Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Showcasing: Girl, Interrupted.

My first showcasing post is about stepping out on God's call on your life, and my first showcasee's obedience produced fruits beyond her expectation. Has God called you to step out and do something? Do you have a passion burning deep inside of you that vows to consume you? Do you have a dream? Is fear holding you back? Be inspired!








Shileola Aderinanye
Lead Event Planner, RAE Affairs
RAE Affairs Website
RAE Affairs Blog
Facebook Page



Sometimes, when God needs to capture our attention, He comes in the form of a drama queen. He messes up our plans. He sets us up in traffic, and we miss a meeting. He yanks a relationship from right under us. He makes a scene. When we try to exercise control over the mess, he brings more drama and infuriate us until we look up and ask “What the heck are you doing, God?”

Now, He has our attention and then He speaks.

In Late April 2010, God captured Shileola Aderinanye’s attention, and RAE Affairs, an event planning outfit was born.

It was a typical day at The Dulles International Airport in Washington DC; Shile was at the American Airline counter irritated and arguing with the flight attendant. She could not check in her bags for a flight to Nigeria traveling out of New York at 10:00pm. It was 2:30pm and the flight to New York was scheduled to leave in forty five minutes. She needed to get on that flight, because she had to facilitate a training in Nigeria for her employer.

“I have been standing here for more than an hour. I was not late. I was moved from one line to another” She countered.

God had other plans; she was not going to Nigeria, well, not that week. Her flight was canceled the week before because of a volcano eruption. She was angry and frustrated.  
 
A couple of weeks earlier, a friend had called Shile about a desperate bride who needed a new wedding planner. Shile was not an event planner. She was Head of E-learning and development for a consulting firm in the Maryland area, a job she enjoyed. Yes, she had planned evening balls and events at her church for two consecutive years, but according to her “I was not a professional event planner. I had no immediate plans to quit my job. I was not even thinking of starting a business, so I politely declined my friend’s call for help.”

If only she knew!

As humans, we love to take control, and resourceful individuals like Shile take charge. She called The Baltimore-Washington International airport to inquire about their last flight to New York for the day; all the flights to New York had left. Shile decided to get on the train; however, the last train to New York was pulling out of the train terminal right when she walked into the station. Not one to give up, Shile called The Ronald Reagan National Airport in DC and was able to book a flight to LaGuardia Airport in New York. Despite Shile’s determination, God is also one to carry his sovereign plan to completion; the flight was delayed for about forty five minutes. It eventually took off and landed in LaGuardia Airport, but by the time she took a cab from LaGuardia to JFK where her flight to Nigeria was scheduled to fly out from, they had just closed the counter. That was when Shile gave up the fight and came back home to Maryland.



That same week, she got a call from the bride her friend had talked about a few weeks earlier. Shile was hesitant. Yet, she agreed to help while telling the bride time and time again that she had never planned a wedding. Shile also insisted that she didn’t want to be compensated, because it was her first time. The next month, she received another random call from a couple who asked her to plan their May 2011 wedding, though she had not advertised herself as a planner. Only God could have known that one of her major hold- backs to starting an event planning company was the question “Where will the clients come from?” God decided to confirm to her that he will bring them her way. After two months of planning, Shile’s first wedding took place in July 2010, and it turned out to be a huge success. The parents of the bride were grateful and unrelenting; they gave Shile a large check at the end of the night. During this season, she felt God impress on her heart:

“You will quit your job at the end of the July. You will travel to Nigeria in August and when you come back, you will start an event planning business full time.”

It sounded crazy, “But, I kept on praying and I knew in my heart for a fact that it was God.” Though she had unofficially began planning alongside her fiances' sister to establish RAE Affairs as a weekend gig. It never crossed her mind to do it full time. At the end of the week, Shile stepped out in obedience despite her fears; she turned in her resignation letter. At the end of the month, she left her job. She only had one client, and she had no idea how to start.

“My biggest fear was financial security. My mom gave up a lot to get me through college, and I wanted to contribute to my family. I also questioned what my family would say?” She said.

“However, I felt God assured me that my family will support me 100%. My confirmation came when I told one of my sisters who is known to be logical and rational. She did not question me as I expected, she was totally in support of my decision.  I was astounded by her reaction and support. I knew this was God.”

The week after Shile turned in her resignation letter, ProminentCease Entertainment, a media company she was involved with needed someone to go to Nigeria in August to promote their new movie. Shile knew she was the one to go. While she prepared for her trip to Nigeria and life after resigning, she got two calls to plan two weddings. She had not told anyone of her decision when these calls came in, but when God sets you in motion and you choose to keep moving, there are always blessings that follow. In those moments, she also knew God was further confirming that this was Him. The minute she told God yes, things began to fall into place.

“God also impressed on my heart that tough times will come.” Shile was prepared to work hard, and God promised to take care of her. “It is in our weakness, that we find that He is strong. I am humbled that the God of all the earth is aware of little me and steps into all my events to help me. At the end of every event, I am assured that I did it with God, because if it was left to me I couldn’t handle it and I would have said “deuces.”

“There were times I freaked out, but God took care of me. I also knew I had to work hard and get myself marketable.” Shile was previously enrolled in a Masters in Publishing and Creative writing, but she decided to also take certificate classes in event planning. “I immediately set up a website to establish credibility even before I registered my company; I knew the importance of credibility.”

And as she walks the path set before her each year, she works and God blesses her. “I do not struggle with finding clients, some say yes after the initial meeting and others go with a different planner. I am satisfied.” As 2012 rolls around, she has several weddings lined up, and she is looking forward to having more while working on new projects.

I asked “What is your greatest joy on this journey?” She is quick to count a few blessings while beaming.

“Knowing that I am doing what I love, and following my passion. Making peoples dream come true. It is exciting to know that I am doing what God has called me to at this moment. There is so much more in store. I am excited for the next steps God is leading me to and also for the weddings I already have signed up for next year. I am also working on new projects though the year so those are extremely exciting too.”

