In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.
Do you remember the first time you fell in love? It is this indescribable feeling that takes over your body without warning. The lucky ones get to experience this feeling more than once in their lifetime. Regardless, if this feeling lasted for forever or just for a moment, we will always remember the person who made us feel this way. When you experience love, yes we are physically attracted to that person, but it's deeper than that. Love is about accepting someone for who they are on the inside and wanting to share your life with them.
On June 2, 2019, I was honored to witness two people devote their lives to each other because of that indescribable feeling. I was able to see my sister, Calina Kimbrough, marry the love of her life. As Calina exchanged her vows to the woman that became everything she needed and more, it was a perfect moment to see what true black love looks like and feels like. Before this moment, things actually moved a little faster for my sister and her now-wife, Rennetta Kimbrough.
Calina and Rennetta met at a nightclub six months before they became engaged to be married. Calina spotted Rennetta across the dance floor and knew she wanted to learn more about her. With the power of using her best wing woman, Calina asked her friend to see if Rennetta was single. After they connected and Rennetta walked Calina to her car that night, it was only right for Calina to return the favor by taking her hand in marriage and later walking down the aisle.
Courtesy of Calina and Rennetta
After being married for three years, Calina and Rennetta have created a successful life for themselves and their children. They started a clothing business together called LiXX Clothing and plan to expand this business in order to leave a legacy for their family. When it comes to keeping the love alive, Calina and Rennetta have learned that it is about showing up for one another and working together as a team. Showing up can mean different things to different people, but for Calina and Rennetta, it is about lessening the load for one another and communicating openly and honestly.
Love will always have its ebbs and flows, but when you are able to navigate through it with the person that gave you that feeling, any couple will tell you it's worth it. Calina and Rennetta continue to pour the love they have for each other into their new family. They have been able to set an example and display what love really looks like.
In this installment of xoNecole's "Our First Year", Calina and Rennetta share how love is about supporting each other, navigating through the good and bad, and valuing the importance of family. Here's their story:
How We Met
Netta: We both happened to be at this club called Taste. Calina was looking at me and actually sent her friend over to try and talk to me. I told the friend that if Calina wanted to talk to me, then she had to talk to me (laughs). But then after that, I didn't see her in the club for a little while and I got kind of worried. But she came back to the club and we finally spoke to each other. After that, I walked her to her car and it's been us since then.
Calina: So that night, I was persuaded to go out with my friends. I had no intention of trying to meet someone that night because I was completely fine with being single. It was my first time being at this club and I noticed Netta at the bar with one of her friends. I did ask my friend to go over to Netta and ask her if she was single. When my friend came back with Netta's message, I honestly got nervous. I felt Netta was out of my league so I basically left to walk around to ponder about the situation and to see if Netta would still be there once I got back (laughs). But I came back and Netta actually walked up to me. So we started talking, she walked me to my car, and yes we have not left each other's side since.
"I felt Netta was out of my league so I basically left to walk around to ponder about the situation and to see if Netta would still be there once I got back. But I came back and Netta actually walked up to me. So we started talking, she walked me to my car, and yes we have not left each other's side since."
Calina: So my initial thought when I saw Netta was that I like the way she dresses. I have always been attracted to her style and her confidence. Her confidence exudes from out of nowhere and she doesn't try too hard. After I got to know her and within those first couple of weeks, I thought she was pretty cool. But she was trying to play hard to get and I didn't like that (laughs).
Netta: At first I thought Calina was really shy. But I noticed her stance and that is what initially made me want to approach her. She is ultimately very beautiful. She is very smart and I love this woman.
Netta: I love Calina's intelligence. I don't think she gives herself enough credit for how smart she is. She's my beauty and my brains.
Calina: I love Netta's passion for family. Family is something that I look for in the people I date because I am very close with my family. Netta is always keeping family first in mind and she makes sure that our home is straight before anything. I truly appreciate and admire that about her.
