Sunday, November 25, 2012


SOMETIMES you need the luxury of time to realize just how far you have come. November 24, Black Friday, as others were shopping for deals I realized I finally had sufficient time to comb through my junky basement and organize the tools, paint cans, assorted hardware and boxes of books, ceramic dishware, personal writings and photographs that form the substance and clutter of my life. I made three piles: •Items for the trash •Items for donation to the Salvation Army •Items precious enough to keep. I found myself reliving some wonderful poetry that I had written several years before and found that years later it still touched my hears and reminded me of a delightful experience that I had lived or lived through. KEEP. I found the old water pump for my boiler and college term papers. TOSS. I came across books that I had purchased and would never read and books that I had used extensively with marked up and folded pages. DONATE. And in the midst of the boxes I had packed up and removed from my kitchen years ago I found five boxes of beautiful white ceramic formal dinnerware of assorted sizes that had been given to me from the Salvation Army. August 1990 we had been repatriaated to America after eleven years in Liberia. April 1st, 1991 we moved into our own home with donated cots, a few items of clothing from the resale store and the joy of being together. The dinnerware set about a chain of memories that helped me to remember what having nothing really means, or does not. AFTER months of living in fear in Liberia, we had finally escaped to the American Embassy, been taken to Sierra Leone and then repatriated to New York (read my book “Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot,” if you want to know how and why we got out of Liberia in the first place). When we got to New York I had $10.00 U.S. That was all the money we had in the world. As we waited at JFK Airport for a connecting flight to Chicago’s O’Hare airport, the three bedraggled children that repatriated with me from war torn Liberia saw an ice cream vendor and their brown eyes looked at me without asking. The logical response for a woman with only a $10 dollar hole card would have been “NO.” However, my babies had survived a war, they had lived with the sound of gunfire as their lullaby, toted water on their heads while hearing gunfire in the distance. They had shared their food with a friend starving from malaria. They had left behind everything they knew in the world, except me. In that moment I knew that my children deserved security, safety, love, and they damn sure deserved ice cream. I took not only our last money, but our ONLY money and bought us Ice cream! TWENTY-TWO years later, we are all in such a different place. My five children, the three that repatriated with me and the two that had come ahead of us, are wonderful productive adults with beautiful, smart children of their own. My family is blessed in measurable and immeasurable ways. Black Friday, as I combed through my basement, it brought sheer joy to my heart to label those five boxes of cherished white ceramic plates; plates upon which I had served my family and friends, DONATE. I AM THANKFUL to be able to return the dishes and many other items to the Salvation Army to provide to others who will need them. To God Be the Glory. visit my website at

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Liberian Independance Day-A Perspective

Saturday, August 4, 2012
As the woman who has lived in Liberia, West Africa for eleven years and the author of "Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot", a 318 page memoir about that life, I have a close and fairly unique vantage point of Liberia. As a matter of fact, I was born on the south side of Chicago at a Catholic Hospital that no longer exists and if it did, they would be chasing my daddy to pay for my birth because, as my mother tells it, my dad sneaked us out without ever paying the bill! He was a wonderful, adventurous man, but, well, bill paying wasn't his thing. But I digress, the point of this post is that I'm going to claim the right to speak a bit about Liberia because after living and working and bearing three of my children there, I have put something good into that pot. Some of my Liberian friends may be annoyed by what I'm going to say next, but friends speak the truth to friends, or else they are not really friends. I see the civil turmoil, ignorance, poverty and lack of economic development that the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is struggling to overcome and it seems so simple to me that Liberians, in the interest of progress need to find a way to overcome the bitter divisions that led to a war that began in December of 1989 with a 'rebel incursion' and spun into a horrific civil war, from which Liberia is struggling to recover. There is much work that needs to be done to help Liberia and I know many Liberians and Americans who feel that way. But, but the plain truth is that the greatest barrier to Liberia's rise is Liberians! With a Liberian community in Chicago of thousands, the Community would not, come together to host a unified Liberian Independence Day celebration. There was a celebration hosted by the Liberian Community Association of Illinois (LCAI) in one part of town and another hosted by the Organization of the Liberian Community in Illinois (OICI) in another part of town. Last year when I learned there were two celebrations, I was a good soldier and hauled my daughter and her Liberian partner to both celebrations. I'm not saying that there can't be two celebrations, but I don't get a sense of Unity and cooperation between the two groups. Whenever I ask my Liberian friends about the division I get a polite answer that shifts the discord to the other group and the responsibility to bring unity elsewhere. This year as I was preparing myself to attend both Liberian Independence Day Celebrations I stopped in my tracks and just could not do it! If we can't create a vision of UNITY here in Chicago, how can we ever expect to see that out pictured in Liberia? I have great respect for the leadership of both groups. They have lovingly embraced me as their sister, validated my experiences in Liberia and helped me feel a part of a beloved community. I care for them very much and so I say to my friends in both groups, "having different goals and a different focus is sometimes necessary, but not working collaboratively to create an event that lifts the celebration of your countries Independence Day to a higher more dignified level, not setting the example of UNITY is, in my opinion, just plain wrong. I'd be happy to have Liberians push back on me here, I actually invite it because I'm not judging, I'm seeking information. Last Saturday, as the Republic of Liberia celebrated its 165th day of Independence in two separate gatherings in Chicago, I lamented the fact that with the thousands of talented Liberians in Chicago a really unified effort around this important day, could make a splash in this city! A multi-day event that could command television news coverage, perhaps featuring a cultural extravaganza, showcase West African Cuisine, offer a day or two of seminars on investment in Liberia, showcase the reports of various successful development efforts in Liberia, draw Liberians from other parts of the country, and reenergize the Liberian community spiritually. But an event like that would take UNITY. On behalf of myself and my family I will say that I will not attend another separate Liberian Independence Day event in Chicago.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What is a Global Life?

One of my important long-range goals is to ultimately have a Global Life. That to me means learning another language and feeling comfortable traveling back and forth between this country and other countries to do some work.

To me embracing a global life is different than taking a vacation to an exotic destination. It means figuring out how to make a contribution here (in the U.S) and also in another country. I've not figured out what that means, but I am clear that broader solutions are always stickier that the 'black and white' truths we often come up with, and I have some time to ponder the idea.

I'm sure that many others have an idea of what a globally relevant life is. I'm interested to have you share your thoughts.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Box of Chocolates...What's Next!

I will take a few words from Forest Gump and say that, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get."

That's so true. January 1, 1990 I was absolutely convinced that I was going to be able to remain in Liberia, West Africa, despite the fact that Charles Taylor and his army of 'rebels' had crossed over into Liberia and were fighting their way towards Monrovia, Liberia's capital. Then, I was sure that my future and the future of my 5 children lay in Liberia. In the school we were building, in the life we were planning. However, that was not the case. I eight months I would be once again living on the South side of Chicago, looking for my daily bread.

August 8, 1990 I got one of my many wake up calls proving to me that life is always changing and to be successful and happy you/we/all must change with life. I could have refused to leave Liberia, because after all, I HAD A PLAN! or I could do as my spirit led me... submit and go with the plan that my God had for me and my family. That plan, once I got in tune, brought us out of an escalating Civil War, through armed check points and rocket blasts, safely back into the arms of my loving family and friends. I am so very blessed to have listened to God's plan. One of my favorite thoughts about change and seeking to understand, comes from a song that jazz singer Dianne Reeves sings, "Be Still, Stand In Love, Pay Attention." Blessings for the New Year.