God is writing her story, and she is walking along to the tune of each chapter. Shile looks back to the day she was prevented from checking in her bags to Nigeria now as a blessing. God probably had his plans in motion a while back, but that day, she looked up in the midst of the drama he flung at her and asked “What the heck are you doing, God?” He promptly replied with a desperate call from a desperate bride who needed a new wedding planner.

Her advice to anyone struggling with fear about stepping out to obey God is “Listen to him in the small things. We are all waiting for the big picture, but what is God calling you to do now?” She emphasized that it is important to ask God for help. “It is okay to be honest with God and tell him if you don’t feel like you have the ability to do what he is asking of you and then ask him to strengthen you through his Word and help you obey.”

She then added “what I have found is that when God gives you a vision, he always makes a provision, so though you might think you can’t, you will be pleasantly surprised once you key into his strength that is available. When you know for certain that God has given you a word, no matter how risky it seems, the safer choice is to make a decision on the side of God, and the riskier choice is to not; because in an attempt to hold on to all you have you just might end up losing it.”

Finally I asked "Were all the fears, challenges and tough times worth it, and would you do it all over again?"

She replied, “Absolutely positively yes.”


[Photo Credit: Wale Ariztos]
[Video Credit: Kauri Media]



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Sweet Serving....

[Photo Credit]

"I believe that one of life's greatest risks is never daring to risk...Do the one thing you think you cannot do.  Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire." Oprah





JostWrite Favorite Things: Planners



I love planners, because they help organize my thought and day. I hate double booking, and I have learned that scribbling appointments and meetings down helps prevent that.


My planners kept me sane in high school, college and life after. I am already looking forward to buying one for 2012, that I can use to manage both my personal life and JostWrite.


I love my planners colorful, pretty and functional. I like ample writing space too. Lately, I started thinking about getting a phone with a good planner and scheduler. I am still thinking. We shall see about techiness over plain old school binder planner. :)


[Photo Credit]

Monday, November 28, 2011

Injustice In Gulnaz's Shoes


I do not live in a perfect country, but I appreciate the freedom it affords me. I am not from a perfect country, but I appreciate that I am free. I read the story of nineteen year old Gulnaz in Afghanistan who was sentenced to prison for adultery and having a child out of wedlock. Her claims that she was raped and impregnated by her cousin's husband seem to have no place in the house of justice. I am angry. I am angry that cases of glaring injustice against women are perpetuated around the world, and we still have to fight to grasp hold of an iota of freedom. A few days before I read about Gulnaz, I read about a seventeen year old Iraqi girl, Rand Abdel-Qader. She was killed by her father and brothers, because of her alleged crush on a British soldier. It angers me that laws are still set in place that treat women like objects not as humans.  
America is a country with its many vices, and I do not believe that it is the perfect country to live. As a Black woman from Nigeria, I am very much aware of the limitation it strives to place on me. I am equally aware and thankful for the freedom it affords me. I also know that in its freedom, people make outrageous, selfish and immoral choices, but I will take it over laws and religion bonds that give me no right to choose. Freedom gives me the chance to choose right or wrong with the knowledge that there are consequences to choosing wrong. However, I am extremely grateful that even when I do choose the wrong, freedom affords me the opportunity to rebuild my life from that mistake despite the setbacks. Gulnaz lives in a society where second chances are rare or better still never heard of; the laws do not allow for redemption and in the case of Rand Abdel-Qader, death was the only option.
As a woman, I presume that I will prefer a flawed police and justice system that stands up for my right over one that denies me one. 
I am Nigerian. I love my country and despite its flaws and its struggles, I will proudly stand by our fledgling democratic system. I am Nigerian, and in my country like many other countries in the world, women are subjected to rape, domestic violence, employment inequality and other atrocities. Many times, justice is never served. However, for the many cases that died without encountering justice, there are thousand cases that the people spoke up about. For the many women who pointed fingers of accusation at a victim, there were thousands who took to print media, social networks and whatever means they can to speak up about injustice against women in Nigeria. I am not always proud of where we are as a country, but I am proud that we are not where we use to be. 
I am one to ask that in the quest to hold people to high standards, unshakeable moral standings and laws, where is the place of mercy? Where does mercy start, and where does it end? Who shows mercy to 19 year old Gulnaz who is helpless and without a voice, because her culture did not stand up for her? I envision that far away in the nation of Afghanistan, a few women, maybe a handful or even hundreds shake their head, because they know Gulnaz speaks the truth, but they have no power to speak for her. These women are probably wallowing in their own pain from a similar experience. Where is mercy? Where is justice? Where is grace?
It might be easy for me to speak out and provide solutions to the issue. I have never walked the injustice in Gulnaz's shoes, but I am inclined to ask who has the power to challenge the laws and provide freedom? Is it the international community with signed petitions and peaceful demonstrations? The men in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq? Or should the women get out on the street and proclaim an end to injustice? How many lives would be lost to bring about change? Many women are in support of the laws laid up against them, but I can bet that in the one or two that support the atrocity, there are thousands who are angry, frustrated, mad and in rage about the treatment meted out to their mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, friends and classmates. There are men in the society who feel pain because of the plight of their daughters.
The question is what needs to change? I am not of the ideology that invading every nation of the world in an attempt to set up a democracy or republic (depending on what you call it) is the solution. However, who makes the change? Where does it start? 
I am angry and sad when it comes to the plight of the African woman sometimes, but I am thankful that our freedom is slow but sure. We lack choices in numerous ways, but we are pushing forward. Our evolving ways of life as Africans might have changed the structure of our society and brought about some many ills, but it is a freedom that we can choose to shape as we will. Hopefully, it is not completely shaped after an industrialized or western culture. We can choose to shape our freedom and growth to honor our culture and tradition, keeping in mind that some of these traditions need to be dumped (another topic for another day). However, many are solid, honorable and should be part of our own brand of freedom. We are equipped as women to be a part of that shaping, a shaping that others would look to, because it is original and African.
Anyways, I digressed.
Women all over the world are making strides, and when I hear or read about stories similar to Gulnaz, it makes me boil.
As I ponder about the fate of Gulnaz, I wonder what I would choose if I was in her shoes. Would I stay in jail with my child to avoid marrying my rapist and/or dying at the hands of my family and community to salvage their honor?  Would I accept to marry him knowing I risk maltreatment, death and the horror of reliving my rape in his bed? 
A friend on Facebook commented on Gulnaz story, "Our country isn't perfect by far, but I thank God for the freedom of choice." If you are afforded freedom and growth, be thankful.  If you are mad at your nation's flaws, but you know that you can stand up and fight against injustice until you are heard, be thankful and keep fighting.
Beloved, You are Loved Absolutely! 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Walking Their Miles...