The Big Day
Calina: One thing I remember about my wedding day was how calm I was. Normally, I have very high anxiety. I am usually overthinking and trying to fix things when I am super anxious. Mind you, on our wedding day, nothing went right (laughs). My favorite part of the wedding was when my dad gave me away to my son and then my son gave me away to Netta. That moment was something I pictured in my head over and over again. The fact that my father was eager to get me down the aisle and then seeing my son being happy to be a part of the wedding is something I hold dear to my heart.
Netta: I remember seeing her at the back of the room before she was going to walk down the aisle. I cried like a baby (laughs). She looked so beautiful. I was definitely nervous and I am usually not a nervous person. But at that moment, when Calina was down the aisle I thought to myself, 'This is it. No take backs!' (laughs).
"I remember seeing her at the back of the room before she was going to walk down the aisle. I cried like a baby. She looked so beautiful."
Courtesy of Calina and Rennetta
Netta: Calina is very different from any other woman I have ever dated. We would have real conversations about anything and I liked that we could do that together. I also felt like Calina was "put away". What I mean is, she wasn't mixed in any of the crowds that I was a part of and that made her sacred to me. I also think she was a saving grace after losing my mother. My mother passed on the 10th and I met Calina on the 10th. Everything just lined up and I just knew she was the one.
Calina: I am very much big into the kids. One thing that she had above other people that I've dated, is that she knows what it means to be a mom. Netta has three daughters and when she mentioned that when we were getting to know each other, that was a green flag for me. But more importantly, I needed to know if Netta knew how to be a parent. There was this moment when my son and I were at Netta's house. My son needed something and my son and her were having this conversation without me. I really needed to see that my son is OK with whomever I bring into my life without me needing to be present. I needed to see that someone is going to care for him the same way I care for him.
Calina: I wouldn't say there was a key defining moment for when I knew I wanted to take the next step into marriage. I will say that everything happened so quickly for us. We were dating almost six months before she proposed. But everything that happened within those six months was very pivotal for me. We were able to try different things and see if we could really blend our lives together in the smallest ways. So by the time the proposal happened, even though I wasn't expecting it at all, it was very reassuring to me. Usually I am the one that is ready to take the next step, waiting on the other person to be ready. But this time, it was the other way around.
Netta: I know that we took a trip to Louisville together and I don't know, something happened with us down there. I don't know what she did to me, but that day, I remember telling my sister that it may be time for me to take the next step. We were in the mall and we walked into the jewelry store. Calina spotted her eye on this ring. After she walked out, I dropped money on the ring right then and there. I can't explain what kind of power Calina has over me, but she got me (laughs).
Netta: My biggest fear was failing. I have seen so many failed marriages firsthand and that really affected me. I didn't want to fall into that category like everybody else. What has helped me get over that fear is that each year Calina and I prove that we can make it through anything together. Even if we have a disagreement, we always come back and work out our issues.
Calina: My biggest fear was being exposed. I have done very well keeping a wall up for the majority of my life. So being completely vulnerable and open to someone scared me. I thought that I was being open enough with her when we were dating. But in marriage, it is a whole other level. However, when I have slowly opened up to Netta more, she has proven that she is going to love me through it all. She may not agree with everything or accept everything I say initially. But she is willing to work through things with me and be beside me regardless.
"My biggest fear was failing. I have seen so many failed marriages firsthand and that really affected me. I didn't want to fall into that category like everybody else. What has helped me get over that fear is that each year Calina and I prove that we can make it through anything together."
Calina: I wouldn't say the kids were a challenge, but it ebbed and flowed. I know at one point I'm their favorite person and then the next, I'm not. I think that's just parenting in general (laughs). But for me, those questions like, "Are you going to stay?" or "Are you going to make my mom happy?" were definitely questions we had to work through and I make sure I reassure the kids all the time.
Netta: For me, my challenge was not knowing everything about Calina. There were certain things that I had to find out later about her. It was mainly because I didn't feel prepared to help support her with her struggles or at least learn how to support her. I don't want to say it was because of a lack of communication. But to her point about her fear of exposure. It definitely played a part in the beginning of our marriage.
