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.




An Invincible Love Story

I was recently going through draft posts and I saw a post with these words:

Romans 8: 31-39

For when I share my testimony

They are from 2016. And honestly, I can't quite remember what the testimony is anymore. But I read those verses all over again and goodness, what a timely reminder. It's a reminder that if God could be so gracious as to give his beloved son to die for our sins then we can be certain he is for us. And if God is for us, then what can be against us?



The verses I especially want to highlight start from verse 35 where we are told that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Not hardship, not anxiety, not trouble, not famine, not persecution can separate us from the immeasurable love God has for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

The implication of this is that the fact that God loves us does not mean we won't go through challenges. It means that even through it, we can endure because of our confidence in God. It means God is right there with us through it all. This is why God's love must never be measured in the amount of material possessions a person has. Nothing on this earth, the chapter continues on to say, can ever separate us from our father's love. This kind of love is durable. It lasts long and passes through fire.

I recently saw a tweet that said something along the lines of, "do you ever fear you will never find love". This was an extremely weird question. Because first of all, you must have such a parochial definition of love to even entertain such a rubbish question. The earlier we can start broadening our view of love to know that love is not just derived from romantic partners, the better for us. Evidence from all of human history shows us romantic love is often the least durable. God shows us his love in a myriad of ways and through myriad of people. If you will accept it, there is a whole lot of love waiting for you. I like to think of God's love as invincible, durable, tenacious.

I feel like times of hardship can often make us feel like God has left us. And you are not alone in this; some of our favorite biblical characters felt abandoned by God at one point or the other. Even Jesus who was in on the plan to die for our sins (who was absolutely down for it) after the persecution and just physical hardship he had to endure, at some point it felt like he had been abandoned and he cried out to God. So suffering, rejections, failure, joblessness, financial hardship, depression...none of this should make you feel like God hates you. While some of those things might be God pruning you or God saving you from something else, sometimes we might never know what they mean.

After a brief blogger existential crisis in the last post, this post was  meant to serve as a gentle reminder that you are infinitely loved and no amount of suffering can change that.

So there you have it, my testimony then and always.

Love,

I

Trying to Solve an Existential Crisis

It's been a while I've posted OG long form, freestyle, pure rambling, and just the type of words true to the style of the blog. So here we are. Day 2248940585 of Quarantine, my goodness, who would have thought? But we are here and no matter how tired we are, we should try to listen to the experts, the scientists, not some political doofus (this is not directed to any one political doofus. In fact, there are several of them across the globe now).

The first line of this post begs the question, what IS the style of this blog? I don't mean to be existential, but when you read about how to grow your blog (an increasingly tough feat in the world we live in now), the first thing they tell you is, have a niche. They say that to imply you must not be too broad; you must cater to one specific thing and only talk about it. Ha. That is quite literally impossible for me to do. No really, my brain does not have the capacity to only talk about one single thing for the rest of my life. So basically, pick food and only talk about food? Or only talk about hair? Nah. Or just talk about grad school? Or just talk about career? Or just social justice? Or perhaps feminism?  Or faith? Or worst of all, bore you endlessly about my personal life?



Perhaps, experts on things like this would tell you that's why your blog isn't mainstream or why it isn't growing fast enough. I don't know about that. I feel like it's increasingly difficult to capture people's attention. And can you blame folks? Why would anyone want to read something so long if they can watch a 20-second Tik Tok video? It's just the world we live in. That said, I will try to limit what I write about on this blog to the core themes of the blog. So far, the Instagram page has managed to do that and not be as all over the place as the blog.

At the core of it, I'm a storyteller. I like to tell stories. I like to write. To answer the aforementioned question, what is the style of this blog? Storytelling. No matter what it's about, the goal has always been that you leave feeling a little better than you came. Of course, if there's anything you'd like to see me write about, feel free to let me know in the comment section below or via email. And if I can, then absolutely, I will write about it.

So I hope you join me on this journey or if you have always been a part of it, then I hope you remain on this journey. And I hope you know that no matter what's happening out there in this crazy, crazy world, you are always welcome here.

Love,

I

Friday Reflections

1.) #JusticeforAhmaudArbery. It's so exhausting to constantly plead for justice and fight for our lives. But we must continue to bring the fire. We must never ever get numb, which is why I beg you to not share the video that dehumanizes Ahmaud like so. We can and must find a way to get justice for Ahmaud while preserving his dignity.

2.) Someone recently dropped a comment on a post I wrote FIVE years ago about how they especially relate to it during this pandemic. It was so heartfelt, and it blows my mind how much that particular post seems to resonate with people; it is one of the most read posts of ALL time on this blog. That kind of comment is why I don't think I will stop blogging/writing.

3.) Speaking of old posts, check out this post  on people watching haha. Also written five years ago. Man, I love doing this. It's about a little girl and her brother.

