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Redefining Dreams, Goals, and What Success Means to You

I listen to Dave Ramsey a lot [on YouTube]. I have to caveat that with I don't agree with everything he says, but I quite enjoy his shows and I learn a lot about living financially conservatively from him.  Someone recently called in about her husband who has a $700k debt (!!!!) they have been ploughing through for a while. To be clear, this was not debt that was used for the family; it was just his personal debt that I think he used for his business or something. Still, together they have been on a debt journey for about 7 years. In fact, they have paid it down to 60k (an incredible feat). So why was she calling? Well, she was still angry.  I would be too. But she wan't angry for reasons you might think. She resents him because her dream was always to be a stay at home mom but because of her husband's terrible decisions, she wasn't able to. She had to work because they were so deep in debt, they needed to both be working to solve the crisis. She is exhausted mentally and emotionally and is about ready to give up on the marriage. Completely confused, Dave confirmed again "You said you already paid this down from SEVEN HUNDRED thousand to sixty?"

"Yes," She said

"So what's the problem?"

"I guess I have run out of gas," she said, breaking into tears.

Again, I would be furious. In fact, as soon the call began, I was like yappp divorce his stupid behind.
But pump the breaks. Let's be fair here. This man did not do ANY of this in secret. She knew about it. When they doubled down on working hard to pay back the debt, he did not refuse. He joined in. He is as committed to financial freedom as she is. Yet she is angry.  So understandably, Ramsey and his cohost (Dr. John) were obviously perplexed. And so was I till I realized the problem

Resentment.

Oh?



Now, I KNOW a lot about resentment. Ooohhh chile. I know it all too well. You know what the problem is? She is angry at him because one of her greatest dreams—to  stay home, take care of her kids, and be a homemaker—could not be achieved because of him. Now it's too late because her youngest kid is 20 and is now in college.

Sigh.

The one thing Dr. John told her that I loved was, at the end of the day the decision to hang on to this resentment is her choice. But more than holding on to resentment, she has refused to let go of that particular dream.  I used to be like that too; I would have one dream, and do all but literally worship that dream. I would hold on to it as the almighty ideal. It's not my fault though, neither is it the fault of the woman above. We have been told in many ways to have a dream, visualize it, and hold on to that dream no matter what.  I know better now; I now know dreams come and go. TD Jakes once said what makes you feel like you have lost your life after some form of loss is that you have lost what you had in mind for your life. This means that you need a new vision for yourself. Things and plans fail, and it has to be okay.

"We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to welcome the life that is waiting for us." - Joshua Campbell.

When Hodgins, a character on one of my most favorite shows (Bones) had an accident and became paralyzed, he went into a deep depression and was angry at everyone. Bones confronted him about his anger which had turned into hatred and hostility. He told her it didn't matter if the whole world was supporting you, sometimes success can be just as hard to reach. Her reply to him changed my approach to many things. She said, then success must be redefined as that which can be accomplished.

Whether it is with a freaking global pandemic or loss or uncertainty or all of the above, we have to be willing to let go of some dreams, welcome new ones, and redefine what success means to us. The woman that called Dave Ramsey was literally crying and tired. So far be it from me to trivialize her concerns. But you know what though, what if she was a stay at home mom and completely DESPISED it? I hate to use cliches but we never know what God is saving us from by making some of our big dreams unattainable. Even if it would have been the best thing to happen to her, the fact is it is now a road not taken. And she can never know what would have come off it. This is why she must learn to let go of that sole dream if she is going to thrive in her new reality. Did her husband make a mistake? Absolutely. But it's time to draw a new vision. It's time to conceive a new dream. We are incredibly multifaceted and wonderfully complex. Yet, we fall for the trap that we have to be one and only one thing.

