Happy New Year!

The day before my birthday is consider New Year’s Eve for, well at least to me, obvious reasons — it’s the day before I turn a year older.  Of course, I’m 40 and holding but I celebrate my birthday nonetheless.  That said, I’m pensive as usual as I reflect on the past 364 days and set my aspirations for what’s to come.  This is the time when I formulate my resolutions and attempt to commit.  This is the time when I re-evaluate those in my closest circle and thank them.  This is when I decide who I am.


The past year hasn’t been the greatest.  I’ve had more downs than ups, but I’m still here for a reason.  I’ve learned to be a better steward over my finances, with several mishaps along the way.  I’ve learned that not vacationing is not so bad.  I’ve learned that paying my dues makes me appreciative.  I’ve learned that good friends are few, but they keep you uplifted and giggling during the hard times and focused on the good times ahead.  I’ve learned that family is always there and isn’t always blood.  I’ve learned that being honest has a higher price than I’ve ever imagined, but it’s still worthwhile.  I’ve learned that life is too short to put things and/or people off.  I’ve learned that the past is filled with lessons once you open your mind.  I’ve learned that no matter how badly you want it, it won’t happen until it’s time.  I’ve learned that I’m an awesome writer who puts off doing what she does best.  I’ve learned to find the good nugget inside of everything, even myself.  And I’ve learned to keep finding new cheese (if you don’t know what that means, read the book).


  1. Lose 5 lbs.
    Yeah, I could stand to lose more but why set myself up for failure.  Losing 5 means I’ve implemented the proper eating and exercise habits and that should carry be towards my weight goal.  And oh yeah, spare me the “healthy” speech. I’m 40 and I’m fatter than I wanna be, so sheer vanity is my motivation.)
  2. Write daily.
    I have the tools, now I need to do it.  So, I’ll be using my trusty writing guide with 600+ things to write about. Maybe I should do two a day – morning and evening.  Ok, that might be pushing it.
  3. Finish writing.
    I’ve started plenty of things that need to be wrapped up. Expect something in print.
  4. Read 50 books.
    I’m sure your eyes are bulging but seriously that’s about a book a week since there are 52 weeks in a year.  That doesn’t account for those books that are finished in 3 days instead of 7 and those that take 2 weeks because of life or size or the fact that I have to take notes and write a review.
  5. Network.
    I love meeting new people and finding out new things.  Contrary to many studies that show that people become more depressed when those around them are prospering, I actually thrive with that kind of energy in my space.  I crave it, I seek it.  Beware.
  6. Be grateful.
    I want to share, more often, my feelings of graciousness with those around me who’ve poured into me in any way.  It will take time and I will get to you, so please be patient.


I have a great family and great friends.  Before you get all mushy, don’t take that to mean we don’t disagree, argue, stop speaking, run away, hang up, delete messages, don’t invite, ignore, or just downright get angry.  We just always find a way to be there for one another through any and everything and smile and laugh on the other side.  That’s what matters.  I wouldn’t trade a one…well actually, maybe one or two.  Nah on second thought, I’d rather not.  I love my circle.

Expect to see more on this blog in the coming year.  I’ve got plenty to say about plenty of topics. So, say it with me…happy-new-year


Who’s to Blame?


Yes, I realize that it’s childish to pass blame around, but at some point people need to be responsible for their reproductions.  Seriously, you decided to have children and now must educate them.  You can either be an awesome example or a conspicuous warning.  Children learn by example.  They imitate what they see and hear.  They pay less attention to instructions.  Don’t take my word for it…pay attention to your offspring.  What/who are they watching? What words do they use? What actions do they repeat?   We are creatures of habit and it starts early.  I could go on and on…

This was inspired by the regrettable announcements of several teachers who spent all day waiting to speak with parents (a practice that used to be done at night and was most likely altered due to an outcry of said parents) and having fewer than 5 actually show up.  Now I attach this lack of commitment on the parents’ part to the low test scores and lack of overall academic achievement on the students’ parts.  Seriously!!!  When will change occur if we continue shoving minimal effort and expecting optimal performance.  And yes, I continue to say “we” because this is “our” problem.  I don’t have any children, yet I understand the importance of a good FREE foundation.  With the proper support from “the village,” those children can withstand many of the pitfalls presented by society, overcome many  “learning disabilities” and other labels, and reach their true potential.

But alas, my soapbox is battered and my words fall upon those who choose not to hear.
Our future is in our youth.

