Friday, February 28, 2014

Spring Break

Spending the day with this sweet old lady, then off on an adventure starting tomorrow....

BOOKS! (Breath, Eyes, Memory)

I came across this book on my birthday and was only mildly intrigued when I got it. After having read some academic texts about Haiti for a couple of my classes, I was more interested when I finally started reading this. However, I must say that I wasn't prepared for what I was about to read. This is a relatively short read, but it certainly is not easy to get through. It's one of the most devastating novels that I've read in a while.

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

This is the life story of a female character named Sophie Caco. She narrates the novel, and her journey starts and ends in Haiti where she was born. At the age of 12 she is summoned by her estranged mother to live with her in New York City. Over time, Sophie learns that she is the product of a rape. Her mother's nightmares slowly become her own as she discovers more about her mother's story, reconciles her family's past with her present, and struggles to articulate who she is as a woman and an individual. Motherhood, marital troubles, a couple stays in Haiti and the death of her mother force her to come to terms with her own truth.

Sophie represents an interesting yet harsh aspect of the status of women that is seen in many cultures. Because she was a good student and was able to go to America, she is expected to be successful and do things that women in her family have never done before Yet, her worth and fate still depend on appealing to, marrying, and pleasing a man. Her mother is obsessed with the idea of virginity and "tests" Sophie to make sure that she is pure, just as she and her mother (Sophie's grandmother) were tested. Obtaining a "good" marriage with a "good" man indicates security and success more than anything that a woman might do for herself.

Danticat takes up some really heavy topics and themes in this novel: shame, hatred of black bodies, violence and self harm, gender roles, sex/sexuality/sexual assault, love, belonging, roots and tradition, folklore, cultural differences, identity, eating disorders, generational trauma, guilt and forgiveness, fear of abandonment. I related to a number of these themes, so I guess that's why it hit me so hard. I've read some pretty deep and disturbing literature in the past, but I don't think I've read anything that has made me contemplate Haitian culture and womanhood the way that Breath, Eyes, Memory has. Like I said, it's devastating. But it's the kind of work that I think anyone could benefit from reading at least once.

Favorite quotes:
"They are the people of Creation. Strong, tall, and mighty people who can bear anything. Their Maker, she said, gives them the sky to carry because they are strong. These people do not know who they are, but if you see a lot of trouble in your life, it is because you were chosen to carry part of the sky on you head." (p. 25)
"Imagine our surprise when we found out we had limits." (p. 43)

BOOKS! (The Purpose Driven Life)

I found this one in the used section of a bookstore and figured why not? This book's been popular for 12 years, I keep hearing about it, so let's see what all the fuss is about. At first I tried to plow through it like I do other books, but when I realized that it was a 40-day devotional I almost opted out. I didn't want to be slowed down. But then I decided to just go with it and see if there was anything in it that could clear things up for me and help me start 2014 off in a good way. I'd never read a daily devotional before, and it ended up being good to slow down and get a daily dose of insight and encouragement.

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

First off, this book won't tell you what your specific individual purpose is. It's not a crystal ball. Rather, it aims to give you the tools to figure it out by having you reflect on your actions, interrogate your motivations, and learn about the general purposes that God has for all of us. Each chapter starts with a Bible verse or an inspirational quote, and ends with a Bible verse and a question for you to reflect on for that day.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned from this book is that I need to stop trying to rely on myself so much. I will never have all the answers, I will never be able do everything (much less do everything right), and I will never make it in this life if I don't practice relying more on God and on the good people he's placed around me. Interacting with others is part of our mission, and it is also key to finding fulfillment in life. Relationships matter!

I've also been reminded that this life is not about me, how I feel, or what my problems are at the moment. Even though it might not make sense, as long as I'm faithful everything that happens works for my good and the glory of God. So what you focus on matters, too!

Warren's message becomes repetitive at certain points, he makes some statements that seem sweeping or vague, and some of the paraphrasing and translations that he uses for Bible verses is unfamiliar to me. But overall this book provides good food for thought, and enables readers to take a few minutes a day to read and reflect on God and purpose in a quiet space.