4.) Alright, enough nostalgia.

5.) Don't regret regret.

6.) Finding God's will for "not as prophetic" Christians.

7.) A divorce attorney on prenups, ugly money arguments, and what people don't know about divorce. I feel like every couple, or just everyone should listen to this. So so enlightening.

8.) Contrapoints is the only human being that can make me watch a  >1hr video on YouTube. And yes, it did take me a few days to complete. But so incredibly clever! Anyhoo, it's a brilliant summation on canceling and the cancel culture we find ourselves.

8.) How to (not) age gracefully on the the internet, according to Chelsea Fagan.

9.) Man, all the people who have lost their jobs. I have to say I like the classy way Airbnb's boss told members of staff they will have to let some people go. And the severance package also did not seem too bad at all.

10.) Okay, Covid, wrap it up!

11.) People, do me a favor, please. If you read a post on this blog you like and/or enjoy, pleaseeee share, share, share, share. It really helps and encourages me to keep blogging. Thanks very much.

Recipe of the Month: The Best Homemade Nandos Chicken Sandwich

Just because they have not opened outside does not mean we cannot talk about food, okay? Okay? LOL

I know how people (me included) hate how food bloggers tell unnecessary long details before sharing a recipe? Hahaha, I'm about to do that because unfortunately, this is not a food blog :-( I write, ok? That's what I do Lol. That said, you can just scroll all the way to the end for the recipe. I won't even take it personal.

Okay for the rest of us, gather around.

Is this a new segment? A new feature? Who knows. But like book of the month, this is recipe of the month. This was initially my sister's idea, which she gave me a LONG while ago but I never got around to actually implementing it but now that we are all stuck at home, what better time for this, huh? Basically, every month (or thereabout), I will feature a recipe I love or have recently enjoyed. I am not a cook type girl at all so know that it will not be some elaborate stuff. The recipe could be mine or maybe someone else's with my twist?  And by mine, I mean something I made myself not something I invented. Because really, to be fair, no one really invents a recipe. It's just passed from one person to another. So yeah. It might even be a snack.  I think I will make sure that for the most part, it's a tried and tested recipe before sharing. This is not completely new. I have shared food a lot on this blog: see for instance, this banana bread; also see Patricia the big bad bird. And of course we have a whole category dedicated to food on this blog too where we have talked about all kinds of food and restaurants.



Anyhoo, after all that has been said the recipe of this month is a homemade Nandos chicken sandwich. There is honestly not that much to say except that this will be the best homemade chicken sandwich you’ve ever had. I can promise you that. It’s relatively healthy, easy to make and delicious. It can be dinner, lunch, breakfast, brunch, or even a snack. Yeah, there are no rules anymore.

Before we get to pictures and some tricks and tips in making this, let me say I used a healthier dressing which I made by simply mixing plain greek yogurt with honey. I only really like sweet dressings and I wanted something somewhat healthier (than mayo). No measurement too, just eyeball yogurt and add enough honey to taste. Look, literally anyone can prepare this sandwich.

Alright let’s go! 

What you'll need:
Brioche bun (or any bread that makes you feel gooood)
Chicken breast (or any protein)
Carrots
Cabbage
Or in place of carrots and cabbage, just buy a packaged coleslaw from the grocery store
Salt
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Ginger powder
Dried pepper/Pepper flakes (optional)
1-2 tbsp of oil
Nando's Peri-Peri Sauce, Hot (optional)

The dressing:
Plain greek yogurt
Honey


First your chicken. Get chicken breast or any chicken you like or any form of protein and pat to dry. In a bowl that has the chicken, add some salt, onion powder, garlic powder, ginger powder or really any seasoning you have. Mix together. Since I wanted the Nandos flavor, I added some peri peri sauce (hot) but this step is completely optional. I also added dried pepper/pepper flakes (because I have a problem, again, this part is completely optional).



A part of me is tempted to research how to properly write recipes but I also want this to be accessible so let's go my way. Okay leave the now marinaded chicken to rest. After an hour,  heat up your stove and put a tablespoon (or two) of oil in a non-stick pan and place it on the stove. When it's hot, sear your chicken breast on both sides for about 2-4 minutes each, depending on how thick your chicken breast is. The thicker, the longer you should leave it. You will start to see it browning and some "griddle" marks. Yum. If after this you feel like it's not done, that's fine. Just place the pan with the chicken in the over for a few more minutes and it's done. If you are worried about your chicken breast being too dry, you can add a tbsp or two of water and a few drops of lemon juice. If you have a grill, then skip most of the above and just grill it directly.

When your chicken is done, you're practically done. Toast your bun.  Then slather some of the yogurt honey dressing on your toasted bun.




Place your chicken on one half of the bun.