There are many problems plaguing the world, and I believe that different people are standing up against different issues. For me the topic that gets me fired up and angry is injustice in any form.

However, when injustice is perpetuated against women and children...I get upset.
I am for adoption. I am for the fight against human and sex trafficking. The older I get, the more vocal I get and the more I am convinced that I will never be satisfied just living life for myself, my family and friends. There has got to be a time when we rise above our pain into the pain experienced by others. There are many organizations fighting for justice, and it is important that we individually get involved.

I came across the video below on the A21  campaign website, and the message is timeless... Injustice can happen to anyone.

No position in life is permanent, and the ones we ignore today might be in the position to lift us up in the future. Lets get to serving. Lets all get to finding that issue that makes us angry and gives us sleepless night, and lets get vocal about it. Above all, I am very convinced that Jesus and the love, grace, hope and forgiveness He offers are the foundation and root answer to every issue. And I am convinced that time will tell.




[Photo Credit]

Friday, November 25, 2011

Leslie Oluchi Nwoke's Interview with The Daily Sun On-line


I write and blog for a non-profit based in Washington, DC called Making Noise, Inc. Their mission is to use the arts, media, drama and blogs to raise awareness of social injustice issues in the continent of Africa.
The co-founder, Leslie Oluchi Nwoke, was recently interviewed by a Nigerian newspaper, The Daily Sun On-line. She talked about her work with Nigerian girls trafficked into Italy, her fight  against sex trafficking and the work of Making Noise, Inc. Leslie Oluchi traveled to Turin, Italy to work with Nigerian sex trafficking victims with an Italian NGO called TAMPEP, and their mission is to provide legal and social assistance to sex trafficking victims and migrant workers.
Click here to read her interview.

Days of Thankfulness 4...Twenty Things


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. This is the last Friday in the month of November, and my last "Days of Thankfulness post," well for now. My hope is that I stay thankful for the rest of my life.

My thanksgiving was laid-back and nice. I made the turkey and sweet potatoes casserole for the first time. :) The former was okay, but the latter was a hit. My friends and I decided to also spend Christmas eating Thanksgiving food, and I have volunteered to cook the turkey again with lessons learned from last night. lol

Below are the list of things I am thankful for

  • Salvation and Jesus.
  • The gift and passion for writing
  • The trials I get to walk through and the character developed in me as I walk through them
  • A positive mind and attitude
  • The desire to succeed
  • JostWrite...my babies (The freelance writing business and the blog)
  • My weaknesses
  • My strengths
  • Being wanted
  • My Family (Parents and siblings)
  • The chance to dream and build
  • Having the God of the universe on my side
  • The possibilities that the future brings
  • My drive and ambition
  • My desire to give, share, love and live a life bigger than my parents and their dreams for me.
  • The passion to enjoy my life and enjoy it abundantly
  • The desire I have to make everyone feel wanted and worthy
  • That I am open to loving people of all races, lifestyles, cultures and opinions. I do not always succeed at it, but I am thankful that I made up my mind a long time ago that I would not let the pain of the past make me become what I detest. I am going to shout out and fight about racism, sexism and other kinds of inequality and injustice. I am going to stand on the moral values that I believe in based on the scripture and declare them as lovingly as I can. But I promised myself that I will love each individual, and I will give you a chance to love me.

I am ultimately thankful that

  • "Ears have not heard
    Eyes have not seen
    No mind has conceived
    The things that God has planned for me"
  • “God can dream a bigger dream for me, than I ever could for myself.”


To read my other "Days of Thankfulness" posts, click herehere and here

[Photo Credit]

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving to you all. To my readers, supporters and fans...I say a huge Thank You.
A big shout out to my best friend, dear Jesus...THANK YOU! You are appreciated and loved.
I do not deserve you and all the blessings you bring about, but I am in need of it, and I say Thank You.

[Photo Credit]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Last Night, I Went On A Date...



Last night, I went on a date. I wish I took pictures, because I was looking fly. :) It was not a first date. It was not a second or third date. It was comfortable. I laughed out loud and dipped into his plate on and off during dinner. His sirloins were tender and juicy. My tilapia was blah. He leaned forward when I spoke, and his eyes sparked when I smiled. I called him babe, and he stole a taste of my New York cheesecake when he thought I was not looking. I had a good time. 

However, last night got me thinking about first dates, because for me they are not always fun. How uncomfortable and painful can they be sometimes? I remember December 2010 when I jumped back into dating after taking a little bit over two years off. I loved my datcation; it was both a wonderful and challenging time. I am a woman who enjoys being single, I appreciate all that it affords me. Frankly, I rarely date so taking time off was just silly. 

 

I had many thousands of crushes growing up, and I was in puppy love when I was eleven and seventeen. At 11, AX was a guy who lived on my street. I can't remember how it started, but we had somewhat of a conversation three times "in our relationship." In those three encounters, I kissed him once behind a dingy car. I met TX when I was 13, and at 17, we were sorta a couple. We were together for three weeks and stole kisses in his parent's living room. I went to college and three months after, our love was extinct.We are still friends.

Four years after, I fell in love. I had spent the four years prior to meeting MX single, so when I met MX, I was probably ready. He was the love of my life. I went on first dates and a few seconds after that, but I do not pride myself on knowing much about guys, dating or relationships. A few years after MX, I took a datcation.

My datcation started in September 2008, and my first jump back was in December 2010. I had a good time on this first date. However, at the end of that first date night, I got out of his car and walked into my apartment with many unanswered questions about dating. Are there set irrevocable rules to the dating engagement?