And don't get me wrong. It's not magic. You don't just turn a switch off and it's all gone. Sometimes you have to live with remnants of old dreams laying around your life. This woman has been working two jobs to pay down debt. She went from wanting to stay home to working two freaking jobs. Any sane person would be mad. She made a statement that drove it home for me:

"we are both working really hard to achieve his dream but mine never mattered"

So in her case as with most of us, it's a long, arduous, painful process.  One that has to begin with open communication, either with ourselves or with the people in our lives. After lots of disappointments from friends, I sat myself down for a one-on-one and I told me that if I couldn't give wholly and fully without expecting back then I would not give. Fin. I would do what I can for people, but set very low expectations of return. That way I could rid myself of the resentment that had been building up due to me giving and giving but never getting back. I don't even mean material things. I mean everything else. And now I'm at peace with myself, not angry with anybody, and doing the best that I can. It's the same with some dreams.

So what dreams, expectations, goals are you forcefully holding on to? Because life is too fleeting to think you have to only be one thing. In these especially troubling times, reevaluate, redefine success, dream new dreams, create new visions. Whatever you must do to not hold yourself to standards you unrealistically set eons ago because mommy and daddy thought you were good with math at age 5 so you had to be an engineer. Even though 30-year-old-you knows that your heart belongs to writing and drawing and creating? Ooohh I hit a nerve lol.

Seriously though, your dreams are not supposed to hold you hostage and terrorize you. Set yourself free today.

Love,

I

Friday Reflections

1.) We had none of these in June. Yikes. My bad.



2.) 74 things white people can do for racial justice.

3.) Tayari Jones, author of one of the best books of this decade,  An American Marriage, always believed she would never catch up.

4.) Chemical versus physical sunscreen: the actual science.

5.) Ladies and gentlemen, please wear sunscreen.

6.) I say this about my favorite shows but really, Madam Secretary was one of the best shows on TV. I don't know why it wasn't more mainstream. I recently watched the series finale and it was amazing.  It was such a good show. The pace. They storylines. Plus, it never tried to be anything it wasn't.

7.) The New York Times agrees with me.

8.) My favorite part was how Elizabeth McCord was portrayed: reasoned, calculated, but filled with incredible empathy. Oh and her marriage; she and Henry were the best couple ever Lol.

9.) Okay here's another review: "Madam Secretary was not perfect but it was hopeful."

10.) This is the best and most fun way you'll ever learn about investing whether during Covid or just more generally. The way she breaks down very complex terminology is a talent, for sure.

11.) Happy July 4th, people. Our celebration this year must be centered around the fact that a woman was peacefully in HER HOME and then she was shot dead by the police and they still have not been arrested or held accountable in any way. That is not true freedom. And if all of us aren't free, then none of us are.

12.)  So don't forget to continue to advocate for Breonna Taylor.

11.) That's it folks. Have a great weekend..

Book of the Month: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

I apologize for book of the month coming this late. As you all know, this month has been a whole lot. So anyway, let's do something fun, shall we?

This book is what you call an original. Written by a Nigerian, Ayobami Adebayo, Stay With Me tells the story of Yejide and Akin, who met in the University, as they navigate their marriage and all the pressures that come with a childless Nigerian marriage.  We hear about the marriage from each of their points of view. At some point, Akin is forced to take a second wife, Funmi, who is introduced to him by his mother. His mother insists this new wife will give him a child. This ordeal and its effects on Yejide sets the pace for a very heartbreaking book. We see the secrets husband and wife have kept from each other and the consequences this bears on their marriage. And that's about how much I want to say about the plot so as not to ruin it.



At first, the book sort of starts slow or not slow as much as keeping you wondering, where is this going? But trust me, it gets there soon enough. I really like this book because it's a Nigerian book written by a Nigerian and about Nigerians. The book has two narrators—husband and wife, Yejide and Akin—and  each chapter alternates between both of them. The striking aspect of this book is how it's so gentle yet so profound and strongly emotional. After watching interviews of the author, it almost feels like it mirrors the temperament of the author. The author does a good job of inviting us into the hearts and minds of the narrators, though I would argue in some sense, she was partial to Yejide.  More than anything, it flawlessly weaves the story of the couple against a backdrop of the Nigerian political environment. I will say though, that sometimes you are left wondering if the infusion of politics was doing too much.