Next, put some dressing in your coleslaw and mix well.Then put the creamy coleslaw on top of the chicken.



Then place the second half of the bun on the coleslaw. Et voila! Chicken sandwich done.



See? Easy peasy. Let me know if you tried it, please. Oh and if you liked this post, please share, share, share.

Thank you!

Love,

I



Book of the Month: Such a Fun Age by Keily Reid

Okay I’m going to say it: am I some form of Luddite?  I recently found that I in fact hate reading novels on digital devices. I read all my academic literature on my electronic devices, so imagine my surprise when I really disliked reading a novel on a digital device. It was just annoying, but I didn’t have a choice. It was the only way to get my book from the library.

Notwithstanding, I LOVE the book of this month.

First of all, I found out about this book on twonightstands. I had literally gone to their website a few weeks ago to look for a book to read—one that was not a memoir—and I found this. By the time I was ready to read it, Coronavirus had taken over and all libraries had closed. This meant I could only access an e-book so I read it on a tablet. I know, first world problems. I’m even ashamed to type all of that.



I have to say though that even just reading the synopsis on twonightstands, I was hooked. But now that I have read the book, I made sure not to go back to their own review until I have written this out so I'm not biased. Makes sense? Okay, let's go.

First of all, the story is an A plus through and through. It’s a debut novel by Kiley Reid about race, privilege, and class. It tells the story of a young black girl, Emira (she’s 25 when we first meet her) and her employer, Alix Chamberlain, whose child(ren?) Emira babysits.  Basically, the story begins at an uncomfortable but not unfamiliar (to black folks) night at a grocery store. After an incidence at the Chamberlains, Emira is called in to take their toddler away from the house while they deal with what was going on. Emira takes the child, Briar, to the aforementioned [bougie] grocery store to kill time at night. Unfortunately [but again, not surprising to black people], as a black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at the local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar.  The only reason the security guard approached them in the first place was because a…yeah, you guessed right, white woman who was smiling with them just minutes before, was “concerned” about a black woman with a white child out so late. So yeah, of course, she calls on the security guard. Of course, as this happens, being the 21st century, someone films this altercation. Now I promise that despite this very ominous beginning, the mood picks up quickly.

Thanks to this incident, Alix finally notices her babysitter and well, things take a very interesting turn. Now, Alix is your caricature Instagram hashtag blessed, hashtag boss mom, hashtag working mom influencer. She is white, in her 30s, and the type of liberal who is woke and hella progressive but also...weird? interesting? annoying? Take your pick.  After the incident, completely filled with white guilt, she takes an interest, and almost obsession-like interest in her nanny and decides to “wake the fuck up”. For the rest of the book, we see their relationship unfold and get to really understand both of them and how they relate to folks around them. The author told the story from different points of view—though still in third person. Switching from Emira’s to Alix Chamberlain’s points of view allowed us to better understand each of their perspectives and in turn empathize with them when necessary...but also want to kick their behinds. The brilliant part is how she is able to get you to feel empathy for each of the characters (well, I felt no empathy for Kelley though but that's just me).

Though, I must admit that I feel like we never really got to know the true Emira. I understand that we are different things to different people and of course, we present differently depending on whether it’s our family or friends or acquaintance or maybe even our boss, but Emira seemed to have this guard that the author never quite let down all through the book. Another confession is that I did not relate to Emira at all. There was something insufferable about her sometimes, and it was NOT the fact that she was aimless and  literally had no idea what to do with her life (been there done that haha). Honestly, I found that part refreshing. I think people are so obsessed with everyone having this grand plan for the future. When sometimes it’s absolutely fine to not know.

Moving on to the themes of this book, which was the best part to to be honest LOL. What makes it truly ingenious was that the themes were not at all forced. Reid wove, rather seamlessly too, the intricacies of race relations especially as it has to do with class, interracial relationships, and OF COURSE, Kelley's irritating virtue signaling.  Look, if there was ever a book that talks about race and class in a fun and easy way, without all the baggage that inherently comes with these topics, this would be it. It was easy, breezy, but also thought provoking. The weird part of the book of this month is that I have an incredible amount to say, but all of it would be spoilers. I just don't know how to talk about the important themes without spoiling it and I don't want to spoil it. It's in fact the type of book perfect for a book-club setting. I really wanted to sit down and have a whole conversation about the book and the character with people but alas, no one I know has read it lol. So please, I truly urge you to read this book. Whether you are black, brown, white, there is SOMETHING for you to learn even in the midst of the humor and lightheartedness. I promise. P.S: I don't think white folks will find it funny at all :-(

The biggest revelation of the book is  as The Atlantic nicely sums up, “…while the white characters fret over what black people think of them and their progressive values, the black characters are busy getting on with their lives and trying to keep up with one another.”