Courtesy of Calina and Rennetta
Netta: I want to say communication. If we do not talk to each other, everything goes downhill. It's important for us to talk to each other about if we are in a good mood and especially if we are in a bad mood. That is the biggest thing for me.
Calina: I think an important lesson is to make sure you do not lose yourself in the other person. I have done that plenty of times before and even in my marriage. Netta has definitely been my mirror. She has reminded me that I need to establish who I am outside of being a wife and doing things that make me happy at the end of the day.
"Netta has definitely been my mirror. She has reminded me that I need to establish who I am outside of being a wife and doing things that make me happy at the end of the day."
Calina: I like to show up for Netta by realizing how I can support her. How can I lighten the load for her when she is stressed or when she needs to just take a breath. That is how I like to insert myself. Now Netta would agree that sometimes I don't just lighten the load, I take the whole thing (laughs). But then that's not good, so I am definitely working on that. But yes, just reassuring her that I appreciate her and that I am here to be a true partner/teammate.
Netta: I am very protective of Calina. I always try to make sure that no harm comes to her and take the load off of her as well, when I see her juggling so many things. I also like to make her laugh when I see her in a bad mood. I try to brighten her day the best way I can.
Calina: I would love to say the ultimate goal is til' death do us part. I want us to be a strong example of black love. Not lesbian love, but black love period. I feel like that growing up for me, I was shown the example of what a healthy union looks like. So being the exception of everyone and showing how true love works in a marriage is a good common goal for me.
Netta: I agree with her. But I also want to add that I want us to take our business to another level. I want us to leave a legacy for our children.
Featured image courtesy of Calina and Rennetta
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
I first moved to Spain in December 2018, bright-eyed and ready to dive into the culture. While I have loved every minute of my life abroad, I definitely received my share of culture shocks in Spain. Some were hilarious, some were surprising, and no matter how many times I was warned about others, they were still shocking!
When I first arrived in Spain, I was so used to the American mode of constant productivity. It almost caused me anxiety how relaxed most Spanish people are about everything.
In the United States, your career defines you; everything must be done correctly the first time and on time, and even your relaxation time should be productive. Spain is the opposite.
I learned to embrace it because if they’re not freaking out about it, why should I? It was an instant release. Spanish people place value on making time to relax, enjoying good company, and being outdoors in the sunshine. My mental health and ability to handle setbacks in stride improved a ton in Spain.
So as I near five years living abroad, here are the biggest lessons the Spanish taught me about chilling the fuck out.
Lesson Number 1: “No pasa nada”
My first day working as an English Language Assistant in Spain couldn’t have gone more wrong if I tried. The bus that took me to the town where I worked never showed up. When I finally got to the town, hours later, I couldn’t find the school. When I finally managed to make it to a class (after missing my first three of the day), the presentation I had prepared didn’t work.
I remember looking up from the computer screen to a class of eager students and my enthusiastic co-teacher (who also happened to be my boss). My heart sank into my stomach, “I can’t open the presentation, Mabel.”
“No pasa nada, just talk to the kids, let them ask you questions.” Just like that? The kids were so excited to meet someone from the USA that the questions just kept coming, and they thanked me for a fun class.
No pasa nada translates to something like no worries, or it’s not a big deal, and I must’ve heard it at least 10 times a day every day in Spain. If something ever goes wrong, “No pasa nada.”
You can’t control everything all the time. Is anyone bleeding, dying, or injured? No? Then it’s not worth losing your head over. Just come up with the best solution you can think of at the moment and roll with it.
Courtesy of Ambar Mejia
Lesson Number 2: “Teacher, Did You Not Have Time for Breakfast?”
When I was working in the U.S., I often had all sorts of meals at my desk. Breakfast, lunch, coffee breaks. It wasn’t uncommon for me to sit in front of a screen, clacking away on my keyboard while taking bites and sips in between thoughts.
One day, in Spain, I showed up to school with a thermos of coffee and was sipping away while I led the class. One student raised his hand, “Yes Miguel?” “Uh, teacher, did you not have time for breakfast?”