Favorite quotes:
"There is no other story just like yours, so only you can share it. If you don't share it, it will be lost forever. You may not be a Bible scholar, but you are the authority on your life, and it's hard to argue with personal experience." (290)
"Blessed are the balanced; they shall outlast everyone." (305)

Sessions with Sue 10

I have a confession to make. After I saw myself in FoF's latest video on Sunday, I basically had a breakdown. I'd forgotten how fat I was. I was shocked and heartbroken and ashamed of how I looked, so I was really depressed this week. Didn't want to look at myself in the mirror or windows, didn't want to be seen by anyone, didn't want to go anywhere, didn't want to do anything. I just shut down, cut myself off from most contact with people, and was consumed with very negative thoughts. It was a dark and terrible week. So yesterday Sue and I mostly talked about my issues with my body, which I've been dealing with for most of my life. At one point she asked me what about my body I disliked so much, and I guess it's just that I have too much extra, it's a hindrance, it's embarrassing, and it's hard to get rid of it all. Here are some things she had to say about that:
  • Part of progress is letting things bubble up to the surface. When they do, they don't take anything away from your progress, they just demand attention.
  • When you get down and become ashamed of yourself, you disconnect from all the wonderful things that your body does for you.
  • Being separate from others, being on the outside, being invisible, they all hurt you. Even though they seem like protections.
  • You are not alone in this. There are lots of women out there who are hungry fro someone to encourage them and go through it with them just like you are.
  • You have a third eye, a judgmental eye, that is very (unnecessarily and destructively) strong.
  • Think: How can I nourish my body, and treat it with the same care as I treat my mind and soul?
  • Part of it is mindfulness. Observe yourself (but in a nice way!)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


There are so many things that I'm not and wish that I was. And they're nearly all I think about, everyday.

"B*tch" vs. "N*gga"

"Just because I'm a b*tch today doesn't mean I'm a b*tch tomorrow!" -Prof. R. Harrison
During an after-class discussion about reclamation/reappropriation of demeaning titles through self-identification. This professor of mine is a feminist and calls herself a b*tch sometimes and is fine with it, but other people can't call her one. However she had reservations about using the n-word in the same casual way. A black classmate of mine named C had the same thinking about the n-word (I and my fellows can call each other that, but other people can't say it to me), but he was appalled and confused that Prof. Harrison and other women could even conceive of using the word "b*tch" as a term of endearment or empowerment. They were basically having a very animated discussion about the differences between the terms, and the severity and degrading qualities of one versus the other. It was ridiculously entertaining to watch and be a part of.
(In case anyone would like my opinion on the matter,  I think both are ugly, degrading, and dehumanizing words that are steeped in too much history and violence to be taken lightly. I refuse to use them and do not advocate using them,  no matter who the speaker is. But you know,  people will do as they will.)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another Cover!

We recently auditioned for a talent show with this song, and we made it into the show! But we weren't able to record ourselves at the time, so we've done it for you now. Enjoy!

Who needs money?

Hilena: I wish we didn't have to work for money. I mean... I wish we didn't have to live to work for money, as if that's all that mattered.

Me: Yeah, I feel the same way. I don't spend money; I either save it or hide it. So what would I need with riches?

Hilena: I know, right?

My mom is perfect for me!

Around when I first started going to see Sue, Ma and I knew that my dad would often come up as a source of many of my issues. But Ma also wanted me to know that if it came up that she was also doing something wrong, I should feel free to tell her about it,

"If there's anything I can do different, let me know. Sometimes I wonder if I could've done more for you or done things another way. So if I'm part of the problem, I'd like to know so I can fix it. It's okay, you can tell me."

But the more I see Sue, the more and more I receive affirmation that Ma did and said everything I'd needed her to do. Even when we didn't know at the time that I would need to fall back on those things later on. With the exception of perhaps making me see a therapist sooner, I can't think of anything that I wish she should've/would've/could've done. She's always been exactly the kind of mom that I've needed, and I'm grateful. God is good.

This is a Remake?!: About Last Night

I saw this last Sunday with my mom, and I was pleasantly surprised with how good it was! Also, I didn't know it was a remake until after I saw it, and since I haven't seen the 1986 original, I won't be making any comparisons to it.

Seen Sunday February 16: About Last Night

Two new couples form when a pair of female friends get together with a pair of male friends. Their "relationships" (depending on how one defines the term) develop and change in a number of relatable and side-splitting ways.
"It's about compromise. It's about love. It's about a good wingman."