This book is filled with lots and lots of suspense that made it hard to put down. That’s a win, for sure.
Like I alluded to above, apart from the storyline itself,  Reid’s writing is intricate, layered, and very artful. The best part is how easy she makes it look.

I want to talk a little bit about one fault of the book because nothing is truly perfect. First, sometimes I lost track of the characters. Like I still don't know Alix's friends and their life stories. It just kept going over my head and I suspect this was mostly because I did not have an actual book and could not keep scrolling back and forth.  So that's on me and not the author. I have other so-called faults that I have heard people share online but that I disagree with, so I won't share because I don't want you biased. Sorry Lol. In my defense, these so-called problems did not occur to me AT ALL while reading sooo... Lol. However, now that I have heard it...sigh...I can see how someone would think that.

Anyway, you read it and let me know what you think.

One way or another, you won't regret reading this book.

That's it folks. Another book of the month in the books (pardon the pun ha). See you at the next one.

Love,

I

What Exactly Happens During Fieldwork and/or Field Research Pt. 2

Welcome back, folks!

This is one post in which you REALLY need to read the first part, if not this would all be gibberish to you. I wanted to share about field research and particularly what happens when you are in the field, using my experience, of course.  But it was becoming an excruciatingly long post so I decided to break it into two. In sum, the first part was an overview of what happens when you get to the field.  And this part is for giving you a specific example by describing a typical day in the field.



Let me give a typical day in the field. It went something like this: wake up; exercise (sometimes I exercised at night); do dissertation work. I kept writing. My number one tip is that you should always write every single day. In my case,  I worked a lot on my theory in the field and I was able to revise and reframe from data I was collecting. Okay, continuing on to the description of a typical day: After writing for a few hours, it was [usually] time to head out. Now, I  would start thinking of what to eat. The great part was leaving home around 10 or 11 meant  I could beat traffic in Lagos. I would head out to either an interview or two. I would then head to the field (I have to rethink this terminology now) where surveys are being administered, and then I would also talk to people as much as they let me. After a while, I would take a break to eat. Next, it would be time to continue on the field OR track down government workers I needed data from. Whew, I'm having PTSD as I write this. I spent HOURS in Ministries and Local governments. Anyway, commuting from place to place also provided the opportunity to do logistical work like emailing/Skyping my advisors who were stateside. This would also be the time to email reminders of my interviews or schedule interviews with more people. Or it could mean time to take a Skype call to interview someone not on ground. And then I would head back home. On my way home, there was almost always traffic.



If I needed to rest my head from the long day, I will read leisurely. If E is in the ride with me, I will chat with her while doing some work on my laptop. When I get home, I would usually eat dinner, chat with my family who were also Stateside via Skype. Once I hung up, I got back to working. Working meant reviewing field notes, transcribing, changing some aspects o my theory and hypothesis and evaluating the surveys collected to make sure enumerators actually administered the survey the way I wanted. Thanks to due diligence, I caught one that never worked, and fired her behind. Lol.

Anyway, sometimes I would use this time at night to Skype with people back in the U.S. that I had technical questions for (due to the time difference). This was also the time to work on non-dissertation projects. I hate stuff piling up and my strategy is usually to do stuff bit by bit. So each day I work on a non-dissertation project with future deadlines. Afterwards, I read a journal article or book. This is basically just any academic literature in my field to keep up with whats happening re methods being applied etc. I will also do something on quantitative method I am trying to hone; this can be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. If I was too lazy to exercise in the morning, I would do it now. Sometime around 1 or 2am, I would go to sleep and continue the next day.

On weekends, I tried to do fewer stuff but add in blogging or anything to get my creative juices flowing. Plus don't get me wrong, there was some time for fun stuff too.

I say all these to show that its not formulaic per se. The main point was to be as embedded as possible while also trying  to not be so "distracted" by field work that to get back to the groove of things after fieldwork would be hard. On some days I was not in Lagos and would travel out of state. But the more I met with people, the more people I had to meet with.

Some days, I was more productive than others. My point is, the whole idea of fieldwork sounds amorphous and overwhelming but try not to be overwhelmed. Just take it one day at a time but have a plan for what you want to achieve. Data is limitless so fieldwork can be endless and a colossal waste of time without a plan. But having a goal means you can evaluate monthly or weekly to see if your aim for field research is being materialized. I kept a strict calendar with each hour accounted for. Ok I do this in my regular life too. BUT, it helped especially in the field.

I will be honest with you. It was a crazy few months but if I survived it, you can. My biggest challenge was being away from my natural habitat and not being home. If you are adventurous, you would have the time of your life. Some people say field research was the best time of their lives or their degree. It's a No from me. Was it a great experience that taught me a LOT? Absolutely. Would I want to do all that again. Nah. At least not from this standpoint. When its for your dissertation, the stakes are too high and there is too

This was a long about way to give you a tiny glimpse of what field research is like. Again, it may vary depending on specifics. However,  if you have any questions, comment or email me please. Or a post suggestion, please let me know as well. It might take me another six months to actually post one of these, but I will.