It was an eye-opener.  I grew up always wanting to take care of myself. I remember my mama singing the old tune "Get you own together first. No man wants a liability." I enjoy doing things for myself, I actually enjoy an occasional trip to a movie or restaurant by myself. My younger brother moved in with me the same month I decided on a datcation (August 2008), and I learned a lot from our time together. I had to learn to delegate things like setting up my new DVD or fixing the window shade when it broke. I learned to let him do what men like to do even if I could get the task done myself.

If there are rules, I broke most of it on my first date back from my datcation. I noticed little quirks that indicated that I have been doing life solo for too long. One quirk stood out. Many women enjoy getting pampered and I enjoy it too. Many men like to pamper and cater to their women or dates. I am not sure I recognize when a guy is catering to me, or how to receive catering and pampering. Gestures like opening my doors, helping me out and back into my winter jacket, and trashing our empty coffee cups are nice.

However, I was out of the car before he could get around to opening the door. I did not realize that was his intention until halfway through the date and after it had happened thrice. He tried helping me into my jacket; I got one hand in and stepped away to finish dressing myself up. I left my jacket on all day after that, I could do without the awkwardness of the situation. I had to remind myself to let him get the coffee when the barista called in our order. I had to remind myself to let him get the lids, sugar and straws while I fidgeted in my seat, because I sooooooooooooooo wanted to do something. I had to remind myself to let him trash the coffee cups. I had to remind myself that it was okay not to be doing my own task or paying for my own meal. He was bent on catering to me, and I tried so hard to let him just to it.

We went to lunch, grabbed coffee at a bookstore and saw a movie. I had to do something, so I stepped in and paid for coffee. I do not buy into the "I do not need a man" theology. Find me a good man, and yours truly will need him, love him and try to let herself be catered to. So it was not that theology affecting my mentality; I just was more single all my life than coupled up and doing life solo and getting mine was normal and my routine

Dating seriously was and is still a new territory for me; I am not sure I know how to maneuver through it. What do I share? What should I not share yet? What should I never share? What questions should I ask and which ones are off limit? How much of myself should I be? And which of my dreams should I share? What exactly are the rules of the dating engagement? And are the rules for me different from the rules for you? Are the rules for the goose different from those for the gander? I consciously do not live by rules; even if I knew the rules to dating...would I keep 'em? Btw, he called me back and we did go on two more dates before I called it squash.

PS, My mom is still praying for me to date more or better still, get married. She thinks I have finally gotten my own together. :) She saw a few white hairs on my head two nights ago, and I know she is charging up the intensity of her prayers. I did not bother to tell her I had grown most of it out when I was a teenager.


[Photo Credit]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Showcasing" Debut...A New Series!

I am starting a new series after Thanksgiving titled Showcasing, and my goal is to showcase God doing extra ordinary things in every day people. I will be interviewing and showcasing, through writing, people who stepped out despite fear to accomplish their dreams and also people who have thrived even after a job loss, a dead spouse, illness, divorce and other issues we encounter everyday. I also hope to showcase individuals who are contributing to the world around them or thriving against the odds stacked up against them or who left a 9-5 job to pursue their dreams. My vision is to inspire others to ditch fear, negativity and the voice inside their head while showing the diversity of God in humans.

I hope to write one story per week, but that could change (more or less) depending on how many people I get to interview. I hope to utilize videos, pictures and other creative avenues to tell stories in the future. The stories will cover male and female, children, teenagers and adult, and Black, White, Asian and all other races. People living locally, nationally and internationally. This is the vision.

How do you all come in?
1. If you know someone who fits these descriptions or you believe should be showcased, please contact me by email at jostwrite@gmail.com.
Help me connect with a potential showcasee :). Do keep in mind that the stories to be showcased are chosen at my discretion, and interviews can be done in person, over the phone and by Skype. I am not equipped to travel everywhere right not, but hopefully in the future, I can bring myself to different parts of the world. :)

2. Help promote the series by sharing through Twitter, Facebook and any social media you are a part of, and if you are showcased...shout it out loud to your family, friends and network.

3. Subscribe to my blog

4. Be inspired to reach out and up

I will start by showcasing the people around me: the ones I know and encounter. I am starting with people whose stories inspire me, and some might not speak to you, but would speak to someone else. I hope as I move along and grow, I will be able to showcase God in many ways through the tiniest of issues to the hardest and gut wrenching ones.

Beloved, You are Loved Absolutely!

[Photo Credit]


Monday, November 21, 2011

Demetria Lucas On How To Become A Professional Writer!

I came across this video a few weeks ago, and I think it is good advice from someone who is walking her own path and dreams. It is good to hear from older, wiser and well advanced people, but even younger, accomplishing and dreaming people do have some good and timely tips we can learn from. It is also beneficial to learn from someone working, hustling and thriving in your field.

Here is to some heartfelt advice!
1. Follow your dreams. Do what you love, don't chase the money.
2. Don't be afraid to reach out to people in your field.
3. Don't be afraid of hardwork
4. Be creative by writing your truth.It is unique to you. Don't be afraid to look around and see where you fit in.
5. Get an education.Get technical training in your craft.
6. Spend your money on experiences not things.
7. Be your authentic self.
8. Find your unique voice
9. Be a professional.
10. Go above and beyond.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Days of Thankfulness #3



Today, I slept in. I over-slept in. I indulged in the caress of my blankets and pillow. Hence why today's post is coming in late. That is the joy and extra bonus that comes from running your own thing and not having a 9-5 submitted to someone else. This is not the ideal or wise situation for a hustling freelance writer, but today I decided to lay in bed and sleep.

This week, I am thankful for:

1. My bed, the ability to sleep and the freedom to sleep in. Not everyone has a bed. Not everyone can find peaceful sleep and certainly not everyone can stay in bed on a Friday. I am thankful. A few weeks ago, I was finding hard it to sleep, and now I am sleeping soundly.

2. My siblings. I love you guys with every breath that rises out of me. It is nice to know that we get each other, we scold each other and we stand by each other. I am willing and able to fight any battle, because you are with me.

2. Friends. My friends are my family; they stand by me through it all. I enjoy life and love with them. I am very very extremely thankful for my friends.