What I really like about this movie: A remake of a romantic comedy with all black leads? That's already winning in my book. Plus the writing is superb! The dialogue is clever, intelligent, and refreshing, with jokes and ideas that (unfortunately) are not things that you're used to hearing black characters say in movies. It's one of the most well-written "Black" films that I've seen. (And there are actually many well-written ones that have come out since the '90s, despite what those unfamiliar with the genre might think.) I read somewhere that a lot of non-black people don't watch "Black films" because they don't think they'd have anything in common with the culture being shown to them. To this I say, 1)How do you think we feel when watching 99% of mainstream Hollywood films? And 2)Though there might be certain language and cultural references you might not understand at first, these films are just expressing experiences that many black people have, as people, because.... get ready for it.... we're people just like anyone else. But I digress. My point is that in addition to being a quality piece of work with highly-skilled black actors (Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant), About Last Night is more than accessible and understandable for non-black audiences.

What I don't like about this movie:  While not unique from most films we see today, the trajectory of modern relationships that it offers is problematic for me.  It goes something like this: Meet. Have sex soon after without knowing each other long (or at all). Become casual sex buddies. Then actually go on a few dates. Then maybe be in a relationship, labels as needed (or not). Then move in together. Try to stick it out as time goes on and you both change. Marriage may or not be on the table. (Come to think of it, while commitment was cited as a potentially worthy goal for both couples, marriage wasn't exactly weighing on everyone's minds.) I understand the message the film is trying to send about letting your relationship develop as it will and not feeling pressured to conform to expectations and make your relationship look like that of other people's. But at the same time I think it demonstrates a loose, minimal risk, commitment-free model of modern relationships that may not be healthy or fulfilling for people in the long run. As a young Christian seeking to do the right thing, it was unnerving to see this model laid out before me yet again as if, "This is the way adults do things now, that's how society is, and there's nothing wrong with it. " I rant about this to say that, it would be nice to not have sex be the focal point of every relationship we see on screen.

Would I recommend it?: Absolutely!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sessions with Sue 9

I couldn't come up with a theme that would characterize our conversation today because we talked about a range of things. It was mostly just me updating her on concerns and problems that I'd had last week. At the end she recognized that I've been working hard, and said that I've been making some good progress. That was encouraging  because even though I know I've changed since our first meeting, sometimes I think of how far I still have left to go and I feel like I'm just the same as ever. So it was good to receive affirmation that I'm not the same as I once was, and I am headed in the right direction. Baby steps.
  • Coming into yourself as a performer; being able to put on that cloak of understanding that it's not about you, it's about giving something (of yourself) to your audience.
  • Being nice to yourself doesn't mean that you'll become a slacker.
  • Transitions have never been easy for you, and the anticipation of them also tends to be stressful.
  • Because of the model your dad set for how people operate, it's hard for you to put yourself out there with a friend, and you're sensitive about how they respond.
  • There are people out there (including men/a man) whom you won't have to change a thing for; they'll be able to love all of you just as is.
  • ASSIGNMENT(S) for next time: 1) Write 2 letters to Dad. One about all the negative things you wish you could say to him. And another about the things you're grateful for and pleased with in your relationship with him. 2) Bring songs that you've written about him or that have been inspired by your relationship.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

First (for real) Live Performance!

Last night we performed at a small open mic in my department. Same song as last time, but live! Enjoy!

FoF YouTube

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An Artist's Dilemma

Loved a lot of the FB comments for this one. I feel like this man and I are struggling with some of the same problems.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


It's funny how certain moments can conjure up childhood memories. Like injuries.

Yesterday I slipped on some ice and scraped my left knee. I haven't scraped my knee since I was a little girl. Ever since it happened, whenever I feel the pain or look at my knee, images and feelings from my childhood revisit me. Tricycle. Big husky dog. School. Playground. Asphalt. Neighborhood. Barking. Crying. Ma.

I know this incident happened at least once. For some reason I feel like it happened multiple times, but maybe that's just because I thought about it so much after the fact that I relived it many times and in my mind I did experience it more than once. I don't know.  Anyway.

My parents and I lived down the street from the school that was to be my elementary school. Often, they would take me to the school's expansive playground and field area to play. One afternoon in the summertime, Ma and I were leaving when we came upon The Path. I was in front, riding my tricycle. Ma followed closely behind, looking after me attentively. This Path, a wide, black asphalt intermediary between my street and the school, wasn't anything to be afraid of in itself. It was what was along it that you had to be careful of.

