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Building a liberated, integrated life in 2022

In 2022, I commit to building a liberated, integrated life. 

Because of the way my Type A brain is wired, I am planning to approach this task by scoping it out like a consulting project with the end goal being my happiness, thriving relationships and good health. The most memorable class I took during my MBA program at Wharton was taught by Professor Stew Friedman and it was called "Total Leadership." Stew is legendary in the field of leadership and development and general management, so this class is always one of the most sought after courses at Wharton. You could not simply enroll in the course. There was an application process and a comprehensive selection process. I can say undoubtedly that my Total Leadership classmates were among the smartest, kindest, most promising people I interacted with during business school. One of the things I learned from Stew was to identify my core values and seek work-life integration instead of work-life balance. 

As we kick off a new year in 2022, I am ready to apply Stew's methodology and share my journey on this blog and through my social media platforms: check me out on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and LinkedIn. After thinking long and hard on my core values, I've decided to compartmentalize what my liberated, integrated life looks like using 3 categories: love and relationships, health and wellness, and culture and community. 

This is my personal blog. And I will get personal. Those who have been following me on social media know that I am an independent thinker who has some unconvential views. These are views I don't mind sharing in my own quirky, unfiltered way.

Love and Relationships

Since Fall 2019, I have been fighting a seemingly unwinnable custody battle with my ex-husband who won full physical and legal custody of our daughter Nyah after I suffered a mental health crisis in summer 2019, one of the most tumultous seasons of my adult life. The drama began in April 2019 when I turned 33 and decided I was going to commit to a life as an entrepreneur. Nipsey Hussle's death occurred during my birthday weekend and I remember feeling devastated. I felt a profound loss as a fan who admired Nip's hustle and business acumen and who appreciated his contributions to hip-hop and Black culture. I left my job at Lyft shortly after the company IPO'd (and shortly after Nipsey's murder), relaunched my consulting business and started to travel with my daughter. We took trips to Maui, Hawaii and Las Vegas and I had plans to homeschool her for her 2nd grade year. 

I was going to test out remote work and worldschooling - an educational movement that recognizes that a student can receive no greater education than by experiencing and interacting with the world around them. My plan was to start out in Latin America and travel with Nyah for the next 12 months - using the journeys to enhance her education. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to put my worldschooling x remote work plan into action. In retrospect, we would have likely been stranded abroad once the pandemic hit so perhaps everything happened the way it was supposed to happen. 

On June 21, 2019 after overdosing on a cannabis-infused edible, I suffered a mental health crisis that resulted in hospitalization. In October 2021 - in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and with the support and encouragement of my therapist, I broke my silence in a blog post that liberated me from the constant and sinister threat of having my mental health diagnosis exposed on Facebook by my abusive ex-husband.  I was misdiagnosed several times but my current and correct diagnosis is complex PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and I am in treatment. 

The last two years have been focused on healing and fighting to be reunited with Nyah. 

As of today January 1, 2022, I have not been able to hug or kiss or speak in person to my only biological child since October 13, 2019. Nyah was 7 when she left. She lives in Florida with her father, his new wife and their kids. She turns 10 in April 2022. 

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10 years ago, I was 6 months pregnant with Nyah and uncertain about my future. I was a college graduate who had no money, no job, no health insurance, nowhere to live, no vehicle in the dead of winter and a no show husband. In December 2011, I left the nonprofit I co-founded and made a daring escape from the home I shared with my then husband in Uganda to return home to the United States. I decided to go to my home state of Wisconsin so that I could receive the necessary family support to welcome Nyah into the world. 

As a 2008 graduate of the University of Southern California who had spent the past 4 years building a youth development nonprofit that served more than 2,000 kids in Uganda, I quickly found a job as a Youth Development Manager at YMCA in Milwaukee. I was making $35,000 per year. Thanks to community support, I secured an affordable and spacious 2 bedroom apartment (my rent was $650). Despite my full-time job in nonprofit work at the management level, I still qualified for food stamps and state-subsidized healthcare as well as WIC and other childcare subsidies provided by the state of Wisconsin. I even got a free Medela breast pump and received free lactation support from a community-based group. These resources were critical to my ability to start rebuilding my life. 

