I don't know about y'all, but pretty much everyone in my world has been ordering takeout more than usual, ever since this coronavirus pandemic has become a part of our daily lives. What's really a trip about that is, it's not like most of us didn't make doing that a part of our lifestyle routine anyway, being that 60 percent of us were out here ordering delivery or takeout way before the Rona hit. Yet with all of the constantly changing information that's out here, I would totally understand if you're wondering how much of a risk that you're actually taking by hitting up your favorite restaurant so that they can send you something that you've been craving.
As with all things concerning this virus, the key is to be as knowledgeable as possible while not going into a state of panic. While it has pretty much always been holistically healthier to cook your own meals (check out "Why You Should Consider Leaving Fast Food Alone"), there are steps that you can take to insure that you are protecting you, your family and the delivery person, if you decide to bring some "outside food" in.
1. Avoid Peak Ordering Hours
There are a couple of benefits that come with not waiting until peak ordering hours to get your food. One is that you won't have to wait forever (because a lot of restaurants don't have the same amount of staff that they did before the pandemic started) and two, if you decide to go the carryout route, you will be able to avoid coming into contact with as many people.
(If you don't know what a restaurant's busiest hours are, call them before ordering your food. Oh, and if you're wondering what restaurants are currently making deliveries, check out "60 Deals & Delivery Services To Get You Through COVID-19 Quarantine".)
2. Disinfect Your Screen Door
While this step might seem like you're being "extra", choose to see it as a way of being proactively kind and courteous to the one who will be bringing your food to you.
While it would be ideal if the delivery person simply called or texted to let you know that your food is in front of your door or one the porch (more on that in a sec), if they do happen to knock on the door, do them a solid by disinfecting your screen door and door handle before they arrive.
At the time that I'm writing this, it's not a mandate that everyone wear masks and gloves, so it only takes five minutes to make sure that the person bringing your food to you is extra protected. Something like Simple Green® CLEAN FINISH® Disinfectant Cleaner should do the trick.
3. Sign Receipts with Your Own Pen
There really is no telling how many people touch things like a single pen over the course of a day. So yeah, avoid coming into contact with germs unnecessarily by using your own pen to sign takeout receipts.
4. See If Deliveries (and Your Tip) Can Be Left at the Door
These days, when ordering online, there is becoming less of a need to interact with your delivery person at all. For instance, there are usually notes, in the form of special requests, that you can leave online while placing an order about where you'd like your food to be dropped off. If it can be placed at the door without any human interaction, that's awesome. Speaking of, if for some reason, it is a restaurant's policy to get your signature on a receipt or they typically have people write in how much they want to tip their delivery person, ask if there is anyway to bypass this. The more that you can do with your debit or credit card, the less you'll be putting yourself at (potential) risk.
5. Tip Your Deliverer Well
I once read an article that said, on average, food delivery drivers make somewhere between $8-19 an hour. Not bad if you're just looking to make a few extra bucks, but pretty low if you're working to make ends meet and you're basically putting your life on the line to do it.
Because restaurants are doing their best to stay afloat, we are able to still keep a certain sense of normalcy by enjoying some of our favorite foods without having to go out and get them. That deserves the "thank you" in the form of more than a standard 10-15 percent tip, if you ask me. You can also donate to relief fund organizations that are helping out restaurants, bars and food service workers. You can check out more on that here and here. Whatever you decide to do, please be generous. We're all trying to stay afloat right now.
6. Keep Carryout Off of Your Surfaces
Not to get you all paranoid or anything, but you really don't know where food containers and bags are stored or who's been touching on them prior to them arriving at your house. Just to be on the super safe side, avoid placing the carryout bags directly onto your kitchen counters. Instead, put a towel or some paper towels on your counters first. Use gloves to remove the food from the bags and then immediately throw the bags out (preferably into your trashcan outside) once you've taken all of the food out. Do not touch your face, for any reason, while you're doing this.
7. Wash Your Hands Immediately After Removing Food from Packaging
Once the food is out of the bags and the bags have been disposed of, it's important to wash your hands for 20-30 seconds with soap and warm water. While there has yet to be evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted through food (let's all make sure to keep it on our prayer list that it never does), what we do know is it can live on surfaces including containers and utensils (reportedly for 1-3 hours). So, you want to make sure that your hands are as clean as possible after touching on stuff that your food came in. This brings us to the next point.
