that belonged to me and only me. I would love to go back and stand up for myself. The only thing I regret was not doing it sooner. I love that you gave me a great foundation and for that I will always honor that!

To my Penn State friends who stood by my side you are amazing! I definitely know we have made each other life friends! The love we experienced life together! If it hadn’t pressed through together we wouldn’t be as close as we are now!

My parents birthed me and gave me the foundation I still have in many ways. Penn State refined me. Life polished me and now as a parent I get to redo little mes!!

Go back to college or step into college and take the journey for what it is. You will fail in many ways and you will succeed in a lot of them. As you continue the journey get grounded. Make new friends. Find ways to travel. Take that internship! Study Abroad! Go to that party! Date that guy/girl just because! Smile and take the lumps because it all will mold you into a dynamic person!

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Monday Motivation: College Edition

As some of the college bound students pack up to attend various schools make sure you remain grateful, vigilant, and hopeful! It’s every walk of life represented at college. It’s super easy to get discouraged if you start to compare what you have against the next. If you’re support system isn’t strong it will take you for a loop.

The pressure to get into college is already hard. Once you are in you might have had to work your butt off to secure enough to maintain. So many students have to work not only a federal work study position but often times a regular job in addition to have their basic needs met. It’s easy to forget that college starts some students’ first hustle but it’s true! It’s where the first flight or fight can begin. Don’t underestimate the struggle or look down on others who are literally first time college students in their whole family. It can be a time of love and pain.

Not everyone comes from well rounded families built on support. People’s idea of support starts and ends at drop off. People don’t have folks in their lives that check on their well being. No care packages are being sent, money being deposited, or even care being given-just drop off. That can mess with a young person’s heart. People think college is JUST about academics but it’s more to it. It’s walking into adulthood and learning about yourself in the most raw form.

This is a great time full of excitement and some stress as well. Not knowing what to expect is sometimes the first lesson in life in how to move when things aren’t aligned. Being that you are on campus having to survive it teaches you how to boss up and take care of yourself quick. It will give you the skills to be resourceful and how to work hard. You will learn about work ethic and if you lack self care you will bump your head until you dive into it. Some students will realize for the first time that they have a mental illness. It’s important to seek help early and often. Do not suffer in silence just because someone back home thinks it’s weak to ask for help. You can’t preserve you on their mindset when it no longer fits!

I applaud all the college bound adults as you make you mark. Study hard, play hard and learn about yourself! This week is all about you! Make this year a great one!!

Toi first day at Penn State 20 years ago

Monday Motivation: Light a Fire

Light a fire today. Never let others control your outcome. We do too much complaining about things that aren’t right and not enough making moves. You don’t like your job? Light a fire……under you. Not the job! Get a new one. Have a plan. When you tired it shows in your actions. You light a fire and make things happen.

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You don’t like your weight? Light a fire. Don’t sit around talking bad to yourself. Get up and use that idle time to work out. I used to work out to Khloe Kardashian’s “Revenge Body.”  This was after dropping weight. Sometimes I would listen with my ear phones on but it motivated me to move more. It motivated to see the reasons why I gained the weight and work on the inside out. I no longer sit talking about my arms is getting big, I light the fire and work on them. If my thigh or any other part of my body is bothering me I get to work on them.

You don’t like your relationship? Work on you actively and in addition suggest couples counseling while you get personal counseling. He/she unwilling to attend, you have your answer. Faith without works is dead you can’t simply pray good behavior into another individual. Either love is worth fighting for the right way or it has to be set aside. I fail to believe that all this living to be done is meant to be spent arguing and being miserable with an individual who doesn’t mean you well.

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I know the number one issue with lighting a fire is depression. That is why things like bad jobs, weight, relationships, and goals seem hard to achieve because you have allowed your mindset to take over. Your mind has made a nest of negativity and you don’t have the mental strength to move. Well your first light of fire needs to be a certified counselor or therapist. It will be hard. I hate when people paint happy pictures of people attending therapy. But all that bad has to come out. Often times you leave hurt. You leave empty. Its a process, but one that is worth the journey. What do you have to lose? Everything-like a fire!