Love,

I

Friday Reflections

1.) How a summer internship at Silicon Valley turned this black woman away from Silicon Valley forever

2.) Empire started with a bang but ended with a whimper.

3.) When researchers say they are in the field, what exactly do they mean? And when does this centering of themselves and othering of the subjects of research become problematic?

4.) How Myne Whitman adopted her daughters from Nigeria. Whew. What a beautiful story.

5.) Check out these stories of "firsts" in medicine. Especially that last one ;-)

6.) Why you don't have to worry about tomorrow.

7.) That's all, folks!

Why Words Matter; An Ode to Words

If you follow the blog on Instagram, you will see that there have been lots of posts to encourage us. We need it so much now. And as a words person, it occurred to me there is always a word for every occasion. Isn't that just beautiful? Anyway, I thought to share those words from Instagram here as well. The actual quote is powerful. But in addition to that, it is a reminder of the power of words when many things fail.  I hope you stay encouraged. No matter how grim everyday appears to be, I am still certain Sunday is coming. I hope you take solace in that fact.




I love words. Words are powerful. Words are beautiful. Words are endless. They can be wielded like weapons. And in most cases, you don't even have try too hard. It's why I use them so often, here on the blog and everywhere else. It is probably also why I write. Because whether it is in distress or in joy, words always bring comfort...if you let them. Today's words are a gentle reminder that no matter how overwhelming everything is right now, as human beings, we have an unbelievable capacity to survive. And we will.


Love ,

I


P.S: I promise to go back to regular programming with the blog henceforth. I know that while most people need comfort right now, many people are  also looking for an escape from anything COVID-19 related. It's truly hard to draw the balance between wanting to be encouraging but also wanting to go back to normal. But we shall try, right?

Friday Reflections

1.)  The powerful words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

2.)Sooo did you know the scientist leading the team developing a vaccine for COVID-19 at  NIH is a black woman who loves Jesus, trap music, & fixes weaves? She's literally saving the world. Black women have RANGE...so multidimensional.

3.) I'm in love! See number 2 above.

4.) It turns out COVID-19 is not the great equalizer we thought it was.

5.) Seventeen totally normal things to feel right now, according to therapists.

6.) Remember, Sunday is coming.

7.) Everyone wants us to return to normal. I don't want us to. Hear me out. I want COVID-19 gone. I want us outside again, but I want us to be better. To have empathy. To tailor our society to work for us, especially for the least among us. We have to do better. Status quo was not working.

8.) I want you to think about healthcare workers, grocery workers, truck drivers, law enforcement officers, and other essential workers as human beings and not heroes. They are human beings with dreams, aspirations, families, friends who love them and want them alive. So please STAY HOME. I feel like once y'all start saying "thanks hero",  they become superheroes to you and you might even see them as dispensable. No they are not. They just want to do their jobs and survive. Please STAY HOME.

9.) Aight, have a good weekend, whatever that means for you.

Sunday is Coming; Sunday Has Come

Sunday is Coming.

When I am afraid, worried, unsure, I like to think, Sunday is Coming.  I first learnt of this term after Hilary Clinton lost the election in 2016, in the email her pastor sent to her a day after she lost the elector. Let me explain.



I think about how Jesus's disciples and friends must have felt the day (Friday) he passed away. The shame, the anger, the loneliness, the humiliation, the worry, the depth of the loss, the confusion. They had been following this man around for so long, proclaiming his royalty and sovereignty, proclaiming that he was King. Then, just like that he died, in what was a drawn out, humiliating, painful process. And apart from dealing with the loss of their leader and friend, they had to deal with the aftermath. In this kind of context, hope is lost. With this in mind, that day must have been a disaster.

Even though Jesus had told them beforehand that three days later all would be restored, in all the chaos they either forgot or just could not see a possibility of it.

If only they knew Sunday was coming. If only they knew life, redemption, joy, celebration were on the way,  then perhaps they would have gotten through Friday with just a little more peace. Because like he had said, indeed on Sunday he rose.

Amazing Grace
how sweet that sound
that saved a wretch like me
I was once lost
but now I am found
was blind...
but now... I see

Friday can literally be anything. Friday can be that depression that just would not leave you. It could be a cancer diagnosis. Friday could be job loss. Or, Friday, most notably, could be a deadly, highly infectious novel virus that we don't understand, but that has brought the world to its knees. Yet,

Sunday is Coming.

I like to take that approach towards life. The idea that though now it looks and feels bleak, laughter is coming. Joy is coming. Celebration is coming. Freedom is coming. And there is no better time to share this than now. So while it may be Friday now, Sunday is coming.