8. Reheat Food in Your Own Containers
If you're anything like me and you enjoy your food when it's about as hot as you can stand it, avoid reheating your food in the containers that they came in because, remember, someone handled before you did. It's best to immediately put the food in your own containers and to toss the delivery ones out as well (which yeah, basically means washing your hands just one more time). The other reason why you should do this is because you never know if the containers happen to contain harmful chemicals like BPA; the less you have to worry about, the better.
Oh, and I'm hoping that since I'm sharing that it's not a good idea to reheat in your delivery containers that it's a given to not eat straight out of them. It's kinda hard to eat out of something without touching it. Feel me?
9. Consider Eating Outdoors
Yes, most of us are living in Safer at Home status at this point, but no one said that you can't go outside. If you live in a house or a townhome (that has a yard) it can do you some good to get out of the walls of your home and go outside; not just for a change of scenery but for some fresh air too. Since indoor air pollution is 2-5 times higher than outdoor air pollution, it could do you some real good to have a little picnic, a couple of times a week.
10. Don’t Leave Your Leftovers Out
Food poisoning sucks and since hospitals are being pushed to their absolute limit as it is, you want to avoid getting it as much as possible. One way to do that is to make sure that you don't leave whatever food is leftover out for too long. How long is "too long"? Two hours. Also, make sure that whenever you do reheat your leftovers, you do it at a temperature that's around 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
BONUS: Support Those Who Are Lookin’ Out
Thankfully, as if this month, "Federal law mandates new paid leave requirements for restaurant workers affected by coronavirus". But there are restaurants who are going above and beyond the bare minimum (and paid sick leave is definitely a bare minimum). Starbucks actually offers "catastrophe pay" (two weeks on top of their standard two-week sick pay) for employees who've been diagnosed with coronavirus. Recently KFC donated $400,000 to Blessings in a Backpack which is a non-profit that gives weekend meals to hungry kids, free of charge while Taco Bell donated $1 million to No Kid Hungry, a campaign that also feeds children. Domino's is donating million of slices of pizza to essential workers and school children. Several restaurants in New York are making free meals for hospital workers. I also want to give a big shout-out to Houston-based chef and restaurateur Jonathan "Jonny" Rhodes for recently turning his restaurant Indigo into a grocery store for low-income families (ain't nothin' like a good Black man, y'all!). I also found David Cabello's new app Black and Mobile to be a cool addition for such a time as this.
Other chains are being proactive about taking less money out of our pockets. For instance, if you use Burger King's app, they will give you two free kids meals with a regular order. TGIF Friday is giving a free kid's meal for every order over $20. Olive Garden has a two-for-the-price-of-one promotion. Several chains are offering free delivery (read more on what other chains are doing here). Figuring out the restaurants in your area who are helping their workers, you and the community and then ordering from them first is a great way of saying "I see you and I appreciate you" as they try and keep their doors open.
Do you feel a little better (and safer) now? Good. Now how about getting off of here and ordering you something to eat? With all that's going on right now, you deserve it.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Exclusive: Zonnique On 'The Break Up' & How Her Relationship With Tiny Shaped Her Approach To Motherhood
The last time Zonnique and I connected was two years ago, in 2021, when she was celebrating her very first Mother’s Day as Hunter’s mommy. Now, two years have passed, and so much has happened. She has released her latest EP after a five-year hiatus from the music scene, she became the host of FOX Soul’s The Mix, and I even lost my own mother. We had a lot to catch up on.
When I crossed over into the conference call after running a few minutes late, I was apologetic, but her calm, zen aura instantly calmed me down and reassured me that no apologies were necessary - just humble salutations.
With the return of Zonnique’s sultry voice to the forefront, I couldn’t go two minutes into our conversation without giving her her due flowers for her latest EP, The Break Up. “I'm happy for myself. You know it's been a long time coming, baby,” the singer shared about her work to xoNecole.
Zonnique admitted to me that her return to music was something that she’s been ready to do for quite some time, but there has been a lot of stalling in the interim. Between laying down vocals in the booth and planning around the perfect timing, there was much stop-and-start during the holding process of the project. In the end, the release and the timing of The Break Up came together as it should have when it was meant to be debuted into the world.
“Even though I was really sad about that and just mad about how long everything was taking, I think that it was worth the wait just for myself, period because I grew a lot in that time, and I got to really mold myself into the artist that I want to be,” Zonnique shared.
“One More Time” (For The Fans)
Credit: Scrill Davis
Courtesy of Zonnique
No stranger to the spotlight, Zonnique has amassed a loyal fanbase in the music industry from her time as a girl group member of the OMG Girlz all the way to her time as a reality star on Growing Up Hip-Hop: ATL and T.I. & Tiny. Now, the singer formerly known as "Miss Star" decided to put out a project specifically for her fans who have been craving to hear from her for nearly half a decade.