There is a particular lie Akin told Yejide that I find really hard to believe. I mean, can anyone be so naive? And almost everyone that has read the book agrees with this notion. It's insignificant enough to ignore but also so center to the marriage and core of the book that it makes me wince a little. Otherwise, great book!

Something else that  immediately draws your attention is how she gleans from the Nigerian culture without been ostentatious. It's why I call her an original. I love how the book does not pander. It is genuine. It is authentic. It is not trying hard to be made into a movie. And yes, the author is a master storyteller. She used the characters' voices to tell folklores, something we rarely see in contemporary Nigerian novels. The representation of Yoruba people, customs, and tradition was heartwarming in a way I did not expect. For these reasons,  I am willing to overlook the aforementioned gaffe. Her portrayal of Yoruba people of different leanings, different beliefs, and thinking is just beautiful.  Among Yoruba people, a childless woman is basically an aberration, an outcast. There is a pain, a heartache, and a desperation that comes with being childless in Nigeria in that era and Adebayo captures it quite well. And yet somehow, she manages to explore themes of religion, outdated but familiar traditions, love. The author's wisdom seeps through the pages in a way that isn't showy.

There is a lot in the book about Nigeria in early 90s/80s: a time when armed robbers wrote you before visiting. When mothers-in-law can arrive with a second wife for your husband. Depending on who you are or your age, it might make you nostalgic.

"If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love.

This quote whew. It bothers me; the idea of love as tragic, painful, and endlessly so bothers me a lot. I genuinely believe love ends. And I also believe a love that destroys you is anything but.

Ultimately, this book is not really what you will expect at all. There are surprising plot twists along the way that make it all the more a dope book. And it is very poignant. And you would not want to put it down. And I know, for sure, you need a good distraction right about now Lol.

Love,

I

Getting Justice for Breonna Taylor and Your Role in the Fight Against Racial Injustice.

I just read the last post on the blog and whew, I was angry. And make no mistake, I still am. Black lives matter even when the hashtag isn't trending. So I am here to remind you. It's hard to talk about anything else right now, and that's simply the only excuse for my absence. But don't worry I will, eventually. Because black joy is protest. And we will represent that joy on this corner of the cyberspace. Speaking of, even when I'm not here, I'm most likely on Instagram makin' it rain.

Um, I'm almost certain that's the wrong use of that slang, but who cares.

So with all the rage of the past few weeks (rightfully so), it's very easy to feel helpless so the main goal of this post is to talk about how you can help. Because I know for sure you want to help advance racial justice. I know you want to help put an end to police brutality. Let's talk about that. And we will continue to talk about that on this blog.



But today, please consider doing something towards getting justice for Breonna Taylor. Yes, posting on social media is SOMETHING. Keep saying her name. Keep thinking of her. We must get justice for her because her killing was entirely senseless, but the fact that her killers have not been arrested is just adding insult to injury. It is preposterous that someone would take a person's life like so...so blatantly, and in the words of Dave Chappelle not think they would face the wrath of God. It is infuriating and just despicable at this point.  So what can you do? I’ve been writing to Kentucky’s Attorney General, Mayor, Governor demanding for justice and I’m not going to stop till her killers are arrested. Since I started writing this post, it was announced that one of the officers will be fired. That is not enough. Anyway, if you want to do more after posting (though I feel posting is powerful) here is a link with actionable things you can do right now to get justice for her.  Let us look out for her. We must keep demanding justice for her and demanding that her killers be arrested and charged. There is an ongoing conversation about how black women tend to be overlooked in the cry for justice against police brutality. This means we must remember her and say her name.

Ask yourself this, "if I were unjustly killed, how would I want people to react?" then you react that way.  Injustice should propel us to action, should anger us, and should induce our compassion. Because an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. Christians, this was Jesus's command: that we love our neighbors as ourselves. That the pain of our neighbors should feel like our pain.