3. End of the 2011. I am looking forward to the end of the year, and I am thankful that it is almost here. Yay for 2012. I am looking forward to what the holidays will bring and what 2012 will usher in.

 To read my other "Days of Thankfulness" posts, click here and here.

[Photo Credit]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Letter to my Future Self


Dear JostWrite,
                         I am excited that I can take a few moment to communicate with you. It takes being low sometimes to reach out to the person you are going to become, and let her know that no low is the end. Right now, I am in a place I call Stuck. Stuck is never nice. It pushes you face down, smacking your nose into a mud of mess. It mocks you and dares you to fight. It dares you to get up even as it pushes you further into mud...face down.

                         I want you to remember that you will not only get up and survive the lows. You will thrive. The cliche "The sun always rises in the morning is true." The lows are never permanent and riding on a high is not permanent either. The question becomes "What are you going to do about it?"

                          I ask that you fight every time you hit a low. I ask that you never let your low reach stuck. But if you do, I ask that you keep fighting. Believe deeply in the saying that "Freedom lies in the heart of the struggle." Fight the negative thoughts and self-talk. If you need to crawl, crawl until your knees, bleeding as they may be, move you to freedom.

                         A few lessons I learned from my past lows include: Joblessness is not the end of life. It is a chance to do something new. It is a chance to see what you can do with a 9-5 not submitted to someone else. A broken relationship is not the end of your love life. It is the chance to see with news eyes. A chance to choose better at love and a chance to be better at love.Lost love equates a new love found if you let it. Broken finances is never the end. Get up and re-evaluate your chance to rule over your money.

                          Some attributes are essential to living abundantly and they include humility, gentleness, patience, love and focus. Life is a gift. Life is bliss when you let it. Life will throw darts at you, but remember, you can step out of the way. Never ever ever stop dreaming. Living without dreaming is the first death.
Love God with all your heart.
Love family, friends, the random guy next door and the random girl in the next cubicle. 
Give your time, your money and your talent.  
Don't you dare live life for just yourself, your family and your friends. 
Live it also for the helpless, the needy, the poor and the oppressed. 
Never let your religion or political affiliation deter you from seeing all people as people...breathing and living. 

And as you give, live and enjoy your life. 

Yours with Love, 
JostWrite

[Photo Credit]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

JostWrite Favorite Things: Scarves.


I love scarves.
I love vibrant scarves.
I love pashiminas.
I love colors.
You would rarely see me in the fall, winter and spring without a colorful scarf adoring my neck.


They bring out the sass in every outfit.
I wear them in many ways.
The add color to the grey shades of winter.






[Photo Credit]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Reaction To "The Redemption of General Butt Naked"



The feature movie, The Redemption of General Butt Naked, was released earlier this year, and Making Noise Inc., the non-profit I write for in Washington DC got me a ticket to go see it. The movie viewing was hosted by the Center for Global Development, and I wrote a reaction to the movie for Making Noise.

The movie is a powerful yet poignant true journey of former Liberian warlord, General Butt Naked, turned evangelist, Joshua Milton Blahyi.

Making Noise Inc. aims to use the arts, media, drama, and blogs to raise awareness of social injustice issues in the continent of Africa. 

Click here to read my reaction to the movie.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Days of Thankfulness #2




My first "Days of Thankfulness" post was up last week Friday.  I will be sharing a list of things I am thankful for every Friday in the month of November. When we give thanks, our outlook on life changes. The situations I was struggling with are yet to change, but my attitude is different. I am at peace. I am joyful and hopeful.

This week I am thankful for the following:

1. Life. My mother's friend died last Saturday. It was unexpected and sad. I heard my mom cry out after she got the call, and every moment following that cry made me appreciate my life. I am thankful for life; I take it for granted, because somehow I assume it will always be here. However, tomorrow is not promised to anyone.

2. People. People are not made to last for ever. My mom's friend is gone, and she is not here anymore. I am appreciating the people in my life, because I love them and they are also not guaranteed tomorrow. I have been in a tug of war with my parents lately, and I need to snap out of it. Each moment I spend trying to prove a point or principle is a moment lost. We may not always agree and to them, I may always be a baby, but this should not kill love and peace. I am thankful for my parent, my siblings, my friends, my former co-workers and the people in my life for a day, a season, a moment and a lifetime. 

3. My mother's cooking. My mama is the best cook in the world. She makes everything from scratch and puts a party in my tummy. I love cooking, but ever since I moved back home, I am yet to cook. Why waste her excellent meals on my mediocre above average ones? My time is precious. I would rather spend it eating a good meal than cooking an okay one.

4. Minneapolis. I love this city, I really do. I enjoy it here. It is hard for me to understand why I do not miss DC. Three months after I moved back home, I am yet to miss DC. Strange thing is it is hard getting around without a car here, and I do not have a car. I spend more time at home writing, unless I plan my getting out into town in advance. It is VERY cold here...brrrrrr! The diversity is minimal when compared to DC. SO why do I love it? I really do not know. Maybe because some of my closest friends live here, and I am comfortable here. I love it and appreciate it. A true perk is that Minneapolis is a theater-lover's paradise, with more theater per capital (second only to New York) than any other city in the nation. Living fifteen minutes from that is worth the cold. I am not sure I intend to spend the rest of my life here...I got my eyes on California, Italy, Australia, South Africa and India, but for now it is home.


[Photo Credit]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Scribed: Twinkle of an Eye!



I am sure my tiny home of four is intact. I had watched as my best friend lost her hubby to her infidelity. I love my Bobby, and he loves me. We take our vows seriously. Only death could rip us apart, and death was a long time coming. We met on September 12, 2001, the day after 9/11. He was the newest reporter for the Washington Post, and I was a Professor of Foreign Affairs and Multiculturalism at The George Washington University (GWU). I had on numerous occasions sat with reporters to discuss topical issues, and 9/11 was a day I knew I would be analyzing for the rest of my life. 