Because she had been teasing snippets of her music for years, the fans knew that she had something coming, but it wasn't until the last two months of 2022 that The Break Up truly came together. She completely scratched all of the music she originally created and started from the top by tapping into the feelings that she was experiencing in the moment, which included the torn mental state of a fresh heartbreak. In collaboration with a producer by the name of Valley, Zonnique created a project of five songs inspired by both her fans and the father of her child, Bandhunta Izzy.
In comparison to her 2017 EP Love Jones, Zonnique told me that her sophomore EP is "more vulnerable than the first time" and she feels more empowered and "confident to speak out." The singer also noted that because Love Jones marked the beginning of her solo career, the journey to solo stardom was a new and fresh one, and even described herself as timid.
Zonnique added, "Because [I was] coming out of a group, it can be uncomfortable at first, and I was kind of in an uncomfortable state. Even though I was proud of the things that I [made], and I'm still really happy about the Love Jones project and how it came out, I don't feel like I was as confident then, so I just was still figuring things out."
One of the most admirable traits about Zonnique is that while she's grown up on television since her days on Tiny & Toya with her mother and Xscape member Tiny, she managed to stay out of the drama and in her own lane. On The Break Up, Zonnique gets more vulnerable than she ever has about life, love, and relationships as she lets her guard down between each and every song, including the accompanying visuals featuring the father of her child.
"They might get to know my soft side or maybe even my weak side," Zonnique shared about what fans should expect from her latest project. "I feel like I'm always keeping up this positive, 'everything's good' type image. I think that they'll be able to learn [that] I go through it too, just like anybody else, and I go through heartbreak, and you'll see how I pretty much deal with that on the project."
Zonnique’s Love Song ‘23
Credit: Scrill Davis
Courtesy of Zonnique
Over the past five years, we've only been allowed as much access into Zonnique Pullins' world as she would allow, meaning that what we see on Instagram, on WeTV, or even on social media live streams are limited. When it comes to her dating life, the "Nun For Free" singer has always been relatively private and never given too much detail into the ins and outs of her love life beyond a few cute selfies that would suddenly disappear after the relationship had run its course.
Now, as a mother to almost three-year-old Hunter, who she co-parents with rapper Bandhunta Izzy, Zonnique was able to get real with me about the status of her dating life since her Love Jones days. While she says that much hasn't changed, Zonnique shared with me that she's always been a person who gives 100% to any and every relationship that she's ever been in, but like most of us, she has her boundaries and knows how to prioritize herself.
"I may mess up there a little bit, but I would say that I've always been a person that's like, 'okay, well if you mess with my peace, I'm pretty much out of here,'" she admitted. Contrary to her original thoughts, she believed that having a child would make her dating life much more difficult because she would feel "stuck here forever," but she soon realized that she was the novelist of her own romantic storybook, and it could go any which way she pleases. Zonnique powerfully and boastfully knows that she is not required to stay anywhere that may compromise her mental and emotional wellness.
"I try to still stay in the same mind frame that I was before I had a child, and I'm like, if it messes up my peace, I'll take my child, and we'll be up out of here," she added. "I feel like my happiness has always been the most important to me. I would feel like I've pretty much stayed the same in love."
Specifically, when it comes to her and the father of her child (who she also collaborated with on "One More Time" on The Break Up), Zonnique admits that they're still figuring out the boundaries of their relationship - co-parenting, platonically, and romantically. "We are still figuring that out," she shared. She doesn't deny the feeling of having love for - or even being in love with - her child's father but acknowledges that there's a weird sort of in-between limbo because of their past relationship pre-Hunter.
"It still can be difficult to be around each other and not be like, 'Okay. It's giving, what is this?'," she laughed. Zonnique shared that she and Bandhunta Izzy have come to an understanding to put their romantic feelings on the back burner and let things ebb and flow as time takes its course. "If it works out, it works out, but if not, at least we still can build our friendship. I think that building a friendship is really the most important thing, and I feel like with my child's father, we kind of got into a relationship before we even built the friendship."
"If it works out, it works out, but if not, at least we still can build our friendship. I think that building a friendship is really the most important thing, and I feel like with my child's father, we kind of got into a relationship before we even built the friendship."
Zonnique continued, "I don't know, we have a really great bond period. I think that it takes boundaries and just really figuring out what works for the two of you to be able to keep your kid happy. You both have to be happy, and you have to really figure it out as you go. It's not an easy thing."