Recently, someone on TV was apparently furious about the protests. They said the protest is what’s causing the rise in COVID-19 and they were angry because the rise in COVID-19 means they can’t go get a crib for their child. They said they did not understand why it was okay for the “left” to protest but then the media criticizes the president for inviting people to a rally in the midst of a pandemic. Sigh. And that’s how you know people still don't get it. They see protesting injustice and fighting for black lives as a “left” issue. They see an ideological fight where black bodies are literally dropping like flies. Now, if you cannot tell the difference between protesting injustice and having a rally to secure votes. If you cannot tell the difference between protesting murder and protesting to go get haircuts or to go get brunch. If you cannot understand how important it is to protest racism and bigotry in comparison with going to shop for your baby’s crib. Then my heart sinks. My heart breaks because it means we have a long way to go.

Friend, how are you advancing racial justice today?

Remember, until we are all free, we are none of us free.

Happy Juneteenth, beautiful people!

Love,

I

We Can't Breathe: Because Racism is Built into the DNA of America

So far, I think I have curated this blog such that I don't immediately respond or react to every incident or news or event. It's an approach I am attempting to take towards my real life too: pause, think, reflect, then respond. Reasons for this are both practical (because it would be hard to keep up with everything) and wise (because patience is always a virtue). Yet, for the first time the silence is not necessarily born out of that idea. This time it is born out of fatigue. Out of exhaustion. Out of saying the same thing over and over and over with no change.

I suppose every generation has its moments of reckoning in history. And if the events of the past few days are an indication of anything, it is that perhaps this is ours. So fatigue or no, exhaustion or no, I have to wield the one weapon I have and believe in: words. One way or another, I have to speak, whether it reaches just one person or thousands. Because there comes a time in a person's life where you have to take a stand. You have to ask yourself if you  are a feckless wimp who cares more about order than justice and who is always "neutral", lukewarm, and lacking in opinion; Or if you have a spine to speak up of for justice, for equity, and for fairness in your little corner of your world. I'm the true daughter of my mother and father so I am the latter.  I choose to be the latter.



Let's recap, shall we? Breonna Taylor's brutal murder, Ahmaud Arbery's despicable murder, Amy Cooper aka Central Park Karen putting up an award winning performance whereby she weaponizes her whiteness, and of course, George Floyd's heartless murder.  They all happened in less than six months. Week after week after week, it was one hashtag after the other. To say Black people suffer the grossest injustice, the worst forms of prejudice, racism, systemic oppression, and just blatant disrespect would be the greatest understatement of the year. But none of this is new.

We are tired. We are exhausted. We are suffocating. 

There is something I always like to say. We often think that as a collective group of people, as human beings, we are inherently good; we think there is a lot of good in people.  Except that, kneeling and quite literally snuffing the life out of your fellow human being in the full glare of others should jolt you out of that naive thinking into reality.  The worst part  is that it took us all bringing the fire on social media for them to even arrest the guy. Arrest. People of God, Breonna Taylor's murderers are still roaming free. My people have a saying that loosely translates to if you keep pushing and pushing a dog till it gets to a wall, at some point, it would turn back to face you.  Ladies and gentlemen, Black folks HAVE turned back.

"I learned a long time ago that when change happens, it's either because people see the light or they feel the fire. We are lifting up these stories in the hopes that you will see the light and if you don't, we will bring the fire." - Ayanna Pressley

For so long, Black people complained. We protested. We knelt down. We prayed. We sang. In more ways than one,  we were told it's all in our heads. But what the events of the last few weeks have shown so clearly is that there is a problem. The status quo has failed us in more ways than I can count. Something has to change. Let's take a look at the pandemic that has ravaged our midst since the beginning of this year. When COVID-19 struck, it was first purported to be the great equalizer. False. It has disproportionately ravaged Black people in the U.S. both in terms of our health and financial security. In fact, in a place like Kansas, Black folks were dying from COVID at seven times the rate of White residents. COVID-19 exposed the structural inequalities in our health system.

