For My Daughters 


Because women can rule the world.

How deep does sexism run in our county and did I fall victim to it when I enthusiastically rooted for Senator Sanders? I wasn’t with Her in the primaries. I was one of many unenthusiastic voters who had hoped for better choices in November. I understand the implications of the infamous server and the emails. I understand the pay-to-play allegations and the host of noise about Hillary Clinton that is either grossly false or highly exaggerated. In the beginning of the post-primary season of this election I echoed the sentiments of many that this was the lesser of two evils; Hillary Clinton or the demagogue Donald Trump. It was a lose-lose either way. She wasn’t my feminist. 

Days before the election, after I have taken stock of the rhetoric and the overall anger of those who despise Hillary Clinton, I have come to a conclusion: the hate and vitriol for Hillary Clinton can only stem from a deeply rooted patriarchal system designed to abhor a woman seeking power. I’ve spent many hours studying and writing about the patriarchal system embedded in the works of early women writers. Like Clinton, the women who dared challenge the authority of the male dominated literary world suffered consequences, their work was frivolous or deviant. It was unnatural for a woman to have a room of her own and write or in this case for Hillary Clinton to seek the most powerful office in the world. Just ask Virginia Woolf who wrote about trespassing on the lawns of Oxbridge, no doubt she intended her audience to read Oxford and Cambridge, where her fictional character is accosted for walking on the “turf” reserved for scholars (male writers). Kate Chopin explored the dichotomy of motherhood and writer/artist in her book The Awakening. Her heroine Edna committed suicide because in the 19th century there was no space for a woman to be both a mother (society’s socially constructed role for women) and a writer/artist.

Historically in both film and literature women with power are viewed as cunning, ugly, vicious (just look at the early Disney villains) so it is no surprise that even women tear Hillary Clinton apart. The patriarchal system works in insidious ways, just look at the ways women judge one another. We don’t need overt sexism (although it exists) all we need is a woman casting judgement on another woman about her place in society: she should be at home with her kids, why doesn’t she have kids, she has too many kids, she dresses too provocative, she’s too flirty, she should wear make-up, she is lazy, she isn’t friendly enough, she is too ambitious—-I think you get the point. We live in a world where patriarchy is reinforced by the very gender it suppresses. If Hillary Clinton was Mr. Hillary Clinton perhaps we would not be having this conversation. Hillary Clinton has fought against incredible opposition her whole career. So today ahead of this historic election I proudly write #ImWithHer and all the other brave women who have spent their lives fighting for a place at the table. We don’t want to bake cookies, we want to shatter ceilings.

I choose kindness

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The refugee crisis has topped WWII in the number of those displaced by conflict. Over the year since the peak of migration hit the Austrian border I’ve struggled finding ways to help. This crisis is in my backyard, I cannot conveniently say, well it’s far away it doesn’t matter. However with limited German it’s difficult to find and search what is needed and how to help. Thankfully Facebook has been a wonderful tool to connect other English speaking expats who are working in the communities from mentoring, partnering with a local refugee school, and organizing donation drives. Despite lower numbers migrating into Vienna the need for basic items is still high for those who are here. A reoccurring request among the various groups I follow here in Vienna is the need for baby items from cribs, to prams, to blankets, to pampers.

After speaking with a woman who is mentoring a refugee couple I realized how difficult their lives can be despite escaping conflict and the atrocities we see on the news. They remain in an exhaustingly long process of obtaining paperwork in order to work. Austrian laws are quite strict and so they wait. Imagine if you are expecting a child and the donation center where you are staying has nothing for your newborn and neither you nor your spouse can provide those basic needs? I can’t imagine how helpless that would make me feel. Given the current rhetoric regarding refugees I can’t imagine on top of that what it feels like to feel like the outsider. What it feels like to be the one everyone is pointing fingers at.

We must change the conversation

In a world full of hate we must show kindness. When someone offers a helping hand it’s a gesture rarely forgotten and it can begin to change perceptions. How we represent people is how we treat them. What if we treated one another as if we are neighbors. The American spirit of helping those in need is the conversation we must continue. We lead by example. And so if one family can raise their child with a story of help from a stranger in the moment they needed it most we can build bridges of hope. We can change the conversation. We can work towards peace. But it begins with kindness.

I would like to deliver these much needed items for families staying in the refugee centers around Vienna. My goal is small with hopes to serve 4 families and give them hope for a better future. Please follow the link to an Amazon wishlist I’ve created if you wish to contribute. http://amzn.to/2dg9LXd

From There to Here

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Eight years ago on a flight back to the states, I read a piece in Yoga+Yoyful Living entitled Simple Gifts from Guyana by Katherine Jamieson, and I poignantly remember trying to envision this faraway place the author was taking me to; a place where less was more and that beauty was in the unexpected. I tore the page out leaving the magazine in my seat back pocket only to find it years later in an old box of papers, intrigued by the beauty and simplicity of Guyana and longing to find such a place. I would find such a place years later nestled on the most western tip of Africa.

Most of my twenties were spent trying to find myself: I studied English because I love to write but I found my passion in studying the marginalized characters of the literary world. Finding those same themes play out in our society: poverty, gender and racial inequality, and access to education. I spent my twenties volunteering in communities doing everything from fundraising, event planning, to interning under a social worker. Envious of friends who were off starting their careers with all the answers. After all the English papers and the 3.5 grad point average I was stuck in suburbia with two children under two and no answers. Even after I launched my design business I knew it was a placeholder, something to keep me busy while I was stuck, while I sifted through the dust.

A placeholder to let me grow.

It’s in the waiting that we discover so much truth. After the birth of Evie I knew I couldn’t pursue a business in the creative field. I didn’t have the passion for weddings like so many of my extremely talented industry friends. In Dakar all I could think of was getting away from my computer and getting involved in the community right in front of me. I wanted to reinvent my purpose and passion beyond telling the story of a bride and groom on their wedding day. I wanted to make a difference and tell the stories of those in the world who, for whatever reason, have been left voiceless. I wanted to work with communities to build a better future.

When I think about the serendipitous way we landed in Dakar four years ago, I smile knowing sometimes are best plans are ones unknown to us and these sacrifices and trials are all a part of the roadmap of life. Like the piece on Guyana I stowed away all those years, I also kept a pencil from OU back in 2008 when I first looked at the MAIR program. I needed eight years of trial and error in my own business, raising a family, and moving to West Africa. I needed that perspective shift. I did my growing up on the coast of Senegal. I was pushed to my limits, broken, and conflicted. I arrived with every stereotype both the ones I projected onto others and the ones I played. I left with a humbled heart, a broader sense of empathy and love, and the desire for my life’s work to leave on impact on those who left an impact on me.

So here I am today. Studying the MAIR program at the University of Oklahoma and a 2016 Pat Tillman Scholar. I’m so humbled and honored to be where I am today and it’s not without the love and support from everyone in my life. To the friends who wrote letters for me, proofread essays, and just pushed me to take risks- thank you.

Dakar, much like Guyana, is a place where you learn community is valued over things, beauty is in the hard work, determination, and resiliency that is evident on every corner and in the hearts of everyone you meet. It is a place that is truly magical.  À Bientôt! Inshallah!

Two Days in Verona & Venice

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We ended Spring Break this year in one of our favorite Italian cities: Verona. It was so nice to be back after four years but adding another child made taking day excursions into Venice a bit more expensive and a bit more stressful. Despite a nasty virus that was passed between the younger two we managed to make the most of our trip eating plenty of gelato and taking advantage of the delicious regional Valpolicella wine.

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