In an effort to be happy and be the best mother she could be for Hunter, as well as being the best version of Zonnique for herself, she takes the time she needs to pour into herself so she can perform at the highest level. Between being in a relationship and cohabitating with your partner, Zonnique can sometimes feel a little burnout, especially when you add a baby into the mix.
However, Zonnique knows that sometimes it’s important to take a step back from everything that’s making you unhappy to stay in tune with your emotions, even if it means putting a relationship you really value in the backseat. "It can be a little challenging when you are being a mom and just focused on what your child needs and what's best for the family instead of what's best for you. It can kind of be a hard balance.”
Credit: Scrill Davis
Courtesy of Zonnique
Work-life balance requires patience, especially for a new mother like Zonnique. Music serves as a form of self-care for the "Ghost" singer, but she loves to share those moments with her baby girl even if her personality is larger than the songs that she's singing.
"My child is really attached to me, and she has a big personality, and she's very distracting," Zonnique laughed. "I bring her to the studio a lot, but she wants to be in the booth, and she wants to be on the mic and put the headphones on. She wants to do her own thing."
She knows that Hunter has a love for music, just like her mother, and she wants to expose her daughter early to all of the incredible things that music has to offer one's soul but knows that she has to set clearer boundaries for herself when having that time to herself. "I do like to take that time to just go in there alone and really get out my thoughts, and music is a diary for me. I'm not really an open person. I'm really private, so I enjoy being able to go in the studio and have that time to myself to just really say how I feel."
In addition to laying it all on the track, Zonnique uses working out and being alone as primary forms of self-care. "My real self-care is being at home by myself, getting rid of my child, having no company, and literally just laying in my bed, listening to music. I would lay in the bed all day, put no TV on, and just listen to my favorite songs, and I will be healed after. I don't know why that is," she admitted to me.
In times of need and support, Zonnique's first call is to none other than one of her best friends, her own mother. As a young mom herself, Tiny was able to navigate the ins and outs of being in the center of the music industry while being responsible for her mini-me, meaning she would have much advice to share with her firstborn. "I feel like my mom has never second-guessed me. She's always been in my corner. She calls me and is making sure that I'm good, other than music or anything, she's just always very supportive in every way," she said kindly about her mother.
In a previous interview on Mr. Jay Hill's podcast, Zonnique explained how her strained relationship with the Xscape vocalist when she was younger manifested itself into her self-care practices today. Admitting that Tiny's relationship with her stepfather and rapper T.I. always seemed like a priority during the interview, Zonnique told me that it impacted the way that she approaches motherhood with her own mini-me. "I feel like it affects me a lot in my motherhood. It's definitely made me a certain type of way with my child," she admitted.
Tiny had never heard her daughter express sentiments of neglect or abandonment, according to Zonnique, but knows that the adversity in their relationship would only make Zonnique the incredible mother that she is today. "I was telling her (Tiny) it really molded me into the mom that I am. It's okay, I'm older, and I'm fine. I'm not hurt about that stuff anymore, but I'm glad that I went through those things because now I'm like, 'I'm going to take my child.' Even when I know it's probably going to be a lot harder that I take her, I still take her, and I just push myself to go over and beyond for her, which I enjoy."
"I feel like it affects me a lot in my motherhood. It's definitely made me a certain type of way with my child. I was telling her it really molded me into the mom that I am. It's okay, I'm older, and I'm fine. I'm not hurt about that stuff anymore, but I'm glad I went through those things because now I'm like, 'I'm going to take my child.'"
Zonnique Is Great
Credit: Scrill Davis
Courtesy of Zonnique
This time around for Mother's Day, Zonnique has expectations that are a bit different than when we connected two years ago. "What excites me the most is just knowing that I'm not going to say a real mother, but I would say I'm really flourishing in motherhood," she said as she acknowledged herself proudly.
"Not to toot my own horn, I'm in motherhood, and I feel like I'm starting to get to a point where I'm comfortable, and this is my life, and I'm good at this. I'm not second-guessing myself. My child will be okay, and I'm not stressed and worried about what's next or things like that. I feel like I'm just really settling into motherhood this year."
In retrospect, Zonnique has come a long way in her parenting journey throughout the past two years, and it shows. Confidence, resilience, and patience are not only pieces of her character that Zonnique has already possessed, but they've been amplified through her responsibility as a mother.
From the ups of teaching her daughter her passion for music and dance to the lows of achieving balance, Zonnique says that she's ready for it all - and we love to see it.
The Break Up is available on all streaming platforms.
Featured image by Scrill Davis