When signs showed that the curve was flattening a little, there was an outcry to be let out. People started to complain about wanting to go out. The people least likely to die from the virus were the ones itching to go out the most so that they could dine again, travel, get a haircut. Meanwhile, the poorer and more vulnerable are still left without adequate social safety nets, without health insurance. So White people went out, protested, they bore arms, they assaulted police, they provoked the police and there was no response. None of them was killed. The president called them "good people".  No one touched them during their ridiculousness called protests. They didn't care that people were dying. As long as they are fine. As long as they get to brunch. And do block parties. They did not care. They wanted to go back to normal. But normal was never good. Normal is where black people face police brutality. Normal is where a Black man can be hunted and gunned down like a wild animal for jogging. Normal is where a Black woman can be shot for being inside her house and literally minding her business. Normal is where the very people charged to protect us harass us. Normal is a disaster.

Normal is centuries of injustice. Normal is where in Twin Cities, Minnesota, decades of government policy continually benefitted White families and harmed Black ones. When they built an interstate highway in the 1950s in the region, White neighborhoods weren't touched but Black ones were tore up in ways that destroyed Black social centers, churches, and clubs. Normal is where rich men profit off the criminalization of Black men. Normal is where Black men and women get lynched on camera. Normal is not good.

"You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, 'you are free to compete with all others' and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. Thus, it is not just enough to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through these gates." - Lyndon Johnson

This is is not some abstract issue. It's not  some theoretical concept that can't be grasped. I'm an academic, who ironically doesn't enjoy theory as much. I love data. I love evidence. I love impact. It is how I know without a doubt that we can fix this. We can enact reforms and policies that benefit Black folks and treats us as EQUAL. We can create a society where Black people have health insurance. We can stop the school to prison pipeline. We can ensure that Black men and women get a fair trial.  We can agree that there is an imbalance in the world when Black folks are rotting away in prison for petty marijuana—the same marijuana that White people smoke when they get bored on a Friday night just to sound cool. We can enforce policies to protect Black people. We can make sure we train the police to be sensitive to the communities they seek to protect. We can make sure when police hears "I can't breathe", they take our word for it. And when they don't take our word for it, when they kill us, throw them into a hole so deep, the father of the correctional officer that will eventually let them out of their cell has not even been born. Most of all, we can design our society so that it reflects an EQUAL society. We are equal before God.

"Racism is built into the DNA of America" - Annalise Keating.

The research tells us, the evidence shows that the police departments that get more military grade weapons kill more people. Indeed, holding police directly accountable leads to less police brutality. Data on use of force, complaints, and lawsuits can predict officers more likely to shoot someone next. Investigate police departments more. Invest in alternatives to policing as crime prevention strategies. Change IS possible. Here is more research where that came from.  These are tangible, actionable things we can demand from our leaders.

This means we have work to do. You and I. You think peace is when there is no protest? Wrong. Peace is when there is justice. We cannot gloss over injustice for the sake of unity.  Everyone keeps yapping about MLK and pEaCeFuL pRoTeSt forgetting that they still KILLED him. Colin Kaepernick kneeled, just kneeled, he has been out of a job for a while. Sometimes we need anger. Some of the greatest revolutions were fueled by anger. I am not condoning or encouraging looting in any form; I am saying in the words of MLK, riots are the voice of the unheard. I'm saying something HAS to give. I will say though, that I know we must not destroy our own communities because those racist fascists don't care about us. We must preserve the sanctity of our community. However, as a society, we have refused at all cost to make our society work for ALL of us. And for as long as we allow this, there will always be a virus among us.

