I got goosebumps seeing this trailer. I finished reading Half of A Yellow Sun about a month ago (I cannot recommended it highly enough!) and knew vaguely there was a film in production. I didn’t realise it was so close to being released and of course I have no idea if they will release it here in Nairobi. But fingers crossed – I haven’t been so excited about a film in a long time!
I’m a big book nerd and my absolute favourite genre is non-fiction, especially biographies and memoirs. Aren’t other people just so fascinating? I love the insight into people’s history and what makes them tick. Here’s five biographies I’ve read in the past 12 months that are worth mentioning:
A Woman of Independence: A Story of Love and the Birth of a New Nation – Kirsty Sword Gusmao
I’ve been intrigued with Kirsty Sword Gusmao ever since I travelled to Timor Leste in 2006. What a woman! Working as an undercover operative in the East Timorese independence movement, she fell in love with the movement’s jailed leader, Xanana Gusmao, through letters smuggled in and out of prison. The book covers the major moments in the independence movement weaved through an amazing and challenging love story. Highly recommended!
Unbowed – Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai is another amazing woman who fought to empower women, save the environment through her Green Belt Movement and restore democracy to Kenya. Unbowed shares the remarkable challenges she faced and the wins along the way and was a powerful insight into aspects of Kenyan society that I’ve known so little about.
Lazarus Rising: A Personal and Political Autobiography – John Howard
I wasn’t yet old enough to vote when Howard was in power. Whatever your politics or thoughts on him personally, I found this to be an in-depth and interesting look at various political events from our former Prime Minister’s point of view. I came away with the realisation that politics is a long-term game – it was eye-opening to hear stories of those still currently in power from 15, 20, 25 years ago. It gave me greater context to Australian politics which, to be truthful, I don’t engage with nearly enough.
The Obamas: A Mission, A Marriage – Jodi Kantor
This book is a fascinating insight into America’s current President and First Lady. I especially enjoyed reading and learning more about Michelle Obama, her own impressive achievements and the way she has influenced Barack’s career over the years.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – Benjamin Franklin
A favourite author of mine makes numerous references to Mr Franklin in her book The Happiness Project so it felt only natural that I head straight to the source. At 300+ years old, this is one of the oldest books I’ve read and actually enjoyed.
Have you read a good memoir/biography lately? I’d love some new recommendations!
What are you grateful for from this past week?
I’m grateful for a spontaneous outdoor afternoon tea with one of my neighbours and her beautiful little girl, who had a fun time trying to feed raisins to our dog Rum. Which kind of reminds me of a Baskin and Robbins flavour. Anyhow, here’s another round up of links I liked…
This speech on beauty by Lupita Nyong’o, in case you possibly missed it!
And the United Colours of Lupita. The green dress with the gold belt is my favourite.
And she’s on Instagram!
Animals in snow. Wow!
The best chocolate chip cookies ever (I’ve baked them three times now!)
An old happiness tip I keep coming back to.
The perfect leather bag.
This is hanging on our wall and is such a conversation starter.
Have you seen this powerful and moving memorial in Norway?
Last year I sent 52 postcards as part of my 24 Before 25 birthday list. I love snail mail and even when I’m only ever expecting bills, I still get a little thrill of anticipation before checking the post box. So I’m a big fan of the cards from Ma and Grandy, a boutique home wares and paper goods company from the lovely Natala.
I got a Type Set of cards last year and I loved handing out pretty cards to my friends. Now I only got three left and I don’t want to use them because they are doubling as art on my desk! But now you can also buy Ma and Grandy prints, like this one below. I have the card version of this one but need to get myself the real print.
And this one, for the good looking chap in my life.
A set or two is the perfect addition to your stationery collection but it’s also makes such a lovely gift. I remember reading somewhere that giving a pack of thank you cards is a great gift for newlyweds or new parents, who mostly likely need and want to send out cards but probably haven’t had a chance to actually get organised.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes)
- Walt Whitman
There is some very real force inside of me that desperately wants my life to line up. I want who I am to line up with who I think I am. I don’t really like the idea of contradicting ‘myself’.
There are categories I want to fit in to. I want to shape different parts of who I am so they fit into some nice tidy boxes. I think ‘Oh someone who is really a ‘insert label here’ wouldn’t/shouldn’t do / think / say / want / feel ’that’.’
Normally the label is something like: ‘serious career professional’
And the that is something like: ‘want a baby blue manicure’
Or something like – ‘Surely someone who is really a ‘hip young thing’ shouldn’t ‘hate Friday nights out’.