Black History Month

My sister wrote this 4 years ago, but I’m sharing it because the sentiments haven’t changed.  I’m hoping this will encourage others as it did both she and I. (Amazing how sometimes writing can encourage the writer huh?)

The Courage to Finish

July 3, 2010 at 9:17pm
As I sit for long hours and prepare my dissertation I contemplate every other day, sometimes every other hour, why in the world I decided to get a Ph.D. in the first place and why shouldn’t I just quit and go make money . So I began to search for a bit of inspiration. I went to the library and stumbled upon the taped recordings of Dr. King’s famous speeches.

I have never been a Black History fanatic. I’ve never actually paid much attention to the fact that I’m black. I have so much more going for me than that. However, as I listened to the man who has inspired so many, both during his lifetime and posthumously, I realized that I have had the privilege of focusing on things other than my apparent ethnicity because of the struggle – and the victory – that so many, including my own parents, have won for me.

While listening to the rich voice of Dr. King, I began to wonder: if I were alive in the 50’s and 60’s, would I have had the courage to sit-in as a college student at counters and stare into the eyes of people who literally hated me? Would I have the courage to face the dogs and the hoses on the streets of Birmingham instead of attending its university? Would I have had the strength to walk to work for more than a year rather than ride the buses of Montgomery where I would not be treated fairly?

I’d like to think that my answer would be yes. With the brazen “I ain’t afraid of nothing” attitude that our generation has been known for…with the ingrained belief since childhood that I can do anything that my brother could do as I grew up in the early 80’s post women’s lib society…with the support of my parents, my neighborhood, and government programs to promote diversity…from my place in this society which has groomed me to believe that anything is possible and the American dream can be my dream too…I have to think that my answer may not have been yes.

Times were different then. The reality was a world in which equality was not legislated and definite steps toward equal treatment of all people did not exist. The hope for such a reality was all that my forbears had. They held onto that hope. They were led by people who kept constant watch over the embers of that hope and refused to let the fire go out. They did not have much to fight with. They did not have political power. They did not have much money. They did not have much influence. But they coupled their hope with courage. And with an inextinguishable hope that America could be better, with courage they marched, they boycotted, they protested, they stood, they sang, they prayed, they died for the reality in which I now live and have the option of taking for granted.

I must say, I am inspired. America is better. It’s not yet perfect, but it is better. I have options that they didn’t have. I used to resent the pressure that I felt to succeed. Not necessarily pressure from my parents – I realize that parents always want their children to succeed – a but pressure from the community at large. I used to wonder why there was so much pressure from the community. I could see it in the eyes of my neighbor Washingtonians when my article was in the Washington Post. Their expectations of me were so grand. I could hear it in the voices of my neighbor New Orleanians when they asked, chests bursting with pride, “You go to Xavier baby?” At times it felt like the black community was/is expecting so much of me. The pressure was/is real.

Well, listening to Dr. King, I realized that the black community is expecting something of me. And they should be. They want a return on their investment. Not from me personally, but from my generation.
The black women who did not have the option to go to medical school but were forced to become nurses are wondering what I will do with my opportunity. What will I do with this opportunity?
“It’s hard”, I’ve said. Writing a dissertation is hard. I’ll bet it’s not harder than facing dogs down the street from where my lab is now in a racially divided Birmingham 50 years ago. I’ll bet it’s not as hard as having loved ones lynched. I’ll bet it’s not even as hard as being the first to integrate a school. I’ll bet it’s not even as hard as having to use ‘Colored only’ facilities in the country that I helped to build.

So then, my answer to this revelation is…suck it up. Have the courage to finish. It actually doesn’t take as much courage as it took for previous generations to face an uncertain future and force the majority to acknowledge their God-given rights. In comparison, it’s not that hard at all. Do I owe them? In some sense, I guess I do. I literally would not have the opportunities that I have now if they had not marched, if they had not struggled, if they had not fought the system. I would not have the option to identify myself as a scientist. Not as a woman. Not as an African American. Just me. What would they have given to have lived in this reality? What did they give? I cannot imagine the cost, but I am grateful.

Ironically, while I write this, a taped recording of our Congress acknowledging the workmanship of slaves in the building of our nation’s Capitol Building is on C-Span. Arguably the world’s most noticeable symbol of freedom and democracy was built by people who were not yet free and were not allowed to participate in the democratic process that defined our infantile nation. What is even more ironic is that it has taken until June 16, 2010 for those slaves to be recognized.

I suppose that the least I can do, for those who had the courage to hope for the reality in which I now live, is have the courage to finish.

Lena J