As for religious leaders, as for hypocritical so-called Evangelicals:

"What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you pharisees
Hypocrites! 
For you are careful to tithe event he tiniest income from your herb gardens
but you ignore the most important aspects of the law – justice, mercy, and faith"
- Matthew 23: 23

Make no mistake, if you are quiet in the face of injustice, if you are neutral, you have chosen a side – the oppressor's. So choose that side with "your chest", you racist, feckless piece of trash.

We can agree that leaders that use segregationist terms about "looting and shooting" are despicable. So again, you and I have work to do. Not only are we voting at all levels, we are getting involved. I have presented some of the evidence for doing so right above. We will demand that our elected leaders do right by us. If this post reads like I am angry, it is because I am furious. I hope you are too. Because if you are not, then you are not paying attention.

Black lives matter

I will end with this. If I know you and see you get in the way of Joe Biden's win. I WILL come for you. I wholeheartedly mean this. I stanned so hard for Warren. And I will always be pissed she is  not going to be president. But I am also an adult and in times of trouble, adults don't whine. they get in line. Adults show up. So not only are we voting out "gangster fascists", we are actively getting Joe to the finish line. And I know, I know that a lot of the change we need in terms of racial inequalities stem from local level [elected] officials but I argue that we also need a respectable center. We need leaders that can empathize and unite us and champion the rights of Black folks. So, we will use our God-given skills and society-given privileges to get the change we need. Because you will think of Carlos Vasquez, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery. You will think of the more than 100,000 thousand lives we lost to the pandemic. Because you will be revolted by the disgusting corruption, the perversion of our institutions and that Office, and you will put your personal and selfish desires aside and decide that we cannot under any circumstances have four more years of this.

We will bring the fire.

Love, justice, anger, peace,

I



Friday Reflections

1.) Whew. What is our world now? What is this injustice so pervasive in our society and what role can each of us play in it? Please think careful about how YOU can contribute to a fairer world.

2.) I've been a little quiet about all of this craziness because honestly, I am FURIOUS. I am angry and I am very, very exhausted. But we must continue to bring the light.

3.) I want you to know though, that God is a God of justice.

4.) That said, I feel like I should sprinkle some joy on cyber space, which is needed desperately today.  Or at the very least, some distraction. So here goes.




5.) Elaine Welteroth got married on her Brooklyn stoop because of COVID-19, then threw a virtual block party. There was something so organic about these pictures. It did not feel forced at all; their love, I mean.

6.) Why more Christians need therapy.

7.) This brilliant profile of an incredibly brilliant genius who saved the Internet is a lesson on good, bad, evil, and moral complexity. Please please read it. It is a long but extremely worthy read.

8.) This enlightening video on The Financial Diet about debt, finances, and some insights on how little time women have.

9.) Gentle reminder that just because you are angry or tired of a virus does not mean it automatically disappears.

10.) How to Get Away With Murder had its series finale two weeks ago. I gotta say, as far as series finales go, that was one of the best I've every seen. They neatly wrapped up every character's storyline in a befitting manner. Boy, will I miss Viola Davis on TV and the fire she always brings. That woman has RANGE.

11.) Series creator, Pete Nowalk reflects on the legacy of the show

12.) The "just stay at home" message will apparently backfire.

13.) That's it folks. Remember these two sayings by MLK: we must never ever keep silent in the face of injustice because then we would have chosen the side of the oppressor. Just as well, remember that riot is the voice of the unheard.

Love, peace, and justice,

I

How to Write Your PhD or Graduate School Application Essay and Statement of Interest

Fall is approaching and this means graduate school applications will soon begin to open up.  And one of the most important aspect of your application is your statement of interest or statement of purpose or personal essay or application essay, whatever you want to call it. No matter what field you are in, you absolutely are required to write one. It allows admission committees to better understand your background and interests. Plus they would be able to tell if you are even a good match for their program. And yes, I know, I know, there are tons of advice on this all over Al Gore's Internet. But I wanted to write something practical and straightforward or at least give some tips on writing one. It can be very overwhelming to start out with an essay like this, but it's not impossible. Okay? Okay, let's go.