Sunday has come.

Please note that this is metaphorical, I don't know the exact day Jesus died but Friday represents whatever that exact day was, okay sweeeties? Okay. Let's continue. As the above email mentions, life is filled with so many Fridays. I am certain we can get through those Fridays if  we keep in mind that Sunday is on the way.

Some people noted there is no point to Easter because the Bible does not mention it or celebrate it or something. But the Bible also doesn't mention birthdays and wedding anniversaries, but we celebrate them anyway, so what really is your point?

Anyway, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the redemption it brought, it should empower us with hope and refocus our gaze on the fact that just as Sunday came for the disciples, Sunday is coming for us too.

I will leave you with this powerful rendition of Amazing Grace by Andrea Bocelli earlier today in Duomo di Milano.

Happy Easter, people!

Love,

I

Friday Reflections

1.) First of all, go read the last post and let me know what you think!

2.) Okay welcome back. What's up with me not posting much of these anymore??

3.) A question came to mind recently. If you could never get on any form of social media again, would you be fine? Okay forget forever, if you were banned from every social media platform for a month, how would you fare? There is no psychological or motivational aspect to this. I'm just asking. It's not that deep lol

4.) This interview of Fran Lebowitz is the best thing on the Internet this week, I promise.  Nothing better out there LOL. She is so quirky and in the best possible way.

5.) Modern Family, one of my favorite shows ended this week. The episode itself (the finale) was not so remarkable, but there is something about endings. I don't like endings, generally. These behind the scenes photos from their set will make you emotional.

6.) Have you filled out your Census online? Census are much more than just knowing how many people exist nooooo...it affects literally everything. In the most simple form, it is a big predictor of how resources are allocated. So please be counted, if you are in America of course.

7.) I've been learning about faith a lot more recently. Faith is very profound, but it's complicated and it's hard, and it's also simple. I will say though that even when you can't have faith, have a little hope.


8.) I don't know when or even how COVID-19 will end. I just know that it will.

9.) Meanwhile, please and please, follow all guidelines. Please, social distancing is not some world holiday. It was instituted for a purpose. Just stay at home.


Book of the Month: Tough Love by Susan Rice

Let's not talk about why there was no Book of the Month last month because there was supposed to be, but then I became ill and that was that. More importantly, let's talk about the book of this month: Susan Rice's brilliant memoir. I love memoirs and I LOVE Susan Rice. No really, I do. So that meant I had to read this book. The truth is, sometimes memoirs drag on and on and on. Especially when it's by someone who was in political leadership, it can get too nitty gritty on the policy side of things [which I like anyway but] which discourages others. I'm happy to say this book was not like that. It was a good read.

Susan Rice is the former U.N. Ambassador and National Security Advisor under our forever president, Barack Obama. It's an incredibly candid book and she tells her story in the most personal way, while narrating significant moments throughout her journey from being conceived in Nigeria to being a child in D.C's most prestigious schools to Assistant Secretary of State in the Clinton administration and to one of President Obama's most trusted advisors and friends. As someone who has been bullied by the rightwing media, who is constantly vilified, and is basically their bogeyman, this book was a chance to clear up a lot of things while accepting culpability when necessary.  She owns up to her decisions, personal and policy-wise.  This type of introspection came across widely throughout the book and more importantly, it felt like the chance to clear the air on a lot of things. Case in point: Benghazi. Whew chileee. After those [now famous] Sunday interviews where she used talking points from the intelligence committee (which was THE INFORMATION THEY HAD AT THE TIME) that turned out to be incomplete (not altogether false),  she basically became a chew-toy for Republicans and Fox News. And boy, did they harass her?! But then, piece by piece, decision by decision, accusation by accusation, and point by point, she addresses them.



She was harassed so much that her child started to hallucinate. That's a story everyone should read. I  think it's so easy to throw attacks at people, especially political figures and celebrities, under the assumption that it's bouncing in the air and there are no victims. But make no mistake, malicious attacks have victims: the targets, their families etc.

I also can't get over the fact that she was never Secretary of State because Republicans wanted to be vindictive.

One interesting part that I hope gets the attention of readers is when she spoke with a Fox News producer asking why she of all people was so targeted regarding Benghazi (the truth is her part in all of it was relatively minor so it was confusing). The answer is not so much a revelation as much as it's unfortunate: basically, the Republicans wanted an enemy. They wanted a villain in the story. They knew she could be used to stoke anger and ratings. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the very disgusting, very vile nature of American politics. Her brother viewed it differently, he said she "fought like a girl". He insisted that she did not defend herself the way a man would.