Whatever you need today, light a fire. Get up off of your do nothing and take a few steps. Make a few calls. Send out a few hundred resumes but get the fire started. Every day you should be doing something to ignite fire in your life and in your soul. So light up the gifts inside of you, work on you, and make life happen. The only excuse you have is you. So stop making them. Get back into life and light a fire in your soul to make life beautiful!

How to Catch Creation

I had the honor of being invited to attend the opening show of How to Catch Creation. I actually withheld reading any reviews, or any the media write-up before hand because I love coming in without any thoughts of what to expect before hand. I was pleasantly surprised of this production. First of all the set was magnificent. I grew up in theatre so sets matter to me. Secondly the cast looked like me. I loved seeing all of the representation of pretty brown faces.  Third, the play captured my attention and gave me a whirlwind of surprises some subtle and some knocking me over.

Let me give honor to whom honor is due by saying that How to Catch Creation is coming off the acclaimed Kilroy’s list.  It’s a play about discovering legacy as well as what it means to create and how creation shifts during periods of life. Creation takes many forms from art, life, relationships, and how all of the loops come together. As a creator myself it definitely spoke to the hills and lows of life and watching my own work take dips according to what may or may not have taken off.

Christina Anderson, playwright, did an amazing job on capturing the experience of black queer feminist writer and how through her life, life has taken on turns that end up bringing the most unexpected people to unite. When you see the connection I found myself holding back in the audience try not to mess it up for someone who might not have. I laughed so hard during this play.  I loved at moments when the audience interacted right on cue without a notion. I also loved seeing Christina Anderson herself in the audience as well as the director, Nataki Garrett. Seeing them watch their work had to be amazing.

This play is for everyone. I do love how it highlights love and heartache for same-sex relationships.  To be honest sometimes society in my opinion forgets that they have an experience like everyone else. It’s not as easy even with society beginning to open up to what it means to be apart of the LGBTQ community and also be Black.  I enjoyed hearing prior to the show from Amber Hikes who is the Executive Director of LGBT Affairs for the city of Philadelphia. I didn’t even know there was a division first of all.  I also didn’t know that are only 3 other positions in the cities of the United States like it. There is definitely a need for all of us to be aware of what our city is offering. It was great knowing that the city of Philadelphia and the Mayor’s office is representing all walks of life.

So what were some of the themes presented:

Despair, from seeing Lindsay Smiling who played Griffin, try to work his way to normality after being wrongfully accused of a crime and incarcerated for 25 years. His struggle to want to have a child of his own as he learns about his mother and her past was incredible.

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Love, from Tiffani Barbour who play GK Marche a writer who falls in love with Natalie played by Shauna Miles and seeing who their love goes from incredible highs to the lows of breaking up and infidelity. Their love was priceless and unmatched until loneliness lead Natalie into the arms of another.

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Betrayal, Shayna Small plays Riley a young woman who has motivated her boyfriend, Stokes, played by Jonathan Bangs, who is losing his focus and rhythm.  Their beat is thrown off when Riley falls in love with Tami, played by Stephanie Weeks who is opening herself up to this forbidden love.  The beat is so off that now in order to get the rhythm back do they let go?  Do they go back to life before the betrayal? Can they co-exist?

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Explosive, fun, witty, and most importantly colorful are some of the best words to describe my experience. You are not going to want to miss out on this adventure. How to Catch Creation will be playing until April 14th. You can purchase tickets which range from $10-69 by clicking here

I would strongly encourage you to see the play and take some friends or family along as well. Thank you to the Philadelphia Theatre Company for as always inviting me and treating me above well. Thank you to Kory Aversa and Aversa PR for these opportunities as well. Thank you to the amazing cast of How to Catch Creation for such a wonderful time.  You all were professional and most gracious as well after the show.  Thanks to my personal team for always helping me get to these shows and for being the best caretakers for my littles!