Although I was surrounded by my family in Wisconsin (and they were very helpful and supportive as I transitioned into motherhood), I never felt more alone because I was still a single mom who was afraid to tell the truth about the abuse and torture I experienced as a victim of domestic violence. I was later diagnosed with postpartum stress disorder. 

I have been an excellent mother and I have loved my daughter Nyah fiercely. I never thought I’d see the day when she was literally torn from my arms by the State of California. But this is exactly what happened in July 2019 when a social worker named Angelina from the Department of Children and Family Services knocked on the door of my home around midnight flanked by 6-7 Sheriff's deputies. Angelina notified me that she was there to take my daughter away. My daughter was sleeping peacefully at the time. I did not understand what was going on but I was afraid of the police so I asked Angelina for a moment to wake up my daughter and prepare her for what was about to happen. Since that night, I've seen my daughter less than 10 times. 

Among the allegations used to justify the removal of my daughter were baseless claims by my ex-husband who weaponized my 2019 mental health crisis, my dedication to my career, and my polyamorous lifestyle / sex life. My use of cannabis - plant medicine that is legal in over 30 states including California where I live - was used by DCFS and my ex-husband to portray me as an unfit mother. After a 20 minute "trial" where I was represented by a court-appointed lawyer who barely knew my name, the dependency courts determined I was emotionally unstable and unfit to care for Nyah, a determination that I have fought against every step of the way with my doctors and lawyers advocating for me. My ex-husband's claims were supported by 3 women who were like sisters to me but I've since cut off ties with each of them and I have no desire to invest any energy into repairing those relationships. 

My boyfriend has encouraged me to pour into people who pour into me - meaning I should not be extending myself beyond my limits in order to nurture, foster and/or repair relationships that do not serve me. In 2022, I am committed to spreading love and positivity wherever I go. In 2022, I am centering my self care and my happiness because I cannot pour from an empty well. My granny always told me you can't love anyone else unless you love yourself. In 2022, I am committed to continuing the fight to have my parental rights fully restored so that I can be an active, involved mother to my child.  I have invested thousands of dollars in legal fees fighting this battle. The emotional toll it has taken cannot be quantified but I will not stop until I am reunited with Nyah. 

Health and Wellness

My new business venture - Exodus Edibles - is a health and wellness cannabis company that manufactures Southern-stlye gourmet desserts infused with high quality medical-grade cannabis and full spectrum CBD oil derived from organic hemp.

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In 2022, I am committed to getting Exodus Edibles to market as a legal cannabis brand distributed in licensed California dispensaries and cannabis delivery services. In 2022, I am committed to strengthening my knowledge about the science and chemistry of cannabis as an essential herb that has efficacy to holistically mitigate various health challenges such as stress and anxiety, lack of appetite, insomnia, and depression. Utilizing plant medicine in my personal life and my professional pursuits poises me to get closer to the liberated, integrated lifestyle I desire.  

The fitness gurus say health is wealth, and mental health remains a top priority this year. I'm committed to continuing therapy this year. I've decided I want to have a baby in the next couple years so I have to prioritize my physical health. Although I love my voluptous body and have worked to be body positive, the fact is that - at my current weight - I am at high risk of preeclampsia, a potentially fatal illness for pregnant women and their babies. I have a family history of cardiac events and strokes, hypertension and diabetes. I also dealt with substantial weight gain in 2020-2021 due to long periods of inactivity and unhealthy eating during covid quarantine and lockdowns, bouts of depression as well as side effects from prescription meds. 

I am proud to share that between June - December 2021, I lost 50 pounds. My goal in 2022 is to continue on my weight loss journey in a healthy, holistic way so that I can prepare my soon-to-be 36 year old body for the Herculean feat of carrying a healthy baby to term. My partner, my family, friends and doctors are supporting me on my journey and I have faith that I'll be disciplined enough to do the work. I'll be documenting my journey on my personal Instagram. Wish me luck!

Culture and Community

After family and health, my culture and community are the most important things to me. In 2022, I look forward to elevating Black culture and being more intentional about keeping in contact and spending quality time with my loved ones, my kinfolk and my colleagues. If you're interested in joining my mailing list to stay updated on what I'm doing as I chart this path forward, please drop me a line and tell me what you've been up to. I promise to respond as soon as time permits, so I can add you to my personal mailing list. Thank you all for being part of my village. I pray that everyone has a blessed and prosperous year full of love and quality time and memories with loved ones that will last a lifetime.

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