Count on children to call you out! I thought he was just being an 11-year-old until later that week, a teacher asked me to go get coffee in between classes. When I went up to the counter to ask for it to go, she looked at me like, “What are you doing?” I said I was just grabbing it to go so we could get back to work. She said, "Yeah, we don’t do that here." And in fact, they didn’t even have a way to give me this coffee to go.
She later explained to me that it’s not usual for Spanish people to drink or eat while they walk or work. “Certainly you have 10 minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee and relax.”
(ENJOY my coffee? Interesting concept. I was just going to consume it for energy.)
In another instance, a Spanish friend of mine saw someone walking while eating a sandwich and said, “How depressing that they don’t even have time to sit and eat a sandwich.”
And actually, if you think about it, that is sad, but it’s not out of the ordinary in the U.S. But our bodies need food, and when we don’t even take those 10 minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee or actually chew a sandwich, we’re saying work is more important than caring for our bodies.
Even taking those 10 minutes to just focus on your coffee and be present can help you slow down and relax throughout the day.
Courtesy of Ambar Mejia
Lesson Number 3: “Y la sobremesa?”
I learned over the years living in Spain that food and meal times are sacred. It’s not just about getting something in to carry you throughout the day. Meal times are a moment to pause, relax, and unwind, and it’s always at the table!
Meals are also a time to gather with family and friends and have rowdy conversations about any subject under the sun (except work, as they consider this stuffy conversation).
This tradition of chatting after a meal is so important, it even has a proper name 'sobremesa' (over table). Long after the plates are cleared, the sobremesa will continue over drinks, coffee, or dessert. It can last several hours! (I once had lunch for five hours, four of which were just the sobremesa.)
If you try to get up without it, someone might ask, “Y la sobremesa?” like “What about the after-meal conversation?”
There is so much emphasis on connection in Spain, whereas American culture is more individualistic. Now, while I’m not suggesting all Americans have 5-hour lunches or do everything in pairs, there is something therapeutic about prioritizing your meals, not rushing, and being in good company.
Courtesy of Ambar Mejia
Lesson Number 4: Go have some sangria, walk on the beach, and try again.
In my second year teaching English in Spain, I moved to a different city in Spain and had the strange luck that my new boss was the strictest Spanish person I have ever met to this day.
When I couldn’t get an appointment to renew my residency card in time, she told me if I didn’t have it sorted by January 1st, she wouldn’t be able to let me stay in the country.
I made an appointment in a nearby town, but when I showed up for the appointment, the police officer told me I had to do it in the town I lived in. I started bawling. As a child of people who had immigrated to the U.S., I was in panic mode.
He tried consoling me and begged me to calm down, but I only started shaking and crying more, “My boss won’t let me stay if I don’t have my card renewed.”
And I will never forget his next words, “It’s okay. It’s okay. This isn’t the U.S. We’re not going to come looking for you.” (In retrospect, it is kind of funny.)
“Why don’t you go have some sangria, walk on the beach, and try again.” This did not feel like the time for this “no pasa nada” attitude, but I took his words of advice.
I had the sangria. I walked on the beach. And I went home to try again, and guess what? I did in fact find the appointment.
Courtesy of Ambar Mejia
Lesson Number 5: Sundays are for soaking up the sun.
Everything in Spain closes on Sunday. Everything except restaurants. So you couldn’t even run errands if you wanted to. This is usually a day for family and friends to gather on the beach, in the park, at a restaurant, or out on the plazas underneath flowering trees.
Sunday is just about connecting with loved ones and enjoying the sunshine at your leisure. I’m sure you can notice a theme here, Spanish culture is all about letting things flow.
Something that struck me most about Spain was how much less they complained about their mental health. It feels like almost all of my friends in the U.S. are struggling with anxiety or depression, and not without good reason. American lifestyle can feel like a pressure cooker, but what I think we can learn from the Spanish is to slow down, take life as it comes, have moments throughout the day and throughout the week where we can just be, and always make time for good company.
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Featured image courtesy of Ambar Mejia