 

 

 

 

Why Podcasts Are Necessary for Mental Management

I love music. I have blogged about how music is really one of those things that aids in controlling your mind-set.   One of my newest mindful tactics is podcasts.  My interests are pretty eclectic and ranges from my favorite blog series, to politics, to music, fashion, parenting and even a few celebrity-inspired ones as well. I listen to podcasts at least once or twice a day.  I find that I exchange it in its place for music sometimes especially when I get a few minutes of peace.

The benefits to me is mindfulness. I am able to explore different topics that I enjoy or learn new things daily.   It allows me to switch it up and feel like I am listening to more purpose filled blogs on the go.  I enjoy writing my own blogs, writing for TCP network or even guest appear on other blogs, but all of that is behind the scenes.  Hearing other people’s voices speak on a subject matter is super soothing.  Now be aware of why you listen to podcasts and be sure to find the ones you are interested in.  I know for me the podcasts I stick close to are the ones that allow me to listen straight through.  Any of them that I find myself fast forwarding I don’t follow or continue to listen to the artist.  No disrespect but my time is valuable so I need to utilize it wisely. I need something that speaks to me as a woman, mother, wife, or just one that provides a good listen to the things that I find the most interesting.  I have also been featured in one and let me say that the podcasts was super nerve-racking.  One I talk super fast and I am not interested in hearing my voice on a daily.  Shout out to podcasts artist who take their artistry serious.  I will leave it up to you great voices and may only do an appearance here or there.

Benefits:

  • Helps to calm your nerves
  • Helps you to maintain information
  • Guards your mindset
greyscale photography of condenser microphone

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With that being said here’s a list of my favorite podcasts in no particular order and why I like them:

BGIO-Black Girl In OM

This blog I found about a year ago.  I was at work and having a bad day and I literally looked them up and stumbled upon a jewel.  This podcasts talks about mindfulness and addresses what its like to be a creative black women who is making her mark.  I absolutely love it and although they haven’t had a new episode sine July, it’s still worth going back and listening to.

GirlBoss

This podcasts along with the website talks about mindfulness as well as every aspect of what makes a woman a woman.  They give great tips and they are an easy listening podcasts that I listen to when I am on my way home.  I have planned a few outfits to work just from hearing the information given.  Plus who doesn’t want to be a boss?  We aren’t bossy we are bosses! Right?  Right! This podcasts makes me own it!

Mastering Marriage: This podcasts are from a married couple, Amanda and David Taylor.  I found them a few years ago when I got married.  They are a couple that talk about how they were headed down the road of divorce.  I love this real and vulnerable talk about how marriage taking work and that things are never as cookie cutter as we especially women want them to be.  I applaud them for being able to share their real life story of how bad things can get if you aren’t connected and doing the work to maintain.

Women Evolve

So this one is by Sarah Jakes Roberts, the daughter of esteemed pastor T.D. Jakes.  I was a bit leery of this one because I love the lord but I am also the one that will throw hands and I didn’t need an overly church podcasts.  So I just started this podcasts but…. I have listened to all of them.  Let me tell you why I like this podcasts and have respect for Sarah, she is real.  I like her calm approach to the topics that she knows we know about.  She can take a topic from the Shaderoom and spin it to where it’s not a place to hear a dump of information.

TCP; The cultured Professional is the other network that I am on.  I would advise this is your one stop shop to be aware, awoke and therefore enlightened.  This network is diverse, young, and ready to tackle on the  world both professionally and personally.  They give it to you straight just like my personality.

Within TCP is there are over 7 podcasts that have shows weekly on TCP Facebook. I would suggest you connect to the page as well as link to all of the other pages on Facebook page as well if you have time to link and hear the podcasts in real-time.  If not you can do like I do and catch them on the flip side!

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Hip Hop and Politics: this blog challenges what you think about the politics around you in addition to how hip hop plays an important part of that.  Also a lot of these podcasts actually live shows but the way my life is set up I barely can listen to them live.  But fear not that’s what podcasts are for?  I can go back and watch them.  Although in my link its for Apple iTunes, they are on all major streams for podcasts, check it out!