In the spirit of being forthright and introspective, she was willing to admit some of the foreign policy failures of the Obama administration without really castigating anyone. That's what she does best in the book: the ability to tell stories as they happened without really painting anyone as the villain even when we can see for ourselves that such people treated her unfairly. This is whether it was McCain's prejudice and vindictive pettiness, or members of the Obama administration  (EXCLUDING OBAMA Himself) who were slow to come to her defense throughout the fiasco. The latter is painful because we see from her memoir that going for the Sunday interviews was basically a favor she did her colleagues, against her mom's advice (because mothers always KNOW). Hilary and the others kind of anticipated what Susan Rice, either because of naïveté or plain ignorance, had not yet known:  it was a minefield. Yet, with the exception of Obama, they all took their sweet time in coming to her  defense. That struck me as cold and calculated, and of course unfair. Yet, Rice doesn't paint herself as the victim or villain.



Apart from all the above, I learnt a lot about grit, assertiveness, brilliance, and courage from Susan Rice. I love how she argues. I love how she does not run away from a fight. She is blunt and unapologetic, and seems like someone who walks in a room (whether the Situation Room, Oval Office, or the United Nations) and acts like she belongs there. This does not mean they did not try it with her. It means she always responded in kind. There is an interesting story of former UN ambassador Holbrooke trying to emasculate and undermine her in a room full of her male subordinates, and when she was out of options on how to respond, exasperated, Susan Rice gave him the finger. I laughed so hard at the pettiness, which of course she came to regret.  I loved the insider details on some of the most complex challenges and wars our world has experienced.

But something else that struck me, or was reinforced in me was how much privilege and parental background play huge roles in our life trajectories and destiny. Susan Rice was basically a protege to Madeleine Albright (her mom was very good friends with Albright). So of course, it's not particularly difficult to understand her very fast rise (she was already an Assistant Secretary of State in her twenties!). Let that sink. I do not mean to undermine Susan Rice's brilliance. Far from it; she is formidable and one of the smartest women in this country by any measure. Yet, I can't think of any way it would be humanly possible to achieve that kind of meteoric rise without access, privilege, and personal connections. The point is, a lot of times people simply think hard work is all it takes to be successful, but that's untrue.

In telling her story, of course, we see her roots as a grandchild of slaves on the one part (paternal) and immigrants on the other (maternal). Most devastating of all was the bitter and fierce divorce and eventual custody battle between her parents. It scarred her in more ways than one can imagine, and I think it also empowered her in other ways. It made her rational, almost to a fault, logical, and gave her an uncanny ability to compartmentalize, but most of all, it gave her those unbeatable skills in diplomacy which she would of course wield in her future: whether in Syria, Libya, Rwanda, South Sudan or while presiding the Security Council at the UN.

I love the bond she shares with her brother, Johnny. I love her bond with her husband and best friend, Ian, whom she met with college. Theirs is a true partnership, worthy of emulation. The incredibly funny interaction they had when they first met was hilarious.

She ends the book in what seemed like a call to action, reminding us that there are more that unite us than divide us in America, and that we must learn to bridge the deep divide that persists in American politics. She is optimistic about the soul of this nation; an optimism that is almost enviable. But I'm not surprised she is: get this, her son is a well known conservative Republican and served as the president of College Republicans at Stanford. They differ on so many values, and she readily admits that it has led to several arguments in their home. Nonetheless, their love never wanes. We see this in a VERY lovely email her son sent after she left office. It got me thinking so hard.

We (by we, I mean me) always say we can never marry someone whose values differ vehemently from ours. It matters to me that I marry someone who is on the moral side of issues not because I want us to think alike but because empathy, kindness, justice are values I treasure. But the one thing we never think about is what happens when we give birth to someone who is sooooo different from us. On most everything, Susan Rice and her husband differ from their son. It occurred to me that this is not so new because a lot of conservative parents have deeply liberal children. It's only this shocking because this is the first time EVER I am seeing the reverse. Luckily for her, their daughter is as liberal as they are, maybe even a little bit farther left. And while her son and daughter have clashed in the past, they have learned to embrace their differences. It is for this reason she thinks America can do the same.

There is sooooo much to unpack in these pages that I didn't even mention: like how we are reminded over and over again that often times Obama was always the smartest guy in the room. But this is already too long, so pardon me.

Susan Rice is many things, but most especially, inspirational. I love love love her! Lol. So I am biased here, but I know this is a great book so you should check it out. I did not want to put this book down at all; it was that captivating, and memoirs are hardly ever that captivating.

At the very least, I hope this books provide a welcome distraction from everything happening in the world.

Love,

I


Tips on Successfully Working From Home During COVID-19 and Beyond

On an Instagram Story post recently, I said this post would be the last thing I write about COVID-19. It turns out that I kinda lied. I mean I didn't know at the time but this post you are now reading will in fact be the last lol. Not really. I mean, who knows? I think this will be our reality for a while soooo let's see.