Harmless house on the right, big scary unpredictable husky on the left. I say unpredictable because he didn't always bark at you when you passed by. Sometimes he would just watch you. Sometimes he wouldn't come out of his doghouse. Sometimes he wouldn't even be in the backyard, probably sleeping inside his owner's house or something. For some reason I only remember him barking at people when they were on their way out of the school grounds. So you can imagine how on this day, I, with my preschool-aged self, was terrified and on edge as we neared the dog's domain. We were at the halfway point and seemed to be in the clear, when suddenly the husky shot out of nowhere and commenced barking (roaring?) at me through his fence. When he jumped, I jumped. And fell. Off my tricycle and onto the ground. Scraping my knees. So much pain and fear and crying. I'm laughing now thinking about how hysterical I'd been. But at the time, what else could I do?

Ma stood me back up and tried to calm me down. We made it back to the house and she cleaned and blew on my wounds. Gave me hugs and kisses and Band-Aids with cartoon characters on them. She told me I was fine, and that I was going to be okay. And that yes, for the hundredth time, I would be able to ride my bike again sometime before I died (I told you I was hysterical). And then, all was right again.

Now, here I am with my stinging left knee, and I can't stop thinking about that event from my early years. Who knew? Knees are actually really fragile. And who knew? Even when you're trying to be more independent and prove that you can be a real adult, sometimes you still want your mom to make things better. Or just laugh at the fact that you slipped and fell on some ice. Either way.

Sessions with Sue 8

Unlike last week I wasn't able to make it through the session without crying yesterday. This week  hasn't been a bad week or anything; I was just really frustrated because certain things didn't go as I'd planned and hoped. I often have this problem, especially when I get excited about something or look forward to things going a certain way. So we mostly talked about that, and my habit of being really hard on myself and others:
  • You focus so much on what didn't happen, that you're not able to embrace the good in what did happen.
  • When you discount what people say when they compliment you, it's like you're saying, "You don't know what you're talking about." So you may think you're trying to be humble or modest, but you're actually putting them down.
  • Disappointment. Things don't turn out the way you thought they would, so you feel like you were tricked into believing in something or someone.
  • But even if something or someone doesn't turn out as expected, that doesn't mean that it wasn't worth it.
  • Because you're so critical of yourself, you are also hard on people around you; once you become nicer to yourself, you'll be able to be more tender and forgiving toward others.
  • There's nothing wrong with having high expectations for yourself and being disciplined and self-motivated. You just need that extra piece where if and when you fall short (which you inevitably will, since you're human), you don't fall back onto self-loathing but instead are able to forgive yourself and accept how things happened.
  • Acceptance of your humanness. You can be exceptional, but all the while you're still human. And so is everyone around you.

On Repeat: Busy Doing Nothing

This whole thing makes me so happy! I've been a fan of Crystal Kay since freshman year of high school, and I've followed her career as she endured numerous ups and downs. From debuting in 1999 at age 13, to being one of Japan's most popular and successful artists from 2002-2007, to experiencing a decline in popularity and releasing albums that flopped commercially, to cancelling a national tour and switching from Sony to Universal, to going quiet for a year,  to releasing one last Japanese album before taking up second residence in New York in 2013 (2012?) to build a career and basically start over in the US market, to appearing in an American artist's music video and going to the Grammys.... To this! As a fan, I am so incredibly proud of her! "Busy Doing Nothing" is fun, the lyrics have some substance, and it still has that  Crystal Kay-esque sound that fans of her Japanese music like myself have come to know and love. Plus, she looks amazing like always! The styling! Those ABS. Those curls!

Obviously this song and music video are only a small start to what I hope will be bigger things and greater recognition. I guess the reason why I'm so happy right now is that Crystal Kay is once again embodying the idea of having no limits and transcending categories. As a half-African American half-Korean woman, born and raised in Japan, and having a long career as a Japanese artist singing in Japanese and English, she just.... can't be boxed in. And now she's following her dreams of debuting in the US, showing folks that she has the potential to make it anywhere. Anywhere. Thinking about everything she's been through, everything she's done, and everything she represents for so many people.... I can't help but be elated! She really is an inspiring human being.

Visit Crystal's US links here and here. Here Japanese ones are here and here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

FoF's first video!

In honor of Valentine's Day, Hilena and I did a cover of Adele's rendition of "Love Song". Enjoy!

You can now find First of February on Facebook and YouTube to keep up with us in the future. We would love your support and encouragement.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ghetto Blood?

Just talked to my dad over the phone for the first time in a while, and the subject of my safety in France this summer came up in conversation.

Dad: Aren't you a black belt or something?

Me: Huh? No... I took taekwondo for like a year back in middle school, but that was it.

Dad: Oh. Well, you got a little ghetto in you, 'cause your dad's ghetto. So you'll be alright. You know how to get somebody off you when you need to.

Me (cracking up): Thanks, Dad.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sessions with Sue 7

Yesterday was the first time that I made it through an entire session without crying. Not a single tear. It's not like I was trying not t cry;  it's just that I've been maintaining a positive attitude lately and I've been taking things more lightly than I did last week. Plus, a lot of good things have happened for me in the past seven days (I'm in a band now, our audition went well, my interview for the honors college also went well, a student-run play accepted my script for their show this year, etc.) So I spent most of the time talking about all those good things, how I felt about them, and realizations about my habits and thought patterns that I've made.  I only took a few notes this time:
  • Singing/creating is feeding your soul!
  • It's interesting how one person, on a seemingly random occasion, was able to make you feel comfortable enough to take a chance, open up, and share things that you've been adamant about keeping from most other people.
  • How awesome it is that this person as come into your life, and you were willing to be receptive to her and her friendship, at just the right time.
  • There's never any need or reason to force a relationship.
  • You're an adult now. And unlike when you were a child, you get to decide what kind of relationship you want to have with your dad and what that'll look like.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Meet FoF / Our First Performance!

I said I'd tell y'all about the new band I'm in soon, and now's the time.

Everybody meet Hilena! She's the beautiful person next to me in this photo, and she's the other member of our band. I sing. She sings and plays the guitar. And we make some pretty cool sounds together. Our band duo is called First of February (or First of Feb, or FoF).

First of Feb in the house! Or rather, on the bus. With an onlooker.
I have a lot to share about how we met and became friends, and how we ended up joining musical forces. But for now I'll just explain our band name. "First of February" may seem simple and random, but it actually took us over an hour trying to come up with it and it has a lot of meaning. February 1st is the date that we got together (literally, we just formed this past Saturday). February is the second month of the year, and there are two of us. February is also Black History Month, and we are both brown-skinned young women of African descent. And February is also the month of love, which is fitting since both Hilena and I are sentimental people in our own ways. So whether people get it or not when we introduce ourselves, we love our name and it is important to us.

We originally formed in order to audition for an upcoming student-run talent show, so tonight we did our first audition/performance as First of February. We sang "What's Up?" by 4 Non Blondes. Considering how much we've rehearsed this song, our performance tonight admittedly wasn't the best that we've done. However, it still went really well and we received great responses from the group that auditioned us. And even if we don't make it into the show, I'm just so incredibly happy because our band finally feels real now that we've performed for people. Hilena and I have both wanted to be in a band for a long time, and this was my first time singing in front of people since around October. So to be able to come together and finally share our gifts with others as a team.... it's indescribable how good I feel right now. I'm on such a high, and it's more than catharsis. Perhaps this is what joy feels like?

That's us for you in a nutshell. Stay tuned for future awesomeness! I'm so excited!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Do you have good intuition?"

This afternoon, I had an interview with someone from my school's honors college. Lately they've been doing profiles on honors students for their website, and I was asked to be one of them. My interviewer/photographer was a nice young man named Nick. He  looked me in the eye when he posed his questions, and he listened intently as I responded to each one. At one point after I'd answered a certain question, he was about to move on to the next one on his list when out of the blue he inquired:

Nick: I'm sorry. This might sound strange, but, would you say that you have good intuition?
Me: ...Uh, I guess. Sure, I'd like to think so.
Nick: Yeah, you seem like you have good intuition.

And then we moved on to the rest of the interview. On the one hand I appreciated the compliment, but on the other hand, I was sitting there thinking Huh. That's kind of weird. Is this guy psychic? Can he read vibes or something? Do I have "good intuition" written on my forehead? Does he happen to be on a mission to find people with good intuition today?

I'd never met Nick before this afternoon, so since then I've been wondering why he would randomly say something like that. Maybe I should've asked him. Eh well. It's a strange compliment that I will gladly accept.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Something miraculous happened for me last night. I'm in a band! Of sorts, haha. A friend of mine and I formed it together, on the fly for an upcoming audition for a student-run event. I finally have someone to share my ideas with. It's like a dream of mine is starting to come true!

Who knew that just meeting for dinner would lead to something like this? Even though what we've got going is amateur and small, this is the most excited I've been about something in a really long time. I'll tell y'all what our band name is soon enough. But in the meantime, the title of this post is a clue.