Sayless: This podcast is one of the most happily ignorant podcasts.  This is the one I listen to on the train ride into work. It gets me going.  They cover it all from having sex on the first date, spoken word, or catching your significant other with a sex doll.  Yep they take it there.  This is not your momma’s podcasts. So I would caution if you were looking for politically correctness, this isn’t the place.  For the real adults, get your ear phones and turn up!

Raw Royalty: shout out to women empowering one another.  This is a queens only podcasts. I listen to them on Sunday night as I go through my house getting my life right for the week.  They don’t hold anything back.  From raising kids, dealing with co parenting, to dating dos and don’ts, it all hits the fan.  They make me adjust my crown every time I turn them on.  Raw Royalty is also in conjunction with Regal Finesse:

Regal Finesse is your one stop shop for everything a young king and queen need from work out gear to your shirts.  Check out their designs.  They even have a few more things up their sleeve, literally.  Be on the look out!

Opinionated Facts: This is the Sports and man-cave talk for the men! I do still listen to them.  They talk about things from your favorite shows to current events and sports but I love hearing men talk that talk.  Why as a woman its hard for me to understand the makings of a man.  I love listening to these kings talking and hearing their perspective.  Letting men be men and I love it!

For those who love Spotify theres King Court, 10th Floor and others Spotify

Demetria L. Lucas’ Ratchet and Respectable found on Apple Podcasts

Like I said, make sure that you continue to catch these and add some more to your arsenal.  I literally listen to podcasts while doing a number of duties in my life.  As I am going to work, rotating the kids from bath, etc.  I literally try to keep my mind clear and sometimes podcasts are another notch of mindfulness to add to your daily self-care!

For the Love of Friends

I am blessed in friendship. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you can be authentic and secure all while having amazing people behind you who support you and love you and love on you.

Friends who are family

It’s true that you can’t pick your family. With friends, you are in charge of who you allow in your life. With that being said I have an amazing pool of friends. From childhood to college and beyond, friends are the fuel of life. This weekend I was able to spend time with my college loves. In August of 1999 I entered into Penn State super unsure of myself. I had gotten my college roommate assignment and on it was a name super similar to mine. Her name is Toi. I had never seen anyone with that spelling outside of me. I initially thought I had scored a single room. On move in day I saw a girl who looked similar to me and was warm and inviting. We met and were inseparable.

A few days later I met Krystle and Marques. They were apart of my scholarship program. Krystle came off super shy. We know now that’s just her secret weapon. Once friends with Krystle you realize how much of a gem she is. She graced us with her love. Krystle is one of the most level-headed women I’ve met to date. I’m still trying to get her to adopt me (inside joke). Marques was funny. He came up to me and Toi once he heard our names was similar and made a joke about it. His wit got him in but his loyalty kept him in even when he and I who dated in college would break up each week! Over the course of time we quickly formed a group and over the course of 4 or a little over some for others in the group we were a mini family. We dined together, traveled together, got in “trouble” with another and went through hard times together. Although a beautiful fellowship of individuals, we had growing pains together. We were there for each other and still continue to be there during the rough times. And almost 20 years from meeting, we found ourselves back together.

We were able to catch up, talk smack, remember the good and the bad times. It was everything and more that we needed. I know for a fact that they made my college experience that much better and I am super grateful for being able to be a call away from them. I know that as we continue on our journey of life that we remain as strong as ever. I’m super grateful for their loyalty as they have stuck by me when they shouldn’t have. I have nothing but love for our Pennypacker crew and honorary member! P Phi P forever! #peacoatmafia #Pennstatestrong #Weare

Women’s Month, Year of the Woman: Stephanie S!

Thank you to the wonderful women who answered the call to be interviewed. It takes a lot to open up about who you are.  You are who you are and this process can be a little intimidating.  Thank you to all of my volunteers.  As women we all have unique situations that vary but collectively we go through much of the same things.  Not just for this month or for the #METOO movement, let’s all bond as one.