Or ‘Surely someone who wants to change the world wouldn’t find themselves wasting two hours on Pinterest.’
‘Surely someone who is really a feminist shouldn’t actually love being in the kitchen.’
‘Surely someone who was serious about their health wouldn’t eat an icy pole for breakfast.’
‘Surely someone who really loves God wouldn’t have so many big questions.’
And sometimes it’s in the really big things, like…
‘Surely someone who watches Gilmore Girls couldn’t secretly love Dean, Jess AND Logan.’
Why do I feel such distrust and dislike for these contradictions within me? Why do I feel like there is some neat, concise definition of who a serious professional or health junkie or feminist or Christian really is? Why do I feel some weird need to choose between three fictional love interests on a girly TV series?
There is a fear, and I don’t believe it is mine alone, of being ‘found out’. Of being found to be lacking, or longing, or lying.
There’s actually a psychological term for the fear of being found lacking. It’s called Imposter Syndrome. Apparently it’s particularly common among high-achieving women, and up to 70% of people feel like frauds as sometime in their life.
As for the fear of longing, how easy is it to announce to someone ‘I need ______’? To tell a boss you need time off? To tell a friend you need their support? To tell a partner you need some extra tender loving care? There’s something strange in our culture that insists on self-sufficiency and belittles those who admit their longing.
I’ve been aware of the fear of lacking and the fear of longing in my life. I’ve been working through it, slowly. But only now do I see how Fear One and Fear Two have also snowballed into Fear Three – my fear of lying, of being caught out as a walking contradiction.
I’m afraid I’m not enough to be a ‘serious professional’ or a ‘solid Christian’. I’m afraid of announcing my desire to ‘change the world’ or be a ‘hip young thing’. And yet in the midst of it all, I’m afraid that people will see my underside, my soft belly, the part of me that desperately longs to be enough, and they see the contradictions and the parts that don’t line up and I will be called out as a liar.
I so resonated with this post – The Can’t Also Crisis – by blogger Kelle Hampton. I read her words and the heart of her post really struck a cord. She wrote: ‘Shielding, defending, purposely preventing natural human contradictions just to make sure our identity lines up perfectly outwardly is exhausting and, frankly, a waste of energy that could be poured into our loves of life.’
And.. “I find myself still struggling to painstakingly find equilibrium with every choice I make today. Make sure everything adds up, aligns, checks out with what you believe. It’s like I’m looking for errors and contradictions in my own life, and there’s a word for people who do that in other people’s lives: Assholes. I’m being an asshole to my own self, and I need to quit.”
I. need. to. quit.
I need to drop the definitions, break down some imaginary boundaries, and embrace the fact that the contradictions make, not break, my identity.
That I can be perusing Pinterest, cooking up the storm in the kitchen tonight AND discussing the big issues of faith and feminism at the same time, all while wearing blue nail polish.
That I am a three-dimensional, multicolour combination of my history, passions and personality, and that’s so much better than squeezing myself into a black-and-white, too-small, confining, defining, limiting box.
That I am large, so of course, I contain multitudes.
P.S. – Since we’re talking fears, here’s a powerful and inspiring series from Momastery on Our Sacred Scared – the deep fears that we hide. Fear of being a fraud, and not thin enough, fear of not being smart enough, or losing a marriage, fear of being what the bullies said, or just not being enough, fear of messing up the kids, and what anxiety is doing to the family, of not being successful or happy enough. There’s some very powerful stuff in there.
I’m scribbling all over my birthday list as I slowly tick things off. Item 8 is to keep my One Line a Day journal for a full year. I was doing so well until I took it away with us on a beach trip in January. We arrived home from the coast and a few days later I realised I couldn’t find my journal anywhere. We don’t have many belongings here, so it makes losing something in the house rather hard. Slowly, sadly, I realised I must have misplaced it during our travels. We contacted the resort we stayed at. We called the taxi driver who took us to the airport and the guy that brought us home. We asked around with friends who were there. We turned the house upside down again. But alas, my precious little diary was gone.
I cried. Three times actually. I’ve moved house three times in the last two years and with all the packing and unpacking I’m slowly getting less attached to many possessions. But this diary, golly I was sad to lose it. I had almost captured a year of little memories and I was so attached to the idea of one day having five years of memories in this sweet blue book. So much happened in the past year and I can see so many big life things happening in the next four (travels, moves, career, babies??!). It was a sad day.