Bobby had just moved permanently to DC from LA a few months back. He was a hot-shot reporter for the Los Angeles Times, but he had always dreamt of working in the nation’s capital. He dreamt of covering news on the Capitol and at the White House. When he had the opportunity to quit his job at the LA Times to accept a 10-month fellowship at the Post, he jumped at it. He accepted the pay cut, but it was definitely the right step towards his dream. Ten months later, he moved back to LA without a job offer, and two months after he got a call offering him the position of reporter for the Post covering the Foreign Affairs beat. According to his new boss, he had impressed the socks off of his supervisors during his fellowship.

That surreal September morning, he walked into my office wearing a plaid shirt tucked into a snugly worn jean pants, tousled hair, unshaved beard and a smile on his face.  I was not impressed. Who smiles on a day like this? A few weeks after, I found myself toasting red wine and laughing out loud at his every joke. He proved to be a rebel, and what turned me off on her first encounter made me fall in love with him.

Today, I am sitting at the doctor’s office with my twin toddler boys at my feet. As I watch my little princes, I cannot imagine raising them without their father. He is the rock in our family. Bobby grew up without his parents, and he is a father who wants to be available to his children. He is a wonderful husband, father and man. We have plans to have another child, preferably a girl, but Bobby is sick. In this moment, I am watching the rest of our dreams melt away before me. The thought of Benjamin and Joseph growing up not remembering their father broke my heart. But Bobby is strong. Bobby is a rock. I pulled myself back to the waiting room to watch a young mother walk out the inner room with tears in her eyes. I hate the doctor’s office. No-one comes here with good news, and there is no guarantee you will leave with one.

“Is Bobby comfortable?”
“Is he in pain?”
“What are the results of the lab tests?”

I have questions, but no answers. He collapsed during a hiking trip two weeks ago, and he is now not the same man that drove our truck up to the Maryland Sugarloaf Mountain that morning. The doctors concluded it was exhaustion and stress, and I was not surprised. Bobby was selected as part of the media team for the Obama Campaign 2008 and that alone is taking its toil on our family. He is gone for weeks, and I get to stay home with the children. I have a blooming cupcake business I run alongside my teaching job at GWU. We have a beautiful life, and we are in a place of satisfaction and happiness. And then this, my up and get-going husband is exhausted. That is hard for me to comprehend. He could not shake off the exhaustion even after resting for a week, and I insisted he took a few more days off work. Thank goodness, he listened, because a few hours ago, he collapsed again while watching our kids play. How can a laid back activity like watching toddlers play send him right back on his back? Well, I guess making love for the first time this morning in over two weeks was also not a good idea. That is how we ended up here again.


“Mrs. Libby” I heard the doctor call my name. I cannot move. I am not ready for this.

“Mrs. Libby?” She calls out to me again. I know something is wrong; I can feel it. I see myself walking towards the doctor, but I cannot remember getting up. She is taking my hand while the nurse grabbed my kids. I know something is wrong, I can feel it. She led me into an inner room. It smells funny. I know something is wrong, I can feel it.

“Why am I not going to Bobby’s bedside? I thought, but the words would not come out. Something is terribly wrong.

“Mrs. Libby, would you like something to drink?” The doctor asked.

I looked up at her. Underneath her lab coat was a Vera Wang inspired fall dress. I have the original sitting in my wardrobe; it was one of Bobby’s gifts to me after he accepted the offer from the Obama’s campaign. The damn campaign made my hubby exhausted. I pulled myself back into the moment, I am here to hear about Bobby, not analyze the make of a dress.

I shook my head and managed to get the word “So?” out.

“I am so sorry Mrs. Libby, we tried everything we could, but we lost him in the exam room. We drew some blood, asked some questions and set him up on a drip, but a few seconds later his face began to swell and he was gone in seconds. I am so sorry”

Why is she apologizing? I wondered

And I asked again “So?” 

She stared hard and long at me, and sighed.
I thought “This bitch must be crazy”

“When can I see my husband? How is he feeling? Did you figure out what's going on with him?” I asked.

Bobby could not be dead. We made love this morning and talked about planning a vacation for the first break he got off the campaign trail. He devoured my pancakes this morning and tickled the back of my knees like I love. He picked up Ben and kissed him on the nose while playing with Joey’s hair. He was here a few hours ago and now I'm supposed to believe and accept that he is dead.

“This bitch must be crazy” I concluded and asked again

“When is it okay to talk to my husband, and when can he go home?”

[Photo Credit]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 11: My Family

I love my family and my family loves me.
They get on my nerves, but I am the sweetest, cutest and smartest pea in the pod. :)
We have been through the toughest of times together and fought the hardest of battles together.
My parents are The Bomb. They explode in love often and in the weirdest of ways.
My sister is the second mother. She loves us, but drives us insanely crazy.  She is also the traitor, she got married.
My brother-in-law makes me smile. because he helped us get rid of my sister :) He married her!
My younger brother is immersed in body parts, surgery rotations and books
My youngest brother is truly the baby in the house, and he lives life without worrying about a thing. He is living the life

And regardless of their flaws and my perfection :)
I am loved by them
I love them.

[About 30 Days Challenge]

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Fighting Faces of HIV/AIDS





Today, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton discussed a AIDS-Free Generation at the National Institute of Health. She proposed three elements in a combination-prevention strategy to fight and win the war against AIDS. The elements were voluntary male circumcision programs, mother-to-child transmission reduction efforts and affordable treatments. She also introduced Ellen DeGeneres as the special envoy for global AIDS awareness. Clinton emphasized DeGeneres television show and social media channels has a strong platform reaching millions people and equipped to help send out "the strong and hopeful message that we can win this fight."

The human race has fought many diseases and won, and I strongly believe the end of HIV/AIDS would come. We won the fight against Small Pox, and Malaria is eradicated in many countries even though the poor still suffer. The fight needs to continue, and it is never truly over until it is over. About three decades ago, the war against AIDS began, and as a child I watched, felt and heard the stigma, fear and anger that arose when the topic was brought up. I am Nigerian, and I never came in contact with a positive patient. I probably did, but no one would dare admit having HIV. In many societies, coming out to the truth of such issues is a life sentence. People are killed and ostracized. However, in a society where many live with AIDS, I was unaware of the depth of pain and devastation it brings.