Stephanie S., is a mother to two beautiful girls.  Her oldest is actually her niece that she has raised since she was 13 until the age of 18 and her youngest is her biological daughter, she’s 4-years-old.  She’s been with her husband for 16 years and they will be celebrating their 9th wedding anniversary on May 9th.  She’s one of a few in her family to graduate high school and college and have gone onto graduate school.  She still has 3 more classes to go before she graduates. She was laid off in 2015 and found two jobs the following year in 2016, but she’s only working at one of those jobs and couldn’t be more happier.  She is finally in a place that she enjoys where she is currently.
What she would tell her younger self:
The life ahead of you will not be easy, but keep faith in God and trust that He will not give you more than you can handle.  Also, you need to relax more, things will work themselves out in the end. 
Lessons for her daughters:
Nothing in life is truly free.  Be honest, be kind, and the world will be yours. 
Love: Don’t rush into it.  If you truly want to know if your partner is right for you, please don’t be afraid to bring them to meet your father or me. 
Career: don’t settle for comfort.  Find a career that you’re truly passionate about and makes you happy to go to everyday.  In the end, if there’s anything in all three that you feel uncomfortable with, let someone know.  Don’t be afraid to tell anyone.
Our future and where we want to be should be something that we attempt to work at all the time. Nothing is simply going to be handed to us.  I asked where Stephanie sees herself in 5 years:
In a better position at my job.  I love my place of employment, but would like to advance to higher position.
What are the things you have accomplished:
Well, when it comes to personal accomplishments, I’d say, participating in art shows.  I love art and to be able to participate in art shows has been such an honor and a joy to share my own work with others who love art just as much as I do. 
Another personal accomplishment is that I decided to go to grad school to get my Master’s degree.  I haven’t finished my grad schooling yet, but I will soon or at least hope to. 
Career accomplishments, I would say is jumping into a position that no one else wanted and ended up being the best person they had done the job.
I think we tend to hold certain people in high regards.  This #METOO movement has allowed some of the ones we hold high to be seen differently.  No matter who it is, if you have sexually assaulted, harassed or abused another woman regardless of which roles you may have played, how much money you have, even if you are someone’s boss, it’s not okay.
What are your thoughts on the #METOO movement:
To be honest, I didn’t want to believe that some of the things being said about celebrities like Bill Cosby were true, but when you have so many women coming forward, then there must be some truth to the allegations.  It’s great that more women are coming forward and ousting their tormentors/abusers.  Women shouldn’t be afraid to speak out.  Value your self-worth before you value where your career can take you.  I feel my youngest is too young to truly understand what the movement means so I’m unsure of how I plan on using the movement.  The closest thing I can think of to tell my daughter would be, “If you don’t like someone touching you or you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to tell anyone.”
What are the things that Stephanie is looking to accomplish or crush:
The major thing on my heart that I hope to crush is completing my graduate degree.  When I do go back to complete it, I will have to pay for my three classes and I just can’t afford to pay for them right now.  So as soon as I can afford it, then I will complete my degree. 
Lastly what does self-love look like to you:
Accepting myself for who I am.  I am a person who is shy, but is trying to be more vocal when I need to be.  When having a rough day, listening to music every chance I get.  When I’m home, I wait until my daughter is in to bed to sit at my desk and write in my bullet journal or plan things out in my other planners.  And as silly as it sounds, I like to straighten my hair sometimes because it makes me feel good about my looks.  I chose to give up drinking sodas in order to care about my health.  I was drinking sodas to keep my energy levels up especially when I was at work, but I realized that as long as I’m laughing and staying productive at work, my energy is generally high or at a normal level.  Plus, I don’t get headaches anymore.  In place of sodas, I’ve been drinking more water.  Still working on getting to bed at a normal hour, but I will get there in time. 
Stephanie thank you again for participating.  I am sending positive vibes that you will get the funding you need to complete your master’s degree.  Do NOT stop just because you have this hiccup in the road. I hope your daughters know just how smart, how beautiful, how strong you really are.  I hope through your example that others around you will know continue to have purpose and move towards that purpose daily.
Another note if you’re looking for a photographer in central Pennsylvania, take a look at her information: