Stupidest things I did this year while trying to be smart…

Broke Life - https://www.pinterest.com/resumeedge/jobresume-funnies/My husband, my friends, people who know me well and people who met me yesterday all know that I am the queen of doing too much. I think I deserve a medal OR a dunce cap to remind myself of this, because I am always biting off more than I can chew. I’m studying and working at the same time. I’m not just studying actually. I’m basically trying to write a book. And not only am I working, but I’m supposed to be people’s boss all day long. This is all while being an expert doggie mum, a new batch cook, and an aspiring CFR fellow. In preparation for the end of 2016 and in an effort to put all this mercury in retrograde behind me, here are my confessions.

money blog1 – I changed my retirement withholdings to $1 per pay period. Yup, I did that stupid $hit! Why? You might ask. I’ll tell you why. I thought I was going to overpay the maximum withholding last year. So as to avoid this, I dropped down the withholding to bare bones on the last pay period of the calendar year. And then? You might ask. I just forgot. I forgot for 10 whole months and didn’t realize until I went on vacation, came up for air and looked at my pay stub without work fog in my eyes. And so… I did that.

2 – I drove up the offramp from Kenneth Kaunda street. If you don’t know anything about Maputo what you should know is that there are no real street signs. Actually maybe there are 3 or 4, but they just popped up in the last few months. In any case, there was road construction, I was late to work and rather than just stopping for a sec to see which way traffic was going, I kept going straight up the ramp until I saw a car heading straight for me. Then, I turned into the UNHCR driveway to turn around and head back the way I came and start all over. I remained late.

image13 – I ordered a bottle of Veuve Clicquot at Oktoberfest. Yes, I meant to order champagne. No, I did not mean to order a bottle. For some reason, while sitting in a large tent filled with drunken Germans in Stuttgart, I conveniently forgot that the 95.00 price tag was in Euro (and not South African Rand). Why would I think in Rand? Well, because the only times I end up in a big party full of 20something White people, I tend to be in South Africa. In any case, 95.00 Rand is about $8 USD, which is about how much any bottle of anything in South Africa costs, so there was also a bit of wishful thinking to it too. I messed up, mixed up countries, mixed up currencies and a shameless friend sent back the bucket and made me order a glass of some cheap fizzy stuff. It cost about $8 per glass.

14581584_10102690261571042_941430723435017587_n4 – I bought and read Mindy Kaling‘s book “Why not me? – This book is horrible, but it sounded like a great idea because I love “the Mindy project” and I had free downloads on Audible. So I’m not sure if I’m more upset that I had to listen to her voice for 5 hours OR if I’m thankful that at least I saved hours of life minutes I never would have gotten back if I had read it myself. In short, her retelling of her life experiences is boring. Maybe she does fun things in real life, but she didn’t talk about them in this book. And then she gave a revisionist telling of advice about being a confident woman years after actually having been asked. And even after years of rumination… her answer was still lackluster. I want my money & my life minutes back.

5 – Batch cooking – Ok, so this is actually smart. But, since we have no legit tupperware (just old plastic ice cream containers), I have no place to store the food except in the pots I cooked them in. They fill up my fridge and seem appealing & edible for dinners (though they were intended for lunch) and by Wednesday at 11am, I have officially ran out of meals for the rest of the week. I’m still working through this one, because I think it’s redeemable. I’m trashing the repurposed ice cream tubs and investing in glass containers with snap on lids… I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Hope you enjoyed my  “doing too much” calamity confessions. Laugh @ my pain…

Modest Fashion for the Soul

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Muslimah on We Heart It

This is officially the first year that I haven’t been able to fast for the month of Ramadan and it’s been a hard learned lesson in both humility and faith. In being denied participation in the one genuine act of Islamic practice that I’m committed to wholeheartedly, I found myself reminiscing about the days when it was much easier to be Muslim in this world. Easier because extremism wasn’t so pervasive, because stereotypes were less biting, and because – frankly – people couldn’t tell a Muslim from a Persian from a Sikh and, so, there was a certain peace in being able to be ignored by default. But now, things have changed, and not for the better for anyone. It feels scarier to be a Muslim now more than ever and I’m sure it also feels scarier to not be.

While everyone all over the world is worried about terrorists in Orlando and in Dhaka and in Istanbul there are other movements coming from the Islamic world’s women that should be taken just as seriously. The #modestfashion movement is something I stumbled on while trying to get my Ramadanian dose of Muslimah love via the internet. And love I found…

When most people think of Muslim women, they think of hijabs (head scarf) and burqa/burkahs (and I won’t even start on a niqab). The debate around these two articles of clothing seem to be the majority of what you might find on Muslim women – period. But, Islam is the world’s second largest religion and is estimated to have about 1.7 billion believers. Trust me, they don’t all dress the same, much less share the same beliefs about religion or religiouswear. As #blackandMuslim will tell you, most people have stereotypes in their heads of Muslims that subscribe to the belief that all Muslims look like they are Arabs or Middle Easterners. But actually Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population and there are even videos about the growing population in places like Chiapas, Mexico. Needless to say, there are variations in faith, practice, and aesthetic.

Most people believe that Muslim women are wearing the equivalent of a brown paper bag. There are no curves, there is very little femininity in the idea of a burqa/burkah. Yet, there are many brands that are bringing color and joy to clothing that bears less skin. For women who actually observe covering, there are subtle differences in how much hair is shown, how much ankle is shown, how much of the face is seen that can typically help you identify which country she might hail from. Many, like me, don’t cover at all. In any case, there’s a whole body of fashion that goes forgotten, like abayas and fabulous shoes, that are both standard fare and fashion statement. Rather than debate about how much of a woman’s body is shown as an indication of her liberties or lack there of, there are many women who are owning the decision to wear what they choose and owning the choice to wear more.

Mormons, Muslims, Jews, Atheists and a variation of women all over the world, of various religious and ethnic backgrounds, have been uniting around the idea of being covered. There’s something appealing about gravitating away from the fatshaming  that’s so common in the London Tube and all around us, and embracing our capacity to be beautiful, mysterious, appealing, and amazing with a less (skin) is more aesthetic to match our attitude. Rather than continue to sing the praises of a movement you may not have seen, I’ll show you what it looks like and maybe, you too, will find a reason to get on board with embracing the freedom of femme that comes with bearing less skin. All of you with maxi dresses in your closets are halfway there already…

The (hijabi) American fencer, Ibtihaj Muhammad, is perhaps the most prominent example in the U.S. at the moment (woo hoo and she’s from the great state of New Jersey!) through her brand LouElla , which focuses on being covered AND fashionable. The idea is that you don’t have to be Muslim to enjoy not showing every inch of skin you own… Not that there’s a problem with showing all that skin… but hey, it’s not everybody’s thing.

For more ideas: London just had a Modest Fashion Show in Feb & so did Istanbul. The fabrics, the textures, man… I’m having a #fashiongasm over here. And if hijabs aren’t your thing, imagine yourself in the rest of the outfit. Use a lil’ imagination people!

 

 

 

Finicky Financial Advice

money blogI’ve signed up for many blogs and Facebook groups about money, business & investing in the last 5 years. Suze Orman, the Budgetnista, my banks’ newsletters…

I’ve saturated my brain space with such things at this point and I’ve learned a lot along the way. What’s challenging, however, is the fact that I’ve hit a wall. Some of this may just be lil’ ole’ me having zero willpower to implement new financial patterns, but I’ve brain stormed what’s not right (saying “wrong” sounds wrong) about the advice I’m seeing populate my many newsfeeds, pages and inboxes.

1 – The rags to riches story is tired.  A lot of advice starts from the assumption that you’re poor. Setting aside all the debates that argue that many poor people actually think they’re middle class, these “she used to have $12 in her bank account and now she has $1 Million” stories have grown old. I don’t want to be a millionaire and I definitely don’t have $12 in my bank account. I’m looking for tips on how to improve from okay to great, not how to save myself from destitution. The lessons aren’t the same, so the inspirational story loses impact, because the practical steps to make a change aren’t replicable.  

2 – Entrepreneurship is hard.  I appreciate the messaging around being a business owner and acting as one’s own boss, but actually doing it is not easy. Dare I say, it’s less fun than showing up at a “day job,” which could be totally boring, but not nerve wracking. Investing your savings in a business venture that’s supposed to grant financial freedom is a pipe dream. If it’s really yours, as a successful business will be, you are duty bound to making that business succeed, keeping up its reputation and growing its reach. To my mind, that’s the exact opposite of freedom, if you’re doing it right. It’s a huge emotional and time commitment that I don’t think many people are truly prepared for.

IMG_20160220_0811343 – Save money when you spend. Coupon clipping, deal seeking, promotion pimping shoppers still spend money. Yet, I find that many blogs don’t promote less consumption, just lower costs of consumption. And while I’m a good capitalist like the next woman with ten fingers and ten toes, I have to say that this is exactly the type of mind set that keeps sweatshops in business. If you don’t want to spend money, don’t shop. But, if you need/want to, I think it should be done with a conscience and awareness about the supply chain the purchase comes from. Even if we can’t afford to get out of the trap of supporting cheap(er) labor, we should be aware that we’re doing it and make efforts to ensure that our financial situation improves such that we can lessen the habit.

4 – Why do I have homework? Many blogs and books give you lessons, but I’ve found that many newsletters and groups are dishing out homework too. I’ve seen everything from accountability partners to daily tasks for financial wellness. I have the attention span of a fly when it comes to things that aren’t about work, school or family, so these reminders convert to spam and spam into trash. And there’s a vicious cycle of mass deletions.

5 – Everything on stocks sucks. I haven’t read anything good about stocks yet. I suppose it’s pretty plain that there’s no good “how to” guide for stock market and bond investing, but it just feels like all the books and blogs seem to say 1) keep your money in for at least 10 years, 2) don’t pull out when everyone else is and don’t invest when/where everyone else is, 3) invest in what you use and 4) only invest money you can afford to lose. Anything else?… If not, let’s not keep printing big books and articles that add other fancy pants words around these basic lessons.

6 – The charity and tax nexus are non-starters. Last but not least, there are 2 issues that very rarely show up in these advice columns. How to manage income and taxes to net more AND how to integrate philanthropy into a budget. Better yet, if I can find anything on how charitable spending can help lower taxable income, I’ll be sure to send the author home made chocolate chip cookies. Sure, maybe we all should hire a financial planner to figure this out for our individual situation… maybe… but can I just get some basic principles? just one article? one book? or one measly little blog post? Or nahh…

That said, for those of you who want to troll the wealth of financial baggage I’ve accumulated over the years, please check out the list below. It’s chocked full of useful info, but it’s not what I’m looking for anymore. To help me get past this money advice rut, share resources that worked for you in the comments section.

Sharing (even sharing frustrations) is caring!

Suze Orman’s book

The Live Richer Challenge

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds

Modest Money

My Wife Quit Her Job

Ratchet Resolutions…

I started off this year with no resolutions. Instead, I started off in a slump and it’s unclear if I’ve actually gotten out of it. Why, you may ask? A sure fire diagnostic is my fierce approximation to all things ratchet in an attempt to escape my funk. It’s similar to my tendency to buy shoes when I’m escaping feeling fat AND hyper scheduling my vacations at the start of the year to avoid focusing on one more year of work.

I know this pattern. I put down the Economist and have been feverishly reading blogbloids on Amina Buddafly and Tara’s project twins. I’ve changed my privacy settings on Facebook to block new people and unblock bad blood. Safe to say, I’m acting like Janet Hubert and courting ratchet trouble.

To get this out of my system fully, I’ve decided to create a retail therapy inspired ratchet wish list. If I can possibly contain and collect ratchetness, rather than actually enact and embody it, I think that’s a 2016 win.

 

31UYdgLaqDL5. My hair has had just about enough of these dainty chemical free botanical moisturizers. It’s time to step away from the Carol’s Daughter products and go straight back into the arms of ole’ ratchet Fantasia. Let’s take it back to where it all began 16 yrs ago when I started my dreadlocks. I C Hair Tea at $7/ bottle used to last months and I smelled like cotton candy for weeks. Maybe this isn’t exactly ratchet, but… it feels like a step down off the sophisticated, overly hair conscious, natural hair shenanigans train.

 

4. I was reading up on the most expensive curtain purchase heard of in the modern history of public spending.  I’m just kidding. I don’t know where this stacks up against wasteful misuse of public funds but apparently Kenya has a radio station: ghettoradio.co.ke that reported on this ghettoness and it made me long for ratchet curtains… For the record 7.8 Million Kenyan Shilling is around $75,000USD.

 

 

 

3. TheTaTaTop-18-of-29-247x300The Ta Ta Top are nipples on a bikini top. While they were made to be an evocative feminist ode to the female choice to expose (or not) her own body, I think they are really ratchet. And for some reason, I think it’d be hilarious if I could own and fully utilize the shock and awe they produce to laugh me out of my funk. #thetatatop

 

 

 

2. I find this entire website pretty ratchet [and slightly desparate], but whodathunk they also have a shopping cart? http://www.wifeyntraining.com took a series of Afro-American classics and made each and every one of them ratchet. How can one make Oprah, the Color Purple and plain white t-shirts all ratchet at the same damn time? #ratchetpiecetheater

 

 

 

 

  1. dottyrossPantyhoez’ ratchet hip hop panties. Check out the ‘rap pack’ collection… No explanation necessary. #pears #watermelons #pineapples !