 I came in contact with my first AIDS patient while working as first an intern then an evaluator consultant at The Women's Collective (TWC). TWC is a Washington DC based non-profit organization advocating for the needs of minority women and girls living with HIV/AIDS. The Women's Collective grew out of the life experience of the Founder/Executive Director, Patricia Nalls, a woman living with HIV/AIDS, who used her personal lessons learned to create this unique organization. Here I was working and sitting side by side with women who were living beyond the power of the virus. AIDS has many faces, and though it is prevalent in some circles...it is truly no respecter of persons. I was somewhat prepared for my encounters, because I was getting my Masters in Public Health at The George Washington University, and I had heard and learned a lot. I had read about the shame, the pain, the stigma and the limitation AIDS places on people. However, coming to work at TWC opened my eyes up to strength, the untold victory stories and the triumph that comes when humans stand up to evil. I am not denying the pain, but I saw that when we come together and lay down our prejudices and myths about the disease...we win. 

We win all the time when a life lost equates a story told that educates another generation. We win when we listen to the tales of doom AIDS tell, but then decide to work hard so we can re-tell a story of joy.

I heard stories of women infected by their husbands, I heard little girls talk about how they got infected during a rape or through foolish acts of  promiscuity. I heard as women cried out against the very needle and drugs they love. I heard the cry and the pain.


But, then I saw how these women rose up in their pain to fight for their sanity and for their children. I saw as TWC staff, some living with HIV/AIDS, fight and work the system to advocates for the rights of these women. I see women celebrate years of sobriety and freedom from drugs. I watched as children of AIDS patients choose a different set of values, and how their mothers propel them forward. I have seen women crawl into the TWC office and then walk out. I am forever changed by the fourteen months I spent working  alongside beautiful women from all levels of life and social status. They inspired me. They accepted me. I  was a fish out of water and out of my comfort zone, but they embraced me.

Many people have different opinions about HIV/AIDS, and how it is contacted. People blame the victim. Many times, we fail to look at our collective humanity as flawed, but redeemable. Sometimes, the simple act of abstinence and engaging a condom in sexual relations does the trick. However, it is not always that simple. HIV thrives on reproduction to facilitate its transmission. The incubation period between infection and symptoms can take decades and during this season, innocent people are contaminated unknowingly. We should all get tested, but we need to keep finding news ways to work around and in people's mating behaviors. Telling people not to breathe in a TB infested plane would result in tens of millions of lost lives. The questions are what can be done and what should be done? Pointing fingers, blaming the victim or stigmatization never works.

There are many advocates and organization fighting against HIV/AIDS. We have lost people and agencies to the disease and to funding. However, Clinton's message today and the renewed commitment of the US and the world to fight HIV/AIDS is a step in the right direction. Whether politicized or not, the time we spend debating the strategy behind the move is time wasted and lives lost.

The workers and advocates are passionate. 
The women and men are relentless. 
The fight continues, and 
The victory is surely ours.


[Photo Credit]

Monday, November 7, 2011

Guest Blogger: 419 Reasons to like NIGERIA and NIGERIANS!!!

Today, I have a guest blogger. Her name is Chichi Ifionu. I am really excited about sharing my first guest blog, and I am humbled by her passion for our country Nigeria. I was honored when she approached me about guest blogging on JostWrite. I hope you enjoy, comment and show her some love. Enjoy!


Some weeks ago, I read a post on Linda Ikeji’s blog. The blog-post was about Peter J Riley, a Forbes.com contributor, who received a 419 letter from an alleged FBI agent living in Nigeria. In a bid to let people in on the letter he received, he wrote an article about Nigerians switching from the greed tactic to instilling fear to accomplish their scams. However, after being reprimanded by a Nigerian lady living in Nigeria for such wrongful generalization, he wrote a second article to make amends, and he also came up with a creative idea. His idea was for Nigerians to help the world see more to Nigeria than the 419 identity we have been labeled with. Here is an excerpt from the third article he wrote proposing the idea:

“So here is my idea. Make a list of 419 reasons to like Nigeria and Nigerians. Do not even mention that the list is in any way a response to Internet fraud. Do not say anything about Internet fraud. If enough people do this and it might not really be that many, then when someone puts “Nigeria 419″ into a search engine he or she will be swamped with positive messages about Nigeria...” 

It is a creative way to help change the association of Nigerians and Nigeria with 419 or fraud. I loved the articles, and I left a comment on Linda Ikeji’s blog, echoing that the blog post was an example of what we as a people should concern ourselves with, as well as a way for us to contribute to the good of our nation. On the average, posts on Linda’s blog gather about 30 comments, however the juicier the post, the more comments it gathers.

About a week later, I visited her blog again and saw that there were only six comments on the post, mine included. I was baffled. A different post by Linda from the same day with pictures of a celebrity’s wedding had a lot of comments. Another post on an outfit by another celebrity two days later had gathered almost 100 comments, because of a ‘mature or immature’ feud the person had with Linda by way of twitter. It got me thinking, and I concluded that we either had a severe case of misplaced priorities or just dwell in laziness. I couldn’t help but wonder why a post that was giving us the opportunity to, in our own little way, change what people think about us and our nation would not gather many positive comments.

We complain everyday about our failing government. Many young Nigerian children can tell you what they dislike about our country, yet a good number of them cannot write all thirty-six states and their capitals (feel free at this point to take a pen and attempt it regardless of your age). One of my biggest pet peeves these days is Nigerians living in the Diaspora criticizing and condemning Nigeria without making an effort on a small scale to make things better. The vibe of laziness and misplaced priorities I got from the lack of comments or acknowledgement on that post almost implies that if given the opportunity to take leadership positions in Nigeria, a good number of us will be and do no less than the same leaders/government we throw stones. At the very grass root levels, how many of us have done anything? Why would posts of lesser importance gather more acknowledgements?

I love the idea, and I think that we should all write 419 Reasons to love Nigeria and Nigerians. We should write these reasons and put it on our blogs, Facebook and link it to twitter. When people want to know about Nigeria/419 and go online to look it up; they will also see the great things about us, as opposed to only things implicating all Nigerians as fraudsters.