So of course, you can imagine my delight when I received an email from a stranger who had found my diary on a flight and wanted to ensure it got back to me. It took a few weeks but now it’s safely back in my hands and I’ve been scribbling in entries for the last six weeks. I’m so happy it found it’s way home.
I love the One Line a Day diary because it’s pretty (blue with gold trim, and a peach ribbon!), it’s got just enough space for a small memory each day and it’s such a special keepsake. For the right person, it makes a really wonderful gift.
What are you grateful for from this past week?
I’m grateful for early mornings pottering around at my rather messy desk, Tuesday afternoon when Will got home early from work and a casual mid-week dinner with some wonderful friends. I’m also grateful that the sun came out every single day! And here’s a few fun and fascinating things I’ve found this past week…
A beautiful reflection on a mid-faith crisis-of-church.
This is a fantastic novel.
How to share your work, for those who hate self promotion (such a good read for any creative!)
Fascinating! A village designed for people with dementia.
Five things Christians (or anyone) should know about depression and anxiety.
Umm, nutella milk?!
W + L blog: Our 2013 Year in Review
“No thanks mum, I’m black toast intolerant.” Hilarity, from the mouths of little people.
And Nairobi friends: where to get the most amazing salted caramel gelato.
I want to share some lovely bits and pieces I’ve picked up while living in Kenya. At first glance, the markets seem full of kitsch and chaos – colours I’d never wear, styles that just aren’t me. But I’ve quickly come to discover a number of beautiful brands that are right up my alley and certainly worth sharing.
So first up – l.i.f.e bags, by CTC International. The bags are made from local fabric, by local women, to support local causes – children with disabilities, conservation etc.
I have a naughty habit of buying someone a gift and then deciding to keep it for myself. In this case, I bought this quirky canvas tote for my sister and did actually send it off (I promise it’s on it’s way Kate!), but quickly returned to Banana Box to get one for myself.
The straps are strong, the stitching is solid and I really love the blue geometric elephant. I’m a few weeks into daily French classes in town and it’s been the perfect book bag!
I saw this article the other day on Getty Images‘ effort to change the way we look at women. Called the ‘Lean In Collection‘, after Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, the collection features stock photos of women leading in life and work.
While we all know women doing marvelous things in the home and in the workforce, juggling multiple roles, and succeeding in fields traditionally populated by men, the images we see in the media and in advertising don’t always reflect this. I also particularly love Getty’s effort to ensure diversity in race, age, career and family situation, because again, stock photos are often so full of stereotypes.
I’ve read (and reread) Lean In a couple of times now. As a young professional with both career and family ambitions, Sandberg’s book has both sparked numerous conversations with friends and made me continue to reflect on the path that lies ahead. Here’s a handful thought-provoking quotes from Sandberg…
“Another one of my favorite posters at Facebook declares in big red letters, “Done is better than perfect.” I have tried to embrace this motto and let go of unattainable standards. Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.”
On ‘being nice’:
“Women need to combine niceness with insistence – be relentlessly pleasant.”
On ‘having it all’:
“I have never met a woman, or man, who stated emphatically, “Yes, I have it all.’” Because no matter what any of us has—and how grateful we are for what we have—no one has it all.”
“She explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are- impostors with limited skills or abilities.”
On ‘female’ leadership:
“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”
On powerful women:
“Real change will come when powerful women are less of an exception. It is easy to dislike senior women because there are so few.”
“Today, despite all of the gains we have made, neither men nor women have real choice. Until women have supportive employers and colleagues as well as partners who share family responsibilities, they don’t have real choice. And until men are fully respected for contributing inside the home, they don’t have real choice either.”
“Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively for women. When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.”
On men at home:
As more women lean into their careers, more men need to lean into their families. We need to encourage men to be more ambitious in their homes. We need more men to sit at the table… the kitchen table.
On career progression:
Career progression often depends upon taking risks and advocating for oneself – traits that girls are discouraged from exhibiting.
On the supposed ‘stay-at-home vs. working mums’ debate:
We all want the same thing: to feel comfortable with our choices and to feel validated by those around us. So let’s start by validating one another. Mothers who work outside the home should regards mothers who work inside the home as real workers. And mothers who work inside the home should be equally respectful of those choosing another option.
P.S. – and since we were on the topic of stock photos, what happens when ‘Arab’ stock photos go terribly wrong (hilarious!)