 

 

 

As you can see… my slump is pretty bad, but that’s no reason not to laugh at my pain.

I made breakfast for dinner last night and the ratchet part is that I didn’t make any grits! Total breakfast blasphemy. Spicy soy sausages and Krusteaz pancakes minus Bob’s Red Mill Corn Grits does not a true meal make. I’m hoping that a few more days lounging in the sun near the pool with an ice cold Savannah will help cure me of my ratchet inclinations and reverse my slow start to this new year.

Wish me luck!

Put your money where your principles are…

11247970_10204759314167049_8826692576397745492_nLast year, I wrote a lot about my efforts to discipline my spending, weigh and balance what my financial choices say about me, and to be a mindful giver. This year, I hope you’ll join me as I try to turn all those words into deliberate action. I read a horribly controversial book by Chika Onyeani just a few months back and despite it’s crass racial rhetoric, it left with me a strong sense of responsibility for my financial choices.

We all watched quietly in 2013 as thousands died in Bangladesh’s Savar/ Rana plaza building collapse, but I’m sure that you – like me – turned away with a feeling of helplessness. Those of us who felt anything at all likely donated money to an active charity doing rescue and recovery. What we did not do, surely, was research the brands that sourced garments from these factories that told their sweatshop workers to return to work despite visual indications that the building was unsafe. We didn’t stop buying the accused brands and we certainly didn’t demand retribution. According to Forbes, we’re talking about Benetton, Primark, Walmart, and JC Penney among the names you know, but Carrefour and NKD among those you don’t.

I could say I care because many haven’t compensated the lost and injured, but frankly I care for purely selfish reasons. I care because even those that have paid something have surely turned profits 100 fold on the labor bought and sold on the cheap in far flung places. I care because I’m sure they overcharged me, underpaid their workers and made out like fat cats on both our complicity.  I care because I want to do no harm, and apparently, shopping endorses forms of slavery that big businesses will say are sanctioned because you and I keep spending. I care because where I spend my money threatens to paint me as both an idiot and an asshole if I don’t pay enough attention to understand the implications of those financial choices.

In this new year, I am making a sincere effort to make better financial choices. In addition to starting a budget, which I have never actually had in my life, and increasing my monthly charitable giving, I am making a concerted effort to spend my money mindfully – #shoplocal, support free & fair trade, shop small and minority owned businesses, read the ingredients and animal testing disclaimers on all labels, research before clicking ‘check out.’

Some transgressions are unavoidable, like the Tantalum in our iphones or the chocolate in the dessert served at our favorite haunt, so that’s all the more reason to take a stance on what we can control. We have all gotten used to the ease of Amazon Prime and the convenience of big box stores, but the easier it is to buy and the cheaper goods seem to cost, the more likely it is that companies are cutting corners – in paying their workers, in being socially responsible, in doing no harm to the environment. The list goes on…

So, this year, I want every dollar I spend to NOT be easy. It should take effort and deliberation to wrench my pennies from my pockets. I want to monitor the life cycle of each cent and I want to know that this year, my hard earned money went in greater percentages to better causes. The filter between receiving my pay check and buying material things should only allow mindful purchases, necessary objects and proud choices to make their way onto my bank statement. And if I can have a face to put to the names of the brands in my closet, in my pantry, and in my office – all the better. If this process makes me shop less, what a priceless added benefit! I hope you’ll consider making a similar declaration to reverse consumption as a habit, and consider spending an act of protest and philanthropy.

It takes a village to do right by the world.

***

See below a short list of the businesses I’m considering supporting going forward. I haven’t done all the reading I need to, but I like what I see so far. I hope you’ll do some research too and let me know if I should re-consider. Comment with the names/ lists of other brands and businesses to consider that aren’t listed here. Help me grow this list!

*No, I haven’t been paid to list those below and I won’t get kick backs or discounts if you shop. Some brands I’ve tried already (evanhealy, bami, Geeda’s, MOMs & Grenada Chocolate Company) and have had great personal experiences, others are completely new. There’s no funny business here. *

Bath and Body

Home

 

Clothing and Accessories

  Food & Dining

 

 

Lists to comb and consider for U.S. shoppers:

Fair Trade Clothing

Black owned businesses

Black owned spas

Women owned businesses

Toxin-free cosmetics

Black owned bookstores

Cruelty free products