This post is on tips for working from home, which technically is not about COVID-19. However, the only reason I'm writing this is because of COVID-19. It looks like most people are struggling with being cooped up at home. So let's tackle one aspect of that, which is working from home since most organizations have issued a work-from-home (WFH) order. I work from home a LOT. It's probably one of the favorite parts of my life. Let's face it, I like being home a lot. So I'm like an expert on this, which is why it occurred to me to blog about it. Alright here are some tips with my own twists as usual:



1.) Be organized. Start everyday intentionally. What I mean by this is to realistically decide on what you need to achieve for the day. For this you can write a todo list for the day. This matters significantly. The sheer act of ticking things off as you achieve them is a type of high no drug can provide, I promise. But be realistic in constructing it because if you are like me, it becomes a huge blow when nothing gets done. So, do you need to exercise, shower, reply emails? Whatever you need to do, do it. Break tasks down into smaller pieces.  And then go from there. Now that you know what needs to be done. Get. It. Done.

2.)  Depending on you, you might need a dedicated workspace. People alway say make sure you get off your bed. Not for me. Some of my best works were done on my bed in my pajamas bottoms. What can I say? I love comfort. However, this takes insane discipline. Working from home requires discipline. So for you especially in the beginning stages of WFH, sure, get dressed and sit on a desk if you have one or on your dinning  table. You need to take care of your posture anyway. So find a dedicated space you can "resume" at everyday and sit upright whenever possible. The idea of "resuming" work at your space also helps with building routine.

3.) As part of building routine, set work hours. Working at home makes it so hard to set boundaries between work and home, and believe me when I say you need this. Work is just that: work. But working from home has meant I can pull out my laptop anywhere, when I say ANYWHERE, I mean it: I have worked at the airport, grocery store, doctor's office, inside the car, while shopping for clothes, at the corner of a Banana Republic (yes, people, I squatted in a corner), inside the mall, inside Target, if you can squat in a corner or worse sit down, I have worked there. This is not good. So set work hours and keep to them. At some point in the day, it should end.

4.) Choose a productivity technique. This makes it easier to be productive and actually work during your set hours. If you just say you will work for 8 or 12 hours, you probably won't. You may just scroll endlessly on Twitter and Instagram. There are too many distractions nowadays with everything going on. Therefore, you need a time management plan that allows you to break tasks into intervals. So take the pomodoro technique for instance: you work for twenty-five minutes and then take a five minute break. During this five minute break, you can do whatever you like: post on IG, scroll mindlessly on Twitter. But after five minutes, it's back to another installment of 25 minutes. With each 25 minutes you successfully complete without distractions, you can check off. Normally, if you get interrupted, you start all over. After four installments, you can take a longer break (15 - 30 minutes).  Then begin again. There are variations of this, of course. I know the actual Pomodoro technique comes with an app or so. But I'm a grown woman and I don't need all that. I just use timers on my phone and get it done. But you can look online for all the variations.

5.) Alternatively, you can assign each hour of the day to all tasks you have to complete from number 1 above. Such that even food time is allotted. So if you are wasting away at 2:15, you know that you are supposed to be running regressions on STATA not tweeting about your favorite scene from The Office or Grey's Anatomy. Yes, that was a self-read. If you do number 5 instead of a variation of number 4, then schedule breaks too. Please note that number 4 and 5 are not mutually exclusive; you can combine them.

6.) Have water by your side. Always sip water. I would say any liquid but we don't want to form dangerous habits *ahem*.  Two reasons for the advice on drinking water. First,  you are getting hydrated. But also, it ensures you are getting up to use the bathroom. So you are not just stuck in one place and you get some movement at least. It's so easy to get sucked into work.

That's all folks. I hope this was helpful. Remember that no matter how bleak it looks, this is all temporary. The data and scientists tell us that this WILL pass. Let's just all collectively behave, meaning STAY at home, social distancing, and not buying everything on the shelves. Do your best to contribute to FLATTENING the curve.  We can do this.

Love,

I

Friday Reflections

1.) Long time no Friday Reflections

2.) I recently completed a 100-day streak on Duolingo. I'm so proud of myself. But it also reiterates one of my mottos: consistency over perfection.

3.) Have you read this on coping with anxiety during these interesting times?

4.) If you have, have you shared it with your friends and family? If you haven't, why though?

5.) I hate to be those aspire to perspire people that call themselves motivational speaker, but is there one tiny, insignificant thing you can do towards the progress of your career? Something, even if it's just adding some connection on LinkedIn and sending them a message.

6.) Also, rest people. Rest.

7.) Five truths to outlast the COVID-19 outbreak.

8.) If you are bored, check out some books to read. Also check out Grace and Frankie on Netflix.

9.) I recently started watching The Office on Netflix and it's HILARIOUS.