I understand that this may seem like a bid to deny the ills within the country and it is no secret that there is A LOT of room for improvement in our country and every other country in the universe. However, I believe that we should develop the habit of using the same zeal we use in pointing out the ills, to recognize the good, however small.

P.S I know that some people may think this would not have a great impact or change the ills of our country. However we need to realize that every time we doubt the extent to which our positive actions can help our nation, however little they may be, we subtract from the number of people that could be changing things and we forget that there is POWER IN NUMBERS.

Visit http://www.419positive.org/ to add your voice.

Chichi Ifionu.
Patriotic Nigerian.
Igbo.
Christian.
Life student.
Avid interest for philanthropy and the legal field.
 



[Photo Credit]
[Photo Credit: Chichi Ifionu]

Friday, November 4, 2011

Days of Thankfulness #1


Lately, I am finding it hard to be thankful for anything or anyone. It is becoming extrememly difficult to be thankful. I have spent more than my share of the past few weeks in a foul, grumbling mood and posture. Nothing seem to be going right, and I take it out on everyone and anything that is in my path. I have decided to make a list of things I am thankful for every Friday in the month of November. I am choosing joy and thanksgiving instead of murmuring, grumbling, complaining and a pity party.

This week I am thankful for

1. My own room, bed, closet and private space. This might sound unusual, but I am really thankful for a bed. I graduated last year with my masters and started job searching. In that season,  I spent exactly 11 months (September 1st, 2010 through July 31st, 2011) sleeping on a couch and living out of boxes. It was an humbling and character building season for me. I DO NOT EVER WANT TO DO IT AGAIN. I am thankful for the past three months for my own room, bed, closet and private space.

2. I am thankful for joy. Joy has being eluding me, and when life is a whirlwind, it is harder to grasp hold of joy. When I have it, I cherish it and hold on tight to it. Most morning, I wake up praying that my emotions will not control my day, and I find myself wrestling just to stay joyful and happy.

3. I am thankful for peace. I yearn for peace. It is another fruit of the Spirit that is eluding me lately. I wake up desiring to have a calm spring flowing inside of me. Inner conflict, confusion and chaos are the death of me. I am thankful for peace.

4. I am thankful for this season. Hard times are going to be part of all our lives, and it is in such seasons that God is most revealed. I hate this season, and I am not doing jumping jacks about where I am right now. It is not all "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy." I want it to be over already, but I know that I do not want to come out of this and look back wondering why I wasted my time angry, mad, jealous, bitter, faithless and doubting. I am not saying that I am happy, joyful, peaceful, graceful, satisfied and contented all the time, but it is what I am choosing. I fail at it, but I get up and choose it again.

5. I am thankful that I can write. I do not always enjoy it or love it or yearn for it or think I am good at it. I am thankful that it is a passion that kept coming back over 20 years now even when I neglected it and detested the hard work that writing is. It is a gift that challenges me and builds my character. It makes me dream and teaches me to be hard working, determined and passionate. Virtues that lead to success.

6. I recently received a scholarship to do something regarding writing. I am overjoyed and thankful for the opportunity. It was a nice flicker of light in a dark place. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity.

I am choosing thankfulness!

Phillippians 4:6-7:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

What are you thankful for?

Beloved, You are Loved Absolutely!

[Photo Credit]

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Landscape of Dashed Dreams!

Dreams are dashed daily. They are wrestled out of us and thrown against the very walls we are struggling to climb over. High towers of doubt rob us of our fledgling dreams even as we pray that they fly. This week, I am reminded of how inadequate I am and how control is one of my greatest enemies. Dreams are supposed to come alive, but many times they lay dormant. I am left questioning if I am not working hard enough or if these are not the dreams for me or maybe I am not doing all I need to do. I have a plan of how my life should turn out, and I have set objectives for each phase and year of my life. Laughably, nothing happened or is happening when it should. It is like the famous saying "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."

Is He laughing at me?
The question makes me smile and I am not sure why.

Things have not turned out the way I had envisioned. My dreams are smirking down at me, and most days I question "How dare they ROFLOL at me? I did dream your ass up."

Maybe it is God laughing at my dreams and the plans I have made without asking His thoughts. Years after these dreams took root, they are still struggling to fly. My dreams are still struggling to grow green leaves and steady branches.

Today, I am letting go of my dreams again. Controlling them seem to leave them battered, so I am having them go on their own accord. I am letting them walk, crawl or fly in whichever direction they want to go. I am going to stand here, empty and without an iota of control.  I am standing at the edge of a cliff and pouring my dreams out. I am yelling at them and asking them to splatter about as they will and make their own colorful mess. Observe the landscape as my dreams are dashed against them creating their own architectural heaven. I am willing to see what will grow out of the empty space I have created. Dreams lost and dashed are opportunities for something new to grow, and I may be surprised that one of the dreams I am letting go might just crawl, walk or fly its way back to me.

As Francesca Battistelli rightly sang "I'm letting go of the life I planned for me and my dreams. Losing control of my destiny. It feels like I'm falling and that's is what it is like to believe. So I'm letting go."

This is the life for me!

Beloved, You are Loved Absolutely!

[Photo Credit]

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Scribed: What Is Buried Within My Heart?



Freedom
Love
A Ray of Sunshine
A Kiss

Freedom
Love
Acceptance of my passion
If people would take a step back and look into my heart.
They would see...

Freedom
Love
Travel
Flight
Tears
Love
Pain

If my heart could touch your heart
You will see my heart
Girls able to fly
Men able to relax
I can choose to love you,
And my culture would stand in support

Freedom
Love
A splash in the ocean
A dance on the roadside
A Kiss
Making love just because it is 2pm
2pm!
Two more hours before close of business

My heart is open to see you
Black
White
Yellow
Asia
African

Freedom
Love
Culture would set me free; if you could see my heart
I would fly planes
Sail a ship
Climb a mountain
Publish a book
Seek love and justice

So you can see what is buried in my heart.


[Photo Credit]
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